Saturday, March 08, 2008

GABE'S HAIRCUT


"We're Open", originally uploaded by Digital Agent.

When he was growing up, my son, Gabe, always requested the same dinner on his birthday: lasagna and mashed potatoes. These days we skip the mashed potatoes, but still honor the tradition.Forget the gifts; don't worry about the cake. The only thing Gabe really wants for his birthday is a meal worth remembering. An Italian meal.

And since he lives in Rhode Island, we have a lot of choices. If there's anywhere outside Bologna that has more or better Italian restaurants than they do in Rhode Island, I'd like to hear about it. This year, a small, unpretentious place in Smithfield served up the most awesome bruschetta with cannellini beans and eggplant rollatini I've ever had.

But the best part of the meal was fervent conversation we always have. We are the kind of family who talks so much, each excitedly waiting for a turn to speak, that when we finally look up, there's no one left in the restaurant but the employees. (As a waitress, I hated people like us, but we at least, we always tip well.)

Right now Gabe and Nicola are hard at work promoting their new business, RentProv. That means going out and getting to know the communities they want to serve. It means walking the streets of various towns and neighborhoods, talking to people about what they do, and what they hope to do. Or just talking to people, which has always been Gabe's favorite activity.

In the smallest state in the country, are still a lot ofof small family-run coffee shops and bakeries, sub shops and delis; and Gabe is determined to sample the food and meet the regulars in all of them. He's also learned that it's those small businesses, the heart of any community, who are willing to post his flyers, to take an interest in his dream, and offer to spread the word.

Last week he was walking through a somewhat downtrodden, but friendly neighborhood in Providence when he noticed a barber shop. The windows looked as if they hadn't been washed in a decade, and there were no lights on, but when Gabe tried the door, it was open.

The first thing he noticed in the empty shop was the overwhelming scent of urine. The second thing was the barber snoozing in chair, with a very large, tabby in his lap, one mistrustful eye open. Gabe estimated the barber's age at somewhere between eighty-five and ninety.

A lot of people would have slipped out before the man woke up, but Gabe decided on the spot that what he needed most in the world was a haircut from an octogenarian barber.

He had to poke the poor man three times before the barber leaped off the chair, blinking in bewilderment. "A haircut? What? Well, sure!"

So for six bucks, Gabe got himself a haircut that was reminiscent of the ones I used to give him when I bought my first set of crazy clippers, and an hour of talk about the history of the neighborhood where the barber had done business for over fifty years.

It's the kind of deal that is becoming all too rare.

36 comments:

chiefbiscuit said...

Gabe sounds like a treasure. I'm sure his business will do well. Thanks for this story. Loved reading it.

Sky said...

I checked out Gabe's website for RentProv, and it is great! Good luck to him and Nicola. :)

His birthday meal sounds scrumptious! I have never had eggplant rollatini and looked up a recipe on the food network! Oh my, Patry, it sounds delicious. My favorite Indian dish is an eggplant curry called Baigan Bartha. Since I love eggplant I must try the rollatini.

datinggod said...

. . . your son's warm-heartedness reminds me of you . . . you are one of the most "us" thinking people i've ever met . . .

rdl said...

great post - love it!!
Happy Birthday Gabe - seems like you were just 3 and we were way younger than you are now. :D

Allie said...

What a great haircut story! It's great that he stayed to chat like that.

Patry Francis said...

chiefbiscuit: I think so, but of course, we moms are a little prejudiced. Thanks for reading!

sky: Thanks for checking out the Website! They did a great job with it. And now you've gotten me curious about the Baigan Bartha. I love eggplant, too, though it seems a lot of the recipes tend to be labor intensive.

datinggod: What a lovely thing to say. "Usness" is definitely a movement that is spreading, don't you think?

r: He sure was a cute three year old, wasn't he?

allie: He loves to do things like that.

Larramie said...

The Internet connects us, while the human touch binds us. Good for Gabe's knowingness.

Moanna said...

Gabe sounds fabulous. Loved reading the story.

Dale said...

Wonderful

Patry Francis said...

larramie: You always say the most profound things. Knowingness. Oh, yes--that's what we need more of in this world.

Moanna: Thanks for your comment. I'm glad you enjoyed Gabe's stories.

Dale: One thing I loved about Seattle when I visited was the many small businesses--and the local commitment to supporting them.

Carleen Brice said...

You can tell who raised Gabe. I enjoyed this post, and Larramie's comment. I'm with you Patry: she always has the greatest comments!

Becca said...

These kinds of experiences are so rare anymore. Your son is so smart to take the time to savor this man's words and impressions...his kind are few and far between.

I wish Gabe and Nicola great success with their business!

Heidi the Hick said...

What a great story... he was smart enough to walk into an experience.

Claudia said...

A perfect story! And I love the mashed potatoes with lasagne. I know I don't know you well, Patry, but do want to say that I hope you are as well as you sound here! I've been following your blog and your recovery as best I can, and wish you lots of love and healing in your life.

Best wishes,
Claudia

p.s. and did I mention that's a perfect story? PERFECT!

Patry Francis said...

carleen: Thank you. I'd like to take credi, but honestly, this kid was born curious and open-hearted.

becca: Thanks for your good wishes. It's probably a more challenging time to start a business than it was when the barber opened his door, but G. & N. have a lot of vision and energy.

heidi: I like your phrase "walking into an experience."
Since I've been home recovering, I miss that. Now I couunt on my family and friends--and of course, the blogs--to bring stories home to me.

claudia: You know, I kind of miss that mashed potato and lasagna meal. Add a little garlic bread, and you've got the carb lover's special. Thanks for asking about my health. I'm doing well, and looking forward to getting past my next surgery, which is scheduled for this Wednesday. Think good thoughts!

twoblueday said...

I am forever searching for a decent hair cutter. I have one in Cape Cod, but in Florida, the quest goes on.

Since we summer in Cape Cod, we visit Providence fairly regularly, and often look for an Italian treat on Federal Hill, either a restaurant meal, or a pillaging of Venda Ravioli. Yum.

We also get to Water Fire at least once a year.

i beati said...

Very neat post and memory

Lorna said...

Gabe got a lot for his money. I'm afraid I would have been gone at the smell of urine, even though I love a good talk with someone I've never met.

Fred Garber said...

Patry...great post....Gabe sounds like a great young man! Eggplant recipes are always somewhat labor intensive but worth the time.

♥nova-san said...

I've always associated those old-time barbershops with the good-old days - the days when the barbers knew all their customers and the men would go there just to hang out as they got their hair cut and and their mustaches shaved and trimmed.

Good thing Gabe was persistent and kept poking the old barber. His persistence surely paid off, and $6 for a good haircut and good conversation? Can't beat that!

Sustenance Scout said...

Another gem, Patry. :) K.

kyra said...

i can't tell you how much i loved reading this! first of all, your gabe sounds wonderful. secondly, i grew up in that tiny state (in providence) and still have family there. it's so very small town in many ways.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

What a wonderful post, Patry. It reads just like a perfect scene in a book that shows so, so, so much. And how much sweeter because it really happened.

debra said...

It is the being that makes us what we are. That is why we are called human beings rather than human doings.
Happy Birthday,Gabe.

colleen said...

Gabe sounds like my son, Josh (blueberry pie and yes to that haircut). This story reminds me of an old dentist I went to once. He did everything himself the old way, had no secretary, and was cheap. But I didn't go back because he was sort of rough and not up to date with the painless stuff.

Ciara said...

what a lovely story about your son. Thanks for sharing.
I hope his business does well but if he has that type of heart I'm sure he will.
Was just surfing blogs & found yours. If you like, come visit me.
Ciara
http://simplyfriendstime.blogspot.com/

Amber said...

LOL!

floots said...

great story
about your family and the barber
i'd be tempted to go there for a haircut
(when i next need one - in a coupla years) :)
thank you

Maryanne Stahl said...

yay! patry has posted. (I check every day)

gabe sounds like a shining apple that fall right next to the sheltering tree--in other words, with a heart like his mom's.

what lovely words to wake up to today. thanks!

robin andrea said...

What a lovely story, Patry. Gabe sounds like a true mensch.

Did I ever tell you that I lived in Rhode Island and finally finished my BA at URI? My first husband was the director of their Radio and TV Department. The marriage ended in Rhode Island, which is probably why I'll always have a warm spot in my heart for the place!

tinker said...

That sounds like one memorable Italian birthday meal, and an even more memorable haircut! Happy Birthday to your son - like his mother, he sounds like quite a remarkable human being~xOx

Alice said...

Oh that Gabe! What a man! Must have had some kind of Momma!

paris parfait said...

What a wonderful story! You must be so proud of Gabe. xo

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