Most folks were trying to get by in their light spring jackets and hoodies, but they looked fairly miserable as they braced themselves against the stiff wind and 44-degree temperatures.
I wore my winter parka, which I was certain I’d hung up for the last time this year. I watched others attentively to see if I was the only one. Not even close: my parka count was at 21 when I finally lost interest and stopped paying attention.
I did see three guys wearing shorts, for reasons not well understood. And since it’s Marathon Weekend in Boston, I also counted people with 0-percent body fat in badass workout gear — stopping when I reached an even dozen.
My toenails were painted a lovely shade of pink, but nobody saw them — it was a day for boots. I did see one woman in open-toed shoes on the subway, though. I’m quite sure she was a tourist, judging from her broad Midwestern inflections, the content of her (much too loud) cell phone conversation (“WE’RE TRYING TO MAKE OUR WAY TO THE CONVENTION CENTER”), and her suspiciously cheerful tone. (“You’re not from around here, are you?” Mr. Frump whispered to me, causing me to giggle uncontrollably).
Meanwhile, a few blocks away, the beleaguered Red Sox were trying to avoid bringing their young season to 2-11 (they succeeded). Across town, though, the Bruins would later fall to 0-2 to the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I observed this from the comfort of a bar stool, via large screen TV, after the darkness and rain that had threatened all day finally took over.
All of these vignettes are possible because I was in town yesterday for my every-eight-weeks-like-clockwork haircut. My salon is located in The South End, one of Boston’s more newly gentrified neighborhoods — sometimes known as “The Brooklyn of Boston.” On the one hand, this means that there are lots of expensive restaurants where you can sit outside, with your dogs, while nibbling tapas. On the other hand, all of the lower-income residents haven’t been displaced yet (one wonders if that’s still to come, though). And unlike Boston’s trendier salon district on Newbury Street, you can still get a $40 haircut.
I love my salon for any number of reasons. The young stylists are virtually all tattooed and pierced, with hairstyles and colors that don’t occur naturally in nature. They might look tough from a distance, but when you talk to them, they are touchingly sweet, genuine, young and naive.
It’s the friendliest salon I’ve ever attended. They serve wine and snacks on Friday nights, lemonade at all other times. They let customers’ little dogs come inside, and everybody pets them. The shampooers massage your head and chat with you, soothingly. (And if they’re not available, your stylist does this himself).
My stylist is the Zen Master of wavy/curly hair. He has a full head of natural curls himself, so he knows how they behave. He’s one of the senior members of the salon, so his curls are now tinged with grey. Dressed all in black, he looks like a heavy metal guitarist from a distance. Once you talk with him, though, his calm, centered demeanor is more like that of a yoga teacher.
We usually chat about movies and his latest trip to Iceland, a place whose unique sights and culture he adores. On this day, we chat about the Marathon.
“It’s such a strange thing to do,” he muses. “The first guy who did it died.”
“I’ve heard that it really isn’t very good for your health,” I reply. “Though I wouldn’t say that too loudly in town this weekend.”
“I think you’re safe in here,” he counters, glancing around at the leather-and-chains-wearing staff.
Once my “wurls” are cut back, gelled, and shaped into submission, I am off. Mr. Frump and I meet for wine and tapas. When in Rome….. As we fight the cold wind that whips around corners of buildings, creating profoundly uncomfortable mini-wind tunnels, I’m grateful for my parka. I presume that all the little dogs are equally grateful for their sweaters.
I remember that, other years, we’ve come into town to watch the Marathon. It’s often been a warm, sunny day. The Marathon has become, for me, a harbinger of better days to come. I wonder if it will actually warm up for the race, or if we are going to have 2 more days of windy cold.
I also remember the 2-year period when I attended grad school in Boston. One of the winters was a brutal one, not unlike this one, in which snowstorm after snowstorm created a permanent layer of frozen crust underfoot that persisted for weeks and weeks. By the first week of April, though, all the beautiful pink dogwood trees on campus were in full glorious bloom. I still remember their color against the dignified old brownstones, and how my heart sang when I saw them.
Yesterday was April 16, and the trees were not in bloom. Finally, though, I saw one in half-bloom, and then another. Even in the cold, the blossoms were boldly peeking their heads out. (I imagine that they were also swearing, inwardly. I have started hearing the robins’ chatter as “wtf? WTF???”)
But seeing the blossoms gave me hope. Plus, I have a new haircut.
So when the rain that had threatened all day finally came, I was able to take it in stride. Spring is coming. Many more baseball games will be played. The dogs in the South End will soon cast off their sweaters.
And my next haircut will be in June.