How do I explain it: driving from my New Jersey home to Albany every six weeks just for a haircut?
The beauty parlor – or the salon as these places are now called – caters mainly to a local clientele, just as shops did when I was growing up in Flatbush. The grocery store, the butcher, drug store, stationery store, barber shop, library, bakery, doctors and dentists were all within walking distance. There was even a public pool just two blocks from my house. Not only did I walk to my elementary school and high school, I even walked to Brooklyn College. When I was in my teens and wanted to have my hair cut, three blocks away was my friend’s house where her mother had set up a beauty parlor in her basement.
But that was a long time ago, before the growth of the suburbs and major highways made everything more accessible.
When I moved to Albany in 1995, my sister recommended The Cuttery on New Scotland Avenue and I have been going there ever since – driving, not walking, every six weeks for my appointment with Su.
When I moved back to New Jersey in 2008, I vowed that I would continue to have my hair done at The Cuttery. This raised a few eyebrows. I am sure some wondered just how long this would last. Wouldn’t I tire of driving one hundred and forty miles, two-and-a-half hours, up the Thruway “just for a haircut”? Ah, but see, it’s not “just for a haircut.”
Number One: Su is the ultimate professional who enjoys her work and who has become a friend. Over the years we’ve followed the paths taken by our children, discussed books and movies, our vacations, and talked about other mutual interests. In a wonderful stroke of luck, Su was an invited guest to a wedding in New Jersey on the same day of my daughter’s marriage ten years ago. Su made the trip from upstate New York earlier than needed so she could style Trish’s hair and mine.
Number Two: I use these trips to connect with old friends. If I want to meet someone for dinner or stay overnight and have breakfast with an old friend, I’d be welcome to a number of spare bedrooms. In the past few years, however, my choice of bed has been my niece Carol’s home just a few blocks away from The Cuttery. My stays with Carol are more than just a “hello and good-night.” We have a chance to catch up. She and her sister, Kathie, are my only nieces and they hold special places in my heart.
Number Three: I like to drive the Thruway. In every season the landscape has its own style of beauty. I use the hours to listen to my favorite music or local NPR station or just to give free rein to my thoughts. I no longer do much local driving as the highways in northern New Jersey are training grounds for the Indy 500.
Recently I discovered I was not alone in my long-distance travel to a salon. My cousin Kathy, who lives in Sligo in the west of Ireland, regularly boards the train to Dublin for her haircuts. Three hours each way! Although it gives her time to read, Kathy says she may have to reconsider taking the train if the free travel pass for seniors is discontinued in the next budget. “Right now, it costs me nothing but there are rumblings..... And with the winter ahead, taking a 7a.m train and not getting home until 7p.m is not ideal.”
I also learned I was far from the champ when Kathy’s friend Marie, who lives in the Bronx, told me that she frequently returns to Baltimore for her haircuts. I know there must be a long list of people who will travel the distance and do what it takes to find what they want, even if it’s just a haircut.