"The Past Is Never Dead. It Isn't Even Past"

(This William Faulkner quote has run around in my mind constantly since I first read it sometime last year.) A few days ago Sarah and I scurried down to the Miner's Foundry (home of the Nevada City Bizarre and the place I saw the secret Red Hot Chili Peppers show) to bust out a quick photo shoot in front of a gorgeous stone & ivy wall.

The Foundry is less than half a block away from us, but we drove my van anyway so that we'd have a semi-private place to change ;-)

All of these items are already listed in the shop.

I realized that our booth at the most recent Bizarre was on the other side of that window on the right. Heather's was behind the window on the left!

This car is somewhat infamous around town, and I cracked up when I looked to my right while snapping shots of Sarah and saw this little scene. Curious cat!

Crazy story about this dress- I found a similar one in black last month, and Kerry bought it at the Bizarre as a secret xmas gift for Nicole before I ever had a chance to list it in the shop...

(Here's the other side of that window!) I can't believe I found a slightly different sequined Egyptian dress by the same maker only a few weeks later.

I oughtta make a folder just for shots of behind-the-scenes laughter at photo shoots. Flared nostrils and all.

I almost hope this dress doesn't sell, it would be sort of perfect for my upcoming trip to Big Sur(!!!)...

AMAZING red suede corset boots. Size 7.5.

Forgive me for being such a tease all the time, but I am, as usual, having a Keep Or Sell crisis with the following two pieces:

Royal blue is kind of my color, and I've been looking for vintage overalls like these for years. But I am much more likely to wear the dress than the overalls. Hmm...

Later that day Mycelia and I decided to go on a walk. Someone had told me about a trail down behind the Miner's Foundry, so I set off down that-a-ways for the second time that day.

The trail wasn't really there, but there was an abandoned house with Deer Creek running behind it. We decided to go for it, the sound of the creek was so sweet and inviting...

Green moss, green cedars, green sprouts, green irises...

I'm always trying to capture the beautiful colors in her eyes when we are out in the sunshine.

Sitting there, eating seaweed snacks, I noticed this very rusted horseshoe hanging on the little tree in front of us.

I swear, everywhere you turn in this town you are surrounded by what once was.

We had to climb up a treacherous, dry-leaves-and-pine-needles-covered hillside to make our way back up to the street. When we got there we were greeted by this beautiful hawthorne tree. I wish I could make a career out of photographing hawthornes at different times of the year.

The little white flowers that blossom in May are delightful in a fresh and hopeful way, but there is something so compelling about these overripe, bordering-on-decay winter berries.

We walked back by the Foundry...

And Mycie decided she wanted to play (and SING) around the 19th century equipment before heading home. This is an old wine press at the Nevada City Winery, mere feet away from the Foundry.

You may have noticed I've been adding a lot of videos to my posts lately. That's because my new camera has that option on it, while my previous one didn't. It's so fun being able to capture little moments like this on the fly, moments that I will treasure forever even though they'll break my heart. I recently watched this adorable video of Mycie when she was 3, and I cried my eyes out with sweet sadness over the fact that that little girl is gone, that that moment in history, when she had her little curls and she called her dad "papa" and she pronounced her words that way, is irretrievable.

I have always been lucky enough to live within walking distance of some sort of historical landmark, from Empire Mine to the Foundry to St. Joseph's Hall (which, like the Foundry, is a building from the Gold Rush days that now bills itself as a "Cultural Center" and always has cool events going on).

I really do appreciate living in a place where there is such a palpable sense of the past. There was no such feeling where I grew up in South Lake Tahoe, CA (despite its entanglements with such historical giants as Kit Carson, Mark Twain, and John Steinbeck). And I have been to places (like where my cousin lives in Prescott Valley, AZ) that literally didn't exist 20 years ago and that are made up of nothing but strip malls and housing developments. I suppose one can always find a sense of history out in nature, but I have a feeling that people who live in such places prefer to spend their time at Kohl's and Cost Plus instead.

Geez, I was just saying that I feel like I've been gushing lately on this blog about how cool my town is, and I want to try to tone that down a bit. And here I am doing it again! But I just can't extricate my life and my daily experience from this place, it's all around me. And the feeling and personality of Nevada City/Grass Valley really do infuse each moment in a way unlike any other place I've ever lived. Every house I've lived in here in the foothills has been over 100 years old and has felt very much like it. Aside from the odd layouts and scrappy single pane windows and antique keyholes and doors that hardly fit in their frames anymore, they were/are all on a slight tilt. This is due both to settling over the century and to the fact that there's hardly a lick of level ground in these parts. Most every step you take is either up or down an incline. When I cook eggs in the morning in bacon grease or butter, all of the liquid fat pools to one side of the pan, and I have to nudge it over before I crack the eggs in. When you sit on our toilet, your whole body slides slightly to the left and you can't help but just rest your head against the wall right there and be grateful for a moment of rest. Having lived in the level bowl carved out by an alpine lake in the High Sierras (Tahoe) and in the great central valley of California where there isn't an incline for hundreds of miles around (Sacramento), I must say I prefer the charming quirks that askew foothill living (right in between the other two) has to offer. And I have come to believe that it has something to do with the profuse creativity that has poured out of here and given this area such a distinct personality. (In fact it was just listed in Lonely Planet's list of top ten travel destinations for 2012).

It's sort of like how everyone says they "have the best friends ever!", and how we all (if we're lucky enough, or are good friends ourselves) feel that way. We all have the best friends ever, and that's such a good thing! People are awesome. And I hope that everyone loves where they live as much as I do just like they love their friends as much as I do. Only I'm more self-indulgently and long-windedly vocal about it all.

Okay and seriously, if you haven't read Faulkner, you haven't lived...

“Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.”

“Wonder. Go on and wonder.”

Warm Hearted Revelry at the Winter Bizarre

Last Sunday was the Nevada City Winter Bizarre, an event that is only two years old and yet has become one of the holiday events I most look forward to.

This time it was a bit different for me, as I had my favorite ladies to share my booth with! I was flying solo at last year's Winter Bizarre and at the more recent Summer Bizarre. Looking at this photo I realized that each of us is wearing a dress here that we modeled for the shop at one time, then decided to keep instead.

It was also different in that we got hooked up with a cozy corner spot. I am definitely going to request the same space in the future.

This is why I love this event. Not only do all my favorite Nevada City friends come out for it, but my favorite friends from nearby make the trip too! Becky & Heather (who has already posted about the event!) came from Placerville, and Kim from Oakland. It's like our unofficial bi-annual NorCal vintage loving friend meet up. Speaking of, the lovely Sadie from Lost Boys & Lovers couldn't make it this time, so I wore my tooled leather harness from her in her honor.

I finally got legit with my shit this time, with a sign by local artist Tahiti Pehrson and with business cards. (Okay, so they were stickers with my website URL handwritten on back. But very pretty stickers! I'll get legit next time). I had just scored these big abalone shell earrings a few days prior, and I love how the shimmery rainbowness of the sign is so similar to them.

The best new thing about this Bizarre was having Jen vend her beautiful handmade jewelry alongside my and Suuzi's vintage clothing. She has been collecting antique beads for decades and has amassed a collection of truly rare and valuable beauties that draw in jewelry lovers like a magnet. She is currently working on a necklace for me made with a woolly mammoth tusk bead. As a lover of elephants and mammoths, I am beside myself with the prospect of walking around with such a thing resting near my heart.

The view from our booth.

Meet Skylar and his amazing crochet blanket pants & skirts. There was not a dull moment having him next door. He even changed his outfit more in one day than Mycie and I do combined!

Jen got so many compliments on this sweet 50s style dress I thrifted this summer.

Ms. Sequined Egyptian Goddess sold in a heartbeat.

Baileys, to up the warm hearted revelry factor.

Also in attendance at the unofficial bi-annual NorCal vintage loving friend meet up were Nicole and her darling daughter Kama. I like to think that there is not a better dressed, or more confident, 11 year old girl out there. Sadly, I didn't get any photos of their Crimson & Clover cohort Kerry. It was a joy to see her there and to connect with the one person there who I've known longer than anyone else.

And Sasha! She was not vending this time, but that didn't stop her from looking like the most fabulous vintage boutique owner around.

My own little dear was there too.

As was Becky and Jordan's! Oliver is a steal for only $2, don't you think?

As heather said, we were proud to be in the dance party corner. Fun, fun times. I can't wait to do it again...

The Red Hot Chili Peppers & the White Hot Lace Dress

I had the most unexpected time of my life at the secret Red Hot Chili Peppers show at the Miner's Foundry in Nevada City on Friday night! All my closest peeps kept the band's identity from me all week (including Suuzi! Evil!), but I figured it out about an hour before they took the stage. And I was STOKED. You know I've been crushing on Anthony for about two decades now. I weasled my way to the front row and jumped up on stage during the encore, which you can watch above (look for the back of me about 7 minutes in- but don't skip ahead or you'll miss some amazing shit!). Suuzi and I had photographed the vintage white tattered lace dress I wore to the show about a month ago, thinking I would sell it. I am *so glad* I didn't! It was the perfect dress to wear to something-that's-gonna-be-rad-but-I'm-not-sure-what-it-is.

After the show was over Chad handed me (and some other lucky ladies) a drum stick, complete with hundreds of tiny wood chips banged out of it.

The show was incredible. Flea and Anthony are both going to be 50 next year but are as hot, ripped, and energetic as ever. (According to Suuzi they are, like her, serious Kundalini yoga practitioners). Chad, as evidenced above, tore it up on the drums. The new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer (whose ties to Nevada City are what made the show happen) was amazing too.

Local boys Them Hills opened, and Anthony told us later that he dug it! As well as the fresh mountain air up here.

(Oh! And these three beauties were all clad in Violet Folklore as well.)

Hell yeah! This mama needed a fun night out on the town. And if Friday night was anything, it was FUN.

In The Luthier's Shop

As I have briefly mentioned before, Mycelia and I have been taking fiddle lessons for a while now. My fine fiddlin' friend Artemas Rex (who you may remember from here and here) recently took me to a hidden little luthier's shop aways outside of town called Wolf Note Studio. Owned and operated by local musician Luke Wilson, it is located in a small building right next to the house he shares with his wife and long time band mate Maggie McKaig.

I was completely mesmerized by the beautiful instruments, fine craftsmanship, and rusty history the place evoked. Last week Luke and his partner Jon allowed me to come back, take photographs, and ask them some questions.

One question you may have is "what is a luthier?" Unless you play a stringed instrument you may have never heard the word. I first came across the term in a fiddle book (okay, I admit it, it was The Total Idiot's Guide to Playing the Fiddle) only days before Artemas mentioned the shop to me. Upon reading about what a luthier does, I was aching to meet one in person and see what wonders such a shop would hold. So I was thrilled when Artemas told me Luke was a good friend of his and that he had set up a time for us to go out there.

A luthier is, quite simply, someone who makes and/or repairs stringed instruments. As you might guess, this is a whole subculture within itself, steeped in intricate handiwork, fascinating folklore, and a deep love of music.

I ended up renting a late 19th century German fiddle from Luke that first day, which replaced the slightly-less-awesome fiddle that my wonderful teacher (and Luke's old time pal) Rick Toles (aka Alkali- Last of the 49ers) had lent me for free. Luke's beautifully restored fiddle had come to him by way of the dump- a long time employee there used to salvage old instruments and pass them on to Luke. I am proud to be in possession of such a piece :-)

Luke's grandfather had apprenticed as a woodworker at 14 years of age in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. It was through this work that he eventually became a luthier in the late 1800s. He made this woodworking tool. A creek going by outside his window turned the lathe that created the power necessary to create such an implement out of Birdseye Maple. Luke uses it in his shop over a hundred years later.

His grandfather also made this:

Luke's father (born to the luthier grandfather) was a classical piano player turned industrial chemist, and his mother also played piano. She never received classical training and just played by ear. This is the way Luke has always learned music as well. He says "If you hear twelve notes a few times and can't play it back, what kind of a musician are you?"

Here's the man himself, holding a Hawaiian guitar from the 1920s.

And here's Luke in his younger days, on an album he and a friend recorded in Europe in the 70s. Luke spent this time in his life between there and Canada, working with violin and guitar makers, spending time at Folklore Centers, and learning from banjo historian Pete Stanley. And playing music and honing his craft and falling in love and starting a family all the while.

One of the first things Luke showed me on my visit was the beautifully carved abalone inlay he put into this guitar. "I think you'll like this" he said as he brought it out.

I'm quite certain there was no esoteric intuition involved and that he knew nothing of my love for the whale folk (and just thought that I'd find it beautiful, because it is) but it sure did make my little heart sing to behold such a special, painstakingly crafted instrument bearing the image of my most beloved ocean dwellers.

Can you guess what this is?

Horse hair, for fiddle bows.

The shop is full of this kind of thing- crazy looking instruments that you've never seen anything like before but can tell have a long history behind them and have travelled far and wide. Here we have (from left to right)- a coconut shell ukulele made by a World War II Marine, a Moroccan three string land tortoise shell instrument, and a Chilean one string top cello made from an armadillo.

This is Jon Wondergem, who started out as Luke's apprentice many years ago and now works beside him as a junior partner, at work in his corner of the shop. Jon grew up in the area and now lives with his wife on a piece of land much farther out of town where they tend goats and fruit trees and other crops, calling their operation by a moniker just as charming as his last name- Peaches & Cream Farm. Here is Jon's beloved Epiphone Broadway guitar:

He told me that he loves doing this kind of work because of the infinite variety of options available to him when crafting an instrument. He feels as though he enters a different kind of time and space when he is working on a piece. Which, it seems to me, is proof that he is engaged in his heart's true work.

Jon and I talked about the palpable history, subtle and almost ghostly, that lingers around the instruments and pulses through the shop. He told me a story about a man, both cellist and exorcist (totally amazing career combo), who came into the shop once. Luke told him about a strange, uneasy feeling he'd been having lately while working, which made it difficult to concentrate properly on the task at hand, and the man offered a suggestion. He had Luke pick up the piece of material on his workbench upon which he lays the instrument he is currently working on, take it outside, and throw it into the air. When he did this, Luke saw a flash of light come out of the material. Things improved after that and, it seems, whatever ill spirit was lingering around the place disappeared. It makes me wonder what other energies and reminiscences are housed in these relics.

A better look at Jon's workspace, as he shows me a piece of abalone inlay in a beautiful wave pattern that he put into the neck of this instrument.

Speaking of, here is Luke's workbench. Quite a lovely, rolling-green-hillside-and-oaks, view. Which is sometimes also filled with their horse Belle, any number of the deer who graze their land, and maybe a dog or cat or two.

This is a guitar from 1901 that was built by an Italian immigrant living in New York City. He was a part of a whole community of Italian craftspeople working there at the turn of the century.

This beautiful East Indian single stringed instrument, with a goat-like animal head, is made of solid rosewood, and was probably used to accompany chanting.

This guitar was made by Mario Maccaferri, who is better known as the man who created Django Reinhardt's famous and innovative guitar.

Do you notice how the bridge on these guitars is shaped like an airplane? Well, it's actually a very specific airplane. In the late 1920s, after Charles Lindbergh successfully made the first non-stop flight from New York to Paris in his small single engine plane, luthiers all over the country scrambled to incorporate images of his famous aircraft The Spirit of St. Louis onto their instruments.

This simple one string cello was popular with country folk and was used to accompany singers at church and other gatherings.

This is a late 19th century harp guitar of the sort that was peddled door to door at farms across America. I would like to meet one of those peddlers.

Luke calls this a "guilute".

A late 19th century mandolin with gorgeous abalone inlay.

I can't tell you how happy it made me to be there that day, a feeling that lingers as I go over these photos and stories now. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I have suddenly gone from being someone who had never picked up an instrument to someone who can (kinda) play a song or two on the fiddle! One of my favorite parts in one of my favorite books, Cold Mountain, is when a 15 year old girl asks Stobrod "What kind of a fiddler are you?" He answers "Bum and shoddy". That's me, for now. But being around Luke and John and Rick and going to see shows like the one I did last weekend just serve to further embed into my heart the desire to keep at it. To steep myself in the folklore and craftsmanship and love that emanates from all the beautiful stringed instruments in the world. To continue to stomp my feet and twirl my skirt and smile to the music, and to maybe someday be the orchestrator of that experience for someone else through my own playing.

You can check out Luke and Maggie's band Beaucoup Chapeaux here. And for all you locals- they play at the Nevada City Classic Cafe every Friday night at 6pm (acoustic set! children welcome!) and will be having a CD release party at The Miner's Foundry on May 6th, details here.