A Small, Lovely Gesture

Yesterday I went for a walk around Fresh Pond in Cambridge. It was a pretty chilly day, but I felt the need to take advantage of the sun, go out and pump fresh oxygen in the lungs. There were other walkers, joggers and runners out and about, and surprisingly many families with toddlers. And of course dogs, lots of dogs, some of them cute, some not. The dogs for unknown reasons are drawn to me. I’m not the one to pet or talk to them, but they always seem to be wanting to be around me. Most of the time this is fine.

I was walking on the path right by the water, the one that’s below the two lookout spots with the benches. A family was walking on the other direction. A couple of adults, a baby in a stroller and a toddler walking along. I noticed that the baby in the stroller had his eyes fixed on me. I think he was a one-year old. As for the gender I can’t be quite sure, but I will rely on the socially accepted norm that little boys wear blue clothes. Anyway, he kept watching me coming closer and closer. Then, when I got about three feet away from him, and without taking his eyes off me, he flashed a gigantic smile. A smile I would think is reserved for people he knows and recognizes. A smile we adults reserve for friends we haven’t seen in a while. His smile lingered as I was approaching to pass him. I smiled back, and waved hi. He waved back at me and when I passed him he kept watching me and kept that great smile, turning back in his stroller to follow me on. It was the cutest thing in a long time. Little friend, thanks for making my day brighter. I still think of your smile and I smile, too.


The Right Hairdresser Is Elusive

Finding the right hairdresser is quite difficult. It should be pretty easy, but unfortunately and inexplicably it is not. If it was socially acceptable to chop your own hair in a random form I would happily do that, rather than having to endure the soul sucking experience of trying out a new hairdresser.

Let me state for starters that I am a pretty easy client. I have nice, healthy, plenty, straight, brown hair. What I’m looking for in a hairdresser is quite simple: someone who will be able to give a nice cut, keep the bottom straight, maybe add an inch of layers at the bottom. When three years ago I started seeing grey hairs, I decided to have it colored too. I want the color to be close to my natural, maybe a shade or two lighter. I’m not after the most trendy, difficult cut, I just want something decent, that would look good in two-three months. I don’t spend too much time on my hair, so I want something that’s low maintenance, which is the cut I described earlier. There are quite few other qualifications to make the experience enjoyable and not a pain: a hairdresser who talks the right amount, and someone who will not charge unreasonably. I have avoided the big name salons of Newbury street for instance, because I can’t justify paying the money they’re charging.

When I was back home I had this hairdresser who was excellent. She was kinda slow, but she put much care and effort in every scissors snip and hairbrush stroke, with amazing results. I used to be more adventurous back then, changing hairstyles pretty often, until I found the cut that I think flatters me and it is (or at least should be) easy to get. Since I moved in this area about ten years ago, I still haven’t found the hairdresser that I’m looking for, the hairdresser match made in heaven.

However, I have found plenty of mismatches. From Brookline, to Somerville and Cambridge, I’ve had my hair cut by lots of different stylists; usually once, since I’m not going back. I’ve had my hair cut by women who won’t stop talking and are making me tired. Stylists who are seeing me for the first time and asking very personal questions (yes, there is a fine line between friendly and nosy.) Stylists that I have asked to dye my hair one tone lighter than my natural light brown hair and they decided that that would be orange. Stylists that spent five minutes on a haircut by trimming the edges like a landscaper trims a bush. Stylists that are raving about the new cutting technique they’re using, but are unable to execute. Stylists that apparently are still learning. And stylists who thing that two inches is quite a subjective measuring unit.

For the past year I’ve going to a salon that is a remnant of the ’80s era. On the walls you see big photos of people with trendy haircuts, like mullets, and hair layered to death. But the hairdresser I was seeing was a nice woman, who always executed my instructions faithfully. She wasn’t always perfect (for example she tended to let my hair longer at the back in a sort of V way), but when I asked her to correct this she did it. She always got the color right. I was finally set having found someone who would make me comfortable when I sat at that chair. The chatting was exactly the right amount, too. And then, she got pregnant. I was happy for her. And then she had a baby. I was happy for her. And then she said she doesn’t know when she’s coming back to work. And I got stressed. I would have to start looking for a new hairdresser. Again.

I looked in the camberville area, which is where I live. I looked on-line and decided to give a relatively new salon a try. I went there today, feeling upbeat, I mean, c’mon, I’m not going to ask for anything extravagant. I was going to have my hair colored and cut by the owner. My hair was a medley of colors, and told her that I kinda liked that tone, lighter than my natural color. She thought it was too light, and I told her that, colorwise, my primary concern is to have full grey coverage. She showed me the color chart and the “light brown” that honestly looked like a very dark brown. I told her that I thought it was dark, and I pointed to another color that looked brown, but was labeled “dark blonde”. “That would be too light,” she said. “Really?” I asked,  “it looks darker than my current color and darker than my natural color.” She insisted on that first color, and I don’t know, sometimes I feel it might be OK to trust the professionals and not be a know-it-all person.

Well, well. I guess I got two color treatments, that apparently consisted of doing the roots first and then the rest of the hair. I mean, even when I got the “normal” color treatment at other salons that’s how they color the hair. And after all was said and done I ended up with a very harsh dark color, a color that is definitely much darker than my natural, and quite flat. I felt that I should have trusted my eye and instinct, and screw the professional’s opinion. That was disappointment number one.

After the color, they shampooed me and blow dried my hair, as she was going to cut it dry. I never had my hair cut while dry. The philosophy behind it is that you see the end result while you’re cutting, so it is better. I’m pretty sure the people who prefer cutting wet hair have very good reasons too, but I didn’t care enough to ask. All I wanted was a decent haircut. I told her basically that I wanted my current look, but shorter, and to make sure that the hair is not longer at the back. She got that one, and she mentioned that this is very old-fashioned. So I said I wanted two inches off (which I also showed so it cannot be open to interpretation), and layers at the bottom. Apparently she was concerned with how thick and heavy my hair is, so she was doing something like cutting vertically and thinning the bulk. No biggie, I thought. She cut off two inches more or less from the bottom and that was it. She was explaining what she was doing and in the end she said something like “and now the layers and showing better.” I wanted to scream “where do you see the layers, woman??? Nowhere, because you haven’t cut any!” But at that point I knew that it wasn’t going to work out. I didn’t feel like saying anything more. If you see something that is not there, how can I argue about the obvious? And she kept saying something like “and every time you’ll be coming it will look better, it will blend better.” I’m not asking you to do any drastic changes to my hair, I just want it shorter than it is now. So, I want a good haircut, now.

I thought I would walk out of that place with nice bouncy layers, and light brown hair; instead I walked out with a pretty bad cut and black hair. I will resume my quest for the right hairdresser in two months. I don’t want to, but I have to. I just wish it wasn’t so bloody difficult to find the right hairdresser.

Against the Diminution of Sunsets

There was a magnificent sunset in Boston tonight. Even you didn’t see it yourself, it is almost certain that some of your friends did, and they made sure you saw it too by posting a photo of the sunset on their facebook or twitter pages.  It almost certainly came with some kind of admiring caption. And then you clicked on the photo, and what you saw was well, alright, but certainly not “marvelous”. It was a low resolution photo, taken by a camera phone. The magnificence of an enormous sky reduced to a 5″x7″ window in your monitor. You wanted to feel the awe, but you didn’t.

And that’s perfectly fine. I love photography, I love both taking and looking at photos. But some photographs always disappoint. You simply cannot convey the vast beauty of a sunset in a photograph. It will always look exponentially inferior to the real thing. I have taken my share of sunset photographs, and the truth is they look quite lame. The colors, the contrast, the exposure, everything looks off. Some things cannot be photographed right. Some things when seen in a photograph will be devoid of their glory.  If you want to see and feel the magnificence of a sunset, just go out and see one. Just don’t show me the photo you took.