In the days of yore, men went to the barber, women went to the beauty salon. The idea of gender neutral haircutting places, the norm today, just began to take hold in the mid 1970's. They were called "unisex" salons. The first unisex place I went to was Here Comes The Sun in Westwood, NJ. I was a freshman in college, had let my hair grow long, and didn't want my dad's barber cutting it.
When I checked in, I was still not comfortable with a woman cutting my hair so I waited for the one dude who worked there. His name was Vito. I got shampooed, conditioner, and sat down. I wanted to keep my hair long, but just cleaned up a bit.
Vito and I started chatting, exchanged brief bios, and I learned he went to high school with my college roommate. This was a different hair cutting experience than I was accustomed to. My dad's barber, Dominic, who barely spoke English and watched soccer on a fuzzy TV while he cut my hair. It was an experience not much different from going to the dentist except without the pain.
Vito knew just the kind of haircut I wanted, and we had a pleasant conversation while he was cutting my hair. After that, I became a regular customer.
Vito eventually opened his own shop, called The Late Show because it was next door to the Pascack Theater on Center Street. I referred my family and friends there, and I became a regular there. I always enjoyed going to Vito's shop. Although we were not personal friends, getting my hair cut there was always like catching up with an old friend.
I moved out of the Westwood area in 1985 but from time to time would stop by The Late Show and say hello to Vito.
In late December 2012, I got an email from my brother informing me that Vito had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. I forwarded it to my friend Andy in Houston - another former loyal Vito customer - and he had already heard the news from his mom, who still went there. Vito had just undergone 10 hours of surgery and they were pretty sure they got everything out. Fingers crossed, hoping this story would have a happy ending. It didn't.
Then, in January, my sister sent me a copy of an ad from the local paper, the Pascack Valley Community Life announcing the closing of The Late Show due to Vito's illness.
Last week I was reading the obituaries in the Bergen Record and learned that Vito had died on March 27. I was deeply saddened, but not shocked, to read this news.
I hear too many cancer stories like this, but this one hit home particularly hard. Someone I knew and liked, a guy MY AGE, with a wife and grown kids. He will never know his grandkids. All I can say is that it sucks, and I hate seeing families go through this. This can happen to anyone. There's no rhyme or reason to it.
The motto of the American Cancer Society Bikeathon is "Who Are You Riding For?" (note to Grammar Police - STFU). This year, I'm dedicating my ride to Vito. I doesn't mean much, other than I'll be thinking of him as I'm groveling for donations, I'll be thinking of him while I'm pedaling 65 miles in the 90 degree July heat. I'll be thinking of him and his family when I cross the finish line.
Unfortunately, every year there is someone new to dedicate my ride to. We need to find a way to beat this thing.
If you want to contribute to my ride, please CLICK HERE and make a donation.