Dinner at Sal’s.
It’s always the same: I come off a long-distance train ride marveling at how many interesting people I’ve met and with whom I’ve shared interesting conversations. Thinking about my most recent trip triggered a memory from way back . . . probably from 1960.
I was in Boston at the time, a year out of college and working for a man named Sid Dimond, whom I first met as a student in Boston University’s Radio and TV School. Sid was on the faculty there and I had had him in several courses.
Sid knew broadcasting, of course, but essentially he was a writer and a good one. After getting out of the Navy at the end of World War II, Sid spent some time in Los Angeles where he was one of the writers for the old Inner Sanctum radio program. It featured macabre tales that had scared the crap out of me once a week a decade earlier.
Anyway, Sid and I were talking one day and he was telling me about his barber—I think his name was Sal—an older man, well into his 60’s at the time. Sal had emigrated to this country from Italy shortly after World War 2. He was mostly self-educated, but was highly intelligent and very knowledgable in a variety of areas, especially the fine arts.
Sal was also an excellent cook and several times a year he would host small, intimate dinner parties in his apartment . . . just two or three guests with diverse backgrounds and interests. These were people Sal found interesting, people he thought would enjoy meeting each other. Some of his guests were employed in the arts in one way or another—artists or musicians or writers. Others had more ordinary jobs, but still brought something of interest to Sal’s table.
Sid had been invited to one or two of those dinner parties over the years and he said he always found those evenings stimulating and entertaining. One reason it all worked so well, he said, is that they all had something in common: Sal was their barber.