9" Manicure

Happy 32nd Birthday Trent!

Postmarked May 17, 1997   From Nail, AR

Photographer: Patrick "KH" Woodruff and Daniel P. Bronson
Concept: Julia C. Tenney
Nails: Marie & Lilly of Lilly's Nail Spa

Inevitable, really.

The story begins last fall. My computer crashed. Perhaps for the fifth or sixth time that afternoon.

I stormed out of the office. I needed to do something that had no connection to my job or computers. Something pointless, trivial, yet therapeutic.

I decided to get my nails done.

Not having ever quite gotten the hang of all that girly-girl stuff, I didn't realize entirely what I was committing to when I agreed to have "acrylic".

At least I think I agreed. Not entirely certain. Their English left much to be desired. It was some fantastically cheap nail place in the mall manned by immigrants. My sisters refer to it as the Nail Sweat Shop.

Acrylic nails need to get "filled" every other week. Since I was endlessly amused at the thought of having presentable fingernails, I kept with it. My own are weak, tear easily, and the polish starts to peel as soon as I immerse my hands in water, be it washing my dishes or myself. It was a small ego boost to have my nails the same length for more than 10 minutes, and to have a clean looking polish that would last for two weeks, or until I peeled the acrylic off while fidgeting, whichever came first. (Biting my nails, I soon discovered, could chip my teeth).

I also have a theory that beauticians are America's socially acceptable variation on Geishas. This non-sexual emotionally safe intimacy, rather than vanity, is what keeps us coming back for more.

Eventually the suspected health code violations and what I presume were otherwise rotten work conditions, considering the high turnover, got to me. I decided to "Buy American" and go to someone who likely took home more than my tip.

One of things I'd missed with the immigrants, none of whom ever told me their name, was the stereotypical manicurist chit-chat. "So what do you do?" "Monsters are the most Interesting People" etc.

At the Nail Spa, it didn't take long before I found myself describing my little postcard hobby, how everyone initially responds as if I'm an obsessed weirdo and then joins in at the first chance. When Marie inferred those would be the acrylic tips from hell, and I realized I had to explain that Nine Inch Nails was the name of a musical act, well, the inevitable happened.

Marie and Lilly spent over a month trying to figure out how to make the damned things. Acrylic tips tend to have a natural curve to them. As would the real thing, by nine inches, they curl into a full circle (not quite enough to be a spiral), and also don't look cool on film. Marie and Lilly did their beauty parlor voodoo... and produced four straight nails - the minimum I needed to do the shoot. (Yes, the final image is a montage... unless I can convince you I have 5 hands...)

The 9" fingernails, of course, were painted the traditonal Goth black. I still have them - although, no longer attached. (Otherwise I wouldn't have been able to type this). They were pretty heavy, and they felt weird the whole time. They reminded me of a nail flicking shot from some 80s video, by... Dead or Alive? Also around then, somewhere on cable, Mick Jagger appeared on Faerietale Theater (?) as an Asian Emperor who sported 10" nails, on all of his fingers, who also had to use chopsticks at the same time. My heart goes out to ya, Mick.

I don't understand how historical figures reconciled a vanity that took away one's ability to, um... wipe. Then again, once the nails sufficiently dried (not entirely and removing acrylic nails before they've thoroughly dried is a venture in masochism, make no mistake), there wasn't an itch I couldn't stratch.

We ran around the place looking for cool backgrounds. It's the sort of full-service salon that hired a swank interior designer (and charges for it, Marie claimed, although her "fills" cost less than the Sweatshop). And, it's located in a renovated mill, with exposed brick and other "industrial" decor. We had a vast selection of appropriate backdrops.

We wrapped up with a Chinese feast. Both fortune cookies offered the same advice: "A Inch of Time is an Inch of Gold".

Enjoy this latest Inch "for Trent".

On May 17th, I received an express mail package from the postmaster of Deer, AR, who now handles the mail from Nail, AR. That post office was closed last October, apparently after the 1997 Zip Code Directories went to press. Deer's post office closes at 11:30 on Saturdays. Everyone's phone number in Deer has the same first five digits, so I quickly found the postmaster's home number, albeit listed under someone else's name, and pleaded with her to reopen the office to at least get the postcards cancelled for the proper day.
Shucks, I guess this means the head "Nail" is "Deer" to us, or something. Any better ideas at how to associate a "Deer" postmark to Nine Inch Nails?

Once the nails dried, there wasn't an itch I couldn't stratch.
I know it's the same shirt I wear in the Dewar's profile, I do have other shirts, but, this one's a gift from one of the infinite halo patrons.

For the
NYC Ninnie contingent:
Meet the mother
of all "whatevers"

Marie had nightmares
for a month while trying
to make these nails.

The Next Postcard

Updated: Septemer 19, 1999 tenney.org