That cat just cut my hair.

I’ve heard your hair and fingernails grow faster in warm climates. I haven’t done the formal science, but I may go as Wolverine for Halloween this year. (I know, Freddie Kruger would be more appropriate, but I don’t look good in stripes.)

My hair is not far behind, so it was time for haircut country #11  today. Curacao.

I’d heard there was a place in the “Zuikertuin” mall, which means Sugar Garden in Antillean Dutch. There’s neither sugar nor a garden there, but a colony of European brands and air that smells like the inside of the new computer box, a shoe store, preservatives, consumerism. Is this what a sweatshop in Shenzhen smells like?

I generally prefer funky places, like plywood boxes and psychotic barbers, but this was definitely a salon. But hey, why not, it’s another experience.

I went inside and asked in awkward Dutch if I could get a haircut, but they were all booked up.

We went outside and spotted a second salon across the way. What luck!

I went inside and asked in awkward Spanish if I could get a haircut, but they were all booked up.

I decided to go to a barbershop I’d seen next to the road, but on the other side of the parking lot was a third salon.

I went inside and asked in awkward English if I could get a haircut…but they were all booked up.

I was thinking about my potential reception in the very “local” barbershop during Curacao’s presently tense political climate, when I saw a fourth place next to the exit, a barbershop. Chipped paint. Aftershave. Manly.

I approached and asked in awkward sign language if I could get a haircut…and the distinguished elderly gentleman sitting outside nodded his assent. It was perfect! It was a “local” place, the default language was the Creole Papiamentu, but in a part of town were foreigners were common. Not too salon-elegant, but I wasn’t worried about hepatitis.

Inside were four antique barbershop chairs, and K’s eyes widened, her hand reflexively grasping towards where her camera should have been.

On the little shelf was a faded can of Old Spice, a straight razor, and a horsehair brush. On a naturally “distressed” end table were a couple sun-faded magazines that probably went out of publication years ago. A radio in the corner was playing slow jazz, which was oh-so-perfect.

The place was styling, but the centerpiece was the barber. He was my paradigm of a jazz musician, or maybe bolero, and as he picked up the buzzer I wondered, “do I recognize this guy from the cover of the Buena Vista Social Club?” (I didn’t take my camera, so here’s a picture of a car I love on the island with a similar vibe.)

He had low rectangular glasses, close cropped hair, one gold ring with a flat round top, and was effortlessly the coolest cat I have ever met. Cutting my hair.

As he worked I tried to figure out what instrument he plays. Drums? Too sweaty. Saxophone? Too…lungy. Piano? Yes. Those fingers snipping at my sideburns should be tinkling the ivories.

We didn’t talk. I was afraid if I started I would mention Thelonious Monk, or ask for his autograph. A nameplate on the shelf said his name was Wilbert M. J…a. If I ever see an album for sale with that name, I’ll buy it in an instant.