Thursday, October 15, 2015

still-sound 220. Interesting flowers

I found this beautiful orange bottle in the trashcan at work.  It was once filled with a beautiful jasmine perfume but the sprayer was ripped off and the contents distributed into many little sample vials which people interested in beautiful jasmine fragrances will be able to buy through a perfume website.  

I stopped into Clementine flower shop in Silverlake on my way home after filling a bag of groceries at Trader Joes.  I chose these orange flowers because they look like little bonnets or lanterns and when would anyone need flowers like this unless one had an orange bottle that was once filled with beautiful jasmine perfume?

I saw these simple green scentless flowers and decided to put them in an old amber jar from Carcassonne.  I don't know what they are.  Neither did the woman with pink hair who sold them to me.  

I like buying flowers like this.  When you have random vessels to put them in and access to a shop like Clementine that sells interesting flowers individually, then you can have floral situations at your home without spending much money.  A friend of mine works for a very fancy Hollywood florist and she told me about several clients who spend tens of thousands of dollars every week on flowers to fill their homes.  This is sad.  What's the point of having a flower in your house unless you can observe it, enjoy it, watch it live and eventually watch it die?  If I had to do this several thousand times over in a week I'd lose interest very quickly.  

I feel sanctimonious thinking that - as though I'm better than a person who would spend tens of thousands of dollars on flowers every week.  I suppose they have a lot more than I'll ever have so I'll at least savor every drop of my self righteousness.  I'm sure they're self-righteous too which means, again, that they have at least what I have plus more.

But do the people who spend tens of thousands of dollars every week on flowers have a lambs ear like this?  I don't think so.  It feels velvety and looks like a beautiful sculpture standing upright in a vase I made a few years ago.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

still-sound 219. Eau Argentine

I wanted to find a new fragrance for myself on my trip to France.  Being a scent-obsessed person, I started considering my options long before my actual departure.  I considered Une Rose from Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle.  I've always loved this scent and consider it to be the perfect rose perfume.  I also wanted to be sure to visit the Frederic Malle boutique in Paris since the images I've seen of it look very stylish.  I've been wearing a sample of the scent, test driving it... The reactions have been so-so.  "It's smells like rose.  It's nice."  Nice wasn't particularly what I was going for.  And I never made it to the boutique in Paris.  There were just too many other seductive retail experiences in that city and I ran out of time.

At the duty free in LAX and Heathrow I tried on the parfum version of Dior Homme.  I've never had the original Dior Homme though I like it very much and put it on whenever I'm in a Sephora.  I liked the parfum version - it was deeper, richer.  I thought I detected a coffee note.  I was surprised that by the time I landed in Paris, less than an hour away from Heathrow that Dior Homme Parfum had all but disappeared on my wrist.  On the other wrist I  sprayed the parfum concentration of Fahrenheit; also very nice but not better than the original version which I already own.

I tried on Cuir d'Ange from the Hermessence line of Hermes.  I tend to love the work of Jean Claude Ellena, the perfumer of Hermes.  Cuir d'Ange is an excellent leather scent and I admire it enormously, but smells a bit too much like Band Aids on my skin.

In Paris I was thrilled to see that Diptyque has rereleased one of my favorite fragrances that has long been discontinued.  Opone is a complex, spicy rose fragrance.  I used to wear it in Paris when I lived there.  Apparently the new version dials up the black pepper while cutting the cumin note.  Honestly it doesn't smell very different to me.  I love both versions.  The bottle was perfect - cracked glass with a tiny label bearing the name of the perfume and an elegant bakelite cap.  The sales assistant at the Marais Diptyque graciously gave me a sample of Opone and I wore it throughout my time in France.  I resisted purchasing it though because we'll most likely be getting it at the perfume store where I work and a discount is a discount.

I found my scent at the IUNX boutique of the Hotel Costes.  I had high hopes for L'Ether, (an incense scent that gets high praise online) and a new sandalwood fragrance.  It was Eau Argentine that captured my imagination in the end.  The sales assistant referred to it as a tea scent, mate in particular.  I smelled tonka bean - the beautiful scent of freshly mown hay.  I asked if there was tonka, she said 'Non.  C'est mate'.  The bottle lists coumarin however (ie. tonka bean).  Duh.

The drydown of Eau Argentine goes into a creamy fig tree with crisp autumn leaves, not wildly different than Diptyque's Philosykos (designed by the same perfumer in fact, Olivia Giacobetti) yet it stays a tonka bean fragrance rather than a fig fragrance.  I compared it to the new Feve Delicieuse from Dior which begins in a similar way to Eau Argentine though the drydown of the former becomes a pure vanilla.

The IUNX bottle is massive and long.  It comes in a protective black foam case.  I didn't spray it on until I came home to Los Angeles where I could photograph it in its pristine state.  I reorganized my entire fragrance collection in my closet so that it could sit in a prime spot.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

still-sound 218. The Garden

The garden in La Redorte didn't always look like this.  In fact this is an 'after' picture.  I didn't think to take a 'before' picture because I was focused on clearing out the wild jungle that had emerged in the year since I last visited the house in France.  Brennan and I were motivated to take the project on.  We both love plants and enjoy the physicality of gardening - but when we first arrived at the house and found that we couldn't walk very far into it because of these enormous vines bearing tiny purple berries that blocked every path, we knew the job would present no shortage of challenges.

First we ordered two 'big bags' of gravel.  Each 'big bag' bears one ton of rocks.  I suppose the French like to say 'beeg bag' rather than 'grand sac', at least those in the building profession.  Les big bags arrived on a flat bed truck that barely fit down the tiny road.  The operator of the truck controlled the crane from a remote control unit hanging from his neck.  The movements were fluid, precise and controlled.  I feel such an operation would never happen in LA but for some reason, in rural France, it seemed to be no problem.  When the driver finished and the sacks were positioned by the front door, I said to him "Quel spectacle! Je suis vraiment impressione!" to which he replied "C'est d'habitude."  Piece of cake.  Piece of gateau...

Brennan and I transported the four tons of gravel one wheelbarrowful at a time.  We created ramps to go up and down stone walkways.  We had to replace the wheel once.  We went to bed sore every night.  We used stones left over from earlier projects where holes were knocked out of the three foot thick walls of the house to create a new door and a larger window from the kitchen.  They become borders along the edges of the new planted areas.  We created a planter in the front garden with the stones and filled it with jasmine.  The climbing jasmine is a variety named after the city of Grasse, the perfume capital of the world.  The few blossoms that still opened in September released an intense, beautiful scent.

We made a raised circle in the center of the back garden and planted a mature olive tree.  We lined the back border with pink oleander which will hopefully grow substantially and become a privacy screen. We filled the rest of the new spaces, enriched with bagged soil with verbena, plants that look like Russian sage but are not, rosemary, blue fescue grass and a highly fragrant rose.  

After we completed the garden, Brennan and I used any moment we could find to sit on the cafe chairs, drink wine and notice the sound of the breeze through the leaves and the perfume of the fig tree filling the air.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

still-sound 217. The Price is Right

The Los Angeles Derby Dolls have moved from Echo Park to East Los Angeles, only a stone's throw from the house.  Brennan got us tickets to go see LA compete against the team from Minnesota.  Brennan and his roommate Iisac used to live in Minneapolis and would regularly go to roller derby.  They supported their Midwestern sisters, while Rob, Derrick and I cheered for LA.  LA clobbered them, something like 214 to 41.  I thought it was nice how the announcer tried to make the defeated team feel better, pointing out that this had been their second bout of the day.  At the end they started playing the theme music to The Price is Right.  Not sure why, but it made me realize how upbeat and cheery the tune was.  

This morning I found the theme music and put it in a new playlist I created called August 15.  I told Brennan how I was going to play the music at the perfume store where I work and make all of the customers guess the prices.

On my way into work I stopped by Blick to buy art supplies.  I had a coupon that would allow me 20% off a total purchase over $50.  I picked up some pieces of wood for carving, some pens, sketchbooks and a set of French Curves.  I didn't bother to calculate,  I know how things just add up.  When I went to the checkout to pay, the total bill came to $49 and change.  The sales associate said that I'd have to get one more thing to be able to use the coupon.  I grabbed one more pen.  She said "You're really good at shopping!  You should be on The Price is Right."

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

still-sound 216. Fahrenheit

Today I drove downtown to buy Fahrenheit.  It's always been one of my favorite fragrances.  The smell of it brings me back to the mall in the 80s.  I've always obsessed over scents.  I'd leave my mom to look at clothes in the department stores on a Saturday night and I'd creep over to the perfume counters and try on every fragrance.  I know only an old man would say this, but they really knew how to make 'em back then.  I am an old man - I know. But it's true. The original Fahrenheit was perfection.

I knew that I'd probably find an old bottle of Fahrenheit at Universal Perfumes on Los Angeles Street.  They have everything.  Tons of mall classics from all decades.  On my way there I crossed over the 7th Street bridge from Boyle Heights and noticed the new Silverlake Wines at Mateo Street.  I pulled over and stopped inside.  On my way back to the car I noticed a new store - the gates were up over the windows and two women were unpacking boxes and setting objects on to the counters.  The objects looked hand crafted and Japanese.  They saw me squinting through the windows and beckoned me to come in.

I looked at a lacquered wooden bowl that had been hand-lathed.  It was made in the Ishikawa Prefecture.  I bought it.  The women seemed pleased.  I may have been their first customer.  The shelves and cabinetry were gorgeous.  I asked who made them.  One of the women explained that a woodworker in Korea made everything and they had it shipped over.  Wow.  The store was called The Good Liver.  It's my new favorite store.

After the Good Liver I parked my car on Crocket Street, near Skid Row.  I walked over to Universal Perfumes from there because parking is a nightmare downtown and i know that you can park on Crocket Street.  I felt stupid walking past a campus of tents and homeless people with a hand made Japanese bowl in my bag and a (fake) Rolex on my wrist.  I reached Universal Perfumes and asked for the oldest bottle of Fahrenheit.  It smells like the gorgeous scent that I remembered from the 80s - pre reformulation.  I bought a bottle and sprayed myself three times.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

still-sound 215. Kittens and a Momma

There's a feline family living in my garden.  They just appeared around two weeks ago, a Momma cat and maybe five kittens.  They mostly hide in the lavender or watch me walk to my car while crouched under oleander leaves.  Sometimes from my bedroom window I see them on the driveway playing or all nuzzled up, nursing from Momma.

I keep a bowl of water out for them and every evening around 7 I leave a plate of food.  I can tell that they've become used to this routine and expect me to be consistent.  When I come home from work and get out of my car, I see their faces poking out from the shrubs reminding me of our little arrangement.  I wish I could keep one but I'm severely allergic to cats and they are most decidedly outdoor animals.

I need to call this woman I've heard of who will collect stray and feral cats, have them fixed and then return them or try to find foster homes.  I feel like I'm supposed to ask my next door neighbor if the Momma cat is his pet.  If so, I wonder if I should ask for his permission.  The kittens will grow up and then produce even more families to fend for themselves on the the streets of East Los Angeles.  But I don't think I will approach the neighbor.  If the cats do belong to him I don't think he cares.  The only thing he seems to care about is moving the beat up station wagon parked outside his house to the other side of the street on Wednesday mornings for street cleaning, then moving it back at 12:00 on the dot, when parking is permitted again.  He leaves the ugly car there at all times, except Wednesday mornings so that no one will park outside of his ugly house.  One time I brought my garbage cans down to the street on garbage night.  I left them next to my driveway towards his driveway - only because his brother had a massive truck parked on the other side of my driveway.  He came to my house to complain the next day.  He said that I didn't respect him.  

Friday, May 1, 2015

still-sound 214. Oh Good Grief!

The other morning I listened to a Vince Guaraldi record called Oh Good Grief!  I had heard one of its songs on the radio last week called 'You're in Love Charlie Brown'.  There were more electric instruments on the track than what I would have expected from Guaraldi.  The early 70s vibe of it made me think that Stereolab must have listened to this album a lot.  I found the record on Ebay and a few days later started playing it at home.  Schroeder is crouched over the piano on the cover and Snoopy has glasses and a mustache.

I completed my morning by brewing some coffee and snipping some flowers from my garden and putting them in a vase.  The purple flowers are heliotrope.  I don't know what the blue ones are called but I did grow them from a packet of seeds last year.  I like how the leaves look like dill.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

still-sound 213. Fragrances at the end of a day

I took this picture from the house in France.  I like how it shows the color of the light
outside just before it gets dark.

Today I added a song to my current Spotify playlist by a pianist named Mine Kawakami.  My favorite TV show, At Home With Venetia in Kyoto regularly features Kawakami's music.  Her music sounds a little Classical with a hint of new age, like George Winston playing Bach.  Bright, simple and relaxing. I'm surprised it took me so long to look Kawakami up on Spotify but when I finally did I was pleased to discover a lovely piece I hadn't already known.  It's called Fragrances at the end of a day.  The title appeals to me.  I've found that the scents of trees, lawns and flowers seem to saturate and amplify as the sun goes down.  The evening smells considerably different than day.  

The first time I noticed the evening-scent-effect was as a very young kid.  I must have been particularly young since most of the memory seems to be hazy, but I do remember the smell perfectly.  My father was a photographer and would take pictures for various local businesses for advertisements and catalogs.  One of his clients was a stained glass maker named Morgan Bockius.  One day my dad came home from the Bockius workshop with a brown paper bag full of colorful glass beads, droplets and ornaments.  At that point in my life this was the greatest surprise I had ever received.  

My sister started taking piano lessons with Claire, the wife of Morgan Bockius.  My family was once invited to visit their home and workshop.  We walked through their expansive back garden.  They may have even owned a horse, but I remember nothing about this visit until the sun had almost entirely retreated.  The lawn was mown but not raked.  All the greens of the trees and shrubs were dark and shadowy signalling night.  The air was thick with a perfume which I now know to be hay.  That luscious, coumarin,  almond-cherry scent of hay.  My young nose had never smelled anything like it before.  We went inside the house because the air was becoming chilly.  We sat around a kitchen table lit by a yellow incandescent lamp and ate Brazil nuts from a bowl.  I had never had Brazil nuts before and would not have them again for, maybe twenty years or so.  My family wasn't a Brazil nuts kind of family.  I wouldn't know that the smell that intoxicated me that night was coumarin / hay until well over thirty years after the Bockius visit. 

When I was sixteen I asked my dad if he could ask Morgan Bockius if he needed or wanted an apprentice.  It seemed like the coolest thing someone could possibly do.  How cool would it be if I could now say that I apprenticed a stained glass maker as a teenager?  But I didn't.  I didn't have my driver's license until after I graduated high school and I assumed my dad wouldn't want to drive me to an unpaid internship.  

Sunday, March 22, 2015

still-sound 212. Joshua Tree

Brennan and I stayed in Joshua Tree last weekend to celebrate his birthday.  We found a house out in the middle of nowhere.  We borrowed Rob's car (because it's so much nicer for road trips than my car.  Actually it's just nicer) and drove it down dirt roads to finally arrive at a little rental house.  There were swings outside and vast desert views.

I had never seen actual Joshua trees until this trip.  They're like the palm trees in LA except the palms are shorter and make the tree look hairy as they dry.  They grow into unexpected shapes making them appear like humans or monsters.  

On our second night we built a fire outside and sat on lounge chairs drinking wine, looking for constellations and listening to Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66.  Then we drank some more.  I had hoped (in vain) that we'd see UFOs, or at least one. 

We drove to the National Park the following morning and climbed over big rocks.  Some formed cave-like passages. We entered some. 

We filled Rob's car with cacti and desert shrubs that we bought at a nursery and headed back to LA.  Two hours later, we presented Rob with a fragrant orchid to thank him for letting us borrow his car.  

The day after Brennan's birthday he received a call from his mom to let him know that his cat had died the previous day.  When he moved to LA four years ago his mom agreed to look after Kitty at her home in Wisconsin.  I imagine they became very close.  When I got to Brennan's house in the evening his eyes were red and stung.  We drank more wine.  

I drew a picture based on a photo of Kitty.  We placed it on a table and looked at it while burning a stick of incense.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

still-sound 211. The attic

I've been clearing my attic lately.  It's not insulated and after last summer I vowed that the attic would be cleared and insulated by next summer. I've had two people come by to quote on the job but neither of them wanted to take on the rather unpleasant task of the clearout.  I was told to contact hauling and removal guys at which point they'd quote on the insulation job.  'Forget it' I thought to myself.  I'll do it myself.  It'll be rather unpleasant but I'll take on the project little by little.

The job is horrible.  I won't lie.  I have to crouch down the entire time I'm up there.  My lower back suggests that I should have just contacted the hauling/removal guys. 

Mostly I'm filling heavy duty contractor garbage bags with building rubble, old roof tiles, garbage and a century's worth of dirt.  I came across some letters including one from The US Navy Recruiting Substation dated 1945.  It was addressed to a man in Mexico who was trying to enlist in the US Navy.  I wonder if this is how he came to live in Los Angeles.   Perhaps after serving in the Navy he became a chauffeur.  I found his chauffeur license up there as well.

Look at these notes written down on a Utility Trailer Sales Co.notepad.  It's from 1955.  I wish people still wrote with this kind of handwriting.

I bet Mr Duarte, the original occupant of my house never imagined that I would be finding his documents like this.  He's most likely not with us any longer.  If he served in the Navy in 1945, he was probably born roughly 100 years ago.  I can't believe no one thought to insulate this house in those 100 years.

After carrying down my last garbage bag for the night and hauling it outside, I went to my mom's house to join her for rice cake soup.  It's Chinese New Year today and one is supposed to eat rice cake soup since the rice cakes resemble coins.  Their consumption is meant to bring about monetary luck.  After eating, my mom asked me to leave so that she could watch her soap operas.  I walked past jasmine blooming by my front door.

Monday, February 16, 2015

still-sound 210. Revisit

On the night of Valentine's Day, Brennan and I went to the Los Angeles Theater downtown to watch Breakfast at Tiffany's.  The theater has been restored to the opulent glory of its historic past.  My friend Shahram owns it and graciously invited us to the screening.  We wore suits.  We were instructed to.  All the women wore cocktail dresses. They too had been instructed.

I've seen Breakfast at Tiffany's countless times as a teenager.  I remember certain scenes very well along with certain snippets of dialogue, like a drunk Holly Golightly reacting to Paul's criticism.  She threatens him: "It should take you exactly four seconds to cross from here to that door...I'll give you two".  

My friend Rachel told me that the line she best remembers from the film is "top banana in the shock department", enunciated in the signature Audrey Hepburn style.  

It's funny rewatching or rereading something you knew as a young person with a few years under your belt.  I used to think that Breakfast at Tiffany's was a cute love story about a kooky girl and a dependable, sensible guy.  Now I realize that it's all about selling your ass.  It's a game of players, strategizing gains from other people's desire.   Every character is a player.  In it to win it.

Until now I didn't appreciate how wonderful Holly Golightly's handwriting was.  I marveled at the little handwritten note she left for Paul Varjak, inviting him to her place for drinks.  The writing looks like the playful script Warhol used in his illustrations of shoes and cats.  

As a teenager I could appreciate that Mickey Rooney's portrayal of the Japanese photographer neighbor was hopelessly racist.  I didn't realize how cool his apartment was or that he performed the tea ceremony in this cool apartment.

I texted Shahram the day after Valentine's to thank him for inviting us to the screening.  He came by the perfume store where I work to say hello and to introduce me to his girlfriend Sarah.  She had an interesting camera with her.  It turned out to be a Polaroid and she took my picture.  When my likeness emerged on the emulsion after a couple of minutes, I thought that I looked cool.  Like my teenage self, only cooler and more sophisticated than my actual, clueless teenage self. With facial hair.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

still-sound 209. Highly perfumed

The air outside my front door has been highly perfumed lately.  Although I don't see any, I certainly smell citrus trees in full blossom.  Maybe my neighbors are hiding them in their backyards.  I noticed the scent last week when I was sanding a sculpture on my front porch.  I've been working on one sculpture for two years.  This is the longest I've ever labored over a single object, and it isn't even large or highly detailed.  I just have such little time to be making things.  But while I was waiting for the plumber to finish fixing my drippy kitchen sink, I took advantage of being stuck at home to sand.  The scent of blossoms only made the task enjoyable and I felt lucky to have been able to spend so much time on the sculpture.

Today I waited three hours for the plumber to come back and have a look at the still-dripping kitchen sink.  Not knowing when he'd actually arrive, I dared myself to get one more thing done before he showed up.  I planted lily of the valley bulbs in a shady area, under camellia trees by the side of my house.  I planted a new cactus in a sunny spot next to the driveway. Rosie inspected my work. 

 I finished sanding the sculpture!  And rubbed oil on to its smooth surface.  The plumber arrived and fixed the sink.  

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

still-sound 208. Mudcloth, scissors and yew

Look at Rosie inspecting the camel saddle.  Brennan found it a few weeks ago and decided to use it as a stool in his living room.  The orange leather upholstering on the seat had seen better days, becoming a bit tattered along the seams.  He decided to reupholster it, went to a fabric store downtown and found African mud cloth.  I never heard of mud cloth but I like the way it looks and think Brennan made the perfect choice.  It looks like it would fit in a Commune-designed interior.  Commune is a Californian design group that combines elements of modernism with ethnicy, craftsy details. Their aesthetic appeals to me.  I bought Brennan a book about Commune for Christmas and we often look threw it while drinking wine.

 I helped Brennan sew because I like to sew and have done a lot of it.  I used to make sewn sculptures back in the day in London (which took forever to complete) so I practically pinned the fabric and threaded the needle with my eyes closed.  I'd call it muscle memory, but it's more like finger memory.

I brought the seat over to Brennan's last night.  The completed camel saddle fit the space perfectly. To thank me for my labor, Brennan gave me an exceptionally thoughtful present that he picked up at a Japanese store in Venice.  It was a pair of 'spring scissors'.  Only a few days ago I described an episode of Begin Japanology which focused on scissors in Japan.  Apparently spring scissors are only used in Japan although they originally came over from Europe many hundreds of years ago.  My favorite scene of the documentary was of an arrow maker using large spring scissors to trim the feathers at the end of an arrow.  The feather trimmings fell lightly on to an indigo-dyed fabric spread out on the floor.  I watched and thought how I would like to be an arrow maker.

When I got home I put my new scissors on the bookshelf in my bedroom next to boxes holding implements for the incense ceremony.  Hanging from the same bookshelf is a brush that my friend Yvettra gave me for Christmas.  It's made of a yew branch, the bristles are horsehair. I've been fascinated by yew ever since I was a teenager and attended a sung performance at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia.  The piece was written in another language and I remember reading the translation which mentioned a yew tree.  I wondered what a yew tree looked like.  I now know because I've been interested in yew ever since that night.  I use the brush to dust off my shelves and shoes.

Monday, January 19, 2015

still-sound 207. Jeans

Sometimes some details have to be perfect, and you can not compromise. At this time in my life, my jeans must be perfect.

I got a pair of forest green jeans nearly two years ago from Levi's fancier, prestige line called Made & Crafted.  You can imagine...Made in the USA, perhaps from vintage looms, based on classic American patterns.  I loved the jeans and wore them nearly every day for over a year.  This isn't an exaggeration.  I still wear them regularly.  They fit my legs perfectly which is not true of most of my other jeans.  I won't wear skinny jeans anymore because only Goths or Emos wear skinny jeans now.  And a 42 year old Goth / Emo is very uncool.  I'm 42.

I decided that I needed to add another pair of jeans to my wardrobe - allowing me the possibility to rotate between two, perfect pairs.  I found some of the raw denim, indigo, selvedge variety in a shop in Venice called Stag. Made & Crafted, like the forest green jeans.  They were even the same style (called Tack).  In the changing room I rummaged through the garment looking for a tag claiming 'Made in the USA'.  They were made in Turkey.  Obviously I have nothing against Turkish clothing but I had expected Made & Crafted to be proudly made in the USA.  I mean, it's kind of the point...

I bought them anyway.  They're perfect jeans.  I wear them with black boots.  

The legs were too long and I cut and hand stitched a new hem but the hem was not perfect.  They need to have been executed on a factory machine.  I wore the jeans rolled up twice so that the hem was not visible at all - but still the imperfect hem niggled at me.

I brought the jeans to a store called Denim Doctor, exactly one block away from the perfume store where I work.  I spoke with a man who introduced himself as Osweyo.  Being an unusual name, he spelled the name immediately after saying it.  I'm not exactly sure if the name was Osweyo in fact - he said it and spelled it all too fast for me to register the information.  I asked him how much it would cost to secure my hem with a sewing machine.  He said "Normally $25, but for you, $20." He wrote 'Rush' on the work ticket and told me that they'd be ready by Tuesday.  I asked him what the stitch would be like, and he answered 'the classic chain stitch'.  There was a display of Japanese magazines in the front of the store.  Apparently Denim Doctor was featured in nearly all of them.

$20 was a bit more than what I had expected to pay for the alteration.  J Crew and Nordstrom does hems for $5 - or at least that's what I had in my head.  But the perfect jeans need to have perfect hems.  Apparently perfect hems are chainstitched.

When I returned to work I told my friend Yvettra about my trip to Denim Doctor.  "Who helped you?  Jake?"  

"He said his name was Osweyo" was my reply.  

"You mean the black guy who runs the shop?'  
Yvettra exploded into laughter.  "He told me his name was Jake!"

Yvettra told me that her alterations from Denim Doctor took much longer than what Jake originally told her.  "Like a month.  You might not have your jeans for a month."  A mild panic crept into my shoulders.  Those jeans make up 50% of my wardrobe from the waist down.  A month without them would prove to be a real sacrifice.  And I paid $20 for it?  

Osweyo didn't call me on Tuesday to tell me that my jeans were ready.  No one called me.  On Wednesday several of my errands caused me a fair amount of stress and when I found myself especially strained, started thinking about the jeans.  'My jeans aren't even ready....and I paid $20 too...'

Someone called me at the end of Thursday to notify me that my jeans were ready to be picked up which is what I did the moment I got to work Friday morning.  Osweyo/Jake was not there. A man with a Jesus hair/beard combination with a Jesus physique gave me my jeans.  I put them on immediately.  

They look fine.  They're the correct hem but I'm not sure if I could confidently state that they feel like the perfect hem or if these were the perfect jeans at all.  Maybe I just need to grow into them.  Sometimes you don't realize something is perfect until you're used to it.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

still-sound 206. Incense ceremony

On Christmas I made an online order for traditional Japanese incense ceremony tools.  I impatiently waited every day for the mailman to come like a kid having sent off bottle caps or cereal box tops in order to win a free prize.  I know kids don't do things like this anymore...but they used to.  I remember it.

My Koh-Do tools arrived a few days ago.  I worried that I hadn't ordered enough ceremonial ash.  I decided that I would eventually want to have more than two cups involved in the ritual which would certainly require more ash.  I walked down the street to the expensive natural food store and bought three more bags of ash.  I love that I live in a city where you can buy ceremonial Japanese ash down the street at a grocery store.

The ceremony works like this.  You place a lit charcoal in a cup full of ash.  You cover the charcoal with the ash and form it into a little five-sided mountain.  You poke a whole through the mountain allowing heat to rise.  You place a mica plate directly over this hole.  You place a a tiny chip of a fragrant, precious wood such as agarwood or sandalwood on the mica plate.  You hold the cup, cover half of it with your hand and take a sniff.  In Japan this is referred to as 'listening to incense'.

I already had some pieces of agarwood (jinkoh, oud, goes by many names) thanks to Faruk, a generous client at our perfume shop.  I purchased some sandalwood chips online.  I don't know whether they originally come from India or Australia - the two main sources of sandalwood.

Tonight I practiced the ceremony.  I read that the incenses should have names and that collectively, should tell a story.  I named the three agarwood specimens after birds: ostrich, swan and sparrow.  I named the two types of sandalwood Shoyeido and Yamadamatsu, after the Japanese brands that packaged and sold the chips.  I realize that the latter two names don't tell much of a story so I shall have to be a little more creative the next time I repeat the cermony.

Here's a picture of 'Ostrich' being 'listened to'.  What did it say?  It revealed the early springtime scent of narcissus.  'Sparrow' sounded more like sweet, woody marshmallow - what I typically expect from agarwood incense.  'Swan' said very little to me.  I think the chip that I carved was too small.  Or perhaps I didn't spend enough time with it to figure out what it was doing.

Listening to precious woods in this way is considerably different to my usual incense appreciation.  The cup is warm in your hand, like a small animal.  Your face moves into the warmth and the scent is subtle and close.  It's similar to smelling someone you love.  The scent is elusive.  It appears then disappears.  Then reappears.

The Shoyeido sandalwood was much more indolic in its scent than I had anticipated.  I thought of fine silk unpacked from a box with a suggestion of mothballs.  It reminded me of my Korean grandmother wearing a han-bok.  I remember how my grandmother was a big fan of mothballs.  I was only three when I knew her.

The Yamadamatsu sandalwood had a sweet fruitiness, like tangerine or orange.  This was a lovely surprise.

The ceremony took much longer than I had expected.  I 'listened' for well over an hour.  When I finished I took a very long time cleaning and putting away the tools, materials and implements as though they were all sacred objects.