PLACE: Sofia - Novi Pazar - Varna
This is the story of my barber chair. Actually, the chairs are two. The first one (time-wise) is now with friends of mine at The Laboratory, part of Culture Lab project. I bought it in Pleven for 400 leva; it belonged to the father of a colleague of mine. A couple of chaps including me carried it to the car, loaded it (I do not remember whose car we used at the time), we brought it to Sofia and left it at work, I had no clue where to put it. The chair was rusty, with a bit of wink from its glorious past when it was red and black…No idea when and how the previous owner got it from. So here I am a proud owner of a barber’s chair. I thought.
Yet I needed another one, at least one more.
Later the year I was on the way to Varna to visit my parent. Guess what, I was going to ask for money, I needed cash to go to Turkey and learn how to shave. As usual, there was a kind of misunderstanding and I had to go to Novi Pazar instead of Varna. ‘’Friends of mine are going to pick you up from Varna’; my dad gave his firm instructions over the phone. I waited at a petrol station, they were on time and I jumped in the car. ‘How are you my boy, are you living in Sofia?’ ‘Yes…’ ‘’It’s nice there but you can break the bank there, it’s expensive.’
How come I did not even think about Durakliya and I know him! He lives by the river in Novi Pazar and is reputed as an experienced barber. Long time ago there were just three barbers in Novi Pazar and the surrounding villages. Durakliya, his name is Stoycho, and a couple of others. Actually, my most vidid memory of my grandpa (the one I am named after) is related to Durakliya. Of course, I remember us going together to the food store, for walks, yet, the most vibrant experience is with grandpa at the barber.
Here we are entering the shop. We wait a bit till Durakliya is done with the previous client and then I am seated comfortably on the chair, he grabs a pair of scissors and starts. At that time kids were taken at the hairdresser’s twice a year. I had a big curly hair that grew fast and I looked like a big mushroom. That is why I cut it more often than other boys. I do not exactly remember the way Durakliya was working, I would never forget the special atmosphere in the shop – it was a bit filthy, a bit clean here and there, dimmed light, an older guy wearing a white apron…I replay this particular moment many times, I visited Durakliya’s place just once, however, the whole experience would last forever.
My father is telling me that Durakliyata has passed away. ‘I will go and visit his son’. Rossen is his name. That very same night I arrive at Duraklyata’s house, stopped by my old car and rang the bell.
‘Rosen, you do not know me, I used to be your father’s client. Now I am a barber and am looking to buy a chair’.
I notice the chair, standing right there, at the same place it used to be all the time – in front of the mirror. The chair is rusty, full of hair, black and red. Rosen and his son have sold most of Durakliya’s possessions, but the chair is there, waiting for me.
I ask Rosen if he’d sell the chair to me. ‘How much can you pay’. ‘Just give me a quote and I will consider’. ‘Fine, I am going to call you soon’.
I leave the house, full of doubt, no clue whether Rossen is going to call or not…and am surprised when I get a call in less than a couple of hours. ‘You pay 250 leva and the chair is yours’.
Doba (my brother) and I jumped in the car.
and instantly went back to Rossen’s place. The chair was shabby, full of hair everywhere. It was rusty as well. We dismantled it (we knew how to do) and put it in the car. And the story making the chair right begins here.
Let me describe the chair for you first- it’s made by Russians and is very plumb – one can sit comfortably without moving down. There is a headrest that moves in all directions. Furthermore, the chair has a mechanism that makes it go as low as you wish and a pump to push it up and down depending on the client. The pump is oily and makes a slight creak.
I started the renovation with sand blasting to remove the rust. Secondly, I had to change the oil, fix the pump and paint it all. Finally, I had to remove all its parts and clean them. The leather seat was rubbish so I bought leatherette for two reasons, I am an ecologist and the artificial leather is easier to maintain. The chair needed new foam as well as a new pump. It was hard finding the right size of rubber parts. Now the pump works rather smoothly but it’s not perfect. I spent about 1,500 leva on the chair and it took a month to fix it.
This chair is an emotional friend of mine, I often think about grandpa while using it. I would not have found the chair had I not known Durakliya. I plan to buy two more chairs, to bring them back to life again.
Curiously enough, elder customers fall asleep when they sit on the chair perhaps they trust me and know the procedure well. Younger clients are inexperienced in going to a barber and some are nervous. Perhaps I would make the chair adjustable horizontally one day, so I could take a nap on it when I am tired. The chair is comfortable and high enough. When I do haircuts the head is precisely at the level of the eyes and my back does not hurt. Lifting the chair up and down is great and when I am 70 my back would still be straight. Like an old barber’s.
Needless to say it, this chair is very special to me and the two of us are emotionally bound forever. Little by little, step by step over the years I moved on its back side. Life is a miracle, is not it?