Friday, September 28, 2007

Lizard Forebrain

When I start foaming at the mouth about scents, flavors, and the experience of the sensorium, I am going to try to do it at my brand new, other mental nest, Lizard Forebrain. That way, this blog will not be swamped in the same kind of weird introspection I am so horribly prone to.

This one was meant to be a home for anecdotes and mumbling about morals and ethics and stuff. I think I want to bring back that separation.

I meant to post at greater length (and earlier!) but things have been off the hizzy, as the bad boys say. Instead I will barrage you with links about what I am going to do with Robert and Pat, the other members of the Rolient Brothers, our screenwriting co-op, this weekend:

Visit the Getty museum.
Go to Tommy Ray's Cafe (owned by Brother Dave's uncle).
Stay in Graciela (Burbank).
Go to Universal Studios.
And if we find time after Universal, we'll go do an initial sniffathon at Memoire Liquide at Fred Sagal Studios.

The Rolient Brothers are also starting a short-story writing group; two weeks to write a story on a given topic, and then we can get together and discuss them. Those elements that seem particularly rich to farm for screenplay fun will hopefully be incorporated.

This cycle's topic: serial killers.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Playing doctor -- who's on first?

In today's permissive, gross-out movie atmosphere, purportedly focusing more on women's perspectives (although that is an extremely doubtful interpretation of all the "empowering" spank-fantasy Valkyrie-images in films right now), it's a shame nobody has done a movie that really brings home the deadpan hilarity of the Ob/Gyn's office. Okay, so Knocked Up gave it a try... but they mostly missed the ridiculously physical humor that happens every time, and which nobody present is allowed to be the first to laugh at.

My approach is different. I wisecrack wherever I am. It cuts the can't-laugh tension of the exam room. Try it, the next time a medical professional has you in a compromising position. They may not wisecrack back... but they'll laugh.

I had a breast lump right before we went to Peru. I just about died of terror, but my doctors were great. They got me in the next morning for an exam, fine needle aspiration of the lump, a mammogram, and some sonogram imaging. Punchline: it was just a blood clot from a bruise. Gross. But not terrifying.

The whole experience was clothed in a euphoria of terror, but there were some moments of hilarity.

Strongly accented Japanese doctor: "You bwess are weally lumpy!"
Me: "...Oh God."
Doc: "No, the tissue weally lumpy, has nothing to do with lump."
Me: "Um, is that normal?"
Doc: "Is normal, just is weally lumpy."

Me: "Thank you for examining me-- I'm so relieved."
Doc [dismissively]: "Is nothing! Come back if you find lumpy!"
Me: "But I found a lump... that's why I'm here."
Doc [perplexed]: "But that not a lump."

Nurse [helping me wedge myself into a mammogram machine]: "Get right up next to it-- it might hurt, but it shouldn't REALLY hurt."
Me: "Just uncomfortable. And cold."
Nurse : "Sorry about that. You okay?"
Me: "My mom always told me to keep my tits OUT of the wringer."
Nurse: [laughing so hard she doubles over]

The other day, I went for my annual exam. While nothing so dramatic as diagnosing a lump, it was still filled with absurdity.

Doc [leaning forward to listen to my chest]: "Do you have a heart murmur?"
Me: "No! I don't THINK so... If I do, you'll tell me, right?"
Doc: "Shhh. Deep breath."
Me: "Right?!"

Doc: "Okay, I'm just going to do a visual breast exam."
Me: "It's your funeral."
Doc: [laughing]

Doc: "So you want to get rid of the Paragard?"
Me: "Definitely. I'll make an appointment as soon as I..."
Doc: "Pssssh. I'm gonna do it today."
Me: "Today!?"
Doc: "Sure, I'm gonna be in the neighborhood."

Nurse: "You wanna see your Paragard?"
Me: "You know, I do, I really do... is that gross?"
Doc: "I would totally want to see it."
Nurse: "No, it's not gross, it's pretty cool."
Me [looking]: "Neat-o." [saluting] "Thank you for yeoman service, little dude."
Nurse and Doctor: [laughing]

Doc: "Now, you know that as you get older-- NOT that you're OLD-- you are at SLIGHTLY higher risk for diabetes or high blood pressure. But... you'll do fine."

Monday, September 17, 2007

I seem to be boring you...

Where IS everybody?

I hope you're out, having fun, and life is wonderful in your neck of the woods.

What's everyone up to?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

An ex-parrot

Here's a really nice eulogy for Alex.

I'm teary: I loved that little gray beast.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Style and the individual

Obviously, our reasons for washing, dressing, smelling, and accessorizing the way we do vary. One of the things that governs our taste and helps us to select the styles we do is a desire to express ourselves.

What we wear can say who we [think we] are.

This is just as true for the greenie wearing second-hand vintage fashions as it is for the avant-garde fashionista, and just as true for little ol' casual-unkempt me as it is for a Prada-wearing cocktail party attendee.

You can't say lifestyle without saying style.

Many blips on my radar lately have connected at or about this not-very-original thought of mine. Discussions about vegan-appropriate housewares, clothes, shoes, and cosmetics (avoiding animal glue, leather, wool, silk, lanolin, bee and insect based colorants and additives, etc. can be a challenge-- and how does one dispose of well meant but not-vegan gifts?) were the tip of the iceberg. When I see one vegan scold another about using leather shoes pre-dating their vegan lifestyle commitment rather than disposing of them (or the other way around!), I have to wonder... how much of this is pure fashion?

My notice of my supervisor's charming vintage clothes, prowled from yard and estate sales, second hand shops, and other unpretentious outlets for such things, also made me think about it. How can a neighbor's hand-me-down, or even Mom's old sweater, say "me"? On the other hand, it says a lot about her: she uses advertising faxes as scratch paper or prints on their reverse, re-uses containers, chooses to bring lunch in resealable, reusable containers with metal tableware rather than using convenience foods, and, too, saves money wherever she can. She is caring, light-green, and a little old fashioned. Why not shop vintage?

Many of my friends have toys, logo-ware, and accessories that proclaim them to be geeks: gaming geeks, movie geeks, convention goers, medieval replica enthusiasts, online comics readers, etc. While I certainly am most of these things (haven't been to a con in a while, as I never seem to get time off and money at the same time!), I hardly indulge in the consumer culture. (Being fat as heck helps me be moderate about my clothing purchases...) But I am dreadfully uncool, or, in the culture of ironic consumption that has been my milieu since the early 90s, un-uncool.

I wear plain colors, with only a few patterned garments. All my pants (and almost all of my bottoms are pants, not skirts) are black, with a few tan, gray, and brown outliers. All my shirts are green, cranberry pink, brown, or gray (or involuntarily acquired, through Mom or through "casual Friday"-- the only day of the week on which I wear a uniform.) I have only a couple pairs of presentable shoes, and they are all black, except one tan pair I wear with the tan pants when I am not wearing a dark enough shirt to justify black ones. I hardly ever wear jewelry, other than a pair of earrings I always forget to match to my clothing choice du jour. I don't change purses often. I do not wear cosmetics. I scrape my hair back into neutral colored scrunchy ponytails four days out of five. Despite my negligent attitude and recidivist purchasing habits, I have evolved a distinctive look, which, while not particularly dressy nor attractive, doesn't aggravate me. I guess that's style.

Scent is where I consciously strive to be individual. I do not like the idea of smelling like anyone else I know, despite my general fondness for many of the scents of my friends. (Sherri, for example, wears Red Door and Shalimar alternately; both are exquisite on her and very much to my taste, but I will not wear them while they are "hers.")

I don't know how I arrived at this point. I used to want to smell like Grandma, and I used to share perfume with Mom. Having been inspired by Beth's post today at PST to think about childhood longings to be like the other grown-ups and adult cravings to be unlike them, I am compelled to, well, write this post and think through all this.

As a kid, I loved Love's Vanilla-- a sexless, confection-sweet spray with an ice cream cone on the metal bottle. My mom loved it too. Perfumes are notoriously difficult for her, because they all mutate into cat-pee on her skin... that one was special, just pure gorgeous vanilla on her and on me too. It vanished, and we wept together. She has never found a vanilla scent to replace it with. I have flirted with numerous vanilla and foody scents, finding them all to be unsatisfactory in the long run, but acceptable for the short run. I can no longer wear what my mom does-- she wears fresh, complex florals with sparkling citrus, and I have been wearing deep, deeper, deepest (never fruity!) foodie scents, like Comptoir Sud Pacifique's L'Amour de Cacao and Pilar and Lucy's The Exact Friction of Stars.

And suddenly, like the thirty-something I am, I find that I have outgrown the scent equivalent of the umbrella-clad fruity girly drink and into the scent equivalent of a good Scotch-- barely foody, not at all sweet, deep and smoky, complex, filled with earthy and evolving aromas.

Hunh. Ain't that a bitch.

Back to the whole individuality thing... There are a few places where one can have a scent designed, which is uniquely one's own, and never to be shared by anyone else. I want this with the fierce intensity of a burning sun! (Mostly because I know what I like and I can never find it, untainted by other things which I do not.)

One is Christopher Brosius Limited "I Hate Perfume". CB is the luminary perfumer who made some of the extraordinary, bizarre single-scent notes from Demeter perfumes, such as Dirt, Green Tomato, or Lobster (I apologize if another perfumer is responsible for any of these Demeter scents). He doesn't like perfumes that don't evoke experiences. Now, after a clean break with Demeter, he makes spare, lean, gorgeous perfumes evoking things like burning maple leaves, icy mittens, or a Mediterranean holiday. These are not metaphors-- they really do smell just like those things. He also designs custom perfumes for customers who desire that service, keeps the formulae on file, and never allows anybody even to try on those personalized scents. Although others can smell them in his studio, they aren't allowed even to try them on. This is both so accessible and so marvelously exclusive that it fascinates me.

The other that I can think of is Memoire Liquide (website still under construction-- for the metatextual connection, go here or here.) The developers are Robin Coe Hutshing and her sister Jennifer Coe Bakewell, who have deliberately created a deconstructed fragrance counter experience where clients go through the experience of selecting scents they prefer or find evocative or meaningful, and building a personal fragrance with the aid of a perfumer. Memoire Liquide also keeps the recipes on file for future reference and purchase, although I am less clear on whether they share them with other consumers. I want, want, want to do this. Pat has promised me a field trip to go fragrance-constructing there for this Christmas... sometime a little in advance of the holiday. I'm crazy excited!

I can think of many combinations of fragrances that I think I would adore. Here are a few I-wish-I-had-handy-right-now combinations:

--Fresh cut ginger, gardenia, and lemon. (c'mon, why must white florals always be creamy and night-time-ish? I want a spicy daytime scent without a lot of cloves.)
--Boozy, pure vanilla without any florals or musks added-- not baked goods, but reminiscent of the extract. (For Mom.)
--Vetiver and fresh cut rosemary. (This could be perfume Prozac. I want this to exist.)
--Stargazer lilies and violet leaves. (Those heady spice-bomb flowers and that fresh greenness would be dynamite goddess power when I really needed a knockout date scent.)

But what I think I will try to recreate this Christmas is the scent of summertime on the Central Coast of California, where I live. Ripe, true-to-life strawberries must be the soul of the scent, and there must be oaky smoke to represent the oak barbecue that happens every day here. Watermelon. Orange blossoms. Lemons. Black pepper. Star jasmine. The sweet dry salty rooty dust smell of vetiver, maybe. Certainly hay. Green leaves. Tomato plants. Moss. Maybe a touch of seaweed or tar. Something to mimic the sweetness of whatever dry herb it is that perfumes the wind over our sere, drought-scorched hills. (I'll skip the fart smell of freshly harvested broccoli, but it, too, is the perfume of my home.) It is the aroma that seems to power my windchimes, creeping into my sky-blue bedroom in the same puffs that stir the bells and send my curtain dancing on a lazy summer Sunday, while I nap with my head on Pat's warm shoulder: the scent of happiness. I would love to bottle an analogue of it to amuse myself with in winter.

Wish me luck.

What would YOU bottle?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Thursday night

On Thursday nights, Pete's on Avila Pier has an open mic night. It seems to have been more or less permanently colonized by a young woman named Audrey, whose lovely whiskey voice and shamelessly self-revelatory lyrics compete weekly with the joy-inducing shouts of the sea lions stationed on the pier supports directly under the restaurant. There is little more delightful in the world than being one of a handful of regulars enjoying the catch of the day, bathed in salt air, listening to Audrey pouring her heart out and the heckling sea lions, with the surf crashing around you, the overcast gray sky silhouetting the prehistoric-looking pelicans, and your friends smiling across the table. Also, Pete's makes really good salsa.

Two young men, with the unsteady and wide-red-eyed look of the intensely stoned, came up to the order window of the shack and ordered some fish and chips (wonderful) and some fish tacos (incredible). Then they came over to us on a wavering beeline.

The crazier looking of them leaned over my end of the table. I resisted picking up my purse. Dammit, my passport was in it... it would be a pain to replace. But I didn't want to be rude.

"We're gonna be having a bonfire right over there later," he yelled over Audrey and sea lion barks and surf. He pointed over my head. I nodded, because I was not turning my back on him and my purse and he was actually close enough to touch me, which seemed undesirable. Robert and Pat looked at the bonfire location and said, "Nice."

"Y'all are welcome to come. Come to the bonfire. We're gonna be having a bonfire right over there, right over there, later. It's gonna be right over there." He jabbed his finger at it. I think he was unsettled by my not looking. Wanting him to go away so Audrey could be heard, I leaned my chair back out of his reach and glanced over my shoulder, not bothering to find the bonfire-to-be.

"Great, thanks."

"Yeah, we'll probably be just hanging out, having some snacks, reading some Scriptures," he yelled. He had lost his inside voice (along with his personal hygiene and whatever internal gyroscope keeps people from wobbling.)

I smiled. "Cool."

"Y'all are welcome to come."

Me, Pat: "Thank you."

Robert: "Well, maybe we will-- we have one more place to go tonight, before they close."

The lunatic's eyes opened even wider. I glanced at his companion, who was smiling, but not with the self-consciousness I had anticipated. He was even closer to me. His smile seemed to be stuck. His eyes weren't focused. He was like a Pat Sajak zombie. I winced; I'm sure it looked encouraging, because the one without an inside voice started yelling again. (So did a quorum of the sea lions below.)

"I'm Ian!" He stuck a dirty hand in Pat's face.

Pat shook his hand and said, "Good to meet you."

Ian waited, rocking forward and back. I thought about meth-heads.

Audrey wailed about nature, responsibility, loving a grandmother even beyond death. The sea lions asked their fellows to please get the hell off of them: they're pretty rude with what would be elbows if they had elbows, which is why their call sounds like "ow, ow, ow."

Pat finally took pity. "Pat."

Robert pre-emptively gave his name and stuck out his hand. "Robert." Ian shook it. His beginning-to-remind-me-of-Ford-Prefect smiling friend mumbled, "do you live around here?" to me but I affected not to hear. I put down my plastic fork and shook Ian's hand: dry, burning hot, hopefully desperation is not communicable. "Linda."

Ian wobbled back two paces. I looked expectantly at Ford. He said, "Hi, I'm Evan."

"Hi, Evan, nice to meet you." I said.

Robert said, "Evan."

Pat said, "Hi."

The fish tacos and fish & chips were done. Insanity fuel. The cook shoved it out onto the ledge of the shack and closed the window, not because he was scared of the men, but because that's just what they do when it's cold outside.

Ian yelled, "So we're having a bonfire over there in a few minutes, actually we're about to start, in just a few minutes. Y'all are welcome to come."

"Great, thank you!" Robert said.

I was starting to fight the giggles. "Great!"

They wobbled off to get their food. "See you there," Ian shouted at us. Evan didn't stop smiling when he ate. Like a shark, I thought. The sea lions moaned and barked.

We ate and chatted with Audrey between songs, getting the stories behind her striking and smart lyrics. I was getting cold. We got up to go to our other destination, Robert closing his portable lawn chair and putting it into its backpack, Pat and I trying to help the embarrassed staff stack our plastic chairs (they wouldn't let us, and they wanted all of us, the evangelists, the Wiccan singer, and we three doubting Thomases, to go away and let them close up the shop.)

A battered pickup truck zoomed by us, headed from the pier parking lot toward land. "See you there, it's about to start," Ian yelled from the driver's seat, leaning over the grinning Evan. We waved.

"Enjoy the red Kool-Aid," I said, but really, not loud enough for them to hear. I didn't want to antagonize. The cook snorted and stacked chairs.

And then we went to have wonderful coffee at a new coffee shop, and talk about Warren Ellis and dragons fucking cars.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

What's that smell?

I am pleased to announce that I am going to be a regular guest poster at Perfume Smellin' Things. Every third Tuesday, you will be able to find my featured guest post right there in black & white. (The rest of the time, you will have to be content with Columbina, her wickedly amusing Mr. Columbina, the charming Tom, and the other guest posters... so don't wait 'til a rainy Tuesday to visit. They're delightful.)

My review of Andy Tauer's delicious, unreleased fragrance L'Eau d'Epices, currently being tinkered with by Andy, will be the first to appear there. His other fragrances, particularly Lonestar Memories, are controversial and seem to be love-or-hate things with no room to kinda-like. I am keen to try Lonestar Memories because evidently it is a fierce thing of smoke, dust, leather, and tar: eau de highway. Excitingly different, though I might not be the right person to wear such a thing.

I will be acquiring even more fragrance samples, now that I can justify spending money on my odd passion for scents to myself... it's a legitimate hobby now, don'tcha know? (Those of you who see me regularly will soon be aware that I will smell weird-- okay, even weirder than usual-- in my spare time.)

As of now... well, I cannot recommend Sel de Vetiver by The Different Company highly enough. It comes with quite a price tag, which is normally enough to send me whimpering, but in this case, I might bite the bullet and go for it. It is unisex, austere, and reminiscent of the outdoors. A warm, rooty, earthy freshness of vetiver softened by candied grapefruit, iris, ylang, cardamom, and the teensiest touch of patchouli ever. (I can't even smell the patchouli.) This scent does not trail after or emanate from the wearer. Instead, it seems to surround him, barely detectable except for brief, beautiful, strangely salty hints. Try a sample if you are curious; it might delight you the way it does me.

Yes, a sample. You can try small samples of fragrances from many perfume shops -- I rather like Luckyscent. Or visit the holy grail of sample and decant shops, The Perfumed Court. But beware... that way lies addiction.

Edit: If you are apt to be captivated by sniffing things, but don't know where to start, read this post at Perfume Posse... even if you don't go smell them all (and goodness knows I have not) it's a delicious post.