Monday, February 1, 2010


From the time I went off to boarding school at the age of 8, I cut my own toenails. In fact, I had two different implements with which to do this. No problem!

Sometime in my mid-70s, I had some reason to visit a podiatrist (which the Brits call a "chiropodist"). I was steered to an excellent one, whose name often appeared in the gossip column - not, I assure you, for any scandalous reason. Among his many clients, some of whose tributes were posted on the walls of his consulting room, were famous athletes. I had a mild case of ingrowing toenails, and on my occasional visits, he worked on the nails of my big toes with great dexterity. One of his assistants would clip the lesser toenails.

When I had increasing difficulty in cutting my own toenails, I suggested to Barbara that we take it in turns to cut each others toenails. She wasn't having any.

The best toenail clipper I ever came across is my podiatrist at Kaiser in Richmond, Dr. Ishii. I could see her a couple of times a year, and she would personally cut all my toenails.

Barbara enjoys acupuncture, and usually falls asleep during treatment. I have tried acupuncture, at Barbara's urging, and the slight pin prick was not really painful, but I don't think it did anything for me. In hectic days of my business life, I would occasionally drop off to sleep at the barbershop, but I have never done this while having my toenails trimmed. It was my late wonderful assistant, Sandra Stevens, who suggested that I should try a pedicure, if I just wanted my toenails clipped. There was an establishment fairly close to my office after I left Dealy, Renton & Associates. I noted that the proprietress and all her workers were Vietnamese. I still pay an annual visit to Dr. Ishii, but it means that someone needs to drive me there and back. Also, the co-payment is now $30, as opposed to $25 in previous years. (In defense of Kaiser, I should add that many health maintenance procedures now require no co-payment.)

I can't say that I really enjoy a pedicure, any more than I enjoy a visit to my excellent dental hygienist. However, my toenails continued to grow, albeit much more slowly than fingernails. I have twice been mildly berated by women giving me pedicures, telling me that I should come more often. Once every three months about does it. There are at least two nail stores on or near Solano avenue in Albany, and I patronize one of the them these days. The price is $17, to which I add perhaps $3 as a tip. Both local establishments are operated by Vietnamese, who certainly seem to have made a specialty of this in our part of Northern California.

I have been wondering who would offer manicures, pedicures, etc. before the Vietnamese began arriving. Was some other group driven out of business? Also, are there schools in Vietnam that offer training, or do the many women workers in these nail stores learn the trade in this country? I also wonder whether such establishments are largely in the hands of Vietnamese in other parts of the country, further from the Pacific ocean which divides us from the homeland of the skillful folk who take care of my toenails.


  1. I got my nails done in Evanston IL, once. All 6 chairs were womaned by Vietnamese women. So no, it's not just out here on the West Coast.

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