Wednesday, April 13, 2005

onion, haircut & a free wednesday morning

first and foremost, the onion. you should be reading it weekly, but if you're not this is a good week to start. headlines include:

  • Pope John Paul II, Longtime Owner Of Popemobile, Dead At 84
  • Heaven Less Opulent Than Vatican, Reports Disappointed Pope
  • Cost Of Living Now Outweighs Benefits
  • French's Introduces Antibacterial Mustard

and so forth.

so i'd last cut my hair back in august, and it had gotten to that point where my golden locks were impeding my vision. russia, more than most places i've been to, is a good place to have unimpeded vision. and so it was time to cut the hair. i've gotten in the habit of cutting my hair once or twice a year, and cutting it all off, usually doing it myself. granted it's a long experiment, but if you've never given it a shot:

just let your hair grow. it's not like you enjoy going to that crappy hair salon, and all the good barbers are dead. you're going to have to pay someone to cut your hair in a way that you don't like, and for a really nominal investment in a pair of clippers you can do it yourself. it's actually a really liberating/cathartic feeling to stand in front of the mirror and cut your own hair. think royal tenenbaums, only don't slit your wrists at the end. or if you do, get better like he does.

anyway, the point of the story is that my clippers didn't make the packing list, and there was no way i could hold out for another two months to do the cut at home. so i set out around the center looking for a barber, to no avail. and then i dropped in at a few other places, but i was turned away with infinite disdain by girls, who apparently have their next three months of appointments booked. knowing that i wasn't the sort of celebrity clientele that these (literally) back alley haircutters were used to, i headed for the only other place i'd seen around - Ruslan & Ludmila's.

Ruslan & Ludmila is located on pl. volkova, right before ul. kirova, and for those traveling to yaroslavl' for more than half a year, this would be a good place to get your hair cut before you go. it's a мужская парикмахерская, which is to say a salon-y sort of place that only men go to. you'll need a certain courage, not because you're in any real danger of getting a bad haircut - everyone seemed to leave smiling. which reminds me, this monster of a guy with a completely shaved head came in right after i did and walked right into the main part of the salon. i was waiting patiently in line in the little entry way, with a few other pretty young guys. this guy was completely decked out in new russian finery, and i was already sort of eying out escape routes, as this looked like a classic movie hit job. one of the women inside laughed at him and asked him if he was in for another hair cut or something. it turned out they 'missed a spot.' and he left without incident.

but courage. you're probably not going to see any mob hits, but you'll definitely see some mob characters. you'll also see scissors flutter around your head and ears like completely mad silver butterflies. the best thing for this is to pretend you have hair in your eyes and keep them closed. or if you're really cool, make like you're sleeping. this won't work if you're grimacing and clenching the stool handles. also don't try to explain what you want in any great detail. a few gestures, maybe, and when she says "oh so you want the sport cut," just say probably, and let her do it. also another quick word of warning - if you're getting the sport cut and at the end she goes to put some guck on her hands (which i thought was some sort of hand soap or something) protest loudly. you really don't want that crap in your hair.

so that was yesterday evening, and my haircut passed without incident. today is wednesday morning, and on any other wednesday morning i would be sitting in on a 3 hour lecture about the history of southern and eastern slavs. i got to the university out of breath this morning, and took my usual seat toward the back of the classroom. a few of the girls turned around to make small chat, and told me, by the way, this isn't the slavs class today. that professor's at a conference. but, uhm, you can stick around if you want to hear about the history of the yaroslavl region.

the last word might have been region, i'm not really sure. i was already redressing and shaking hands and wishing everyone a good morning. i don't remember descending the three flights of stairs, but in an instant i was back out on the street, and after another few handshakes with the last minute cigarette smokers, i was walking down the street a free man. the weather here is wonderful. there is an army of grandmothers with those old fashioned stick brooms that you thought only exist in antique stores sweeping up a winter's worth of candy wrappers, kefir cartons and cigarette butts. an army of grandfathers has already collected the bottles. and i think i'm going to go take a walk. if the weather isn't as great wherever you might happen to be, you know what to do