The Lung Brothers

Hanging out at the extreme end of the long tail ...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Obits and Pieces: Nº. 5 Lluis Rivera’s Barber Shop

Forgive me for returning to this old chestnut but we bloggers are an emotional sort and when I saw that Lluis had shut up shop, I was so crestfallen that quill had to be set to parchment or at the very least, cursor to doc.

Sr. Rivera’s was where I first went to get my hair cut when I arrived in Barcelona almost half a lifetime ago and I continued to give it patronage throughout the next decade. In fact, the very few times for circumstantial reasons that I had to get sheared somewhere else, it always felt like a betrayal. You see, apart from being my barber and an impeccable gentleman, Don Lluis was also my unofficial professor of Catalan, philosophy, folklore and etiquette.

Once every five weeks or so I would make my pilgrimage to Carrer Llibreteria, a very picturesque medieval street tucked away behind the cathedral and if I was lucky, there’d be a few people waiting and I could sit back and enjoy the banter. There was very little that was fancy or modern about the place, simple white tile on the walls, sturdy wooden shelves and seats and maybe a propane heater in winter.

Lluis never wore the standard white uniform of the barber nor an apron, just a plain shirt open at the neck and a pair of slacks. At first, he used to always have an unlit cigar butt stuck in the corner of his mouth but eventually gave that up. I always suspected that it was the same cigar and that he’s since had it stuffed and mounted in a glass case in his home. He also had the habit of snipping his scissors in the air between cuts, a tick that would have seemed menacingly Sweeney Toddish had it been anybody else but Lluis.

The man knew my scalp like a seasoned cartographer and was never fazed by the double crown or the cable-like consistency of my follicles. He’d casually slice through clumps of the unruly fibers, converting my shaggy mop into a neat and dapper piece of topiary. The fact that I liked my hair short was always appreciated. Once a Canadian backpacker with a shoulder-length bob popped his head in the door and asked for a trim. Lluis (with a little translation help from yours truly) gently directed the lad down the street to his competition. He then looked at me in the mirror, shrugged and said “Aquet no era client meu.” – basically “That wasn’t a customer for me.” Slight disapproval in his tone but ever vulgar, always respectful.

The atmosphere in the establishment could best be described as ‘traditional male’. Honestly, if there was a woman present, she was usually a mother accompanying a kid waiting for a trim. Quite often the majority of people sitting in the shop wouldn’t even be customers. Many of the old lads who lived in the neighbourhood would just drift in and sit down for a chat, probably getting a break from their wives. And when I say ‘male’, I don’t mean sexist. The conversations ranged from football, politics, local gossip, weather, bloody tourists to (of course) women, with each man taking his turn to hold court with his opinions but always with an air of dignity. Lluis who was the unofficial chairman of any debate, wouldn’t have allowed any crude talk in his place of work. I have a huge fondness for listening to elderly men imparting the wisdom of the experience that they have accumulated over their lifetimes. That’s not to say I believe or agree with all of it. It’s often bollocks but fun to listen to nonetheless. I still remember Lluis gazing melancholically out of his shop window onto the narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter and saying “This isn’t a real neighbourhood anymore, it’s a theme park for tourists.” It’s a line I have stolen and used myself on many occasions.

Please don’t get the impression however that Don Lluis was a dusty old dinosaur. Like all true gentlemen, he could rise to the occasion and surprise you when you least expected. During my first summer here I was visited by the “Chicas Alegres", a couple of Irish girls who were going to crash for a week and ended up staying for the whole summer. And when I say a couple, I mean a couple. V and S were what Lung the Elder and I referred to as “aw-lesbians” because when you told a guy that they were gay, he would inevitably go “Aawww!” Both of them were pretty damn cute.

Now S had a head of hair that most girls would give their hind teeth for. Pitch black and silky, it fell in perfect ringlets to her slim shoulders. So it came as a surprise to everyone when she decided to get rid of it and actively seek a buzz cut. When they inquired as to where I usually went to get cropped, I was a little hesitant to point them towards Lluis’ shop. It was hard to envisage these two pale exotic creatures with their black platform sandals and dog collars, walking through the front door to the withering stare of the proprietor. It turned out that I had underestimated all three of them.

On returning to the apartment, both girls were all smiles and compliments about Lluis. He had apparently greeted them with mild surprise but zero hostility and this turned into a wide welcome when they mentioned that they were friends of mine. When V (who spoke Spanish) explained what they were there for, Lluis balked and touching S’s glossy curls with reverence, begged them not to do it. But V was nothing if not persuasive and after a little bit of gentle egging on, he set to work with the electric clippers wincing a little with every stroke. However, by the end of the exercise, Lluis was tilting his head to one side and saying “Actually that’s not half bad.” My admiration for the man grew one notch higher.

I imagine that he’s happily retired now and hopefully has found somewhere of his own to sit and chat about nothing in particular. The sad thing is that his old shop is now one of those innumerable tacky souvenir stalls where a Pakistani shopkeeper will sell you a brightly colored Mexican hat, an injection- molded plastic torro or a knock-off Leo Messi football shirt, all made in China, all at exorbitant prices.

Lluis would have really hated that although I could never imagine him being in any way coarse about it.

So I salute you Lluis Rivera, for your likes will not be seen again.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Screwing Up the Republican Primaries, for Fun and Profit.

Well it looks like there is a very tiny possibility that Newt Gingrich will be running for president…….and if you’re wondering what that rustling noise is, it’s a nervous team of Republican spin doctors putting on their Kevlar suits.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Anti-Social Media

I dislike the idea of social media for the following reasons:

- A person who obsessively follows other individuals around spying on their personal lives is called a ‘stalker’. A person who obsessively wants others to spy into their personal lives is a ‘stalkee’. Just two sides of the same type of degenerate.

- I am very fortunate to still have some very dear friends from my school days. We freely chose to keep in touch. Many have visited and I have been delighted by their company. There were however quite a lot of guys at school who I didn’t really care for. These chaps may well be going through their mid-life crises as we speak and I am not at all keen on the idea that they be privy to the fact that I live in Barcelona. The possibility that a fatter, balder, recently divorced version of some shithead I never liked calling up my family back in Dublin and demanding my address is not one I intend to court. It pays to be invisible to all but those who matter. Thus the anonymous blog.

- The simple fact is that refusal often offends. A few months ago, I foolishly signed up for one of these professional social networks and now my personal e-mail account is getting flooded with requests from work contacts. I do take my job as seriously as the next man, but when I arrive home that’s that. There’s a change of bosses and office duty is replaced by domestic duty. I have not ‘friended’ or ‘colleagued’ or ‘merged’ or ‘whateverthefuckitscalled’ with any of these contact requests and now I worry that they might be feeling a bit rebuffed. This in turn might be detrimental to the professional side of things. What a mistake. Time to check if one can get linked-the-Hell-out.

- I like being completely alone and hate to be interrupted, especially when doing absolutely nothing. Aren’t those little quiet corners of the day just magical? Those rare, brief periods when you have nothing to do, no obligations to fulfil when you can just read a magazine, do a crossword puzzle, spew out a blog post or fritter it away in any way you choose. An hour is indeed a wonderful thing to waste. Then your mobile phone goes off and the spell is broken. That perfidious jingle represents an obligation to answer which in turn represents an obligation to converse which usually leads to some other obligation, - “let’s meet up!”“Don’t forget to do the shopping!”“Get out, get out, the house is on fire!” What a drag. I managed to live without a mobile phone right up to the birth of my kid. Oh happy days. If someone skypes me one more time while I’m halfway through a life-or-death game of Mahjong Titan, I might just throw my laptop out the window.

- My birthday is rapidly approaching and my lifelong ambition to become a curmudgeonly old fart is finally coming to fruition. “In my day we didn’t need no internets or phase-books, if ye wanted to make friends ye just got pissed down the pub. I don’t want a shop front window on me life! So bugger off all of you or I’ll set me dog on you!”

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Life Imitates Art

There’s an amusing little rhyme that my father taught me when I was but a lad and I have already loyally passed it onto my own 6-year old son.
It goes something like this:

Little Johnny bought a gun,
Shot his Daddy just for fun,
Now, said Mummy,
That’s not funny,
Bullets cost a lot of money.

The wisdom of these words was demonstrated a few days ago while myself and Nic were playing in his room. For some reason, he started shoving me in the back with his feet and instead of giving him the satisfaction of knowing he was bugging me*, I pretended he was giving me a nice massage. He told me not to be silly, massages are done with hands. I corrected him and told him that in some countries, the masseur actually walks on the back of his client.

This was all the provocation he needed and within no time, I was face down on his bed and he was stomping on my back in his besocked feet and laughing like a rabid chimp* on a trampoline while I lay there (only half) pretending to be in agony.

With all the racket, my wife came in and told Nic to stop at once, he might damage the bed.

Now let me remind you that directly under my son’s leaping feet were thirty three of my vertebrae, my sternum and a ribcage containing sundry vital organs, yet my wife’s first reaction was to worry about the wellbeing of the bed underneath.

So it’s true – Mummies do know how expensive bullets are.

(*My son is an interesting hybrid – half cherub, half thug)

Observations Garnered from the Christmas Gifts Recieved from my Inlaws.

All men’s cosmetic products are made to smell like expensive upholstery.

Quote from a Gay Stalinist

"A single orphan is a tragedy.
A million orphans is .......A MUSICAL!"