"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Play it Again (and Again)

Hey, I forgot to tell you what happened to me at the barber shop last weekend. So I’ve been meaning to get my hair cut for more than a minute now, and as some of you know, even though I live in the Bronx, I still troop out to Brooklyn to see my old barber, Efrain Torres. I got up the energy last Saturday morning and made it to Brooklyn just after noon. The shop is run by a father and son (Ray and Macho) and my guy has a chair there too. A new woman has set up shop in the back to do stylings for the ladies, and she was all of a piece: her hair was colored dark-red/purple, and she wore about four different shades of maroon, including black slacks with red roses patterned up and down the legs.

Well, everyone was in high spirits what with New Year’s Eve being that night and all. They had some bottles of booze ready to go for later on and were already dipping into the danish cookies that were laid out. The radio was playing old salsa tunes from the 1950′s and ’60s. A trio of beefy kids around my age–early-to-mid-thirties–were hanging around waiting to get their heads cut. They were old friends of Macho’s and everyone was gas-bagging back-and-forth (they ordered Cuban sandwichs for lunch, and one of the guys, just along for the ride, made himself useful by sweeping up periodically). You know how conversation flows in the company of men. You go from rapid bursts of commentary–and in a barber shop, a good deal of bragging and boasting–to dead silence and back again.

As I was waiting my turn, I leafed through a magazine. Conversation had ceased, and everyone was either busy working or lost in their own thoughts. Suddenly, without really being aware of why, I put my magazine down and really started listening to a guitar solo on the radio that had been cooking for at least 30 seconds already. The music snapped up my attention without me being completely aware of it. The room seemed especially still, and not a moment later, Ray says, “Damn, this guy can play.” Quickly, everyone else agreed, appreciating the fine musicianship. “Yo, this dude is ill.” The rush of words from everyone was a real release. It was a small, but beautiful moment, a real guy thing. A group of guys coming together–not even consciously–by a piece of music, admiring it in silence, then breaking the tension, and clammoring about how great it was. Man, the power of music is just incredible isn’t it?

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver