Sunday, September 10, 2006

Goodbye, Spice, Goodbye

When I called my salon on Saturday to make my hair appointment for today, Martini the receptionist answered. (At my salon, the stylists are given ridiculous alter-ego stylist names like Mist, India, Velvet, Jet, and Israel.) I asked her for my usual stylist, Spice.

"Spice hasn't been with us for months," Martini said.

"What?!" I said. I can't lie: I was disappointed. Not devastated -- I mean, Spice and I weren't BFFs like Ken Paves and Jessica Simpson or anything -- but I could always count on Spice to give me a decent haircut and a nice highlighting job. I say only "nice" because no stylist has ever been able to give me a Gisele Bundchen mane, but maybe that's physically and chemically impossible.

"Yeah. It was a really sudden thing," Martini said, which is the corporate equivalent of "she got fired."

"I guess I'll just take someone on her level, then," I said, sort of depressed.

Spice was definitely better than my previous highlighter, Inga, who would dye me Marilyn Monroe-blond even when I asked her to take it down a few levels to a nice sand. "No!" she'd insist in her Russian accent. "You look good blond." And Spice was way more predictable than Danny, my previous haircutter. Danny liked goth clubs more than he liked showing up at work to do his appointments. When he was actually there to cut my hair (which was about 50 percent of the time), I'd be regaled with his tales about '80s metal bands (because Danny used to do the bands' hair) and how, back then, goth meant something. He said Joey was the only decent Ramone because he used to let Danny into the parties. When Joey died, that all stopped. But, hey, Danny did give good cut...when he felt like it.

After all of that, Spice was a great stylist. When I first met her, she was profoundly skinny and scrappy with wild dark corkscrew curls and a disarming smile: the kind of condescending power grin that top magazine editors and lawyers have -- like the Cheshire Cat with a wad of unmarked payola money stuffed in his treehouse. I've seen that same smile on notoriously difficult people, and I instantly knew that I shouldn't get on her bad side. She liked me, though; she did good hair, and I stuck with her for a year. She used to squeeze me in at the end of a long day when she should have been on a train home, and if I had to wait too long for her to start highlighting, she'd give me a free color gloss. Once she took pictures of my hair for her portfolio, which made me feel as close to modelesque as I'll probably ever get. With Spice, all of my somewhat luminous haircut-and-highlight jobs were mysteriously around $130, which, in Manhattan, is practically free.

One day, I saw her in a heated discussion with another stylist. They were talking about someone at the salon, I deduced. She came back to my chair and started cutting furiously. "Don't worry. This won't affect your hair," she said. "It will make it better." She smiled devilishly, and the scissors glinted under the salon's fluorescent lighting.

My last appointment with Spice was hurried, I remember. It felt rushed even though I ended up waiting around before and after shampooing. As I sat under the dryer, Spice sat next to me, talking to another stylist, and she got angry about some previous incident, it seemed. "...And I don't give a FUCK!!!" Spice said to the stylist, and, with the diplomacy of a senator, turned to me and said, "Excuse my language."

Spice was up for a stylist's award that appointment, a few months ago, and she invited me to a big party surrounding the big announcement. "But open bar ends at 10, so get there early," she said, as she wrote all the details down on the back of a business card. I was flattered that she'd invited me. But somewhere, in the back of my mind, I knew it might not be a good idea to go drinking with Spice. I had visions of threats being yelled, extensions being pulled out, and glasses of G and T being thrown and broken.

All things considered, I don't think I'm exactly shocked that Spice is no longer. I have Spice's personal e-mail address, and I have to admit that I'm curious where she ended up. A swank place on the Upper East? Or a rough-and-tumble barber shop in Jamaica, Queens? She'd fit in either place. I half want to contact her; she's sort of like that crazy friend everyone had back in college who almost got you arrested once and turned into the drama queen from hell if she drank anything remotely resembling tequila, but, man, could she throw a great party.

Goodbye, Spice. And good luck.


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