Echoes of the City (7)

Le Bon Pâtissier

 

There are certain things we all do in life, for right or wrong, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, so on and so forth. And in the inescapable, palpable reality of the adult world, as it has been constructed by current standards, there are a great many things (certain or uncertain) which must be done, albeit, begrudgingly.

There are yearly check-ups with doctors who are not really friends which must be maintained; there are dues to be paid and monies to be furnished for certain guarantees or requirements of life with which we must comply; there are family members whose well-being one must care about despite the fact that said kinsperson may or may not have fallen from our graces.

And that’s just the beginning of the month; the list goes on and on.

That is the current reality we have created and, as such, we must maintain it until we decide that maybe it wasn’t the best of ideas and, why not, just do things differently from now on—what the heck, right? What’s the worst that can happen?

Such is the life of an average adult human (male or female) in the contemporary Common Era.

 

So it was that a matter of weeks ago I found myself in multiple errands with my wife, errands which, I must admit, I do not shun as I take great pride in my domestic chores and all I can achieve in a good weekend’s worth of domestic achievements. However, one of said errands was met with inner dread and a sense of impending doom (my doom, of course), what was said errand? A visit to the off-price department store Ross—where, legend has it, one can Dress for Less.

I enjoy shopping as much as anyone, although not as much as other individuals have both admitted and professed. So shopping is not the factor that causes disdain in my soul, I believe (in hopes of honoring the truth) that it may have something to do with the setting of the store. Or, rather, it may boil down to the fact that maybe the particular Ross store we frequent may not be the greatest one in all of California.

There are just too many variables to try and pin-point the root of the issue, it is now far simpler to accept the facts as facts and try to work around them; or with them, if time permits. Although, if I aim to keep myself honest, there was a period of time where I did derive a great deal of pleasure by visiting the establishment; granted, said visits served the end-goal of furnishing the new apartment into which my wife and I had recently moved, but there were positives as well nonetheless.

The store and its products reflect to a great extent the realities of the customers who visit it: there are multiple languages being spoken, there are different levels of melanin to be seen, there are a great number of nationalities or ethnic backgrounds walking and standing in line waiting for the 2 or 3 cashiers who will usher out the hundreds—if not thousands—of individuals who will pass through the doors, purchase an item or twenty, pass through the doors again, and exit unto the plaza and parking lot.

One can find ornate mirrors, oversized bar stools and ottomans, just barely regular sized laundry hampers and, sometimes, flimsy room-dividers. And that’s just in one corner of the second floor. I’ve bought socks, running shoes, soccer balls and hats as well. My wife has bought outfits for herself, her clients and countless family members. There was even a time when the office coffee station was completely stocked after a trip to this store.

So all in all, I’d be remiss to just complain about it. Instead, I’d rather make some observations in regards to my most recent visit to the land of dressing for less(ing?)…

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And, as many things do in life in general, it all boils down to one single item, to a brief momentary glimpse of what I saw in that item—yes, I did go after the item for further analysis, but it all started with the aforementioned glimpse. It was just a blouse, but what a blouse. It was the conflict of interests of blouses all over the world.

As my wife browsed and perused the “tops” section of the first floor, which holds the lady products, I strayed briefly from her reach, as I often do, trying to assuage the pressure on my knees and the impending hunger which crept upon me. It was then, mixed-in with the rest of the blouses and tops, that I saw the taco, printed on a gray blouse.

I thought it was funny at a first glance, but then I examined it a bit more and I went from being mildly amused to confounded and then a bit confused. What was the message that the blouse and/or brand was giving to the public? I know it was just a piece of garment, but it created quite a clashing experience within itself.

A point-by-point analysis would serve us well in this situation. First, let’s examine the print of the blouse. As I said, it was a taco, but it was anthropomorphically stylized and it also had a catchphrase: Let’s Taco ‘bout it, was the motto.

Nothing wrong there, a bit of wordplay, a bit of pun intended-ness, a bit of street smart and some change in the pocket, been there done that of attitude. But of course, all of it was in playful synch with the almighty taco that was printed and on display.

I took the blouse from the rack to show it to my wife, and that’s when I noticed the brand name. That is the point where the confusion started: French Pastry, the brand.

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Well, at that point I wasn’t full-blown confused and confounded. My initial thought was that it was an odd juxtaposition of visuals and meanings one on top of the other. There was the taco, playful, brash, hip and non-confrontational; one could argue, the taco is trying to make peace or amends in a situation where the other party (or parties) have a bellicose attitude towards the taco (or a party for whom the taco is interceding). Then, there was the brand’s name which implied a certain je ne sais quoi, perhaps a bit of qu’est-ce que c’est, grandeur even, finesse also, a sense of being refined yet tempered and delicious; it was a name to imply a difference between the rest of the brands and itself—one could argue that Puff Pastry wouldn’t convey the intended meaning in the same way.

Yet, that wasn’t the end of it, because then there was the label attached to the blouse, which also showed the brand name but it added a brief description, perhaps the goal of the clothing company even: Inspired in Los Angeles, the label.

And that is when I grew confounded.

Taco. French Pastry. You combine the two of them and you get… LA Urban Style? That’s where the mind inevitably goes, right?

It was with those thoughts circling in my mind that I finally was able to catch up with my wife, still dead-set on showing the anachronistic blouse to her. However, it did not seem to have the same gravitational pull on her as it had on me. The only reaction that was elicited, was my wife handing me the excess garments so she could go into the dressing room to try on the allowed 8 pieces.

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Ultimately, the blouse was returned—albeit to the wrong section, this one labeled “pants” as opposed to “tops”—and the selection of garments my wife had accrued was diminished enough to her liking. So it was that the trip to Ross ended.

Looking back to it, I may have had too large of a reaction to what some may consider a simple causality of life. But one could argue that in the end, those contrasts, as the ones found in blouse and label, are what has shaped this city—all cosmopolitan cities for that matter—through the years. The combinations of geography, immigration, society and everything else can ultimately lead to individuals being inspired by an infinite number of variables.

So why not taco ‘bout it in whatever language speaks to you the most? Be it food or fashion…

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The desert (3)

The stasis of deserts legitimate

[Reader be aware that the title of this entry is, at best and wishfully, wordplay on the title of a song by the Swedish orchestral-death metal band Therion. However, knowledge of the same, both band and song, is not required for the reading of the following text]

 

 

I am fully aware that it will happen in about a month’s time from now; not that I’m counting down the days as some people do in hopes of being celebrated, but rather because it is an inescapable fact of my life and I am tremendously aware of it. Inevitably it will happen because I am—still—alive. That is: the day I was born, my 32nd anniversary of live birth; or, in short, my birthday.

A wondrous and momentous occasion for everyone involved, including those who hold me dear and those who rue my existence alike—because what is life if not a clear contrasting duality of facts and points of view.

And it is no small feat to live over three decades in this planet, or so I am led to believe by independent observers, because after all, there are many who were not able to come this far chronologically, and, as someone once said: “in this life, you’re on your own…”

 

Like never before and quite possibly like never after, I will celebrate with a purpose, I will celebrate with gusto—à la Zap Brannigan—and with a sense of completing one of the benchmarks for which I was placed in this earth: the fulfillment of a life-long dream or purpose.

Self-imposed of course; because, who else would impose their dreams on me? That would be folly.

For the past three years of my life, it has been it—life itself—who has prevented me from achieving what I’ve desired for the last five or so years of my life due to sickness, hospitalizations or general lack of funding has not made attaining said desires possible: visiting the forest that is. The universal forest is what I mean, not a specific forest rather the forest in general (though I’ve heard The Black Forest is beautiful this time of the year).

That unique combination of factors such as land, vegetation, fresh air, elevation, virgin landscapes, wildlife and pure water; that is the forest I long to meet, know and remember from my first glimpse to my parting gaze. Why? Because I’ve never been in such a landscape and/or climactic zone of course, no additional reasons are necessary to my taste.

I’ve lived in deserts, yes; I’ve lived in the city, also yes; however, I’ve never encountered the forest as one would in movies, fairytales or the magical whimsical videogames of warriors, sorcery and open worlds I so much enjoy. As I just mentioned, I have knowledge of it thanks to current technology, thanks to books and novels, thanks to videogames and movies, and, also, thanks to family members and acquaintances who have poured their beautiful experiences and memories, from their hearts and collective conscious, into the empty vessel of my soul—currently devoid of forest memories for good.

I am well aware of my unique functioning as a man full of emotions, guided by feelings and full of introspection and uncertainties. So it very well may be that other individuals don’t long for things and don’t see locales in the way that I do. I romanticize the visages I’ve never seen thinking of the impending beauty that waits for me, all I have to do is arrive at it. I elevate the ideals of a nature which I am yet to visit, partly (I believe) because it is unknown to me and as such should be an endless fountain of memories and beauty.

At the same time, I am comfortable in my concrete surroundings, in a walled-off abode that separates me from the nature which once covered the land where I now live. I do enjoy—perhaps sinfully, perhaps egotistically—the pleasures of the common men and women of this time and age, everything at the tap of a button, everything within our grasp, and all with immediacy.

And still I also know of (and know in fact) deserts, beaches, an inlet sea and one ocean. But there is more. More than the surroundings to which I am accustomed, more to this world of which I only know a mere fraction, more to the deserts in which I was scorched by the heat of nature and the contrarian heat of already established societies and ideals which I didn’t share—deserts in both terrain and ideologies, separated from “the rest” or “others” and very much inhospitable.

So it is that after many orbits around our sun the need and the desire burn within, telling me to complete this sort of pilgrimage to the one true god of nature and untainted beauty. And who am I to deny it or to deny myself?

It is time, for me, to accept the planet in which I live and it is time for us to meet and establish our most primal and intimate of connections: this life…