When I first met Steven, I told him one day I would live with loose gems just laying on tables, like a Colombian warlord or lazy monarch. Apparently he took this to heart, and last year he gave me an emerald for our third anniversary.

It sits on a bronze plinth under a glass dome on our coffee table. It's just over 288 carats, apparently.

I've considered alternative methods of display, like, say, wearing it. Maybe I could go Dame Edith Sitwell nuts and wear it as a massive pinkie ring? I've never like jewelry on men, but it would be so funny; what do you think?


Bon Voyage! (sigh)

Dear India,
I hear you're pretty amazing, but since you're stealing my Holly, I hate you ...

Oh, Holly, you dropped your horsing ribbons!

Who cares?

Well, I guess we better pick them up ... and what's going on with the sleigh in the back of that weird pickup?

Do they even have bluebells in India? Or horsing ribbons, or sleighs? India, I hate you ...

Even though my parties will be safer (who will bite Sterling?) I will miss you immensely, my dear friend.


Movie Night, Anyone?

Tonight we will be viewing a romantic short by Gus Van Sant created for the film Paris Je T'aime. Nothing profane, but fun and saucy. Saucy is good.

As always with Van Sant, excellent soundtrack, and Marianne Faithfull cameo. Can't go wrong.


Button Me Up

Look at what I found a few weeks ago, along with a few hundred more that I have already sorted. Aren't they beautiful? All for two dollars:

I've always hated plastic buttons, so when I found these mother-of-pearl beauties, I decided to take control of my life, and say no more!

The last few weeks I've been replacing all the buttons on my summer plaids with the real deal, and I must say it's very satisfying. I choose complimentary thread (which many of my shirts didn't have before) and away I go. I've found I can do it on the phone, at the beach, during a conversation, in front of a movie. I learned how to do it from this video; no one teaches boys how to sew buttons as a kid, unless you go to a Montessori school.

Everything about them is better ... they feel cool to the touch, have a subtle luster the fakes lack, and they make basic shirts look like a million bucks.


No Pictures Today

With a wildly excited Bendico bounding ahead of him he went down the short flight of steps into the garden. Enclosed between three walls and the side of the house its seclusion gave it the air of a cemetery, accentuated by the parallel little mounds bounding the irrigation canals, and looking like the graves of very tall, very thin giants. Plants were growing in thick disorder on the reddish clay; flowers sprouted in all directions: the myrtle hedges seemed put there to prevent movement rather than guide it. At the end a statue of Flora speckled with yellow-black lichen exhibited her centuries-old charms with resignation; on each side were benches holding quilted cushions, also of grey marble; and in a corner the gold of an acacia tree introduced a sudden note of gaiety. Every sod seemed to exude a yearning for beauty soon muted by languor.

But the garden, hemmed and almost squashed between these barriers, was exhaling scents that were cloying, fleshy and slightly putrid, like the aromatic liquids distilled from the relics of certain saints; the carnations superimposed their pungence on the formal fragrance of roses and the oily emanations of magnolias drooping in corners; and somewhere beneath it all was a faint smell of mint mingling with a nursery whiff of acacia and a jammy one of myrtle; from a grove beyond the wall came an erotic waft of early orange blossom.

It was a garden for the blind: a constant offence to the eyes, a pleasure strong if somewhat crude to the nose. The Paul Neyron roses, whose cuttings he had himself bought in Paris, had degenerated; first stimulated and then enfeebled by the strong if languid pull of Sicilian earth, burnt by apocalyptic Julys, they had changed into objects like flesh-colored cabbages, obscene and distilling an almost indecent scent which no French horticulturist would have dared hope for. The Prince put one under his nose and seemed to be sniffing the thigh of a dancer from the Opera. Bendico, to whom it was also proffered, drew back in disgust and hurried off in search of a healthier sensation amid dead lizards and manure.

But the heavy scent of the garden brought on a gloomy train of thought for the Prince: "It smells all right here now; but a month ago ..."

He remembered the nausea diffused throughout the entire villa by certain sweetish odors beore their cause was traced: the corpse of a young soldier in the Fifth Regiment of Sharpshooters who had been wounded in the skirmish with the rebels at San Lorenzo and come up there to die, all alone, under a lemon tree...

An excerpt of The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa, translated by Archibald Colquhoun, pages 14 -- 15.


Personal Obsession

The Great Conservatory at Chatsworth, seat of the Dukes of Devonshire. I don't really care about nobility or the class system (probably because I'm on the wrong side of it), but I do lust after their absurd possessions, especially those that no longer exist.

Ah, 19th century conservatories ... how my heart flutters. This was largest in the world, and certainly one of the most lovely. See the ribbed surface, glass panes in a herringbone pattern? It was just shy of six stories high, 277 feet long, and 123 feet wide, heated entirely by coal. Carriage paths snaked through dense forest of plants, pools of water and magnificent fountains. Many of its plants had never before been seen in the western world. Rarest birds fluttered overhead.

One visitor described it as "a mountain of glass... an unexampled structure... like a sea of glass when the waves are settling and smoothing down after a storm," while the King of Saxony (no stranger to excess) dubbed it "a tropical scene with a glass sky."

Glass toys don't last. It was impossible to procure coal during WW1, leading to the death of the jungle within. I'm sure at that point it was wonderfully overgrown, a barbarous marvel, for the only thing better than a well ordered greenhouse is one that has gone to seed. Do you think the trees of the interior, tired of their confinement, broke their glass sky? I hope so.

University of Coimbra, Portugal: limed greenhouse with unruly tree.



... most likely my chief vice. Going through my hard drive is embarrassing -- exactly how many hand-held self portraits did I used to take?

I've even built pieces of furniture to accommodate my mirror-gazing habits -- the Male Vanity, designed to hold all those daily necessities of grooming, while keeping bathroom time at a minimum (essential in one bathroom apartments with roommates):

So when Esquire wanted to take my picture for a spread with models from RISD, I thought all my years of toil were going to pay off! But to no avail. My page was cut, and all I have to prove it happened is this polaroid photo test. Maybe the cut had something to do with not having slept in two days and looking like crap? This was the weekend before I presented my Degree Project, analogous to a masters thesis. I looked like death.

The suit is Valentino (note pins at the elbow, clips in back), chambray shirt Dries VanNoten, shoes Church's (way too big). You can't see them, but they were awesome, so I bought an identical pair actually in my size. Otherwise, I'm not sure what they were thinking -- chambray with a three piece suit? Hmmm...


Movie Night, Anyone?

Tonight's feature will be an old favorite, Mascot, by Ladislas Starewicz. There are few things that are perfect, and I would argue this is one of them. Also, it features a little dog strikingly similar to the fellow in my last post.

Here's where it really starts to heat up:

And now that you're hooked:


Amish Puppies!

First, finding parking ...

Is there anything we can't live without today? Many of the goods lay in the fields, while the auctioneer rides along the row in a covered cart, while the crowd shifts along with him to new wares. A woman in a bone-white bonnet notes all prices achieved. Most things are charming and very worn -- dry sinks, dressforms, ingenious homemade mouse traps.

Ok, time for a break. Fresh homemade donuts and ... puppies? Is this paradise? Puppies are so much more endearing than babies, but Amish puppies are even more so:

What a handsome fellow! Steven says the next one looks like me, but I don't see it:

Also, the little boy is pretty adorable. But I prefer puppies.


Summer Means

Long visits to ...

the Red House, my family's place in the Wisconsin countryside. Nothing compares to its decrepit majesty, and I love it more than any other place on earth. The story goes that it went fire-engine red during one of the World Wars, when paint was scarce, and at this point it's an icon to the locals; several times I've heard directions explained in relation to our house. Changing the color would be sacrilege.
A river, nine ponds, acres of forest and meadows. Care to canoe?

Everything is wrong with it -- bats in the attic, snakes in the basement and insane Heywoods & Vaughans inbetween -- but I want my children in its tree and my ashes on its meadows. I planted those hydrangeas as a child. By way of an introduction, I thought I'd show you this little bit of me, my childhood in solid form, one of the places I love most.

Next time I'll tell you about one of the fun things to do there: the Amish auction in Coloma! (and puppies.)


That's right, folks. I hereby declare this site mine.

Construction of Nick Haus commences immediately! Friends and friends, scrounge up a pick axe and your favorite winter gloves, and let's get to work on this igloo ...
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