Updated: Sep 25, 2021
A few days ago, it was my birthday. My loving wife let me know that I was going away for a few days to take some time to clear my mind, do some self-work, and work on my writing.
To put into perspective what a gift this is, let me remind you all again, we have 5 kids.
Her. Un-alone, working overtime.
The love truly felt.
I kissed my loved ones goodbye and hopped on a bus to the must-see city of Antigua. 4 bus transfers and 3 heart attacks later from the constant near misses of one of the drivers, I was there. He was texting the entire time in full-speed Guatemalan traffic while driving a stick-shift, giant bluebird yellow school bus.
I arrived in one piece. No big deal. I live here now. This is normal. I'm ok. I'm ok. *Twitch-twitch.*
I turned off my phone and walked.
Then I walked some more. I walked, walked, walked.
I walked until after dark, late into the night until my legs begged to take me to bed.
After I opened up my eyes, I also opened up the curtains and my laptop. I began writing in the bright sunlight I had just allowed into the clean but dirt cheap room.
I pondered my topic, and I felt my face the way one does when tired. I realized my guilty pleasure of going for a single-blade shave was once again in the territory of a justifiable indulgence. For the same price as a disposable Gillette blade, a man can go to a barbershop in Guatemala and get a shave instead.
Having another man shave your face.. to me, it's a combo of many things that I like in life. First, there is the aspect of relaxation. It's a reverse pedicure, so to speak.
You kick back and allow yourself to be pampered by a grandpa. (It's the moment I'm closest to feeling like a kid.) Second, there is some risk involved. Having someone you don't know very well run a razor-sharp blade across your neck takes guts. The payout though... the shaves are always so close, it takes almost a whole week to grow back to the justifiable indulgence stage!
Third, discomfort. While extremely relaxing, there is just something about the risk involved that pushes the experience into discomfort at times.
Discomfort is a great teacher.
I walk in and it is all just pure classic. Clipped strands of ebony and grey hair floating down and landing softly on a checkered red and yellow tile floor. A boy sits reading a torn-up comic book in a well-worn waiting chair while his dad talks garbage about the municipal government and about the chores his wife had scheduled him for the day.
A few weeks back, I had been in the barbershop for a shave, and they remembered my name from that one visit. AND they had folded up a reusable empty grocery bag I had forgotten there and told me it had been waiting for me.
I waited in a chair and listened to the chatter.
The waiting chairs continued to fill, and soon it was my turn. At this point, none of the old geezers waiting knew I could speak Spanish as I was thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to observe and be a fly on the wall. Some people speak differently when they think they are not being understood.
Once I was sat in the chair, the first grandpa spectator in the waiting chairs began,
"A shave, huh? He's gettin' a shave! Man, I couldn't do that. My facial hair is like mountain grass; the days I shave my cheeks look like the butt of a de-feathered hen!"
-"No wonder!" Piped in his counterpart, "That explains why I've seen you some days and thought to myself, this guy is an assface!"
I laughed out loud and blew my cover.
Maco and Anivar have been working in the same barbershop side by side for the last 22 years. You can tell it's at least that old from the style posters and example pictures displayed on the wall. (With the mandatory iconic Last Supper picture pasted somewhat randomly within the mix.)
When I finished my shave, I spoke with them about their families, how they were forced to go "underground" during the pandemic to put food on the table, and the changes seen over the past 22 years. (Again, not the hairstyles.)
I doubt they would admit it, but these two men are pillars of their community. Each child that walked in, they greeted by name. "Ignacio!"
Looking at Ignacio's mom, Anivar asks, "The usual?!"
It's all just so dang beautiful! On top of it all, there was an incredible stream of pedestrians that would just pop their heads in to say hello.
Barberia Danny isn't just a business. Places like these are sanctuaries of cultural continuity.
This little barbershop is a community hub where young and old congregate to maintain more than just hair. It is a space where the daily grooming of the split ends is taking place to keep their community just the way they like it.
Owen Dargatz is a father of 5 children, husband to one wife. Born in Canada, raised in Peru, currently living in Guatemala. As a family, they are trying out what it would be like to just do stuff they love doing for a year and see where it leads them. The family is 4 months into the experiment and so far so good. They are volunteering in the small village of San Juan in the Guatemalan highlands. They are currently picking up garbage weekly with 'The Club' and raising funds to construct a recycling facility. Please consider being a part of this project and donating. To check out their list of projects click here. Furthermore, if you are not in a place where you can donate, but would still like to support the advancement of this project, please copy the web address of this post and share it on social media to help increase the giving experiment's exposure! Thank you!!! The involvement of our community of readers is imperative for the success of this experiment. Take action.