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The International Writers Magazine: An American backpacker braves a bowl cut from a proverbial Third World barber. . . .

The Barber of Siam
• John M. Edwards
The man in front of me, shivering in the swiveling chair, was almost completely bald with two bushy fluffs upon either side of his noggin, resembling a sad circus clown with no friends.

haircuts and shave

Or, Bozo.

Or, Crusty.

Or, Larry from "The Three Stooges."

Then The Man with the Haircut eyed himself with envy, congratulating himself on now almost resembling the King of Siam, Yul Brynner, instead of an Asian Rip Torn, the star from "The Hollwood Squares," and not much else.

But more important, Rip still had an impressive mustache, resembling a hyphen nicked in by a newspaper copyeditor from "Der Spiegel."

And then within seconds, no hair at all adorned Rip's skull, nor his upper lip.

The Man with the Haircut paid in baht, which gives away the fact that we were in Bangkok, Thailand — home of the cheapest haircuts in all of Southeast Asia.

(Some barbers even hold cardboard signs on the street advertising their cliché accomplishments with the clippers.)

My turn: “Just trim the sideburns and take off a half-inch off the back.”

Not seeming to really understand, the black-haired barber, who resembled Spock with a bowl cut, or almost everybody else in Southeast Asia, shaved my sideburns all the way off, and with a southpaw swipe.

“No, that’s not what I meant!” As I stared into the mirror, I came face to face with my own mortality.

The barber paused like a painter without any training before his easel, waiting for a completed image to come to mind.

“One half inch?” the barber asked.

"Yes, I mean wait!"

Swiftly, Spock carefully layered my hair, cutting off the split ends, but left the back untouched except for the half inch I had requested.

I felt like dying I looked so ill.

I felt like a Billy Ray Cyrus farang with a mullet.

I felt like Bono during his bad hair years.

The next man in line, who already looked like he had a haircut, carefully put down his magazine, chanced a glance at my abject misery, and then bolted out like a poltergeist through the open oblong of sunshine. . . .

© John M. Edwards, July 2013

John M. Edwards, an award-winning travel writer has written for such magazines as CNN Traveler,, Islands, and North American Review

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