I Get a Haircut

Wed Dec 19, 2001 9:22 pm: There’s a lot of style in this country. It’s not uncommon for cab drivers to wear neckties, and the waiters often wear bow ties. They do their jobs with a lot of pride and professionalism for very little money by U.S. standards. I needed a haircut, and was told that there is a "very important barbershop" on the corner just down from the apartment. This description amused me a little, and I went down to check it out. The place was nice, but nothing spectacular. But what a show! I was greeted at the door by a maitre´d like person, who then introduced me formally to my barber. Drinks were served, and we consulted on the haircut. They had tremendous style, and all of the barbers were dressed in matching jumpsuits, with tool belts filled with scissors and combs. They looked like a space shuttle crew. The haircut began, and other barbers gathered to watch. It made me a little nervous, but it turns out that a world champion barber was cutting my hair! He recommended it be cut very short, but instead of using electric clippers, he would use only scissors, explaining that with scissors you can cut very short without showing the scalp beneath. His fingers flew around, the scissors moving at almost the speed of electric clippers. He was very careful, a perfectionist. As he cut he told me about his competitions all over the world. He is the Argentine champion, but he's disappointed at only coming in 10th in the world championships. He would be at the American championships in Las Vegas in two months, and he told me about a local competition at one of the hotels in a few days that I should attend. He wasn't lying, because the shop was filled with huge trophies, and people kept coming by to check out the way he would cut what little hair the Americano had on his head. The haircut ended, followed by more drinks, and then the Argentine male hug and air kiss. It was by far the best haircut I have ever had, unfortunately coming a little late in life for me. The vanity of my youth has been replaced by a desire to just look more or less normal. He put a lot into the haircut, and after the experience, the friendly hug felt right. I still have this guy’s card with his picture, listing all his triumphs in Seoul, Washington D.C., Berlin, etc. The best haircuts on the planet for $8. Vernucci Estillistas, Independencia 2099, Capital Federal, Argentina.

Later, I stood on our balcony and watched a nice family scene take place on the crowded sidewalk. A man was kissing his wife and four children, who seemed to be leaving on some sort of errand. Each little child needed to be hugged, and kissed, and when he missed one, there was a small fuss. I thought how wonderful it would be to care for and comfort four beautiful children like that. But, I also knew that the young man on the street carries a weight that I can’t know. Renee, Malik, and I think we are in Argentina, but we aren't. We float above it like seabirds above the waves, carried by our money. If a storm comes, we just fly away. But the young father must stay. Maybe he puts on a clean shirt and tie and gets in his taxi, searching the city along with a thousand other taxis, looking for fares that are harder and harder to find. Or maybe it’s a white shirt and a bow tie for a restaurant job across town. But there are very few tips these days, and if another strike comes, how will he get to work? $7 each way in a taxi is almost more than he will earn. Should he walk for an hour and half to work, and then risk everything by walking back across this sometimes-dangerous city at 4am? There seem to be policemen in flack jackets on every block, and they comfort me. They are smiling and friendly enough, but they make Malena nervous. And she knows a lot more than I do. There are rumors that hungry people have taken over some grocery stores outside of town, and more rumors that some ATM machines have been blown up. Maybe the young father worries about a day when there may be more policemen... men in flack jackets who are no longer smiling. It’s happened before.