This Smeller’s The Feller

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So this blog post has a very long history. I traveled to Europe after I graduated college, 20 years ago, with my friends Laura and Jean. I remember hiking on a goat path on the Italian Riviera in the Cinque Terre, which makes me sound more fancy and international than I actually am. What I distinctly remember is the smell. I remember that it smelled like caramel, and I kept looking for the plant that was giving off the aroma, with no success. I finally just assumed it was just more of the magic of Italy, like pizza and gelato. The country just smells good.

Several years later I moved to Los Angeles and was hiking in the canyons. Again, I smelled the caramel sweet fragrance and started smelling every plant and shrub on the path, looking for the source of the fragrance, again with no luck. Italy and Los Angeles both have a Mediterranean climate, so it would make sense that they would have the same foliage, but I couldn’t find the plant. I then assumed that it wasn’t actually a live plant that I smelled, but something drying out or breaking down, so I started smelling the debris. I had become obsessed with the sweet, vanilla tobacco smell, and I looked ridiculous hiking like a bloodhound.

Two years ago Albert and I were going to Aroma Cafe in North Hollywood and were walking on Tujunga. We passed a boutique, and I smelled the fragrance again, so Albert and I started sniffing all the plants. Yes, I make Albert help me solve my mysteries, even if it means smelling bushes on the sidewalk. After passing the boutique several times, we finally went in and found that the source of the smell at this location was an expensive WoodWick caramel candle that they are known for selling. So, I was correct that I was smelling caramel, but that candle could not have been what I was smelling when I was hiking outside. It was killing me!

Last week I went with my friend William to the Payne Foundation nursery in Sun Valley, which focuses on native California plants. I had been once before, so I wasn’t expecting anything new. As I was walking through I smelled the smell again, but this time I was passing containers of individually marked plants. I could sample each, one at a time. I picked up a good dozen pots with no luck, and again assumed that it wasn’t actually a plant at all, but maybe the decomposition of a plant. Finally I picked up what looked like a pot of grass and immediately new that I found the source of the fragrance. It smelled liked baked goods. My mystery plant is in the evergreen family and is called California Everlasting. It is known for having a sweet maple pancake aroma, and it is now in my yard. So, now Hollywood smells as fancy as the coast of Italy.

I have two movie reviews for you. We went and saw Lincoln on Friday night, and I hated it. The acting is great all around, but Sally Field is too old to play Daniel Day-Lewis’ wife. The bigger problem is that Lincoln himself dodders around, wrapped in shawls or blankets like a grandma, and tells long-winded story after story like a crazy person. Each time he begins one of his many overly earnest anecdotes, a patriotic horn starts playing in the background to beat you over the head with his wisdom. It is really boring and I couldn’t wait for the slaves to be emancipated, so we could be freed from the theater.

Sunday we went to see Life of Pi, a movie that I wasn’t that excited about. I wasn’t familiar with the novel, but I love the director Ang Lee and it’s getting good buzz, so I thought I’d give it a try. I loved this film, and Lee is a beautiful storyteller. It’s really a unique tale and visually stunning. What I love about the movie though, is that it’s linear enough to be satisfying, but vague enough to be open to many interpretations. I cannot stop thinking about this film, and talking about it with people who have seen it. Go see this one on the big screen in 3-D. We saw it at the Cinerama Dome…along with Jodie Foster and her kids!

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