So I've felt a little disconnected to the news and the newsy world as of late and have been a little bad at the postings, apologies for the lull. I blame it on, or attribute it to, Scottish Hilary, my photographer friend who stayed with me for nearly two weeks at the tail end of her voyage from London to Los Angeles to San Diego to Tijuana and back up here to SanFran. By the time Hilary and I crossed paths, she had trekked across the mean streets of The Valley (ehhh...the mere thought of the mall and hood rat variety sends shivers down me spine) via PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION (shock! horror!) and made a few bffs at Muscle Beach (see photo below, courtesy of Hilary).
When I met her at a train stop off Market St, she came loaded with a front and back pack that must have outweighed her by hundreds of pounds. She would later produce a fancy new pair of snake skin cowboy boots from one of them. She claimed these were the very last pair in Tijuana, and her sole purpose for traveling south of the border to begin with.
So when Hilary finally got here I thought she might like to see the sites of my fair city: North Beach, Coit Tower, Golden Gate Park etc etc. Nope. Instead she coaxed me into spending half a day touring the necropolis that is Colma; on another, we took a train ride down to the city dump in South San Francisco to see an art exhibit by an artist in residence that made kinetic sculptures. One day we spent an hour sitting outside of Cafe Trieste in North Beach. We befriended some musician dude strumming a guitar and a rollerblading Italian man in his late 60s who was dancing to the guitar music on the corner. Sometimes I feel like I'm in a David Lynch movie when I'm with Scottish Hilary; other times it's just magical in a generally quirky way. Like this one time when we witnessed an elderly man jogging along suburban streets outside of Edinburgh in nothing but a wool sweater and transparent women's underwear at three in the morning. But that's a different story.
When Hilary left it was like she had died. Everyone talked about her like she had passed on, not simply flown back to her home in London. "That Hilary, she just had such a big presence, it really filled up the house," my landlord said, staring down reflectively.
"I bet you miss her," a few people said to me. 'Why don't you rub it in,' I thought.
My only complaint about Hilary was that I got irritated by her earnest attempts at trying to give me a stomach ache similar to the ones she would get from eating an entire party size bag of Reese's peanut butter cups. I tried to explain to her that we just don't do that in America, but she had never eaten Reese's peanut butter cups before, so you could almost forgive her for this newfound addiction and excitement in wanting to share in the joy and agony.
Hilary once worked a summer job as a rides operator at the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk as a teenager. When I met her a few years ago in London, where we waitressed at a pub together, she would tell me stories about operating the log ride and it was hard to picture her ever working in that element, having lived in Santa Cruz for a few years myself. So it was amazing to get a chance to reunite her with the town. We spent a few days walking about, saw the boardwalk again and visited the beach. I was embarrassed by the "nightlife" I once thought so exciting as a college kid, so we spent an evening with a jug of vodka, trashy magazines and Larry King Live.
I must have felt more foreign to this country than even Scottish Hilary when I saw that Warren Jeffs polygamy cult lady brigade on the TV screen.
Hilary was confused and horrified. I did my best to explain what was going on with the state taking the children and all, but that's not what was troubling her. "What's wrong with their hair?!" she exclaimed.
Now I can certainly understand why America's cults are some of the best on the planet (as far as recruitment, worldwide press attention, etc). We simply have the lion's share of charismatic leaders. America the charismatic! But the hair--I really didn't know what to say about the hair. Why this extreme Elaine from Seinfeld pompadour and braid combo? What does it all mean?
A friend who had been watching the polygamist child custody saga unfold religiously pun intended told me that it had to do with status and that the higher the hair, the more prominent the wife. I think that is an outright lie, as I haven't come up with any data supporting this supposition; I assume it isn't based on anything.
This is the only answer I could find on the internets (via the AP):
The women never cut their hair because they believe they will use it to wash Christ's feet during the Second Coming, Bennion says. A Biblical quote says a woman's hair should be her crowning glory.
The bangs are grown out and rolled (but usually not using a curling iron, because that would be too modern). There are sausage curls on the sides and often braids down the back.
The exact history of the hairstyle is unclear, but it is reminiscent of the Gibson Girl image of the 1800s. It's a pre-World War II look, exaggerated with the pompadour, Llewellyn says.
So there you have it. Although this report does not cancel out my friend's theory, it explains...some of it. I guess the reasons for the hair shall remain a mystery, and so too America.
Thank you Hilary, for making me feel like a bewildered stranger in my own country again. It's been refreshing.