BARBERSHOP AROUND THE CORNER – GARRY ARMSTRONG (WITH NEW PICTURES)

Haircuts can be a complex problem for a guy. Nay, you say?

Yay, I say — if you’re a man of color.

Not all barbers can cut “our kind” of hair. It’s one of America’s darker secrets. If one has curly, sometimes called “kinky” hair, barbers are befuddled and sometimes nervous. White barbers. Fellas used to the electric razor and scissors to trim the smooth hair of boys, teens, men, and even older gents with fair skin.

It’s a sensitive, ethnic thing.

Growing up, I always went to black-owned and operated barber shops in our diverse neighborhoods. No worries. You asked for a summer or winter haircut. Close or maybe moderate — to accommodate the weather. Awaiting my time in the barber chair, I’d peruse the men’s magazines with pictures that stimulated my growing body. The air was usually full of cigar smoke and raunchy conversation with much laughter. One of the barbers would caution there were kids in the shop. The laughter only got louder with someone slapping me on the shoulder. I remember those days with great affection.

Fast forward through the decades. It’s 1970 and I’m a newly arrived TV news reporter in Boston. Predominantly WHITE Boston. I was living IN Boston, five minutes away from downtown businesses and the TV station. There were several barber shops or men’s hair stylists in the area.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I tried one recommended by the star anchorman whose blonde, carefully layered coif was a thing of beauty.

I could feel the stares as I entered the ornate hair salon. I waited a few, very long moments until a gent who looked like the old time actor William Powell approached me. His white barber jacket had perfect creases. He offered a polite smile while informing me his shop could not properly “address” my kind of hair. I smiled and left, quietly seething inside.

I needed a trim before making my Boston television début.  So it was that I instantly became a celebrity client at the local barber’s college. It wasn’t pretty.

Word spread quickly and I received a call from Boston Mayor Kevin White’s office. A day later, I had a personal barber. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship that lasted more than 30 years.

GARRY’S PHOTOGRAPHS OF OUR TOWN AND THE BARBER SHOP


Fast forward again, maybe another 10 years. Now retired and living in small town New England,  I had no real need for spiffy hair cuts. However, I still traveled a distance because I didn’t trust any of our local barbers who didn’t seem eager to get my business.

MARILYN’S PICTURES OF THE BARBER SHOP AND GARRY


We were now living on a fixed income. It seemed silly to travel that distance and pay $40 (plus tip) for a fancy hair salon clip with my receding hairline. I summoned up my old Marine Corps courage and decided to check out a local, corner barbershop.  The classic barber’s pole beckoned me. I entered and surprise —  smiles and friendly greetings. I walked over to the available barber and quietly, awkwardly asked if he could cut “my” hair. He smiled broadly and said, “No problem, Bro”.  It was the beginning of another beautiful friendship.

Eddie knew his stuff. He smiled as I removed my hearing aids and told him I was in his hands.  Ten minutes later and I was a new man with a crisply trimmed coif that managed to hide some of the growing shiny spots atop my head.

Eddie would tell me he prided himself with his work. It was his way of saying ethnicity was not an issue. His biggest issue? Smart-aleck kids with overbearing parents. Eddie soon opened his own shop. He branched to a second operation and is a well-respected fella in our small town. Yes, I’ve recommended him to other people of varying ethnicities.

There are no men’s magazines with adult photographs in Eddie’s place. He’s sensitive to the young people who come through the door. There are lots of interesting pictures on the wall,  most guaranteed to make you smile.

If you’re in our town and need a haircut, stop in at Eddie’s place. You’ll like him.

You’ll love his prices.

THEY ARE BACK – THE BOYS OF SUMMER – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Opening day at Fenway Park used to be my favorite day of my TV news career.

Fenway’s Opening Day in baseball!  I dodged murders, political scandals, and other mayhem for this special day. Baseball’s opening day is a rite of passage.

As a kid in the 1940’s Brooklyn, I’d devoured all the winter sports magazines which included predictions for the upcoming season and thumbnail breakdowns on players, including the “pheenoms,” prospects sure to be the next mega stars.

President Truman would throw out the first pitch for the old Washington Senators. Calvin Griffith’s bedraggled team — first in the heart of the nation, last in the American league.  Unless you were Mickey Vernon or Eddie Yost, there was little to root for as a Senator’s fan.

Cal Griffith and Connie Mack were the last of the patriarchal baseball owners who dated all the way back to the days of Ty Cobb, Cy Young and the “dead ball.”  I remember the grainy black and white images of these elderly men, dressed in turn of the century street clothes, patrolling their dugouts. Connie Mack managed his Philadelphia Athletics. In his white suit and straw hat, he was a throwback to baseball’s infancy.

You always saw Mr. Griffith and Mr. Mack on baseball’s opening day. They were the fabric of baseball.

In those days, I was preoccupied with the fortunes of my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. Every opening day signaled the beginning of what could be “our year.” A World Series championship. The defeat of our mortal enemies, The New York Yankees.  Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier the previous year and the Dodgers seemed poised to climb the mountain with young stalwarts like Robinson, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella and a veteran pitching staff. The “Bad Guys”, the Bronx Bombers lined up with Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Hank Bauer and an élite roster of all-star pitchers.

I would have to wait until 1955 before I could celebrate a BROOKLYN Dodgers World Championship. It would be the first and last for the faithful as our Bums abandoned us for the glitter and gold of  La La Land.

Fast forward through my love affair with Casey Stengel’s “Amazin’ Mets,” their “Ya gotta believe” World Series victory in 1969, and my transformation to a member of Red Sox nation.


Work relocated me to Boston in 1970. I found myself interviewing untested rookies including Carlton Fisk and Dwight “Dewey” Evans. When my status as a baseball maven was established, I leapfrogged over other TV News reporters in gaining access to players. TV reporters were still regarded with suspicion and a little scorn in many dugouts. Print “beat” reporters abhorred their electronic colleagues as “plastic, empty-headed no-nothings” and refused to share information.

Again, I triumphed with my stats and anecdote-filled repartee. Plus, I  had Polaroid pictures of myself with Mantle, Maris, Snider and other luminaries. I could swap John Wayne stories with Ted Williams, who was suitably impressed. The one-of-a-kind Red Sox icon Johnny Pesky, took a liking to me and would greet me at the Fenway players’ entrance. I’d get the latest clubhouse poop plus insight as to what the front office suits were doing. Johnny Pesky even offered to intervene when I was getting some static from my own suits. This was the backdrop for my assignments as opening day “color” reporter at Fenway Park for almost 31 years.

Ironically, the “Curse of the Bambino” would not be broken until after I retired. 2004. My 3rd year of retirement. That historic comeback of comebacks against the dreaded Yankees left me staring at the television with my mouth open.

This year’s opening day game at Fenway is now in the record books including a 3-run homer from rookie left fielder Andrew Benintendi.  A 5-3 interleague win against the Pittsburgh Pirates was just “okay.” Just okay because the bullpen was shaky. Since then, we are on a winning streak and we should be grateful because this may be as good as it gets. You can never be sure. Half the team has the flu, another chunk seems to need some kind of shoulder surgery. We live in hope, but know how it goes.

We watch. We wait. Our Boys of Summer are back — with great expectations — and one major difference.  There’ll be no more clutch home runs from the retired #34, “Big Papi.” Fenway will be a little quieter. On the field, in the dugout, and in the clubhouse.

So far, so good. Not perfect, but not bad. And it’s just the beginning of a very long season.

THE BARBERSHOP AROUND THE CORNER – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Haircuts can be a complex problem for a guy. Nay, you say?

Yay, I say — if you’re a man of color.

Not all barbers can cut “our kind” of hair. It’s one of America’s darker secrets. If one has curly, sometimes called “kinky” hair, barbers are befuddled and sometimes nervous. White barbers. Fellas used to the electric razor and scissors to trim the smooth hair of boys, teens, men, and even older gents with fair skin.

It’s a sensitive, ethnic thing.

Growing up, I always went to black-owned and operated barber shops in our diverse neighborhoods. No worries. You asked for a summer or winter haircut. Close or maybe moderate — to accommodate the weather. Awaiting my time in the barber chair, I’d peruse the men’s magazines with pictures that stimulated my growing body. The air was usually full of cigar smoke and raunchy conversation with much laughter. One of the barbers would caution there were kids in the shop. The laughter only got louder with someone slapping me on the shoulder. I remember those days with great affection.

Fast forward through the decades. It’s 1970 and I’m a newly arrived TV news reporter in Boston. Predominantly WHITE Boston. I was living IN Boston, five minutes away from downtown businesses and the TV station. There were several barber shops or men’s hair stylists in the area.

I tried one recommended by the star anchorman whose blonde, carefully layered coif was a thing of beauty.

I could feel the stares as I entered the ornate hair salon. I waited a few, very long moments until a gent who looked like the old time actor William Powell approached me. His white barber jacket had perfect creases. He offered a polite smile while informing me his shop could not properly “address” my kind of hair. I smiled and left, quietly seething inside.

I needed a trim before making my Boston television début.  So it was that I instantly became a celebrity client at the local barber’s college. It wasn’t pretty.

Word spread quickly and I received a call from Boston Mayor Kevin White’s office. A day later, I had a personal barber. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship that lasted more than 30 years.

Fast forward again, maybe another 10 years. Now retired and living in small town New England,  I had no real need for spiffy hair cuts. However, I still travelled a distance because I didn’t trust any of our local barbers who didn’t seem eager to get my business.

We were now living on a fixed income. It seemed silly to travel that distance and pay $40 (plus tip) for a fancy hair salon clip with my receding hairline. I summoned up my old Marine Corps courage and decided to check out a local, corner barbershop.  The classic barber’s pole beckoned me. I entered and surprise —  smiles and friendly greetings. I walked over to the available barber and quietly, awkwardly asked if he could cut “my” hair. He smiled broadly and said, “No problem, Bro”.  It was the beginning of another beautiful friendship.

Eddie knew his stuff. He smiled as I removed my hearing aids and told him I was in his hands.  Ten minutes later and I was a new man with a crisply trimmed coif that managed to hide some of the growing shiny spots atop my head.

Eddie would tell me he prided himself with his work. It was his way of saying ethnicity was not an issue. His biggest issue? Smart-aleck kids with overbearing parents. Eddie soon opened his own shop. He branched to a second operation and is a well-respected fella in our small town. Yes, I’ve recommended him to other people of varying ethnicities.

There are no men’s magazines with adult photographs in Eddie’s place. He’s sensitive to the young people who come through the door. There are lots of interesting pictures on the wall,  most guaranteed to make you smile.

If you’re in our town and need a haircut, stop in at Eddie’s place. You’ll like him.

You’ll love his prices.

GARRY ARMSTRONG’S EARLY SPRINGTIME

And so, with the sun bright in the sky, I took the camera and went out. I wanted a haircut. The car needed a shampoo. And, we needed some cold cuts for lunch.

Mumford River and dam – middle of town

No leaves on the trees, but you can see the hint of them in the fuzzy pink color of the branches. Another two to three weeks before the flowers get serious about blooming. In the meantime, this is early spring in the center of the Blackstone Valley.

TRAGICOMEDY – LOST AND FOUND by GARRY ARMSTRONG

Back in the day (I hate that cliché), I used to do features like this for slow TV news days. It’s been a week of family soap opera, spawned by disciples of “Ozzie and Harriet”, “Father Knows Best” and “Modern Family”. Oh, the angst! Today figured to be a reprieve. Lunch with an old pal from my working days. I looked forward to sharing stories about baseball, favorite TV shows, and guy gossip. Perfect weather. Tee shirt weather. My old, yellow, sports car with the sun roof would be my wheels. Girls call my car and me “cool and awesome”. Ready to roll.

But, as Columbo would say, “… just one more thing, Sir”. I couldn’t find my shoulder bag. My shoulder bag which contains my driver’s license, SS card, medical and credit cards. Marilyn joined me in the household search, from casual to frantic. Car searches turned up nothing. I stared accusingly at the dogs. Visions of a conspiracy grew. Why me?

Marilyn tried to calm me down as my grumbling grew louder, laced with profanity and anger. Why me?

She tried to call my friend to cancel lunch but his contact numbers were out-of-date. I had failed to update contact vitals. Why me?

I dashed off an email to my pal, explaining the situation and apologizing for the last minute lunch cancellation. My anger was growing. Except, I was the perp.

Finally, I decided to retrace my movements of the past 24 to 36 hours. Local deli to supermarket. I kept thinking of what potentially lay ahead if my ID and credit cards were really lost … or even worse, had been stolen. Dammit!

The supermarket folks were kind. They knew me. One of the perks of living in a small town is that everyone knows your name. One of the managers smiled and indicated they had it — even before I could get the question out.

I gulped and stepped back, taking a deep breath. They searched high and low, assuring me my bag was safe, under lock and key.

The long wait. Finally, with deep apologies, they said my bag was at the police station. Why were they apologizing?? I was the one who’d lost the bag. I gave myself a Gibbs’ head slap.

The police station is only a couple of minutes away, but season long road work has the middle of town in a virtual freeze frame. Twenty minutes later, I pulled into the police station parking lot. I counted to ten and got out of the car. I took a few steps, then got back into the car … to turn the engine off. Another one to ten count then advance into the police station.

They greeted me with smiles. Yes, they had my bag!! They recognized my police badge. Actually, it’s an auxiliary police badge given to me back in my working days. Yes, I still like to flip the holder cover open, casually revealing the badge. I’m admittedly an aging ham.

My bag was returned to me. I signed a release form with a BIG “Thank You”. The station personnel kept smiling. I wanted to slowly back out, feeling very stupid. They wouldn’t let me leave. Why me?? It seems they wanted to take pictures with me. To show off to their family and friends. Who used to watch me on television. Very weird.

I kept thinking … they shoot horses, don’t they?

MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, PERSONALLY – GARRY ARMSTRONG

The following anecdote is not rigged by the crooked media — or the straight media.

I was exiting our local supermarket and noticed a young lad, maybe 10 or 11-years old staring at me. I know that look. Maybe you have to be a person of color to recognize that look.

Given my particular history, it means one of two things.

Someone thinks they recognize me and probably do, because I used to be someone. Or, they are wondering what this dark-skinned guy is doing here. In this case, I knew he couldn’t have seen me on TV because I retired before he was born. So, living as he does in our fair (and very white) town, probably he had never seen a real, live not white person.

I seized the awkward moment. I smiled and said: “Hi, How are you doing? Isn’t this a beautiful day?” The lad beamed at me.

I am personally on the road to making America great again.

Trust me.