Saturday, May 3, 2008

Best. Haircut. Ever. ... and kids stories

Originally posted July 29, 2005

Okay, so we go to the local mall here so that Omar and I can do manly stuff: watch Fantastic Four while the kids play at the playroom. Did it. After that, we met Diane at the playroom, and she suggested I go get a haircut at the barber shop, just across the hall.

You know how Diane suggests things, right?

So this is what it means to get a haircut in the Philippines:

Phase one: not less than 4 people, in smocks greet one: getting one into the chair, attaching the form-fitted covering (first one that has arms in my experience), offering today's newspaper or three different kinds of magazines to read, and rolling out the tray of the tools of the craft: combs and scissors and hair cutters and such.

And then the craftsman, himself, makes his entrance.

I say craftsman because it wasn't a haircut he was giving me, it was a work of art that he was creating (I guess that makes me clay, then).

The craftsman, Victor in this case, but in the Philippines, whoever the barber is, he's a craftsman, asked me, prefunctorially, how I'd like my hair cut ... as if my wishes mattered at all to the end result; but he was pleasantly surprised that I called out the sizes of the clippers for the sides and top. I could see him pause: "Hmmph, this kid knows his stuff," he probably thought.

As a side note, my haircut is the simplest in the world: 2 on the sides and back and 3 up top with a middle taper. 5 minutes (tops) and I'm out of there: barbers who take longer are messing something up -- this happens more often than I'd like.

Well, Victor showed me a new way of cutting hair, and it started with adjusting the chair. The legs shot out, uncramping them to a more comfortably straight position, then the back reclined just a touch. I was thinking: "what's all this?" when he turned on the whole-chair vibrating massage. I looked at him; he looked at me, and we both burst out laughing.

Phase two: then he set to work. He wet every single hair on my head with this scented mist from a spray bottle, then he used the hair cutter to do the ground work: 5 minutes ... as if this craftsman would depend on an electrical device to finish the job.

No, this was just prefunctory work (a.k.a phase three): he picked up a pair of scissors and a comb and cut every single hair: not only "smoothing out" the edges between the side-to-top transition, but then every hair that the hair cutter cut.

And that was just the start. He then examined his work, and then recut every single hair. He then looked again over my whole head, and the concentrated on areas that just weren't perfect. He redid one little part, the back right corner, three times, until he was satisfied with the look; he did the same for my bangs. Then, with his scissors, he trimmed the sideburns and the hair around the ears.

Done yet? No, phase four: he extracted a straight razor and set to work around all the edges of my head. Ever have someone shave you with a straight razor? No? It puts one in this frame of mind: "if he sliced that across my neck, I wouldn't have time to be surprised that I was dead."

But, besides the misgivings, he continued on: applying lotions and then baby powder to my scalp.

And then came phase five: the massage, or, more correctly, the upper body reshaping. He was brutal, but at least he warned me: "Massage na, sir!" Then he and his hands and thumbs set to work, crushing my skull (it's okay, I've got my brains, which were squeezed out in this process, safely stored in a jelly jar beside me), jackhammering my shoulder blades (I never knew two thumbs could hurt one so much), and then pounding away at my back. He also squeezed out my eyes, so now we have some jelly for bread. That's always good.

Okay, so maybe I exaggerate a little about phase five [question: when am I not exuberant], but it was brutal, it a good kind of way, I guess.

And that was my haircut -- total cost: 128 pesos (at 55 pesos to the dollar).

If you happen to be in Marikina, I highly recommend you look up Victor. BTW, "gently" in Tagalog is "konti." Diane was kind enough to educate me there when I met up with her at Starbucks; it being an hour later, and all. Every time I look in the mirror, I think, "wow! that's a good haircut?"

But it does have its downside: my haircutting experiences in the States are doomed to be entirely ruinous affairs from here on out.


We received my XBox from the mail we sent ourselves here from the States, so, of course, I rolled out my dance pad and "Dance-dance Revolution!"ed my way to victory. Various members of Diane's family came out to stare -- Papa: "Mabilis! [that's fast!]" and Manang couldn't stop laughing as she watched me techno-pop my way through the songs. You do know that central air conditioning isn't a Filipino concept, right? To be tacit (novel for me, I admit), it was a very good workout.


So, this morning, I was practicing kenjutsu outside, and out pops Isabel with an array of placards of paint chips. She didn't see me, so I watched her, unobserved, as she carefully arranged the paint chips into three piles -- there was some order to her arrangement, because she concentrated intensely at each placard before she placed it in one of the three piles: one on top of a tiger doll, or two others on the coffee table. When she ran out of paint chips, she swiped at the head of the tiger to remove the pile, and I growled like a tiger when she did so.

I have never seen her eyes open that wide! She backed away from the sound (me), but when she saw it was her papa, she came to join me, smiling, and taking a few swings of the bokken (I guess she wants to grow up to be a samurai ...).

So Diane took Isabel shopping (toddler shirts for a dollar? I told Diane to buy fifty of them!), leaving me and Elena Marie to fend for myself. Elena Marie finished watching Vegietales silly songs (one of my top 10 DVDs of all time), so she started working on learning her letters (, as Manang prepared lunch ("Michael," she shouted, "gusto mo bang isda?" ["Do you want fish?"] -- it being Friday and all), so I told Elena Marie that she could keep working on her letter until lunch, then she could continue working on them after she finished eating (Elena Marie needs to know what the plan is well in advance: this avoids unnecessary arguments when her expectations are disappointed.)

Well, lunch -- some rice, soup, and bite-sized chicken morsels for the kiddo -- turned out to be a 90-minute affair. At first, she nearly cried when Manang spooned some soup onto the rice (EM: "I don't WANT soup on my rice!"), then she didn't like the chicken, so she decided she was finished. When Manang offered ice cream, she had a complete turnaround there. So, I divided the rice in half saying: "Okay, eat this portion [one-half] of the rice and drink the soup, and you may have ice cream." Well, she toyed with one spoonsful-worth of rice before giving up. Me: "would you like me to feed you?"

That's all she needed: a little love and attention. I spooned not only the first half portion of the rice, I ended up spooning the whole portion into her petit mouth. She only managed to drink half the soup, but that was okay (as a portion of soup was in the rice, too). She did disagree with me on my position that chicken makes one bigger and stronger and rice does not, but it was a mild, tame, disagreement.

And then, her mama returned from the mall: they all ate ice cream, and I took a nap.

Now, she's riding about in a little go-cart (the happiest girl in the world: her eyes are squeezed shut by her joyful smile) as we prepare for supper (Kitaro's at the mall -- a good twenty minute walk with Starbucks at the end of it!).

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