The short version: my hair looks fantastic, and I am *so* going back on a regular basis.
The long version:
So I walk in the door, and the first thing I notice is that the place has an atmosphere I can only describe as "swank". Leopard print swagged over the ceiling, furry pillows, everything in a way that could be really horrible 70s except it actually kinda worked. The second thing I noticed was the Siamese cat. The man cutting hair in the middle of the room (who I presumed was Robert Richleigh, the 'long hair specialist' himself) directed me to the back, where a woman named Yiu-Pinh started shampooing my hair.
I've always hated the shampooing part at a salon - the basin is cold and hard, and your neck hurts, and whoever's washing my hair usually has these long sharp nails that just hurt digging through your scalp.... not so here. The first clue was she pulled up an ottoman for me to put my legs up on, so I didn't have to hold the tension to keep my butt from sliding out of the chair! And it made the pressure on my neck much less when I leaned back.
Then the shampoo proper began, and oh my goodness. This wasn't just a shampoo, it was a massage, detangling (and a careful detangling - I'm actually only guessing that that's what she was doing back there, because I couldn't feel it at all), and just a feast of happy hair sensations. Then she started putting heated towels under the back of my neck and on my scalp, pretty much between every rinse (I think - I had only a tenuous grasp of coherent thought at this point). This went on for what seemed like an hour (judging by the clock later, it was probably closer to 40 minutes), and when at last she sat me up, I got a short neck and back massage as well.
She passes me over to Robert; and the first thing I notice about him is that he has a waist-length ponytail himself, always reassuring on someone who's supposed to know how to deal with long hair! He's very friendly, asking me about myself, and only after establishing that rapport goes on to ask about my hair: what I want, what I do to it, what problems I have with it. He shows me how thin my ends are, and asks my permission to cut off about two and a half inches (by showing me the amount between his fingers, not quoting a number). The gravity with which he does this impresses me; it shows a sincere acknowledgement of the fact that yes, a couple of inches really is a wrench to lose! I grit my teeth and say yes, do it.
He also recommends a side part, and points out the slight asymmetry in my face which a side part will balance out (which nearly everyone has; it's just a matter of recognizing which side is a little longer and having the hair be heavier on that side. He shapes my bangs, and shows me where he wants it to fall eventually, once my homegrown bangs grow out enough.
I mention that I do need to be able to pull my hair solidly back, so too much in the way of layering would get in the way. He says not to worry, that the way he does it, I'll have no problem with anything I want to do to it.
So he cuts away, keeping up a friendly and interesting conversation throughout. There are books on Kabbalah and gnosticism and various flavors of mysticism all over this place, and we have a fascinating conversation about the intrinsic meaning in various alphabets. He seems to be just a little bit on the fruity side of occultism, but is still very interesting to talk to and see the parallels between our different lines of study.
But anyway, once it's done, my hair looks about three times as full, softening the lines of my face, and the missing inches are barely noticeable (though the missing weight is!) A ponytail holds even more securely than it did before (not quite sure how he managed that). Haven't tried a braid yet, but I doubt there will be any problems there either.
So all in all a fantastic experience. $77 for the shampoo/massage and cut, which he recommends every three months; but very very worth it!