Patty’s Salon & Spa. Possibly a little pretentious for Huaraz, Peru, or maybe just a dream unfulfilled. The illusive back story always escapes me, my caveman Spanish can’t keep up with my curiosity. Patty is the owner, and I’ve nicknamed her Peppermint Patty. I am always nicknaming people, just ask my former employees (it’s a quirk of mine), I don’t know why I do it, I just do it. Sprout is her eleven year old daughter, and a chip off the old block as they say.
One of the greatest pleasures I’ve found in Latin America is rediscovering the “old-timey” man’s barbershop. These are not unisex hair salons, they are barbershops for men (striped barber pole and all). There are plenty of unisex salons to be found for sure, and these old barbershops have to be sought out, but they are great. I love them.
They actually use clippers and not just a petite pair of scissors. They trim everything without being asked: hair, nose hair, ear hair and eyebrows. All of this is done without the obligatory female “ew” factor: eye-rolls, grimaces and unconscious looks of disdain. Ladies, we can’t help these follicle aberrations, it’s just part of becoming an old man. Shit happens (well that’s another story entirely). Also these old barbers (and they are invariably old, really old) can quickly trim up a beard in no time flat.
A quick squaring up with a straight razor (yep a straight razor) completes the process, cleaning up those stray hairs around the ears, on the cheeks, under the chin and on the back of the neck. Hot shaving lather is a treat, as is the talcum powder and aftershave lotion (probably Old Spice). All of this is accomplished with a minimum of chit-chat, fussiness or cellphone interruptions. If other longtime patrons are in the shop there is a lot of ribald humor and laughter, lots of laughter. It’s like a home away from home, a refuge from the world of women (yeah, I’m being sexist here), a club for old farts. We all need this from time-to-time (even women need a respite from the male of the species).
So it is with a certain sense of disappointment that we haven’t been able to find our beloved men’s barbershop in Huaraz, which brings us back (after a fashion) to Peppermint Patty and Sprout, and their unisex salon. Patty’s Salon & Spa is located in an alleyway kitty-corner to our hostel, and just a few steps beyond the pig ladies. Pig ladies is not a derogatory appellation, but is the literal truth. There are three benches set up, each one manned (or woman-ed if you prefer) by an old indigenous lady, dressed in traditional garb. On each bench is a roasted pig (in its entirety). Here, for just 3-soles (or about 88¢ US) you can buy the best pork sandwiches you’ve ever tasted: juicy pork, lettuce, purple onion, added pork grease (I know, but it’s so good) and a dash of jungle-juice.
But I digress, again, a bad habit of mine. Reaching Patty’s you find a neat and tidy shop. Three chairs, but only Patty cutting hair. Sprout is in a corner, combing a blonde wig on a styrofoam head, and chattering a mile a minute. Patty recognizes us from a previous visit, and immediately starts chattering herself. Between Patty and Sprout the scene becomes increasingly chaotic, but humorous and full of good cheer. These are warm generous people, and we gringos are an oddity I’m sure. Explaining that our Spanish sucks doesn’t slow them down in the least. Patty does a commendable job, even though we have to lead her through the old fart grooming process for a second time (her memory is a little fuzzy from our last encounter).
We complete the process pretty much unscathed, except for Joel’s moustache (something got lost in translation) which now looks like something out of a Marx one-reeler (Google it kids). Sheesh, getting old is tough, nobody understands your references. The Marx Brothers: Groucho, Harpo, Gummo and Zeppo (oh never mind). Halfway through my time in the chair Patty hands me her cellphone and tells me to say hola (hello). WTF? I don’t do cellphones, especially with people I don’t know. Turns out it was grandma who couldn’t quite believe she was cutting some old gringos hair. See what I mean about being an oddity.
Peppermint Patty sans Sprout
About this time Sprout (remember the eleven year old combing the wig) decided she wanted to do the straight-razoring on my face. Another WTF moment. How to diplomatically dissuade this young fireball, without making her feel bad, or worse yet pissing her off. Patty thought it was funnier than hell, and couldn’t stop laughing as I tried to fend off the razor-sharp razor (that’s redundant, but somehow it’s also relevant and vitally important). Anyway, we escaped with our lives and faces nearly intact (except for Joel’s moustache) and the whole experience only cost us 10-soles ($2.90 USD).
However, upon leaving, Patty pulled Joel aside, with a wink and a nod, to inform him that she also gave massages (I didn’t get the sales pitch) for 25-soles ($7.33 USD). The complete name of her shop is Patty’s Salon & Spa. Joel is the better looking half of los hermanos (thank God in heaven), so it will be up to him to maintain and uphold our dubious reputations. Massages in Asia include what’s euphemistically called a “Happy Ending” so we’ll have to see how this turns out. We’ll be back in Patty’s Salon & Spa in two weeks, so you’re all owed an update—remind me if I forget (photos will NOT be included). Adios amigos, and have a great New Year.
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer and World Traveler