#62 Shave & Haircut

AmperArt #62 Shave & Haircut

 #62 Shave & Haircut
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Andrew J. De Simone
December 31, 1899 – March 29, 1962

Daddy's Gravestone

ANDREW J. De SIMONE
Beloved Husband & Father
1899 – 1962

Before I release AmperArt #100 with a big celebration later this year, I wanted to include in the first 100, two specially-numbered pieces of my artwork to honor my mom & dad, both of whom I love & admire, & from whom I inherited my talent:
My mother, who died at 84 years old on February 13, 2001, for whom I created #84 Love & Devotion, issued this past February 13.
My father, who died at 62 years old on March 29, 1962, for whom I created #62 Shave & Haircut.

This was to be issued March 29, the anniversary of my father’s death, but computer crashes prevented that. So I spent an entire day writing & editing the story about my dad. I have stripped out everything that has little to do with Shave & Haircut, or barbering, and will publish that for Father’s Day. Then you’ll read, besides knowing my father as the barber, why my childhood was so rich with happy memories & abundant love. That part of the story, however, will begin with Mother’s Day. 

(#84, the tribute to my mother, is actually the 98th AmperArt created & this one, #62 for my father, is actually the 99th one created—the edition numbering does not relate to the order of issue. The next AmperArt will be #100, both in edition number & issue. I have no idea what the theme or title will be.)

barber shears

Daddy was a barber. Hence the title of this piece, Shave & Haircut. Being a barber was, to me, very special. I got to visit him at the shop which was walking distance for my mother & me from our house in Glendale, California. I loved the smell of the barber shop, always a spicy fragrance of tonics, & my dad “wore” that scent when he came home from work, along with the menthol of his Kool non-filters and Lifesaver mints. And his warm smile & silver hair. Here’s what I remember & what I’ve been told about my dad:

Born the last day of the century—my dad’s incredible birthdate. He was born in Sicily December 31, 1899 & came “on da boat” to America when he was 6 months old. The family settled in Chicago. What’s remarkable about his birthdate (besides being born the last day of the century—the century before last, in fact) is that his age was always the same as the year, to the day. I was born in 1951, & Daddy was 51. He died March 29, 1962, & he was 62. (I find that fascinating. If he knew his age he knew what year it was, & vice versa—a memory device I could use as I get more & more forgetful.) 

Daddy grew up in Chicago with his four brothers & two sisters, was smitten with a waitress from Indiana 16 years his junior (& left her tremendous tips, she told me), & chased after her to Los Angeles. They got married & I was born several years later. I have always liked waitresses (& left them big tips)—like father, like son.Barber comb

Daddy had his own barber shop, although early on upon settling in Glendale, he had a partner—his brother Sam. Those are their actual business cards in the picture below. Very special thanks to my brothers for scanning and sending me images of the business cards, and to my sister for keeping them safely stored. There were four barbers among the brothers: my dad Andrew J., Samuel J., Anthony J., and Michael J. My dad’s middle name was Joseph, so I assume the other brothers were too. (I have no idea who Joseph was in the family ancestry, except that was their father’s middle name as well.) The brothers grew up in Chicago, then relocated near Los Angeles. 

We drove to visit each of Daddy’s brothers who were all barbers, frequently on weekends. I’d play with their children & enjoy some spectacular dinners, both Italian & otherwise. I enjoyed being among the grownups as they conversed & laughed with each other. (I recall lots of cigarettes, cigars & Miller High Life—as well as Sinatra, Perry Como & Vic Damone on the radio.) I enjoyed all my cousins at those visits—Rosie, Chuck, Steve, Cindy, Irene, Ronnie & Michelle.

Another relative (whose family had nothing to do with barbering) we visited frequently was my cousin Mary Ann, who was always there to take care of us when Mom was in the hospital, or to help out in any other way she could. Her father, my Uncle Carlo, tended his garden where I tasted the best tomatoes in my life. He also brined his own olives, sending large jars home with us, & to this day that is a cherished flavor I wish I could experience again.

Those are good memories, hanging out with the aunts & uncles & cousins on the weekends.

Daddy had two sisters & one other brother, none of which were barbers or stylists. I have fond memories of all my aunts, uncles & cousins, on both sides of the family. I will tell you about them when I release a future AmperArt titled Aunts & Uncles. It will include my cousins as well.
Shaving brush

As for the barber tools, I loved the sound of the scissors with their constant snipping rhythm. There was the smell of the tonics & the talc, which Daddy “wore” home every day after work, smelling so fresh & crisp & clean. That was mixed with Spear-O-Mint Lifesavers & the menthol of Kool non-filters. A wonderful, memorable combination.

Barber tools and business cardsAfter each haircut I’d get dusted with a fluffy brush full of lavender talc, and then the best part of all (besides my dad’s soft voice & friendly smile): The Massage. Wow, I have never had a better head-&-neck massage since those by my dad, with the machines strapped to his hands that vibrated every finger deep into the scalp. His massages were wonderful with just his fingers alone, but with the Oster massagers it was amazing. (I inherited one of them, and used to massage my cat with the motorized device. As soon as he heard me turn it on—they were quite loud—Woofer would jump on my lap & start purring immediately. Most cats react to the electric can opener; mine to the electric massager.) I enjoy giving a good massage—and I’m always told “Don’t stop!”—so I wonder if I inherited that from my dad.

One barber tool I didn’t care for so much was the barber strop. Daddy was a good father, kind & gentle, but in those days it was normal for kids get a whipping with a belt when we acted up (I was the king of acting up—still am). Well, Daddy didn’t need a belt—he had something far more effective, the barber strop: two thick pieces of material, one leather & one heavy fabric, used for sharpening the straight-edge blade. Zowie! That stung! It’s pictured near the bottom in the photo of the barber tools—shown far smaller & less intimidating than in real life.

Straight-edge razor
I enjoyed visiting Daddy’s barber shop. I’d walk to there with mom, or Daddy would drive me to be his “assistant” at the shop. I would sweep up the hair on the floor, but I’m sure I scattered it more than anything. It was fun playing with the barber chairs, raising & lowering & swiveling them with the levers. Of course Daddy would pull out the booster seat to give me a haircut, and after he finished I’d give him a penny to tip him like the grownups. Doesn’t sound like much, but in those days, the 1950s, a good tip was ten cents. Remember the ditty “Shave & a Haircut, two bits”? Two bits meant 25 cents, and I recall haircuts in those days weren’t much more than that—well, double, but still only 50 cents. I don’t know how we ate so well, steak just about every night with full-on salad, vegetables, potatoes & dessert—unless Mom made her incredible vegetable beef soup, or lasagna, or spaghetti & meatballs, all from scratch—on a barber’s salary.

Getting back to barbering, I soaked up how my dad interacted with his customers. He was gregarious, cheerful, and always had kind words. I enjoy dealing with clients, and I often think maybe that’s part of my dad’s  influence on me. Mom’s too, as she was a waitress whom everyone loved. One thing I surmise is that I get my artistic talent from both my parents: the conceptual & lettering side from my dad (who had beautiful handwriting) with the whimsical influence of Italian heritage; & the design aspect from my mother (who told me once she would love to have been an architect) with the logic & exactness stemming from my German heritage. As for my perfectionism—that’s just a character defect.

AtomizerDaddy always had a box of Lifesavers (twelve rolls) in his barber shop. In those days they were used as breath mints. He usually had Spear-O-Mint, but sometimes Cryst-O-Mint. I liked those; they were Cryst-O clear. (My favorites, though, were Butter Rum & a strangely minty Choc-O-Late, which is no longer made. Every Sunday Daddy would take me, and eventually my brothers & sister after they were born, to Sav-On Drug Store to stock up on the usual for the week: First, each of us got a nickel ice cream cone, & there was a lot of ice cream on them for just a nickel. What I remember most about the ice cream counter was the beautiful red & white sign with just a touch of green, spelling out Carnation Ice Cream with an illustration of a striped carnation—the type that’s white, rimmed with red. We had all sorts of carnations growing along the side of our house. To this day the striped carnation, just like in the ice cream sign, is my favorite flower. 

After the ice cream cones, we would head to the candy aisle where Daddy would get a box of Lifesavers for the barber shop. I don’t recall if he’d grab his carton or two of Kools on our Sunday errand, or get them from the liquor store across from the barber shop. Most likely he sent a kid over to pick them up and would tip the kid as much as the cigarettes cost. He was like that.

Finally, back in the candy aisle, Daddy would pick up a Cup-O-Gold candy cup which was a special treat he’d give Mom. Sometimes she would share hers with me. They are delicious (like a Reese’s peanut butter cup but instead of peanut butter there’s marshmallow and almonds in a cup of chocolate) but hard to find. Once in awhile I see them & when I do I stock up.

Barber comb

Daddy died at 62 (in 1962) from emphysemia, & I’ll never forget the eerie wheezing sound of the oxygen machine he sat at for 15 or 30 minutes every day for the past months or years of his life. They weren’t silent portable devices like they have today, but a large metal apparatus with shiny steel arms & a huge floor-standing tank with knobs & guages & a horrifying mask. I can still hear his tremendous coughing echoing in the tiled bathroom, especially in the morning as he was getting ready for work. I understand he had malaria as a child, but no doubt it was the Kool non-filters that killed him. I have never smoked for that reason. (In those days, the mid-20th century, smoking was the norm. But our mom quit eventually, & lived to 84.)

Towards the end—prior to the stroke that caused him to go blind for the last days of his life—Daddy’s health was getting progressively worse. But he kept suiting up & showing up to take care of his loyal customers. (My dad would dress up in a crisp white shirt, suit & tie everyday that he served his customers, then add a white barber smock over that when he got to work.) His customers were truly loyal. As his health deteriorated so did his haircuts. Shabby as they were, his customers would have no one else cut their hair. They simply loved my father. That’s one of the finest testimonies I have ever heard about anyone. And right before he took his last breath, he told my mom to grab an envelope out of his coat pocket & give it to his brother. It was payment in full for a loan. My dad had integrity. 

I may or may not have cried between his passing & the funeral; I don’t remember. Was I trying to be brave, now “the man of the house” at just 10 years old? Did I not truly comprehend my father’s life had ended? I’m not sure. But I vividly recall bursting out in tears upon seeing Daddy lying still in the coffin. It finally hit me. I can actually feel that moment right now.

After Daddy died & we were cleaning out the barber shop, we discovered proof of what a typically stubborn Italian he was. Mom brown-bagged his lunch each day, and sprinkled a little Adoph’s on his sandwiches. (Adolph’s was a salt substitute, as Daddy wasn’t supposed to have any salt which he loved as much as the ton of sugar he put in his coffee.) In the back room of the shop—you guessed it—we found a one-pound container of Morton salt!

barber shears

Daddy, you were the fuzzy warmth of the gray sweater you always used to wear & the crisp scent of tonic, mint & menthol. You were kindness, love & integrity. I wish my brothers & sister could have known you as I did, but then I wish I could have known you longer as well. You live in all of us, I can tell, as I see your honesty & and generosity & kindness in all your children. I admire you & I love you.  I’m proud to be your first-born, too, the spoiled brat that I was (and still am).

Carnation


chaz sez ...

Check out the new “chaz sez” blog at DesimoneDesign.com, my commercial graphic design website. It’s mostly about design, typography, printing, publishing & marketing, but on occasion I’ll divert to a sideways topic that just can’t escape my ranting & raving.


Production notes for #62 Shave & Haircut:
Original size: 20×30 inches

Programs: Adobe Illustrator (ampersand), Photoshop
Font: Rockwell
Ampersand: hand-drawn
Credits:
All barber-related images: depositphoto.com (modified)
Daddy’s gravestone: photographed by Robert DeSimone
Business cards: archived by Roslyn Clark, scanned by Andy DeSimone & Robert DeSimone
Carnation: someone’s garden
You may repost the image. Please credit AmperArt.com.
To download a full-size high-resolution 11×17-inch poster, click on the image.

For professional graphic design, please visit Desimone Design.

Desimone? Damn good!

#79 Love & Be Loved, a Valentine’s poem

 

Love & Be Loved


#79 Love & Be Loved
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This is a high-resolution pdf & may take a few minutes to download.
Find printing tips & framing ideas here.

Dear Ampersand Lover,

Happy Valentine’s Day!

A lovely poet inspired my 2015 Valentine’s AmperArt piece. In fact, her poem actually contains an ampersand. Her poem’s title is also my AmperArt title: Love & Be Loved.

How blessed
We are
To love
& be loved
For love is
God’s work
in our hearts

The poet’s name is Samanthi Fernando. She is a California Poet who writes inspirational & spiritual poetry.

Her writing is remarkable. I am not a huge poetry fan, but what Samanthi writes—& the way she writes—touches my heart. Her way with words is compelling, succinct, crisp, modern. (I like modern.)

Visit Samanthi’s blog, where she’s written lots of poetry. You don’t just read her poetry, you feel it. The photography in the headers is all hers, too. Just like her writing, her visual composition is stunning. (If you don’t think the Valentine’s header measures up to the rest, don’t blame it on Samanthi. I contributed that one.)

Fall in love with Samanthi Fernando’s poetic ministry of hope & healing at http://starsafire.starrayz.com/wordpress/

rosegoldSOLIDHUEhearts

If you find aesthetic beauty in this AmperArt piece, you can thank Samanthi for that as well. She introduced me to rose gold, which she says is very popular in fashion & decor right now. (I should know this stuff.) I find it a valuable addition to my list of favorite colors. I prefer silver over gold. Silver is light, crisp, modern, where gold is heavy & old (just sayin’). However, silver just doesn’t convey the richness of gold, & that’s where rose gold comes in. Contemporary, inviting, & rich.

The locket was originally silver, so I sampled some accessory photos (thanks, Tiffany) & layered the new color over the silver, turning the heart into rose gold. I wish I could do the same to everything—I mean for real. Every piece of aluminum, stainless steel, pewter & even my silver Crayolas—open up Photoshop & turn them all into real gold! (On second thought, leave the Crayolas alone.)

I LUV U candyheartI LUV U

In development, an earlier version of the artwork had a candy heart where the pendant is. I wanted something that said “I love you.” What better than those iconic hearts! I tried “I LUV U” but that was too frivolous. In fact, I felt the candy heart itself was frivolous and too “candy pink” for such a beautiful poem, which required a sophisticated design. I brokenheartedly (not really, but it is the theme here) decided to sacrifice the words “I love you” for a more elegant image. I found several beautiful pendants with gold & silver & gems…then I found this. A silver pendant, beautifully hand-tooled in an organic hammered finish, with the words “I love you” in several languages. The perfect piece!

That is, until Samanthi commented on its color, silver. No, it wasn’t the rich color I had conceived for that element of the artwork, but that’s the color it was, & gold would actually clash with the other colors of typography and background. Then she asked if I had could possibly make it rose gold. Yes, I’m sure I could—if I knew what rose gold was. She directed me to a few examples & voila! Rose gold is the perfect color for the locket and for the poem!

That just goes to show…you can teach an old designer new tricks!

Wishing you a lovely Valentine’s Day.
Love & Be Loved


 chaz sez ...

 

To Roslyn, Andrew & Robert:

I love you!

Actually, the heading this time should say “Charlie sez…” because that’s what I’ve always been to my sister & brothers, and to my very oldest friends. (I acquired the name “Chaz” in my drinking days…I was called “Chaz the Spaz.” Some of my artsy friends liked it so I kept it. Easier to write, too. In fact, I can’t even properly pronounce my given name, “Charles,” named after my Sicilian grandfather, Carlo. Though I detest being called “Charles”—too formal!—I like the fact that it offers so many options, such as “Chuck,” “Charlie” & “Chaz.” My sister calls me “Char.”) I do digress. Chaz the Spaz.

Just the other day I was thinking, sadly, about the fact that as my brothers & sister are getting older (me too—I’m the oldest) we see each other less frequently. I’ve moved 100 miles away & one of my brothers is planning to move overseas. Plus, my sister is kept busy with work, kids and grandkids. And my other brother is miles away and busy, too.

We’ve always been close as a family, and I am extremely grateful for that. It hurts to hear when families are torn apart. I think we stick together partly in honor of our great parents who bestowed immense love upon us; and also just because we respect and love each other a great deal. Although I don’t deserve much respect for all the fuck-ups I’ve pulled in my life, endlessly asking my family to bail me out or lend me money (lend?). Still, we stick together.

But at the same time, it seems we’ve physically been drifting apart.

I cherish all the trips we took as kids to visit our uncles and cousins (on my dad’s side, just a few cities away; our mother’s family was in Indiana, several states away). My parents’ siblings were all very close, and they visited each other frequently—by long distance telephone calls if not in person. I felt the warmth among them, the love.

When will it be too late, I was wondering recently, when one of us is gone before we all got together as a family again? It was a very sad thought.

Well, a happy thought came in as a text a few days ago. It was a message from my sister—wait, let me find it so you can read it yourself…

Hey there Brothers,  i am hoping the 4 of us can get together for dinner on either February 6 or 8.  I spoke to Rob awhile ago and I told him it would be great for just the four of us to “manga” (is that spelled right) together.  I will cook Mom’s spaghetti snd meatballs with all the fixins.  Rob is in so hope u two can join.  It will be a De Simone Happy New Year dinner!  ♥♥♥♥♥ Roz

And…

I even have Mom’s spaghetti bowl to serve our main dish :)

I felt an immense warmth reading that. I felt our closeness. I felt…love & be loved. I look forward to this dinner very much. Yes, the dinner itself, as Roz is a fantastic cook and if she can pull off just a smidgen (one of Mom’s words) of what our mother would have made, it will be a real feast. (I’ll bring the Italian cookies.) Note: Our mother was full German, but Daddy made sure she could cook Italian, and mama mia she could!

By the way, Roz,  it’s spelled “Mangia!” and you gotta shout it and use your hands.

Even if just peanut butter & jelly sandwiches were served, being with the best sibling friends that I grew up with for the past 60 years is one joyous occasion I’m really looking forward to. I miss them very much as the kids we once were (okay, they’d say I am still the same irresponsible childish brat).

I am very happy to tell you, my AmperArt friends, how much this occasion means to me. I wanted to make some sort of profound statement at this very special dinner without sounding too pompous or sappy, but thanks to you, my readers…I think I just said it. Hopefully my brothers & sister will open this AmperArt & read it.

So, whether it’s “Char” or “Charlie” or even “Chaz the Spaz”…I want to say I deeply love, & I know I’m loved by, my incredible sister & my two magnificent brothers.

UPDATE: Dinner was magnificent! My sister outdid herself. After the antipasto, the Italian appetizers, olives, meats & cheeses, as well as Italian cookies & breadsticks, there was hardly enough room for the spaghetti, meatballs & sausage. But we managed to stuff quite a bit down, as it was so incredible to taste “Mom’s spaghetti” again. Then there was dessert: cannolis, cheesecake and gelato. Plus an Italian almond nougat candy which doubled as a charming placeholder.

There was still one more course: the family gathering itself: just my sister, two brothers & myself. We laughed, reminisced, played trivia games like who could remember all the streets in order to the left and right of our house—a good test for senility. We all discovered, or were at least reminded, of events in our childhood we’d forgotten about, and some we never knew.

This meant more to me than the typical holiday feasts. That night was a lot of fun & a lot of food, but it didn’t end when we departed. I still feel the warmth and love that my sister & brothers brought to that special evening, and to my childhood, and to our family as a whole. I know our parents would be very proud that we have stayed so close as a family.

My deepest gratitude and love to Roz, AJ & Robbie (the names they had as kids).

Love & Be Loved…absolutely!


Production notes for #79 Love & Be Loved:
Original size: 10×15 inches
Program: InDesign, Photoshop
Font: Eras
Ampersand: A silver pendant turned into solid rose gold, thanks to Samanthi’s fashion sense
Credits:
Poem: Samanthi Fernando, starsafire.starrayz.com/wordpress/
Pendant: Андрей Гивель (Ukraine photographer, aka Trionis), 123rf.com
Background: vectortuts.com
Reference for rose gold hue: Tiffany (where else?)

For professional graphic design, please visit Desimone Design.

Desimone Design

#51 Salt & Pepper

51-salt-pepper

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This is a high-resolution pdf & may take a few minutes to download.
Find printing tips & framing ideas here.

Daddy died March 29, 1962, over a half century ago. I was 10 years old. He was 62.

Now I am 62.

You can imagine March 29 this year has been on my mind a lot lately. I am healthy, still feel young and strong (until I do something stupid at this age), so it’s hard to imagine my dad looking like such an old man when he passed away at only 62 years old.

But he always looked like an old man to me, and I loved him for it. That’s one reason I’ve always respected my elders. You see, my dad was 51 years old when I was born. Already he had salt & pepper hair, and still a full head of it in the casket. That’s how I’ve always seen and remembered him: with this beautiful, wavy salt & pepper hair that I wanted when I grew old. Well, I have it. Mine’s more solid gray, but that’s okay. It still reminds me of Daddy. (I never called him Dad, always Daddy as I was only 10 when he died. So if it sounds silly that I still call him Daddy, well that’s okay…it just sounds right to me.)

I could tell you a lot about this man I loved and admired, and I will. But one thing that is absolutely fascinating is that Andrew J. De Simone was born December 31, 1899. That’s the last day of the century before last! Which meant he was always the same exact age as whatever year it was—to the day. That’s why it’s a little confusing to comprehend he was 51 when I was born in 1951. And he was 62 when he died in 1962. (more…)