I have been spoiled. While on a nearly one month exploration of Turkey I discovered the art of Grooming. No, not some mundane ritual of scraping my face each morning half asleep and caffeine deprived. But the time honored art practiced by Turkish barbers.
Recently I found myself in the small town of Kirazli, a farming community approximately 45 minutes from Ephesus. Known for their wonderful cherry and apricots, their slightly alkaline soils and abundance of water make their fruit highly prized in the markets of Istanbul.
During my wanderings to sample the best street food in the region I happened upon a barber who was munching on pistachios, which I believe to be a national past time along with tea and backgammon. He looked at me as if there was some recognition and indicated 'killi' ... 'killi adam', (hairy...hairy man) while rubbing his face.
Aping his movement I soon realized that my three days of growth attracted his attention and he was the man with a solution. I entered his shop and was introduced to his son, Murat, who probably was a recent graduate of barber school, at least I hoped so. He convinced me to go with the full service of a haircut along with a shave. I was served tea and invited into the chair while Murat prepared his equipment.
The first step was to wash my hair in a fragrant lemon shampoo along with a scalp massage that last 5 minutes. Firm hands worked my temples, behind my ears and the base of my neck, I was transported to a state of bliss that may have been replicated if I was ever to be found in the presence of the Dalai Lama.
The cutting of my hair began traditionally, he used a scizzor and a comb to cut the majority and then he switched to a razor for the final cut. With the same razor he then lathered behind my ears and neck and shaved all that annoying growth that seems to get caught on the fibers of my collar.
At this point a warm moist towel was placed on my face while Murat worked his brush into a lemony soap that produced an inordinate amount of suds. He applied the shaving soap which was warm and slightly oily and fragrant and he went off to sip on tea.
Murat began on the side of my face scraping in inch long movements and then proceeded to my upper lip squeezing my nose and tugging side to side. Next it was on to my chin where he then grabbed my bottom lip and stretched it to ensure that there was no offending beard remaining.
Up to this point I was in dreamland but there was some hesitation as he lifted my chin and scraped in long upward strokes along my neck. I have seen just too darn many gangster flicks, because at this point he could have easily dispatched me to the dark side.
Feeling fantastic and believing my experience had ended, Murat pushed me back in the chair and lathered my face again only a tad lighter on the shaving cream, to begin the process anew. This second pass was different in that he was squeezing and pulling my face with vigor as he scraped.
Then the phone rang.
With dexterity he managed to balance his cell phone between his cheek and shoulder and while speaking with great intensity he continued within close proximity to my jugular. Squeezing and pulling the skin to dispatch whatever remnants of beard remained. Followed by a moist towel to clean any offending cream remaining.
Again I stood to leave the seat only to be pushed down, only to be scolded in Turkish. He dipped a cotton swab in a liquid and then lit the ball on fire, a yellow blue flame leaped 5" into the air before settling down to a 3" blue flame. With my mouth agape he shielded the side of my head and began tapping the cotton swab against my ear. The heat of the flame and what sounded like the singeing of hair was somewhat unsettling.
I should not have been concerned. Barbering is a time honored skill in Turkey, a barber will spend years as an apprentice and followed by rigorous government sanctioned testing. My total bill for this 90 minute nirvana was 7 lira, or about USD $ 4.75
Feeling like a new man there were applause by my junior fan club and I believe the seal of approval.