A permanent wave -- goodbye

Thursday, August 6, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

H. David Reid is leaving downtown. That may not seem like such a big deal, but I assure you that this is terrible news for a lot of people.

Me, for instance.

He has been cutting my hair for 15 years. We have the perfect arrangement. That is, he gives me a good haircut at a reasonable price. He does this quickly and close to my office. In return, I never write rubber checks or expect him to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

David can wash, cut and style my hair in 35 minutes. So, I can get a haircut and still have time left on my lunch hour. I used to spend it browsing through McAlpin's and Shillito's and Pogue's and Elder-Beerman. Maybe Giddings, if I felt flush.

Curing big hair

He often slides me in with very little notice. You know how sometimes you just wake up one morning and your hair is too long? It was OK the day before, but overnight you became what my mother describes as a "sheep peeking through a thicket."

I would call David and say, "I look like hell and I'm telling everybody that you do my hair." He would fit me right in between somebody's perm and somebody else's color. He never -- not once -- lectured me about planning ahead. He would just raise one eyebrow and observe mildly, "Hmmm. Big hair."

Once he was on vacation when I badly needed his services, and I had to go to work looking like Little Richard for three days. I waited for him to come back.

I have cheated on him only twice. Once I woke up with big hair in Florida. I had no choice. Neither of us ever mentioned it. Another time, I got a coupon from a place that already was pretty cheap. David had spoiled me so that I was beginning to think that anybody could do what he does.

The very nice young woman who cut my hair introduced me to cowlicks I never knew I had. I no longer looked like Little Richard. I looked like Seinfeld's neighbor, Kramer.

David rescued me, shaking his head and laughing. In fact, even though most people enjoy gossip with the person who cuts their hair, with David, I always enjoyed a laugh. A big guy with a tattoo -- a got-it-in-the-Navy kind of tattoo -- he looks like Dom DeLuise if Dom had laid off the pasta for a few months. Big. Not fat. But he is jolly.

He even made me laugh when my hair was falling out during chemotherapy. He made the best of the hair I had and he found kinder, gentler shampoos and skin products for me. A very nice man. I can't believe he would run out on me, move to Tri-County.

"Why, David?" I wailed. "Why?"

An urban citizen

This is a city guy, an urban citizen. He not only worked downtown, but he lived there for 17 years, walking to his West Fourth Street salon. He shopped at Findlay Market and bought sausage from Avril's on Court Street.

He found his silk shirts and fancy sweaters at Dino's and his shoes at Potter's. He and his wife went to movies on the skywalk. Their Thanksgiving dinner was the buffet at the Netherland.

More than half of his business came from the suburbs. Now, he says, his clients complain about parking. And getting through the construction. They tell him it's a hassle.

Maybe the new stadiums will be surrounded by some bustle. And maybe the convention center will be expanded. Maybe we'll get a Nordstrom. Maybe. But he can't afford to wait. He's losing customers now.

"It's part perception and part reality," David says. "They get their car towed once, and bingo. It's $80, and that mall parking lot looks pretty good. Plus there's not much down here anymore they can't find closer to home."

So, H. David Reid has given up on downtown. It is a sad day for a lot of people. And not just the ones who need haircuts.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in the Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. E-mail her at laurapulfer@enquirer.com