Longform

A Run for the Border

Page 5 of 13

As the class comes to an end, relaxing piano music takes the place of the Latin rhythms, and the participants move into their cool-down stretches. Raising her arms above her head, Puccio motions to the boombox. "This music is beautiful," she says. "Rap and hip-hop will come and go, but this and Latin music will never die."

At least not at Anthem Ranch. — Joel Warner

Top Queen Nails and Dairy Queen
1515 and 1525 South Sheridan, Lakewood
12:57 p.m.

If you think getting your toenails done is an indulgence, you are sorely mistaken. Sure, the eucalyptus soak is comforting at first, but it's only there to soften your feet into vulnerable pink pillows, ready to be picked and prodded and sandpapered into smoothness by a pedicurist. She pours alcohol into the open wounds around your toenails, then coats them with stinging toxic polish. It's not exactly a treat.

That's why the combination nail salon/ice cream store at the intersection of South Sheridan and Florida Avenue is such a welcome relief. First your feet get battered into shape at Top Queen Nails, and then you hobble next door for a Dairy Queen cone. The seventeen-year-old at the register asks what you'd like with the utmost sensitivity, as if to say, "You poor baby. Come rest in our red swivel chairs. Have a caramel waffle crisp."

The two businesses, partitioned by a wall in a sagging brick building, are owned and operated separately. The use of the word "Queen" in both names is simply a royal coincidence, according to Queen Nails custodian Elvis Le. But it makes for a mishmash of a signpost out front: The Dairy Queen logo sits above the Top Queen Nails marker, which is on top of the marquee: "Birthday Cakes Are Here."

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
20 Sheridan
1 p.m.

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.

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