2013 Château Musar Jeune, Château Musar “Hochar Père et Fils” Red Blend Bekaa Valley, 2011 Donna Olimpia ‘Millepassi’, 2015 Cusemano Merlot
I was very busy last week having my hair repeatedly ruined and I managed to drink some wine but it was all through the lens of ruined hair. So if you don’t want to read about my hair, I’m sorry — go read Wine Enthusiast.
The problem started here: there is only one person who is good at cutting my hair. Now, I see other people with fine haircuts all the time, but mine is difficult, though not impossible, to cut. Many people can still look presentable with an average haircut. My hair is dark brown and very thick. When my hair is cut well, I am more or less pleased with my reflection. When it is cut badly, I look not only like an ugly man, but an ugly man who has had a large pan of brownies dumped on top of his head.
Now you’d think I’d just keep going back to this one person who cuts it right, would you not? Well, sure, except they’ve gotten really really expensive. I’d give this person almost any amount of money to cut my hair. But sometimes I just don’t have it. Actually, I never really have it, but usually I pay it anyway. But I thought maybe I had found someone good, for about half the price. Still an expensive haircut but not ruinously so.
This new candidate about whom I was so hopeful was in San Francisco. Right away I got really bad vibes. She was defensive. “I’ve been cutting hair for fifteen years,” she said when I tried to explain that my hair is a little weird. I so badly wanted to tell her that every single hairdresser says this as some sort of proof of their skill. “Well, I’ve been doing this for eight years, nine years, fifteen years, twenty two years” they say, as if I don’t see people walking around all day with visible layers in their hair, so the hair looks more like roof shingles than hair, or mullets that aren’t supposed to be mullets, or bangs that look like they are in a totally different country from the rest of the hair. All around us is bad hair cut by people whose job it has been to cut hair for years. I’m not even going to talk about hair color except to say your average Scotsman has seen Nessie more times than I’ve seen a woman with good color. (I don’t mention men because no man who is not an extremely successful musician should ever color his hair.)
So Ms. I’ve Been Doing This For Sixteen Years also asks me if I have a picture. I’m sorry, am I fourteen? “Can you make me look like Gwyneth Paltrow in the alternate story of Sliding Doors, the one where she hooks up with the annoying rower who quotes Monty Python?” NO I DON’T HAVE A PICTURE. Look at MY HAIR. Look at MY FACE. CUT MY HAIR ACCORDINGLY. Also, the haircut I have described is the haircut I already have, even though it’s grown out, and it is also, weirdly enough, THE HAIRCUT EVERYONE FROM JENNIFER LAWRENCE TO JENNIFER ANISTON TO 2015 AMANDA KNOX ALREADY HAS.
When she asked me for a picture, I should have left. But instead I talked some more, and she kept saying “I’m listening” with this sort of mock-patient smile employed by someone who hopes no one will notice that she’s really bad at her job. The Brownie Effect was much worse on the right side rather than the left. Then there was this weird choppy thinness around the bottom which I think she thought would create “texture?” I don’t know. But what was chiefly wrong was elemental: I had one haircut on the top of my head and quite another one on the bottom and then also different haircuts on each side.
I went to The Barrel Room on Sansome Street, where a lit-up glassed-in “cellar” takes up the entire back wall. The leather bound menu was so heavy you could probably kill a shark with it, and the font (Rockwell? Fruitiger’s Geometric Slabserif 712?) gave off a sad whiff of some poor sap crying over a creative brief. Their “Current Focus” was wines from the Coastal Mediterranean. I ordered a flight of Lebanese reds. A flight is a small amount (2 ounces) of generally three wines that have some relationship to each other. Don’t order a flight and try to make substitutions.
Waiting for my wine, I tried not to think about my hair. The thing to do was just go see my person. I could see them in two weeks. I’d have to come back here. It was more money. But my hair could be fixed. I couldn’t very well spend the next three months shrieking every time I saw my reflection. I wanted there to be a way around this. But there really wasn’t one. I ached thinking about the money. Next to me a thirty-ish male investment banker was telling a female colleague about a reality show he’d seen where a porn star is penetrated with a large object.
“Why would anyone let anyone do that?” said the woman. They were drinking white wine. I couldn’t make out what she was drinking but the other guy kept trying to get something “crisp and dry” and after trying a few he told the waiter “Just bring me a Chardonnay” and was pleased.
“Seriously,” said the woman. “Explain to me why someone lets someone do that!”
My wines arrived. They had little paper discs on them telling me which was which. The 2013 Chateau Musar Jeune, made from Cinsault, Syrah and Cabernet was spicy and a little sweeter and thinner than I wanted it to be. It hinted at being good, but something about it didn’t come together for me. It’s like my hair, I thought, looking accusingly at the glass. Except not like my hair, because my hair was objectively bad, and I just felt like this wine wasn’t quite for me. Also, I didn’t hate it.
The second wine tasted like pickle juice. So did the third. I was wondering if a briny, pickle-like flavor was sometimes a characteristic of Lebanese red wine. I panicked a little. Was I just being super basic? No, it was obvious. They were off. I so desperately did not want them to be off. If the waitress gave me any kind of attitude about this, I would cry. But she was very nice. She brought me another wine #2. “This is from a new bottle,” she said. “I think we’re out of the third one, but I’ll go check.”
I drank it. It was good. It had a somewhat soothing effect on the terrible combination of fear anger anxiety and shame I felt about allowing myself to get a bad haircut but not so soothing that I am not grateful to Melissa, from Majestic Wines in Bishops Stortford (UK) for describing it in my place:
I thought her “tasting notes” insofar as I even give a shit about tasting notes were okay, but I don’t understand why she says this wine it like a Burgundy when it has no Pinot Noir in it. Did she mean a Côtes du Rhône? (Melissa’s hair, by the way, looks pretty easy to cut.)
A new guy joined the bankers. “This place is sick!” he said.
“I was just telling her about …” said the other guy, and mumbled the name of the porn reality show he’d been watching.
“That show is sick!” the guy said. “Those chicks are sick. Dude—Arnold Palmer died.”
The waitress arrived with another glass. “We don’t have the last wine so I brought you this super Tuscan,” she said. She looked really happy, like she was my mother bringing me a birthday cake, and this warmed my heart. I’m not particularly a fan of super Tuscans but I don’t necessarily dislike them. I have only had maybe five of them. They’re sort of out of favor in a cultural climate that values authenticity. They’re not considered “authentic” Italian wines — they’re the invention of Italian wine producers who got sick of making Chianti the way it had been traditionally made, and felt also that Americans thought of Chianti as being shitty, even though only most of it was shitty (like most wine) and some of it was amazing. So they started making these juicier wines, often eschewing the earthy Sangiovese grape with which Tuscan reds were historically made. This particular wine, a 2011 Donna Olimpia “Millepassi,” had no Sangiovese: It was mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with a tiny bit of Petit Verdot and Merlot. It tasted like all expensive smooth oaky Cabernet Sauvignons taste to me, but with maybe a little bit more spiciness than it would have if it were from California. I appreciated the spirit in which it has been offered.
“Porn stars aren’t like, American’s brain trust,” one of the guys said.
“Yeah,” the other guy said. “I mean, pretty much anyone can be a porn star.”
“Do you like my necklace?” The woman asked abruptly.
“It looks like a necklace,” one guy said.
“My dad gave it to me,” the woman said. “It’s from my family.”
“Oh, it’s cool then,” said the other guy.
“Yeah, now that I know it’s your family necklace it’s cool,” said the other one.
I pretended like I was writing but I actually was just copying their conversation. At one point the woman went to the bathroom and I was like Holy Shit — what are they going to say about her? But the moment she was gone, they were utterly silent, just staring into their glasses. CNN was showing a montage of Arnold Palmer photos, and I watched, enjoying my fruit-forward Italian luxury wine from the nice lady.
I wish this were the end of the story.
Two days later, back in Nevada City, still so miserable about my hair I felt like my organs were on the outside of my body, I went out for a walk. I decided to swing by this one stylist whose name had been thrown around by some women at a party the night before who agreed that the left side of my haircut was “maybe Okay” and the right side was “super weird” to see what she might have to offer in the way of solutions. Meanwhile, I knew I was stuck with my person and that hideous price. The solution was that there was no solution other than the solution.
The spoken-of stylist wasn’t there, but someone who rented space there was. “What don’t you like about your hair?” she asked, and I cried, “There’s — no — movement.” She nodded, like she understood.
I think you’re supposed to cut some people’s hair — some people’s like mine — very slowly, in small pieces. You have to see how it falls, then go on and cut more, and so on. She cut my hair in great hanks. The climax of this entire three-day extravaganza of expensive self-imposed horror came when she cut one particularly large one, and then showed me the way that you could see that large hank of hair lying on top of the rest of my hair, like extremely rudimentary bas relief. “There’s your movement,” she said triumphantly.
“You look fine,” my boyfriend said later.
“I do not look fine. I look like if Kate on ‘John and Kate Plus 8’ had a brunette sister and she got divorced and “got her hair cut special” for going on a third date with an accountant,” I said.
That night I was by myself, and I didn’t want to drink anything, really, but then I opened up a bottle of 2015 Cusemano Merlot, from Italy, that I bought for $10. “It’s a good wine to give to guests who have already drunk a lot and still want to drink more,” the guy who sold it to me had said, more or less. It was fruity and oaky and just basically wine and I would have drunk it but the alcohol part of things was coming in black and heavy, like ink in my blood rather than light magic. I dumped what was in my glass out and put the full bottle in the refrigerator. Then I watched season three of Transparent — all ten episodes.
It was the season where Maura — who has lived as a man for seventy years and has recently become a woman — finally gets her hair done. She finally looks like herself. Maura waited seventy years. I was only going to have to wait three or four months. I decided to remind myself to feel grateful, just as soon as I stopped feeling enraged.