Tuesday, May 18, 2004

vignette: the barber of binondo

In a small closet behind Chen Lao’s Lucky Tiger General Store, almost hidden by the maze of thin shelves that struggled to bear the weight of hundreds of bottles, vials, boxes and pouches, my father set up a barber shop.

It had space for exactly one customer at a time. A second hand wood-and-leather chair dominated the tiny room (it barely fit, forcing whoever sat in it to raise their legs) and a narrow table held all the items of my father’s craft: two pairs of scissors, a straight razor, several combs, a jar of pomade and a bottle of liniment that never seemed to be more than half-empty. Opposite the door, my father installed a mirror with invisible cracks, the best that he could afford. Suspended in a corner was a lamp, a necessity in my father’s windowless workplace.


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