Went for a haircut this morning. I tend to think of haircuts as a chore rather than as a part of my beauty regime, so going to a trendy place to pay $60 is not something I’m gonna do. Instead, I went to a barbershop with nice faded sign-writing above the windows. The bell jangled when I opened the door, and I could see the white-coated back of big, old, balding guy in the doorway to a back room. He was talking loudly in Italian. He turned round, acknowledged my presence, and finished up his phone call. Looking around the room, there were lots of dusty bottles of lotions, faded pictures of footballers, faded topless calendars (July 1983 was particularly busty), an old Zorro poster, and a bunch of photos that looked like family photos.
The barber came out, showed me to the chair, asked what I wanted, and the festivities began. Firstly, he spoke like a caricature of an Italian, so when I quote him later, feel free to read it out loud like-a dat. I asked him how his week had been. He stopped snipping, and began chatting with me in the mirror. For the majority of my time in the chair, it felt like the haircut was incidental to the monologue. The inspector is breaking his balls because a customer complained that he cut him, drew blood. Thanks for telling me that, makes me feel quite confident sat here with you behind me holding some scissors. It was the first of at least ten times he said someone was breaking his balls. Although one time he amended it, and said the government was breaking his ass. On a complete tangent, he asked if I knew Errol Flynn.
“That’s the guy who played Robin Hood, right?” I said.
“The original Robin ‘Ood, not like Kevin Costerner (sic) or Russell Crowe: they make Robin ‘Ood look like a fuckin’ idiot!”
He’d been on vacation to Hollywood. He’d seen the graves of Flynn, Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin, Farrah Fawcett. “Look!” He pointed to a photograph of his round pink head in front of the Hollywood sign. Then he pointed to an old black and white photograph of him as a young man; full head of black hair. Then he warned me that hair was like grass; that I should take care of it and cut it more in the summer because “you don’t want to end up like me!”
He reached over to a jar of alcohol, and pulled out a straight razor, and began removing the hair on the back of my neck. He returned to his original point about the inspector, and the customer who’d complained. Turns out the customer was Jewish. So now I wonder: what is the correct way to handle a situation when an old Italian anti-Semite has a cut-throat razor at your neck? Should one take a stand? Or should one, like I did, sheepishly and quietly mutter “uh-huh” to everything he said, and wait for the slightest pause to change the subject? I jumped in and asked him where abouts in Italy he was from.
Sicily. It’s wonderful, apparently. Go in the summer, they have the best fruit you will ever taste.