Using the characteristically long, lean, and precise fingers gifted especially to the Japanese (think sushi chefs, surgeons, software engineers, ninjas, etc.), I am being coaxed into committing to this moment.
Naomi massages through my unruly and unreasonably long hair with all ten digits “come hither-ingly” caressing every strand. Like a washing machine, she churns through each inch of my desperate ‘do, effortlessly romancing me with every swish. Naomi gives great head (massages).
Never have I ever had a better shampoo – nor have I ever given that part of the obligatory coupé experience so much thought. The minty Malin+Goetz products leave my scalp with that Orbitz clean kind of feeling and the sensation that Naomi is rinsing all my follicular sins away. In this stark white room, I am hypnotized by the scents and sounds. I. Have. Stopped. And it is stunning.
The white aesthetic of the small salon is some what reminiscent of the Musée de l’Orangerie – where in many ways, I learned to be an artist and writer. In school, as essayists of the arts, we were taught to observe our environment. What is the energy and emotion of the space itself? What is your immediate sensory experience? And how does that affect the ultimate experience?
Ever since then, I’ve thought that the world really isn’t as much of a stage as it is a theatre. It is a gallery of sensual stimuli, available to all those who allow themselves to be affected. Ueno Salon in the East Village somehow transported me in a way that Monet did in Paris. Although thankfully, Naomi’s aesthetic is more precisely L’art-Pompier than imprecisely Impressionist.
The sparse furniture, 1950s fridge, stacked Chanel photobooks, and original architectural elements are not altogether un-cliché in small chic salons in NYC, but they still make Ueno special. Perhaps it’s the bubbly Japanese banter or the soothing hum of an air conditioner accompanying Ella on the radio, but the atmosphere is at once both strikingly alien and charmingly familiar. The experience is so sense-ational, it’s almost emotional.
The moment brought me right back to the middle of the museum – alone with the indiscernible dialogue of passing patrons, the unmistakable taste of un café Français lingering between my cheeks – as I carefully critiqued the colors and crevices of Monet’s hauntingly beautiful water lilies. I was enveloped by the sterile and strikingly white gallery, just as I am in this instant. A lonely, but life changing memory. A revelation of time passing and trying to capture it before it does. (For Dada’s formal essay on the topic, go here)
After a restless stretch of weeks with a relentless workload, I finally find myself pausing to appreciate every sensory detail – and enjoying it. The earthy taste of the cool tea, the snappy snip of the scissors, the calming interiors and luscious fragrance, the gentle touch of Naomi’s hands in my hair…
I leave the salon feeling lifted and revitalized, the dead weight of hair so badly in need of a trimming feathered down to soft layers flitting about in the summer breeze. C’est MA vie.