Ray’s Barber Shop: Doing Things the Old-Fashioned Way

True story: I got my hair cut today. The guy didn’t do a bad job. It’s one of those little weekend chores you sort of do and forget about ten minutes after you’ve left the tip. I’m unlikely to look back on it fondly, if at all.

When I was younger and in the small towns of Dutchess County, New York, my dad and I would go to the barber together on Saturdays. We’d go to Ray’s Barber Shop in Amenia, NY. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still there, thank God for that, and there’s Ray ready to welcome you in his deep, jovial mumble. It’s just that I don’t make it out there that much any more. Busy urban life. Funny how things happen.

They don’t make ’em like this any more. Heck, even finding a one-man barber shop named after the man, no further fuss, that’s tough. This isn’t the kind of place that would call itself “A Cut Above” or “Hip Clips”, and Ray is certainly not a “stylist” who would try to sell you products for healthy hair renewal. No, this is a real man’s place. I actually don’t ever remember seeing a woman in Ray’s, even to ask directions.

Not that you’d need to ask directions in a small place like Amenia. Especially since if you’re at Ray’s, you’re quite literally on Main Street.

The waiting area table is littered with magazines-sports, news, local interest. There used to be “Life” magazine before that went down the tubes, which is a shame; it fit in at Ray’s, along with the high school basketball team schedule on the wall and the lucky golf club above the door. Ray holds court with a few old men who are in no rush to get anywhere, even to the barber’s chair, and they sit and talk all day. A radio on a little shelf blares a ball game if the season’s right. Next to it sits a beer-and-Mets promotional ad that’s got to be forty years old.

I have yet to actually mention haircuts. I’m a one-haircut kind of guy and frankly Ray might be too. It’s quick, it’s economical. He remembers how you like it. Just don’t go there less than a week before prom or a wedding, in case you want to grow it out a bit. You don’t go to Ray’s to look flashy, you go for the atmosphere. Sounds weird, but try finding that at Supercuts.

For me, it’s comforting to know that small-town barber shops like this still exist, and small-town barbers are still doing business-when they’re not, as I recall a marker-lettered cardboard sign once advertising, closed for a week-long fishing trip. It’s good to see a place half a block from the corner diner that still uses a barber pole. I don’t think Ray’s actually plugged it in and made the pole spin in a while. It’s not too late.

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