Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sunny's New Style

Christmas came & went, 1967 was three days away. Vidal has now given me full responsibility of the salon. He had casually mentioned wanting to open another salon in Queens, over the past few months, & now he has started to look for good property seriously.
I started to give Brad more responsibilities, since my clientele was so strong, especially for my hair coloring methods.
My relationship with my 'Mom', was still strained, but for my son, we called a truce. If we don't talk to each other, then we can't fight. I was allowed to take my son on shopping trips & outings again, thankfully. We always had such fun together, but, going home, the both of us would fall silent. I prayed that I would soon be in law school, with the promise of having my son live with me.
Josef & Agness were shivering from the cold, watching me try to open the salon doors. It was so cold this morning in the city, with the wind stinging your face, making your eyes tear. The lock was frozen, & the key was getting jammed.
"Give me that", Josef said gruffly, "I'm freezing to death, & your piddling with this!"
"Good, you do it", as I stood back from the door.
"Now, now, children, play nice. Just get us in the damn store!" Agnes' face was so red from the wind & cold.
Finally, the key turned in the lock. We rushed into the warmth of the salon, Josef went to the back to turn the lights on, the music started playing in the back ground. Agnes put a pot of coffee on, as I went to the safe to get the register cash. I was entering information into the ledger, when a burst of cold air swept across my face. I looked up, & there was Sunny, with that sideways grin on his face.
"Good Morning Sunny," I tried to sound respectful, but indifferent.
I could see Josef walking briskly towards the desk.
"Hey, how are you man?" Josef placed himself cleverly between Sunny & me.
"Good, good," replied Sunny, "I just wanted to speak with CeCe a minute."
Josef looked at me, then walked over to his station, getting it set up for the day, carefully me & Sunny though the mirror.
"Is something wrong with your hair?" It looked fine to me, but I really didn't care.
"The cuts good, He said, brushing it with his fingers. " Did you open the gift?"
"Oh, yes," I got up & walked over to my station, removed the box from my drawer quickly & walked back to where Sunny was standing, holding the box out to him.
His eyes looked at the box & back to me, with a puzzled look on his face.
"What's this?"
"Sunny, I can't accept such a expensive gift!," Please God, I thought to myself, let this go smoothly.
"Yes you can!" His tone was indigent, & demanding.
"Sunny", I lite a cigarette, & took a sip of coffee that Agnes brought over to me, "The gesture is very nice, but, I can't accept a gift of that magnitude from a client. I appreciate your generosity, but, you must take it back."
"NO!", His eyes were ablaze. I almost got frightened for a moment, & was relieved to see Vidal walk thru the doors.
"Good morning everyone" Vidal yelled out, as he hurried to remove his coat in the back.
"You can't do this to me, Cece," His tone was full of anger. "I searched high & low for this to give you. Your keeping it!"
Vidal was now sitting in my station chair holding the cup of coffee that Agnes prepared for him, just watching Sunny & me.
"No, Sunny." I placed the box on the desk in front of Sunny. "I cannot accept it & I won't."
This man raised fear in me now. I was not going to be forced to do anything, by any man, that I didn't want to do anymore. I disliked feeling fear, especially, when it concerned a man. Josef & Agnes became silent. Vidal watched closely.
"Sunny," I took a deep breath & swallowed hard, "I'm sorry to upset you, but, I think that maybe you should go somewhere else for your haircuts from now on."
I hoped that I sounded strong. I hoped that Vidal would support my decision.
"Right, yes, I will go somewhere else! See you around, CeCe!" He turned, pulled the door open & left the salon, leaving the box on the desk.
"Josef. Take this out to him, please." I motioned to the box. Josef ran out the door, stopped Sunny a few doors down, retuning with the box in hand.
"Said he never takes back anything he gives or says." With a shrug of his shoulders, Josef placed the box on my station. Our clients were starting to come thru the doors. Another day, another dollar.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sparkling Style

The snow was falling like a pure white blanket. I didn't like the snow, but I loved to watch it come down from the sky, and cover the ground & trees, as if the heavens were purifying the land. It made everything look so clean, & the air had a crisp, clean fragrance.
Christmas was two weeks away. I was busier with my life than I had ever been. Brad, I recruited as my 'personal' assistant in the salon. Vidal had left for London with his family for Thanksgiving, to be returning the end of this week. Michele was in love again. Josef & Brad had a thing going on between them. Charles was flirting with anything in a skirt, as usual.
My visits to see my son were still very strained. There was no avoiding an argument with my 'Mother', & Andrew couldn't or wouldn't support my side at all. Sal seemed to be getting more quiet & withdrawn when I was with him. It disturbed me terribly, but, I didn't know what to do about it. So, I did nothing, ignoring her remarks about how terrible I was, refusing to feed into her passion to force an argument. I wasn't going to let her ruin my sons Christmas, so allowing her to rant & rave, keep some peace.
I was active in the anti-was movement now. Parents & young men called almost daily to find out about leaving this country. Mothers & fathers begging me to save their sons was heartbreaking. I felt good trying to help them, & if everyone really prayed for me, like they said they were, well then, I was a very blessed young woman.
Sunny was sitting in my chair, not saying very much as I cut his hair. His eyes almost never left my face & this disturbed me. I didn't really like this man, & I was sure that he suspected that, but, he continued to flirt with me, & always asked me out after every haircut.
"Want to go for dinner tonight?" He had a huge smile on his face as he paid me for the haircut.
"Sunny," I let out a deep sigh, "The answer is NO!" He was irritating me, & I just didn't care if he never came back to the salon.
"Well, Okay." He chuckled, "See you next month."
He turned to leave, & then stopped.
"Oh, I almost forgot." He removed a box, gift wrapped with a bow & card on it from his coat pocket. "Just a little token for being my favorite hairdresser." Handing the box to me.
"Thank you." Taking the gift from him. He finally left the salon.
Clients often gave us presents or envelopes with money for the Christmas holiday, so I didn't think anything of it.
I walked over to my station, placed it in the drawer & lite a cigarette.
"You going to open it?" Josef had that mischievous grin on his face.
"Not right now," My next client was in my chair.
"Maybe it's diamonds, CeCe!" Michele got a kick out of Sunny's determination. She thought that it was romantic.
" I doubt it very much. Don't you guys have anything to do?"
"Oh, CeCe is getting pissy" Brad chirped in, stroking his raised eyebrow with his pinky.
We all burst into laughter, even my client. It was impossible to stay annoyed about anything in this place. The guys always had something funny to say or do, whenever a stressful situation happened. I was so glad to be working with is group of people. We always rallied around each other with support & genuine care.
At the end of the day, I was packing the gifts that I received from my clients that day, when Michele picked up the box that Sunny gave me.
"You going to open it?" Michele shook the box, holding it to her ear.
"Oh, o'kay, give me the thing!"
I ripped the ribbon & the paper off, quickly opening the box. Michele & I both gasped at the contents.
"Oh my God," she exclaimed. I held my breath.
Josef jumped out of his chair, & before I knew it, everyone was standing around me. I lifted the bracelet out of the box very gently. It was the most stunning diamond bracelet I had ever seem. I couldn't believe my eyes.
"Man, you have to go out with him now, CeCe." Agnes said.
"Yes, & I know what your going to have to do for him on that date!" chimed in Brad, with that queenie, mischievous smile on his face.
I was speechless. Michele but her arm around my shoulder. "Well kid, Your going to have to do something now about this guy!"
"I'm returning it to him. And asking him not to come to the salon anymore!"
"What? Are you crazy?" Michele was floored.
"Maybe, it's not real diamonds." added Agnes
"That's right." Joseph responded taking the bracelet from my hand, holding it up to the lights. "In that case, you just thank him for it next month, & forget about it. Take it to the jeweler up the block tomorrow & let him tell you."
"Good idea. I'll do that in the morning."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

An Angered Client

Thanksgiving was upon us again. Richard, my favorite Vietnam vet was in my chair, going on & on about how the Government was lying to us about the war. How the administration wasn't helping the vets with medical & emotional problems. I could smell the scent of pot on his clothes & hair, & it disturbed me. I really liked Richard. But he was so angry, & I really didn't understand why.
"That's why, I'm going to that rally tonight," he was saying, "We have to educate the public about the truth!"
"Do you think your group will be able to?" I asked
"Well, we're going to give it a hell of a try, CeCe. We need to get our boys out of that country. We need more people to drive the new draftees to Canada. There's a lot of people that don't want this war to continue, just not enough strength to fight the Government on it. We have to be more active, more anti-war. That is the important step to save our boys!"
"I heard that a lot of guys are going to Canada." I was blow drying his hair now. "How are they getting there? How is that being arranged?"
"We have an 'under ground' group that receives calls from these kids, or from the parents of these boys, begging us to take their sons to Canada. The 'group' makes arrangements to pick the guys up somewhere, it's a bunch of boys in a van or station wagon & we drive them to Canada. The parents or the boys donate some money to cover gas & expenses for the group. It's strictly volunteers doing the driving there & back. I do it once a week. But we need more people to help us. These guys are from all over the country, & we can't get them out of here soon enough."
"Wow," I was removing the cape from around Richard. This is such a undertaking I was thinking to myself. "Isn't that illegal, Richard?"
"Yes, but if it's done carefully, it's doable. I've been doing it for a long time now. Even got to know some of the guys at the border stop."
Richard pulled two fifty dollar bills out of his pocket & handed them to me. When I looked down, I saw that he slipped a folded piece of paper with something written on it between the money. When I looked up, he winked at me, saluted & left the salon. I slipped the paper into my jean pocket with my tip, & went to my next client.
It wasn't until the end of the day, when I was counting my tips, that I read the piece of paper.
"CeCe," it was in Richards hand writing, " Here is the address of our meeting place tonight. I'd love for you to come & listen to what is really going on in our country.. Meeting starts at 7PM, we serve coffee & dough nuts. I'll look for you there. Bring a friend if you want. The more people the better. If you can't make it, I'll see you next month for my haircut. Your devoted client, Richard.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Short Clips Of A Year Ending

The year of 1965 was nearly to a close. It had been a year of political unrest & frustrations. North Vietnam was trying to overtake South Vietnam. The U.S. sent Military advisers & then more soldiers. Over 200,000 American troops were in South Vietnam. The war that 'wasn't going on', was now admitted to be real by the government. Anti-war protests were starting up in masses in practically all of the colleges, draft dodgers were fleeing to Canada, & the racial unrest in the country was at an all time peek. Malcolm X, was assassinated, which caused more racial conflict.
We were cleaning up after a very long, busy day at the salon. The doors were locked & Josef was telling Charles, how he could 'change his life' for the better, jokingly, if Charles would 'experiment a new lifestyle' with him. This was an ongoing joke between those two, & I personally loved the batter between them. Josef, with his, lash batting, wrist flipping, hand on the hip pose, & Charles with his 'macho', womanizing attitude, caused the most hilarious scenario, all of us enjoyed.
"Gentleman!", Vidal held up his hand to Josef & Charles, "May I interrupt this flirtatious moment, please?"
All of us turned to Vidal.
"I'm sorry to interrupt you 'love birds', but I need to speak with all of you for a minute."
The shop was suddenly still.
"Ladies back there," Vidal motioned to Agnes, Judy, Maria & Lisa, our two manicurists, "I want ALL of you to hear this!"
We all gathered around Vidal.
"Due to this war, & the racial conflict going on in this country right now, I'm asking all of you to please, do NOT, give your personal feeling and/or beliefs to your clients, should you be engaged in a conversation about these subjects. Politics & religion is off limits."
"Vidal", Michele spoke up, "Everyone is talking about that stuff!"
"Yes, I know. Listen to them, nod your head in understanding, BUT, do not express your beliefs or feeling on these topics. At best, it might cause a friendly argument, at worst it WILL cost you a customer, may cost ALL of us customers, since we can hear the different discussions going on at other stations. But, for yourselves & each other, keep the conversation neutral."
"But, Vidal," I spoke up, "I'm against this war & so are all of us. I think that the Blacks have a right to equality in this country."
"Good, CeCe, but don't express your beliefs to the clients. We have some very powerful, & rich clients that come to us. Their beliefs & power is much stronger at the moment than what we have. I'm not saying not to talk about these subjects with them, everyone is talking about it. I'm just asking all of you, not to express to the client your personal beliefs & feelings. Some of these people feel President Johnson is right for keeping the war going, some don't. Some feel that the Blacks in this country should still be slaves & some don't. These are very powerful issues. Don't allow your feeling about them ruin your career, & that is what I fear could happen to some or all of you. Being 'Black Balled' right now is not the wisest thing to do. So, guys & gals, protect yourselves & each other. With that said, Beverly is across the street, who ever wants to join us, I'm buying drinks & dinner."

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Hairsylist's Nightmare

Halloween was almost upon us. I was on my way to my moms apartment to pick up Sal & take him to buy a costume. This is his first Trick or Treating & I was excited about taking him. I still had the key to her apartment, so I just let myself in. As I opened the door, I watched as my mom kicked Sal in his back. The poor boy was curled up on the floor, crying out, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry mommy."
"What the hell?" I screamed, pushing her away from him & picking him up into my arms. "What are you doing to him?"
"He disobeyed me!" her face was blood red, & spit shot from her mouth as she spoke. "He's a damn brat. He has to learn that when I say something, he MUST do it!"
My son was holding onto my neck, trembling, while his tears were dripping down my neck. I thought that I was going to be nauseous. I tightened my hold on Sal, & rocked him in my arms.
"Let me tell you something," I wanted to smack that look on her face right off. "You don't kick him. you don't hit him. You don't ever do anything to Sal like that again!"
"Who do you think your talking to?" Her voice was defiant & loud. Sal hugged my neck tighter. "That's my son. As far as everyone knows around here, he's my kid. I take care of him. I stood up nights when he was a baby, walking him, washing diapers, taking care of him."
"Mom, that has nothing to do with it. I couldn't live here anymore with you & daddy. You know why. If I would have stayed here, something awful would have happened."
"Aach," she waved her hand in the air to brush off what I just said, "That's all a lie. I don't believe anything that you said. I know none of that stuff is true. Andrew loves me. Besides, your the one that left the baby with me. That proves to everyone that you don't want him. You live in the kitchen of hell, hanging out with those people, doing God knows what everyday. Your not a mother. You don't know what sacrifice is! You've never wanted that boy. I need him! Now, put 'My' son down & leave this house."
" You know, your a bitter old woman, full of meanness & hatred. I'm taking Sal shopping for his Halloween costume." I was putting Sal down from my arms. He had stopped crying, & I was brushing his hair back from his face.
"You will do no such thing!", she pulled Sal by the arm over to her side. My son started to cry again, & I could see the fear in my little boys eyes.
"What are you doing mom?" The swiftness of her action took me by surprise. "I told you yesterday that I was taking him shopping today."
"I don't want you with him. You won't take him out or shopping any more unless I'm with you, understood?" Her face was alarming. Her eyes showed a hatred that I hadn't seen in many years, but was all too familiar with.
"Mom, I'm taking my son out today." my voice was calm, but my nerves were screaming.
"No!" she held her body straight up, shoulders back, in full defiance. "Now, get out of my home. Get out & don't degrade my home again."
I walked toward Sal & she pulled him behind her body. Her eyes were cold.
"Let me say good bye."
"You can say it from there!"
"I want to kiss him good bye mom? Let me kiss my son, please" Now I started to cry.
"I told you, he is My son. you abandoned him & that's what I'm telling the whole family. No! You cannot kiss him or anything anymore. Out, get out!
Sal was crying again, watching me cry. I wanted to strike out. I wanted to grab my baby. I wanted to scream. I turned around to the door, turned back to my son, threw him a kiss as he quietly whimpered & made a little kiss face, & pulled the door closed, knowing that I had to leave today. I had to go now! My heart was beating so fast in my chest. I was clutching my fists. I have to get back home quickly. If I stayed another minute, I'll be sorry for the rest of my life. I waved down a taxi, sat back in the seat, & let the tears come.