The Hair Place: Elys Beauty Salon by Jorge Solis

 1833 Richmond Ave.
Houston, TX. 77098

                                                                                                                                                             April 2004–It had been two weeks since I left my home in McAllen, Texas, a Town located roughly five hours south of Houston and 15 minutes north of the border of Mexico and the Rio Grande River. The entire area is referred to as the Rio Grande Valley which makes up the southern most tip of Texas and is made up of several cities such as Pharr, San Juan, Brownsville, Harlingen, La Joya, Rio Grande and a few more. My first semester of college at the University of Houston was right around the corner. No matter where you go the first impression is very important and hair is one of the first things people notice. It just sticks out of your head and sends a small message to all people of who you are and where you come from. So you want to make sure it always looks good. I was unfamiliar with Houston and its many streets. McAllen compared to Houston as far as size is like a flea to a dog. You know it’s there, but you just can’t see it.

As far as population goes Houston has about 5 million as opposed to McAllen with about six hundred thousand. I think you could fit at least three McAllen’s into Houston, but that does not include the outer areas past the loop. At the time my hairstyle was starting to look like one of the group members of the band The Beetles, but I still felt attached to my old hair stylist back home. She had being my first and only, and the bond we created was unlike no other. In desperate need of a haircut I decided to venture out and see what I could find. My brother-in-law gave me my last haircut with a pair of old rusty trimmers, so needless to say I needed a professional to undo the damage. I cruised down Richmond Street and quickly ran into several hair salons. Asians who charged twelve dollars ran the first place but after seeing the terrified facial expressions of the people getting their head cut as the stylists rammed the trimmer threw his head in an insane rush I knew this was not the place for me. At my next stop they charged fifteen dollars for a haircut. I was amazed by the difference in prices between Houston and The Valley. Never in my life had I spent more than five dollars for a hair cut. I would regularly cut my hair every Friday despite not having much to trim so anything over five dollars seemed unreasonable. A few more unsuccessful stops were made with prices ranging from ten to fifteen dollars. Refusing to give in to high prices I continued my search for an affordable haircut. I continued to drive down Richmond and a few seconds later a flashing six-dollar neon sign quickly caught my attention.

To my disappointment the tiny beauty salon had a parking lot, if you can call it that, with only three parking spots and all of them were occupied. I continued driving down the block to the next light where a Deluxe Paint Center was and turned into the parking lot. I drove around the building and parked next to the trashcans away from the watching eye of the store clerk. Around this area people protected their parking area with their life just like the people in the old west. Anybody who was not a client of their businesses and parked there would get shot or towed. I opened my door and looked around once more for any workers; just to be on the safe side. After making sure no one else was watching, I slipped out of my car and made my way to the sidewalk. Then made my way around the front of the store as if I was just another pedestrian.I went past up the bus stop where a young girl, probably 15, waited for the bus. Trash and a few patches of grass growing between the bricks littered the sidewalk. I went past the Richmond Apartments, past Ruthie’s on Richmond, which offers Beer, Wine, pool, and big screen T.V. Five cars are all that occupy the parking lot of the small bar. Despite having plenty of extra parking spaces the owner refuses to allow anyone from the beauty salon to park there. I crossed the parking lot and made my way to Ely’s Unisex Beauty Salon.

The lavender building had a big neon sign with red, green, and blue colors on it. The building is divided down the middle with a Mexican variety shop called Variedades Puebla. They sell anything from ostrich boots to CD’s.A feminine acting man dressed in what seemed like the latest fashion and in his late forties greeted me and told me to take a seat. Another man slightly younger just as feminine except he was dressed in what seemed like women’s pants and shoes, graciously cut a man’s hair. Having an eye for talent, I automatically spotted him. Since a young age I noticed feminine men were usually really good at cutting hair, at least that is my opinon. I was disappointed when I found just how many people were waiting for him. Not having anything to do I turned my attention to the thirteen inch TV/VCR propped up in the corner just left of where I was sitting. This forced me to twist my neck at an awkward angle in order to see what was playing. It was playing my favorite childhood sitcom, which I hadn’t seen in years called El Chavo del Ocho. It was the episode where El Chavo, the main character, beats up one of the apartment complex kids, and has problems with the parents. I enjoyed watching it with my siblings on the couch every day after school. It was one of the most popular comedies in Mexico for over twenty years. Time quickly passed and I was next in line to get a haircut. I refused to wait for the man with the girl pants and took the next available stylist. She was young woman in her early twenties.

Her skin was a darker shade of brown with long straight black hair that reached just below shoulders. She had a very gentle face with smooth skin and almond shape eyes, with a sense of clam in her hazel colored eyes. I could tell she was doing a good job because everyone that left her chair seemed pleased and did not show any signs of discomfort. I knew this because she took her time and only cut a few hairs at a time. It was as if my hair was the finest of fur. I soon felt comfortable enough with her to begin a conversation. We learned we had much in common. We were both originally from Mexico, although she came from a different area of Mexico both our families came to the US in hopes of a better life. Many of our family members made this journey and apparently they were not the only ones since twenty-eight percent of all foreign-born Americans are Mexicans. Our conversation made me feel at ease about her cutting my hair and before I knew it she was done. She took about 30 minutes to cut my hair but I did not notice the time lapse because we were reminiscing about our past. As soon as she was done I knew it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I was extremely pleased with the job she had done. She faded my hair, fade basically means really short one the sides to where it is almost shaved and the top of my head is short as well, and she fades in between to make it seem like a color scheme from light to dark. I felt that it made me look like a young Tom Cruise and boosted my ego.

I gave her my six dollars, a small tip, and thanked her. I experimented with a few other more expensive places closer to where I live, but was very disappointed. I always end up with patches of hair like spots on a cheetah. I now travel the extra miles back to the same place. Just because it cost more doesn’t mean it’s better. Despite the location and appearance of the place, I will never go anywhere else for a hair cut.



Rio Grande Valley
The Beetles
Ostrich Boots
Feminine Acting Man
El Chavo Del Ocho

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