I put it off for three whole days, but today I finally gave in.
I hadn’t touched my face for most of the week after deciding that I'd go to a barbershop on 74th Street and let Garry, the man with the razor, work his tonsorial magic.
And be advised that I didn’t go for some run-of-the-mill whisker wipe. Oh, heavens no. I ordered up the royal shave for both my magnificent mug and my beautiful hairless head.
It was decadent, selfish, a ridiculous waste of money—and I loved every second of it.
Hell, I haven’t gotten a shave from a barber since the Reagan Administration. That was back when I went to Leo, a little old Italian man who had a small shop on 68th Street.
Leo used to wave to me every morning as I walked to the subway station-even before I became a customer—and one of the first articles I ever did as a reporter was about Leo for a now defunct publication called Bay Ridge Life.
Then Leo closed his store and for some reason I stopped getting shaves. I’m not sure why, but I suspect I felt guilty paying for something that I could clearly do myself. Whatever the reason, I decided that the dry spell had to end.
Getting a barber’s shave to is like going back in time to the days of spats, speakeasies and bootleggers. I felt like Al Capone sitting in that chair, though I had no plans of beating anyone to death with a baseball bat…yet.
I’m glad I had the day off because the royal shave takes a princely amount of time. I sat there for more than hour. But if you're going to do something then take the time to do it right.
Garry told me that a prospective customer once came into his place and asked for a “quick shave.”
"I told him no," Garry said.
Good move. In this age of instant everything, it’s nice to see someone rejecting the unhealthy need for speed that’s infecting a society with no particular place to go.
Once he was done shaving my head, Garry rubbed my gleaming pate with an electric massager that had my teeth happily rattling away. It was a like a giant joy buzzer for my skull.
And then came the hot towel.
Garry swathed my face in steaming fabric, leaving my nose exposed like a periscope poking out of the Artic Ocean. I tried to not to think about Albert Anastasia, the head of Murder Incorporated, who met his end in a barber chair at the Park Sheraton Hotel.
Fortunately we weren’t interrupted by gun-toting assassins and Garry was able to send me out into the world as smooth as a newborn baby.
“You won’t have to shave for three days,” he said with uncanny accuracy.
My head felt so shiny I could’ve taken a seat on top of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. It was shame that I didn’t have anyplace to go. I was looking so sharp I thought about logging on to a dating website and setting up a last-minute rendezvous. You should never waste a good shave.
The experience cost me $40 plus tip, which my sister assures is nothing compared with what women shell out for a trip to the salon.
But still I felt guilty. I could’ve put that money toward theater tickets, or clothes, or maybe I could’ve given it to one of the many charities that send me appeals in the mail. No, I decided, no more barber shaves for me.
And there I was this morning in my bathroom, dragging a plastic razor across my face. It was so tedious and inefficient. And I was cutting myself to pieces. My sister encouraged me to go to Garry once a month and I’m thinking she might be right.
I feel better about myself and the world in general when I get a shave. So why not take a little time and money and make myself look even more handsome than I already am?
I’m sure Al would have wanted it that way.