Head Games: Why I Get My Hair Cut Around the Globe
Chatting softly in Spanish, Marilys massaged my scalp and fed me mango slices — and for this refined lady’s hour of service, I paid a mere 10 bucks. Marilys worked her magic in a hair salon in the colonial center of San José, Costa Rica’s capital. As she blow-dried the last clippings off my cape, it hit me that I had developed a wacky — and cheap — travel obsession.
Adventure seekers can circle the world for the perfect piste, whitewater, or wave. Tchotchke lovers can hunt for trophies. Foodies can crow about Michelin star dining. My obsession is more, well, heady. I sniff out local barbers. I’ve never gone up the Eiffel Tower, but I can lead you to a fine Montmartre coiffeuse on the Rue des Abesses.
A barber in Paris (Photo: Pat Guiney/Flickr)
My family members roll their eyes when I recite my long-ago tonsorial triumphs the way a war veteran reels off battle campaigns: Avenida Central, old town Panama City, in winter 2006; Gothic Quarter, Barcelona, in summer 2005; Váci Street, Budapest, in fall 2002.
Learn to use your cranium, I tell friends. It’s not really about the hair anyway — I have hardly any left. This is about trying to crack the barriers between natives and tourists by becoming a regular customer. Perhaps it’s an illusion, but it works in small doses. In Morocco’s hip coastal town of Essaouira, a spry septuagenarian broke the ice in his tiny shop — auspiciously called Bismillah, which means “In the Name of God” — by asking, “Who are you rooting for in the World Cup?” And soon we were leafing through his family photos like reunited friends. Alas, an offer to marry his beautiful kohl-eyed granddaughter never came.
The author in Morocco (Courtesy: John Oseid)