One old man giving another old man a haircut. Senhor Garrett, the barber, finished up and brought out a hand-mirror to show the customer his fine work on the nape. The customer was unmoved. He looked at his reflection severely and said nothing.
Senhor Garrett adjusted the barber’s cape, made a few final touches; didn’t bother with the hand-mirror again. The old customer paid and Senhor Garrett helped him with his jacket. The customer was older and frailer than I had imagined, once out of the barber chair.
Not too many haircuts left.
It had taken me some time to find Senhor Garrett. I had been looking all over Porto for just the right one, and today, when I wasn’t even looking, there he was.
For days I had resisted getting a haircut from a bearded hipster: didn’t want a haircut from a man with a perfumed beard and tattooed forearms. Didn’t want to be served espresso and provided with an unforgettable customer experience.
I wanted an old guy with enamelled iron chairs and a barber pole outside. I wanted an old man with cracked mirrors, dead plants and shaky hands.
I found all this with Senhor Garrett, just off Avenida dos Aliados, on our second-to-last day in Porto.
On the wall was a surprisingly well-executed oil painting of the proprietor, Senhor Garrett, standing in front of one of his red-upholstered chairs, as if it were a throne. The pose is regal.
I later found out that a famous nineteenth-century Romantic poet and man of letters from Porto was also named Garrett.
He gave me a memorable haircut, even if he did mangle my sideburns. After he was done, including going over my nape and ears with a straight razor and a pink disposable one, he used a fine instrument to remove my widow’s peak. I’ve never had this done before, so I can only attribute it to Senhor Garrett’s rare artistry.
Laundry day in Gaia
On my long run yesterday I took my phone, which I’ve never done before. I knew my run would take me past the mouth of the Douro River and south along the Atlantic Ocean. I had seen something on my previous run that I wanted to record with my phone camera, and knew this would be my last chance:
A forest of criss-crossed sticks, tied together into rough pyramids and tethered to the ground, on which clothing flapped in the salty air. Meanwhile women emerged from a low building with baskets of wet clothes and apron pockets bulging with clothespins.
Peering into the building’s dark interior, I discovered a series of shallow concrete tubs and local women with plunging their thick arms into the soapy water. Two of the women were wrestling a blue and red carpet into submission.
The echoing concrete and sloshing water made a kind of music of the women’s voices and laughter. They abruptly stopped when they noticed me staring, and then shyly continued their scrubbing.
I retreated, feeling that I had already pressed my luck.
* * *
We arrived in Lisbon today, and on our first walk in the ancient neighbourhood of Alfama, a bird shit on my head. Lucky for me I was wearing a hat and didn’t ruin Senhor Garrett’s fine work. Not so lucky for my hat.