Saturday, January 03, 2004

Almost (always) Cut My Hair
There are many small joys in China for a white ghost like me.
*School kids in blue and white uniform sweat suits trying out their rudimentary English by smiling, waving and yelling "Hello,-hello-how-are-you" just when I'm feeling despondent, homesick and unloved.
*Watching lines of folks tonight at the grocery store picking through, choosing, checking out and lugging home 6-foot-3-5 inch stalks of sugar cane, presumably for bizarre ceremonies concerning the upcoming Jan. 22 lunar New Year of the Monkey.
*The young guys who stopped and rattled my door at the Lucky Number the other night as I was playing an obscure Colorado bluegrass album (Towne and Country Revue) just mailed to me by a friend - and former bandmember - in LA. I hadn't seen the fans standing outside til I sensed a presence and turned from playing air banjo to see three Chinese dudes in bad crew cuts bouncing to the banjo and mandolin interplay that was wafting outside the metal grated door -- "Hello! Happy music!" one blurted out, before they scooted off -a little embarrassed, I think. I wanted to invite them in for more...
But let us not forget haircut nirvana. Fortunately, my hair grows fairly fast and I am able to feed my habit without turning into a guy with a bad crewcut bouncing up and down outside a stranger's door.
It's no frigging Great Clips or Sam's or anything else you might imagine. And it's only $3.00 American for the finest sensual experience short of communing with God or imagined sex with Selma Hayek.
Never mind the folks that may gather to peer through the window gawking and giggling at a foreigner with a shampoo crown. We're damn cute with a head full o' suds.
Just relax as you go through step one. It's a contained shampoo and scalp massage all in one. Everyone in the shop has a duty and speciality - from the person who sweeps up, to the barber - and you begin with the shampoo and massage girl who uses a bottle of water and shampoo to carefully and artfully shampoo and languorously scratch and massage your head and tweak, bend and rub your eears.
It's like electric butter flooding your brain. I've dozed off a few times with just the simple shampoo. She's careful to keep the suds up and then just as carefully collects them in her palms to toss them in a nearby wastebasket, before returning to scratch the itch some more.
After a 20 minute shampoo, you're led to the rinse-down chair which involves a second artiste who continues the scalp massaging while taking 5-10 minutes to run soothing warm water through the hair.
Then back to the shampoo girl for a upper torso, arms, hands and finger rubdown. Thump, bump, crack, rubbadubbabrubbadubba. Thump and crack some more. If you're not jelly by now, you're obviously an android or a registered Republican.
Next you're put in a body bag and heaved into a barber chair where - if you're lucky - the hairsmith understands sign language that means "just a little off the top, sides and back".
That work done, it's back to the rinse-down chair for another five minutes of warm water and magic fingers, then a turban wrap and back to the barber chair for the blow dry.
Easily the finest 45 minutes on the planet, especially for three bucks.

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