Tuesday, December 24, 2013
The last couple of months have been non-stop. A strenuous test of patience and endurance. After a search that required every spare minute since early summer, I moved into a new house. And two weeks later my mom moved into the guest house in the back. I worried that she could no longer live safely on her own in Arizona so now she's my neighbor.
One of the first things I accomplished after moving my belongings into the new house was to build a bookshelf. I enjoyed planning this. In fact I often found myself debating the design details as I drove to and from work. It consists of oak planks sitting on simple metal supports. I tried fitting my collection of books on the shelves but there were simply too many. So I edited. I also displayed a CD of Jane Birkin called Di Do Da where she sings in a breathy whisper. Rachel and I used to listen to this album in the perfume store where we work. I remember she once said, "It's a shame about her looks though...." Indeed.
I returned to my old place in Echo Park a couple of days after my move to clean the apartment and to remove any abandoned belongings. There were more than I anticipated. Two cars full. It's funny how when things are scattered over a space they seem more minimal than when condensed. I scrubbed the place like a hospital. Usually a melancholy accompanies the clear out of an old home and this time was no different. But mostly I was just tired and wired at the same time.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Brennan sent me this picture tonight. He's in Wisconsin right now to spend Thanksgiving with family. Last night I asked him if it was snowing there. He hadn't come out of the plane yet so he couldn't answer my question with certainty. A little while later he texted me, "I found the snow".
I can imagine the crunchy sound snow makes when you walk on it.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
My phone was stolen on Saturday. I know who took it too. I was working at the perfume store when a couple came in during the weekend rush. An exaggeratedly flamboyant dude and his big gal pal. They were larger than life and I enjoyed showing them fragrances. They complained about the high prices in a comical way but were interested in smelling more and keeping their minds open. My coworker Yvettra and I showed them countless fragrances and offered to make them samples. I eventually had to concentrate on the other end of the store as more customers came in.
The store thinned out in the late afternoon. Yvettra and I sat down and recapped the onslaught. I told her how I liked the funny couple. She made a face and said "I think they were up to something". She explained how the dude was about to buy a perfume and took out his credit card, but then his sidekick whispered something to him and they abruptly left, saying that they wanted to go to an ATM to get cash.
When Yvettra and I finished our chat I wondered where my phone was. I hadn't seen it for a while... Yvettra's face went blank and she uttered, "Steve....they took it! I know they did!"
They did. Or, at least Bonnie did and then whispered her misdeeds into Clyde's ear, prompting them to scram.
I walked to T-Mobile down the street to put a block on the phone. I described what had happened. One guy working there said that he knew exactly whom I was talking about. He saw them at the bus stop yesterday. They were unmissable. They were casing the street. The girl and the dude with the huge hand bag.
I got a new phone because I'm 100% completely dependent on my phone - like an external organ. I took pictures of trees in Elysian Park because my stolen phone had a nice textury bark picture as its wallpaper. I wanted to recreate it.
I loved the outcome. The very first additions to my new camera reel. I bet you want to know which picture I eventually chose as my wallpaper. You'll have to steal my phone to find out.
Monday, October 21, 2013
I've written so little in this blog lately. I blame Instagram. I also blame my search for a new house. Since midsummer I've spent most of my free time looking at ugly places online and visiting them in real life. I might be moving rather soon. It depends on a lot of things. But it's likely.
I will miss my neighborhood - especially Elysian Park. When I run, I ascend several hills and can see the 5 freeway for miles. It's almost always packed and I think to myself how glad I am that I'm not stuck in the traffic.
It's usually dark by the time I finish my run. Once I saw a little light in the distance that kept changing color. As I approached it I realized that it was dangling from the collar of a little dog. The dog probably wore the light to help the owner find him when walking in the dark. It offered little help that night since the dog seemed to be alone. I tried getting closer in the hopes of finding a tag on his collar, but he scurried away. I even made little clicky noises - something Rosie usually likes and responds to - to no avail. I continued my run and found a little search party at the bottom of the hill. They also spotted the lost dog and were trying to capture him.
As I got closer to my apartment building I noticed nice shadows on the pavement. The streetlights cast them. There will likely be shadows in my new neighborhood too. But I will still miss Echo Park.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
These are cypress trees near the perfume shop where I work. I pass them some evenings when I walk Rosie around the block. Now it's getting dark and the trees look inky. Soon there will be no traces of the sun at 7 pm.
Today is the first day of autumn. It feels like it too.
Sunday, September 15, 2013
One of the things I like most from buying art and design books at Stories, the used book store in Echo Park is that the dust jackets are usually protected in archival plastic film. The crinkling sound that comes along with handling the books is delightful.
I bought a roll of the plastic film online and spent at least an hour last night wrapping some of my favorite books - particularly the old ones I took from my mom's house on a recent trip - mostly photography books that my dad bought in the late 1970s. I grew up with them and couldn't begin to guess how many times I leafed through the pages and stared at the glamorous pictures. Now, coated in a plastic sheen, the printed colors of the dust jackets pop out with a rich saturation. Any rips, creases or crinkles in the paper are forever frozen and somehow lessened - protected under a cool glossiness.
I wrapped 7 or 8 books last night. I lay them on the table when finished and just stared at them.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Isn't this robot scary? I like that it's made of wood. Not necessarily the obvious choice of materials when creating a robot. I wonder if in Olden Days robots were made of wood and springs and cogs? Probably not.
My friend, and brilliant poet Jane Yeh wrote an incredible poem about robots in her last book called The Ninjas. I bought it a couple of months ago and have read it several times - often before going to bed. This is from The Robots:
In robot language, 'I' and 'you' are the same word.
I love this line the best in the poem. This pertains to all robots. Those made of wood and those made of kevlar and microchips I suppose.
I was so happy to discover that Jane shares my fascination with birds. They often appear in her writing. I'm surprised I didn't already know this. But I suppose we never really had aviary conversations in person. In the poem Last Summer, she writes
Birds were cheeping and tweeting like crazy.
(Their lungs are so small they can't make complete sentences.)
In the trees they perched like tiny balloons, feet tethered to the branches
Tomorrow is Jane's birthday. Tomorrow is already today in London where she lives. So I wish her, with my big and full lungs, the happiest birthday.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
When I came out of the bedroom this morning at 7:30, the windows in the living room were white with fog. By the time I finished a cup of coffee and finished telling Rosie the pug how pretty she was, the sun had started to burn through the moisture.
I'm going to celebrate my dad's birthday tonight by cooking shrimp scampi - the dish he would make for me when I'd visit him at his house.
Today I'll wear a tie.
Sunday, August 18, 2013
I didn't particularly enjoy my piano lessons as a kid. I dreaded them to some extent except for the end when my teacher would flip through the pages of the lesson book choosing a song for me to learn for the following week. The sounds of the pages turning and a few directions jotted down with a pencil would cause goosebumps to crawl all over my arms. My scalp would go all tingly
It turns out I have a weird fetish. I didn't even know that it existed or had a name until a few days ago. It's called ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response). Certain sounds trigger it. In college I often hung out with my friend Aviva, a (then) active smoker. Sometimes the barely audible crackle of the paper and dried leaves as they ignited from her drag on the cigarette caused waves of shivers over my upper body. The mouth noise of the cigarette leaving her damp lips as a smoky breath exhaled sustained the shivers.
Similarly I felt waves of tingly relaxation while sitting in Aviva's room as she brushed her hair. Aviva was, apparently my ASMR supplier.
This all sounds sexual. But it's not. The ASMR never extends south of the waist. It's more of a deeply relaxed response. I don't have it often as I used to (as I kid I was covered in tingles). I now only get it occasionally.
And like tickling yourself, you can't effectively cause an ASMR on your own. I feel nothing when I turn the pages of a magazine. Unless it's an exciting magazine of course.
I most recently noticed it while watching an episode of At Home With Venetia in Kyoto. Venetia visited a basketweaver and they spoke very quietly in Japanese. The sounds of the whispered consonants and the crinkle of the basket as they passed it to one another drew me into a deep, shivery relaxation. Covered in goosebumps I rewatched the scene several times - but did not experience the ASMR as strongly.
I thought everyone had this response although I've asked a few friends if they ever got waves of tingles from the sound of pages turning. (They don't). But apparently some people do - and I'm apparently part of a strange fetishy brotherhood.
I didn't know it was 'a thing' until I started searching for videos on youtube of relaxing sounds. Origami tutorials. Basketweaving. I typed in 'pages turning' and stumbled upon an entire world of sounds. Most of the videos had 'ASMR' in the titles. A google search later revealed its meaning.
I've watched several of these videos the last few nights. My favorite was of a guy pretending to be a librarian. He checks out books, fingers through the pages, jots something down on the back page and whispers comments as he does so. Some of the books had that wonderfully crackly cellophane, protective wrapping.* You would think that I would be a tingly mess, but despite finding it deeply relaxing, did not have an ASMR. Maybe I don't respond as well to recorded triggers (unless, of course they happen to be Venetia whispering to a basketweaver).**
*Again, this sounds sexual. It's really not.
**Since writing this post, I've watched quite a number of ASMR videos and had the full-on tingle response! It was triggered by Maria, the queen of this genre. Her youtube name is Gentlewhispering. It was a video of Maria whispering in Russian while tapping and stroking various belts that did it. I know this sounds weird as I write this...
Monday, August 12, 2013
Friday, August 9, 2013
Growing up we only ever had Dial soap in the house. My mother maintained a belief that it was somehow better for our skin. That and Keri lotion. When the bar dwindled to a slight, cracked version of its former self, my mother would throw it into the pink plastic hamper holding our dirty laundry. She hoped that the soapy dregs would help to deodorize.
When my parents started to live apart, my father switched from Dial to Irish Spring. I completely supported his choice. I looked forward to watching the commercial where an actor sliced through a bar of the marbled green soap with a pocketknife as though it were a piece of cheese or fruit. Clean as a whistle. Dad used Irish Spring for the rest of his years. Whenever I visited him in his home I could smell the soap throughout the house. I bought him a bottle of Vetiver by Guerlain which he wore on special occasions, but I actually preferred the scent of Irish Spring.
Lately I've been using soaps by Juniper Ridge. It's a line we started carrying at the perfume store where I work. The flavor I've been using is called San Jacinto. They're all natural so they don't lather up in the way I'm used to - but that's fine. I feel adequately clean and my apartment is filled with the smell of evergreen.
Thursday, August 1, 2013
This morning while walking Rosie I looked up above the door to a building and discovered really cool tiles. The building is part of the respiratory hospital campus near my home. I must have walked past this building a hundred times (literally, a hundred times, at least) and never noticed the tiles before. I imagined how amazing this building must have looked when it was first built. It still looks amazing but somehow it doesn't invite anyone to notice it anymore. Like when you wear a new shirt and a perfect stranger compliments you on it -- and you know very well that if you wore an old shirt, you would have never received the compliment (even if it still looked good).
Thursday, July 25, 2013
I went to Little Tokyo on my day off yesterday. I bought two porcelain bowls. They were surprisingly inexpensive. I like the net pattern and the little scene depicted in cobalt at the bottom. I will use them for rice. And possibly ice cream.
I also bought origami paper in a Japanese bookstore. I plan to make many many paper cranes and hang them in the window of the perfumer shop where I work. I've never attempted origami before. Lately I've been watching youtube videos of origami demonstrations. I seek video material that will lull me into a sleep. I thought that I would like basketmaking tutorials but they, in fact, fail to relax me. Too much talking. I found that most origami instructionals are silent but for the sound of folding paper. I will watch the one that teaches the crane design and try to stay focused.
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
I saw a scrubber like this in a fancy design shop. It's made in Japan. I wanted to buy one because I both have a thing for cleaning products and for Japanese design. This scrubber seemed so natural and purposeful. It reminds me of a hedgehog.
I saw the same scrubber in a two-pack in a Japanese supermarket for a fraction of the price. The one in the design store came in nicer packaging. Nicer in that it looked authentic and special. Nice paper, nice writing. But once the packaging comes off, all the scrubbers are the same.
So far I've used it to scrub potatoes and to clean an iron skillet which I used to cook salmon. When not in use, it rests in a bowl I made, next to the sink.
Sunday, July 14, 2013
Our friend Gabriel came into the perfume shop today to smell amber fragrances and carnation fragrances. He came bearing gifts, namely Mozartkugeln, chocolates from Austria. He had recently been to Vienna.
For those who don't know what a Mozartkugeln is (and I was one of them until only a few hours ago), it's a bonbon comprised of pistachio marzipan and dark chocolate.
I bit into one. It had that wonderful, dry, mealy texture of marzipan but without the almond booziness. Like a more subdued marzipan. It was slightly green. It was delicious. I imagined harpsichord flourishes as I swallowed the tastiness.
To Gabriel's and my surprise, he ended up liking Vitriol d'Oeillet from Serge Lutens. Not sure why this was a surprise. I suppose it's just neither of us expected him to like it.
My friend Laura made me this cleansing facial oil. She's been dabbling with home-made cosmetics lately to avoid using the potentially harmful ingredients that regularly appear in commercial products. This endeavor is very Venetia Stanley-Smith. I told Laura so. I meant it as high praise.
|Not only did Laura make the facial cleanser, she also took this picture|
This is what Laura used to concoct the cleanser. She instructed me to shake the mixture before using - then drop a few drops into my hands, rub them together, finally rub all over my face. I then hold a warm washcloth over my face and let steam for a few seconds. Wipe off. No need for a moisturizer afterwards. I tried it last night and loved it. Smelled wonderful.
Monday, July 8, 2013
Brennan made this mint ice cream. He was inspired by an episode of Nigella Lawson's cooking show. She made it look so easy, combining whipped cream, sweetened condensed milk, booze and shaved chocolate. She threw the mixture into a baking tin lined with cling film.
She even gave a demonstration of how to best rip cling film (vertically). No need for an ice cream machine. The booze keeps the mixture from freezing too hard.
Brennan modified her recipe a bit. Nigella used coffee liqueur and espresso powder. Brennan used peppermint schnappes and ripped mint leaves. He gave me a portion of the frozen confection in a glass jar he purchased at Heath Ceramics. I'm going to eat it on the balcony when I finish writing this.
It's a new moon tonight and will be very dark on the balcony.
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
I went to Vinny's Barbershop on Virgil today for a trim. I wasn't due for a trip to the barber until next week but I wanted to look nice for a 4th of July BBQ tomorrow. I am ordinarily very loyal to Ian in Burbank but I thought it was time to mix things up a bit. Sometimes you just have to.
Angel cut my hair. Very carefully. At the end of the trim he shaved below the nape of my neck and then splashed on bay rum. I love the smell of bay rum. He applied a vibrating metal object to my shoulders which massaged them. I saw him do this to the client before me so I knew that it was part of the service. I looked forward to it during the entire cut.
The barbers talked about their 4th of July plans. Someone on the telephone was told that the shop would be closed for the holiday. The barber who took the call relayed the conversation to the rest of the shop and imagined saying "Well, you know, we're closed tomorrow because we're AMERICAN!" "Where are you calling from? Afghanistan?" Omar, the owner called out his name disapprovingly, to which he replied "It's okay dude! I'm Persian!" This made everyone laugh.
I am very happy with the cut. But I had to restyle it when I got home because Angel gave me a look I wasn't comfortable with. Like an 80s Korean pop singer.* It was easy to rewet it and make myself look more like me.
*Not his fault by any means. I was very vague about how I wanted my hair styled. The 80's Korean pop singer look is probably much cooler than the Steve look, but I wasn't prepared for it. At 41 years old, I am slow to adapt.
Sunday, June 30, 2013
I recently watched an episode of At Home with Venetia in Kyoto in which Venetia visits with her old friend Charles. She befriended him shortly after arriving in Japan some forty years ago. He convinced her to move to Kyoto rather than to stay in Tokyo.
When she arrived at his home on the episode they greeted each other in English (Charles is American) then continued the rest of their conversation exclusively in Japanese. She explained how the move to Kyoto had proved to be essential in her development as a person. That Kyoto was the 'true Japan' - the Japan that intrigued her. She told her friend, "Charles, your name is now synonymous in Kyoto with cheesecake."
Apparently Charles introduced the magic that is New York cheesecake (he's originally from New York) to the people of Kyoto, making it and serving it in his cafe. He, Venetia and Venetia's grandson Joe made a cheesecake together. I desired cheesecake as I watched the episode. Desired it. I thought about it all week.
Today on my way to work I stopped by Trader Joe's and bought a frozen New York style cheesecake. It defrosted through the day and at 4 pm Laura suggested we start eating it. We agreed that it was perhaps the most delicious thing we'd ever eaten.
Monday, June 24, 2013
Today was funny. I wore at least three different fragrances. Dream by Gap in the morning. There was something about the fruitiness of my new hair product that made me think that Dream would be a good idea. In the afternoon I misted myself with Neroli 36 by Le Labo. It smells like suntan lotion. The last fragrance, and my favorite of the day was Champaca by Comme des Garcons.
When I got home from work I went for a run in Elysian Park and watched blimps float over Dodgers Stadium. I listened to several songs while running including We Belong by Pat Benatar. I recently added it to my playlist. I remember liking the video when I was a kid. Pat wore a large emerald ring in it. It's all you noticed when she clapped her hands in time to the music.*
I kept hoping that I would see the moon looming over the horizon. Yesterday it was the closest to Earth that it will be all year - but the sky was somewhat cloudy and the effect wasn't as spectacular as I anticipated. Tonight I couldn't find it anywhere. As though it decided to not rise at all.
*I rewatched the video to We Belong just after writing this and found that my memory took a few liberties with the details. There was no emerald ring. There were emerald-like earrings. And green gloves. And a childrens choir. And a waterfall. I did remember the waterfall and the childrens choir accurately however.
Monday, June 17, 2013
You might think these are real fruits. They're not. They're made of plastic. I bought them today in the flower district downtown. I'll display them in the perfume store where I work to encourage people to think about summer and fruity smells.
A young woman rung me up at the cashier. She spoke to her colleague the entire time she scanned the items. I didn't mind. My purchase reminded her of a recent incident where a young boy thought the fruits were real and attempted to bite into one.
Her story didn't ring true to me. I figured that the boy probably knew very well that the fruit was not real but pretended to be fooled for comedic effect. Why would a young boy pick up any fruit in any store and just start eating it?
I didn't react to the story. I pretended to be lost in my thoughts. Her colleague didn't seem to have much of a reaction either. When I thanked her at the end of the sale I was surprised by the gravelly, deep sound of my voice. It didn't sound like me. I liked it.
Here's another picture of the fruits.
On my way back to the car I walked through the Flower Mall. I saw multicolored hydrangea. They were real flowers but I suspected that their color was achieved through artificial methods.
Thursday, June 13, 2013
The morning sun sometimes hits the glass pyramid I have on a table near the window in such a way to refract light. Little rainbows appear on the walls and ceiling as a result. I then come out of my dark bedroom to find this little kaleidoscopic effect in my living room. I always like these mornings.
Monday, June 10, 2013
I went to Target today to look for colorful things. I was on a mission to decorate the perfume shop where I work in a summery way. I found a few suitable objects. Target is good for things like this. Seasonal things. As I walked to the checkout my eye got stuck in the toy section. I was in colorful-plastic-object mode so I thought I might see something in that particular aisle that would capture my imagination.
It was a piano in the shape of a cat. It was called Meowsic. I wanted one. I wondered what it would sound like. It cost $26.99. I didn't know if this was a good price for a Meowsic or a bad price. I didn't buy it.
I like visiting Target. Everywhere smells like buttered popcorn.
I bought a big spool of baker's twine online. I have big plans for it. So far I've used it to string together the birthday cards that my friends gave me last month. I don't want to throw them away but I don't want to have them out any longer either.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Someone stole the piece of plastic that covers the back of my side view mirror. I noticed that it was missing when I drove home from the swimming pool last week. There was no sign of damage, no apparent grazes or cracks. Someone deliberately and cleanly removed it. I guessed that it had happened the night before when I was enjoying a drink at 1642. I returned to the scene of the crime to look for clues.
I thought that maybe a drunk dude with a great sense of humor removed the mirror cap and perhaps threw it on to the sidewalk a few paces later when the plastic no longer amused him. This did not seem to be the case in the light of the bright Southern California daytime however. There was no glossy black shell on the sidewalk. I crossed the street and continued my inspection.
There was another black Mini Cooper very similar to mine, parked in front of a house. I had noticed it in the past. My eyes wandered to the side view mirror to remind myself of the glossy plastic cap that was so abruptly taken from me. Only this car didn't appear to have the cap either. The wires controlling the automatic mirrors were as naked as mine. "What a weird coincidence. Perhaps someone on this street has a Mini Cooper passenger-side-rearview-mirror-cap fetish" I thought.
I know that my Mini Cooper brother stole the cap. It's hard to understand why he would think to do that rather than to order another one. It was probably easier to take my cap than to arrange for a $153.78 replacement. For a second I considered stealing it back (if it, in fact, appears on his car. I haven't returned to that street since last week). Or maybe scratch the pristine surface with my key. Or leave a note asking him for $153.78. I won't do any of these though. I'll just not park on that street again.
This morning I picked up the replacement mirror cap. My car looked so complete. Even more complete than back before I realized that such a thing could even be missing. I drove directly to the carwash and scrubbed off the entire incident. But before washing I walked over to Ms Donuts to get change. And to eat a doughnut.
Monday, May 27, 2013
Look what I did! I poured the bright yellow contents of the ugly plastic Cepacol mouthwash bottle into this Bourbon whiskey flacon. Now I don't mind seeing it on the bathroom sink. It took some doing soaking the bottle in a waterbath to release the Bulleit Bourbon label from the glass. But it was worth it.
Sunday, May 26, 2013
Recently at 1642, my favorite bar, I saw a girl who looked like Penelope Tree. She was with some other girls at the table next to mine. I pointed her out to my friends and found a picture of the 60s model on my phone to compare. My friends urged me to show her.
I leaned over and spoke to Penelope's friend since Penelope was too busy chatting with someone else. I said "Your friend looks like Penelope Tree." I showed her the picture on my phone. She laughed and showed it to Penelope herself. She responded by holding her hands together while clutching her hair, imitating the model in the photo. We all laughed.
My guess is that my observation wasn't a big surprise to her. One doesn't come to resemble Penelope Tree by accident.
*I believe that this photo was taken by Richard Avedon. When I was a little kid I used to peruse my father's photography books. He had one that featured the great fashion photographers - Avedon, Helmut Newton, David Bailey...all of my favorites. The pictures of Penelope Tree were striking. Beautiful and a little disturbing. My favorite combination.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
My friend Laura gave me these wooden cones for my birthday. The larger one is made of maple. The smaller one is smoked oak. She found them in a store that sells Scandinavian things. She said that she thought of me when she saw them. This made me so happy. It's weird how much I love them.