Jul 31 2008

Istanbul Haircut

Published by at 6:32 am under Scott's Adventures,Uncategorized

I like my CA barber, but when I’ve been on the road long enough, the stragles and tangles start to get old. And so I again have a chance to put my appearance for the next month or so in a complete strangers hands in a foreign land.

My last haircut was expertly conducted by a backstreet Venetian barber who spoke not a word of English, and cut my hair flawlessly without any instruction whatsoever – I sat, he cut. It was excellent.

However, I’m in Turkey now, and these guys are nothing if not talkative. As I’m leaving my Istanbul hotel for dinner, I round a corner and am asked by a kindly, grey haired gentlemen if I’d like a haircut, 20 lira. Sure, what the hell.

I take a set, and he starts pulling scissors, razors, blades and all manner of attachments out of his drawer. He dives in first with the electric sheers, and I have a sudden panic attack of a flowbie haircut. He hacks at my hair roughly, chunks falling to the floor, and I figure at least I’ll have a story to tell to explain the nightmare. He yells to the boy at the door ‘Touriste!’ and the boy runs in and offers his hand ‘I’m Ali!’. I shake ‘I’m Scott’ ;). He shouts some more to what I now gather to be his son, and the boy runs out. The sheers have been replaced by regular scissors and the cutting is furious – all I can think of listening to non-stop rapid snip-snip-sniping is ‘my god, he’s Edward Scissorhands!’

Ali is back – tea! – of course, how could I forget where I am. Yes, I’ll have some tea… No, just one sugar! Ifta’s having an argument with Ali now, and still chopping furiously at my hair (I start to worry if my ears are at risk – don’t cut angry!). The tea’s cooling in a small plastic cup on the counter, and the cutting is slowing to a hum of trimming. OK, breaktime. Ifta takes a few sips and talks authoritatively to the barber cutting the nearly balding gentlemen’s hair in the next chair. Tea breaks over, and he’s trimming around the ears, and shaping my sideburns – and I suddenly realize this guy is precise beyond reason. What I took for a quick, scruffy chaotic cut at the beginning was calculated to get the rough out of the way. Now we’re in detail territory, and he dons his specs and is really focusing on individual hairs, all the while continuing his discussion with our neighbors.

After 10 mins or so, it’s time for another tea break. The tea’s still surprisingly hot, but I’m really beginning to relax now, and it tastes wonderful. I listen in ignorance to the raging debate, and notice that a few young ladies have settled in to watch the show. Ifta starts a little show with some cotton balls and wraps them expertly around the end of some scissors… and lights it on fire! Oh crap, what the hell is this?? He’s waving this thing near my head, and I make the quick judgement call to trust him – he holds up a comb and expertly waves the flaming blades near and around my ears, painlessly searing off all the small hairs on the outside. All I could think was ‘Michael Jackson!’ but there was no need to worry.

He’s got my hair in a center part, and I’m starting to wonder if this is the way it’s going to stay. The girls watching laugh together at my concerned expression and giggle amongst themselves. I start to worry again. He’s out with the straight razor now, shaping the hair around my ears, and now shaving lightly the hair off my central part. Aha, he’s ‘texturizing’ !

Tea break. I could totally get used to these. I take a chance to chat with Ali, learning that he knows almost no English, but the ladies behind me are happy to act as translators. Ifta’s now scrutenizing my face and reaches for a roll of twine and starts creating some strange string finger twist with it – and then he’s brushing it at my cheeks, *snap* *snap* *snap* and I wonder what the hell? Then I grasp it, he’s pulling the small hairs on my upper cheek away! Now he’s back with a light hair gel, whisking it through my hair, and the hairdrier’s out and suddenly – as if by magic, my hair looks great!

… and I start to wonder, how can I get this guy a visa to CA?

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