New York has a mani/pedi (god do I hate that expression) place on every block on every avenue, it seems. No girl can get away with unkempt nails. I know; I’ve tried hard enough!
On Broadway, near where I live there could be two or three per street.
They range in price from the sublimely expensive to the oh-am-I-going-to-end-up-with-fungus-or-worse? Though what’s worse than fungus on a finger nail can be hard to imagine at times. Really. Sometimes the cheapest places can be very good, and many nail salons have Monday-Wednesday discounts. They almost all have somebody who can give you a massage and/or massage chairs. Some even have massage mani/pedis.
But for years I went to a high end manicurist on Madison Avenue. Tiara followed Rafe, my other best friend and hair stylist, to whatever salon he had a stake in. She was a bit crazy in love with him; she was a bit bonkers anyway.
Most women fall a bit or madly in love with Rafe, and since he’s straight, great looking and seems to think that every woman needs a man to, uh, flirt with and/or more (I don’t want to know details), well things would happen. Or women would dream about him; something about a Latin lover.
Let me say this for the record just once: NO I NEVER….He’s married, and I respect marriage too much. Then I met his wife and we became friends, and I would never–not in my wildest dreams–which I don’t have about Rafe–never did for some reason–though one night we did become dangerously close to kissing. Then we both began laughing.
As I tell women who ask (and they do), “It would be like incest. Yick. And I respect marriage too much.”
Actually it’s not the institution of marriage that I respect, I don’t, I respect monogamy. Okay, enough of my own weird ethical positions back to mani/pedis.
Tiara is Eurasian. She was lovely to look at, mixing styles of clothing, from vintage to vintage with dazzling jewelery. I assume she still is lovely; haven’t seen her in awhile. She was my own personal bitch from hell.
She hated me because Lucia and I were and still am, Rafe’s best friends. Nobody can hate Lucia. She’s nice, and funny and always cheery. Darn people pleaser.
I’m not, though many times I think that life, would be so much easier….Yes, I am several people’s own bitch from hell, and sorta proud of that and sorta not.
Whenever I had a mani/pedi appointment, Tiara would keep me waiting. Didn’t matter what time my appointment was, or if I had to get back to work or later to school. But Tiara’s mani/pedi’s were probably the best in town and so I complied. She would also do a change of polish for five bucks–and that’s one service I miss as I’m totally incapable of polishing my own nails.
Tiara knew that I was good at solving problems, and would save up her problems for my bi-weekly visits. Every other woman goes for a manicure to relax, talk a bit, space out. Not me, I would go to be barraged with her daily life problems. They weren’t banal problems, they were:
“My landlord’s threatening to take me to court because I haven’t paid the rent in five months.”
“Your rent is how much again? Oh right, four hundred dollars, and how much do you make here a day? Don’t tell me; I don’t want to be jealous.”
“But I don’t report it all, and he didn’t paint my living room the exact shade of sea foam green, that I asked him to.’
“Tiara, i’ve told you this before. You have a five room rent-controlled apartment in Forest Hills. People would die for that. He’s only responsible for painting your apartment in white. You picked out the paint. He didn’t. You even got him to pay for the paint. I’d say that’s a great deal. Pay the darn rent.”
“I really have to?”
Tiara wasn’t a stupid woman by any stretch of the imagination. She was just spoiled and hated working for a living. She resented the multi-millionaire women who frequented the salon; she resented everybody, except for Rafe who she put before God or any mortal. Rafe usually wallowed in the attention of women. Not hers.
Tiara had grown up in great wealth in Paris. Her father had disinherited her for marrying a man from Cambodia. That Tiara’s mother was Viet Namese probably had something to do with this, as her parents lived in the same apartment, but hadn’t talked or had been in the same room at the same time in over 20 years. They were divorced but too stubborn to move. Fortunately the apartment was a rambling fourteen rooms.
I could have written a thesis entitled Tiara’s life story, or how becoming a member of the middle class after being fabulously wealthy as a child ruins a woman’s life. Actually I did write a paper based on her story.
Tiara knew that I went on walking vacations. Every time I would go on vacation I would come back looking as if I had been to a spa. She knew that I didn’t want my callouses removed. Each time I would get a pedicure just before going on vacation, she would hit me with a particularly slimy problem, get me engrossed in giving the answer–which was hard since my mind would be fighting with itself over even thinking about her problems–and take a razor to my callouses.
As there were no blister band-aids then I would spend the first three or so days of my vacation in constant pain.
But I kept going back to Tiara. My life was very hectic; I could get my hair done at the same time–my hair is a weed that needs constant attention; and sometimes if I was very lucky she would bring her basket of supplies over and do the manicure while the dye was sitting. Not a pretty picture to think about–even worse to see in person.
In 1996, a very Friendly hair stylist was homeless while his new salon was being built. For some reason, Rafe’s a hair stylist’s hair stylist. He’s more known in the business than he is to the public and has supplied chairs to some of the best known stylists in the world.
This very FRIENDly hair stylist adored Tiara. She didn’t dump her problems on him. No she was charming and funny and friendly and every good adjective you could think about.
The FRIENDly stylist asked her to come along to his new salon in Plum Sykes land, Tiara refused. She wouldn’t leave Rafe.
Rafe spent as much time as possible encouraging her to make the move. She would make mega-money; she would be in the land of the rich and famous. of course I encouraged Rafe in this endeavor. Like many of his clients I had embraced the world of cheaper nail salons and only came to Tiara for special occasions or for a once every six week treat She was that good.
I’ve never really understood the economies of hair salons. I know that stylists and manicurists rent chairs, but beyond that I’m dense. One day I should ask Rafe to explain. But he was constantly complaining that she was costing him money.
Rafe’s a softy, in some ways. He hates to fire people. Loves suing people but that’s another story. And he hasn’t sued anybody in years, and probably won’t again now that he’s a solo proprietor.
Rafe reached his limit. One day, he took Tiara out to lunch and told her that he was going to accept the position for her, in Plum Sykesland. Most manicurists would have died for that chance. It was like reaching the Holy Grail of mani/pediworld. It had been two years, and the FRIENDliest hair stylist in America was still constantly asking her to come aboard.
Tiara had no choice. She accepted the position. My life has been much happier since that fateful lunch. We hear that she’s very happy there. We’re all happier and somewhat healthier since Tiara went on the world of biggest bucks.
I go to a wonderful manicurist someplace on Broadway. She works in a Pinky, which can be found every four or so blocks on Broadway. It’s a bit more upscale than the fungus ones, and is truly a relaxing experience. For the first time in the 20 years or so I’ve been getting regularly scheduled mani/pedis, I understand what people say when they talk about manicures being bliss.
No I’m not giving the location or the street location. My new manicurist is too popular already.