Monday, June 26, 2006

Italian barber shop

I get my hair cut at a barber shop near City Hall. It took about a year of living in the city to find a barber shop I like. This wasn't a problem for me in Boston or in Michigan. In hair, as with everything else, I want to keep it simple. I want my hair cut by people whose idea of hair product involves running the comb under a spigot before it touches my locks. If there's music, it should predate 1960 or else be sung in a Romance language other than French. I don't care if the cutting is competent so long as it doesn't make me look dumber than usual.

As much as I hate getting it cut, I was born with a thick head of hair. Sometimes I fear that I'm starting to become prematurely gray, and when I feel sorry for myself, it's comforting to know that I'll never be bald. The problem is that I have to keep it short, especially in the summer. Get complacent, and on a humid day, it looks like I should be drumming for The Who, with all kind of cowlicks and strands. "You look like Archie from the comic books," a former co-worker once said.

Haircuts suck. It's not comfortable to have a stranger hold a sharp blade four inches from your eyes. In old age and retirement, I plan to never shave or cut my hair. I'll look like a cross between the Unambomber and King Lear, and probably will adopt their attitudes to boot.

Still, I like this barber shop. It employs five or six Italians, ages 45-75, of both genders. After a few years of going there, they recognize me by face. I know who cuts fast and who'll get on my nerves. The walls have framed autographed pictures of Giuliani and Bloomberg and Ray Kelly. The barbers say enough to be entertaining and friendly but not so much that we get into awkward smalltalk.

They mostly speak in Italian, and I know enough of the language to grasp every fifth word. Today, when the youngest among them ran in sweating and shouting, I didn't understand a word, but I knew it was about soccer.

He was ranting so angrily that I assumed Italy lost. The sixtysomething lady clipping my coiff paused mid-haircut to listen.

In fractured English, she asked whether I like soccer.

"No," I said proudly. "I like football."

She was dismissive and told me that when the U.S. became good, I'd learn to like soccer. I didn't have the energy to correct her.

It was the first time she'd cut my hair, and she was quirky. When my neck posture slacked she slammed her elbows onto my shoulders and pushed my head up straight. She kept breaking to listen at the youngest barber's soccer ravings. She winked at me in the mirror and said something intended to incite her coworker.

The rant in heavily accented Italian went on for about five minutes, and for the first time I was amused by soccer.

It reminded me of the day that John Ratzinger was named pope. I was getting my haircut an hour or so after the white smoke came out from the Vatican.

The barbers were all livid, livid the way I was the night of the Alamo Bowl when Michigan lost to Nebraska. "Tedeschi!" they kept shouting, using the Italian word for Germans. The shouting was relentless. My haircut turned out fine.

3 comments:

Crunk Raconteur said...

I particularly like the part where she said something deliberately to incite the other guy.

By which I mean...hee hee...lost the Alamo Bowl.

Ryan said...

I wish you would have tried to explain to a barber shop full of Italians why football is awesome and soccer is boring. That would have made a great story. I would have backed you up, had I been there.

Soccer shares two fundamental problems with hockey, in my opinion:
Too many players on the field/ice, and not enough shootouts.

Oh, and my hair does retarded shit when it's humid also. I feel the pain.

Best Regards,
Ryan

CrimeNotes said...

Ryan, I won't mess with an old Italian lady who could leave me looking extra-dumb. Just like I won't mess with ax-wielding 12-year-olds who hate rollerskaters.