snip snip snip

So, with a weekend of revelry fast approaching, I realized today that I really, really needed to re-do my hair. I can pull this off in 36 hours, but it requires some doing. Step one, of course, is to get it cut.

Unfortunately, having recently moved, I no longer have easy morning access to my favorite Crusty Old Brooklyn Barber, and today I needed to be at the office early, so taking a leisurely morning to scout out the options in my new `hood was not a viable plan.

So fine, I’ll get my hair cut on my lunch hour, right? Well… that’s not quite as easy as it sounds. My office is perched precariously on the farthest northwestern reach of TriBeCa, a neighborhood still largely industrial in nature. Once you get out of the range of the docks and the Holland Tunnel entrance, you’re suddenly in, depending your direction, SoHo or TriBeCa, both of which are full to the brim of extremely chic hair salons, but not exactly well-stocked with Crusty Old Italian Barbers offering $10 clipper flattops, which is what I’m after.

Being a smart lad, I did a little research, and ten minutes of careful picking through citysearch and google turned up a New York Metro article extolling the virtues of Sal’s Barber Shop at 209 Mott Street, just north of Spring. That’s a brisk five minute walk from my office, so I set out at noon with high expectations of straight-razor-wielding Italian guys and dusty skin mags in the corner: a proper barbershop.

Well, after slogging my way through the snowdrifts on Spring Street, I took a left on Mott and immediately spotted a battered old barber pole two doors down. Sorted! I walked in and found: no old Italian guys. In fact, no guys at all. The two-chair shop was being attended to by one fashionable middle-aged woman, giving a perm to another woman, who had her 6-year-old son in tow, happily reading comic books on a chair. (For the nitpickers in the audience: you have to be 13 to qualify as a “guy”. Because I say so.) The store was airy and brightly painted, with fashion magazines strewn about.

But I figured to myself: little Italy is changing, they’re keeping up with the times… maybe this is Sal’s wife? So despite the fact that she looked at me a bit strangely when I walked in, I asked if she had room for a walk-in.

“Sure,” she said, and then raised her voice a bit toward the back. “Gen, could you come help this young man?”

Gen emerged from the rear, a razor-thin young woman with immaculately styled platinum hair, an off-the-shoulder sweater and jeans. Couture, couture, couture. In my life, I will never be as fashionable as this woman. Neither will you. (Well, okay, excepted.) And, perhaps oddly: not a fleck of customer hair on her. She sat me down and asked me what I was looking for.

“Really just a shampoo and trim: number four clippers on the sides, take all the dyed bits off the top, blend it up, flatten it a little and clean up the ears and neck.” I’ve said this so many times I’m just on autopilot.

“Well… we don’t have clippers. Mind if I just cut it close?” No clippers? How can you have a barbershop without… oh, nevermind, I’m here and I need to get my hair cut. There’s a six-year-old kid here. How bad can it be?

“Sure, whatever works.”

“Would you like some green tea?” This was a new one on me: I’ve been offered coffee while waiting, but herbal tea while I’m having my hair cut? But whatever: a few minutes later I was shampooed and conditioned, and Genevieve, after strapping a very chic little hairdresser utility belt onto her waist, was happily snipping away. And snipping. And snipping. And snipping. The other woman chatted with her client. I sipped my tea when I could, and fell into a pleasant trance.

Fast-forward twenty or so minutes: after cutting off what seemed to be an acre of hair, all with a tiny pair of styling scissors, Gen rinsed and jelled me, and handed me the mirror. It was, I will state right now, an excellent haircut. She let me know that I could come back in two weeks for a free touchup, and that they also offer dyeing services if I ever get tired of doing it on my own: I politely demurred on the latter, but liked the sound of the former.

“That’s very nice of you,” I said. “How much will that be?”

“Sixty dollars.”

Ladies and gentlemen: two years of regular poker games at Bob’s cabin in Lincoln. Four years of high school and college drama club. Six months of the world’s most long-winded boss (another story). It all came down to this, and I’m pleased to say that I passed with flying colors: I kept a perfectly straight face, smiled, didn’t miss a beat, pulled out my wallet, paid cash and tipped 12%. I said my thanks, put on my coat and hat, and went outside.

And then proceeded to choke and gibber. It wasn’t until 20 minutes later, when I’d secured a cup of Vosges Aztec Cocoa that I managed to regain my composure.

The moral of this story: if you want to get a haircut in NoLita, no matter how harmless the place looks at first glance, you really, really might want to inquire about the prices before you sit yourself down.

But it is an excellent haircut.

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