I took Thursday off work because Ken was getting a special award from his professional organization, mostly for helping people who needed help doing their jobs. He would be called in as a coach/mentor and support them in getting better, and he did HIS job so well that he was getting a plaque. It was going to be a fancy banquet, so to treat myself, I decided to get a pedicure. Ever since I moved back home from Toronto, the one thing I really miss is a place called Pinky Nails, this little nail shop on Yonge Street where, for $30, you could not only get a pedicure but an excellent leg massage, and then while your toes were drying, someone would drape a towel around your shoulders and also give you a shoulder massage. It was heavenly, if you didn’t pay attention to the drug deals going on outside the McDonald’s next door.
I hadn’t found a new place locally yet, but I had to go into Woodstock for some errands and there was a place in one of the big box malls called Mai Nails. It looked promising. I went in and despite it being busy, the man at the first nail table assured me that they could take me right away. There was another woman waiting, and I was kind of freaked out because it wasn’t that warm in the salon but she was fanning herself frantically with a folded up newspaper and staring at me quite openly. So I stared right back at her—the whole time I was picking out a nail polish colour from the rack on the wall. I wished in that moment that I was a cat, and I could do that cat thing where they stare straight into your eyes while they flip something off a shelf right at you. But then she got called to a chair and the moment passed. After a few more minutes, the guy who seemed to be in charge, whose name was Liam, yelled something in Vietnamese, and another younger guy named Danh came over and motioned for me to follow him. Now, the whole time I was waiting, I could hear a TV but couldn’t see what was on, but I got seated in a pedi chair right across from the screen. I wasn’t paying attention at first—I was more distracted by the way that Danh was doing what seemed to be a running commentary under his breath in Vietnamese. He didn’t sound angry or anything, and every once in while, the pedicurist next to us, Nan (they were all wearing name badges), would kind of answer him, or maybe she was talking into the air too because she never actually looked at him. But it was pleasant enough to have someone taking care of my feet. The show on the TV seemed to be some sort of historical drama, maybe biblical, and I was kind of following along. The scenario, as far as I could ascertain, was that two groups of people had finally come together, and the daughter of one group was marrying the son of another. One of the guys looked a little like Jason Momoa playing Khal Drogo, and the actress from Deadpool also made an appearance during a scene where there was discussion about a wedding feast. I had just turned off the insanely robust massage function on the chair I was sitting in when the screaming started. No, it wasn’t me, although the body scrub Danh was using on my legs felt like a belt sander—it was the TV.
What had begun as some kind of pastoral drama about peace and reconciliation had suddenly become a gorefest. People were being slaughtered, there were bodies on the floor of the castle/temple, Jason Momoa had his throat cut while he was sleeping and his bride-to-be woke up covered in his blood. As I called out “Hey! Can someone change the channel?!”, three masked figures descended upon a woman and began to—well, it was extremely unpleasant. Liam looked up casually:
Liam: You no like movie?
Me: Technically, according to the TV, it’s an episode of a series called The Red Tent, but no, I don’t! It’s very gory.
Liam: Ah, you scared?
Me: What? No! It’s just not very relaxing to watch people being killed, and I’m directly in front of the screen. Can someone please turn it off?
Liam” (*yells something in Vietnamese*)
Danh: Sarah! You got remote?
Voice from the back: No!
Danh: Who has remote?
No one answered, so he kind of sighed and got up. He went out back and returned with a remote control and started playing with it while more people screamed and there was blood everywhere, like literally dripping down from the ceiling onto a woman’s face. Finally he switched the channel. “There,” he said. “You watch game show.” And while that sounded not much better, the “game show’ in question was something called “Awake” which is the most random thing I’ve ever seen. The contestants had to stay awake for 24 hours straight, counting quarters. Then they had to participate in challenges like drinking slushies, threading needles, and catching dollar bills that fell from the ceiling, all while being incredibly sleep deprived. But I was getting really into it, and a bunch of us clients were cheering for this one particular guy. When he made it through the finals, we were all so happy:
Me: JC won!
Nan: Yeah, he win one million dollars, then he lose everything.
Me: No, he just won.
Nan: Yeah, then he lose it all.
Liam: He lose it ALL.
Me: Have you guys seen this before?
Nan: We watch it yesterday. He lose all the money. He bet too high and get nothing.
Liam: Oh, sorry!
And I can forgive the blood, gore, and screaming, but I can’t forgive someone giving away the ending of a show that I was so heavily invested in. No, I’m kidding. I’ll totally go back there because, despite all the weirdness, Danh gives a great leg massage. And as a side note, I googled The Red Tent and discovered that the episode I was watching centered around the one set of guys being super-pissed about the wedding and demanding the foreskins of all the other guys as a sacrifice. So the other guys all got mass circumcised and then the first set of guys murdered them when they were still weak and in pain from losing their foreskins. And that is WAY more random than any game show. And it is also an excellent segue into this:
The best part of the night, aside from Ken getting his award, happened on the way over:
Me: Why are you going this stupid back way? We’re going to be late.
Ken: The banquet doesn’t start until 6:30. We’ll still make cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.
Me: Cocktails. Cocktails. Cock-tails…
Ken: That would be a great name for a porn company only it would be tales, like a story. Cocktales.
Me: Cocktales and…Whore D’Oeuvres—oh my god, where were you last week when I was making up porn studio names! Cocktales and Whore D’Oeuvres–that’s the best one yet! No wonder you’re getting an award!
Ken: That’s not what the award is for, you know that, right?
Me: It should be. Congratulations. I’m proud of you.