Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac

“Everything was fine with the Zen Lunatics, the nut wagon was too far away to hear us.”            

                So I hate for this to sound like a review.  I’m hoping for this not to come off as a GoodReads rant about how some 60 year-old classic is semi-overrated (it’s not) but here’s my take anyways.  Let’s call it a response. 
                It was the perfect time to read The Dharma Bums as I have begun studying Buddhism recently, more-so mysticism than Buddhism, but it’s easy to relate to Kerouac’s Ray Smith, a writer and self-proclaimed Bhikku,  or Buddhist monk, literally “beggar” or “one who lives by alms”, drifting up and down the coast of the Pacific.  Smith hops aboard the 24-hour Midnight Ghost freight train, hitchhikes on the wrong side of the road, and sleeps on any patch of ground cops are unlikely to notice.  Smith’s version of Buddhism allows for these long flights of illegal travel, binge drinking, occasional marijuana use, and, triple, excuse me, quadruple-teaming a beautiful blonde named Princess, a Bodhisattva, naturally, in a Buddhist ritual called “yabyum”.  This disparity between Ray’s interpretation of a Bhikku’s lifestyle with the traditional vision of the chaste, still Buddha abstaining from all worldly pleasures, is the crux of the book.  This incongruity would make plenty actual Bhikku’s throw down the lascivious book in disgust, but I think Ray’s optimistic naïveté is endearing, and he’s still searching and growing as all Bhikkus must do.  He doesn’t claim to be finished.
                His inspiration and validation for his particular brand of Buddhism comes from the great free solitary wanderers like Han Shan, a Chines e scholar hidden from the big city atop a treacherous snowy mountain, who “scribbles on the sides of cliffs hundreds of miles away from any other living beings.”  Ray’s friend Japhy, a wise and experienced scholar of Dharma, translates Han Shan’s “Cold Mountain” from the original Chinese.  Japhy is Ray’s wildman Bhikku mentor from logger land in the Pacific Northwest, welcoming his stowaway friend, Ray, to pre-hippie 1950’s San Francisco, their West Coast home base (not that either could hold a residence with their penchant for wandering), also home to their merry band of “Zen Lunatic” friends, Beat writers and poets living in decadent humility.  Ray is the most zealous student of Dharma amongst his Beat friends, and he eagerly devours any Truth Japhy volunteers.
                Perception is crucial in Buddhism, as paradoxical proverbs challenge traditional (particularly Western) logic.  To understand reality, one must remove his ego, and discover that the outside world is full of distraction, obfuscating the true godly nature of the world, which one can only see after searching his inner soul for Enlightenment.  A drifter teaches Ray that standing on his head will circulate his blood and cure his phlebitis.  Ray literally has to turn things upside down to see the truth.  Spending a summer atop a mountain in solitude as a lookout for forest fires, Ray stands on his head and realizes the mountains don’t just look upside-down, they are upside-down.  So is he.  It is only: “gravity holding us all intact upsidedown against a surface globe of earth in infinite empty space.”
                Japhy, unlike the less experienced Ray, can meditate indoors, but he also understands the importance of solitude in nature, taking Ray on physically demanding and dangerous hikes, likely to exhaust their sensory organs and reduce their consciousnesses’ dependency on sensual stimulants, bringing them closer to a meditative state.  The mountaintop covers the Bhikku’s heads with clouds, reduces the oxygen to their brains, and demands a journey away from civilization to a place closer to heaven.  Ray has a realization atop the treacherous Matterhorn  Mountain, after his fear of heights paralyzes him only minutes from the top: “Ah Japhy you taught me the final lesson of them all, you can’t fall off a mountain.”  
                Perhaps Ray realizes his fear and ignorance are the only things keeping him from God, like the lacerating wind and “frightening planetary space clouds” left him trembling in the fetal position on that impossibly high cliff, just a few hundred feet from the top.  And this is Ray’s redemption.  Humble enough to learn, he delights in the hope Buddhism imparts and the possibilities extant, like sturdy climbing rocks on the path to Nirvana. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Catch Repose in Los Angeles!! Melrose Trading Post

You can always find me at the Flea Markets on Sunday, so here's a look at the amazing experience that is the Melrose Trading Post at Fairfax High School in West Hollywood.  This market is so social, with lazy-Sunday shoppers always willing to stop and chat..  It doesn't have the unbelievable amount of vendors as the Rose Bowl Flea Market, or as many stores buying from us vendors, but I love how everyone's busy but still has the time to impart some empathy as a fellow intrepid traveler and lover of fashion and beauty in L.A.  

We were the last people to get a stand-by space, but when we got there a family had set up all their ugly hand-painted turquoise semi-vintage picture frames in our spot.  Thanks to Melissa for kicking them out in time for us to make some good sales.  

Low point: when a high-school kid's friends peer-pressured him into returning an awesome 90s printed Snoopy sweater that he knew was cool, but it intimidated his friends.  Not only that but he made his mom return it for him, who waited 15 minutes for me while I purposely took my time on the way back to my booth.  Did I give it back?  Yes, it's no good in his possession if he doesn't want it.

I set up with the amazing David LaBeigh of Fossil Heart Love Bug, shown here reaching up to find a chip in the concrete wall large enough to hang a garment.

Friends Judy of Knorml Vintage  and Frank of Years Vintage Now (I think Frank is closing his eyes on purpose), specializing in high-end late 80s / early 90s dark and sleek pieces.

Check out some satisfied Repose customers!!  Chad just snagged a vintage leather bollo tie with a metal buck's head clip to complement his outdoorsy, western look.


Cheri got a cut-off super-cropped vintage Levi's denim jacket.

I bought a bollo tie from this bro when I first moved to Los Angeles almost 3 years ago now.  He drives a hard bargain, but he's got a fun collection including that Spice Girls poster behind him and plenty Jackson 5 records.

This is my girl who wants me to check out the Hollywood High School Flea Market on Saturday's but we're not sold yet.  She tells me: "Niky, I see you Saturday, right??"  Sorryyy but actually I'm doing the Echo Park Art and Design Fair at the Warehouse L.A., 1197 West Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90026. 

Here's my pick for Best-Dressed in her banana jumpsuit, Leila, with friend, Michelle.

And here's David's pick for Best-Dressed, let's call her the runner-up, Chelsea Liggatt, who better be calling us soon about her movie filming in Joshua Tree haha.

Here's a pic of the boys lounging on a hot day, featuring Ramichael of Duover Vintage. 

Here's my bro from InFlight Vintage having a great time, who creates pop art screen prints, always at Melrose/Fairfax on Sundays unless he's at the Rose Bowl on the second Sunday, exactly my schedule.
Here is the amazing and talented Christine Graza Cervero of Melrose Space 10, who blows me away with her selection of Neon Navajo cowboy cut button downs with cut-outs behind the collar.
More importantly, she creates these beautiful wrap dresses with vintage bohemian fabrics, and is all excited about her recent Vibe Magazine spotlight.  She is so sweet and really doing it!!  She can also be found at the Downtown LA Art Walk.

I love this vendor's beaded bags and statues. They're African, but they oddly remind me of Southwestern Native Americans' beading.   He's got some pretty cool leather fringe purses too.

Here's our friend from the first time Suzie Rossmore and I vended at the Melrose Trading Post.  All of her vintage dresses are altered into one-of-a-kind creations.  The evil vendor next to her stole one of her designs, and she was red hot.

Another staple vendor at Melrose/Fairfax and the Rose Bowl is Z. Hovak who has original creations in outrageous colors with inventive designs and alterations with a DIY sensibility.

Next up another satisfied Repose customer, Ana, wearing a sweet bollo tie with a Brass Antique Car clip.

Last up is Lily Flores, who also sells vintage but took the day off to look beautiful and model some clothes for Knorml (the oversized silk button-down) and me (the Mickey Mouse shorts made from vintage Disney bed sheets) that she bought. 
You can find these amazing shorts at Repose's ETSY store, check out a close-up below.
Only $32!!  Also in different prints:
So soft and comfortable and so flattering.  For Sale Now!!

  And don't forget about my last project, Vintage Cartoon Bed Sheets Tanks from Disney to Raggedy Ann:
Only $32 from Repose!!

Oh, and I love this one too.  Look for more of these as soon as I have the time to make them.  It's a vintage Wrangler western button-down shirt with Navajo prints, cut and sewn into a tank-top, but I use the left-over sleeve fabric to construct warrior fringe on the sides.