Saturday, May 5, 2018
When I was maybe twelve years old I asked my mom for an electric guitar. My parents were unusually generous with my sister's and my musical curiosities. At that point I had been learning piano and trumpet for several years but I started to get into popular music and I wanted to sound like my favorite groups. We went to a music store and I tried an instrument made by Ibanez. My favorite band at the time was Spandau Ballet and I noticed in a group picture that Gary Kemp's guitar was indeed an Ibanez. I never even touched a guitar before that point so when the man who worked at the music store plugged the Ibanez into an amp and invited me to test it out, I simply strummed the open strings and was disappointed with the sound. Why doesn't this sound like Spandau Ballet? I immediately abandoned the project and chose the path of a person who enters adolescence without a guitar.
The problem was pedals.
I didn't realize that the sounds I loved so much from my favorite artists were highly modulated and affected. I thought that some guitars simply sounded that way, just as a Stradivarius offers a violin tone like no other.
A year ago I started playing guitar. As an adult I realize that many of the things that I love are the result of a complex process of trial and error and wise decision making. Many beautiful things are elegant and perfect because great effort made them so. Or at least lots of gear...
So I became a gear head. I have bought and have been given over a dozen effect pedals at this point. My most recent acquisition arrived in the mail two days ago. I realize that I wanted the sparkly, shimmery sound I was able to make, thanks to my pedal board, to actually change shape over time. A flanger pedal was exactly the tool I required.
I watched several videos reviewing various flanger pedals. The Electric Mistress by Electro-Harmonix has been around since the 1960s. Jimi Hendrix used one. Electric guitar purists seem to love this model - though recent reviews were somewhat lackluster. The MXR allowed the musician to achieve a Van Halen sound. The stomp box itself is 'built like a tank'. The Boss Flanger would give you the Cure sound. Obviously I see myself more as a Cure guy than a Van Halen guy, yet I selected the MXR nevertheless. I have an equalizer by MXR which allows me to enhance the treble sounds and decrease the bass resulting in a brighter sound. I decided that the a flanger pedal by the same company would be equally satisfying.
I added the new pedal to the chain and turned the power on. I played a simple chord progression and my living room resounded with the color of a cathedral. Neither Cure or Van Halen but simply perfect.
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
On Saturday we had an event at the perfume store where I work for a new brand inspired by vintage fragrances. Barbara Herman, the creator, writes about old perfumes in a blog and came out with an interesting book linking trends in perfume to specific social changes in the twentieth century. During a presentation at the event, Barbara mentioned Kouros by YSL and passed around scented blotters. She found inspiration in this fragrance because of its almost-unpleasant animalic funkiness - she argues that 'unsafe', dirty, dangerous scents all but disappeared in recent decades but champions their comeback. These complex, grown-up smells are challenging and glamorous.
Of course I know Kouros very well. I got a sample of it from a department store in the early 1980s. I would dab some on and then listen to the soundtrack of Cats the musical. I knew the songs very well. For me the smell and the Andrew Lloyd Weber melodies are inextricably linked.
Brennan told me that Cats was being revived. First in Paris and then on Broadway this fall. Yesterday the famous actor Taye Diggs was in our perfume store smelling sweet fragrances. I told him about the Cats revival. He told me how when he first moved to New York City in the 1980s he auditioned for the role of Rum Tum Tugger, the rebellious, Elvis-like rock and roll cat. I thought this was amazing. I told Taye how I used to to dab Kouros on to my 6th grade skin and sing and dance to Cats.
Brennan and I joked that we'd try out for the new cast of Cats. We decided that my pug Rosie would probably also try out. She doesn't like to be left out. Brennan texted me an image he created at work and said that Rosie had sent it to him. Apparently Rosie has decided to make her own musical. This image is completely hysterical.
Tonight I sat in my garden and drank two beers. Earlier in the day I bought a timer at Home Depot so that the string lights in the fig tree can illuminate every evening and make the space magical. While driving to Home Depot I listened to the Overture of Cats and remembered how in the actual stage play, the string lights in the set flickered perfectly in time to the music. As though the lighting director played the light switches like a musical instrument.
I sat back into the Adirondack chair and drank more beer admiring my string lights. I noticed two chemtrails in the sky illuminated by the full, jellicle moon.
Monday, April 11, 2016
After work yesterday my friend Rachel and I went for a run in Elysian Park. It was the third week in a row and I looked forward to it, so much so that when I discovered that I forgot to bring running shorts with me to work that morning, I stopped by Target and bought a new pair. The new shorts are dark gray, baggy and not something I would ever choose unless presented with few options. I also bought some outdoor string lights, the same kind Brennan has in his garden.
Rachel and I chatted through most of the three and a half mile route through a newly refreshed park - it had rained all weekend. I kept the tag on the shorts because I intend to return them. I might encounter problems when returning because I can't find the receipt. I keep all receipts - I have boxes full of them. It's odd that I can't find this one.
When I got home I started to string the new lights on the fig tree in the garden. Vito the cat was there and watched me for a short while. My mother came out of her house as the sun was going down. I asked her if she liked the lights. She laughed a little and said "It looks like Christmas! I love it". As it became darker outside the cedar fence next to the fig tree took on a brighter amber glow.
I picked Rob up from Union Station a bit after 10 pm. He just got in from Seattle and took the Flyaway bus from the airport. When I pulled into the driveway at home I pointed out the new feature of the garden. Rob came out of the car and walked towards the fig tree. "It's great! It looks like Christmas!"
Friday, April 1, 2016
I hope Vito comes to visit this morning. I've been in the habit of waking up early to get some work done in the garden before the sun becomes too hot - or simply come out with a cup of coffee and sit on one of the Adirondack chairs inspecting my work and checking on the new plants that recently got planted. Often Vito walks past or curls up under the Korean national flower a couple of feet away from where I'm sitting so that he can be involved without actually being involved.
Vito and his sister Lollipop were born in my garden over a year ago. Their mother just appeared one day out of the blue and gave birth to kittens. She nursed them, some of them didn't make it. Vito and Lollipop did. I started feeding the ginger cats everyday and they became my outdoor pets. Their mother absconded as quickly and mysteriously as she arrived.
Lollipop was hit by a car early Monday morning. I woke up to texts from Rob saying that he thinks he saw her on the road as he drove to work. My mouth dried up and I ran outside in my pajamas to check. I picked up her body, not looking at her head. I heard a neighbor say "Oh, they really got it....' as I carried her into my garden. I don't know why the neighbor said this. Maybe he was as shocked by the sight of a dead cat and didn't know how to express his condolences. Maybe he's a big idiot.
It was the first time I ever touched her. She was always such a small, shy cat. I laid Lollipop on the ground and dug a big hole under the Palo Verde tree. When her enterrement was complete I went inside the house and texted Brennan. I caught him before he left for work and he came by to check on me. I openly wept. I couldn't stop. We stood by Lollipop's grave and lit incense.
I don't know if Vito understands that his sister is gone. I'm sure he does in a cat way. I planted an orange rose bush and yellow flowers under the Palo Verde tree and called it Lollipop corner. Vito walks past without any special reverence.
I bought Vito a bunch of toys from the pet store on Tuesday. A felt chili pepper filled with catnip. A fake mouse that dangles from a string and squeaks. A pillow you can warm in the microwave and leave with your cat to use as a comforting pillow. Vito doesn't seem interested in any of them.
Yesterday when I came home from the nursery and planted more verbena bonariensis and white gaura, he brushed past my legs multiple times. He stayed with me the whole time until the job was complete.
He emerged from under the Korean national flower about two minutes ago. Walked past me then disappeared around the house. I will go back into the house now and fill my, now cold cup, with more coffee.
Here's Lollipop last week, sunbathing on my balcony.
Friday, March 25, 2016
This is how my garden looks this morning. I've been working on it on my days off for a few weeks now. It was my desire to make the plot of land separating my house from my mother's into a peaceful place where you could sip coffee in the morning and wine in the evening. Until several weeks ago it was a plot of pure ugliness. Here is a picture to demonstrate this point:
My mother stole an aloe plant from the neighbor's yard. She actually dug it up and transplanted into our ground. I yelled at her for this although I secretly knew that the neighbor would probably never notice because his garden is just as ugly as ours used to be.
I put off transforming the space because I knew I had to erect a fence to shield the view of the neighboring house. I've never built a fence before and didn't know how to begin. After discovering that Home Depot sold cedar fence boards I consulted a few youtube videos and learned how to build a fence.
I dug up the stolen aloe, potted it and placed it in my mother's back patio. The strip of earth next to the graveled area will have Veitch's blue globe thistle. I ordered the roots from a website and they arrived from Holland only a week later.
Among the thistle, the thin stalky limbs of verbena bonariensis will rise. Right now they are fragile shoots of pale green emerging from the small pouch-like pods of a seed starter kit.
Thursday, October 15, 2015
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
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.