By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
“We’re simplifying,” he explains and starts clearing out the rose’s middle area, taking out grayish older canes at the base — especially when a healthy new green cane is growing nearby.
“How many canes do you leave?” asks a woman.
“There’s no rule. Six to eight, or more.”
“Oh. My book said four.”
Another shrug. “The more canes, the more flowers you’ll have.”
He knocks leaves off with the side of his pruners.
“Stripping all the leaves makes them go dormant?” asks a man.
“You’d be dormant too.”
Someone else asks when to feed the roses. Martin waves his arm at the thousands of roses nearby. “We fed once last year, in mid-March. We sometimes feed again in July, but this year it wasn’t necessary.” Most people overfeed, he adds, which makes roses more susceptible to disease.
After Martin finishes Sheila’s Perfume, he tells us each to pick a bush to prune. “And remember where it is, so you can come back and visit it throughout the year.”
Going to work on a rosebush at the Huntington is a little like being asked to perform in a museum. Some people can’t bring themselves to make the first cut. Luckily, volunteers have shown up to supervise. A young woman in an orange “Tennessee” T-shirt hovers around a Beautiful Britain. She points to a cluster of stems. “Is this what you consider a menorah kind of thing?” She snips it off, then draws back. “Actually, attacking a rose is a little nerve-racking.”
Volunteer Wesley Furukawa reassures her. “I like to remember that nature’s pruners are deer and other animals — they don’t worry about technique.”
Martin comes over to inspect one woman’s lightly pruned Yellow Simplicity. “You’ve got to open up the middle more,” he says. Snip. Snap.
“Oh!” gasps the pruner.
Snip. Snip. Snip.
“I have 20 to 30 years of experience,” Martin says, clipping away. “I have this simplification thing. Get rid of the clutter!”
At 11 a.m. sharp, Martin stands and looks at his watch. He gazes up and down the grass aisles between the rose beds, which are now strewn with thorny clippings. “Well, gang, I have to clean up your mess now,” he says, but when I leave a few minutes later, he’s still chatting, answering questions.
Martin had 4,000 roses to prune at 9 a.m. — only 3,980 to go.
Night of the Weasels
I approached the homey confines of Silver Lake’s Spaceland around 9 p.m. last week. I like the club. It’s comfy. And for regular Los Angeles clubgoers, going out to Spaceland is as routine as hanging out in your living room. By comparison, gigs at showcase venues on the Sunset Strip — the Viper Room, the Whisky — feel more like visits to your East Hollywood drug dealer, or the home of a pedophile uncle. Creepy. Well, that feeling was about to descend upon my living room.
I figured I was early. I had come for the opening act, Regina Spektor, and the headliner, Eleni Mandell, wasn’t scheduled to play until 11:30. About a year ago, a friend plugged into the industry had given me the lowdown on Spektor. She was born in Russia, and moved to the Bronx at age 9. Despite her parents’ lack of funds, she gained an education in classical piano due to the kind efforts of a couple who became her second family — the wife a professor at the Manhattan School of Music, the husband a violinist in the New York Philharmonic. For a long time I ignored my friend’s recommendation, but recently I began listening, rather obsessively, to the music on Spektor’s Web site.
How do I explain it? Well, when she opens her mouth, the universe comes out. The piano lines are dramatic yet undercut by a modest streak, and her lyrics strike a delicate balance between profundity and hilarity: “No thank you, no thank you, no thank you, no thank you/I ain’t about to pay for this shit. I can afford chemo like I can afford a limo/And on any given day I’d rather ride a lim-o-sine.”
Until recently, Spektor has been on the fringes of the East Village’s Antifolk scene, the same one that nurtured Ani DiFranco and, most recently, the Moldy Peaches. To give you an idea of the scene’s raw mood, I present to you the Moldy Peaches’ most famous lyric: “Who mistook the steak for chicken?/Who am I gonna stick my dick in?”
I was rather thrilled at the intimate prospects of an empty room.
When I walked in, however, the club was half-full. And the crowd was somehow . . . different. I didn’t notice the buzz of anticipation I felt when I saw Hot Hot Heat there on a stormy night last spring. No one mouthed the words to the songs like the time Magnetic Fields sold out the joint four years ago, lead singer Stephin Merritt holding a chihuahua in the crook of his arm. Tonight, the room felt half-empty, soulless and lacking that scruffy underground je ne sais quoi. Everyone seemed to know one another. Their conversations were shallow.