Four months between haircuts is too long. And so was my hair.
I say that as if it is a rule. And a rule I have periodically disregarded in my Mexican retirement.
The last time I was in a barber chair was in Reno last May -- on my way from Rome to Melaque. During my trip to the highlands, I considered meeting a new barber in either San Miguel or Pátzcuaro.
But I didn’t. And I know why.
The cutter-cuttee relationship is personal. As personal as choosing a doctor or minister. A barber chair is not just a place to shed excess fur. It is a camp fire where stories, jokes, and lies are shared with abandon.
In the two and a half years I have been in Melaque, I have had my hair cut by four or five barbers. Men. Women. Young. Old. Competent. Shearingly dreadful.
But my favorite has been Miguel Angel Brambila, I cannot remember how long ago it was when I first walked through his door. But I remember the circumstances.
My hair was in its shaggy dog stage. Probably three months since I had last had it cut. I desperately needed a bit more air circulation around my ears in the Melaque humidity.
I was walking through the covered market populated with plastic chair restaurants, vegetable vendors, fish mongers, butchers, and an internet café. But there was something new. A barber shop.
Well, not just a barber shop. A “beauty salon and barber shop.” Named Elegance. With a fuchsia façade.
Let me share a small prejudice with you. I avoid unisex hair cutter establishments. They all seem to have the same ambiance.
Smart colors. Walls covered with shampoo posters of models who look as if they long to return to Tokyo and Stockholm. Not the type of place where you can meet a barber philosopher who is willing to tend the camp fire with you.
Well, I was wrong. Miguel turned out to be a great barber. Not only could he cut hair, he was quite a raconteur. I suspect he could have gone several rounds with Dorothy Parker at the Algonquin Round Table.
I returned today to get my long overdue haircut. And my even more overdue dose of barber wit. With his self-taught English and my mistaught Spanish, we had quite a good time.
The nice thing about hair is that it continues to grow. That guarantees me a return visit -- I hope before another four months.