Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow?

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Hanging out this weekend in Philadelphia the night before a rugby match against the Gryphons, one of the Philadelphians observed that New Yorkers seem to be obsessed with gentrification. I think he’s right. Three of us had used the word in separate contexts within an hour, he said.

Living in New York City, how can one not be obsessed with gentrification and rising rents? It’s why I live in Queens, even though we are now under seige. I feel safe in Jackson Heights for now, but we’re worried about Long Island City. Once there’s a Starbucks, all is lost.

The gentrification of one neighborhood in particular has finally hit me where it counts. The hair. My Lower East Side barber has raised his prices so quickly in the last year that I am wondering whether I should reconsider my loyalty.

The liquor store adjoining his barber shop is extending deeper into the little commercial strip it occupies, essentially taking over his space. So the shop has moved around the corner into an empty space in the same complex. Its front door now faces East Broadway instead of an alley between the building and the garden of an apartment complex. They have a new name, a new sign, new mirrors and cabinetry, new chairs, cute new matching cobalt blue smocks, a new flat-screen TV — with cable, by the looks of it — and a fresh coat of paint on everything. And they also must have a new, more expensive lease, because they also have a new price for a basic haircut.

One of the reasons I was so happy with this place was its low price. But this getting to be a slippery slope. For a $9 cut two years ago, it was easy to tip two bucks. When it rose to $10 a few months ago, two bucks still seemed decent. Now that it’s a hefty $12, do I need to tip three? Should I reconsider my loyalty and find a new barber? One invests time and emotion into settling into a trusted barber. It’s not so simple to move on. These guys are neighbors.

The neighborhood is beginning to draw some new commercial tenants. The other day, the barbers were discussing the merits of a Two Boots pizza going in across the street. It’s a welcome addition for those of us who work in the neighborhood and are often at a loss at lunch time. (Hmm… Bagels, pickles, McDonald’s or bad Chinese food?) They were wondering if it would increase business — you know, get a slice, get a cut. Seems a natural combination, right? One guy suggested maybe people would bring their lunch into the shop, or even eat in the chair.

I stifled a gag reflex thinking of hair clippings as pizza topping.

Is our desire for decent pizza and somewhere to go past 6 p.m. going to kill my lunchtime quickies? I guess you have to take the good with the bad.


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the untallied hours

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