"So what do you think?" I asked Tom Guarriello. We were exploring the SoHo, NoLiTa and Little Italy one afternoon recently when I was in NYC and I'd taken him to the pop-up Starbucks Salon to get his take. I'd scoped out the ephemeral roving salon touting a roster of emerging artists for myself two evenings before.
"Trying too hard," he says as we exit the hipper-than-thou green and black environment at 76 Greene Street. Tom succinctly summed up in three words what no doubt would have taken me at least two furiously scribbled pages to convey.
"When in doubt, do nothing" reads the title. The November article by Joan Borysenko catches my eye as I pick the clipping up off the ground this morning.
A grand total of three posts in September attest to fact that I'd lost my enthusiasm for blogging. Apparent, huh. Got the do nothing part down pat.
"When in doubt, do nothing." The subtitle reads, "If you want to be creative and inspired, don't try so hard." Borysenko says a small-plane pilot friend coincidentally writes an email during her trying-too-hard phase: "Her instructor told her not to fight the plane when she was in a tense situation: "Just let go and the airplane will settle out, right itself, and fly."
Next on our excursion, Tom and I check out the Diesel Denim Gallery. Any thought that corporations can't hit the right chord in art and design are thrown out the window. Exquisite. That one word is enough. Go for yourself. I never would have believed that denim jeans and leather handbags could still your mind. (Check out Tom's enhanced (with photos) podcast on the Diesel gallery.)
"This rings true," says Tom.
We take a detour in Little Italy to pick up two pounds of parmesan and some piave cheese for Tom on our way to Le Labo. The brusque woman in her 50s leaning on the counter to make sure no one edges her in line perks up on overhearing my conversation on tomatoes. 'What?" "Heirloom tomatoes. I live in California." "Well I suppose there's got to be some consolation for living in California." I chuckle: a New Yorker through and through.
At Le Labo, a tiny storefront nestled in New York's NoLiTa district, the walls are lined with antique tin, and Serge Gainesbourg is playing on the stereo. The tables are adorned witht glass bottles, and there's a long bar along one wall. Upon entering, your first impulse may be to ask the woman behind the bar for a Pernod - but then, Le Labo isn't a bistro. Opened a few months ago by Frenchman Fabrice Penot, 32, and Swiss Edouard Roschi, 34, the boutique is, as its name would hint, a laboratory of sorts: a fragrance lab.
Every bottle purchased here is concocted on the spot by Le Labo's so-callled Lab Boss, Bo-Jude Rich..."It's like food - you'd rather have it made the day you order it," she explains.
...The two refuse to use typical fragrance descriptions (fruity flavors, floral orientals, spicy ambers).
"Describing our perfumes in words is totally useless!" snorts Penot. "On a street in Chelsea I saw a sign that reads EXPLAINING KILLS ART. You could say exactly the same thing about perfume. Choosing your perfume by reading an olfactory description is like asking for someone's resume before falling in love. You have to smell it and feel it."
..."It's like slow food versus fast food. We are a slow perfumery." - "Fresh From the Lab", W magazine, August 2006
It was this article that I'd jotted in my journal 8-11-06 that spurred me to suggest to Tom that we explore Le Labo next. The whole excursion is worthy of another post.
Before I was through at Le Lebo (my research turned to shopping) I'd enlisted Fabrice and Edouard in translating the personal inscription on the bottle of Bergamote I'd bought as a gift to a friend into French.
How do you say, 'Enjoy life'?
Is this for a friend or a boyfriend?
Why? (That's always a tough question. I thought the French had lovers anyhow.)
Well, in French, if you say that it really means you are saying goodbye. (He gestures a waving or pushing away.)
Ah! Like good riddance. Okay. Hmmm, how about 'Inhale Life'?
(They think for a moment.) Respire la vie.
Respire la vie. That's my answer to #5 on the nourishing meme ("What is your favorite natural therapy?") Mostly that's the answer when I'm in doubt. When I'm weary of trying too hard, explaining too much that's how I slip back into art, into inspiration.
I smile when I read Daily Candy Travel yesterday: "The time spent at a cultural event should be inversely proportional to the time spent at the cafe next door." Ah, these people really know how to live. Edouard and Fabrice know how to live too. And in that knowing their marketing just clicks. Effortessly. Rings true. It's not marketing. It's living.
My friend Stephano (Italian from Pavia, near Milan) tells me last time we met. (Tried and true Italian - fashionably an hour and a half late.) "Americans think design is something you buy off the shelf." I smile. I've learned much from Stephano. From Italy. From our trips to consult with a major telco there. I know where he's heading. "It's not something you buy. It's a way of living."
("What is your favorite natural therapy?" I enjoy the aroma of loose leaf assam tea, overhear laughter and conversations on Angkor Wat and Pink Floyd at the cafe table next to me, bask in natural light of the sun as folks walk by, watch kids play in the local park, pet the golden retreiver and chat with its owner, take off early to go see the Monet exhibit - and when it's sold out it's opportunity for contemporary art at a friend's gallery in the city, open all the windows and sliding glass doors and let the air in, hang laundry on the line near the fence with the scent of a neighbor's orange tree and our mint bush, buy fresh flowers frequently, admire the baby blue metal Vespa and the cream antique Cadillac convertible parked at the Cafe Habana while eating corn cake and frijoles negro, toast hazelnut and raisin bread the perfect crispness, surround myself with vibrant colors, dress this summer in shades of pink and rose, jump into a conversation between the bookstore employee and the elderly woman starting a French literature book club (she recommends Madame Proust and that I learn French), stroll the five or six or seven blocks past the magnolia trees and redwood trees rather than get in the car to drive to the neighborhood grocery, call friends to hear the cadence of their voice rather than jot email, eat fresh organic fruits of the season like black mission figs and pomegrantes.
And when in doubt, I breathe. Respire la vie.
p.s. I don't know if I can put up with this punditry guru schtick, how-to's about marketing and innovation much longer. I believe from the space of inspiration, serendipitious stumbling upon inspiring mirrors (like Le Labo) and your own integrity, you can simply glide easily into the how's yourself. Otherwise I'm squashing art as it buds. Otherwise I'm simply trying too hard.
p.p.s. Like Pavarthi (Kirin Mishra) says, "The yoginis wrote poetry not philosophical texts."
images First two street scenes from Grasse, the perfume capital of the world. Last is Tom's shot somewhere in lower Manhattan not too far from Spring Street..."That's art," I shout.