By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
Whenever I need a little pampering, I drive myself over to Bonsoir Nails in Los Feliz, plunk down $12, and have a Vietnamese woman who does not speak English give me a pedicure. She soaks my feet, scrapes off the spurs, rubs them with pink lotion and, if I’m feeling summery, paints my toes turquoise or gold. In short, it’s the best way I know to spend a dozen bucks while taking a mini-vacation to an exotic land, where TV sets play soap operas, People and Glamour magazines are within hand’s reach, and customers seriously ponder the benefits of a rhinestone butterfly over a gold initial embedded in their toenails.
Because of the language barrier, Bonsoir is not the sort of place one forms the intense if periodic relationships one has with, say, a hairdresser or cosmetologist with whom one can converse. While we may not otherwise give one moment’s thought to these caregivers when we’re lying prone on a table having our monthly bikini wax, one’s most personal issues seem to come out along with the hair. These women hear about the fights with our boyfriends, they ogle our photos of the new baby, they see up close the dewiness of our youth morph to middle age, all the while meting out gentle advice. When a Russian waxer I’d been going to for years spun a tale about a movie heroine who’d vainly tried to push her husband to be something he was not, the dime finally dropped that I would soon leave my daughter’s father.
On a recent trip to Jessica’s Nail Clinic, in Sunset Plaza, I find out firsthand that these sorts of intimacies know no cultural/economic bounds. All I know about Jessica Vartoughian’s salon is that Nancy Reagan used to have her nails done there, and with this in mind I imagine a sterile, hierarchical establishment, perhaps with the plebes on their knees before a legion of iron maidens clad in Adolfo suits.
Climbing the white staircase, I hear what sounds like 100 magpies, and, after a rather stern Russian woman sniffs at me for not having an appointment, she plunks me in a room filled with 20 women nattering as though words will be outlawed two hours hence.
“Sonia will be right with you,” says the Russian.
With nothing to do but eavesdrop, I listen to the woman next to me, a dead ringer for Anne Meara, talk to her Romanian manicurist about the trouble she had cleaning a pan she’d grilled in; about her daughter-in-law’s decision to stick with two children instead of the planned four; and how her new husband (and here she flashes her megacarat diamond) would do anything for her.
“You’re lucky,” says the manicurist. “You remember how many frogs you had to kiss? You remember the psychiatrist?”
“Oh, he was awful,” says “Anne Meara.” “He was living with another woman andhitting on my girlfriend.”
“You remember the man who opened your refrigerator and said, ‘I can’t believe you eat those things’?”
“I remember, I remember.”
“You’re lucky now. You have good husband.”
Sonia, a Russian woman of about 50, apologizes for making me wait. “She has to go to her father’s wedding,” she says, pointing to the woman she’s just finished, blond with Bo Derek cheekbones and blusher, rose-tinted glasses, and a cotton candy–colored warm-up suit that hugs her surgically enhanced curves, “so, everything has to be perfect.”
Sonia looks at me — the only person in the room not wearing foundation — at my jeans and sneakers, and says, “You want something funky, funky.”
She rummages through a cart filled with polishes, picks something purple, and tries it on my finger. “No, I don’t like it; it’s not you,” she says, before I can say it myself. She tries pink, gray and pearl before she finds what she’s sure I’ll like, and I do, a bright aqua that shines like aluminum foil.
“You are young, you can do it,” she says.
I’m not that young.
“No, you’re young, so young. You get lots of compliments.”
As Sonia cleans my feet, “Anne Meara” gets up to use the loo. When she returns, her manicurist and pedicurist are in heated conversation.
“I have to learn to speak Romanian,” says Anne.
“We were talking about sex,” laughs the manicurist.
“Now I really need to learn,” she says, before reciting the menu for the dinner party she’s having later in the week.
“Sleep,” Sonia says, as she massages my feet. I close my eyes, feeling her tender ministrations, the way she subtly picks off things dead and unnecessary, the way a mother does when her child is nodding off in her arms; I get the feeling that if I asked Sonia to clean my ears, she would.
A new woman takes the Anne Meara spot and begins chatting about her grandchildren; Sonia paints my toes, then sits back and surveys her work.
“You have good taste,” she says, even though she picked the color. “No money, but good taste. You and me, ey?”