NEW WINDSOR, N.Y. — Anthony Mancinelli shook out a barber towel and welcomed the next customer to his chair in Fantastic Cuts, a cheery hair salon in a nondescript strip mall, about an hour’s drive north of New York City.
“Hey, paisan — same as usual,” said John O’Rourke to Mr. Mancinelli, who began layering Mr. O’Rourke’s hair with his steady, snipping scissors.
“I don’t let anyone else touch my hair,” said Mr. O’Rourke, 56, of Cornwall, N.Y. “The guy’s been cutting hair for a century.”
Actually, Mr. O’Rourke was off by three years. Mr. Mancinelli is 107 and still working full time, cutting hair five days a week from noon to 8 p.m. He has been working in barbershops since he was 11. Warren Harding was in the White House.
In 2007, at a mere 96 years old, he was recognized by Guinness World Records as the oldest working barber. Since then, the commendations have rolled in — from local civic groups, elected officials and barbering companies — all congratulating him: 100 years, 101, 102, and so on.
Mr. Mancinelli just keeps outdating the awards.
The salon’s speakers were playing hip-hop on a recent afternoon. “He’s used to the windup record players,” Mr. O’Rourke teased.
Mr. Mancinelli has a trim build, a steady hand and a full head of hair, albeit snow white. He spends much of his day on his feet, in a pair of worn, cracked leather black shoes.
“People come in and they flip out when they find out how old he is,” said the shop’s owner, Jane Dinezza.
“He never calls in sick,” she said. “I have young people with knee and back problems, but he just keeps going. He can do more haircuts than a 20-year-old kid. They’re sitting there looking at their phones, texting or whatever, and he’s working.”
Asked — for the umpteenth time — about his longevity, Mr. Mancinelli offered only that he has always put in a satisfying day’s work and he has never smoked or drank heavily.
But no, longevity does not run in his family, and he was never big on exercise. Diet-wise, he said, “I eat thin spaghetti, so I don’t get fat.”
He has all his teeth and is on no daily medication. He has never needed glasses, and his hairstyling hands are still steady.
“I only go to the doctor because people tell me to, but even he can’t understand it,” he said. “I tell him I have no aches, no pains, no nothing. Nothing hurts me.”
One reason he continues to work, he said, is that it helps him stay busy and upbeat after the death of his wife of 70 years, Carmella, 14 years ago. He visits her grave daily before work.
Mr. Mancinelli lives alone, not far from the salon in New Windsor. He drives to work, cooks his own meals, watches television — he is a big pro-wrestling fan — and is adamantly self-sufficient. He still trims the bushes in his front yard with no help.
“He won’t even let anyone sweep up his hair clippings,” said his son Bob Mancinelli, 81, who noted that his father even gives haircuts to himself.
“You hear about all these people asking, ‘What medicine can I take, what food can I eat, what anti-aging cream should I use?’” she said, “and he’s doing it with none of those things.”
As hairstyles have changed over the decades, Mr. Mancinelli has adapted. “I cut them all,’’ he said, “long hair, short hair, whatever was in style — the shag, the Buster Brown, straight bangs, permanents.”
Some customers have been coming to him for well over 50 years, having gotten hundreds of haircuts.
“I have some customers, I cut their father, grandfather and great-grandfather — four generations,” said Mr. Mancinelli, who has six great-great-grandchildren.
His son, Bob Manchinelli, said: “Some of his older customers, he helps them in the chair. He’ll say to an 80-year-old guy, ‘Listen, when you get to be my age. …’ They love hearing that.”
Jen Sullivan, a stylist who works the chair next to Mr. Mancinelli, is all of 20.
“It’s just amazing that he still works full time,” she said. “Weekends here can get crazy — even I get tired of being on my feet — but he just keeps going.”
Mr. Mancinelli said he was born in 1911 near Naples, Italy, and emigrated with his family when he was 8, joining a relative in Newburgh, N.Y. He was one of eight children — “I’m the only one left” — and went to work at age 11 in a local barbershop. By age 12, he was cutting hair and dropped out of high school to cut hair full time.
Back then, a haircut cost 25 cents, he said. Now, a haircut from Mr. Mancinelli costs $19.
MIKOVA, Slovakia — A Slovak cousin of Andy Warhol, the Pop Art icon, knew his American relative was a painter of some sort.
He gathered that much from the letters his aunt, Warhol’s mother, sent to Mikova, the hamlet in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains where both the artist’s parents lived before emigrating to the United States.
“I thought he painted houses,” said Jan Zavacky, 73.
Nobody in Mikova has made that mistake for a long time.
Since Warhol’s death in 1987, the tiny village in Slovakia has — more or less — embraced its role as a place of pilgrimage for his fans. They come seeking to understand how Warhol’s family origins may have played in his rise into a global art star who grabbed so much more than just 15 minutes of fame.
On the road to Mikova, a sign with Warhol in his trademark wig of wild hair proudly announces the village as his family home.
After waves of emigration, few villagers remain — a cow herder, a few dozen pensioners and a cluster of Roma families. But all know the story of how the American-born son of Andrej Varchola and Julia Zavacky-Varchola made it big in New York, after changing his surname to Warhol
A bus stop outside the Andy Warhol museum in Medzilaborce, Slovakia. Credit Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times
At some point during Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s testimony last week, Marion Stanford grabbed a piece of wooden paneling, some paint and the $5 brushes she had purchased awhile back.
She brought the items back to her living room, where she had been glued to the television watching the drama unfold in the Senate that day. She had heard Christine Blasey Ford tell senators that Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, was the boy who sexually assaulted her 36 years ago, when they were both in high school. And as she listened to Kavanaugh’s forceful denial and defense of himself, Stanford began to paint.
She drew an elephant, the Republican symbol, in red, white and blue — with its trunk climbing up the skirt of a little blond girl in pink. Her eyes are wide open, and so is her mouth. The word “HELP!” is right next to her face. On the opposite side of the paneling, she painted the words, “YOUR VOTE MATTERS” in the same shade of pink.
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—The Republican Party officially filed for moral bankruptcy on Tuesday morning, a move that many in the nation considered long overdue.
In filing for moral bankruptcy, the Republicans will formally attest that they have no morals, standards, or ethics on their balance sheet, and will agree to cease all activity as a political party in exchange for indemnity from any and all legal actions.
Harland Dorrinson, a Washington attorney who specializes in moral bankruptcies, said that, by making its moral vacuum official, the G.O.P. could theoretically break itself up and sell off the parts, but, he warned, “There are no buyers.”
“From Lindsey Graham to Ted Cruz to Mitch McConnell to Chuck Grassley, all of the Republican Party’s assets could only be described as toxic,” he said. “Their breakup value is zero.”
Further complicating such a sale, Dorrinson said, is the fact that the lion’s share of the Republican Party is already owned by the National Rifle Association, Koch Industries, and the Russian government.
“All of those entities are going to take a major loss on their investment,” he warned. “The Kochs have been trying to sell Paul Ryan for months, and they can’t give him away.”
While bemoaning the demise of a once legitimate political party, Dorrinson did see one silver lining. “The bankruptcy of the Republican Party will be presided over by Donald Trump, and no one has more experience in this area,” he said.
Trout Fishing in America
Richard Brautigan is dead.
Long live the Poets !
“Some of the stuff I’ll be doing tonight I’ve only done a few times on stage,” the country musician, mystery novelist, and former gubernatorial candidate of Texas, Kinky Friedman, warns, with his deadpan, mellow rasp. “So I might screw up. It’s possible. And if I do you’ll know because I usually go, ‘Fuck.’ ”
Kinky has been on the road all summer, quietly touring in support of “Circus of Life,” his first new album of original songs in more than forty years.
“Now, in Europe, when I screwed up, they loved it,” Kinky adds, as he begins to strum. “They all felt it was performance art. The audience here has no sense of that. They don’t think it’s performance art. They just think I’m a little fucked up.”
On a recent visit to perform at City Winery, Kinky stayed with his friend Ryan (Slim) MacFarland and his family, at their home, in Jersey City. “What’s it like having Kinky Friedman as a house guest?” I ask Slim.
“As soon as Kinky walked in the door, with his black Stetson hat and ostrich-skin boots,” Slim recounts, “my five-year-old daughter was in awe. He squatted to meet her at eye level, tipped his hat, and asked if she had ever seen a real cowboy before. She loved it.”
Kinky isn’t, in fact, an actual cowboy. But he is a genuine showman, whose credits as a musician include a stint on tour with Bob Dylan, during the 1976 leg of his “Rolling Thunder Revue,” a travelling caravan of featured performers that included Joan Baez, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Roger McGuinn, Joni Mitchell, and Bob Neuwirth.
“For Kinky,” Slim continues, “life is the performance. So he’s always on: the cigar’s in his hand, maybe he slept in his clothes . . . ”
“ . . . and he’s knocking on your door asking if you want coffee at some ungodly fucking hour, telling you that you’ll drink it black because that’s how they drink it in Texas . . . ”
“ . . . and then he’s bringing you a cup of dirty black coffee, and you’re gonna drink it, and he’s gonna sit there and talk to you and blow cigar smoke right in your face and you’ll just deal with it because he’s funny and irreverent and you love what’s coming out of his mouth.”
Onstage, Kinky exhibits similar traits, minus the smoke. The next night, in Jersey City, at the comparatively diminutive Monty Hall, a music venue owned and operated by WFMU, the local public-radio station, Kinky introduces “Waitret, Please, Waitret,” from 1976’s “Lasso from El Paso,” his last album of original material. In the song, a customer politely invites a waitress to “come sit on my fate.” After one verse, the unfashionably misogynistic tune is abandoned, despite the cautious laughter of the predominantly middle-aged and older crowd. “Well,” the Kinkster, as he is also commonly referred to, especially in the third person, proclaims, “you get the drift.”
“You know, a lot of people, when they think of Kinky Friedman,” McFarland says, “they think of songs like ‘They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore,’ ‘Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in Bed,’ and ‘Asshole from El Paso.’ The funny shit. But Kinky mostly writes serious, heartfelt songs.”
Before launching into “Ride ’Em Jewboy,” which has a funny title but is undoubtedly his most serious song of all, Kinky (who is proudly Jewish) regales the audience with a seeming tall tale. While on a book tour of South Africa, in 1996, Kinky met the anti-apartheid activist Tokyo Sexwhale (pronounced “sex-wah-lay,” but spelled, as Kinky pointed out, “Sex Whale”), who was imprisoned in a cell beside Nelson Mandela on Robben Island. Every night for three years, Sexwhale told Kinky, Mandela listened to “Ride ’Em Jewboy,” the first song of the rock era to be written about the Holocaust, from a smuggled cassette of Kinky’s début album, “Sold American,” from 1973.
“Ride, ride ’em Jewboy
Ride ’em all around the old corral.
I’m, I’m with you boy
If I’ve got to ride six million miles.”
Toward the end of the evening, Kinky puts down the guitar in favor of a copy of “Heroes of a Texas Childhood,” one of more than thirty books that he has written that isn’t a mystery novel, to read “The Navigator,” a story about his father. “He taught me chess, tennis, how to belch, and to always stand up for the underdog,” Kinky explains before reading, “as well as the importance of treating children like adults, and adults like children.”
Although Kinky has been out of the political limelight since his unsuccessful bid to become the Texas agriculture commissioner, in 2014, he has not forgotten how to campaign. “My definition of politics still holds,” Kinky asserts. “ ‘Poly’ means more than one, and ‘tics’ are blood-sucking parasites.” At the end of the show, Kinky descends into the audience to graciously shake as many hands as possible as he leads the satisfied mob to the merch table in the lobby.
It was a 3 a.m. telephone call from another one of Kinky’s lofty friends, Willie Nelson, that inspired “Circle Of Life.” Kinky was watching “Matlock.” Willie, who Kinky also refers to as his therapist, instantly diagnosed his friend with depression and prescribed him to pick up the guitar and write. “When it was all over, and we were done with the record,” Slim recalls, “and Kinky heard it for the first time, he said, ‘Slim, you’ve made a senior citizen very happy.’ ”
There may be no more trenchant metaphor for the creative process than the Artist in Residence program at the San Francisco Transfer and Recycling Center, a forty-seven-acre garbage dump on the western banks of the 101. Since 1990, select artists have been offered studio space and “scavenging privileges”—a chance to stumble through mounds of discarded scraps and impedimenta, cart their finds back to their garrets, and reassemble those armfuls of trash into something deep and resonant. Using repurposed materials is certainly a noble and necessary endeavor (the program was founded by the progressive artist and activist Jo Hanson, with the hope of normalizing recycling). But the symbolism of sequestering artists to the garbage pile is perhaps too hilarious and heartbreaking to ignore.
In the past decade, a spate of unconventional residency programs have offered unused (or otherwise flexible) space to artists starved for time, solitude, or simply a room of their own, and as a result artists have taken up residence on moving Amtrak trains, a barrier island off the coast of Texas, the tower of a bridge that crosses a shipping canal, and an oceanographic research vessel. I can’t decide whether the grimness of some of these places (many are a stark contrast to the silent, idyllic pastures of the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo, two of the nation’s most venerated and competitive residency programs) is simply funny or an apt and horrifying reflection of how America presently esteems its artists.
la poeta residencia, Santa Fe, N.M. photo credit rŌbert
Don Tim Lane breaking his meditatión retirada in the Andes
Last year, more than four thousand (!) writers applied to a residency program at the Mall of America, in Bloomington, Minnesota. The gig included a twenty-five-hundred-dollar honorarium, a four-hundred-dollar gift card, hotel accommodations for four nights, and the opportunity “to spend five days deeply immersed in the Mall atmosphere,” sucking in the salty wind of corn dogs and freshly buttered pretzels, pondering the whirr of the Pepsi Orange Streak roller coaster, watching shoppers idly browse for shorts. This summer, the Queens Council on the Arts and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey partnered to install a series of Queens-based artists and writers at LaGuardia Airport—perhaps the most desperate location in all of New York City. (Artists accepted into the program occupy a repurposed Hudson News kiosk for three months.)
con-Artist in residence Matt Wells at Macho Acres, Marshall, Colorado… for more information concerning accommodations call Paul Sibley.
Writers love lecturing anyone who will listen about how the work requires total isolation and commitment. It does, at the very least, demand sustained thought, which is an especially difficult thing to make space for in the present era. I myself have taken off for the hills when the static started to seem insurmountable—when a deadline was bearing down, and I could no longer discern the signal from the noise. Obviously, it’s a privilege to be even moderately equipped or allowed to do this—the luxury of frantically hollering “Not today!” to your unswept floors, to your loving partner, to the person on Twitter offering unsolicited advice, to your family members, to your other deadlines, to the thirty-seven kindly e-mails requesting an hour or eight to “pick your brain.” It is unquestionably a gift to be able to cram a pile of clothes and notebooks into the passenger side of a car and mash the accelerator.
Making art almost always requires failure—you’ve got to flail for a while, to swing and miss, miss, miss. But failure requires a financial cushion, a way to pay the bills while you figure out what you’re doing. Almost every working artist I know has several sources of income—they cobble together a Franken-career of freelance gigs, teaching appointments, one-off projects, and periodic office or restaurant stints. The stress of managing a dozen concurrent jobs can become paralyzing. The proliferation of oddball residencies simply reiterates how hysterically difficult it is for contemporary artists who are not born rich to nurture or sustain any sort of creative practice. In the midst of this, a silent room with your name on the door—wherever it is, and regardless of whether it has plumbing or not—becomes a kind of life preserver.
Of course, to advocate for the arts now, in an age in which so many people are suffering so urgently (from lack of health care, shelter, sustenance), feels like outing yourself as a pretentious gasbag. The culture so often considers creative work an indulgence, a trifle—the terrain of dilettantes, heirs, and heiresses. (When struggling artists gather to kvetch, “Oh, they’re rich” is the most biting insult hissed across the bar.) To hold and affirm that creative work is essential to the spiritual well-being of any thriving civilization feels almost too pie-eyed to bear.
Residency programs suggest that the best thing to do is to shrink and compartmentalize the whole process—to arrange for some brief, glorious period of time in which you get to live in the bathroom of a McDonald’s, or rattle around the back of a U-Haul, or, if you’re particularly lucky, decamp to some breathtaking cabin in the countryside, and make your stuff. Perhaps one no longer lives as an artist but merely vacations as one.