A Supposedly Relaxing Thing That I Just Cannot Get Over

I won’t say it was a dare, as much as something someone said “I just needed to do before death.” That has come pretty nasty intonations, so let’s just get it out of the way that there is no immediate danger here. Unless….

I am standing in a room with twenty-six well-stuffed leather chairs, all of which sport massage rollers along their spines, and some oddly-shaped buckets beneath their bottoms. There are mirrors and photos of East Asian women and lighting that suggests romance is imminent. Sixty-two percent of the chairs are filled with barefoot women who seem to find it acceptable that small Vietnamese people are stuffing cotton balls into their toe crevices and shrieking (loud is not the word for it) with the sort of high-pitched clangs one would expect from people having a fight with flung aluminum cans. Echoes of running water resonate throughout the place.

I am here for something called a mani-pedi, and if we are being honest, I’m kind of freaked out about the whole thing. Filbert (the name explains everything you need to know about him) takes my hand and guides me to my chair at the rear of the room. Filbert is 5’4, with comic strip black hair and the type of effeminate lisp that you just know got him his ass kicked in grade school. Filbert also appears to be flirting with me and lets his hand linger a little too long on my shoulder before passing me on to a woman whose name I didn’t quite get but sounds like “Tongue.”

Tongue has six teeth, and if her name really is Tongue, that would be awesome.

Anyway, Tongue places her hand on my knee and starts to untie my shoes. For those who don’t know, I play a lot of tennis, which means we wear some pretty offensive socks and have appendages that have an extraterrestrial thing about them. I’ve developed a soul-penetrating anxiety about this and the red cheeks and leather-sticking sweat I’m now wearing, just makes the whole thing miserable. Tongue makes an interplanetary sound that matches my feet and then hoists her hand to her nose and backs away from the whole pedes area altogether.

When she returns, she is holding a card with a price tag on it, presumably suggesting I need – let’s call it a callous-shaving service – before we move on to the nails thing. I don’t know how she thought I said, “Yes,” but a few seconds later she’s using something off a construction-site to sheer off half my foot. I hear “Holy Christ, are you fucking kidding me?” come out of my mouth, but luckily the Vietnamese chatter drowned out most of my scream. As Tongue bores into my right sole, Lina appears with a white surgical facemask and a dipping bowl (you women have issues). Lina grabs my left hand and immerses it in one of those milky-like substances you see first-graders have running from their noses. She places my other hand in the dipping bowl as Tongue starts hacking at my other sole. Across the room, two women, who I’m fairly certain, were laughing at my mani-pedi-virginity, cover their mouths and shake.

In Vietnamese, the phrase Dep Trai means handsome. I know this because at least five of the staff passed by and said it to Tongue, who slurped back her agreement while Lina alpha-dogged about her dep trai client. Filbert even tossed out a dep trai with the sort of aggressive wink that suggested he might be willing to stay after hours if I could summon the interest.

I need to confess something. I’m a masculine, blue-collar-mentality guy who spends a lot of time sweating and mucking about in some pretty dirty areas. I pee on trees for God’s sake. The idea of nice nails being relevant in my life is slim. I don’t think it makes my top 1000 list of imperatives. But I’m aiming the philosophical arrow at something here.

By doing this Mani-Pedi thing, for a brief moment, I’ve slid down the masc.-fem. spectrum into the metrosexual zone. There’s this old joke about a modern day Lothario who sleeps with a thousand women and then has one drunken night with a guy named Biff and for the rest of his life he’s called a C-cksucker. I kind of feel like that, as though I’ve now done something to erode the fact that I like peeing from a standing position, that I am no longer allowed to root for football teams and stare at women’s breasts, that I now have to call a tow truck to fix my flat tire and might have to add conditioner to the whole morning shower routine, that I might someday have to let someone buy me dinner.

Lina files down the nails on my second hand and Tongue is now jamming cotton balls between my toes, an act, which she performs with the tenderness of a proctologist shoving a comforter up one’s ass.

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And then both women disappear and I am left to stare out at the clientele, most of whom are staring right at me, presumably wondering about my gender-identification issues or who the woman was who forced me into this – I’m guessing Filbert is curious too.

Just when Ithink the discomfort is done, Lina and Tongue return, this time both wielding large plastic bags of a steaming orange waxy substance, which, it turns out, is steaming orange wax, and the temperature of lava, and now being wrapped around my hands and feet in ways that suggest both mummification and a sincere desire to burn the client to death. “It will moisten and soften your skin,” they say between my screams, and then Tongue gives a big smile that shows her dental habits are even worse than the British.

Seven burnt minutes later, I am sulking. The wax-filled bags have solidified and I’m pretty much catatonic in my leather chair, surrounded by a roomful of women laughing at my misery and suffering the lingering looks from Filbert-my-wanna-be-lover and a bunch of oompah-loompahish Vietnamese women that think I’m quite dep trai, but also, just a really big pussy.

Lina puts her hand on my shoulder and removes the wax bags. Imagine trying to open one of those plastic-wrapped electric razors or remote controls, the ones that stare at you like a caged monkey and then mock you while you rip and tear and scream your way through it, only to find out that what you’ve ripped off is actually just the front of the packaging and the razor is in the back and so you start to think about killing either the person that created this plastic tomb or yourself. Well, you get the point. Tongue is tugging and yanking the ones off of my feet. They both withhold their mocking for what I imagine is an effort to get a larger tip. I give them each $20 and tell them that if I ever walk in this door again, they are to kick me in the balls and send me back to my car. I figure that will save me a lot of pain and the price of a mani-pedi.

The point here is this: I have a newfound respect for the lengths women go to look groomed. For the future, I’m content with your nails being back-scratchingly long. And if your toes aren’t perfectly painted and aren’t baby’s ass soft, I’ll survive. Next week, I’m heading over to Vietnam to let them know the war is over. Hanoi no longer needs to send folks over here to torture our women. And as for my new look, well two hours and $50 later, I can’t tell the damn difference.

Post mani-pedi update:

Two days later, I began to feel pain in my feet, the result of the newly-shaved callouses now creating a completely different balance and walking terrain. The skin on my soles is now splitting and sore, and with the bleeding and sock lint now sticking to them, the whole thing looks like a Jackson Pollack painting gone awry.

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By ccxander

About Nashville, the Thing is….

The grass of Vanderbilt University carries the color of old dollar bills. With red brick buildings and the crackle of winter’s dead leaves underfoot, one isn’t surprised to see covered coeds walking around in overcoats and scarves.  It is thirty-two degrees and I, however, am strolling in a sweatshirt that has about as much insulation as an anorexic on meth. This is what happens to Californians who don’t read the weather report before traveling to Nashville in the winter.

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I gave two seminars this morning, and though several people responded with lobotomized expressions one only expects from the severely-medicated, the reviews were all good. And then I had the ventured out into Nashville. Here’s a summary of the place, albeit in jest:

Downtown is a ½ mile strip of neon lights promoting three things: Boots, Barbecue, and Music. Grown men stand outside and tell you they have the best local band in town, and then offer you a two-for-one sale on boots. When asked “if that means four boots or two boots,” they stare into space for a moment, and then tell you to “git along, ya little asshole,”   – or so I’ve heard.

The barbecue here is more of an art piece than a meal. There’s a rub, a smoking, a basting, a three-day cook, and some places even perform a little blessing, although I’m fairly certain it is less for the slaughtered cow and more for the person who is about to eat something that is now three days old and spiced beyond imagination. Thankfully, there are bathrooms on the premises.

As for the music, I counted thirty-four honkytonks, however, there are some very unusual looking trashcans that spit music from their bottoms and say “courtesy of Nashville” around their brim.   That several people can stand around staring into a trashcan while tapping their feet and singing just adds to the strangeness here.

About twenty-five thousand size-twelve running shoes from downtown, Music Row plays host to what can only be termed the Garden of Eden for songwriting. One should not enter Music Row with preconceived notions.  I did. I expected people playing guitars outside of studios and restaurants, and to see expensively-suited execs leaking contracts from leather briefcases. I was wrong. Instead, Music Row is more muted than a politician’s integrity. The Row is a series of houses, which have been converted into studios or offices. The houses are mostly red brick, one story, hosting no more than three rooms, and have small billboards shouting Kenny Chesney, Jay-Z, Beyonce, and Meghan Trainor on the front lawns. RCA studio B is there, a two room hovel where Elvis and Dolly Parton and a thousand others played, although if Dolly and Elvis were in the place, there wouldn’t even be enough room for anyone else (the best part about that last comment was that it was straight up and not meant to be funny, although the material is just plain ripe for comedic jest). The crowd outside is taking photos of what will certainly provide some questioning glances when they return home. Still, it’s pretty amazing to think, with a voice and few instruments, billions of dollars have been created here.

It’s a few minutes more over to Green Hills, home of many country music stars and location of the Blue Bird Café. Blue Bird’s history is one of fame and friends meeting up for fun. With 100 seats and an open invitation to all famous singers, the line starts queuing at 3pm for the 6pm meal. On any given night, one might see Brooks and Dunn, Blake Shelton, or Leanne Rimes – for those on the West Coast, these people are country singers who tell stories with acoustic guitars, and talk funny, and wear boots, and say things like “Y’all can git up and line dance now.” Many tourists come to take photos outside the entrance to the Bluebird, which just happens to be about fourteen feet wide and in the middle of a strip mall. The whole thing can make someone from Malibu really uncomfortable.

To make it all even stranger, I took a journey over to Centennial Park. The signs explained the meaning of the place, but I was severely distracted by Vanderbilt University’s female track team running sprints on the lawn and then even more so by the building behind them.

I’m going to post a picture now….

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This building is in Nashville…

…in the middle of the city….

…just sitting there…

…and no one even seems to be aware of it.

I couldn’t find any signs to explain it, although there was a thin, spectacled Ethiopian man standing in front of it asking people to give him eight dollars so he could let them inside. His name was Erkel – I know, right? – and I didn’t give him eight dollars. I did find another guy that might be responsible for this whole thing.

Here he is…

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It’s pretty much the only explanation I have. Otherwise, WTF is the Parthenon doing in Nashville?

Anyway, that’s all I have to say about this latest trip. I’m getting on a plane now. If I make it back to LA, I don’t ever want to talk about this stuff again.  Enjoy the Super Bowl. Hopefully someone remembers a pump for the balls.