Saturday, January 28, 2012

still-sound 36. Ala Kaboo

As I woke up this morning there was a song playing in my head.  It was Ala Kaboo by Sound 5, something I haven't heard or thought about in years.  I was surprised that I remembered the name of the band.  The song is funny.  Sung in a scouse accent and musically oscillating between TV jingle, disco and country western.  I bought the cd single from Woolworths on Bethnal Green Road.

Rob tells me that there's a song playing in his head almost every morning as he wakes up, as though his head is tuned in like a clock radio.

If you think this is what you do, Ala Kaboo!  Ala Kaboo!

I've heard theories suggesting that the brain is a receptor of the mind, like a radio tuning in information.  Mind, in fact, is non local.  It exists outside of time and space and enters our physical embodiment through the brain.  The brain itself does not create thought, it receives thought.  There are several arguments as to the name of the medium in which mind exists.  I like Akasha - the ether on which all thought and information leave a rippling imprint.

This morning as I woke up, my access to the akashic field became crosswired with Radio 1 circa 1999.

Ala Kaboo!  Ala Kaboo!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

still-sound 35. Tattoo

I had my tattoo expanded recently.  The municipal pool where I swim is closed for most of January so I decided to take advantage of the chlorine hiatus and have my upper arm inked. 

My first tattoo is on my lower, inner arm. A guy named Mikey inked it in Long Beach.  The image was taken from a book about Alchemy and Mysticism.  It is a drawing of a rose attracting bees with the inscription DAT ROSA MEL APIBUS floating above the flower.  Translated from Latin it reads The rose gives bees honey.  I viewed my first tattoo as something of an initiation.  By then I had lived in California for over two years and my life didn't resemble my life leading up to that point.  I felt that I was different and that even the world was different, or at least the way that I viewed it.  I figured that a proper initiation should include some physical pain (a test of endurace) and leave a permanent mark.

I had my second tattoo (on the outer part of my lower arm) inked by a talented tattoo artist named Lance whom I discovered by chance.  Again, I plucked an image from the world of mysticism, this time 17th Century emblamata.  A pair of heavenly hands shake within an ouroboros.  Mistletoe grows around the image.  Pagans value mistletoe as a sacred plant.  It grows high up in trees, never touching earth.  Mistle thrushes eat the white berries and defecate into the bark of the host tree: a propogation closer to the heavens.* 

Lance expanded the mistletoe motif into my upper arm and inked a couple of perched mistle thrushes.  There is another bird flying on my shoulder.  I may eventually have a sun placed between the thrushes emanating rays above the flying bird's head.  I may wait until the pool closes again to have the sun tattooed, but I may not.  Now that I can picture the entire completed arm, I kind of want to just have it realized.  Lance works from his home in Glendale.  His website is  While having the birds buzzed into my skin I stared at Lance's Planet of the Apes poster written in French for hours.

Some inks in Lance's collection.

Lance's posters

*The other day as I was stretching out at the edge of the pool, resting between laps, an older gentleman in the lane next to me asked, "Are you a birder?"  I didn't understand the question at first but then quickly realized that it was as simple as it sounded.  I told him that I didn't think so.  But as I started swimming away I considered how I often walk around with a camera dangling from my neck in anticipation of photographing any interesting birds that I happen to see.  I suppose this makes me an accidental birder of sorts.

Monday, January 23, 2012

still-sound 34. Fu-in Sandalwood

Today is Chinese New Year.  The new moon will begin the year of the Dragon.  To celebrate I will probably burn one of my favorite incenses right now, Fu-In Sandalwood by Minorien.  I say probably because I'm getting over a cold and my sense of smell is still a bit off.  Of the sandalwood incenses I've burned so far, this is the truest to the material.  It showcases high quality sandalwood from "the high mountains" and does not really rely on other notes like spices or florals.  It reminds me of the Santal de Mysore eau de parfum from Serge Lutens.  A thick, sweet sandalwood that somehow seems edible, maybe even a little nutty.  Minorien is known to make all-natural incenses that have a damp smell.  Of the ones I've tried from this brand I did detect an earthy fullness.  They do not produce dry smoke the way the Heian Koh by Kunmeido does (for example) so I suppose I too would describe Minorien incenses as damp.*

*Since writing this post I've burnt Fu-in Sandalwood many times.  I actually find myself craving this scent.  A perfect sandalwood incense and considering its very reasonable price would be a great addition to any incense collection. 9 Feb 2012

Thursday, January 19, 2012

still-sound 33. Ginestra

This morning I drove to the little storage unit we rent in Highland Park.  To the pile that already reaches my forehead I added Christmas decorations and a bag full of clothes that I don't wear but don't want to get rid of either.  I then drove to a charity shop in Echo Park and donated clothes and random bits that I'll never use.  Next to the charity shop is a great used book store called Stories where I've found several treasures in the past.  I gave them three books that I've read and will most likely never read again.  The man behind the counter said thanks and offered me a milky coffee.  I perused the shelves and selected a book by the Dalai Lama.

From Echo Park I made my way to Silverlake and popped into the flower shop next to a cafe.  I was looking for some small flowers to put in a pot I made and picked up yesterday from the ceramics studio.  I selected a stem of thistle and a stem of ginestra which a woman wrapped in brown paper and bound with white ribbon. 

Many years ago when I was a senior in college I returned to Providence, Rhode Island after winter break.  It was January and my bedroom was freezing.  Clean but freezing.  I had cleaned it entirely, from top to bottom with Murphy's soap the day I got back.  I walked to a flower shop on Thayer street after cleaning and bought a bunch of ginestra.  They were cheap and I thought they were beautiful.  When I returned to my apartment on Wickenden Street I was amazed to find that the ginestra filled my room with an intense, beautiful scent.  I underestimated the tiny white blossoms on the green stems.  I remember thinking that I was ready for a new year and a new semester because my room was clean and freezing and smelled of ginestra.  Since then that particular scent makes me think of new starts.

I placed a little ginestra in each glass bowl that ornamented the tables at my father's memorial service in 2004.  I was a bit shell-shocked at the time as his death was completely sudden and I had only flown in from London the day before.  I had packed a jasmine scented candle made by Diptyque in my suitcase.  Even though there was little time to pack I knew to bring it because I imagined the lobby of the building to smell of jasmine as friends and family of my father signed the memorial book.  The hall itself smelled of cold, clean ginestra.

Ginestra and thistle in a pot I recently made.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

still-sound 32. Lost Dog

A little dog wandered into the perfume shop where I work with a wily determination.  She walked directly behind the counter and started sniffing at my shoes.  I guessed that the dog was merely announcing her master's arrival and that someone would follow in through the door in the next few seconds; perhaps a young woman waving her fingertips, drying off a manicure.  No one came though.  I scooped up the dog who was surprisingly trusting and happy to be held.  I went to the neighboring shops to ask if she belonged to anyone.  Most people seemed concerned and wanted a detailed account of how a strange little white dog happened to be in my temporary possession but no one claimed ownership.  A couple of hours passed and after posting a Found Dog ad on craigslist and taping a few notices on lampposts with my phone number, decided to take her home.  There really was no other option.

Rosie the pug was slightly intrigued by the new house guest but hardly seemed put out in any way.  Rob was equally intrigued (even a little thrilled I suspect).  The new girl jumped up on the sofa and stretched out by Rob.  I didn't allow her to sit on me as this would rile Rosie's jealousy.  At one point I received a call from a guy who lost a dog and saw my ad on craigslist.  I asked him to email me a picture.  He did and it was not the same dog.  I felt sad for him.  More sad for him than for the dog's actual owners since they didn't seem to be taking great efforts to find their well-behaved, charming pet.  I imagined my reaction if Rosie ran away.  I pictured myself pounding on doors, mumbling countless pleas through heavy sobs.  There would be search parties driving slowly through neighborhoods as flashlights poked through car windows, illuminating sidewalks and trees.

We brought the new dog to the vet the next morning.  Rob thought he felt a microchip in her neck and proved to be correct in his assessment.  Despite a scan we were unable to gather any more information about the dog's owners since she was either not registered or the registration had lapsed.  I posted signs with the dog's picture in the neighborhood of the shop.  I took off her pink studded collar before taking her photo thinking that I would cleverly ask any callers to describe the dog and collar in detail (key word, pink).  Many of my Facebook friends responded to my open question of "What do you do with a found dog?"  Overwhelmingly the advice was to keep her.  One friend alerted me to a group in Echo Park / Silverlake that helps to find foster and adoptive masters of runaway and abandoned pets.  I had a multi-pronged plan in action and felt that if nothing worked, perhaps Rob and I would secretly have to keep her despite our lease only allowing one dog.  As she settled into our apartment and brought out the playful, fun side of Rosie I suspect we both hoped that we could keep her.  Although we never said so.

On the dog's second night with us I started thinking of possible names as I drove home from work.  No one could predict how long we'd have her and we couldn't very well refer to her as 'the new dog' forever.  Maybe she liked the smell of perfume which is why the little runaway selected my shop as her destination.  Maybe she enjoyed sniffing flowers.  I thought Poppy would be a suitable name.  As we watched TV that night, a pack of hounds settled on the settee, Rob suggested we come up with a name for 'the new dog'.  "What about Cookie?"  I liked it a lot but responded with an I-don't-know expression on my face.  Quickly he added "What about Poppy?"  I burst out with "I thought of Poppy too!"

Shortly before tucking Rosie and Poppy into their beds and retiring myself I received a call from a woman who lost a dog.  "I lost a dog and you found one.  I think it's mine."  She sounded as though to be describing a yoga mat.  I asked if her dog was wearing a collar.  "Yes, it's pink with studs."  (Damn).  I asked her to email a photograph.  She did.  It was Poppy.  I asked the woman on the phone what the dog's name was.  She said Bobby.  (!!!) 

The next morning, Sunday, I brought Bobby to the perfume shop with me.  Eventually a man appeared identifying himself as the boyfriend of the woman who called the night before.  She had a dental appointment which is why she couldn't come to collect Bobby herself.  I wondered what dentist made appointments on Sunday mornings.  Bobby looked up at the man and didn't wag her tail or approach him.  I told him how wonderful it was to look after Bobby.  I gushed.  I asked that they call me if they ever needed a dogsitter.  He chuckled as though I were joking.

He admitted that Bobby had run away in the past.  More than once.  I suggested that they attach a name tag with phone number to her pink studded collar.  He said that they were 'just about to'.  He pointed out that she was microchipped.  I notified him that the microchip was not registered.  I suggested they check craigslist if this ever happened again.  He said that they were 'actually just about to'.  Their neighbor spotted one of my signs and recognized the dog in the picture -this is how their tear-free reunion came to be.  Although not wearing a large coat or holding a bag of any sort, the man somehow produced a large bottle of Bailey's from his person and handed it to me.  "For your trouble" he announced.  He scooped Bobby up and they left.

Monday, January 9, 2012

still-sound 31. Santa Maria Novella

Santa Maria Novella potpourri in a bowl I made with crackled glaze.

Many years ago in London a woman with very good taste introduced me to Santa Maria Novella.  A Florentine Farmacia, SMN has been making soaps, liqueurs, fragrances and potions since the 1600s.  The packaging of all the products have a very classical Italian appearance (typescript adorned wtih intricate curlicue patterns, like the label on a bottle of Campari, crests bursting with symbolic imagery, etc).  I visited the woman with very good taste at her home in the East End.  She had gregorian chants playing in the background and a large bowl of the Santa Maria Novella potpourri on a sideboard in the living room.  The scent filled the room.  I would describe it as somewhat camphorous, laced with rosemary, lavender and other herbs and botanicals.  Apparently all of the materials in the mixture come from the hills of Florence and ferment in large terracotta pots.  When you first get the potpourri and pour it into a bowl, the leaves and buds are still damp with pungency.  The scent is slightly sticky.  It reminds me of running my fingers along rosemary branches and allowing the needles to coat my skin with fragrance.

I've been purchasing the potpourri regularly since this visit to the tasteful woman's house.  It repels moths so I keep some in my closets and when I move into a new place I allow the scent of the damp leaves and buds to penetrate the room until the space smells familiar and homelike.  Remarkably even after airing out for a year, the potpourri still projects a scent.  As it dries, earthy notes of patchouli start to become more prominent.

Last year I received a bottle of Santa Maria Novella's Potpourri Cologne for Christmas.  It does and doesn't smell like its eponymous reference.  When initially sprayed the menthol notes are considerably more dominant.  The sticky rosemary notes play a more minor role. It's certainly as pungent as the actual potpourri.  Overall I find the cologne beautifully made and impressively tenacious (especially for an eau de cologne) although I seem to only want to wear it in winter.  My friend Desmond, a very serious fragrance collector bought a bottle of it last year.  He wore it once and his wife remarked, "Des, you don't need to be wearing that again."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

still-sound 30. Lava

I've been wanting to get the porous lava surface on some vases for a while now.  I learned that the addition of silicon carbide to most glaze mixtures will cause the effect.  I added a spoonful of the powder to a yoghurt-pot amount of glaze and brushed the mixture on to the bisqueware while it spun on the wheel. I was nervous that the surfaces would explode a bit in the kiln, ruining my fellow potters' work.  I decided that the risk was slim so I had them fired.  Thankfully there were no explosions.

 I collected the two larger pieces today.  A smaller pot was ready before Christmas.  I got a bunch of freesia for it so that the apartment would have that sweet, floral bubble-gum scent through the holidays.  I'm going to give the freesia pot to Francine when I next see her, the cool woman who gave me pure essential oil of the Sultan of Brunei ta'if rose.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

still-sound 29. 2012

A few nights ago I took some pictures of the night sky from the field next to our apartment building.  I was happy to actually capture stars in a photograph after many failed attempts in the past.  I suppose I have a better camera now or at least a slightly better understanding of how to use it.

Last night and this morning I meditated while burning a stick of Kyara Seiran incense by Seijudo.  I consider it to be a particularly special scent so I only burn it on notable days.  As I often do while meditating I tried to think about the vastness of space.  I imagine the perfect blackness that carries light rays from stars.  A nothingness common to everyone and everything. The nothingness that breathes me.

Daniel Pinchbeck's writing has introduced me to some provocative ideas regarding 2012.  He describes his research into indigenous shaman cultures; prophecy traditions and the evolution of human consciousness.  He highlights other writers who describe the corruption and total collapse of structures that we've made to describe the world, rule ourselves and improve the lot we're born into (like government and free market capitalism to name two).  He talks about the wall we've created between humans and nature and our arrogant belief that nature is something that belongs to us.  Something we can control.

I appreciate Pinchbeck's tone.  He doesn't predict or damn or posit anything with absolute certainty.  He acknowledges the flimsiness of truth.  He simply points at the moon, (to borrow a Buddhist idea), and allows the reader to follow his own thought trajectory.

I don't know what to expect from 2012.  No one can know.  I welcome the year with a great openness.

Yesterday I bought a small cake from Doughboys on Beverly Boulevard.  Something sweet to have after a New Year's Eve dinner.  The woman who rang me up exuded a beaming positivity.  She was a little bit older and wore glasses.  I've met her several times in the past when I required a bakery fix.  She announced that "2012 is going to be a great year!  I can feel it.  Especially since 2011 ended so well.  They've even offered me more hours here".  I took her pronouncement as a very, very good sign.