Barbershop drama

11.3.17 Dorchester, UK, 1am

After a brilliant historical tour from a host named Joy, things get a little odd. Anna and Luka wander into a hip-looking barbershop/cafe/clothing store trying to get haircuts. The hipster barbers say they can’t give her a haircut. They only give men’s haircuts. She wants a men’s haircut. They say she can go to the unisex barber, it’s almost the same. But she doesn’t want to go there, she loves the style of the haircuts they’re giving here. They say “sorry mate, men only.” Both she and Luka leave, feeling weird. They meet a small group of us at a nearby Thai restaurant and tell us what happened.

Immediately we ask questions. Why? What’s wrong with them? What was their tone? What is their deal?  People think Anna is male all the time. I’m not convinced she’s not.  Would they have given her a haircut if she wore a baggier sweater? Or put on a deeper voice? She and Adam got haircuts at the men’s barber in Harrogate. Would they have given her a haircut if Adam was there too? Did they not see that she already has a men’s haircut? What if she told them she didn’t identify as female? Did they not see that she is literally growing a beard?

The more we talk about it the sillier and more arbitrary their logic seems. I don’t get it. And also, it feels wrong. Who ARE these people? Why won’t they just accept money and give someone a haircut? I put on my coat, ask the name of the shop, apologize to Anna (because I know she won’t want me to make a big deal out of it), and walk out.

My heart starts beating fast as I walk down to the shop. I am thinking about what I might say, or ask, or how I can explain what is wrong with them rejecting Anna in this manner. Jesse, who seems to be feeling similarly passionate about the matter catches up to me and we talk till we reach the shop.

Inside, I walk by the clothes and up to the counter where I’m greeted by a pleasant-looking hipster barber who says, in typical English fashion

you alright?

No, I’m not alright. You just refused my friend a haircut and I want to understand why.

And this is how it begins. I listen to him, and two more hipster barbers, one of whom is the owner as they say things like “we’re an all male environment” and “we only give men’s haircuts” and “if you were asking for a haircut, we wouldn’t give you one.” They say they’re not bigots, and there’s a guy who dresses like a woman and they still cut his hair, and they let a person who is transitioning from female to male (who they refer to as “she”) get haircuts in the unisex shop.

We try to explain to them that if they knew the person for whom they just refused a haircut, they might think differently about immediately assuming that person was not comfortable or able to be accepted in an “all male environment.” We explore the murky boundaries of their logic. Where are they drawing the line? They don’t seem to know. Checking to make sure each client has a penis seems ridiculous to everyone, but if you really think about it, that’s essentially their perspective. Only, because this is just based on their assumptions about people who they’ve seen for approximately five seconds, what they’re really checking for is imaginary penises. They are saying “if I can imagine that you have a penis, I will accept your money and give you a haircut. ”

The owner loses patience. We are told to get out, or he’s calling the police. I tell him he should call the police. I hope he will. His voice gets very loud and he repeats his request for us to leave several times. We finish our points and walk out. The last thing we hear is “you can go fuck yourselves!” Jesse returns the sentiment.

And now it is quite late. And though many other things happened (for instance we had a lovely concert tonight, and a darn good time playing dress-up at the charity shop) all I can think of is this silly interaction. I just think, silly hipster barbers, why did all of this have to happen? Why didn’t you just give Anna a haircut? That was the right thing to do, the reasonable thing to do, the kind thing to do. And if you’re reading this now, which I’m sure you’re not, I hope you think about what happened today. I hope you challenge yourself a little bit and chill out about who you give haircuts to. Because it really didn’t have to be such a big deal.

note: changed some names to protect some identities




We wake up in the tiny Medieval town of Saint-Amant-Tallende ( population: 1,825) and walk past the castle down a few narrow streets, and buildings made from volcanic rock, to a small shop selling knives. We sing Owen’s Sound for the shop owner and purchase all the large and medium sized pocketknives.

Cold this morning as we pile into the vans. We drive into a giant cloud and can barely see the road ahead of us. We emerge in a sunny day with a clear blue sky.

Last night in Claremont-Ferand we sing in a damp cellar/bar with rugs and lamps and interesting art. During Sazeimo Perkhuli, two tiny French children are inspired to leap and roll around on the floor and snuggle in the middle of our circle. It’s cute. It’s also stressful. What do we do? Should we not dance? Should we risk crushing them?

Lexi manages to dance around them, avoiding their tiny fingers and toes. Emma and I try to do the same, managing to dance around them for almost our entire section. But as I’m jumping and kicking back to my place, thinking I’ve spotted the perfect pathway to avoid them, the little girl moves in front of me and I feel my knee make contact with something hard.

As I’m falling all I can think is “I’ve just murdered a little child. This is the worst moment of my life.” I have no idea what else is happening. All of a sudden I’m on my knees picking up this little pumpkin of a kid, staring into her shocked face as the singing and clapping and watching continues around us. I notice she is wearing big pink headphones to cancel out the noise but don’t register that that must be what my knee made contact with till much later.

For the rest of the song and as we bow I am laughing hysterically. As people disperse for the intermission the laughter turns to uncontrollable weeping. I sit on the edge of the stage and weep as people say things to me, and the mothers come up and make the kids apologize.

After a few minutes of this I leave the bar and never return. Not even for the second half of the concert. Raf(who can’t breathe in there) and I walk around in the cold, eventually sitting down to eat falafel and drink cinnamon tea.




Once upon a time there was a town called Winterthur. It was a magical land of friendly Swiss yodelers and bowls of infinite potatoes.

On the first night, we sang in a small church with an insane sound decay and little bits of old frescoes exposed. The audience was out of control. They danced wildly during Ovdovijala and dropped Swiss hundoes into our donation basket after our second encore.

Later on, Yana and Matthias accordioned and fiddled and sang us a beautiful little concert from around the world. There was yodeling, and overtone singing, and a song from Mongolia. Raf played Matthias’ violin. Then Azat played Matthias’ violin. Then Lysander played Matthias’ violin.

On the second night we drove to a village with crazy pink sunset light. We ate cinnamon rolls and made many mistakes during the concert. During the ride home Matthias told me a Swiss folktale:

There was a girl, Milka (we made the name up cause he couldn’t remember) from a rich family and a boy, Hans, from a poor family. They were neighbors, but her dad didn’t want them to date cause Hans was so poor. One day Hans saved a dwarf who was stuck in a tree and got invited to his wedding. 

Hans and Milka snuck off to the dwarf wedding and had a great time. The dwarf gave Hans a stone and said “if you throw this in the river, whatever you wish will come true.” 

When they got back to the wedding Milka’s dad was mad, he was worried cause they’d been gone for days. But then Milka’s house burned down and Hans invited her and her dad to live with him. Then the dad decided Hans was cool and he could marry Milka.

Hans and Milka couldn’t decide what they wanted for a wish, a castle, or a hundred cattle, or any other amazing thing. Then it came to them. They wished for the dwarves to come to their wedding and threw the stone into the river.

There were big pots of soup at the wedding, but no one was eating cause Hans wanted to wait for the dwarves to arrive. But everyone was getting hungry. Hangry, in fact. Hans and Milka were sad that the dwarves weren’t there. 

Then a hungry guest opened the lid to the soup pot. It was filled with gold! Apparently, the dwarves had come, filled all the soup pots with gold, and left without saying hi to anyone.

Afterwards everyone gathered at Matthias’ and ate potatoes.

Today I hibernated all day because I was sick. And I think I still am a little bit.


Luca’s Carbonara

no no absolutely milk!

  1. Fry bacon cubes in oil
  2. Turn off heat when crisp
  3. Drop spaghetti in salted boiling water
  4. Separate egg yolks and whites (2 yolks per person)
  5. When “spaghetto” (no idea why he used an “o” instead of “i” this time) is cooked, drain and mix with bacon.
  6. Put pasta and bacon into the egg yolks
  7. Mix, pepper to taste

Arlate: Highlights 10.21-10.25

In order for the married couples and co-ed friends to stay together, six of us rent an AirBnb in a small town thirty minutes west of Bergamo. It is a time of many relaxed mornings, long drives, and aimless walks through the beautiful Northern Italian countryside. Some images stick out:

  1. Sophie’s boot opening a chestnut on a leaf-covered forest path.
  2. Three naked backs over butts in underwear walking cautiously into lake Como.
  3. The multi-layered angel painting on the ceiling of a tiny church in Bergamo.

There are other, larger memories. The speedy pre-concert million-course dinner with Loretta’s family: roasted veggies, cheese & charcuterie, pumpkin torta, mushroom risotto, steak and potatoes, cake, wine, and homemade lattes. Raf surprising everyone by wandering around the aisles during his oboe solo in that impossibly resonant church. Larry’s face as Kieran tries to use a South Park episode about Britney Spears as a metaphor for Catholicism.

And there was also Sora and Sophie’s collective birthday. Lysander’s heartfelt toast, Emily’s beautifully composed rounds for each of the birthday girls ), and the delicious pistachio gelato I ate.

Conclusions? None. Only that Italy is beautiful, good, and delicious. And it’s wonderful to be surrounded by music and friends.


Writing on this weird trundle bed/desk situation in Viola and Lisa’s room. Lisa is next to me doing history homework (which she hates). I’ve been sleeping on the pullout trundle and Lisa’s got the top bunk. No idea where Viola’s sleeping.

These days I’m masquerading as an Italian girl somewhere between the ages of 8 and 15. Pink walls, sheets that are half cute rabbits, half playboy bunny symbols with a The Who comforter on top. They’ve got a string of lights on the wall with little inspirational quotes pasted on it:

:(: you decide

Don’t cry Don’t cry Don’t cry Don’t cry

Sometimes music speaks what you feel inside

At 11am today I wander into the kitchen. Their mom Laura (pronounced “LAUW-da”) is preparing a feast. There is lasagna in the oven, and she’s crumbling a delicious buttery crust onto an apple pie.

From the beginning, Laura and I have decided against trying to traverse the language barrier with awkward half-conversations. We smile at each other occasionally. I eat cornflakes and watch her cooking.

Lunch is me, Laura, and her husband Luca (who loves the Rolling Stones). We start with Prosecco, salami, and Sicilian cheese with chestnut honey. Then a homemade spinach pie. Then lasagna. Then squid with peas and tomato. Then the hot apple pie. And espresso to finish it up. Luca says

American coffee is like dirty water.

I agree. I couldn’t agree more. Italy is the most delicious place in the world.



I shouldn’t say I hate Switzerland, but there are some dumb things about it. For instance, there is a shop window in Delemont displaying fuzzy pompom+sparkly bear keychains priced at 19 Swiss Francs. And the worst part is that these useless monstrosities have been marked down from 29 Swiss francs. That is ridiculous.

The good news is that Amanda and I are being hosted by the loveliest family in all of Switzerland. Elsa is a baker, Laurent is a computer scientist, and this afternoon they made us the most delicious Swiss meal in the whole world.

Amanda is bothering me about dinner because she is hungry so I’ll make this brief. But let me recount our feast: first course- totché (savory cream cake. So so good.) second course- carrots w diced red onion and chives, beer salad, and sausages third course- homemade applesauce (from apples in the garden), a crispy rôsti (fried potato cake), and a crazy blood sausage. Oh man. So rich. They also offered us wine, but I chose vegetable juice because I’d had a lot of coffee right before. Okay Amanda. Let’s eat some pasta (we made fresh Rosemary egg noodle for our Swiss family last night are are now about to eat the leftovers).

Hypothermia! (Annecy, FR)

Strange day. Wake up with a headache which puts me in a bad mood. Jeremy invites me on a run. My laziness protests, but I figure I won’t regret it.

Sunny day. Cold autumn breeze. Shortcut across the golf course. Get lost in the woods for a while, then come out by the lake. Crazy beautiful. Clear water, red and orange mountains, the castle in the distance.

I tell Jeremy I’m just going to dip in and out, but the cold water is so refreshing. Swim out to a buoy, then another buoy farther out. Jeremy suggests exploring some cliffs at the waters edge.

A farther swim than I expect. We find a cave and sit in it. Beautiful. But too cold to stay. Swim fast. Gotta get back in the sun.

Feels like forever swimming back to shore. Muscles stiff from cold. Several little panicked thoughts: what if I get too tired and drown? What if Jeremy passes out from cold and I have to save him?

Freezing when we get out of the water. Put on dry clothes but the cold has saturated every part of me. Move around to try to get the blood flowing. I slap the backs of my palms. Numb.

Mind feels strange as we travel back to Sophie’s house. Shade is twice as cold as sun. We are shivering and running from sun patch to sun patch.

The others are sympathetic. They feel how cold I am. Jeremy is not as affected it seems. He joins them on their adventure to the waterfall.

I put on warm socks and a sweater, cover myself in three comforters, and sleep all afternoon. Body feels heavy. I look up hypothermia. Apparently you’re not supposed to take warm showers or warm up the extremities.

Wake just before the concert. Headache. Put on lots of makeup to hide how shitty I feel. Ride to the church with “the other Sophie,” Sophie’s childhood friend. Pick up a smelly hitchhiker holding a big wheel.


A Night in Paris 10.10.17

Escargot at Bouillion Chartier. Rumpsteak, leeks, frites, boudin, chocolate mousse. Bottles of red wine, Bénédictine, sweet vermouth.

A block behind the Sacré Cœur, a gaunt man holding a live rabbit stands in our path. He is shirtless under a red sequined jacket. We turn. He blocks our path again. He and Sophie speak in French. She comments on his rabbit and smiles.

He says there’s going to be a problem if we leave. Adam walks up beside us. The man looks at Adam’s arms.

Oh! Il est musclé. Maintenant je prends un risque.

He turns to Adam, lowers his voice:

Est-ce que vous pouvez partir? Je veux les embêter.

After some exchanges I don’t understand, we walk away. The man does not follow. We sit and order beers. The name of our the beer we’re drinking translates to “sequins”.