Friday, August 28, 2009

Maine Diaries: Scraps from a Writer's Notebook

Main Street, Bar Harbor, Maine - July 2009

Ray's Barber Shop

Across from the Grand Hotel, Ray's Barber Shop looks even less grand than it otherwise might, but through no fault of its own - it never tried to be much, with its siding weathered to the color of bad milk and shingles put on to keep the rain out and who cares what they look like. It's hard to know whether Ray is a woman, or if the woman I see now, sixtiesh and heavyset, with pouches under her eyes and a comb in her quick-moving hands, is Ray's heir, or Ray's employee, or if she bought the modest shop from the original Ray in some past year and kept the name to please the regulars. In any case, she moves expertly in the execution of a $12 haircut for a customer. The customer, a young man, reclines in an old-fashioned barber chair before the glass front, in full view of passersby on the street, though there aren't many in the middle of a Tuesday morning. The barber's long gray ponytail swishes against her back as she runs the tines of the comb along her patron's scalp. They share a joke and she chuckles. The pouches under her eyes get to looking like drawstrings purses cinched up too tight. She brushes the cut hair from his shoulders with a soft-bristled brush and sweeps the great green bib from around his shoulders in a practiced movement. When he's gone, she plunks herself into the chair to watch a program on the small, boxy grey television in the corner by the window, picking at her gums with short fingernails and swiveling the chair a little left, a little right, when the program makes her laugh. It's a short, amused, pale little sound, obstructed by her fingers in between her teeth.