Sometimes you get a second chance. I recently wrote about an extremely painful shave I had at a quaint barbershop in Antigua called Barbaria Willy’s. While having my face scraped off, I’d noticed that a poster on the wall featured a drawing of someone who looked a lot like Ricky Gervais.
I failed to get the photo after, citing the fact that the barbershop had grown crowded and that I was woozy from blood loss. I returned the next morning but found them closed — it was Sunday and my bus was leaving just a few hours later. Opportunity missed.
So when my friend Joe emailed me from Costa Rica and said he wanted to join me for a few weeks, Antigua seemed like the perfect place to meet up. And I wasted no time stopping in to beg and plead to take a few shots in my garbled, pidgin Spanish.
Two brothers were working the chairs, seemingly identical twins in their 50′s and standing five feet tall (maybe, if you hung them from their feet). They were so friendly and charming that I decided to attempt to forget my last terrible experience (with a younger barber) and get a shave.
Alas, I also guilted Joe in to having one, despite his misgivings, and our experiences were drastically different. My guy was a true pro, lathering me up, scraping my whiskers away in a careful methodical fashion. He then lathered me a second time and made another pass, then buzzed and trimmed my goatee, trimmed my ear and nose hair, touched up my haircut and shaved my ears (don’t ask).
It was the best shave I’ve had outside of India, and that’s saying a lot — those guys really know their stuff. All for three dollars.
His brother –though he may have looked the same– was the polar opposite. He worked Joe over like a schoolboy carving his initials into a desk. Joe persevered, holding onto the chair with a white-knuckled grip and –to his credit– never whimpered, mewled, or screamed in pain.
Every few minutes, the barber would stop and sharpen his razor on the leather strop attached to the chair while Joe took deep breaths and, I imagine, prayed to the shrine of the Virgin Mary on the wall above him.
As we left, I noticed a half dozen beads of blood forming on his upper lip. Now, I’ve had dozens of shaves in many parts of the world and I have never once been nicked. Even the painfully inept guy who’d shaved me here last time hadn’t drawn blood.
(Yes, I know I suggested otherwise just a few moments ago but you really shouldn’t believe everything you read.)
As we navigated the narrow sidewalks and cobblestone streets, Joe gave me a blow-by-blow of the experience and I do have to say it sounded pretty damned painful. “He was a sadist, man” was a phrase that came up more than once.
“Sorry I guilted you into that, dude. That wasn’t cool,” I offered, feeling genuinely abashed.
“Are you kidding?” he said, wiping away a crimson mustache. “That was awesome!”
As for the posters, the barber just shrugged when I asked how old they were. One looks to be from the 50′s or 60′s while another features “the Boxer”, who looks a lot like Tony Danza. The one with Gervais’ doppelgänger also seems to feature Kevin Costner and –perhaps– Tom Cruise, so I don’t think we can dub it an antique.
Which is your favorite style? See any celebrities I missed? Please leave a comment.
When traveling the world, I find it can be useful to carry a phone card so I can keep in touch with friends and families. In many parts of the world, internet bandwidth is lacking and being able to call home on a real phone makes all the difference.