My buddy, Linda Hughes, arrived in Los Angeles for a week of mayhem and was on a mission to get her nails done. Not a $ 22 French-tipped mani-pedi combo from Nail Station, but a real nail transformation. Linda wanted something a little more substantial for summer. Something that would get her through the grueling hours of curating exhibitions at Red Ink Studios in San Francisco. “Dinooooo…” (she calls me that because that’s my name), will you take me to get my nails done?”

Linda’s hands: nude and virginal


When forced to think of nails that don’t come from a hardware store, I think only of “Queen Nails” – a stall in what used to be called the Slauson Swap Meet in the neighborhood once known as South Central Los Angeles. In high school, I would occasionally come to this swap meet to buy bootleg Gucci sweatshirts and bean pies sold by Farrakhanners posted by the front doors.

(For those of you who would like an African name but don’t have one, you can visit:
http://www.fadetoblack.com/namegenerator/ and it will generate one for you. Today, my “African” name is “Shausha” which is ironic, because “Shau-Shau” is the codeword that Linda and I started using for making a # 2, after she once bought me a 12-pack birthday present of single-ply “Shau-shau paper” from the very Chinese Clement Street in SF.)

As Los Angeles attempted to pull itself together after the 1992 riots, the city started to refer to “South Central LA” as merely “South LA,” to give the neighborhood a softer, kinder edge. If nothing else, at least it now goes with the already existing “East LA” and “West LA.”

One would think that there would be a “North LA” but instead exists the San Fernando Valley.


The Slauson Swap Meet is now called the Slauson Super Mall, on Slauson Avenue just west of the Harbor (110) Freeway.


This is the best place to pick up t-shirts with 2-Pac’s face in gold foil, cheap Dickies (work trousers) and tube socks, the wackiest ghetto-slick gear (like his and her crotchless pimp suits — very Linda), customized lettered everything, an upper plate of gold teeth, toys for the kids, a magic potion to curse your evil landlord, a new sound system for your ride, commando military gear, questionable metalic jewelry, some scary Chinese food and…nails.


The Super Mall even has it’s own “jail” (a holding facility) in the back corner. If you’re shoplifting from a swap meet (like the fool who got busted and handcuffed while we were there), then you’re really fucking shit up bad. Not suprisingly, the security guards are really freaky about cameras inside the Super Mall…probably due to immigration issues as well as weird import rules on Loowee Weeton purses and adidadidas sportsgear (with 4 stripes and a “quat-foil” emblem).

While “Thuy,” Linda’s nail engineer, applied prothetics..i mean…acrylics to each of her real nails, Linda looked at me and said, “Oh my god…one of your pupils is SO MUCH LARGER than the other one right now.” “Shut up,” I said…”Are you messing with me?” “Nooo. I’m serious. One is significantly larger than the other one…wow…so strange…I thought I was imagining it at first but…nope..they’re way different.” I think, “Did I fall off that little table at the lesbian club and no one told me I had a concussion? Or is this what happens to your eyes BEFORE the aneurysm strikes?” Hmm.

Linda segued into talking about her freshly homo-fied brother (“I told him, ‘Girl, we were all waiting for you and we love you!'”) and how great dinner was the other night at her family’s Cuban restaurant – El Criollo of Van Nuys. I tried to pay attention to her roster of the menu but I was already looking around for a handmirror, regreting that I’d been so lazy drafting my living will. “Yeah…I love platanos, too,” I said. “Ask your dude for a little mirror.” Without removing his pink face mask, Thuy handed me a very ornate, faux-art deco handmirror that I used to asses my freakish eye situation. Left eyeball. Right eyeball. Look up…down…check again. “Linda, they’re exactly the same.” “No,” she argued, “look how HUGE the left pupil is.” I stared directly into the overhead lights in an attempt to “reset” my eyeballs. Blink. Blink. Open. “Linda..look…they’re the same.” “Huh…you’re right. Weird…oh my god, I love my nails! Thanks again for bringing me here. You know I love you.”



With her fresh summer claws, Linda was incapable of doing anything with her hands and I discovered a newfound flamboyance in her every hand gesture. “Look, over there,” she said, fanning five ebony talons in the direction of the $ 2 belt rack. I was more than happy to carry her wallet, make change, show her ID to merchants for credit card purchases and dial her phone. I wondered if we could score a temporary handicapped parking pass for the day, as she literally was rendered incapacitated from the nail job, including zipping up her own trousers. (My pleasure…)

Here’s some stuff I liked on the way from the Slauson Super Mall:

Public Spirituality Announcement


Public Health Announcement


Mobile Phone Tower disguised as a Palm Tree


Hooray for Hollywood

Linda Hughes Forever.