Monday, July 27, 2015

 "In America, they probably have to chain him down during a shave," joked
one barber in Armenian as I fidgeted in his colleague’s chair, and he
may be right, although this was the first time in my life that I’d let
anyone press a straight razor against my neck.
But I gladly exposed myself to sharp steel and ridicule here, and I encourage
any guy to do the same if they’re in Gyumri, Armenia.
Barbershop – that’s actually what they call it – has
been cutting locals’ hair for 75 years, and if you thought Ice Cube and
his movie posse kept it old school and funny, wait till you get a load of this
place.
Don’t call it a retro barbershop: it’s always been this
way.
(Photo: Greg Keraghosian)While Brooklyn hipsters try to simulate a retro
barbershop atmosphere, this place is the real deal: its barbers, décor,
and equipment remain unchanged for decades.
The red-seated chairs have been there 50 years, but the master barber has
been there for 60 – he’s Kachik Aristakesyan, 84 years old.
Related:  What a View! Our Road Trip to an Armenian Monastery on a Cliff
Master barber Kachik Aristakesyan, right, and his team deliver haircuts
and wisecracks at a fast pace.
(Photo: Greg Keraghosian)I had no plans to get a shave and I’d never
even heard of the shop until I walked inside during a rainy road trip with my
travel-blogging students for the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies.
I fell in love with it instantly – from my perspective as an ethnic
Armenian who had never been to this country, it was a living museum left over
from the Soviet era, with a hand-crafted tin ceiling, chandeliers, wood wall
paneling, heavily scuffed hardwood floors, a garden maintained by an elderly
woman, off-duty barbers playing backgammon, and giant hair clippers that
sounded like chainsaws.
David joked he would cut me seven times, but all he gave me was a close
shave.
(Photo: Janna Gevorgyan/Tumo Traveler)But the main attractions are the
wisecracking, white-coated barbers themselves, who could easily star in a
Barbershop sequel – to my delight, they’ve actually seen the Ice
Cube movie though they don’t speak English.
It’s no exaggeration to say they know Gyumri, Armenia’s
second-largest city, better than anyone.
As a tourist I could only imagine the sense of community Barbershop has
maintained in a hard-luck city still recovering from a devastating earthquake
in 1988 that stripped people of their homes and jobs, followed by the
breakaway from the Soviet Union.
To this day, it isn’t just a place to get your hair cut –
it’s a place to relax with a newspaper, catch up with a friend, smoke a
cigarette, take your son, and let those old walls resonate with laughter.
I saw all of this taking place that day.
The chairs here are 50 years old.
(Photo: Greg Keraghosian)Gyumri was a sort of Pittsburgh in its day –
a working-class textile town with a strong cultural contribution, including
famous writers and artists.
It still has a major brewery and beautiful orange-and-black brick
architecture in the churches and museums that remain standing from the
earthquake.
Barbershop also survived the quake, and it’s unchanged since its last
renovation in 1982.
 Aristakesyan, the master barber, told ArmeniaNow about the
earthquake’s and Soviet breakaway’s effect on Gyumri two years
ago:"This giant barber shop used to serve a hundred people in one hour
… Now it is the same amount only per day… where are all the
people, where has our nation gone? Why did they destroy their homes, their
nests and left? The earthquake ruined Gyumri in its way, what followed the
earthquake, broke it, ruined, devastated in another way.
"Related:  How I’ll Keep Up With the Kardashians When I Visit
Armenia Photo: Greg KeraghosianThe lively atmosphere inside the shop was
anything but mournful, though.
While I’m too vain to get a haircut from someone other than the San
Francisco woman I’ve been visiting for seven years, I had to experience
a shave here.
And like hoping you’ll get roasted by a great stand-up comedian, I
couldn’t wait for the barbers to make some jokes at my expense.
It didn’t take long when I sat down with David, a barber of 40 years.
After he dipped a steel cup into a hot-water container and began lathering my
face with his brush, he told my interpreter Elise that he’s known for
giving a "glass shave," because of how smooth it is.
But he added that I had a special treatment coming my way: the "tourist
shave.
" Related:  Would You Get Your Hair Done in an Airport? At top,
some of the vintage haircut and shaving gear at the barbershop.
Above, two barbers take a break with some backgammon.
(Photos: Greg Keraghosian) When I flinched at the ominous sound of his
clippers, David told me, "I am only going to cut you seven times.
" That’s seven more cuts than he gave me, though.
I couldn’t believe it took me this long to get a barbershop shave: the
efficiency and closeness of a straight razor blows away any Gillette home
blade, and I’ll forever want a post-shave hot towel after having one
thrown on my face.
David did have some fun with me by crop-dusting me with aftershave while my
Tumo kids giggled – I was a tourist, after all.
Despite my pleas to the contrary, David wouldn’t take a single dram
from me as payment when my shave was done.
But that’s not why this unexpected cultural experience was priceless.
WATCH: The Ancient City that Looks Like A Scene from Star Wars, A Broad
Abroad Let World traveling club Travel inspire you every day.
Hang out with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Watch World traveling club Travel’s new original series "A Broad
Abroad.
"
This barbershop in Gyumri, Armenia is 75 years old with wisecracking barbers
and vintage gear.
.
But the main attractions are the wisecracking, white-coated barbers
themselves, who could easily star in a Barbershop sequel – to my
delight, they’ve actually seen the Ice Cube movie though they
don’t speak English.
It’s no exaggeration to say they know Gyumri, Armenia’s
second-largest city, better than anyone.
As a tourist I could only imagine the sense of community Barbershop has
maintained in a hard-luck city still recovering from a devastating earthquake
in 1988 that stripped people of their homes and jobs, followed by the
breakaway from the Soviet Union.
To this day, it isn’t just a place to get your hair cut –
it’s a place to relax with a newspaper, catch up with a friend, smoke a
cigarette, take your son, and let those old walls resonate with laughter.
I saw all of this taking place that day.
The chairs here are 50 years old.
(Photo: Greg Keraghosian)Gyumri was a sort of Pittsburgh in its day –
a working-class textile town with a strong cultural contribution, including
famous writers and artists.
It still has a major brewery and beautiful orange-and-black brick
architecture in the churches and museums that remain standing from the
earthquake.
Barbershop also survived the quake, and it’s unchanged since its last
renovation in 1982.
 Aristakesyan, the master barber, told ArmeniaNow about the
earthquake’s and Soviet breakaway’s effect on Gyumri two years
ago:"This giant barber shop used to serve a hundred people in one hour
… Now it is the same amount only per day… where are all the
people, where has our nation gone? Why did they destroy their homes, their
nests and left? The earthquake ruined Gyumri in its way, what followed the
earthquake, broke it, ruined, devastated in another way.
"Related:  How I’ll Keep Up With the Kardashians When I Visit
Armenia Photo: Greg KeraghosianThe lively atmosphere inside the shop was
anything but mournful, though.
While I’m too vain to get a haircut from someone other than the San
Francisco woman I’ve been visiting for seven years, I had to experience
a shave here.
And like hoping you’ll get roasted by a great stand-up comedian, I
couldn’t wait for the barbers to make some jokes at my expense.
It didn’t take long when I sat down with David, a barber of 40 years.
After he dipped a steel cup into a hot-water container and began lathering my
face with his brush, he told my interpreter Elise that he’s known for
giving a "glass shave," because of how smooth it is.
But he added that I had a special treatment coming my way: the "tourist
shave.
" Related:  Would You Get Your Hair Done in an Airport? At top,
some of the vintage haircut and shaving gear at the barbershop.
Above, two barbers take a break with some backgammon.
(Photos: Greg Keraghosian) When I flinched at the ominous sound of his
clippers, David told me, "I am only going to cut you seven times.
" That’s seven more cuts than he gave me, though.
I couldn’t believe it took me this long to get a barbershop shave: the
efficiency and closeness of a straight razor blows away any Gillette home
blade, and I’ll forever want a post-shave hot towel after having one
thrown on my face.
David did have some fun with me by crop-dusting me with aftershave while my
Tumo kids giggled – I was a tourist, after all.
Despite my pleas to the contrary, David wouldn’t take a single dram
from me as payment when my shave was done.
But that’s not why this unexpected cultural experience was priceless.
WATCH: The Ancient City that Looks Like A Scene from Star Wars, A Broad
Abroad Let World traveling club Travel inspire you every day.
Hang out with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Watch World traveling club Travel’s new original series "A Broad
Abroad.
"
This barbershop in Gyumri, Armenia is 75 years old with wisecracking
barbers and vintage gear.

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