Today, there are more and more athletes testing positive for banned substances throughout professional sports especially baseball. First and foremost, this article isn’t about condoning there use but rather to just offering a different point of view as to why they are being used. Millions of people play baseball across the globe, thousands play in some sort of professional level, and only a select few make to the big show. As children they all dreamed of making it but only a small percent actually do and believe it or not, the bummiest player in MLB today is probably 10 times better than anyone you know. Do you how much hard work goes into making to the big leagues? How many sacrifices these select few have to make just to get there?
All of the early morning practices and two a day workouts may not be enough for them to keep their spot, especially when there’s always someone younger ready, willing, and able to take their spot. This thought alone may cause some to juice because they are unwilling to lose their spot on their ball club because in actuality this is all they know. Imagine being a 16 year old kid and being told to drop out of school to pursue a career in baseball, which believe it or not happens quite often. Then fast forward to 12 years later, that 16 year old kid is now a 28 year old man and has no marketable skills to pursue a career outside of baseball. Yeah he may only be making 60K or so in the minors but at least he’s making something doing what he loves. Suddenly some young phenom shows up 17 years old plays 3 times better than he does at the same position. So what choice does the 28 year old ball player with no real marketable skills have other than to juice to keep up with this young phenom. Is it a risk? Of course it is but for the 28 year old afraid of losing everything to this young 17 year old its well worth it.
Now lets look at it from the 17 year olds perspective, yeah he knows he’s good. He has God given talent and he excelled rather easily through his just beginning career. However, now he’s surrounded by grown men, bigger, stronger, and faster then he is. He must be 175 pounds soaking wet and his trainers want him to add at least 30 pounds of muscle in 6-7 months and still expect him to be as fast as he is at 175 pounds. Can you imagine the immense pressure on the young kid, who is far away from everything he knows and his support system, while being forced to grow up fast and make adult decisions that he is unprepared for? So what happens? He decides to follow those adults surrounding him and try PED’s, before he knows it, he puts on those extra 30 pounds of muscle and he’s even faster than he was before he started using them. He’s driving the ball further and stealing more bases then he could have ever imagined. Within a year he signs his first major contract for a million dollars.
Now he’s no longer that young kid who was wet behind the ears, now he’s a grown man who’s putting up huge numbers and he’s about to sign a new deal worth over a hundred million. Only problem is he can’t live up to the contract without juicing. He has to keep up those 50 home run seasons, with 30 plus stolen bases, and .659 slugging percentage. He wants to rely on his God given talent but he needs something to get him over the hump especially after suffering that ACL tear last season. Now for the average person that would mean no more beer league softball but he has to come back and still put up those same numbers. How’s little Jimmy going to feel now that his idol ain’t got it no more.
Basically what I’m trying to say is everything boils down to choices and I do believe that using PED’s are the wrong choice but maybe we need to look at why these athletes are making that choice. Little Jimmy’s idol shouldn’t be a big leaguer, his idol should be his dad. That young kid who dropped out of school to play pro ball should have received an education to make him more marketable if baseball didn’t work out. Instead of just suspensions and life time bans maybe we need to look at the causes for PED use and educate those coming about the negative choices they can make that will lead them down the PED road. Maybe they need a Hustle mentality instead of juicing.
Adelmy Vargas Marte ended up at the Hustle in what can only be described in words the great Walt “Clyde” Frazier would use; a turn of fortuitous serendipity. Minutes after arriving in the country from his beautiful homeland of the Dominican Republic, this Dominicano from El Capital found himself in one of Queens’ foremost barbershops setting up an audition. Luck can only get you but so far though; fortunately Adelmy had spent the previous 2 years practicing the fine art of the blade in his motherland. His skills earned him the teams blessing and he was welcomed into the fold with open arms. In his first short year in the land of opportunity this young man seized his and locked it down with character and humility. In the 3 years since then he’s become a staple of not only his family, but the team and the shop.
A few weeks back I sat in Adelmy’s chair for a shape up and was able to practice my poor excuse for espanol. Fortunately for y’all I took the liberty of translating it (with Googles help of course) to spare you the travesty…Read-on!
G: Ok Bro, so how long you been here in the US?
Adelmy: Aqui? About 4 years…
G: Did you learn how to cut here or in DR?
Adelmy: I was cutting hair out there, I had a shop out there but… when I got here, this was totally different. It was like I was practically starting from zero. I mean, I knew how to use the machines but the cuts were VERY different. In my country there’s pretty much one style, a Caesar, everything pretty much the same height, even. But here, you got all different types of hair, and styles and people, I learned a lot here! You can say I practically started cutting hair here -professionally.
G: How long were you cutting?
Adelmy: Out there? I started cutting like at around 19 or so… It’s like 7 years in total, but I feel like I really, really started barbering when I got here.
G: What made you start?
Adelmy: My Aunt… She worked in barbershop doing men’s manicures and pedicures. One day she tells me she’s gonna have me cut hair…
G: Out the blue, just like that, huh? This is gonna be your job…
Adelmy: Lol, yeah like “you ain’t doing nothing anyway.” She paid the owner to teach me. All I did was stand next to him and watch. Every now and again he’d say this or that but for the most part all I did was watch what he did.
G: And your first time?
Adelmy: Ahh, well after my first shape up, they made fun of one of the other barbers because they said my first time was better than his usuals! Lol, My first time…I’d never touched a blade in my life! But let them tell it, it came out good.
G: Hold up, a blade? What did u guys use out there?
Adelmy: We used clippers, Wahls, Andis… But we didn’t use trimmers. Shape ups, edging, lining, all that was done straight up with a razor.
G: Ow! Man, I didn’t know that… If you’re a hairy dude you’re f’d up!
Adelmy: YEEAAAH, they don’t line you up, mark you or nothing…They put a little water and alcohol on you, take the straight razor then RAH! RAH! RAH! Lol, it don’t matter HOW much hair you got…
G: WOW! Lol
Adelmy: Yeah, that’s how I started… I kept going there for 4 maybe 5 months, until my Aunt bought me a machine… A beautiful, beautiful machine. A black Wahl… It was like holding AIR. I knew how to use a clipper but my first cut (palms face) THAT was a DISASTER, LOL!
That kid had to go home and tell his mom he was cut by a guy known only as Pirate Eye so she wouldn’t come back to my crib and beef.
G: WHAT!? Lol, by WHO!??
Adelmy: Lol, PIRATE EYE! So if she went to a shop looking for who did it, nobody would know who she was even talking about…
G: MAAANNN LISTEN! LOL
Adelmy: Yeah, but after that he kept coming back… Even when I got my shop. He was really my first real client. I used to cut hair in my house first… I tightened up my skills and people started getting more confident in them. I started cutting more and more heads, getting better and better until I finally got to that next level…
G: You had enough clients to open a shop?
Adelmy: Yeah… First I rented a chair here and there. Then I started stacking…I invested a little in a spot and in my first month I made back my investment plus the first months rent and it was on from there. Second month wasn’t as much but I still made a lot! I had big plans for that spot. I had a freezer in there for beer… Shit, on the weekends I made more in bottles than heads!
G: NICE! You could do whatever out there…
Adelmy: Yeah, things are different out there when it comes to that.
G: So what brought you to the U.S.?
Adelmy: My Grandfather… My Mom, they were here. My Grandfather brought my Mom over, my Mom brought me and my sister over… But it’s because of him that we’re here. (There’s no mistaking the sound of gratitude… in any language)
G: How did you end up at the Hustle?
Adelmy: It’s kinda funny… The day I got here, a friend of my Grandfather’s goes to pick me up from the airport. He says ” I heard you’re a barber?”. I’m like yeah… He says, “Oh, I know where you gonna work already…I actually got a homeboy that owns a barbershop.” I’m like, OK, cool. Boom, boom, boom, we come to the shop, he walks in, talks to Charly or whatever, but as they’re speaking I realize they don’t know each other from Adam! NADA! Turns out the guy used to always get his beer from next door and just used to pass the shop all the time!
G: Hahaha, what a hookup! So what happened next?
Adelmy: Charly tells me to come back the next day with my stuff and a head to cut. I come back with my Uncle… got my clippers, everything I used in Santo Domingo, I’m ready kid! Charly gives me this very station to set up in… Boom, I start breaking out my tools and all of a sudden all these dudes start cracking up! They start laughing at my clippers. All my stuff was old, my clippers were rusty lol…
Ralph (chuckles): Yo, thats cuz he was using cooking oil to oil them bitches up!
Adelmy: Lol, Hey when there ain’t none you do what gotta do!
Adelmy: Anyway, Charly lent me some clippers. While I’m cutting, he gives me some pointers here and there, easier techniques. When I was done, he told me he would hire me… He said my wrist motions showed I’d be able to learn a lot, fast… And I was hired. Dude ain’t know Charly from Adam, bro!
G: And look, that was your second day in this country. You really hit the ground running kid…
Adelmy: Yeah, got off the plane and pretty much was working here the next day! Been here almost 4 years now…
G: Have you been back to DR?
Adelmy: Just once… So far… Would like to go back in February maybe…
G: How was the return?
Adelmy: It was cool… you know everywhere got its good and bad. Things are rough anywhere you go…If you carry yourself the wrong way and you can get got. When I went back there, I ain’t do no hotel or resort. I stayed in my old hood, around my old peoples, in flip flops, chillin’ … This older lady, a friend of my Mom, she told me “Adelmy, I’m really happy with you”. I was like, “Y porque?” She said a lot of people that leave here come back “brand new” but you’ve come back here just as sincere and humble as before you left… That felt good.
G: I gotta give it to you, your razor game is kinda smooth kid…
Adelmy: Out there they’d kill you with it. Yo, I was killing a lot of heads…Lol. That last time I was there, I went to one of my old barbers and this dude ain’t even ask if I wanted a shave… He just put a little water with a smidgen of alcohol, then RAH! RAH! RAH!
Adelmy: Lol Yo, my skin was mad red when I left!
G: So its safe to say that this is really it for you, barbering… you planning on opening a shop here one day?
Adelmy: My Mom has always said we should open a salon/barbershop. I tell her I don’t think those should be mixed. You’d need to have it set up where one would be on one side and the other on another side with no interaction. I mean, I don’t have to tell you women don’t like to be seen in rollers like that, or having weaves or wigs taken out and men, men just gonna sit there and look at women!
G: Wooorrrddd, Lol!
G: How was the adjustment moving here, was it difficult?
Adelmy: I got accustomed pretty quickly… A lot of long distance calls in the beginning, like anybody moving from one country to another but other than that I’ve just kept it moving. The biggest challenge was the language. I’ve been thinking about taking a class or something. English is pretty much the only thing I think I’m missing… I understand a lot but I don’t speak it as well. I learned a lot here in the shop from the guys, though.
G: I try to imagine how difficult it would be for me to move to another country and learn a new language well enough to function…I applaud you, that had to be hard. Do Santo Domingo schools teach English?
Adelmy: They do… Really basic stuff, though. Not anything that will have you holding a full conversation… You ain’t just gonna come out speaking Ingles.
G: Your English is pretty good though…
Adelmy: I’m trying. I have to for my clients… They know I don’t speak it that well but they’ll always give me the other 50% of whatever I may be short. I’ve had conversations with some clients where I’m getting a good amount of what they’re saying but I’m not feeling like they’re understanding me so much, if they aren’t they let me know and help me out. And the guys here always let me know they got me… When I first started the guys used to ask the clients what they wanted then tell me in Spanish… Slowly I picked stuff up. A word here, a word there and so on…
G: You’ve made huge strides in your short time here…
Adelmy: Truth is, this here has given me a lot… In a year here, not to pat myself on the back or feel grand or anything like that, but my family, my mom, my sister and me were able to move because of me, in a year I was able to get a car and just a bunch of other things that I’d not done in my country. While talking to Charly one time, I told him I have to leave early to send my Dad some money… He said it feels good to be able to help your peoples, for people to able to reap the fruits of your labor and benefit… And he’s right, it does. When I came here, I new I would come here to work at whatever, it just so happens that I found an opportunity in something I knew a little something about, something I liked, which makes it that much sweeter.
G: Well said… so what’s next for you, Bro?
Adelmy: I don’t know…Maybe starting a business… Definitely taking it to the next level, the next plateau. You gotta keep it moving. Coming here was a plateau, not being on foot anymore was another plateau, you know? I get to another plateau, I’ll reach for the next… keep moving forward, I’m not trying to go backwards! If you want something you gotta work hard for it! Full speed ahead with no looking back. That’s what no hustle, no profit means to me…
With Guatemalan born, New York City raised Kal Ixcolin, barbering has been both liberating and therapeutic. In the 10 years he’s been professionally cutting hair, he’s used the trade he came upon by happenstance to further his education, skill set and inner being. From his days as a youngster living across the street from the Seaport, through his day as a young adult seeking refuge there after one of the worst days in history, to his days as the new guy in the neighborhood shop, Kal has undergone a metamorphism with every step, getting better after each plateau and he’s only just begun. The cornerstone throughout all this change has not only been his skill as a barber, but his determination as a survivor.
I sat down in Kal’s chair to shoot the breeze while getting a shape up and was served with one of the most compelling stories I’ve ever heard…
G: Okay Kal, tell me about yourself, you know, the fundamentals, where you’re from blah, blah, blah…
Kal: Lol, I was born in Guatemala, when I was 5, I came to Queens… When I was like 10, we moved to the city… Right next to the Seaport…I came back to Queens for High School.
G: South Street? Wow, I always loved that place… You had to be there all the time!
Kal: Yeah, definitely… I had my friends from like 2 blocks away….we use to always hang out there because, you know, we were young we didn’t have anything else to do. Thats where we use to spend our time…
G: You don’t understand, I wanted to live there… still do! Lol
Kal: You kind of take it for granted when you’re there… When you see it everyday it’s like ah, yeah…
G: So when did cutting come into play?
Kal: Cutting came into play when I was working as Assistant Manager at Express at the World Trade… after 9/11 happened, I pretty much lost that job. They had me working at 34th street but I didn’t enjoy it anymore. I had to share my position with somebody else, it wasn’t fun. I decided I had enough and so, I quit. I was out of job for like 2 months… I always used to go to my barber, sometimes I would be there like on a Thursday to get a shape up, then I’d be there again on Monday to get a haircut, then I’d be back, it was like a ritual… until I stopped working, then I didn’t have the money. When I finally showed up at the shop, my barber was like, Hey I haven’t seen you in a while, what’s going on? I told him what happened, how I had quit my job, and he was like, You ever think about cutting hair? I was like cutting hair?!? No. He was like, Yeah man, you should definitely try it, and this and that... I was thinking, me cutting hair? The most I had ever done was give myself a little shape up in my house real quick. He said he’d talk to the boss and if anything he’d teach me. I said eh, ok. His name was Polo…
G: So just like that?
Kal: Yeah… And sure enough I went the next day. I remember what day it was exactly because it was actually the first day I went back to college…it was May 8th, 2002. I met with the owner and he told me if I was willing to endure the whole learning experience, I could do it. They told me where to go… to the cutlery, I went and got my stuff and that’s it…
G: Wait, were you at 9/11?
Kal: Yeah I was there, that was my 21st birthday.
G: Wow, your birthday??
Kal: Yeah, it was weird because it was my 21st birthday… My whole thing was that most people take off on their birthday, and it didn’t make sense. I really wanted to party ON my birthday and the next day, take off, you know? That was my whole idea, going to work, going drinking after… but it didn’t end up like that though.
G: So take me there, this happens… What’s going on in your mind?
Kal: Well, when I first heard the first building got hit, you really don’t know what’s happened… People were saying its a small plane and everything, so you’re thinking it might be like a little section of a plane that must’ve crashed or whatever, you’re not really thinking its a REAL PASSENGER PLANE, you know?
G: Yeah, I didn’t…
Kal: As that’s happening somebody went to turn the tv on in the back. I go and see that the news is there, and they show the building on fire… I go back to the front and to pick up the phones because people are calling. I’m talking to one of the workers from the South Street store and as I’m telling him everything is alright, nothing’s happened here, that’s when the second plane crashes, BOOM! The store windows start shaking, the lights start flickering on and off, and I’m just there holding the phone like, what?!
Kal: The guy I’m training runs from the back saying another plane just hit! As he’s saying that, I realize I’m still on the phone. The worker on the phone starts asking what happened. I tell him and next thing I’m saying is I gotta go because all I see are people from outside running back in. You see nothing but chaos… people running, people falling on the floor, it’s just chaos. The manager at that time, he has no idea what to do because store policy is you never leave the store. Police come in telling everybody to get out, everybody has to get out the building. The manager, he’s like, We can’t leave… He’s trying to get an answer from corporate telling him what to do. I tell him, I’m like, They’re not here, you know, WE’RE here, they’re not here, lets go! There’s no reason for us to wait on someone who’s thousands of miles away to call and be like its ok, you guys can leave. No, this is our lives and we needed to get out…
Kal: As we’re on our way out on the side street a security lady tells us to go back in, that we had to go out through the middle of the buildings because debris was falling. When we walked outside, all we see is cars on fire from the debris that fell, you see papers flying, it was crazy! It was something that I will never forget in my whole entire life because before that you would never think that anything could go so bad so quickly. You know, It’s like you SEE it in the movies and you’re like, oh ok. But now this, this is really happening in real life and know one knows what’s going on. So she took us downstairs, she took us out through the middle of the buildings and you see the building is on fire, and that’s when people were already… you know… starting to throw themselves from the building… It was real chaotic.
Kal: As we’re standing at corner of the church facing the tower, the manager is like what should we do? He’s like, we should just stay here… I’m like nooo, because I don’t know what else is going to happen. I’d rather go somewhere where 1) I can make a phone a call, and 2) I know I’m gonna be safe. We end up going to the Seaport and that’s when the first building, our building, the south tower, collapsed.
Kal: After that we left and walked over the Brooklyn Bridge… I walked pretty much half of Brooklyn, finally caught a bus then caught the J at Eastern Parkway and finally came home. That’s when I lived right here on 124th… My mom was so happy to see me… and later on that night, that’s when they brought my cake…
G: It was your birthday.
Kal: Yeah, it was surreal… It was just… surreal.
G: It sounds surreal. Honestly it’s been 11 years and this is the still one of the illest stories I’ve ever heard…
Kal: That’s what really made me… change… as far as realizing you only have one life. Before that, you know, you’re young… you think you’re indestructible, nothing can touch me, you know what I’m saying? But when something like that happens to you, thats just life changing. After that, i went through a lot. I changed so much, as far as my personality, I had that whole post-traumatic experience…and the crazy thing is, you don’t notice it. You just think you’re living you’re life regularly, but you’re not… It affects you.
G: I could imagine…
Kal: That’s really what made me say, you know what? I need to go back to school, I need to do something else, I need to be different.
G: That’s one thing I regret is not having done the higher learning thing… Not taking school as serious as I should of. I was always looking for work and just picking up things along the way…
Kal: Prior to 9/11, that was me! That’s exactly how I used to look at it too. Oh, it’s ok if I don’t go, you know? It was more about doing things as they came to you. I wasn’t thinking about, oh I have to graduate or I have to do this or do that. I just went with it. Whatever happens, happens. Until THAT happened… It made me think…things could turn around quick (snaps finger)
G: In the blink of an eye…
Kal: It’s crazy because, afterwards I kind of had a phobia about being around too many people, large crowds or whatever. When you go through something that you have no control over… and could end up really bad… you start thinking ANYTHING could happen. In that period of my life, I would always think, what’s to say something couldn’t happen right now? I have that type of mentally now, where I wouldn’t be surprised if something were to… I just wouldn’t be surprised.
G: So afterwards you went back to school?
Kal: Yeah, I got my Associate’s in Computer Networking…
G: Oh okay, and you were cutting hair too?
Kal: Yeah the whole time… That was pretty much my learning period. The first year, of course, is the hardest and you know being a Virgo you want to learn everything, (snap, snap, snap, snap, snap) QUICK!! You want to get it as soon as possible, no matter what! And you got everyone telling you to got to be patient, and you’re like, NO! I got to get this, how do I not know this? Lol
G: Lol, I know exactly what you’re saying…
Kal: But pretty much within a year and a half I had already gotten a lot of clientele… I learned A LOT! To the point that people were surprised because they didn’t think anybody could get it as quick as I did… But I did, and for a while I was happy because I was doing something that kind of fulfilled me… I never thought I could be doing this and I ended up being successful at it.
G: And the Networking?
Kal: I went to work with my brother, and enjoyed it for a bit, but it became too routine… So I decided to go back to school and get my Bachelor’s.
G: Did you stop cutting for that time?
Kal: I stopped cutting for almost a year… To the point that I thought I wasn’t going to do it again and I didn’t care to remember how to do this or how to do that. I had pretty much thought that was it. But you know, it’s kinda like a bicycle, regardless of what, if you really know how to do it, you’re gonna remember how to do it.
G: Lol… So you got your Bachelor’s in Networking?
Kal: No, I didn’t want to continue with the whole computer thing so I went to Queens College and got my Bachelor’s in Accounting…
G: Did you go back to barbering when you went to school?
Kal: Yeah that was my goal. It turned out pretty much the same way… I would go to school then after school I would come over here and cut hair. I’m thankful because this is a trade that when you learn it the right way, you won’t ever go hungry… I’ve never taken this for granted… I kind of feel like if, it were my wife at times, you know what I’m saying? Lol
G: Lol… So you met Charly at Flava?
Kal: Yeah, I was definitely learning from him and Rich, they were always the best barbers there…
G: Ralph was gone to Cleveland by that time so you didn’t know him yet right?
Kal: When I used to go High School at Aviation, I used to go to Flava Cutz and Ralph, was my barber… So yeah, I knew Ralph. Ralph was always the outspoken Dominican.
G: Lol, so Accounting… Accountants aren’t the most social people, barbers are like bartenders, you talk to them, tell them your problems…
Kal: Yeah, when I first started I wasn’t too outspoken…I was very like, shy. But cutting hair has definitely developed me into a different kind of person. A person I wouldn’t have ever been if I would’ve stayed managing. I was never the kind of person that was like, I wanna know what your problems are, I wanna know more about you… I was more like hey how you doing? Ok, cool…
Kal & G: Keep it moving!! Lol
G: Ok, so cutting hair has been a stepping stone allowing you to do other things… What’s your next step? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Accounting?
Kal: See, thats the thing, I haven’t been in that whole Accounting environment for me to say I don’t want to do it. You wont know if you’re going to like it until you’re there doing it. In one way I see myself being an Accountant, but in another way I see myself, doing this, having my own shop… but at this point it’s not easy to say.
G: So would you consider being and Accountant and cutting hair on the side?
Kal: Hm, it’s real difficult to be passionate about 2 things at the same time. What ends up really happening is you end up giving more to one than the other.
G: That’s deep…
As we begin to wrap up, Ralph comes by to let us know he’s ordering lunch… AND to add to the interview.
Ralph: I got something for the interview… He used to walk in…with a flare. With A FLARE!
Kal: See? You see? Remember what I told you? Look, look, look...lol
Ralph: …with a BRIGHT Yellow, Red, Purple Columbia Jacket with a collar like THIS BIG! LOL! Used to walk into Flava, ‘BOUT THIS BIG! LOL (Spreading his the thumb and forefinger about 6 inches apart!)
Ralph: That’s how we knew him, we was like “Yo, there goes Columbia Jacket right there…” Lol
Kal: You see, he does NOT change…The outspoken Dominican…since day one! Lol