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The Modern Man(nequin)

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On one of those days when I had a lot of time, I was driving around North Houston, trying to remember where that great tile shop was that I visited ages ago. I stopped on the particularly colorful corner of Little York, mesmerized by the guy cutting fresh coconut with a large machete. “Cocos frescos” read his sign. I imagined him immediately in the middle of Nicaraguan tropical jungle, one of those places I want to visit. We struck up a conversation.

I learned from him that the capital is Managua, and I do vaguely remember that from my favorite subject in school, geography. That sharp blade of the huge knife was cutting so closely to his fingertips, and he was completely absorbed by the ceremony of cutting. I guess he had to be, for his finger’s sake? I told him in my broken Spanish that this was mi primera vez to have coco fresco. He said that it is "cleansing for the body" and what I understood as "extremely healthy for you." It was super refreshing on a hot-as-hell summer day, and it looked so good, in a little nylon bag with a straw on the top. Amazing how a sweet new experience can change your day in this big urban jungle. Last night I had been turning in my bed full of neurosis, and now I felt like dancing with this coconut in my hand. True summer had finally arrived in my life, disguised as a lovely coconut.  

My European roots are still with me, because in the midst of this heat (and refreshed by the coco fresco), I decided to take a walk. This is where my story begins.

I crossed the street and found myself at the intersection of Art and Little York. I walked a little on Art Street, attracted only by its name, to the intersection with Rubinstein and now I think that this is a sign… Rubinstein, my favorite pianist, and Art, my favorite endeavor. This must be the center of something.

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Art Street is filled with small, single-family homes. But on one of those little homes, I spotted a small sign above the door: “Modern Mannequin.” So this must be that place, the center? In Houston, it is not the fountains, or squares with churches, or beautiful parks that hold the treasures… It’s always the people and their little oases. A woman named Sherrie opened the door when I knocked, and I entered her mannequin castle. She was full of Southern hospitality, and this little house surprised me with its ongoing rooms full of her inventory—dozens and dozens of recycled, disused mannequins for sale. 

My eyes are now having a big fiesta. Some of Sherrie's mannequin faces are beautiful, some are old, children look creepy, and she walked me through the years from 50’s to 70’s and on. I could almost recognize the eras by hairdos. I spotted a guy from the 80’s smiling big, Clark Gable-style, looking so realistic but with slightly imperfect teeth, oh what a cheerful lad! He is her favorite, said Sherrie, and he is not for sale. However, one can rent him for a day or more. I recognized a few faces of famous people, like Grace Jones, and some of them are scary, of course… Sherrie, meanwhile, is giving me a little mannequin art lesson and a bit of history of this truly family business, started by her father 68 years ago. Now it is only her and her mother left in this mannequin packed old house. 

One head caught my eye particularly—the beautiful face of a woman, with long eyelashes and rosy lips… Sherrie informed me that this one was created by the famous David Costa at his studio, Dash and Dazzle, in New Jersey.  I love the name, I know I will remember it… I imagined this beautiful woman’s head at a plastic surgeon’s office…

I would have lingered a lot longer had the place been air-conditioned. Even some mannequins were sweating. And they looked a little frustrated… I was imagining a great Halloween party with these guys placed strategically throughout my house, with the spooky kids in the closet. I left Sherrie convinced that we will meet again. Back to that coconut juice, I raise a coco toast to summer mannequins!

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