This is really guy stuff, but with special consideration for the ladies who enjoy coming up with novel ideas for the men in their lives. It’s about an indulgence — for guys — that happens all too rarely these days (No, it’s not THAT!).
Now you know that I have a penchant for talking — not to say bragging — about the unique notions that Kris comes up with on the occasion of my birthday. Well, last week she set a new standard and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for next year.
Naturally, there was the train ride, which she always provides, I guess, because she hates to see me whine. This time it was north-bound into downtown L.A., including a subway trip to the middle of the city. And, as usual, she kept me guessing all the way.
We got off the subway at Pershing Square, walked a few blocks, turned a couple of corners, crossed a street and walked into a place called Bolt’s, a barber shop very definitely of the old school. “How about a straight razor shave?” she asked.
I never use the expression “You’re kidding,” because I have a tendency to believe people the first time, but I did invoke a couple of clichés that suggested pleasure and agreement with the idea.
For the most part, men don’t get straight razor cuts anymore. Once a regular thing, it amounts to special occasions now, and you do have to search out shops that do it. Most barbers or beauticians either don’t have the procedure down or simply have no interest. For me it came under the special occasion category, and it definitely was all of that.
With the shop golden retriever, Woody, at the foot of the chair, I leaned back on the head rest as the barber went to work.
If you haven’t seen this done in the movies — and it’s hard to imagine that you haven’t — you simply lay there on the chair and she — in my case — does all the work.
There’s a prep stage where a hot towel is placed on your face, folded in such a way that just your nose sticks out. About the time the towel finally cools and is removed, a light oil is rubbed into your waiting whiskers. Very nice. Then she applies warm lather and picks up the razor.
By chance, if you’ve gone into a store where straight razors are sold, the salesman will always caution you not to test the sharpness of the razor with your finger or thumb. They’re that sharp, and you could find yourself looking for a tourniquet. I thought about this as the barber began to pull the razor down the side of my face. I also thought about the scene in “The untouchables” where Al Capone (Robert De Niro) is getting his shave for the day — and the barber nicks him and draws a small amount of blood. Yikes. I also tried for the longest time to recall the name of the Broadway show where a barber murders his customers with a straight razor.
Moving right along.
You actually get shaved twice, once with the grain of the whiskers, and then with a second application of the oil prep and lather to shave against the grain. It wasn’t a procedure that I watched for the most part, rather one that I felt, and it was indeed an experience that I could get used to, not counting the time and the cash. At home a morning shave takes all of five minutes.
As I got out of the chair I asked the obvious question, one I’m sure the barber has had to answer at least a thousand times. “Sweeny Todd,” she answered, with a small attempt to sound interested. But then there was this…”I used to work in a shop right across the street from where ‘Sweeny Todd’ was playing,” she said, adding, “I always suggested to the customer that he get the shave before seeing the show.”
I thanked the barber for a job well done, patted Woody on the head and gave Kris a big hug.
We walked out of the shop and into the street.
“How was it?” Kris asked.
“Great. Super smooth,” I said. “So what’s next?”