Tag Archives: retro

The Tree

The Tree

Myself, and The Tree and the deeds to The Tree.

* For an explanation as to what this project is all about please click here.

I bought The Tree in May of 1959. A Wednesday it was. I recall there being an oppressive, sweltering heat pressing down from above, but it was soothed, consoled, by a delicate ocean breeze that smelled so faintly of a final moment in bloom. It was the perfect weather to cut the ceremonial red tape of a successful agriculture transaction.

The Tree in question was my first, and indeed my last, business venture. I’d been on the market for one like it for several months. I’d been a perfect horticultural pervert about the whole affair. I’d peer through hedges, scale fences under moonlight, consult district planning records and frequent the ghostly corridors of the grand Central library, searching earnestly for the barky creature I so desired.

I came within a half whisker of finding what I needed on several occasions. I would locate a handsome tree, thoroughly scrutinize its potential under the cloak of night, and deem it a good tree. But the problem came when I would attempt to badger the owner into parting with the frivolously bushy accessory to their land.

‘I’m not going to do anything seedy with it,’ I would say, ‘If you’d be so gracious as to allow me that pun.’

That was my line. It would never fail to arouse at least a residual snigger, or a short, nodding nose breath. However they would then stare at me with arms tightly locked and a hard-boiled look of suspicion etched all over their faces. And then they would inevitably ask:


Of course I couldn’t possibly divulge. They wouldn’t sell me their tree if they knew its darkest secrets. No, no. I would explain that I simply really liked trees, but that I lived in a condo. I would then lie and say that I’d tried discharging my sapling lust with a bonsai tree, but that it was far too small to climb. I never did think of a bonsai tree pun.

The lady that eventually sold me The Tree was an old crow who was more than a tad senile. And in truth, I wondered if I might be guilty of committing a lewd act of shady commerce on her. She explained that she was very fond of The Tree indeed, but that it had cats in it. She said that I was more than welcome to buy the tree for $30 if I took the cats away. We spat the viscous bond of American agreement onto our palms and duly sealed the deal.

Two blissful weeks after this transaction the old lady died of time, and The Tree, allegedly part of the property on which it sat, was taken from me and given to the unsuspecting mailman referenced in her will. I tried to make a terrible stink, but was swiftly informed that a verbal agreement and a spit-moistened handshake between two parties is not recognized as contractually binding in the state of California, and particularly not when one or both of the parties are certified as mentally handicapped. And just like that, my days as a rag and bone and tree man were brought to an abrupt yet poignant conclusion.

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How to Make a Message in a Bottle

Message in Bottle

So for the last week or so I’ve been obsessing over the idea of sending messages in bottles. In the coming weeks you’ll see the full extent of my obsession and the reasons why I love these little floaters so.

But to day is not about the ‘why’, it’s about the ‘how’! So here is a very simple tutorial on how to make a message in a bottle for basically no money. A wonderful way to spend a rainy recession day in.

What you need:


  • Paper (Medium weight)
  • Printer
  • Traditional White Wine bottle (cork stopped)
  • Thin circular shoelace or string
  • Teabags (Tetley’s preferred, but any kind of English breakfast tea should be fine)
  • Brown rice
  • Oven
  • Water
  • Pretty shells (Optional)

Estimated time: 30 minutes

Step One:

Write a letter and print it off. Be creative. Think about the context of message in a bottle, or perhaps you just want to tell someone special that you think they’re lovely and that you want to jump their bones. Either is fine.

You should choose a great font. I mean, you could handwrite it but let’s be frank, your handwriting is probably terrible. We don’t get calligraphy training at school anymore, and since we’re artificially aging paper to make it look old, that bubble writing you learned to do when you were thirteen years old is going to stand out like a dildo in a cake shop. So choose a nice font. I’m a sucker for A Song for Jennifer. This is similar to the fonts used on newspapers about seventy years ago. Perfect for this kind of thing.

Column your text and print it landscape. It fits better in the bottle this way.

Step Two:


Crumple your letter into a ball like it’s a piece of shit and you hate yourself for ever thinking that it was any good, and then flatten it back out like a coward, unsure of his own ability to judge his own material.

Step Three:


Stick a really strong brew on. Like six teabags. This will make the tea dye very dark. If you only want to slightly age it, less teabags. Or more water. Compromise is all around us.

Step Four:

Skin your wine bottle. Chardonnay, fuckin’ Pinot Grigio, Riesling, doesn’t matter, just get rid of it’s identity entirely. You can just dip it in hot water and peel the label. Or you can use a peeler if you’re the sort of person that likes unnecessary challenges.

Step Five:


Plug your wine bottle with toilet paper and turn it upside down to absorb the moisture. After a few minutes the toilet paper should be damp.


Remove it and put some rice inside the bottle. Aesthetically it looks like your message has bobbed its way from Sri Lanka. Stick some saffron and chewing tobacco spit in there too to make it look really authentic. But the rice is predominantly in there to absorb any residual moisture left in the bottle.


Step Six:

Take a teabag (Careful now!) and rub it on your crumpled letter. Teabag your letter. This will give it texture. Do both sides.

Teabag it.

Teabag it.

Pour a little tea over the page. Just a splash. Gently pick up the paper and turn it over to get the other side equally wet.


Step Seven:

Stick the paper in the over at 250F until crispy.

Step Eight:

Have yourself a brew and listen to this.


Step Nine:

Check your paper. Do it carefully because this stuff is hotter than balls. Turn it over. Use a spatula if necessary. The paper rips easily.

If she’s good, get her out.


Step Ten:



Bob Marley

Bob Marley

When the paper is dry, remove it and roll it up. In order to get it into the wine bottle you have to roll it really tight. Warning: You’re going to rip the paper a little because it’s brittle like an old man’s shin bone. Try to get it rolled as tightly as possible (joint rolling experience is certainly beneficial) and tie it tight with your string.

Slide it into the bottle and jam the cork in, keeping the paper hanging in the bottle.

Optional Finishing Touch:

Throw a scrap of teabagged paper into the oven with your paper. Stamp it with a Staples stamp.


I know it’s stamped in the future. I’m from the future.

Or you can get a few of your favorite shells and drop them into the bottle to give it that nautical theme. Or just stuff some tuna in there if it’s a letter of spite.


And you’re done. Go find a body of water to launch it into and help litter the oceans! Or just give it to someone.

* Special props got to the people at WikiHow that taught me how to age paper. Check out their site for a more detailed method. *

Enjoy your weekend!

Lots of love,

Ross x

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Photos From India: Goa – The Beach

They all told me that the water wasn’t that nice.

“Honestly mate, it looks a lot warmer than it is” they said. But I saw them splashing around. I had been in a couple of days ago. I remembered that it was like a warm bath. But I didn’t say anything.

The doctor said it would be six months before I could run around again. I would just sit in the sun, trying to tell myself that the water was a lot colder than I remembered.

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