It’s a shame husband wants to move back to Los Angeles because I’ve just located one of the key missing features of life there, at least for me. The Vietnamese have arrived in Cirencester, our nearby market town, and they bring with them not bánh mì or pho but reasonably priced pedicures in the aptly named Hollywood Nail. Even the salon is reminiscent of the Santa Monica Fifth Street venue I was addicted to for the five years before we moved to England. It has pale pink textured wallpaper, chairs that look like they were purchased at Office Depot, speakers the size of a ghetto blaster spewing out easy listening pop, well thumbed trashy magazines, and the noxious scent of nail polish remover.
Back in the nineties when I got my first raise at my first grown up job, my first splurge was a regular pedicure. The nail salon was on the corner of my street, right across from the laundromat I still had to use because I didn’t yet own a washing machine (confused priorities?). In my defense, flip flops are a plausible year-round shoe choice in Los Angeles so a pedicure had some practical relevance. With each move around SoCal, I always located my local nail salon with the same urgency that I identified the local grocery store and dry cleaner. They were always Vietnamese run, the Vietnamese having cornered the L.A. mani/pedi market like the Cambodians had with the donut market.
When I moved to England the weather negated the strict requirement for having year-round presentable feet, but the habit was formed and for the past five years I have been on a quest for the reasonably priced, utilitarian, yet thoroughly enjoyable pedicure of my Los Angeles years. Unfortunately a pedicure in the UK remains largely a splurge in which ladies indulge before a holiday to Dubai, and it comes at holiday prices. Lately I had taken to being shunted into a stuffy back room — purportedly a beauty room — in the Bristol Harvey Nicks because at least they give you a glass of pink champagne to accompany your £45 pedicure. Still I longed for the no-frills pleasure of the SoCal version.
Imagine then my delight at finding Hollywood Nail where the vaguely art deco looking desk consoles are manned by a task force of Vietnamese women and men, one who wears a Michael Jackson style surgical face mask and a giant diamond stud in his ear. This turned to disappointment as I was greeted in my undulating faux-leather massage chair by a young Welsh woman, the only British employee in the place, who took an extraordinary amount of time filing my toenails. Mid-way through she was dispatched to manicure a man and replaced by a young Vietnamese woman who loofah-ed my feet and painted my toenails with alarming and thrilling speed and accuracy. To celebrate I chose a color reminiscent of Chanel’s Vamp, the it color of the era when I first started getting regular pedicures.