For those of you who were unaware, the past three weeks I have been working on my travel beard. Inspired by the lead singer of the Zac Brown Band, I had decided “eh, why not. Its cold here anyways.” However, today my tune changed a bit. As I trumped through the streets of Torino on my way back to school I realized how annoying my beard had become.

For starters, its already starting to warm up here in Torino so the facial fuzz was beginning to itch a wee bit.  Second, it was quickly degenerating from a quaintly backwoods outdoorsman beard to a face carpet one would expect to find on a homeless vagabond. I don’t have any sort of trimming tools here with me so I was at the mercy of Mother Nature for keeping my beard in shape. Finally, it was just a nuisance when eating or drinking. I had to make sure to eat small bites and daintily sip milk in order to keep my facial hair from smelling foul.

So I treated myself to a hot shave at an Italian barber shop this afternoon. I stepped into the shop as the last customer was walking out the door and did my best to ask for a shave in Italian. Well, I barely had to say anything because immediately when I pointed to my face the barber knew what I needed. He said “Ohhhhhh tu barba, eh?” (Ohhhhhh, your beard, eh?) and ushered me to the chair. While he got a new edge on his razor and began mixing the hot lather he and I had a tentative conversation in Italian. At first he assumed I was Italian and asked where in Italy I’m from. It appears my basic conversational Italian of hi, how are you, I would like, etc. has become passable enough to be authentic. He was just thrown by my accent and was wondering which part of the peninsula it hailed from.

I laughed and explained “No, no, no. Mi no Italiano, sonno Americano. Abito in New Jersey.” He looked at me funny and asked where in the world is New Jersey in America. I told him the north and apparently that was good enough for him and he said “Ohhh, si! The North.” And asked why I was in Italy. So I explained I am a student of communications and art here at the “Universita Degli Studi di Torino” down by the river. At this point my Italian ability ran dry, and I really struggled to understand what he was telling me so I did a lot of smiling and nodding. It didn’t really matter though because he was ready to begin the procedure.

I spent the next 20 minutes staring at the ceiling, smelling the faint aroma of the cheap cigarettes he smokes in the shop. He carefully gave me a hot shave, followed by a cold shave, then applied some ointment to treat the little bit of razor burn on my neck, and finally slapped some aftershave on. It was pretty amazing; I’ve never had such a close and reinvigorating shave. He apparently got a kick out of it too. I’ve never seen anyone get so excited over shaving as he practically danced around the chair and wielded the razor like I imagine Van Gogh wielded his paintbrush; with a lot of eccentrically waving the tool around while choosing a spot to attack. Typical Italian, even the most mundane activity needs to be approached with pizazz and abundant energy.

At some point during this excitement my barber’s buddies stopped into the shop to talk about the evenings activities. I was thrilled, not only did I get a show but I also got to eavesdrop on a stereotypically loud and emotional Italian conversation. From what I could decipher they at first debated going to see a French film being shown in the local cinema, that got thrown out the window though. One of the mysterious chit chatters suddenly exclaimed “Robert DiNero!” and either hit the newspaper or started waving it around in the air guessing by the sounds. That appeared to seal the deal as all the guys got excited about seeing a Robert DiNero film. Not too long after this my face was successfully deforested and my barber friend asked “Va bene?” (Good?). I retorted by waving my hands around and saying “Va bene! Bellisimo!” (Good! Beautiful!).

What an experience. I’m already contemplating starting a new beard just so I can go back in three weeks.

 

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