When I meet up with friends for drinks, it's often at El Prado in Echo Park. It's close enough to home for me to walk. They have a turntable on the bar and play records. The names of the beers and wines on offer are written in white, directly on the mirror that lines the wall. The counter along that wall is made of weathered Carrera marble and at one end holds up a disco ball. On several occasions I caught the scent of a woodsy incense wafting through the space. I found out that the incense was Piñon.
I thought it smelled familiar. From Incensio de Santa Fe I bought Piñon and Douglas Fir incenses online. Apparently they're the smell of the Southwest. I wouldn't really know as I never visited the Southwest.* California doesn't count. California is California. I found that these incenses smell better from a distance. At home I burn them from the outside terrace and let the smoke breeze in. It makes sense to scent a bar with Piñon - it's quite strong, natural and pleasant.
The last time I drank at El Prado I listened to a Mark Lanegan album and caught up with my friend Nick. We talked about lots of things but one story particularly caught my ears. He had been out to Joshua Tree recently with a bunch of friends to celebrate a birthday. They decided to camp out in the desert (something he vowed to never do again). To make the experience more interesting, they ingested mushrooms. Under the mycelial influence, Nick saw something unusal in the night sky. He saw a glowing orb that seemed to change its position instantaneously in a square formation. He wasn't the only one to see it. They all saw it. Either the power of suggestion influenced their collective hallucination or they lifted a veil that separated them from experiencing a dimension that is ordinarily denied. Either way I enjoyed listening to his story.
I also enjoyed the scent of Piñon in the air.
*My friend Jane read this and pointed out that my Mother lives in the Southwest. She's absolutely right. I have been to Arizona many times in fact. For some reason I was equating The Southwest with New Mexico. I have never been to New Mexico.