I’ve always loved New York. My first trip there was as a little kid in 1964. My father drove us down from Massachusetts to visit the World’s Fair in Queens. I’ll never forget that trip. The car ride was so long and I was so tired, that is until we arrived. Once there my eyes were suddenly wide open to everything. I remember eating for the first time in a diner with its bright neon signage, shiny surfaces, long counter and deep booths with cushy red seats, seeing Michelangelo’s Pieta depicting Mary as a beautiful young woman, and standing by the giant 12-story high stainless steel sphere of the earth. Since then, every time I fly into JFK I look forward to seeing that big steel globe on my way to and from Manhattan. This trip over the Halloween weekend was no different. There it was peeking out at me to announce that I had arrived as the taxi jostled us through the traffic on the Van Wyck Expressway on the way to the island of Manhattan.
The First Crossing
From Torino we drove to Aosta and up to the Great San Bernardo tunnel that took us across the Alps and into Martigny in Switzerland. As we left the city behind I thought about the larger-than-life figures who had gone before: Hannibal with his elephants, Julius Cesar on his way to conquer the pagans at Martigny, Charlemagne returning from his coronation in Milan, and Napoleon with his 40,000 troops. This should be fun, I decided. But, it was not.
I had been on slumber’s edge for a long time patiently counting the rhythm of a waltz 1+ 2+ 3+ over and over, hoping the repetition would lull me to sleep. My poor brain was confused; it’s clock said two in the afternoon, but the one in the room said 11PM. The more I tried, the more sleep resisted. Finally at 1 o’clock, I got up and padded about the room quietly knocking into its unfamiliar objects, pulling aside the curtain I watched the darkness punctuated by a single lamp shining from the other side of the courtyard. Also five flights up like me, the shaded light sat behind deep green floor length curtains. There was no movement, no sound, no other insomniac like me. Watching the light made me sleepy, so I drank a glass of water and went back to bed as though for the first time. I don’t remember falling asleep, but when I awoke my husband had already showered and dressed. He called me; then nudged me. I couldn’t wake up. I wanted to sleep for a million years. Finally, I gave into his coaxing. In the shower I turned the water colder and let it run across my face. Finally awake, an urgent need for a cappuccino came upon me.
When this trip was in planning, I told my Italian teacher, “We’re going to Italy, to Turin and the Piedmont.” I expected applause; what I got was dismay. “Torino? Ma Torino non è Italia,” she said.
Of course, I’ve heard the Chinese saying that a picture is worth a thousand words or is it that a picture’s meaning can express ten thousand words? However interpreted, Haydee, my sister-in-law, wants the picture. After reading my post she emailed me saying, “Falta la foto de tus piedecitos con las uñas azulesssssssss.” Translated this says, “It’s missing the picture of your little toes with blueeeeeeee nails.”
Today she gets it. It’s not a great one. It’s hard to see the true beauty of my velvety blue toes, but after many attempts this is the best photo of all the candidates.
In sharing it I also have a confession to make. You see between getting the original blue toes and the posting of my blog about them, I had had another pedicure and had changed the color of my polish. I’m sorry. I am fickle when it comes to nail polish color. I had changed from velvet blue to one called Particulière, a French word meaning “special” or “out of the ordinary.” I had wanted to try it last winter when it was in all the fashion magazines. Who wouldn’t want to try something special, something different, something “Je ne sais quoi.” I looked for it everywhere, but found it no where.
When my husband went on a business trip to Paris, a couple of weeks ago, he stopped by Le Bon Marché to buy me a little present. I had suggested to him that he ask for Particulière by Chanel. When he did, the sales lady looked at him as though he had just arrived from Mars and said, “But Monsieur, that shade has been discontinued.” I don’t know what he said next but whatever it was evoked pity in the woman. “However,” she said, “I happen to still have one small bottle. Would that do?” Of course it would. My husband swooped it up and only cringed slightly when he did the translation between euros and dollars.
I was delighted when out of his suitcase came an ever so small white bag with woven black handles and the famous word, Chanel, emblazoned in black on its sides. In went my hand and out came the small bottle of polish. I was stunned. This was not the gray violet I had seen splashed across the “New This Season” pages but was a ghastly shade of mud. This can’t be it. I studied the bottle. No, it says quite clearly Particulière This is it. Although disappointed, I smiled in thanks and vowed to try it.
At the nail salon, I was as usual delighted with the scrubbing cutting, filing, and massaging. When it was time for the polish, I offered my bottle of Particulière saying quickly before the pedicurist could react, “It was a gift, so I feel compelled to try it. But, I’m not sure.” She looked at the bottle. “It’s good. Let’s see it on one toe. OK?”
“OK, let’s see.”
She deftly painted the big toe nail on my left foot. “I like it,” she exclaimed.
I wasn’t so sure and began to wonder if “I like it,” was her standard reply to whatever color her client wanted. It did have a violety, brown-gray cast to it. The young woman seated next to me looked over. “I like it too,” she said. Others also looked and chimed in. Everyone approved.
“OK,” I said, “Particulière it is.”
Now, I realize I have no picture of my toes dressed in Particulière. But I do have one of my thumb nail as evidence. Here it is. Truly out of the ordinary.
All original content copyright 2010 Mary E. Slocum
During our annual visit to family to Santiago, Chile at Christmastime, my niece Luciana, my sister-in-law, Haydee, and I treated ourselves to mani-pedis. Being spring/summer in the southern hemisphere, their feet were already used to showing themselves off in sandals. My feet, on the other hand, had been hiding out in boots in an unusually rainy autumn/winter in California and were grateful for the soaking, exfoliation, and massaging they were getting.
When it was time for the polish, I asked for blue. I had never tried it, thought it would be fun, and would elicit comments of admiration. “Wow! Blue polish. How cool!” People would say.
“Yes,” I would beam, “isn’t it outrageously fun?”
The pedicurist looked at me as though she didn’t understand my Spanish. “Que color?” she asked.
“Azul,” I replied.
She said nothing but turning away disappeared behind a curtain. She came back with a color chart which she handed to me. There wasn’t a single shade of blue. I was disappointed. “No blue?” I asked.
“Lo siento. No hay azul, señora, she said emphasizing the señora to make sure I understood that she disapproved of my request. “Hay solamente estes colores,” she continued.
“I see. What about orange?”
“I want orange toooooo,” interrupted a giggling Luciana who held onto the ‘ooooo’ to make her point.
Together, we scanned the selection. There were pinks, reds, and corals, but no real orange. In the end we chose something called watermelon, an orangey-red color. Once applied it looked bright and clean on our freshly pampered toes. We smiled and thanked the pedicurists. But inside I was thinking, if only they were blue, and Luciana was thinking, if only they were real orange.
Back in the northern hemisphere, for months I secretly longed for blue toes, but who would see them in winter boots? When spring officially arrived I was ready, but the weather wasn’t. All spring long I hid my feet in closed-toed shoes. I couldn’t believe it but even in May in California I was still wearing boots. But, finally the rain stopped, the wind died down, and the sun came out of hiding. On the first sunny day, I made a dash for the nail salon. “I’d like a mani-pedi,” I said. “What time can I do it?”
“Right now, if you like.”
“Yes, I’d like that.”
The enormous polish selection took up a large swathe of the wall beside the reception desk. To my delight there were many shades of blue. I chose one, but the girl helping me said, “That’s really a blue-tinted natural.”
“Really, it doesn’t look like it in the bottle.”
“Yeh, I know. It’s deceiving,” she said as she applied some to her thumb nail to show me. “See?”
I did and she was right. On her fingernail it looked washed-out, similar to water-color applied with too much water. No, that wasn’t the effect I was looking for.
“How about this one?”
“Wow that’s bright.”
“Yeh, it is. I would wear this one now in the summer. In the winter I’d go for this really dark blue.”
I looked at both. The girl was probably right, but the dark velvety blue looked so luscious. “Even though it’s summer, I’ll go with the wintery one,” I said.
Once in the chair, as the pedicurist trimmed and smoothed my toe nails and scrubbed and massaged my feet, instead of relaxing, I began to fret. I was having doubts about my choice. Should I really do blue toes? Polish should be neutral, pink, coral or red, right? Who says? asked the little voice in my head. Those colors are so twentieth century, so old-fashioned. Well, in Santiago they didn’t offer a single shade of blue polish. Who cares? Go ahead, try the blue. Right again, I had to agree with myself.
The pedicurist applied the polish. “I like it,” she announced. “It looks good on you.”
I looked, too. My toe nails were cut nice and short and even. The deep velvety blue blocks of color glistened. I was delighted and ready for summer.
The next morning, however, dawned dark and cloudy. As I ran the Dish it started raining. I started thinking about my feet. They were soaked through. My running shoes were acting like giant sponges sopping up the water. My blue toes were cold and wet.
The sun didn’t shine for the several more days. Finally when it poked its head out long enough for me to put on sandals, my blue toes still glistened. I loved the blue look. My friends weren’t so sure.
“Teenagers wear blue polish,” said one disapprovingly.
I didn’t respond but inside I laughed and said yes to blue toes.
All original content copyright 2010 Mary E. Slocum
“¡Otro viaje relampago!” exclaims my mother-in-law.
We smile. “Absolutely, why not another lighting fast trip. Two days and three nights. We leave Christmas morning and will be back to Santiago on Monday evening.”
“So where to this time?”
“La Laguna San Rafael.”