NEWS – Introducing Mei

 

20160523_121114Ladies and gentlemen, drum roll please. I give you Mei. Mei is a master barber. For twenty years she has trimmed my beard and shaved me every ten days or so and cut my hair every few months. I don’t shave inbetween visits. Mei is the only one who puts razor to my face.  Each meeting keeps to the formula; each meeting is a little different. Lately, she has been putting less time into the shaving portion of the ritual but has added more hot towels and more time to the facial and cranial massage. It more than compensates. Frequently, I’ll prepare myself with a little herbal stimulation before the proceedings, lay back in the chair, and let the pampering take me somewhere close to transcendence. Mei works at 40th and Lex in a not-ironically-retro beauty parlor type establishment where the predominate clientele are geriatric  ladies getting their hair done by the Russian stylists who are pretty exclusively  the staff of the shop. Mei’s clientele are overwhelmingly men.20160523_132157

When I closed my law office my intention was to work as a freelance journalist and I told Mei so. “Do you want a story to write?” she said. “I have a story. About me.” We meet the following week at Bloom’s Deli after her last of the day. Over hamburgers and french fries, she told me a tale of herTaiwanese youth, fraught with Dickensian challenges. She was the third child, the third daughter, and was not a very healthy baby which, together, earned her the contempt of her despotic father. He made it known around their village that he would give Mei away to any taker. While she was still a little girl she was given to another couple who returned her soon after, adding to her father’s anger even more. This was the story she wanted to tell, the life of a child unloved but the story I thought I was more interested was her later life, how she learned her trade and then her version of the immigrant experience in New York City, so I didn’t pursue the child’s tale. In retrospect, her’s is the better story. She lives alone in Elmhurst now, close to her mother and to five of her six siblings. Relations within the very hierarchical family are a constant source of complication in her life. She’s the kind of person who always smiles, is open and chatty but dig a little and you’ll find she always seems to have the blues. She likes her work, though, and her clients. Jolean and I have had dinner with her at her local Taiwanese in Elmhurst. I consider her a friend. If you’d like to make an appointment with her, call the shop at 212-532-0692.

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