Man Spa

A stylized view of a stylized bag from a stylized store.

The plate glass storefront window was striped by mahogany colored shelves filled with fancy rectangular boxes and even fancier bottles. I’m think that the boxes were empty. I bet they ensconced the bottles before they were divorced, and the bottles teased them by their independence on meticulous display.

The boxes, and their coordinating labels on the bottles, were serious colors. Navy blue. Maroon. Pine green. And a parchment white. It wasn’t a pure white, but a white with enough yellow so you knew it wasn’t new. The lettering was either silver or gold, depending on how they performed. The navy had silver and the parchment had gold.

There were a lot of shelves, so many that they obscured whatever was happening behind the glass. If the window was ten feet tall, and it easily was, there may have been twelve or fifteen shelves, each fitted with rows and rows and rows of beautiful packaging. What was it?

The store was new. It was next door to the corner organic sandwich shop that makes their to-go sandwiches fresh daily and give any leftovers to people who are hungry. That shop had just undergone a major remodel and expansion. It took over the space around the corner. I don’t remember exactly what they took over. Maybe it was a remnant from the cupcake craze. Regardless, it was now assimilated into the feel-good shoppe with a french moniker.

The new store, with the impressive window display, more than piqued my interest. It was so interesting that I put my overheating phone that was tracking my game into my purse. I pulled hard and opened the heavy door that was mostly glass but with an impressive mahogany frame. And I felt like I walked into somebody’s bathroom.

The store was teeny tiny on the inside. Maybe this was where they were selling, but definitely not baking, cupcakes.

Opening the door begot a madhatter experience. There was an impressive desk to the left. It was wooden and had an intricately inlaid top that supported a too-large mac monitor, a keyboard, a VOIP telephone and, facing me, a credit card swiping machine. Behind the desk was a very friendly woman with a loosely curly mane of blonde locks that would have been strawberry blonde if there was just a little more red. She had big lips lined with a pinky-brick color and filled with a brown-pink shine that was not glittery but more wet.

Her eyes were lined, too, with a brown pencil. She was smart to avoid black which would have been abrupt on her creamy skin and light rosy cheeks. Her eyes were definitely lined, though. Just not too much.

I think that she was tall, just by how she sat behind the formal desk with all of the electronics on display. Her head definitely topped the large computer screen. She sat tall like she was comfortable with her height. I’m thinking 5’11” or maybe even six. Her smile was toothy in just the right amount. The edges of her lips curved up like a real smile, and her eyes were happy, too. But, unbelievably, I didn’t see her–or her desk–at first. They were a bit behind me.

When I walked in, I pulled up because on my left, ahead of me, were two sinks. This was very impressive because the back of the store was maybe eleven feet ahead. The sinks were very white, in contrast to the manly wood and the serious wallpaper with a paisley stripe, each spaced eight inches from the next. Before I could take anything more in, a sprite stood in front of me.

I named him William in my head. I imagine that his mother and his sisters called him Billy, and his last three partners called him Will. The partners before that called him either Billy or Bill.

He had a plaid bow tie at the neck of his crisp white shirt. The shirt was hugged by a vest. The vest was not the same fabric as the tie–that would be too much–but a perfectly subtle accompaniment in both color and print. He had a pencil thin mustache and a cap that covered most of his short, tight steel colored curls. They were charcoal steel and stainless steel. He stepped toward me from the far sink, but because the space was so small it was a short step.

His greeting had a studied warmth. I felt like he was wondering why I was there. We had that in common. I offered that I thought that the window was so enticing, so that I was compelled to see what was next. I left out the part about my surprise at the tight quarters. Frankly, I was expecting to walk through aisles of toiletries. Instead, I just verbally blundered on about how the display intrigued me.

It was almost comical that after looking at rows and rows and rows of bottles, the product line was on two twenty-four inch shelves. It wasn’t a shop. Well, it was a barber shop. But the entirety of the wares was on my immediate right.

William offered me some sticks of paper on which I could smell the colognes. I demurred. I preferred to grab a bottle, remove the stopper and wave it from side to side underneath my nose. I knew better than to take a deep breath, so I just inhaled and exhaled naturally to catch the scent. Last thing I wanted was to burn my nostrils with patchouli.

It was a clean scent, but way to citrusy for my likes. William asked me what types of scents that The Spouse liked.

I looked at him askance, my eyebrow that I can’t control asking what the hell was he thinking?

“I don’t care what The Spouse likes. It matters what I like.”

William broke. He snorted a little, but quickly recovered. He was at the barber to the Kings of England, and whatnot. He couldn’t go to his Billy self, even if it was funny.

I asked him what he liked, and the woman who was seated four feet from me chimed in. (This was the first time I saw her, despite the intimacy of the space.) She offered what was most popular, and William answered my question on what he liked. Neither of which appealed to me. Too fruity. I asked if there was a sharper scent. William offered the mahogany box.

My nose was insulted from the first scent. The second I sprayed on the paper but missed and got my thumb. I couldn’t smell the paper as much as the crap I sprayed on my hand. I committed to spraying this next scent on the paper and almost succeeded. It was more woody and a bit sharper. I could see smelling this on the neck of The Spouse.

William offered me the services price list. Haircuts, hot lather shaves, facials, beard trims, neck shaves and manicures. William seemed good, I’d recommend him for a neckshave, as if I have any idea what that is.

The woman behind the mahogany desk reached behind her, to the rows and rows and rows that instigated my attention, and took a seriously orange box from a shelf. William pointed out the additional shaving gear–blades and brushes and soaps–in case I wanted to be even more generous. But let me tell you, when I signed the credit card slip I realized that I was being quite generous already.

The box was wrapped in the store’s signature tissue wrap and then placed in the seriously navy blue bag. I left pleased with myself for my purchase of a surprise gift, but mostly pleased at falling into the rabbit hole and being led through the madness by William, the MadHatter.


Giving Thanks

boys walking

I have been quite a laggard in postings. My apologies to my loyal reader. As the turkey roasts, I am thinking about the thanks I am giving.

  • I am thankful that the 17-year-old hooked me up with my new favorite band. Great music to prep Thanksgiving Dinner by.
  • I am thankful that the Spouse has cooked dinner pretty much every night since September 15. AND has done the dishes, too.
  • I am thankful that the 14-year-old has introduced me to the FIERCE sport of wrasslin’. Little girls cried during the last meet. Fierce, I tell you.
  • I am thankful for working in the Bush administration. Without those guys, I would have never learned new levels of tolerance–and never loved so many Republicans. Yes, they are people, too.
  • I am thankful that we have good health insurance, didn’t get dumb in the mortgage market, live within our means and have stable jobs. I pray that the new guys–with our help–make changes so that more people can give this set of thanks next year.
  • I am thankful for Facebook. Sounds dumb, but it’s like living in a far-flung dorm–low pressure way to be in the lives of people you care about. (Sibling, get on the stick!)
  • I am thankful that my mother is a fighter. She has been in rehab 3 times over the past year, after a fall, a broken ankle, and then major GI surgery. Each time we worried that she might be too tired to push her 85-year-self through rehab. And each time she proves us wrong.
  • I am thankful that I have the best spouse, kids and dog in the whole wide world. Bar none. No one can dispute this. Don’t even try.

And I am thankful to you, my loyal reader. I write this mostly for me, but am thankful that you take some of your time to think with me.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Rose By Any Name

Gravestone of Iraq war hero Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan in Arlington National Cemetery, with his grieving mother.General Colin Powell announced that he was going to vote for Barack Obama, and it’s all the twitter. Calling Obama “transformational” and his own Republican Party “narrower and narrower,” Powell lent the considerable heft of the former general, chair of the Joint Chiefs and Secretary of State to the candidate that some have said was too inexperienced and lacked judgement.

But this was not the most important thing he did on Meet the Press.

I think that the most important thing that he did was call out the members of his own party who find the practice of Islam a disqualification for the presidency.

I cringe every time someone denies that Barack Obama is Muslim. It goes like this.

“Obama is a Muslim”

“No, he’s not,” said like there is something wrong being Muslim.

Imagine saying there is something wrong with being Catholic, or Jewish. Or think about when you hear boys say, “You are such a girl” as if it’s an insult to be a girl–like their mother, like my mother or my sister. Making who people are synonymous with “you are bad” or “you are a dirty, filthy mother****in’ terrorist” is simply WRONG.

When General Powell told the story of Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, a twenty year old native of New Jersey who made the ultimate sacrifice of a soldier in Iraq, he reminded us of the best in Americans. And in doing so, called on us all to be the best Americans we can be.

So, we should all learn the name of Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan. He is a hero. An American hero. And we should all learn that we can be heroes, too.

Yes we can.

Contrasts In Contrast

Cedric Jennings, Ballou graduate and a man making his way.There were two stories in the Post today that got me thinking.

The first was about a student at an “elite” public high school who was expelled for a 2.8 grade point average. Seems pretty crazy to kick out a kid for a B-minus. As I was reading, the reporter led me to believe that this kid probably belonged at the school. I hope everyone, though, read to the end.

[The student] rejected her offers to work with him during lunch or activity periods, saying he was too busy with Model United Nations, sports and the yearbook.

His grades were not the best, but he had great test scores. Seems like he was having motivation issues. His parents said

their son Matthew has been mistreated. “I believe that the rule is absurd and is doing more harm to our students than good,” Liz Nuti said. The parents acknowledge that Matthew has trouble organizing his time. But “he is a happy, healthy, well-rounded child with no vices“.

But being happy and health with no vices is not a requirement for the school. Doing really well in math and science is. I am sorry that the kid couldn’t get his act together. And even though it’s a tough call, he was on notice and it’s appropriate that the Fairfax school system is letting him experience the consequences of his actions.

‘Cuz not everyone has it so good and easy. You know with dad an engineer, mom an accountant and two older sibs that have blazed the trail for you–and likely greased the wheels so you can get in to a great school. That not everyone can go to. Even if they are smart. Not everyone has alot of chances.

Which is the second article that got stuck in my thinkings. This one is about an incredible young man, Cedric Jennings, who “as a boy clawed out of a Southeast Washington ghetto and over the Ivy gates.” And today he is wondering if he is doing enough. He has the weight of the world on his shoulders–a grad of Brown, Harvard and U-Mich–back in D.C. trying to make a difference in people’s lives. A social worker. And wondering if he is acting on too small a stage. Is he fulfilling his potential? The expectations?

My heart breaks for this 31-year old man who is still struggling to do the right thing. He is still trying to figure out the best ways to apply his prodigious talent and drive. He knows he is responsible for himself. He knows that his choices and his actions have consequences. He is fighting Peter Parker‘s battle, “with great power comes great responsibility.” He knows this is important.

I wish both the boy and the man in these two contrasting stories peace.