As Michael Jackson’s “Killer” booms from Brian’s iPhone, conversations aren’t of the typical small-talk, barber salon variety. Instead, Brian’s clients speak freely to him about their storied past lives and how the drug and alcohol rehabilitation program is writing a new chapter for them.
While styling one client named Danny Regalado, Brian spoke to the Pocket News about why he cuts hair at Union Gospel Mission and how he got started volunteering there. “I like just cutting hair for everybody. I just come here sometimes, just try to give back when I can. When I first came here, I had not cut hair before. I just got out of barber college. I stayed here, practiced, got better. I tell a lot of people, ‘Thanks, I wouldn’t be where I’m at if it wasn’t for you guys.’ Right now, I am just thankful. You never know what people have been through in their lives, and a haircut can change a person’s image, and I like making people look good, and they’re all cool people in here. We got cool people like Danny telling me stories,” Brian says on the afternoon of Wednesday, Dec. 3, as he continued on his client’s new hairdo.
In and out of prison for the most of his adult life with the longest stint being nine years for various convictions, including: robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary, possession of weapons and narcotics, all of Danny’s crimes, he said, involved drugs somehow. “The longest sentence I ever had was nine years. I went to prison for a two-year bid and I did seven years for the homeless – for the cause –- you know, gang banging in prison. I joined the prison gang. I started stabbing guys, throwing bombs at people, (getting into) gang fights.”
If it wasn’t for his wife Anna Regalado’s insistence he check into rehab, Danny said he might still be on that path of crime. Anna was on the verge of leaving him and him attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings wasn’t going to satisfy her. “She wanted me to do a residential program and I feel like if I want to submit to me, I have to submit to her, too. So, I came and I asked the pastor to let me into the program and give it a try and I really like it here. I’m growing spiritually. I don’t know how to control my urges, so I am here to learn that.”
A structured rehab program, he said the members stick to a schedule and everybody has a job to do and they have to attend Bible classes twice a day. “With the way I am, that’s what I need. I need the structure.”
Growing up in “the projects” on Fifth Street and Broadway, Danny thought the “way out of the ghetto” was by learning how to box. He tells of a time when his childhood consisted of hanging out at Luigi’s Pizza Parlor on Stockton Boulevard, playing pinball and hanging out with friends nearby. Behind the restaurant, he picked up boxing first at the former Capitol Boxing Gym, getting his first taste in the sport at age 10.
“I used to go over there and watch the guys fight and the owner over there, Ernie Guevara, he asked me if I wanted a job. And I said, ‘what do you want me to do?’ He said, ‘I want you to sweep the rings, sweep the floors, take the towels home and let your mom wash them and then bring them back. And in return, I’ll teach you how to box.’ That’s how I learned. That’s how I started. I was the King of the Hill when I was boxing and I was pretty good. I still miss it. I had my own boxing gear. ”
An amateur boxer for four years, Danny said he boxed in every gym in Sacramento, depending on where he was living at the time. A member of the National Junior Golden Gloves at age 13, Danny dreamed of boxing one day at Madison Square Garden. He used to watch the old boxing matches on television, hoping to make it big one day. But, at age 14, he said he got shot in the leg by a drive-by shooter, which stopped his lateral movements in the ring. “I could still box, but I couldn’t do it competitively,” he recalls. Dependent on prescription drugs after his injury, Danny said that dependency was a gateway to the addiction of illicit drugs.
Speaking about the life changing event, he said: “I got hooked on the pain medication. I started hanging around these guys in my neighborhood. (One of them) was a heroin dealer. He had nine sons. I used to hang around his sons. They were selling dope for their dad and I got hooked on heroin. And I struggled with that from the age of 14 until I was 35. When I was 35, I decided I didn’t want that anymore. I tried to quit, but I kept relapsing and going back to it.”
Danny’s hopeful the drug and alcohol program will be his saving grace. The nine-month program is quite strict with general conduct requirements, mandatory attendance, assigned job duties, rules on when guests are welcome and more.
According to Union Gospel Mission’s website, as funding permits, the church tries to send graduates of their drug and alcohol program to receive vocational training at one of several centers around town. “Giving these men a valuable skill set that will help them set off on their new life as productive members of society is what this program is all about. Once one of our men graduate from the program, we do not push them out into the world as some sort of test of their hard-won sobriety. Typically they move out to the Eagle’s Nest Ranch where they learn additional skills that help them re-acclimate to a normal life or to Grace Haven Annex when they get a job or enrolled in school.”
Barber Brian Wong’s dedication of serving the homeless community is just one example of many that can help people like Danny get through the rehab program. Additionally, the church, according to its website, supplies food baskets to families that may be working, but still come up short at the end of the month. They have a women’s clothes closet that supplies the needs of homeless women and working poor. To give to the mission is to have the opportunity to be a part of the rehabilitation we provide to all men wanting to escape the endless cycle of drugs and alcohol. Monetary donations can be made at www.ugmsac.com/#!ways-to-give/cacg. Also, the shelter is taking winter gear, jeans, pants, shirts, underwear, bras, sweatshirts, sweaters, gloves, hygiene items, towels, blankets, tarps, sleeping bags, purses, backpacks, duffel bags, shoes, socks, accessories, jewelry, and umbrellas. To fill Christmas food baskets, ham, canned vegetables and canned fruit are needed by Monday, Dec. 22. For more information on donations, call 447-3268.
Brian’s salon is located inside the Promenade Shopping Center at 7465 Rush River Dr. Ste. 810. To make an appointment with Brian, call 832-9949 or schedule it online at www.passionhairstyles.com/
Business hours are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (except closed on Wednesdays);
Saturdays are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (appointments only) and Sundays, noon to 4 p.m. The salon will be closed on Christmas, Dec. 26 and on Jan. 1-2.