Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Barber

It was bound to happen.  I knew coming to Georgia that if I didn't want to go grunge I would need to get a haircut before Christmas break.  Seinfeld fans will appreciate this experience (and the title of this post).  I've always seemed to have bad luck with haircuts - and dentists too but that's different story.  It doesn't help that I am also frugal when it comes to getting my hair done, which usually means I go to the lowest bidder.  For 9 years, while at ASU, I would go to Supercuts across the street.  Turnover being what it is in mass-haircut-land, I saw the same "stylist" maybe three times during this period.  Regardless of who I went to, there was always a 50% chance I would get butchered.

If you spend some time in Georgia, you will notice there are two hair styles for men.  There's the standard "bowl" cut which is just a short hair cut with little attention to styling the hair afterward.  And then there's the bald or shaved cut - depending on how many hair follicles you have left.  One of my hosts brothers - who happens to look like Justin Beiber - has a little style so I asked him where I could go for a haircut and if he would accompany me since they most likely wouldn't speak English.  Instead, he sent the youngest brother with me which happens to speak the least English of the three.  For good measure, I brought a photo of me with my hair styled the way I wanted.  The only problem was the hair was somewhat longer in the photo and I wanted a shorter cut.  I was hoping I could just show the stylist this photo and say "mokle" (short) and we'd be good to go.  I thought wrong.

If you've read my other posts, you'll know that traveling in Georgia is not a point A to point B affair. I knew the approximate location of the stylist but I let Gano lead me.  We ended up getting on a marshutka and taking it almost to the seaport.  After getting off, we headed down the street I assumed the barber was on but Gano didn't seem to find it.  For the next twenty minutes we ended up backtracking half of the marshutka route and found a stylist that he said spoke English.  It was a nice place with a modern look.  And they had an awesome looking gray cat.  Maybe this was a good sign.  There were two stylists working - one older man and a woman.  I tend to prefer women more than men as I believe they have more style and experience.  Haircuts from men tend to be more utilitarian in nature.  My brother handed the photo of me to the woman and asked if she could cut my hair and she said to go to the guy.  Strike one against me :-)

I started to feel a little uneasy about staying here so I went outside to call my brother and ask him if he knew of a different stylist. Before I could ask, the male style came out and called me in.  Gano showed him the photo and after some back and forth with poor English to Georgian translation, he started to cut.  I pointed to the clippers and said "ori" (two) and indicated he should shave the side of my head with them but he didn't respond.  For ten minutes he cut what seemed to be maybe 1/2 inch of hair which was not even close to a short cut then proceeded to wash my hair.  I told him it was not short enough and Gano kept saying "he cut after" the wash (does that sound right?).   Sure enough after the wash, he proceeded to blow dry my hair and style to exactly like the photo I brought in.  To his credit, it looked damn perfect.

At this time, another male stylist was next to us and noticed I was not happy with the cut.  And he spoke some English.  After some back and forth I was eventually able to communicate to the stylist what I wanted and twenty minutes and two shampoos later, I had a perfect haircut complete with styling gel - something rare in Georgia.  Total cost: 20 Lari and one hour.  Cheap to American standards ($11 USD) but expensive to Georgian (7 Lari).  I suspect the cut is normally cheaper but he probably jacked-it up - I don't blame him though.  Now, when I go back in February, will he remember me? Stay tuned.

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