By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Le asks for more clarification from his boss, but he's unsuccessful. No, she says, hollering through a dust mask as she buffs a customer's nails. She doesn't speak English, and neither do the other two Vietnamese manicurists on site. Here, the language of mani and pedi reigns. Two words and 22 bucks get you in and out the door with exactly what you need in whatever color you want. So Le, also from Vietnam, is charged with giving answers. Though he's only been at Top Queen for two months, he's seen plenty of customers volley between the two businesses. "Sometimes they eat ice cream when their nails are drying or the time they are waiting or anything," he says.
Today is unusually busy. At the tail end of the lunch hour, a pregnant woman with pink hair reads a magazine while manicurists tend to other clients. The shop's decor, which is a little atypical, includes a poster of the Twin Towers with Spanish wording, gold tinsel draped around the windows, and a small glass bottle with incense sticks next to the register. A poster above the mirror shows a woman's painted fingertips clutching a nest of dollar bills. The words "No! Yes..." appear above her hands. When the lunch rush finally ends, two of the manicurists leave to pick up their kids from school. Next door, at the empty Dairy Queen, a shift manager prepares ice cream cakes, filling a small silver trough with chocolate soft-serve.
When Le finishes beauty school, after 300 hours of coursework, he'll join the staff at Queen Nails. "The hand and the face are the same," he says. "You meet someone, they look at your face and shake your hand." Surprisingly, there are mostly men in his classes. But Le knows why: "Every man likes to hold a woman's hand." — Naomi Zeveloff
Home Sweet Home
Head shops all smell the same, and in this regard, Home Sweet Home is no exception: patchouli and incense, the plastic odor of screen-printed T-shirts, mildewed carpet, faint hints of weed. This shop smells the same as the shop you used to hit up in high school, when somebody had enough money lying around for a new chillum and somebody else was eighteen. The front room is full of poster racks, so I make my way over to them and begin flipping through. These things never change, either. They're all the same posters as when you used to do this with your friends at the music store in the mall: drugs, booze, shitty bands, semi-naked hot chicks. And just as the posters stay the same, so, too, are you incapable of not ogling the ones with the hot chicks, maturity be damned.
"Can I help you with something?" the clerk asks, making me feel pervy for staring at a picture of two supermodels crushing their giant breasts together in an erotic embrace. She is young — late teens, early twenties — and has a pierced nose and tongue.
"I heard you guys sell a lot of, like, Insane Clown Posse stuff here," I say.
"We do," Pierced Tongue responds, raising an eyebrow. Guys like me don't inquire about items like these in stores like this very often.
"Because my cousin is into that band, and I was thinking of getting him something for his birthday." And like that, I sacrifice my cool cousin with his indie-art-rock-punk sensibilities to the gods of douchebaggery, all because I'm curious to see where the legions of Denver's Insane Clown Posse (ICP) fans — Juggalos and Juggalettes, they call themselves — purchase the accoutrements necessary for their impossibly trashy lifestyle, an ethos driven by grown men in clown makeup who refer to the music they make as "horror-core." Openly.
Pierced Tongue goes behind the counter and removes a pipe with a small bubble on the side of it. Inside the bubble floats the tiny silhouette of a man running with a blade: the ICP Hatchetman, she tells me.
"Do you sell a lot of this ICP stuff to people?" I ask.
"Oh, yeah, at least two or three items a day," she responds. "For some reason, this part of Denver has a lot of Insane Clown Posse fans. This is kind of like a headquarters around here, I guess."
I decide not to fake-buy my cousin any such garbage. Instead, I pump Pierced Tongue for more details about the ICP fans that parade daily through the store.
Some are perfectly respectful, perfectly cool, she says, but some are little bastards, rude and aggressive. She tells me about one kid recently who stuffed a bunch of merchandise in his pockets and sprinted from the store, out on to Sheridan heading south. Pierced Tongue's co-worker chased after the kid and brought him back, where they very coolly informed him that if he gave back what he stole, there wouldn't be a problem. Juggalo ran again. And again he was apprehended. This time they had him handcuffed to the wall when all of a sudden his little Juggalo brother and Juggalette sister showed up.
"This girl couldn't have been more than twelve. Thirteen, tops. And I could not believe the filth that was coming out of her mouth. I mean, I've heard it all, but that little girl just had the most foul mouth. And she was screaming so loud."