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Monday, May 28, 2018

Stüffe’s Barber Shop


Got my biannual shave and haircut today. A wonderful ninety minutes in the hands of a master who makes bald spots disappear. Her whose only mission is to make me look better than when I came in. These are moments of total pleasure . . . pure relax. No conversation. I don’t want to talk. I am at peace.

The background music’s perfect, just right volume lets you listen if you want to, high school favorites from the U.S 1950s plays today. Bill Haley and the Comets, Ray Charles, bring back a flood of high school memories as clippers buzz and scissors snipping sharply with precision.

Then the shave—a face massage of ointments, hot towel, thermal heaven. Then the razor, the incredible straight razor, been around about as long as time I guess. A simple tool, beyond improvement. She’s got some old ones, a collection under glass. I remember when going into the Army with a bunch of boys from Southern Illinois, and Georgia.  They took away our knives and all possible weapons.  Some of the guys had straight razors—beautiful razors that had probably been in the family for generations.  They were so hurt, turning them in. A sergeant told them they would be returned when we completed basic training. Some were so naive they believed the promise.

After the hot towel comes a Badger bristled brushes’ soft caress of soapy warmth.  Then the amazing the feel of cold steel on my neck, the incredible sharpness. There’s no smoother shave on earth, but it’s a lot of trouble. Time consuming.
Shaving is different since the invention of the safety razor. Now there are infinite variations, 3 blades, four, or more.  They all cut, but nothing like a straight razor. When the straight razor cuts, that whisker is gone—as much as it can possibly be, until tomorrow. The razor on my throat . . .  hard not to fanaticize.  This is as close to death I get, other than being in the car with my wife at the wheel. I recall a Sweeny Todd thing I went to in London . . . Razors.
Nothing happens. I am safe. It’s almost over. Cold towel now—so good. A last few moments of total peace.

“Wake up,” Stüffe tells me with a grin. I do—with some regret. My next appointment in six months.

Best shave I ever had:

Was in Benares, India, on the ghats along  Ganges.  If I could relive a time and place from somewhere in my past, this 1980s moment would be one, this thirty minutes of desire-less happiness. Nothing more needed for the moment. Only peace.

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