Apr 13, 2009

Hair Saloon

We have been amused for the last few months by the fact that places where men get hair cuts in India are called, almost invariably, "saloons". How the extra 'o' was added is anybody's guess. I've seen one place called "sallon", but no salons. Every town has at least one saloon.

I like hair saloons a lot better than salons. They are places where men can be men, and also get a head massage. Like a barbershop, but with some mild manly perks.

We arrived in Bombay and it was time for a haircut. I settled on a place called Paris Saloon on Colaba Causeway, mostly because of the unselfconscious man-pride of its sign - "Gents Only". No girls allowed! -a true saloon. (Mel came in anyway.) The decor was not as lurid as others I had seen on our travels, but it was full of dacoits with sharp haircuts, which I took to be a good sign, as gangsters (east and west) tend to take pride in their rugs.

I took the chair and a boy in the agonizing early stages of puberty wrapped me in nylon. I thought he was just the cape boy, but then he picked up the clippers. I was alarmed at first, but then relaxed, remembering that they do things differently here. He's probably been giving trims since he could reach the scissors. A sort of Doogie Howser of barbers. I settled into the chair and asked for a number 6, all the way around. But they never have number 6, east or west. Usually 4 is the longest available. All right, I said, I'll take a 4. (I find something comforting about the universality of hair clipper units. No metric/imperial conversions, no exchange rates. Bombay to Burlington to Buenos Aires, a 4 is a 4 is a 4.)

While I settled into my chair, I really wanted to grab the clippers and shave my young barber's wispy teenstache off. But then I remembered the riddle about the small town with two barbers- you go to the one with the worse haircut, assuming he gave the other guy the better haircut, and he got the bad haircut from the other guy. Despite the many logical gaps inherent in this (couldn't he go to the next town? cut his own hair? shave off his own moustache?), it always gives me comfort whilst getting a haircut from a man with a bad haircut. Or teenstache.

My faith in teenwolf barber was not ill-placed. The straight razor was like an extension of his hand and he did a very nice job cleaning up around my ears and neck. I noticed the fellow beside me getting a head massage, so I asked for one too. Coconut oil? Yes, please. The boy had a gifted touch with his hands. Then he brought out what looked like an early electrical bondage device, strapped it to his hand, and applied it to my balding pate. It was an enormous vibrator, and it felt great. I decided that it must be good for follicle stimulation and hair growth. Total damage was 70 Rs, or $1.75. Breakdown was: haircut, 20 Rs; 15 min scalp, neck and shoulder massage, 50 Rs.

Good vibrations.

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