Two autumns ago, on a sunday, I was working at Flutter and this woman came in supported around the shoulder by her concerned-looking friend. Her friend told me that she had just been hit by a car while walking across shaver at mississippi, but she said she felt alright, just shaken up. She’d exchanged info with the driver and everything, and all she wanted was to sit and be calm. She sank into some downy velvety couch, and I brought her some water and chocolate, and when she had rested they left. Fast forward to last weekend, at my friend’s birthday pizza party. We met at ‘apizza scholls’, which is really good but maybe not quite as good as its reputation. Someone at the party recognized the signature teal of my gift bag and said she loved Flutter. She went on to tell everyone at the table about her amazing experience there after she’d been hit by a car- some nice lady had given her chocolate and a glass of water! It was pretty funny when I told her that it had been me. Then we all got margaritas at the new ‘por que no’, which is worth every inch of its reputation. Another really great way to deal with stress or trauma is by laughing. The blog Failblog literally never fails to make me laugh out loud.
If you’ve wandered into Flutter in the last two weeks, it’s likely you heard either Nick Cave or the Magnetic Fields playing. Since the last two blog posts have praised the former, I’ll dedicate this one largely to Stephin Merritt, the genius behind the Magnetic Fields, the Gothic Archies, the 6ths and dozens of other projects. Every time I put on his music it’s guaranteed I’ll be asked what’s playing, and twice I’ve had people come in and pick up one of the gorgeous accordions and PLAY ALONG to a song! Seriously. The actual accordion player in Magnetic Fields is Lemony Snicket, the writer of the macabre “Series of Unfortunate Events” books. The music is so catchy and amazing, I mean really, really perfect: orchestral swells right where they should be, twangy guitar, soaring whistly synth; it’s like he’s trying to prove he can make a great pop song from the scraps of any musical genre. The music is what keeps it endlessly engaging, but the lyrics take it to another level of amazing. Some of the songs exactly capture romantic exultation ( “grand pianos crash together when my boy walks down the street”), or they toy with prose or cowboy storytelling. He’s written whole songs dedicated to brilliant analogies (“love is like jazz”, “love is like a bottle of gin”, “a pretty girl is like…”). Most of the songs I referenced above are from the excellent “69 love songs”, which is literally that, but the other albums are great, too. In fact, I used to like the other albums more, but the love songs grew on me. They did more than grow on me, they tattooed me. Below is the guitar tablature for “a pretty girl is like…”, and you can find more chords and lyrics online. It’s such a good feeling to bash out your favorite song, whether in a group or all by your lonesome, and most of them have the same five easy chords. I started printing a binder full of bowie and kinks songs that will keep me entertained for a long time. Another fun thing is to replace the word “love” with “lunch” in a song. You can sing hits like “tainted lunch”, “the back of lunch”, “all is full of lunch”, “our lunch is alive”, “i want your lunch”… endlessly amusing, yeah?
– sara kolp
A Pretty Girl is Like…
A pretty girl is like a minstrel show
It makes you laugh
It makes you cry
It just isn’t the same on radio
C:032010 G C
It’s all about the makeup and the dancing
and the Oh,
a pretty girl is like a violent crime
If you do it wrong you could do time
but if you do it right it is sublime
so in love with you, girl,
it’s like I’m on the moon
I can’t really breathe, but I feel lighter
A melody is like a pretty girl
Who cares if it’s
the dumbest in the world
It’s all about the way that it unfurls
A pretty girl is like a pretty girl
I know it’s not specifically appropriate but this song is so good that I have to pass it on. Maybe it’s the chill in the air that calls for smoky jazz and tight wool coats. It could be that the combination of sultry and pensive reminded me of Flutter. It’s a clip from a movie I really should find, I bet I’d like it. Lately the colder nights have me feeling like I’m allowed to watch more movies. I always want to recycle the same handful of favorites discovered in my teens, revisiting them because of their familiarity and their context in my own history; dorky movies like “what’s new, pussycat?” or classics like “the third man”. I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to movies, which is exciting. For some reason I have this problem where I can never pick out a movie, and if I do I’ll often rent it and turn it in late, unwatched. It’s an expensive and very stupid habit, I know. I recently had Antonioni’s “blow up” borrowed from the library for 4 months and I never watched it. It’s not because I have a poor attention span, I think it’s just bad time management. Back when I had a computer, I’d get a cheap and quick film fix by watching Svankmajer stop action movies on you tube, or by digging up old music videos like the one above. This awesome lady who comes into Flutter told me about a stop action movie she’s working on, based on a Neil Gaiman comic. My daughter Lola read it, she told me it’s great. The characters in the movie are all handmade, jointed puppets. Somebody even made teeny knit tights for one of the dolls! Can you imagine knitting doll’s tights with pins and floss? I can hardly imagine knitting anything. Perhaps that is another cold weather activity for me to look forward to. P.S., for anyone learning french, the song’s title means “requiem for a jerk”.
I love the fall. The book, the band, the season: its all great, but i am referring especially to the season. Portland weather is sublime lately, with the golden late-summer heat of the sun tempering the slight chill in the air, and the sound of the wind rustling dying leaves.. not only is it romantic, but its positively mystical. According to wikipedia, the barrier separating our world from the world of the dead is getting thinner and thinner until October 31st, when it’s completely gone, and we have to wear spooky masks and put candles in pumpkins to confuse the bad spirits so they don’t destroy our crops. At least, that’s what the ancient Gaels believed. The next day, All Saint’s Day, is our chance to honor our beloved deceased when they are closest and most receptive to us. What wikipedia won’t tell you is that it is also my birthday, so of course i have a huge love of all things halloween: dressing up, staying up past my bedtime, walking around late at night, black cats, eating tons of candy, costume parties, and all the witchy woo-woo stuff. The only thing i don’t like about halloween is gross horror movies.
Flutter right now looks like it’s dressed up to go to a spooky masquerade ball. There’s a lot of velvet and silk, dyed ostrich feathers, and a wild satsuma-colored crystal chandelier. It also smells incredible, like jasmine cinnamon spicy tea. I think it’s from all the scented candles. Cindy managed to find the beautiful little feather and wire birds that we had a couple years ago, as well as some awesome fake owls and crows. I’m looking at all of this finery with a calculating eye, trying to figure out which bits i can appropriate for my costume this year. Obviously not the chandelier, but perhaps the feathers.. i might go for a repeat of last year’s fortune teller costume, which was fun because i gave everyone predictions and palm readings and stuff. It’s also a very warm costume because you’re shrouded in cloaks and scarves and heavy skirts, and mystical vibes. Last sunday, super sweetheart psychic Mindy Montague gave tarot readings in the store, which went really well. I think she’ll be here every sunday, maybe through fall. I’m going to ask her for some divination pointers.
When Flutter first opened there was an amazing piece of furniture that really piqued my interest. It was a red velvet couch, from around 1880 New Orleans, stuffed with down and incredibly comfortable, with carved chestnut feet and baroque scrolling across the spine. All of the wood had this soft glow, I just wanted to touch it all over. I couldn’t believe how old it was and how comfortable it was, and i wondered about their construction. I wonder how the making of velvet, or the dye process, has changed in the past hundred and thirty years. A little internet research revealed that in the 1800’s plant dyes, such as madder, were used to achieve a deep red color. Chemists also discovered that napthalene, a byproduct of coal combustion, closely resembled the red of madder. The color prussian blue, incidentally, came from cyanide compounds of the same origin.
Wood was easier to come by back then, and people were less precious with natural resources. Beautiful woods like American Chestnut, Mahogany, Rosewood and Black Walnut show up often in victorian pieces but they’re scarce and protected these days, arboreal leopards. Buying these things second-hand takes the naughtiness out, almost like buying a rabbit fur cape at a thrift store. It’s how I explain odd things that show up in the store, like a zebra skin tripod chair, or a velvet riding helmet with a fur bunny face on it. Deconstruction and reappropriation.
There’s an ancient couch at Flutter right now that’s like a cutaway illustration of victorian upholstery anatomy. Julia removed a layer of fabric to reveal its underpinnings and mechanics, its limbs and lingerie. The soft shine of the carved wood is the only thing dressy about it, like a nude with a pedicure. The first layer is fine gauge cream linen, held firmly in place with brass tacks. Underneath that is a kind of jute burlap, two layers which surround the centrally mysterious stuffing of the piece. After poking around, I concluded that the stuffing is made out of tightly coiled mats of sphagnum moss over a layer of horsehair. It is dense but springy despite the century it’s spent stuffed in there.
In the next few days, Cindy will be bringing in a lot of exciting new old things for fall. Here’s a few highlights….A 1930’s raspberry silk loveseat with sexy curves and fringe (totally hollywood glamour!), a 1930’s velvety green down filled sofa and an Eastlake Victorian mohair chaise lounge in deep red. A few silk upholstered armchairs, a ton of stuffed birds, a 1920’s illuminated light box eye exam chart and so much more! Cindy’s garage is looking pretty crazy right now with all the stuff she’s collected, it’s like a silk and velvet game of tetris. Flutter will be closed Wednesday so she can pack it full of gorgeous new things for fall.
It was recently decided that Flutter needed more space for stretching her restless wings. After some amazing wood alchemy, also known as carpentry, the rear of the store was pushed back 900 square feet and a whole new space was revealed. Cindy made good use of the bonus skylight by covering a large brass chandelier with living moss. It’s really stunning, living and green and shaggy with little moss tendrils. Many curious stoppers-by commented that the effect of the expansion was very tricky on the brain, because the walls had been painted the same peacock turquoise color and the mirrored built-in shelves in back were still there (just farther away).. this causes them to stop midway through the store and turn to me with a quizzical look that reminds me of Alice’s first impressions of Wonderland. The most exciting aspect of the expansion has been the addition of Frocky Jack Morgan’s Julia. Seeing her collections of paintings, bizarre taxidermy and curios is something, but her altered vintage gowns, jewelry and hand-dyed slips are something else entirely. She has set up racks of frothy feathered or sequined wedding dresses, and there is a long wardrobe full of kid’s dresses. There’s even an abominable snowman suit, and a 20 foot wooly dress with bits of crimpy silk and sequins sewn into it. Yessir, all of that in addition to the Flutter you know and love! Julia decked out ten beautiful ladies in creamy silk for the Grand Reopening Expansion Party, which was the usual second-thursday fete of champagne and pink donuts except that the place was packed to the newly-expanded gills with revelers and congratulators. The Djangophiles played amidst the bustle, where, despite the crowd and the champagne, nothing broke! A sweet older gentleman taught me how to open the bottles of bubbly by just twisting the top off in your palm, so that the force of the pop is contained. I felt pretty butch doing it that way, and I opened 45 bottles of champagne that night!
written by Sara Kolp
one of the lovely flutter girls
*you can find her perched at flutter on Sundays