It was inevitable, we presume. We were in Hollywood, performing on the weekends in the amateur rooms at The Magic Castle and all the other guys had manicures and, well, we just gave into it.
We have been performing magic since we were seven and have tried to take good care of our hands and fingernails ever since we started working as a demonstrator at Paul Diamonds Magic and Fun Wagon at the Palm Beach Mall. Barry Gibbs – our mentor and boss – explained the need to have clean hands and neat fingernails. He never mentioned getting a manicure.
When big-time magicians would tour through our local clubs, we noticed that some of them would have shiny fingernails but assumed it was a Hollywood or New York City thing. We did not recall seeing any of the Chicago pros with shiny, smooth fingernails. Maybe they had them and we just did not notice.
But then we hit Hollywood. Everyone had manicures.
In fact, even our taxi driver from the airport to our beautiful studio apartment next to the store that bakes dog food on Santa Monica Boulevard had shiny nails.
He was otherwise a gruff looking man with a very short fuse when it came to people driving slower, faster or different than he would like. Nevertheless, if you were to examine only his nails, you would assume he was a member of a royal family. We were going to ask him about his decision to get a manicure but he was very focused on driving very quickly and using his well-maintained middle finger to express his constant displeasure with our fellow travelers.
We debated taking the plunge. What if someone saw us going into one of the hundreds of “manicure parlors” that line the boulevards crisscrossing Hollywood? Fortunately, we don’t know many people out here yet and so the chances were low that we would be spotted. Perhaps, even if we were spotted, the spotter would not care. Maybe manicures are okay in this realm.
We tried a couple of sample runs; walking in to parlors with their specialized chairs and tables and tools with what must have appeared to be an awkward sense of nonchalance. On the other hand, maybe we just looked addled, confused or weird.
Several times the kind Asian women attempted to get us seated to begin the process right away. Several times we pulled away like a weirdo possessed by an infantile fear of having his nails cut.
We wanted to discuss the topic with friends in a safe environment. One night, after performing a couple of sets in Hat & Hare room at The Magic Castle, we asked some of the other performers if they got manicures. It took us a while to get to the point and we may have actually stammered.
We must have sounded self-conscious and/or creepy because we received no response. The conversation broke shortly after we asked the question. It was likely our paranoia but it seemed like they were avoiding having eye-contact with us for the rest of the night.
We read up on how to give oneself a manicure and immediately deleted our search history after determining that it was a specialty we did not possess. We needed a pro. We needed a non-judgmental pro who could keep secrets.
We found just such a pro just a few blocks from our apartment. Hong Kong Nails and Spa was open until 11:00 pm and staffed with very friendly, caring people who did not view us as abnormal or deviant. Or maybe they did but they did not let on.
Lisa – not her real name – was the manager on duty and ushered us into the big, elevated and comfortable chair. She did not even ask why we were there. It was as if she just knew. Of course, there are probably few non-manicure related reasons a person walks into a nail parlor at 9:00 pm so maybe she did not need to have the deductive reasoning skills of Sherlock Holmes.
We say that “Lisa” was not her real name because it was not. It was the name she gave us but said it was her “American” name. Her real name was too difficult for most customers and so she adopted “Lisa” after seeing the Simpson’s cartoon show. We told her our real name. We were coming to terms with our trust issues in her caring hands and warm, soapy water.
Apparently, we have been blithely ignorant of just how repulsive cuticles can be. We had no idea. Lisa explained that part of the reason people come for manicures is to have their cuticles removed or pushed back. The cuticles keep growing back and trained professionals like Lisa are on the front lines, cutting and pushing against their incessant creeping.
Even now that we know about cuticles, we still have a hard time seeing cuticles on others. One’s observation skills must develop in this area. Lisa could spot our cuticles from the moment we walked into the parlor. Hers must be a tortured life: seeing so many cuticles every day. If they are truly as disgusting as she described, we have no idea how she could ever eat from a fast-food counter.
We watched as she applied a special gel to the base of our fingernails and then used a cutting implement from the late 14th Century to carve away more than 50 years of cuticle growth. We expected to feel lighter and more mobile after the process but the difference was not immediately evident.
The good news was there very little in the way of blood. We bleed easily and once we start, we do not stop for hours. It is not an attractive trait and seems to have very little benefit to us or our progeny in an evolutionary sense.
Lisa asked if we wanted to have clear polish put on our fingernails now that they were free of the unsightly (but to us, practically invisible) cuticles and all ridges were buffed away.
We thought about it but because we are so insecure in our masculinity and have a lot issues, we demurred. We immediately regretted declining the offer and tried to explain our “issues” to Lisa but surprisingly, it was not that big a deal to her. She was a total pro or she didn’t care.
We tried out our new fingers at the Castle last weekend. We discerned no improvement in our audiences’ enjoyment or appreciation for our practiced efforts. None. We thought about drawing attention to the manicure by saying things about cuticles and ridges but could not work those words into our multi-reveal card routine. We even intentionally rocked our hands in the spotlight to pick up the maximum glint and sparkle but to no avail.
Perhaps having a manicure is unnecessary to succeed at performing magic. Perhaps it is not the lack of ridges or unsightly cuticles that brings audiences to their feet, wild with enthusiastic applause and demands for an encore. Maybe we wasted $20.00.
Maybe we should look into getting our nose hair trimmed.