Archive for April, 2021

French Fries

The snack bar at the Ojai Valley Athletic Club is not known for its vegan dishes nor for any self-imposed limitation on the saturated fat globules served up to its otherwise health-conscious members.

The Club recently began a Tuesday dinner soiree that continued its happy-go-lucky diet of mind-numbing weekly specials that featured burgers, fries and, just in case you burned too many calories in the lap pool, a hearty pile of macaroni and cheese.

This heart stopping road to perdition was sidetracked this past Tuesday with a surprise offering that included a garden salad and salmon.  Jackie brought this dietary turnabout to my attention and offered to treat me to a night out two days later. Jackie’s daughter, Sammy, rounded out the guest list with her youthful friends, Esmerelda and Sergio.

A warm, soft, east wind surrounded us as we emerged from the club and stepped onto the stone-age designed back patio. Three young women were participating in a mind-bending yoga class designed for those who seek new ways to challenge how nature has constructed the human body. I felt a bit guilty thinking about food while they huffed and puffed, so I decided to think of them as part of the evening’s entertainment.

Jackie had ordered our meals in advance. We retrieved them from the pickup window, got two glasses of chardonnay and sat down at the indestructible wrought iron table. Opening the Covid-induced ubiquitous cardboard box revealed a leafy salad that had been blessed with a few microscopic bits of salmon.

Having just met Esmerelda and Sergio, I restrained myself from complaining about the relative absence of fish and went to work on the salad. Sammy had mystically anticipated the non-caloric salad and had compensated for it by conjuring up two large tubs of fries; I attacked them with little regard to the needs of our dinner companions.

We filled the air with words that smoothed the raw edges caused by making a first-time contact with relative strangers. One’s physical appearance became less important as our conversation continued. We discovered some commonality in our backgrounds and, though unsaid, I was sure we shared similar political views.

Prompted by Jackie, the vaccine moved front and center. “Have you had your shots?”

“No.”

“Do you plan to get them?”

“No.”

“Any special reason?”

“I don’t want anything put in my body that’s likely to cause a problem. For example, I’ve heard that…”

And then Sergio launched into a litany of the negative effects suffered by the millions who have already embraced the vaccine…or for that matter, any vaccine.

The salad wilted and the fries congealed.

I found it useless to pursue the matter as I had no facts to contest his claims of the danger of government supported vaccines, nor of a miracle Asian compound that had been shown to prevent Covid from entering the body and alternatively cure anyone who already has the disease.

In retrospect, I wish I would have said that the Federal Trade Commission regularly sends warnings to companies advising them to stop making unsupportable claims about curing Covid…or the absence of any deaths due to the vaccine…or the rise in the incidence of the disease attacking younger people…or…

And then I thought, “What the hell, it’s a beautiful evening, I’m here with very nice people, I ate some delicious French fries…and I’ve had both my shots. They’ll figure it out.”

At least they’re not Republicans.

Browsing

It was 8 am and we were on the 101 headed to Santa Monica for Jackie’s follow-up visit three weeks after her hip replacement.

I had been congratulating myself for inadvertently scheduling the visit to coincide with Cesar Chavez Day when the rush hour traffic would surely be lighter. That bit of profundity was quashed as the freeway abruptly shut down at the Topanga exit.

Years of freeway driving tend to impart one with a sixth sense as to whether a freeway stoppage is only because of traffic volume or whether it bodes an air of finality when it refuses to move at all. The specter of a missed doctor appointment often adds to the excitement as you realize that you might as well sit back and suck it up.

Sitting there with little else to do, I began to fidget and wonder why my eyelash seemed to be bumping against the right lens of my glasses. Or maybe, I thought, it was my eyebrow that was the cause of the annoyance.  I tried unsuccessfully to smooth the brow above my eye and pluck at what might be a dislodged eyelash that had taken up residence in the usually vacant space between my eye and the glasses.

I reminisced while the traffic remained glued in place and recalled that my eyebrow trimming had become more frequent in the last few years along with the accelerated appearance of other hair in my ears and nose. Curiously, the disappearance of hair on other parts of my body, legs and arms, seemed to conflict with the lush vegetation that required continuous attention above my eyes and in my ears.

Having failed to find and disposed of the errant hair, I looked over at Jackie and interrupted her immersion into the emails that had flooded her iPhone overnight. “Can you take a peek at my right eye and see if you can find a hair floating in its general vicinity? I think it might be an eyelash.”

She leaned over, squinted and dutifully examined the area. “There’s no lash. But what I do see is an abundance of disorganized hairs of various lengths that claim to be an eyebrow. Whoever’s been trimming your brow should be ashamed of himself.”

I apologized for my slovenliness, accepted her conclusion, and went back to watching the traffic remain motionless while my dashboard clock continued to move at the speed of light toward the time of our doctor appointment. Visions of remaining motionless in our allotted freeway spot for the rest of the morning danced through my head as I nervously reviewed various futile solutions for what would surely soon become a demanding bladder.

As usual, my fears were unfounded. After what seemed like enough elapsed time to melt the Mendenhall glacier, traffic began to move, we avoided further catastrophes, and arrived at the doctor’s office fifteen minutes early. Of course, he was 30 minutes late.

Following a successful doctor visit that allayed Jackie’s fear of permanent disability, we checked into the Ambrose Hotel, dusted ourselves off and found an accommodating employee who graciously opened the complimentary happy-hour bar 30 minutes early.

We sat outside with our wine and thought about the day. As I was entering a state of bliss, Jackie moved closer to me, put her hand on my arm, looked into my eyes and said “Ya know, you should get some eyebrow threading.”

I wondered if my brow had perhaps fallen off.

She spritely continued, “I just checked my iPhone and there are a bunch of places walking distance from the hotel. I bet I can call them now and make an appointment for you tomorrow morning. It’s really cool and you’re gonna love it. You will be so handsome.”

When Jackie accepts an assignment, you might as well just get out of her way and let it happen. Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was her zeal. Anyway, I just grunted, she made the call, locked down a 10 am appointment and sat back contentedly.

Eyebrow threading is centuries old and has increased in popularity of late, displacing traditional tweezing and waxing while spawning a horde of threading salons that rival Starbucks.

I Googled it and found that there’s not much threading in threading. In fact, the hair removal tool in threading in nothing more than thread held between a technician’s hands (and in some cases, their teeth as well) in a twisted configuration. As the technician moves their hands, spaces open between those twists and then tighten again, grabbing and holding onto hair, and pulling it free, root and all. Ouch.

Despite my inability to stand any pain above a 2 on the Richter Scale, we awoke the next morning and walked the half mile to the corner of 26th and Arizona where we found Namita’s Eyebrow Threading Salon. I was surprised to find a salon devoted to eyebrow threading with six reclining chairs ready for action.

I later found out that you can get the hair on your arms, legs and face threaded. Other unmentionables as well. Double ouch.

Escorted by Namita herself, I plopped myself down in a comfy recliner and awaited my fate. Namita promised not to hurt me too much. Little did she know that I need a Percodan just to get me through the morning.

She came at me with a vengeance. The cotton thread looking like a battle axe, she began plucking. It felt and sounded like a rasp being drawn across my brow. The little rasps were the hairs being yanked from where they had peacefully resided for many years. Rasp, rasp, rasp.

I was glad I only had two eyes.

In the background I heard Jackie laughing with another technician. Never one to give up a spa treatment opportunity, she was having a similar threading experience. A true soldier, she is impervious to any pain that accompanies a beautification.

Namita completed my transformation and presented me with a mirror. Amazing. Damn right. I am more handsome.

Where’s the nearest Botox salon?


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