Wednesday, November 5, 2014
I usually devote a good portion of my Wednesdays to my mom. I have the day off and chauffeur her around Los Angeles since she no longer drives. LA Fitness, the Korean supermarket, the doctor's office and Walmart are the typical destinations. After the gym and a short errand I asked if there was anything she needed to get done. It was unusually (for November) hot today and I hoped that she wouldn't have any pressing requests. She wanted to go home and give her dog Genny a bath. I was very pleased to hear this.
After coming home and eating some Vietnamese spring rolls for lunch I decided to sneak out and get a coffee in Silverlake. I would have to maintain impeccable discretion to pull it off, otherwise my mom would hear me opening my car door and ask me where I was going. (I would feel guilty for not inviting her to come with me - especially as Wednesday is 'her' day). I put on black jeans and laced up my new black boots. Sneaky people wear black.
Barely audible Chopin nocturnes emitted from my car speakers. It's not my usual driving soundtrack, in fact I find it frustrating listening to most classical piano music since the audio levels are often very low and I have to turn the volume up to a level that makes me nervous. I suppose the point of playing at a constant pianissimo is to emphasize the drama of a forte. I suppose I don't really like drama while I'm driving. But I kept the Chopin on because it seemed right.
The heavy traffic of the 101 hardly dampened my enthusiasm. This is rare. I'm almost always filled with rage when driving. When I finally reached Silverlake I parked my car and started walking towards Intelligentsia Coffee. As I got closer to my destination a strange looking guy asked me if I was 'for peace'. Of course I'm 'for peace' but I didn't want to stop and talk with him and sign something or give a donation. I suppose this makes me typically Silverlake. I told him that I couldn't talk because I had to 'get somewhere'. My face adopted a slightly pathetic expression.
When I reached Intelligentsia, the gates were closed and a guy was sweeping up. They were going to host a private event there. I was not invited to this private event.
Thankfully the flower shop next to Intelligentsia was open. They sell more 'natural' flowers. Less flower-shop-refrigerator-style foliage. Things like eucalyptus branches, pincushions, chamomile, rosemary. I selected some eucalyptus and rose hips. The woman working there placed the greens in brown kraft paper and threw in a stalk of something exotic that resembled seaweed. She only charged me $9 for everything. Everyone seemed to like me on sneaky-Steve day.
I exited the flower shop and checked to see if the weird-'are you for peace'-guy was around. He was, so I took a right instead of a left and popped into a couple of shops on Sunset Blvd. I crossed the street and decided to have a coffee at Black Cat. It was dark and stylish inside. I ordered a coffee and took a photo of my newly acquired bouquet.
The coffee was especially dark, rich and delicious. It tasted like coffee from an expensive restaurant. I suppose Black Cat is an expensive restaurant. I read my book for a bit until they dimmed the lights in anticipation of the dinner crowd. When I emerged back on to Sunset Blvd, the sun had mostly set. We changed the clocks last Sunday and since then have been waking up an hour early every morning and find it surprising when it gets dark by 6 pm. As I walked towards my car I noticed the full moon, rising above the trees and the El Pollo Loco parking lot.
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Rob and I took my mom to the Korean supermarket in Little Tokyo today. She tends to take a very long time in the grocery store. I'm learning to deal with it. Since she doesn't drive in Los Angeles her outings are dependent on my free time and good humor. A trip to the grocery store is a big deal to her. So much so that she'll choose an outfit and do her hair and makeup in preparation. I respect that.
While she inspected every fruit and vegetable in the produce section, I zipped over to the prepared sushi counter and scoffed down unagi and miso soup in a styrofoam cup. When I returned to the shopping cart my mom didn't even notice my absence.
Rob put two jars of honey in the cart. I liked the label. By the time my mom paid for her groceries, nearly two hours had passed. When we returned home I took a nap with Rosie for thirty minutes while watching At Home With Venetia in Kyoto. It's an episode I've watched countless times. She makes shampoo with aloe, rosemary and kombu.
When I woke up I walked to a bookstore in my neighborhood called Seite. Seite means 'pages' in German. It's so random that it exists only a few blocks away. I realized as I walked down the street that it was my first daytime walk in the neighborhood. The only other time was when Brennan and I walked to the metro station on new year's eve. It's not really the kind of neighborhood where you walk around. Mostly because massive dogs jump against gates as you past them and this scares the shit out of me.
I liked Seite. There was a selection of books you might find in a used book store in a small college town. In the corner of the store was a counter that sold Mexican perfumes and cosmetics. I bought a book about the techniques of wood sculpture. I like how it's 'profusely illustrated' (according to the bottom right hand corner). I also bought a book called The Folkore of Trees and Shrubs. I was hoping (in vain) that there would be a cool book about Japanese gardens. The last time I was at Stories Bookstore in Echo Park I found a book about Japanese bamboo fences. It's the kind of thing I'd probably pick up often and just stare at the pictures. I didn't buy it though I wish I had.
Now it's nighttime and Rosie is pressed against my leg snoring. I made myself a Manhattan and will begin to page through my new books.
Thursday, March 20, 2014
A few weeks ago a cold made me miss two days of work. I stayed home and slept. Despite feeling miserable, I was delighted by the light in my room. The blinds on my window filtered the sunlight adequately to create a soft, white glow. I felt like I was sleeping in an Ingmar Bergman film.
Yesterday I hung a small Noguchi Akari pendant lamp next to my bed. It blends into the wall during the daylight hours leaving a soft shadow against the wall. At night it produces a warm, golden light allowing me to leaf through J Crew catalogs.
The lamp didn't suit the black framed drawing hanging on the wall a few inches away. i cut out a photograph from an album my dad made in the 1960s and placed it in a white frame. While he was alive I never truly appreciated dad's creativity and never regarded him as an artist. This is because he never regarded himself as an artist. He thought he wasn't fancy enough.
The photo on my wall is beautiful.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
When I drive back from the park after walking Rosie and Genny (mom's dog), I am usually on edge. The back seats and passenger seats of the car are always covered in mud despite my efforts to keep things clean by laying down towels. Genny starts crying with excitement as we ascend the driveway. She loves my mom so desperately she can't but whimper at the very thought of being reunited with her. She bolts out of the car the moment I open the door. Rosie whips herself into a frenzy Genny style and begins running in circles while barking angrily.
While scolding my mom before I left for work (for spending too much money and having unrealistic expectations) I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. I checked it when I was safely in my car and setting out to go to work. I received two texts. I didn't recognize the number.
It read "You said you won't hurt my feelings but u did when u didn't text back" punctuated with a crying emoji. Then, simply, "Thanks" with a sad face emoji.
I wondered who it was from. I couldn't think of anyone. I'm too old to know anyone who would even feel this way let alone text me to let me know. Poor thing. She obviously had the wrong number. If my morning sucked, hers was surely worse.
My mom and I went to Anawalt Lumber in the second or third week after her move to Los Angeles. She bought a couple of small trees which I planted near her front door. I bought narcissus bulbs. You can buy ready-to-go narcissus bulbs at Trader Joe's, (ie. they're already situated in a little pot with earth). All you have to do is water them from time to time and wait for the bright green hints of early springtime to shoot forth. I figured I already had pots and dirt so the three bulbs for $3 would suffice.
One bulb emerged remarkably quickly. I kept the soil damp - perhaps too damp as little mushrooms started appearing on the surface. I wondered if this was dangerous. I googled "Is it dangerous to grow mushrooms indoors." You can find every type of opposing answers to simple questions online. Generally the answer seemed to be 'no'.
I replanted the virtuoso bulb in a mason jar on its own. I marveled at the white strands pushing through the soil against the glass wall of the jar. There's something so satisfying about looking at roots 'in action'. I eventually made the realization that they were not roots sprouting from the narcissus bulb. They were in fact a mycelial network sprouting up more little mushrooms on the surface. For some inexplicable reason I thought this was gross.
The small paperwhite flowers bloomed a week or so later. The scent is particular - somewhat pretty somewhat not-so-pretty. Rob was sitting on the sofa and asked me if I smelled cat pee. No.
"I feel like I'm smelling cat pee" he insisted.
I took a picture of the blossoms and posted it on Instagram.
Thursday, January 30, 2014
I set out to make today Steve Day. Since moving my mom to California six weeks ago I've devoted my days off to driving her to the Korean spa, Home Depot or anywhere else I felt would make her feel more connected to her new city. Things came to a head yesterday when I took her to the gym. She wanted to splash around in the hot tub while I ran the treadmill and worked on my biceps. When I checked in with her a while later I did not see her in the tub but heard her in the distance, speaking in a panic. She lost her glasses and her bathing suit after showering. She implored the woman cleaning the pool area to help her. How does someone lose a bathing suit in a locker room?
"Go back and FIND them!'
I proceeded into the men's locker room, showered and changed. As I styled my hair with Surf Hair, every young man of East Los Angeles with an interest in physical fitness had the occasion to experience my mother's anxious voice emanating from the locker room door. "I lost my son! Could you help me find him?" I walked out of the locker room wearing one sock and one flip flop. "Mom! I'm right here! I'll be out in a minute!"
I was surprised by how quickly and completely I could feel 14 rather than 41. My mother is, apparently a sorceress.
Today would be all about me. Me, me, me. It started at Belvedere park with Rosie and mom's pink toy poodle Genny (pronounced Jinnie). The sky was atypically gray. I noticed the skatepark for the first time. It looked lunar.
Next on the Steve Day itinerary was a trip to a Chinese supermarket with mom. She needed vegetables for the dinner she was going to make tonight. The year of the horse begins tomorrow and the supermarket and parking lot were packed to capacity in preparation. While mom spent an hour looking at vegetables I purchased a bottle of Japanese plum wine and three packs of Manner Wafer cookies in different flavors: almond, coconut and hazelnut.
At 2:30 I fled the house and began Steve Day. I drove to downtown LA and explored its hipsterification. The Ace Hotel on Broadway didn't disappoint in any measure. I had a coffee and perused the various bars except the one on the rooftop. The outside tables and chairs looked decidedly Parisian.
The slighty drizzly weather made downtown seem especially non-LA. I walked into the Aesop skincare boutique and a woman demonstrated how to wash and moisturize my face using my hand as a face stand-in.
My car was parked near shops that sold either sewing machines or perfumes. The parking meter had 10 minutes left so I looked at, but did not smell, hundreds of perfumes.
Thursday, January 9, 2014
Before my mom moved into the house in back of mine, I tried to make its exterior more welcoming. She had never seen the house before the move - her expectations were based entirely on my verbal descriptions. "It's small but really cute. And brand new!"
It IS small and cute. And brand new.
But the outside was a little drab so I painted the front door a glossy persimmon color and bought several large pots in the attempt to create a small garden on concrete. I imagined that olive trees would look particularly nice against the greyish beige of her house. Or the Korean National Flower. I know the Korean National Flower well because throughout my life, whenever I would pass one with her, she'd make a point to tell me "That's the Korean National Flower."
The days leading up to my mom's move were unbelievably busy and stressful. There seemed to be little time and so many things to do. I drove to Home Depot and perused the nursery in the vain attempt to find olive trees or the Korean National Flower. There wouldn't be any other occasion to shop for plants so I had to choose the best of Home Depot's offerings. I chose camellias. One of them started blooming this week.
My mom has been tending her garden diligently since her arrival. The camellias, bay tree, gardenia and lavender (all of which except the camellia used to live on my balcony in Echo Park) seem to be thriving. Yesterday, on my day off, I drove my mom to Hollywood and we visited Anawalt lumber and nursery on Highland. I've passed it many times and noticed their nice selection of plants. They had olive trees and the Korean National Flower. My mom bought one of each in addition to a pack of seeds which will eventually grow to become turnips. She will then make kimchee from the turnips (I'm assuming).
I planted the Korean National Flower in a big black pot next to her front door.
Thursday, January 2, 2014
Brennan suggested we check out the New Year's Eve festivities by City Hall. It's the first time such an event was organized. This surprised me. My initial reticence stemmed entirely from an anxiety over traffic, parking and drinking/driving. The typical Angeleno concerns. When he mentioned the possibility of walking over to the metro stop and taking public transportation, I was sold on the idea.
We filled a big plastic cup I acquired years ago from the San Diego Zoo with sparkling wine and creme de cassis. The cup has a picture of a tiger on it. We walked briskly and drained the cup by the time we reached the station.
I was impressed by the amount of people swarming the park by City Hall. A seemingly successful turnout for the first ever NYELA celebration in downtown LA. We acquired a map and walked a lap around the grounds. We decided to wait in line at Starbucks. We waited for 45 minutes. I didn't mind though, I was getting cold and the hot coffee proved well worth the wait.
We found a spot by the beer garden and watched the psychedelic projections on the building. As midnight approached, the time flashed briefly once a minute. A 11:59 I expected a visual fanfare but was denied, until a countdown suddenly began from 10 seconds to midnight. Understated and effective. The excitement was palpable in the crowd. We began walking to the metro station at 12:10 and returned to my house a short while later, the empty tiger cup still in hand.