Something told me that, on this freezing January day, it was a good thing I was scheduled for one of Rose's haircuts. The hunch was confirmed when I stepped into the morning and the icy wind hit me. Good thing I was due a haircut, and good thing Rose Nathewitch had agreed to handle it.
Rose has a way of taking me away.
Not only does she cut hair with great skill -- and doesn't mind that I still call it a "haircut" rather than a "hairstyling" -- but she can deliver me to a tropical paradise. You get a lot for your money when you sit in Rose's chair. You get a trip to Hawaii.
But more on that in a moment. First, understand the context.
The day cracked open with a monstrous gasp of winter weather. The wind was nose-tweaking and bone-chilling. At the trash-strewn corner of Greenmount and North, a ragged sheet of plastic caught the limbs of a scraggly tree on the edge of the grand old cemetery, and as I sat in my car, waiting for the traffic light to change, I became fixated on the sight. It became emblematic of the bleak season into which we now descend. Winter had finally returned to Baltimore.
I had a hard time finding a parking space at the Eastside District Court, which is the old Sears building near Harford Road. The place was packed. I spotted a man walking toward a car and assumed he was a lawyer. He was finely attired -- I'm guessing Armani or Fezza -- and his shoes were polished and still had full heels. He carried a leather briefcase.
I rolled down the car window. Cold air gushed in.
"What's going on here today with all these cars?" I asked.
"They're giving out justice," the man said.
"Must be a sale."
When he climbed into a Mercedes -- that pretty much confirmed my hunch that he was a lawyer -- and pulled out, I took the space.
It was a busy day at Eastside. The courtrooms were as packed LTC as the parking lot. Before Judge David Young came rogues and vagabonds, possessors of marijuana, and a man who had urinated in public. There was also a guy accused of illegally carrying a handgun. (He came to court on crutches because he had accidentally shot himself in the foot.) There was a thin, pale woman with teased brown hair. She was accused of soliciting for prostitution on East Baltimore Street. Hers would have been a routine matter but for the fact she was a heroin addict, which inferred intravenous drug use, which conjured chilling thoughts in the age of AIDS. Next case was a former mental patient accused of trespassing at a downtown office. He came to court without an attorney, tried to defend himself and babbled incessantly. The judge showed remarkable patience, but it was still a pathetic proceeding to watch.
The picture before me became gloomy, so I headed for the parking lot. On the way back to my car, a guy with wild hair turned, popped his eyes and started making loud, lunatic speeches in the freezing wind.
What a day.
Time to head for Rose's salon, Current Rage, at St. Paul and 24th. I really needed a haircut. I needed Rose Nathewitch.
"Take me to Hawaii," I said.
Rose is passionate about Hawaii. She gets the bug to go every year at this time. She saves her money to make the trip. She keeps postcards from Hawaii around the mirror at her styling station. There's an "I Love Hawaii" bumper sticker on the mirror. There's an inflated plastic palm tree on the counter. On the wall hangs a blowup color snapshot of the ponds and lagoons near Hilo. You can feel the sunshine bounce off the broad palm leaves in the photograph.
"I took that picture," Rose said. "It's a picture of a park in Hilo, across the street from the house where I stay."
She stays with an old friend from Baltimore who moved to Hawaii some years ago. It was Rose who introduced her to the island. Her friend's house is a large, splendid bed-and-breakfast.
"What do you do there?"
"Hang out," Rose said, snipping at my hair. "And I read."
"What do you read?"
"Historical romance novels."
She pulls out more pictures, a few dozen of them. Pictures of beaches and waterfalls and waves hitting volcanic rock, and lush green forests. Pictures of Rose with a great tan, in flowered dresses, laughing with friends. All of which makes me warm all over.