Edna, my normal haircutter seems to be out of business. The house-turned-salon is dark
I will miss Edna, a short, portly Filipino woman who ran the hair salon in what used to be her living room. I will not miss her conversation too much because she was deeply religious. I have little interest in talking religion and in addition I often do not understand a word she says due to her tagalog accent. But she did a good job cutting hair and her salon was the only karaoke barber shop I’ve ever been in.
Usually there would be several other deeply religious Filipino women sitting around when I came in. They were mostly just friends of Edna hanging out, but sometimes one of them was there for a cut or color. Eyes were usually fixed on the karaoke machine in the corner. It was well supplied with both religious and easy listening tunes in English and Tagalog. Someone would be holding the microphone and singing along. Often it was Edna herself.
It was all very entertaining and Edna seemed to be able to give a good haircut even when she was watching the karaoke screen and singing. I felt a kind of pride that my barber was a karaoke barber, something none of my friends could say. But that is in the past now, so I am forced back into strip-mall America for a haircut.
Off to SuperCuts…
I spent my waiting time skimming issues of People Magazine to see how many famous people I didn’t know. I was enormously proud of the fact that I had never heard of most of the current batch.
Eventually I was taken in hand by skinny girl in gothic make-up. Following her back to her station I had visions of leaving the shop looking like Bela Lugosi, but the haircut turned out OK. Goth hairdressers apparently don’t waste their time trying to make people like me look cool.
The haircut itself was uneventful for me. Her banal chit-chit was no substitute for the fervent voices of Filipino women belting out stanzas of “How Great Thou Art” or “Moon River”. However, the conversation at the next station was more interesting.
The hairdresser was a young woman whom more polite writers might refer to as “quite heavy”. Her belly and enormous ass limited how close she could get to the chair. Her arms were just long enough to reach the head she was working on. Twenty more pounds though and she would have to find another profession.
The customer was a trim old guy probably in his sixties. He was telling her about the trials of kidney dialysis. I have great sympathy for those facing serious medical problems so I entered the conversation uninvited to ask if he had considered a transplant.
“No, she is just too old for that. She’s 18.”
That shut me up quickly, but I listened closely while the two of them continued. It turned out that he was talking about his cat. His eighteen year old cat was having regular kidney dialysis at enormous cost. It was an economic and emotional tragedy for him.
The hairdresser was very sympathetic to his tragedy. She had 22 cats, she said, and prayed none of them would ever have to go through that. I conjured up an unpleasant image of a littered, foul-smelling living room filled with this really fat woman and 22 fucking cats. I almost passed out and still don’t remember how I got home.
The return of Edna
After months of being closed, Edna is suddenly back in business. I saw evidence of life in her former salon when I drove by, so I called. After quite a few rings she answered but I could not understand what she said. This is not uncommon. In fact I almost never understand what she says. Sometimes I don’t even know whether she is speaking Tagalog or English.
However, the difficulty in understanding in this case was exaggerated by the huge amount of noise being generated on her end of the phone. The Karaoke machine was blasting out music and multiple female voices, also heavily accented, were singing Ray Charles’, “I Can’t Stop Loving You”.
After much yelling through both ends of the phone line it was established that I would get a haircut at 3pm.
My favorite barbershop is back, saving me from the extraordinarily dreary SuperCuts full of cat lovers and TV watchers. I must go now. My precious Filipino Karaoke Choir is tuning up for my haircut.
When I entered, a woman who appeared to be in her late 40’s was getting a trim and working on “Satisfaction”, the Rolling Stones signature piece. The video of the Karaoke machine was panning across a tableau of butterflies, exotic birds and heart shaped flowers while the lyrics flowed across the screen. But Stones music really wasn’t her material and it showed in her performance.
Eventually her trim was complete. She moved to the sidelines and I took my seat. Edna took the next song, a tune by Helen Reddy about not being able to stop loving somebody, similar to the Ray Charles piece lyrically but vastly different musically. The Karaoke machine was showing hydroplanes blasting across a lake throwing up huge plumes of water.
The single downside to Edna’s karaoke barber shop is the dog. What is it about haircutters and small obnoxious animals? She has a little white dog that runs around being a pain in the ass. When in the barber chair, if I drop my arm carelessly toward the floor my hand will get licked. If Edna looks away for a moment, I will have the precious little bastard in my lap, leaping at my face.
I am certain that hurling the tiny beast through a window will get me barred from Edna’s. But it is only the possibility of being banished to SuperCuts that keeps me from doing it.
The Old Boys from Brazil
I recently attended an event for database professionals in Berchtesgaden Bavaria. Berchtesgaden is the stepping off point for a German national park on the German\Austrian border. Depending on the season, Berchtesgaden is usually full of skiers, hikers, climbers, boaters or fishermen. Seventy-five years ago it was full of Nazis, being also the stepping-off point for The Eagles Nest, Hitler’s vacation home.
However, when I returned to my hotel after a first look at the very small town, I found a large bus disgorging a bunch of elderly people who looked to be between 60 and 80 years old. They obviously hadn’t come to practice any strenuous outdoor activities. The woman at the desk said they came to see the Eagle’s Nest but there was still too much snow to get up there. The woman at the hotel desk also told me they were German-speaking tourists from Brazil. She found their strange, outdated kind of German to be quaint.
Of course, based on their ages, I immediately jumped to the conclusion that they were the children of escaped Nazi war criminals. True or not, it made my stay in the hotel more interesting even though I do not speak German, quaint or otherwise.
Hitler came here so frequently with his main squeeze, Eva Braun and the high command of the third Reich that the town built an elegant reception room at the train station for the exclusive use of Hitler and his guys (and girl).
(By the way, Eva is my nomination for the least attractive girlfriend of a powerful, famous or rich man. Usually those guys go for hot-looking babes. Take for example the hot babes that an ugly asshole like Donald Trump has bedded.)
Young Bavarian women have a brief few years when they are the most beautiful women south of Stockholm. Then the knodel and pig meat starts to get to them, not to mention the beer.
La Lange de Moliere
After marrying a very French woman with a mob of extended family and friends. I realized my life would be immeasurably easier if could speak French. Since then I have worked very hard to learn to speak a little French, but I was less successful in learning to understand French when it is spoken to me by French people. That is really not my fault. It is because groups of French people insist on talking all at the same time.
Before I speak, I mentally rehearse my lines until they are perfect, but when I interject them into the conversation the listeners just fall silent and look at each other out of the corners of their eyes. I know this is not a good sign. the problem is that my pithy repartee is about five minutes behind the conversation and totally irrelevant to what is currently being discussed.
For example I made my first French faux pas on the trip to meet Gigi’s parents and help them celebrate our first anniversary of marriage and their 50th anniversary. When the 22 guests were settled at the table ma bell mere proposed a toast welcoming me into the family. Unknown to me she had been taking lessons in English since Gigi and I were married just so she could welcome me in my native tongue. Unfortunately I did not recognize that she was speaking English. I pretended to understand but my carefully rehearsed reply was totally irrelevant. The in-laws and 22 guests who heard it were looking at each other with puzzled expressions. My brother-in-law got things going again by popping several bottles of Champaign.
Thus began the first of many 8 hour lunches and dinners.