It was today that I realised a lifelong ambition... I walked the 20 metres from my apartment to the barber shop across the street and had a traditional, cutthroat razor shave.
The barber shop is nothing to look at. The dirty sunflower linoleum is pockmarked with long-forgotten stains and the overlying smell of the place is somewhere between used shirts and the folds of a bouncy castle. There is no expresso, fashion magazines or R&B. The only sounds are the low hum of the air conditioner, and the staccato conversation between a customer and the owner's young apprentice.
The owner looks a cross between a Japanese Detective Columbo and the kind of peripheral gangster that you see in Scorcese films, someone who would have a more successful younger brother and an exceptionally beautiful daughter.
He is a chainsmoker, a man of few words. He has numerous cheap pairs of glasses scattered around the shop, which he reached for in order to study a magazine picture of my desired haircut. He is not a waif-like glamour kitten with red hair and a perfect mouth. He doesn't soothe you with innocent chitchat. He's just a straightforward working man, no frills, no decoration, just a solid haircut for a reasonable price.
It was a great experience. I felt like I was experiencing what my grandfather would have experienced in 1950s England.
What I saw is what I got, and believe me, in this land where the exhillarating but ultimately shallow pop culture reigns supreme, it was a refreshing change.