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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Carnage of Figaro

(En español más abajo)
 
Canada
As kids, we would spend a lot of time with my grandfather Pepe and my grandmother Haydeé. It’s natural to spend more time with the grandparents of one side, but the fact that my other two grandparents lived in the neighbour town of Quequén (just across the river) and that my father wasn’t living with us anymore would make logical and almost explainable the fact that we spent so little time with them.
 
This doesn’t mean that we felt forced to spend the days with Pepe or that we had a bad time with him! We loved to go to his farm for the day, or even for a few days; I loved to stay overnight. There was a very old house (built in 1927), that was in a very bad shape and had no hydro; staying the for the night, reading near the faint light coming from very old gas lamps, was an adventure. Another thing I loved to do there was to take a bath. The bathroom featured a giant bathtub and a shower that looked even bigger; the way we obtained the hot water was very interesting: you would have to turn on the ‘economy range’ (a stove that worked with wood), as the water pipes would go through its interior. The result was obvious: depending on how much attention they paid to the kitchen you would either be freezing to death or totally scolded…

As I said, then, we loved to spend the time with Pepe and would follow him anywhere. Well, except when he was going to Mr. Pita’s place.

Pita was a barber, and he had his shop on 61st Street, between 58th Avenue and 56th, in downtown Necochea. He was an elderly man, much older than Pepe. And how to describe his abilities as a barber… Oh, I know: he was terrible!!! Going to Pita’s with Pepe was more than a torture; it only took for grandpa to mention his name for his gang of grandchildren to disband at the speed of light. Of course, there was always one that was slower than the rest who would be ‘captured’ and taken to Mr. Pita’s, to be offered as a sacrificial lamb; unfortunately, and probably due to the fact that I was the youngest, that sacrificial lamb would usually be me.

This good man would use the scissors without remorse; many times his work would be interrupted by our screams, whenever those old and dull scissors got tangled with our hair or scalp. To say that our hair was uneven after the experience would be an understatement; had we had head lice, they would have been able to build a golf course or an amusement park just by taking advantage of the different lengths our hair had depending on the part of our head.

Nobody is surprised today when they wash or at least wet your hair before or while you’re getting a haircut. Mr. Pita was a little more direct and savvy: the moment he located a some rebel hairs…. pft, pft, he would spit on his hand and fix the problem right away, taking good care of the untamed ones. Yup, ewww. I don’t really remember if he used a blade for the finishing touches (around the ears, behind our heads, etc). Let’s just say that getting a haircut from Mr. Pita could have easily been one of the tests for ‘Fear Factory’, the TV show.

As time passed, and thanks to my father’s intervention, we could finally go to other places: I remember barber shops called Irupé and Estevez y another one in the ‘village’, two blocks away from the beach, owned by a very kind and careful gentleman who would call every customer ‘Don Amigo’ (“Mr. Friend”). Incidentally, this man was missing the ring finger from his right hand. Didn’t seem to bother him much when cutting our hair.

But I will never forget those ‘haircut’ I would get at Mr. Pita’s. I think about it and my head hurts retroactively! :-)

 
ArgentinaDe chicos solíamos pasar mucho tiempo con mi abuelo Pepe y mi abuela Haydeé. Es natural que uno pase más tiempo con los abuelos de un lado que con los del otro, pero en nuestro caso el hecho de que mis abuelos paternos vivieran en la vecina ciudad de Quequén (del otro lado del río) y mi padre ya no viviera con nosotros, hacía casi lógico y explicable el hecho de que pasáramos tan poco tiempo con ellos.

Esto no quiere decir que nos sintiéramos obligados a pasar tiempo con Pepe o que la pasáramos mal con él! Nos encantaba ir a pasar el día o incluso varios días en su quinta, especialmente a mí. Allí había una casa muy vieja (construída en 1927) que estaba en muy mal estado de conservación y ya no contaba con electricidad; quedarse a dormir allí, alumbrados por los 'sol de noche', era una aventura. Otra cosa que me encantaba hacer en esa casa era bañarme. El baño tenía una bañera enorme y una ducha que parecía más grande aún; más interesante aún era el método para obtener el agua caliente: había que encender la 'cocina económica' (que funcionaba a leña), ya que el caño de agua caliente pasaba por su interior. El resultado era obvio: dependiendo de cuánta atención se le prestara a la cocina, o nos moríamos de frío o se nos caía la piel de a colgajos...

Como decía, nos gustaba pasar el tiempo con Pepe e íbamos con él adonde sea que el fuera. La única excepción era cuando iba a lo de Pita.

Pita era un amigo de Pepe que tenía una peluquería en la calle 61, entre la Avenida 58 y la calle 56, en el centro de Necochea. Era un hombre mayor, bastante más que mi abuelo. Y como peluquero... era terrible!!! Ir 'a lo de Pita' con Pepe era más que una tortura; bastaba que el abuelo mencionara su nombre para que su séquito de nietos se desbandara casi como por arte de magia. Claro que siempre quedaba uno rezagado que era 'capturado' y llevado a lo del señor Pita a manera de ofrenda de sacrificio; lamentablemente, y seguramente debido a que yo era el más chico, por lo general ése era yo.

Este buen hombre manejaba las tijeras de manera despiadada; a menudo su trabajo se veía interrumpido por los gritos que pegábamos cuando nos enganchaba mechones de pelo con sus instrumentos. Decir que el pelo nos quedaba desparejo es minimizar los hechos; si hubiéramos tenido piojos, estos tranquilamente podrían haber armado una cancha de golf o un parque de diversiones con sólo usar los desniveles de nuestras superficies...

En estos días no sorprende a nadie que a uno le laven la cabeza o le mojen el cabello antes o mientras se lo están cortando. El señor Pita era mucho más expeditivo y económico: en cuanto localizaba una mata de pelo o un remolino rebelde... pft, pft, se escupía las manos y enseguida solucionaba el problema, aplastando a esos cabellos indomables. Si, puaj. Por suerte no recuerdo si usaba navaja o no para cortarnos las patillas o la parte de atrás de nuestras cabezas. Digamos para resumir que cortarse el cabello en lo de Pita podría muy bien ser usado como una prueba para el programa 'Fear Factory' hoy en día.

Con el tiempo, y gracias a la intervención de entre otros mi padre, pudimos ir a otros lugares a 'pelarnos': recuerdo las peluquerías Irupé, Estévez y una muy pintoresca en la villa balnearia, a metros del mar, cuyo dueño era un hombre muy amable y cuidadoso que llamaba a todos sus clientes 'Don Amigo' y a quien -dato curioso- le faltaba el dedo anular de la mano derecha.

Pero de los 'cortes de cabello' en lo de Pita, no me olvido más. Pienso en ello y me duele la cabeza con retroactividad, miren.

 

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