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Posts Tagged ‘barber’

The shop first took his fancy a few weeks’ earlier as the Hoonmobile cruised lazily along Johnston Street. A love of old style barbers’ initially drew his gaze to the antique cutting tools arranged behind the glass front; the casually draped Greek newspapers merely added to the allure.

“CONTINENTAL HAIRDRESSERS” read the sign below large Greek lettering. The old-fashioned kerchunk-keyed till on the counter sealed the deal.

So, despite previous ill informed adventures: the Bangkok Chinatown prostitute misstep; the broken-matches-in-plug-socket affair in Vagator; the locals’ mirth on the banks of the Mekong, Bruce headed inside.

As he did, the strains of a violin stopped abruptly. Behind the counter, the shop’s owner pulled the violin from his chin, laid it gently in front of him and motioned towards the nearer of the two chairs. A musical barber: it was more than Bruce could have hoped for.

Taking his seat, he soaked up more of his surrounds: the already yellowing poster depicting the dour yet victorious Greece football team from Euro 2006; the murky water in the sanitizer; the balding, goatee-bearded man chomping through a souvlaki in the corner.

It turned out the barber used to tour Australia playing his violin as part of a Greek folk music band. The man in the corner, who appeared to be his son, was very proud of the fact. He toured no more but, in some strange way, it made the shakiness of his hands as he moved towards Bruce’s pate seem endearing.

Quite why that feeling didn’t last is unclear. Perhaps it was the sense that he may lose part of an ear as the barber started wielding his razor, or that the clippers had shaved one side of his head an inch higher than the other. Maybe it was the ungainly lunges the barber was taking with his scissors. Most likely it was the realisation that, once again, Bruce’s love of an adventure looked like blowing up in his face.

Figuring it was easier to rectify the situation from a position of too much hair rather than too little, he called a halt to proceedings.

“That’ll do,” said Bruce, trying to disguise the panic in his voice. “It looks great. Thanks.”

“Are you sure?” said the old man.

“Yes. I’m pretty sure.”

Despite the need for home repairs, Bruce paid and gave a good tip. Given the law of diminishing returns, the retired violinist may need all he can get.

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Move your head again and I\'ll cut you

“We don’t do cheap haircuts, we do good haircuts cheap”

Sounds like Bruce’s kind of establishment, even if at twenty bucks their cheap was $8 more than his last chop in Footscray and $16 more than the one prior to that.

That said, the Footscray chop was memorable only because it was carried out in a shop called Sexy Hair by a gloriously camp Vietnamese fellow who appeared to list among his idols David Niven (moustache), Morrisey (hair), 1986 Embassy World Snooker Champion Joe Johnson (shoes), Dermot O’Hare (turtleneck and trousers) and Liberace (flamboyance and shop decor: much shiny purple). I should point out Bruce was already through the door that advertised $12 cuts before noticing the above and was in need of comfort after the elderly Vietnamese chaps playing chess in a back street had refused to let him join in.

Cheap and nasty

If that cut was average at best, it was certainly a class apart from that handed out in Bangkok. Ask an idiot where to get a cheap haircut in Chinatown and some would say you’re asking for trouble. But, as Bruce trekked off down the dingy, litter-strewn alleyway adjacent to his hotel, he was not to be deterred, not even when the ageing woman appearing from the shadows, face pasty with a vat load of foundation, did turn out to be a prostitute (think the mystery woman in the brilliant Chungking Express).

How much?

No, even when the hairdressers turned out to be a sepia-tinted (through cigarette smoke rather than nostalgic longing) meeting room for a dozen of Chinatown’s elderly women, his determination to save a few baht was not diminished. In fact, a combination of the inability of anyone in the room to speak English (until they sent for reinforcements), the dubious quality of the job on the previous client, the lack of a sharp pair of scissors or any fittings for the clippers and raucous laughter from all present as the massacre of Bruce’s hair unfolded was still not enough to persuade him to leave.

Fifteen nervous, sweaty minutes later, he had not so much undergone a haircut, as a short course in alopecia. The old woman did at least redeem herself with a brief head and shoulder massage and the recently arrived interpreter was able to inform Bruce that the creepy looking lady who’d been moving ever closer thought he was “a handsome boy”.

Stepping back in time

Still, lesson not learnt, into St Kilda’s sole remaining barber shop he headed.

“Omph uurhh. Eeyah,” said the be-mulleted woman, her mouth stuffed full of partially-eaten toast. (Again, the mullet should have been a warning sign) Bruce moved in the direction her finger had indicated.

“No. Omph uurh aarh kuht. Oor eeyah,” she said, this time with meaning. He began to lower himself into a chair.

“No – gulp – Put your coat there. You’re over here,” she said, mastication complete. Confusion over, the cut began, a series of rapid hand movements and sharp prods of the scalp.

“You’ve got an interesting place here. I like the old furnishings,” Bruce ventured timidly.

Haircut, sir?

“That’s cos you’re in a barbers, not some bloody hairdressers. They don’t know how to cut hair anymore. These hairdressers just don’t know what they’re doing. They don’t teach people how to be barbers. I did my apprenticeship 30 years ago when I was 14. I’m 44 now…..”

Jeez. Should never have asked. It was a nice shop though, proper cut throat blades ‘n’ all. You could almost imagine you had stepped back in time. To the time of Sweeney Todd it turns out.

“If you move your head again, I will cut you!” she snapped. There was a smile on her face, but wasn’t there one on Michael Madsen’s too? Either way, it wasn’t a good time to have forgotten cash.

“It’s OK, I trust you,” she said, sending him off to the ATM. So much so she was waiting, fag in mouth, at the end of Acland Street by the time Bruce returned with his twenty. “Cheers love. See you again.”

And she will. Anything for a good haircut cheap.

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