I like my entertainment random, so Buenos Aires is the place to be. Impersonal stadium venues, booked 9 months in advance, are not for me. Nor are premiers and openings filled with celebrities I don’t recognise. Hell, I’ve never had a better time because I’ve had to dress up for an event, so I don’t understand why anyone bothers? No, my natural home is bohemian before that meant more expensive than establishment. Luckily for me and due to the lightness of regulation, combined with the Argentine attitude that having a good time is an inalienable right, there is still a plethora of bars, cafes, restaurants, bookshops and closed door venues of varying degrees of illegality, to indulge my interest in the arts without inflicting the discomforts of face-checking bouncers, high entry fees, coolness (I’m decidedly not cool) and the need for celebrity recognition flashcards.
(That being said, I am buying the latter for La Doctora, given that on introduction to the very talented Gonzalo Aloras (a man who is a “capo” of Rock Nacional and even looks like a proper rock star), and on hearing he played a bit of guitar, she managed to ask him whether he played in a band! Luckily he likes a bit of home cooking and is prepared to play for his supper, so I still expect him round at the 5th Floor.)
But I digress. The important thing is that everyone you know is doing something here, and while usually it is not their main career it is their passion, the thing that defines their life far more than a job could. Every week brings multiple invitations to gallery openings, concerts of every size and variety, after-office drinks with dj’s, dance exhibitions or theatre shows. Often you just go to be supportive and mingle with friends, though you are regularly surprised by the quality. Whether it’s the lawyer whose passion is tango (this combined with his black belt in jujitsu makes him the perfect escort to the more rustic milongas) or the election officer who dj’s and knows the club scene intimately, or my sous chef whose band used to be quite famous or my classical pianist journalist friend or, well I could go on and on. The result is that you never know when someone may burst into song.
As another aside, the above makes the common western conversational opener, “so what do you do?” somewhat problematic here. At worst it will be taken as a being very rude. Argentines make a separation between their jobs and their personas. Few see social events as primarily a business networking activity. The wage range between manual and professional is generally much smaller, so they don’t dedicate so much time to “getting ahead”. My porter earns more than most doctors, due to years in the job. A more sensitive and broader question is “a que te dedicas?” leaving the opportunity for them to skip quickly over the fact that they are a cosmetic surgeon and onto the important revelation that they spend every night writing short stories.
So back to my hairdresser. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. He’s got long peroxide streaks in his own barnet fair, but then which hairdressers doesn’t. He looks like a 70’s rock star, again not uncommon for a hairdresser. His fingers move at lightening speed, he can cut your hair, excellently, in ten minutes.
He is obviously not rich. He owns his own shop and has embedded Hollywood stars in the pavement outside but is the only guy that works there. He live above it. He has however embraced customer service and technology. The first time you go he asks a lot of questions, takes great care to get it right and once you are happy, takes a digital photo and as I later found out writes a lot of notes. As you leave he reminds you that you get an interim tidy up of his styling whenever you fancy, for free, in between cuts. The next time you go there he just reads his description of what you previously wanted and asks whether you want the same again, which of course you do if you are me and have only ever had one hairstyle.
Of course he is a hairdresser so he talks a lot. But about things you are interested in! The notes? Does he do research? Last week it was all about the origins of Lunfardo (the peculiar BA phraseology that is too imbedded in common parlance to be called slang). Interesting stories. And then he frightened me a little.
“You are a blues guy aren’t you?”
Must have been in his notes? I couldn’t deny it.
“I’m working with Moris (one of the first legends of blues here) at the moment, would you like to hear what I’ve been doing?”
In England I would assume that he would have been cutting Moris’s hair. Maybe they had made a syncopated scissor-snipping sound track. Here you can’t be sure but I still have a healthy mistrust of hairdressers that want to play me music. I checked my options. It’s not like being at the dentist. Once you’re in the chair there and they have the weapons of war embedded in your north and south, you have no options. Blink once for yes, twice for no. And the f**ckers talk as much as hairdressers. But here I could escape, make a break for it while the shampoo was being rinsed off. Before anything sharp came into play!
“We recorded a version of Garry Moore’s Still Got the Blues last night,” he continued.
Ok, he was definitely on the right track musically. At the very least I could grin and bear it. But it wasn’t half bad, in fact it was good. I’d post it here but the file isn’t available yet. However, I can say that I genuinely enjoyed it, I asked for more. The guy can play guitar, and lots of other things. He can sing as well. Moris brought a maturity to the whole project. It was good. No, it was excellent.
So, 15 minutes of fun. A haircut that cost 6 English pounds but was as good as Richard Ward in London (where I only used to go ‘cos he gave me a big discount – I know a lot about his past). A bit of banter and exit cheek kissing (you have to kiss any man here that you have known for more than 2 and a half minutes and enjoyed their company). Invitations to bring my old Fender round and record a few tracks in his studio upstairs. I’ll probably take him upon that.
So I looked him up on youtube. Lots of covers and the good stuff with Moris not yet available. But I found this, Garry Moore’s Still Got The Blues played as an accompaniment to his daughter’s roller skating display. Poor quality but sweet. Have a look at it:
I bet your hairdresser isn’t as cool as mine!