Sunday, September 09, 2007

Mr Amaya's neighborhood

I desperately needed a haircut this weekend. It was way too long. From the top of my head the hair reached almost down to the bottom of my face. I hate having my hair so long now. It's so hot to have it that long.

I went to a barber shop that I've been going to since my parents moved us here many years ago. Mr. Amaya's barbershop. It's near downtown and really in the projects. It's the kind of place that the tourists don't see, and that people from the north side of town are afraid of. (i.e. MTG) Nestled between the westside, and the southside between the railroad tracks.

I drive to this part of town, knowing that the man who's cut my hair since forever will do a better job than any hairstylist or high priced barber would and for only eight bucks too. The shop is in the middle of an old strip mall. With the housing projects on both sides of it. Basically it's the ghetto. Mr. Amaya's long since moved out of the area, but he keeps his shop opened. It's just himself in the shop, though he has about 8 chairs for other barbers. It's always been just him. He learned how to cut hair in the military and has done so ever since. He's an older man in his early 70's. His hands still work fast with experience.

The shop itself is old. The mirrors that line the wall are faded and spotted. He has pictures of his family up on the wall, with duct tape. The walls cement so you can't put anything in with nails. There's about 3 Selena posters (Selena the latin singer gunned down), a good number of Jesus pictures, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and various other items in the shop, as well as a picture of Geronimo in the far back corner. And least I should forget a picture of Pope John Paul duct taped to the old water cooler unit that stands in the back of the shop. (The thing is about 8 feet tall) The seats are old too, I'd say from at least the late 60's. And a shoe shine booth in the back corner long since abandoned, as the gentleman that manned it passed away some years ago now.

There's cracks in the walls and it has an old smell. But I'd never go anywhere else. Even when we constantly moved my father would always bring us here for haircuts. Whether we lived in the city or not. When we first came here the place was filled with old men. All smoking and talking. One old gentleman in the back shining shoes while Mr. Amaya cut hair. One old gentleman sitting next to Mr. Amaya in the corner smoking, only getting up to sweep up the hair on the floor between customers. And it's all in spanish. It was a place of wonder for me. Watching Mr. Amaya cut hair, shave beards, trim mustaches, all while holding conversations. Even though things in the neighborhood changed, he hasn't.

He's still the same only older now, I dread the day he closes for good. There's a younger man now that sweeps up the hair. (Younger as in late 40's or so) The older gentleman who'd sweep has since passed away. On busy days the place is packed, and Mr. Amaya takes no breaks. He appeases everyone telling stories asking about the families of his loyal customers. He's a genius at work. He cuts now with electric shears but still have the old hand held one he used in his army days. But he still uses a straight edge razor to give you a shave, and to get to the hard to do spots for hair cuts too.

Today there was only a few there so I got seated in little time. He asked me how I was doing and we talked about everything. He gives me advice for my trip to California, and MTG, and asks how my dad is doing, telling me he was just by this past week for a haircut. I tell him my dad's ok, though I didn't know he'd gone by this past week, and it makes me feel a bit guilty cause I really hadn't seen him in a while. He enjoys cutting my dad's hair and they talk about the day's when they were migrants in the fields and of times long since gone. It was while we were talking about my dad they my dad called and insisted we do lunch.

He finishes my haircut and gives me a shave. I feel wonderful after he's done. He only charges eight dollars but I always do what my father taught me to and give him fifteen. He tells me he'll see my next time, and I tell him goodbye too. As I walk back out into the old stripmall the nostalgia wears off and reality sets back in. I get in my car and drive out of the ghetto. I can't imagine what I'll do when he finally closes one of these days. Hopefully it won't be soon.

1 comment:

Beth said...

What a lovely post — very visual and alive. You took me away from my desk for a few minutes.