My Vacation Beard And Its Demise

As a sportscaster, I have to shave every single day. I can’t have scruff on television. It just looks sloppy. I’ll be dead honest with you though – I hate shaving. It’s my least favorite part of the day. When I have the opportunity to go without shaving; I jump all over it. It’s usually just a weekend or a quick vacation, but on my trip to Europe last month — my facial hair got out of hand.

Tim Lewis Vacation Beard

My vacation beard at Wrigley Field in Chicago

I worked my last day in Spokane on May 25th, and that was the last time I would shave for weeks (because I didn’t start my new job until July). During my trip overseas, I went from a hip looking scruffster, to a guy with a regular beard, to frickin’ Paul Bunyan. I loved staying away from the razor for so long (I went 24 days without shaving). Aside from the constant itch, I liked having a beard. My brother told me that I “wore it well.” I’d honestly grow a beard again (for a short spurt) if I had the opportunity.

After I returned from my trip to Europe, I immediately jetted off to Chicago for another vacation. That’s where the beard situation came to a head. My facial hair didn’t fare well in 98 degrees and 90% humidity, so it was finally time to say goodbye to my growth.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to attack my beard. I didn’t have clippers to trim it down, and I knew it would take forever if I just used a normal razor. In other words, it was going to be a pain (literally and figuratively) to get the hair off my face. Instead of dealing with it on my own — I let someone else do the shaving.

I strolled downstairs at the Hyatt Regency (where we were staying in Chicago) and walked into the Spa Di La Fronza Salon. That’s where I met Frank La Fronza — the owner. Frank sat me down in his chair and the adventure began.

Tim Lewis Before After Beard

Before / After

I’d never had someone else shave my face, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. This situation played out much different than I anticipated. Frank first trimmed by beard with clippers, prepped my face with a warm towel, and then got to work with his straight edge. The only problem — Frank didn’t use any shaving cream. No joke — the dude did a dry shave on my face. It felt like he was either slashing my face with his razor or tearing off half my skin with every stroke. He would lightly slap skin, tug on my face, and then shave some more. It was one of the most painful/strange experiences of my life, but it got the job done.

When Frank was done with my face, he started to clean up around my ears. I was a few weeks overdue on a haircut, so I appreciated the gesture. I thought it was just part of the face shave, but suddenly Frank started cutting my hair. He didn’t ask me if I wanted a cut — or how I wanted it done — he just clipped away (later explaining that it needed “shaping”). I sat there in awe as Frank started chopping of my hair. The guy is straight old school. He didn’t use clippers (like most of my barbers do); he just used his scissors. The blades never stopped moving. Even when he wasn’t trimming my hair, the scissors were still quickly clamping down on the air. Frank was precise — he wasn’t going to miss a hair (even though I never asked him to cut one of them) — looking at my hair from every angle before he called it good.

After Frank finished up his masterpiece, it was time to pay. I was sure there had to be a set price for a shave and a cut, so I asked Frank how much I owed him. In response, he told me “whatever you want.” I’d never run into anything like that before. Since he didn’t take debit/credit cards, and I don’t carry money, I had to go to the cash machine. I took out $40, walked back over to Frank, and handed it over. It looked like I gave the guy a bar of gold (I clearly overpaid). He said thank you, opened up his drawer, grabbed a business card (which was sitting right next to the latest edition of Playboy), gave it to me, and told me to come back again anytime. Frank knew a whale when he saw one.

Frank La Fronza

Frank La Fronza from an article on ChicagoMag.com

I learned a lot about Frank La Fronza that day. Originally from Italy (he has the accent to prove it), he’s lived in the United States since 1966. He’s a short older guy — I would guess mid-to-late 60′s (or maybe even 70′s) – with style. Frank loves his salon, but the economy is hurting business, so he’d like a smaller location. He calls his female employees “baby” and is clearly loved by his regulars. They just stop in to say hello to him and chat – not even looking for a cut. It’s a real barbershop-type experience. At one point, Frank told one of his guests (a guy who was a regular when he lived in Chicago, but now lives in Colorado Springs) that life is a “mother f^&#er” sometimes — referring to business being slow. It was pure entertainment just listening to Frank talk.

In the end, I wish I would have kept the beard longer. I should have stretched it all the way to July just to see how ridiculous it would get. At the same time, I wouldn’t have met “Franky Baby” (as I now refer to him). The $40 I paid feels like a bargain when you can walk away with a story like that. I do it all over again if I had the chance.

Do you have any wild salon/barber shop stories? Am I the only one who hates shaving? I would love to hear from you! You can leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and/or Google+. Don’t forget you can also connect with me on YouTube and Pinterest as well!