Coochies, Nails, and Tacos

You can be cheap and beautiful on the upper reaches of Aurora Avenue.

When I lived on the Eastside, the proximity to Lake Washington made it impossible for me to go a day without encountering yuppies playing beach volleyball or blasting Jack Johnson from the portable stereos on their boats. May skin cancer befall you all! I thought as I self-righteously drove by in my air-conditioning-free Ford Escort. What set me apart was that I was/am (a) poor and (b) have an aversion to outdoor recreation/skin damage. Hiking? Unless there's a fucking beer garden at the top of the mountain, I'm not interested. My idea of summer recreation is lounging in Margaritaville. More important, I want to look damn good doing it. Problem is, a summer beauty regime (hair removal) can really cut into one's allocated rent fund. And simply put, a hair-free bikini area is not worth getting evicted from my apartment. Most Kirkland salons charge $90-plus for a Brazilian wax. I thought once I moved to Seattle, the city of street rats, errr...hipsters, surely more reasonable prices would be available. I was wrong. Pampering yourself in Seattle can be just as ridiculous as it is on the Eastside. Lesson learned: When in doubt, always look to see what the salon you're visiting is standing next to. If it's located near a clothing boutique or a Starbucks, beware! If it's next to a taco truck or a motel with the "m" missing from the sign, proceed! Outside of the real-estate market, location is hype. The small mixed-use buildings along either side of Aurora Avenue North don't come off as particularly glamorous, but they have some of the most professional staff and sensible prices out there. Saely Beauty Salon sits next to a Mexican grocery store in a strip mall adjacent to a McDonald's—a good sign. A majority of the clientele are Korean immigrants, but the atmosphere is friendly even to non-natives. A designer haircut—face-framing layers, razor-sharp edges, etc.—is $20, a far cry from the $45–$100 you'll pay elsewhere. Although the hairdressers don't speak much English, they know enough to flatter the hell out of you. "You are beautiful," one announced on a Sunday afternoon when I dragged my hungover and shellshocked body through the door. Surely a lie, but it's hard not to appreciate good customer service. Jane Chang, the resident waxer, operates on a no-nonsense principle that evades most salons. Getting your coochie waxed simply isn't worth $90, she says. Chang charges $55 for a woman's first Brazilian and $45 for maintenance thereafter—usually required once a month. You can get your legs waxed for $25 and your armpits for $15. The amount of time you'll save during morning showers, and the awkward positions you'll save yourself from, are well worth it. And Chang is so affable, you won't feel awkward about exposing your nether regions to her. She's so damn easy to talk to that I've gotten to the point where I'm more honest with her about my sex life than I am with my gynecologist. Head further south on 99 and you'll happen upon the modest Dang Hair Design. I arrived without an appointment, asking if they had any openings during the afternoon to do a manicure. A woman dressed in a sari nodded slowly and reached for my hand. "You no work hard," she said with a sniff. Despite my insistence that yes, I did in fact have a job, she laughed. "I see many, many hand—I don't believe you work." Here, a haircut costs $10 and a manicure $16—so cheap it wouldn't be much of an issue even if I didn't work. It's best to make an appointment before visiting Dang, Saely, or any of the number of places on the strip. Oh, and don't forget to stop by Taqueria El Carreton when you're done getting the hair ripped out of your crotch. The yellow school bus, converted into a taco truck, sits outside Saely and boasts carnitas tacos to die for. Saunter over with those manicured nails and hairless legs. You might just get a free pop. (An additional 50 cents saved during this summer of recession.)

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