23 Aug 2014
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The Man In Black at the Barberia

Columnist Eugenia Budman explains why she always goes back to the same Foster City hair salon, and tells the story behind the man with the scissors.

The Man In Black at the Barberia

We all are creatures of habits, and I am the biggest one of all. Long ago, I found all the cozy corners and nooks in my home and in my city, and as soon as get off of 101, I expect to come back to the same familiar objects and places. Any construction, remodeling or redecoration is a distraction to my feelings of safety and comfort.  I usually visit the same grocery stores and restaurants for familiar food, and when my husband asks me to try something new, he usually gets a lot of resistance from me. New habits are too much work; they take a long time to develop and set.  (Moving anywhere would be a major chore too. This is one of the reasons I stayed in one place for twenty-six years.)

I also stay with the same services for a very long time. When I need my hair cut, I go to Terry, to his in Edgewater Shopping mall.

I am not as high-maintenace as I should be. I color my hair at home, and I don't do maintenance cuts every six weeks as advised to keep them perfect.  So when I come to Barberia saloon, always to Terry, my head looks quite sad. I sit in his chair with my hair wet and flat, and, looking at the reflection of my hairdresser in the mirror, usually say, full of hope, “What would you suggest? Can we do something interesting? I’m game."

The tall man in black (the color of the salon’s uniforms) steps back, his head slightly tilted to one side. He looks at me with complete attention, as an artist would look at a blank canvas. I think he is asking himself, what he can do with this face and this horrible hair. I usually get a bit nervous at that stage - what if I am not interesting enough for the creation he has in mind? I know that he is a master.

Terry touches my head, evaluates my features. He needs now to know how my head is constructed, and how my hair grows in order for the haircut to work. His touch is amazing --- light and soft.

Then he says, "I know. You won't be disappointed."  And the truth is, with him, I never have been.

A couple of days ago I came to Barberia to get my haircut. This time I had a picture of a cut I liked --- it looked dreamy on Kate Capshaw. I wanted to look like her. While in the chair, I also took this opportunity to talk to Terry about his shop.

As all the hairdressers who remain in this field, Terri has the right personality for the job. He speaks to you easily, shares his thoughts with you on any subject and can attentively listen.

I gave Terry my picture, and got comfortable in his chair. He turned it in his hands a few times, nodded, and wrapped me in the plastic black robe.  Then he touched my head, as usual, and began his story.

“I was still in high-school, when I began working in my father's barber shop in Burlingame.  My dad had seven barber shops in San Francisco, then one day he sold them all, and moved to Burlingame. He said, happily, that he was finally able to see the world in color, meaning the always gloomy weather of San Francisco.”

Wet strands of my hair fell on my shoulders and the floor.

“I opened my first salon in South San Francisco. I worked there for six years, and had good clientele serving airline employees and the flight crews. When it was time to expand, I understood that there was nowhere to grow in South San Francisco, so I decided to move to the Peninsula.  I wanted a bigger shop, a full-service top-notch hair salon.”

“Why Foster City?" I asked as he worked on the back of my head cutting of locks of my hair. I have lost all control; I couldn’t even see what was happening behind my back.

“You’re right. Everyone said to me that I wouldn’t be successful in this small suburb. They said it’s a bedroom community –-- there were no businesses here in the late 80s --- and that I would be employed only on Saturdays and Sundays. But the developer of Edgewater Place was very accommodating, and I decided to take a chance.”

I heard the light clicks of his scissors near my right ear.

"Did you see the move Shampoo with Warren Beatty?" he continued. “Many hairdressers claim that it was their story depicted in that movie. Whatever they say, it is truly my own story.” He stopped talking to concentrate on cutting on top of my head using some special scissors.

“Well, I didn’t have enough money, and nobody would lend it to me.  At that time I owned a Jaguar, a black-on-black gorgeous machine.  I knew I could easily sell it then. I wanted my shop bad enough, so I placed an ad in the newspaper to sell it,  my most-prized possession. There was a steel-workers’ strike in England at that time, and there were no cars like mine brought over. An old hippie from Mendocino came to purchase it. He was driving a big dirty truck; the man was tall, overweight, with long silver beard. He came out of the truck barefoot. A little cute flower-child came out with him.

'Oh' – she said in that thin baby voice (Terry’s voice raised high), “I want this car! Can I have this car?” and the man put his huge hand into the pocket of his jeans and pulled bills – ninety-six hundred dollars in cash. I couldn’t believe it, but I had my money to open the shop." Terry was now blow-drying my hair.

‘How long have you been here?” I asked, looking at many rows of mirrors and chairs, busy hairdressers and their assistants, all dressed in elegant black, the shelves with many sweet-smelling products, and the big clean windows with plants overlooking the lagoon. Even though I have known him for years, only when I wanted to write an article about him did I find out that he is a second- generation hairdresser. Now his sister and his son work for him, which makes this a dynasty, as far as I am concerned.

“Since 1986,” he responded proudly, handed me a big hand-held mirror, and slowly turned my chair from side to side so that I could evaluate the results. I didn’t look like Cate Capshaw, of course, but my hair did. My hair looked wonderful.

As I mentioned before, I am a creature of habit. But I have retunred to Terry for so many years not out of habit. He is very good, and I trust him.  Because as my family can attest, when a habit becomes a drag, I will suddenly change it.  Just like that, without any warning.

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