Friday, August 28, 2009


I finally gathered up my courage and walked across the street to the Lesman Studio to get my hair colored. Asking for the owner, I said, can Manny color my hair sometime today or tomorrow. Marisol told me sure, right now is fine. I told them I’ll be back in half an hour. I go back and Mairisol sits me down in the chair. What color do you want? And she hands me a book with little samples of hair. Well I don’t know, can you help me? Lester comes over to help, but I still think his name is Manny because both Lester and Manny change the color of their hair every week and I only see them in passing, so I am still confused about who is who.
I try to explain I want my hair just like it is, very natural with some lighter bits, but not too light and not too many. You can tell me in English he says. Of course I hate it when people do that so I go on in half English and Spanish. I try to give him the directions Cindy told me – Only use 10 Ammonia, not twenty. Why don’t we use this he says, it is ammonia free. I’m sure that is what he said, but when it went on my head my scalp was burning and tears were running down my face. I picture all of my hair falling off.

But Lester does a nice job getting every single root and I learn that he isn’t from Granada, but grew up in Costa Rica with Cuban parents. The huge lady that is sitting behind the register is his partner Manny’s mom and the pedicurist applying big resin nails is Manny’s sister. Then there are two other underlings, Fanny, the most underling who does the cleaning and an unhappy assistant who I often see washing the steps off in the morning.

There is a nice gossipy hum in the little courtyard as Marisol invites me to get a manicure and pedicure while my hair soaks. Lester sets the timer for 20 minutes for my hair and Marisol starts on my feet. She hands me a Vanidades (like a cross between People and Marie Clare) and I try not to think about sterilization of instruments. So far I haven’t seen any of those comforting jars of blue stuff they have at beauty shops in the US and there definitely isn’t an autoclave. Marisol has 5 children which I found out about because I was trying to ask her if she was hungry (because she was working on my hands and feet during lunch time) but instead I asked if she had a man. Now this is a beginning Spanish mistake (tiene hambre or tiene hombre) but since I have so much trouble with vowels – a problem I attribute to growing up in Chicago where there is only one vowel sound – it is one I am still making. I also often ask for a book (libro) of meat instead of a pound (libra).

Anyway, we both laughed and I told her how embarrassed I was and talked about our kids. She is about twenty years younger than I am. We were clipping along and the timer rings and Lester squeezes more goop in my hair and Marisol finishes my feet. Actually in the middle, she rinses out my hair blasting water in my ear. How does the salon get that water pressure? No one else has any.

While we are in the courtyard, it fills with a particularly acrid smoke and my eyes are burning again and I can hardly breathe. What is that smoke I ask Lester? Oh the people behind us make charcoal and they must be using some particularly green wood. Is it always like this? Hardly ever he says. And I used to not go to Frenchy’s because it smelled like nail polish remover. Which is exactly what the sour faced assistant fetches to rub the brown ring of dye off of the skin around my face.

We start the pain staking process with the highlights. Lester yells at the assistant because the foils are too narrow. They are actual foils made by ripping off little sheets from a roll of Reynolds Wrap. Lester puts all of my hair up in about twelve little twists. A few clips fall on the floor and the assistant picks them up and puts them back on my head. Out of each twist Lester weaves a few strands out and slathers them with a very strong ammonia solution and carefully folds the foils around them. He tells Marisol to go get him some white beans for lunch. First he starts by asking for a half pound and then decides to get them already cooked. There is a long discussion between Manny’s mom and Lester about white beans and the other things Marisol should get. Marisol, aren’t you going he asks. OK, OK. She says. You’d better take a cab, Lester tells her.

Marisol leaves and comes back and we are still doing foils. Jonathan has come to check on me, Christina has come to say she has to go. Angel comes and gets the car and I am still sitting in the chair. I’ve been there 3 hours and Lester finishes the foils and I say, how much longer (in Spanish and English just to be sure) because I have to go somewhere in forty-five minutes. Five more minutes he says and goes back to eat his lunch. After 20 minutes I start begging Marisol to take the foils out so I can get out of there. I have a very short attention span for beauty and spa treatments and I had definitely hit my limit. I had a terrible headache from no lunch and no water and the charcoal smoke and the ammonia. It was about 100 degrees in the shop and Manny tells me that if I take the foils out now it won’t be good and I say I have to go. Take them out anyway. OK he says just sit under the dryer for a few minutes. I sit under one of those old lady dryers and sweat, sweat, sweat. Jonathan brings me a club soda. I last about 10 minutes and then I go get Marisol and say NOW! I have to go. Lester leaves his lunch and helps Marisol rip the foils out of my hair. She washes it and Jonathan comes in and says the taxi is here, should we go without you? And I say Go. Marisol says just 10 more minutes and Jonathan decides to wait and goes to pay my bill. I am actually astonished that it is 50 dollars, but the highlights do look nice. And I got a pedicure and manicure. Still.

We book out of there and later when my hair is dry and I look at it there are two very thick blonde streaks going up the back of my neck when my hair is up. It looks like a skunk. And my ends are really dry. Oh well. I think about trying the other salon in the neighborhood. The one that Peta says has a nice breeze going through it all the time.

I wash my hair again before I go to bed and slather it in conditioner to get rid of the chemical smell. I have nightmares. I go to yoga in the morning and all I can think about is the white streaks in my hair showing because I have my hair in a ponytail. Not very yogic of me. So I tell Christina I’ll be back and go see what Lester is doing. He’s reading a magazine in his chair. Hey can you throw some more color on these highlights and cut it a little? Sure, sure he says. Manny comes over and looks, oh yeah good color but they are too light.

Marisol takes me back to the tub and holds most of my hair up while Lester works some more color into the streaks. Marisol stands and holds my hair on the top of my head for about 5 minutes then Lester washes out the streaks and Marisol washes my hair. I head to the chair and Marisol combs and Lester trims. It takes about 5 minutes. Marisol tries to talk me into a heavy duty Keritin treatment, but she mentions that it takes 3 hours and you can’t wash your hair or go in the sun or water for 4 days afterward. No thanks, I say, I’ll just use olive oil. Yes she says, that will make it shiny, but it won’t repair the structure. Too bad. Lester adds some mousse and I am done. They just charge me for the haircut which was $3.

This is the after shot. Before was worse.


  1. OMG hilarious! And sad. I'm sorry, Tamarindo! But you ventured in and tried it out. Be proud! I like to read these because I can actually picture what you are describing. I love it! Thank you!!!


  2. OK, this one made me laugh out loud because I know how much you love being fussed over.