Victoria, Cindi, and my ongoing quest for the next uber barber

Classic Barber PoleOkay, why does a balding guy get so worked up about having a great barber? It’s a valid question. I used to go to a hair stylist. You know the kind with the sinks and the line of hair products. I paid good money for someone to wash and cut my hair. The price kept going up (inflation) while the job kept getting easier (less hair to manage).

At one point I just said the hell with paying way too much for way too little work and I started looking for a barber. I had done this before. There were the few times I got my haircut by student barbers at a now-defunct barber college down the street from where I work. That was a bit of a zoo and the last straw came when the black student barber who practiced on my hair gave me a fade.

I tried the sensible thing for a balding man and tried the local Supercuts (or was it a Great Clips?), but the barber (I guess they fancy themselves as stylists), ran over my wart. It didn’t matter if I walked into the shop with my finger pressing on it like I was going to say, “Okay, all the TRESemme in the bag or the fat guy gets it.” No, somehow, she managed to run over it with her electric clippers.  How can something so small as an ugly wart bleed like that? I’m surprised the manager didn’t call the EMTs.

The second and last time at the barber-in-a-box joint I got a razor burn. She didn’t appear to notice. Anyway, I wasn’t keen on these kinds of places in that I try not to give corporations my money though it is an uphill battle. It was a fluke that I found Victoria.

There was a barber across the street from where I work. He worked in an old-timey barber shirt–white with the tunic-style collar and his name on it, Jose. Jose was a nice guy and his shop had a lot of historic Sacramento baseball images like the Solons and Joe Marty drawings and photographs–nice touches. It was when I came back for another trim that things changed forever for me.

Jose had a customer so I took the empty seat next to him. The barber’s name was Victoria. She was a large, sweet lady with fair skin and ginger hair and she did a good job. Then, when all the barber and stylists would have ended it she started on my shoulders.

I was initially shocked. I nervously looked over at Jose, but he was starting on a new customer and might have been a little pissed that I hadn’t called him for an appointment. I looked in the large mirror in front of me thinking she might be winking at me, but no she was in deep concentration. It was at this time I realized I had hit the jackpot. Victoria was giving me a serious massage–kind of like the kind I got from my wife back when we were younger.

From my shoulders, she worked her way to the base of my neck, then up my neck to my scalp. The scalp massage was incredible. She finished with a kiss on the top of my head. I dismounted the chair a new and very spoiled man. She got a big tip. I returned to Victoria a few times and got the same treatment and she got the same tip.

Then one day I walked in and Victoria was gone. In her place, some kid wearing all black, with jet black-dyed hair looking like a very young Robert Smith from The Cure was behind what used to be Victoria’s chair. With obvious disappointment in my voice, I asked, “Where’s Victoria?” The kid (I’ll call him Robert) said, “She is now a licensed massage therapist.” Jose looked vindicated. “Yeah, I guess you can’t have Victoria cut your hair or whatever you call that peach fuzz, you Judas,” he looked like he was thinking behind his smile. As it turned out Robert had a band–surprise! Besides the skill with the clippers, a good barber is a very good listener. As for Robert, I didn’t get a word in edgewise–as if I wanted to. I did learn; however, that he just “laid down some tracks” with his band recently and “had some gigs lined up blah, blah, blah.” Jesus, get me out of here!

Obviously, I had to move on, but I was now spoiled–haircuts were more than just cutting hair I could get a massage, too! I began my quest for Victoria’s replacement at Hot Rod’s. A place a fellow worker told me about. He spoke of deep head massages and shaves–shaves! Why didn’t I think of that! I could use a good shave now and then. However, when I went there and even dropped my friend’s name I received a respectable haircut, but the experience was nothing spectacular–no scalp massage, and the guy told me he had an appointment so no hot-towel shave. I tried other shops, but I got nothing, but what most people would expect from a barber. Perhaps the “Victoria Experience” was once in a lifetime deal.

One day I was walking to a cup of coffee through Cathedral Square when a young woman gave me her mother’s business card. “She cuts hair the old fashioned way. She uses a straight edge, hot towels, shoulder massages, and”–“Wait, you had me at “shoulder massages” “Uh-yeaaah,” she replied, re-thinking her sales pitch in the wake of visualizing her mother rubbing this old man’s shoulders. We played tug of war with her mom’s card and I won!

It took about a year for it to happen, but her mother, Cindi, got her own barbershop and I was one of her first customers. I might have been a little too excited about getting a shave and a haircut because when I showed up Cindi’s boyfriend was there facing me the whole time. It turned out Bobby was cool and I think I spent more time over the next couple of years talking with him than with Cindi. I never got up the nerve to ask if Bobby had a job–he was at Cindi’s shop so often.

This is where the story is supposed to end: with me spoiled once again and becoming friends with my barber, too. Providence would step in, though, and in early 2016 Cindi had to move to Iowa. I believed her mother lives there and she might have had to move back there to take care of her.

Once again, I’m looking for a new barber. I’ve had a few since Cindi. All of them have been good. The last one–Rico–is a boxer and a trainer of boxers. He could be a long-term one for me. I want to know if he does shoulder massages, but when I look up at the famous poster of Cassius Clay standing over the KO’d Sonny Liston I think again.

I am aware that here in Sacramento there are barber shops that offer a lot of what I’m looking for, but each one of these shops itemize the tasks so that getting a hot towel shave, haircut, and (if listed) a scalp/shoulder massage is like eating out dim sum–oh it’s great experience, but when the bill comes you’d wished you’d settled for Panda Express.

So what’s the point of this post? Does my reader give a shit? Well, you’ve come this far with me. Unlike my wife and my sons who just want their damn hair cut, I want something more from an otherwise dull, but essential task–especially now that there is so little left to work with. Also, I like being pampered. It’s the same reason why I get a pedicure once a month. I like being waited on and I’ll pay the extra scratch if someone will do a good job at it. And if the barber and I can talk about music, politics, faith, or even boxing–something I know precious little about–it makes the experience sweeter.

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