As the old barber slid his comb through Rich’s hair and began to snip, Rich asked the man if he’d ever cut bullfighters’ hair. After all, the tiny barbershop was located in the very wall of the bullring in Ronda, where modern bullfighting was first developed in 1726. “Oh, yes,” the barber said. He began to walk around the room, pointing to faded black and white prints of men dressed for the ring in their suits of lights. “I cut his hair...and his...” He pointed to one last picture just inside his doorway. “And I have cut this man’s hair...” It was Ernest Hemingway.
Papa Hemingway and Ronda's most famous bullfighters, the Ordoñez family, shown just steps from the entrance to the barbershop.
As you can imagine, Rich was thrilled. He put off his next haircut as long as possible (and then some) so he could have the pleasure of saying, “You see this haircut? I got it from Hemmingway’s barber. Yeah, we share a barber...”
When it comes to haircuts on the road, guys have a pretty easy time of it. My own experiences have not always been so satisfactory. For instance, there was the time in the Republic of Georgia when the hairdresser showed up drunk and hacked off all my hair in a style that would have looked at home in boot camp.
Once, early in our Seville years, when I was just starting to color my hair, I asked that instead of plain brown we consider adding a tiny hint of red. I was hoping for a nuanced auburn, but the results were pure Bozo.
It took me years to find a Spanish hairdresser who really seemed to understand that I wanted a simple, natural look. Soon after I did, Spanish friends sat me down and told me that my hair was “too serious.” Say what? “We have all talked about it,” said a woman with big, blond curls. “Don’t you want hair that is happier? You could make it more blonde, give it some curls...”
I couldn’t believe my ears. It was an intervention. About my hair.
Then I realized they were kindly initiating me into the ways of the tribe. That intervention was the nicest insult I’ve ever received.
I never did switch to big hair, mostly because I didn’t want to have to keep explaining to American friends that no, I hadn’t taken up a career as a country-western singer or a hooker. Today, I have shoulder-length hair that can be pulled back in a ponytail during long periods on the road, with bangs that I can, if necessary, trim myself.
To keep it clean and shiny, I recently discovered a good road shampoo called Lush. By extracting all the water, they’ve made it super light and no longer subject to pesky airline restrictions about fluids in your carry-on. It looks like a slender, round bar of soap, and you can use it to wash your hair, your body, your laundry and – some friends assure me – your dog, and even your car.
Lush offers a range of shampoos and conditioners. My advice: try to avoid the ones with flecks, as they're horribly messy. And a friend advises against the combined shampoo/conditioner bar, saying they dissolve at different rates and you'll end up tossing away a good chunk of conditioner.
Lush makes cute little round tins, perfectly sized to fit. But if your bar goes in while it's moist, it attaches itself like a barnacle to the bottom of the tin, and you have to pry it out with a knife, leaving half the bar behind in an oozy mess. We just bought their larger, square tin, which will let you get your fingers around the bar to extract it. Rich is now experimenting with creating a sort of drainer to insert in the bottom. I’m sure he’ll be successful. Anyone who looks so much like Ernest Hemmingway won’t let himself be defeated by a little thing like a bar of shampoo.
This post was written in response to questions I've been asked about packing for such a long and varied trip. Unlike some of my better-organized and more practical blogger friends, I haven't obtained free or discounted gear in return for promoting anything on this blog. I'm just letting you know what products Rich and I consider to be the most useful for our kind of travel. Watch for future posts about the garments, gear and gadgets we'll be packing!
I'm an American travel writer based in Spain and currently living in California.
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