Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009: The Year that Has Been

English is a funny language, even for native speakers.  All those fabulous words to choose from, forming a rich and nuanced pool of options for expression.  All that streamlining and collapsing and utter elimination of verb conjugations, with various forms understood by one written expression.  The kind of stuff native English speakers curse when they find in other languages:  “Plus perfect? What the heck is perfect?” and “Third person singular neuter?  Why the heck are you distinguishing between gender, let alone distinguishing and then throwing it out the window for Door #3?”

Yeah, it’s quirky.

But English lets me express a theme that helped define my year in a seemingly bland and potentially awkward title like “2009: The Year that Has Been.” 

The choice would seem to be “2009: The Year that Was,” or, to bring it closer to my subject, “2009:  The Year in Perfume.”  The Year that Was, inviting a list of fill in the blank declarations of static fact.

Fact is, this has been a year of many states, morphing, and much learning, on going.  This was, is, and always will be, The Year That Has Been.  Including with perfume.

In 2009, I have been covetous, dismissive, obsessive, apathetic, passionate, and distanced.   With perfume.  Okay, in my life overall, too, but particularly with perfume.

I have expanded my collection to a size that causes me some discomfort when asked to show it to non-perfume mortals.  Yet I still have moments when I find myself jealous of someone else’s stash of, say, vintage Jolie Madame, or another person’s array of Serge Lutens bell jars.  My personal code of conduct has evolved to the point where I will allow myself a moment of jealousy IF IT IS A PERFUME I AM FAMILIAR WITH AND LOVE AND WOULD WEAR ON A REGULAR BASIS.  Otherwise, I have to proceed directly to step two, which is nod to the wealth which is perfume in the world, be happy for that person, and move on.  If I’m having trouble with that last step, I make myself go look at all the samples and decants I have that await final decisions or disbursement, and tell myself to get over it already.

Mind you, the room I go to do this is a room we grandly call The Library.  Which I have always wanted to have in a house.  Which has now been created out of what was intended to be a small bedroom.   Which allows me to put [almost] all of my books up on shelves, visible, touchable, smellable...a sensual map of stories and ideas that have already passed through my brain and others that await exploration.

Which, come to think of it, is an apt descriptor of why I love having a perfume “library.”  It appears covetous and obsessive.  To be totally honest, in some ways, it is.  But it is also passionate.  

But wait, you say, you have also been...apathetic?  Distanced?  Yes, in 2009, I have found myself hitting a wall.  In perfume, and in other endeavors.  If I were smart enough, I’d recognize this state; it has reared up in the past when going down a path that is difficult, whether the challenge is creative (and invited) or interpersonal (invited or unexpected).  What feels like a shut down, a lack of caring, is really me going inward.  Taking a break, if you will, so that I can process in a different way.  What generally happens is that I end up coming out on the other side, feeling at peace, having a renewed curiosity and energy, and proceeding with a greater sense of comfort with the challenge.

What has been interesting about 2009 is that I have been presented with a new face on what should been a known demon.  I thought I totally lost interest in perfume.  But really, I had to stop the external input for a while, and let stuff rumble around in nooks and crannies that I understand are there but I can’t see.  I have had to, in perfume and in life, relearn the lessons of application and processing, of influencing and waiting, of understanding and reunderstanding.  Big shifts that cannot have every visible moment defined or controlled.

In 2009, I have been in control, and totally out of control.  

The Best of the Best of 2009 has been embracing both.

There have been perfume revelations in 2009, which shall affect my perfumed future.  Here are some I’ll be exploring in my Transition to 2010:

“I Tried It, I Finally Get It, I Still Don’t Like It:  So ‘Souko Me”

“The Waves:  Dedication, Exploration, Puttering, Rest”

“That’s Right, I’m Purging:  Your Name Below if you’re interested in inheriting this bottle”

“Aw, I *Like* Havana Vanille”

Other bests of 2009:

☄Adding new favorite blogs to my stable, like I Smell Therefore I Am and Olfactorama.

☄Adding some full bottles to my collection, and playing like a big girl.  I now have En Passant and L’Eau d’Hiver, both of which some would challenge as “real” perfumes.  Ask me if I care.  I love them, and would feel as sad about never ending up with them as I would if I never am able to land a vintage chypre.

☄Scoring a couple of old formula Silences at a profoundly reasonable price.

☄Wearing Madame Rochas and having my spouse note the “nice smelling perfume” that “is interesting, did it change?” during a nuzzle.  Score one for old fashioned perfume!  Score again for reasonable price!!  Score thrice for having spouse recognize and appreciate one’s own quirky interests!!!

☄Meeting in person a someone who had been an acquaintance in perfume, segued into a fun and interesting correspondent, and who now is truly a friend.  Very cool.  Very much one of life’s blessings.

☄You.  You came to read this.  How cool is that?

Enjoy the remainder of 2009, whatever it has been and shall be determined to have been.  ☺

Speaking of enjoying the waning hours of 2009, don't forget to visit other bloggers in this project:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Angelique Noire

You know that subset of cooking that involves turning fruit into a prepared dessert?  You  amp it up various degress by stewing it or steeping it, in a process that involves sweetening, vanilla, and various amounts and/or types of spices and/or additional flavorings?

Okay, take the angelica flower and turn it into a dessert that way.  The stewed with vanilla way, not the candied angelica root path.  I think I’m learning why I like greens and galbanum so much...many reviewers mention a sharp bergamot, or herbal, or green opening on this.  Me, I get the element of herbal waft an angelica plant offers, but nothing “sharp.”  It’s in clear focus, yes, no blurring on the lens, but it doesn’t pierce the back of my nose or bite my tongue.  It is just the aperitif that offers clarity before settling into an unabashed sweet (but not cloying) treat.  The more time that goes on, the more almonds and amber take over, but always melded with vanilla.

Wait!  I’ve got it!  Angelique Noire, SAT-style:  

ginger root : ginger chew 
angelica plant : angelique noire

As plenty before me have noted, not much “noire” about it.  (Excepting my personal peccadillo of enjoying a truffle--dark chocolate, not mushroom--of an evening...)  Goes firmly in the “happy comfort” category for me.

images:  fruit compote, dorisgoat on the "dorisandjillycook" blog (recipe for peach, cherry, and apple compote also at that link); candied ginger pieces, author

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Editing and Creativity

Natalie Goldberg told me I have to send my ideas out into the world.

Well, not specifically to me, which is to say, Goldberg does not know me from Adam, but DID address me as a reader in her books on writing.  Writing Down the Bones and Wild Life have both been players in my past.  In one of them, she specifically addresses the urge to hang on to creative ideas, saying that if you aren't going to use it, you need to share it.  That's right, give it away.  Her point being that if you don't get it out, you won't have space for the next great ideas, and meanwhile you obviously aren't doing anything with the one you have been so reluctant to get rid of.

This is tricky.  Ideas can be very personal, and letting them go means allowing them to be realized in somewhat different form.  Or, even if they remain basically intact, someone else will get credit for that idea.    (There is also a practical application...if I had a great idea for a screenplay/movie, let's say, and somebody else gets wind of it, and gets a green light first, then I would be sunk.)  Add in the instincts of a hoarder, and if Goldberg is right, you've got the recipe for one gigantic logjam of ideas, with little result.

As hard as it was for me to admit at the time, she is right.  And now that I've got a few decades under my belt, it's actually kind of liberating to admit and embrace that.

I'm not going to write all of the ideas that pop into my head, not create all of the gardens I envision, not birth all of the business ventures I conceive.  I can't.  Even if they were all brilliant and viable, there just isn't time enough.  Besides, I need to be humble enough to allow for practice, and mistakes, and forks in the road.

I have taken to sharing my ideas with others.  I admit I do parse them out, sharing with folks I feel with at least understand the concept.  If I feel like there is a chance it could take life with a particular person, I'll seek them out to tell them.

My life is finite.  I have a family who needs my attention.  There is the little issue of our currency economy, which means I have to bring currency in so that I can use it to "exchange" for things like food, and shelter.  And I am not a single-minded creative type; there needs to be room to flex back and forth as is appropriate between various endeavors.

This all does apply to perfume.

I am exiting the gather and hoard phase of my perfume journey.  I am coming to terms I won't be able to smell everything...even if I did, my nose is not quite clever enough, my olfactory memory not sharp enough, that I could whip through a few hundred (thousand?) perfumes and immediately catalog & sort them.  Part of my enjoyment comes from being, um, ignorant.  This is one creative realm wherein I do not create, but solely act as audience.  I like to sit back, experience, have no idea what just happened, go back for more, figure out what it means in/how it affects my own sphere of experience and knowledge.  THEN I'll start to broaden out, gather official notes and identify them (okay, I am at the point where I can do this at the initial stages for some fragrances), learn about its history, get the "official" take on it, etcetera.  You can see, this takes time.  As I mentioned, my lifetime is finite, and there are other things I want to do, too.

So I am letting go of the idea that I can do it all.  Or even in great quantity.

And I am sharing, so that there is room for new to come in.

I am back to focusing on decants and bottle splits.  I'd say that I always sample first, but I don't.  I now know how my experiences jibe with those of other perfume folk, in general if not in total, and will sometimes get a small decant/bottle split based on what I have gathered from their feedback without sampling first.  This doesn't always work, just like my gambles on vintage or auction finds don't always work.  But I am usually happy with the outcome.  There's a certain amount of "miss" and loss involved.  I treat it like I would Vegas:  know my budget, and walk away when it is spent.

Sticking to small amounts allows room for new in a very literal sense, of course:  smaller bottles, less storage space.  There are other ways to edit, to make room, too.

I've stopped worrying about all of the vintage fragrances I could experience.  This is a biggie for me, a person who was known in my family as "the keeper of the stuff."  Anytime anybody had something they felt guilty for getting rid of, but really wanted out of their space, they'd call me.  And I'd take it.  I see history and meaning and personal attachment in old hair pins, in scrapbooks, in banged up teakettles, in armchairs that sat in a certain corner for two decades.  I feel the connection to the original owner, and to me.  When it comes to vintage perfume, I imagine a wearer in context at the time it was introduced, and in the time since, and then me.  Both with and without that history attached.

All of which makes for a rich experience, but a lot of weight.  Figurative and literal.

So, if a vintage treasure comes my way, or come across a curiosity with promise at an estate sale, I'll take it.  But I have been purging my home of the many things collected over the years, and I don't plan on active estate sale-ing.  Truth be told, I'm enjoying being lighter.

I've also been sharing.  Creative ideas with certain friends or colleagues.  Good leads on vintage finds with others.  I'm not going to get it.  And I'm no longer going to feel bad about not doing so.

Whenever vintage Femme comes my way, I have pledged to give it to a friend who adores it.  I struggle with it; why should I keep it just because some call it a masterpiece?  I kept a sample.  Maybe someday it'll knock my socks off.  Meanwhile, someone else can enjoy having her socks knocked off, while I enjoy the peculiar pleasure of the hunt for just such a potion.

Put your ideas out into the world, either by realizing them yourself, or sharing them with others.  Don't hoard them; you run the risk of losing years protecting them but not actually creating them or moving onto to something else that will actually pan out.  It's good advice.

I know there's a yin and a yang to this.  I mentioned Vegas before, so I'll quote Kenny Rogers now:  "got to know when to hold 'em; know when to fold 'em."  This is about the fold.  But there's a happy twist; instead of leaving your cards on the table, you pass them on, and maybe someone else can make something out of them.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trick or Treat : Black Magic


Bad, not thinking me.
Lancome does not make a "roll on" of Magie Noire.
I bid and "won."

Treat, with trick:

Yohji Yamamoto "solid powder" perfume.
One came as a gift (thank you!), another purchased as back up.  Or a gift.  (Karma = good.)
But there's a trick, too:  d-i-s-c-o-n-t-i-n-u-e-d.
Still available on Amazon!

Tricky treat:

Tricky little senora.
Who knew that queer tobacco & sharp stuff would dry down to vanilla comfort?
Yum.  Wait for it.


Mmmm, Black Cashmere.
Speaking of sharp, that's how it hits some.
On me, after an edgy opening, spiced incense in sharp focus, but not harsh.
In fact, occasionally veers off into sweet land.

As I will today, with ghost, goblins, and other ghouls showing up at my door to demand their due.

photos all by author

Monday, October 26, 2009

Love Speaks Primeval. True. Drat.

“Primeval.”  Doesn’t just mean a period of history.  It means based on raw instinct, “raw and elementary.”  The label on this little vial says Love Speaks Primeval.  Hmmm.

I received a Liz Zorn order the other day.  Lovely skin.  (More on “skin” soon.)  Included was a sample of Love Speaks Primeval.  I was excited...and a little scared.  You see, when Liz Zorn graciously brought herself along with a generous selection of samples to Chicago for a gathering of perfume enthusiasts a couple of falls ago, she brought along a little something extra.  A small sample of a perfume she had created using...civet.

Oh, I’ll gird myself up and give this a whiff.  It’ll be good for me...educational.  There’s plenty of food back out there, or seltzer, if I start to get queasy.  If I can handle eating meat, I can handle this.

The first hit is something wrong, something that you think you might recoil from, but you find your nose sinking in deeper.  It develops into something smooth, rich, almost a gourmand dessert.  A gourmand dessert along with a tender delicious cut of meat.  And it occurs to you that this new stage, this delicious something, maybe hasn’t changed entirely.  It is still permeated by the first primeval something, woven throughout, now part of the bigger picture.

I am not going to go into the controversy over civet here.  Suffice to say, I have in general avoided it, and been grateful that in general I have not been attracted to perfumes that lean on the civet.  

What I will get into is a confession:  A number of years ago, a friend recited her delicious sounding menu for Thanksgiving.  Then she paused, and said they would be starting it all with champagne and foie gras.  I must have recoiled over the phone.  I covered, but we gently yanked each other’s chains--she, suggesting that maybe it was time to sophisticate my palate; I, saying perhaps it was time to stop justifying oneself under cover of sophistication. She asked if I had ever actually tried it.  My answer was no.  And has remained so.

Until last summer.  I approached gingerly, semi-wantonly.  I was just going to have a smidge, so that I could say I knew what it tasted like.  It was time for me to face it down.  I would survive.  And I would never come back.

So, while I was, well, fearful as the bit of morsel approached my mouth, I took comfort in knowing that it would soon be over.

What I had not thought of was that rainy day in a sideroom in Chicago, when I applied Liz’ civet concoction to my wrist.  And nearly melted.


In the case of the foie gras, my companion was my spouse.  Our eyes met across the table.  If one can recognize one’s own opinion expressed in someone else’s face, it is with a spouse with whom you have noted many anniversaries.  And in his face, I saw my thoughts:  “Ahhhhhyes.  Oh, crap.  Oh, this is good.  Oh, I’m in trouble.”

Across the table at the perfume gathering, my eyes met with another perfumista.  In retrospect, our expressions were probably much the same as mine & my spouse’s at that anniversary dinner last summer.

Spouse and I finished the foie gras.  Perfume friend and I threw caution to the wind and gave up the rest of our skin sampling space to the incredible scent in the bottle.  I did not think I’d have an opportunity for either again.

LSP is rich, like an Amouage.  I love the follow through this kind of experience offers, whether taste or olfactory; there is a period of discovery before you get to the incredible moment, and it does not let you down for as long as it is with you.  Transcendent delicious is the kind of yummy that demands your attention, settles you into a fabulous flavor, and then echoes with happiness.

I am not proud of the eating of the foie gras.  And now I have to confess...I had it again.  One more time.  To see if that first time was a fluke.  It was not.  I like it.  I am going to have to make a decision to not.  Yes, to not.  I love it.  But I can't have it in my life.  It doesn't even make sense that I like it, dang it!  I hate liver.  Seriously.  As a kid, I had permission to leave the house on the rare occasion my mother cooked it, because the mere smell of it made me nauseous.  I am an animal rights person.  I like to get gifts from Heifer, International.  I am an occasional meat eater who consciously searches for responsibly raised meat.  My son is a vegetarian.  My pets are shelter rescues.  Some of my best friends are animals!!!

>Sigh.<  I hate cognitive dissonance.

Liz Zorn’s blog, October 13, 2009:  I also (this morning) made up a few samples of the new natural chypre parfum: Love Speaks Primeval. I have a little on the back of my hand and can’t help notice how much the apple note has come to the front in the mid-heart. Maybe it is a hormone thing with me, but I do not remember it being so dominant in my earlier trials, and I tested it a lot. Curious to see how it works for others. I will write more about it later. It is coming out in November and will wrap up the new Soivohle’ releases until next spring.

Love Speaks Primeval speaks to me just like those unnamed "historicals" Liz conjured.  I'm hoping that the vocabulary, the ingredients, uses something different than civet.  But you'll notice I haven't asked.  Yet.  I'm hoping I just got scared by the word "primeval."  *

I’ll tell you how I feel about LSP.  It’s decadent.  It inspires sustained extended snorfles.  I think I might get some to wear instead of eating foie gras.  

*update:  please take a moment to look through the comments...Liz Zorn stopped by and talks about what goes into LSP and her own thoughts on "primeval."

The magic ingredient in Love Speaks Primeval, the animalic element I was responding to, is called Africa Stone, which is a euphemism for hyrax droppings.  Fossilized hyrax droppings.  See the africa stone entry at Enfleurage, or natural perfumer and teacher Ayala Moriel's description here.  Now, if only my own dog's soakings and droppings in the backyard were so useful...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Poll results: Going Commando

update: poll is re-opened until October 31st!  Happy Halloween!!

Everybody who replied to the poll has gone commando.  The majority have "accidentally" done so, but without agony.

This is good.  The only agony caused by perfume should be the result of being downwind of an overapplied '80s big floral.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Leftovers, perfume style

Take one gourmand this case, Ambre Narguile.  Got it?

Now, that perfume rubbed off onto the cuff of a sleeve.

That item of clothing, lifted and passing your nose as you load it into the washing machine.

Voila.  Calorie-free delicious leftover surprise.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Common Smells

Had to turn on the heat last week.  It dropped below 40 degrees at night multiple days.  Couldn't postpone the inevitable.

There is nothing more melancholic for me than the first whiff of gas forced heat.

Why?  I'm not sure.  I love all the seasons.  I love to wear sweaters.  I welcome the opportunity to sip warm drinks from a mug.  I love being able to have a fire in the house (in the fireplace, as opposed to outside, in the fire pit, which I also love).  I enjoy indoor activities...more games, more drawing, more movies.

Every year that heat kicks in, though...

Layers of dust.  Layers of history.  It's like I run through a survey of all the eras of new heat.  Every house, every state of my being.  I even remember how in some of my many houses the smell could be more metallic, or have a hint of damp, or suggest old wood, or carry up the smell of the basement.  But always vaguely dusty, and vaguely...old.  Like there was air that had been waiting all year, doing nothing, and now was being released.

The house was exhaling. Into itself.

I guess that's why I insist on cracking some windows within 24 hours of the first heat up.  Need to take a full breath.  And, as anyone who plays a wind instrument, or has taken yoga, knows, the quality of the exhale is just as important as the quality of the inhale.

Mustn't forget that moment between breaths.  Be aware.

Then let it out.  And start again.

photo from Flickr, by Moiht

Friday, October 16, 2009

Falling in Love, 2009

Today, I participate in a joint bloggers project -- "Falling in Love: Scents and Treats for Fall."
My treat is the falling in love; I offer but a single scent today, because I wrap my experience of re-falling in love with it with the joy that is the moment of creative flow.  Hope you enjoy; thanks for stopping by.  

The full list of participating bloggers appears at the bottom of my post.  Please visit all as you get the chance.  

Happy Fall.

This is what it is like to sit in the middle of an orchestra.  You are surrounded by people, arcing to either side.  You face the conductor, who seeks to pull your heart and talent through his or her own while at the same time they reach out to you, the collective you, to seek your heart and find the empathetic waves.  Empathetic sound waves that find themselves vibrating together in pitch and creating a new sound as a result.  Empathetic rhythms that both groove together and play off each other.  Empathetic tonal qualities that respect and expand on each other.  The sum is greater than its parts.

You are dancing together.  Each of your individual movements matter, but mean so much because of what they are in the whole.

I have loved L’Artisan’s Fleur d’Narcisse from the first time I wore it.  The idea of narcissus drew me in--not the myth, the flower.  I am an avid gardener, a passion that didn’t erupt until I was clearly established as an adult.  Narcissus--daffodils to us northern gardeners--has been a favorite flower from the start of my gardening days.  From before, actually; one of the first drawings I remember creating in response to a teacher’s assignment to “draw a flower.”  I also recall her saying “think of spring flowers.”

When an orchestra is composed of talent who is young, or not top-flight, or exploring a genre outside their comfort zone, their work at arriving at a fully presented piece can be full of fits and starts.  Entire passages of beauty and ensemble, peppered with pockets of struggle from single players or an entire section.  The zone to your left may have an all out groove going on, and to your right is two people on a stand, trying to find their pitch.

Narcissus bulbs are planted in fall.  They are, according to some books, full of “potential energy."

There is a moment in rehearsal when you know you are nailing it.  Collectively, individually, single player to conductor, within the section, across sections...all the possible ways to pick apart the composition that is the piece being played.  Part of you may even feel a certain joy as it observes the experience from a slightly detached viewpoint, but the rest of you is in the moment, a moment that is not frozen but ever proceeding.

There was a moment I had with Fleur de Narcisse the other day.  It was one of those fall days that had been grey, cold without the crisp promise of transition.  Then the sun came out, and the clouds sat in stark relief against a sky that had patches of brilliant blue even as areas of grey hovered at one horizon.  It became crisp.  Fall became fall, that season where you feel both where you have come from and where you are going.

I huffed at my wrist...a thing I do on a regular basis, now that I’ve developed this passion for perfume.  I was expecting that happy snorfling around I usually have with FdN, rooting around in hay and tobacco with an aura of warmed by sunshineness that I have always gotten from it.

Instead, I got daffodils.

Narcissus poeticus, the vegetal parts with a hint of that odd scent from the flower, stretching up out of its bulb, green stem poking up between compost.  Hay and tobacco compost, yes, but THERE WAS THE NARCISSUS.  Holy cow.  A year with this scent, and I am having an epiphany.  The narcissus was always there.  

It just needed that moment when I experienced the empathetic chord.

Oh. my. 

And, like those times when you are inside the music and it is all working just so, you are having a moment.  But the moment is not frozen, it is the point of realization plus all that flows from that moment.  

Fleur de Narcisse is me falling in love.  Fleur de Narcisse is fall.  Yes, it is a spring flower.  But our knowledge of the spring flower rests on the previously established potential.  

Our appreciation of fall lies in the knowing that another spring will come, while reading back through the history that has defined us to that point even as we prepare for another regeneration.

Falling in love occurs in that moment when you recognize what lies in front of you, how beautiful the moment you are having together is, and what it is going to be to drawn out of that empathetic moment...and the potential yet-to-be created moments.

Thank you, Fall 2009, for bringing me my epiphany and accord with Fleur de Narcisse.  I’ve fallen in love all over again.

other bloggers in the Falling in Love project:

and, she who led us all in to this happy project,
Perfume Shrine

photo credit:  "Autumn in Sepia" by Rick Lundh (via

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Caron Violette Precieuse, vintage version

It's one of those tales--you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll call your friends.

Should you get hold of even a small driblet of the original Violette Precieuse, you'll experience one heckuva morph.  I did, at least.  It started as what seemed like yet another violet--you know, that note you can find in Penhaglion's, in a bar of soap your grandmother had, in the bath shop, the smell that says "I am a violet perfume."  A hint of something else, maybe?  But nothing worth working your drawers up about.

Had my driblet not been a precious resource from a perfume friend who has a thing for special scents, I would have scrubbed.  Plus, I knocked around taking care of a few things, and it was getting late for my walk, so I just left it.  And forgot about it.

A third of the way through my walk, I raised my hand to brush away a leaf, and WHOA!  Something smelled interesting.  I played a little game for a moment; I was wearing gloves, and I have a pair that have most serendipitously taken on the scent of L'Ombre Fauve.  But I knew I wasn't wearing those gloves.  Let's see...what could it be...scents that I would have worn that had an edge like this...but I didn't recognize it, so I must have only worn it once...okay, raise glove's not on the glove.  Cognitive dissonance...confused moment...and it hits me.  It's the Violette Precieuse.

This smell is new enough to me I can't give it notes (not that I'm particularly good at that game, anyway).  It's vaguely medicinal, vaguely leathery...and you'd only know there's violet running around in there if you had experienced that opening.  I don't even know if I like it; I just know that I am enjoying spending time with it so much, I'll play with it again.

Which brings us to the sad part of the tale...when my driblet is gone, no more play pal.  Because VP was discontinued long ago, reintroduced a few years ago--with a different formula.  So I will be better off if I decide I don't like it.

I already know this: I'll never regret the introduction.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Why Chris Chelios is not Michael Jordan

It's not the puck.

It's the pluck.

Both are tremendous athletes in their sport:  Chris Chelios is a former, long time NHL hockey player who is likely headed for the hockey hall of fame.  Michael Jordan is a basketball player who is in the NBA hall of fame.

But it's the retirement--or lack of--that have some people starting to compare them.  Michael Jordan is 46 years old and has retired three times, the last in 2003.  Chris Chelios is 47 years old and still playing hockey, albeit this year for a non-NHL team.  Some are starting to say that Chelios should call it quits already.  And for some reason, they are comparing his "twilight" to Jordan's.

They're wrong.

Chris Chelios is an interesting case of highly able person finding a way to do what he does best, and loves to do, in an arc that continues past the "professional" retirement threshold of his sport.  Unlike Jordan, Chelios never feinted at retirement.  He skates well, he shoots, he scores; he is willing to go to a team that will let him do that.

Even if that team is not the pinnacle of the sport.

Jordan wasn't going to go there.  Of course, for him to find an equivalent, he'd have to move to Europe.  But even so, one really gets the sense that Jordan wasn't happy being seen as anything but the best.

Therein lies what fascinates me about the two approaches.  Is it nobler to "leave at the top of your career," or put in as much service as one can?  It seems to me the animosity toward Chelios has more to do with fans who are not happy facing the idea of that "Chelly" is anything other than what he was--even if what he is is incredibly able, and quite possibly incredible.

The same story plays out in any number of career types, in any number of lives.  I've heard tales of orchestra musicians who held onto their chairs not only beyond their prime, but perhaps beyond their ability to meaningfully contribute to the group.

There are different contributions veterans offer beyond sheer talent, of course; experience in battle, on the boards, in the boardroom, tends to make for more depth in decision making and problem solving.  Sacrifice some talent for savvy, some punch for mentoring.

It's not a clear case of choosing between railing against that dark night, or slipping off in a hail of glory.

This reminds me of when discussions of plastic surgery come up.  I'm not going to go there.  Now.

I could also force an analogy to whether one should flat out retire a venerable or lauded scent should lack of materials or interference from regulations necessitate reforming the formula.  Another day.  Maybe.

This line of thinking makes me grateful for my Fleur de Narcisse.  It is beautiful, and L'Artisan made clear from the start that it was a one-time deal; no evolutions possible.

I, on the other hand, will likely evolve.  Best get thinking about just how I would like that to proceed.

Chelios.  Jordan.  Other.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A rose is a rose is not a rose

A tale of two roses.
Both by Guerlain.
One, Nahema.  The other, Rose Barbare.

Nahema, over which there has been much keening and gnashing of teeth, due to it no longer being in production.  Much praise from the Book of Evaluation and Two Word Summaries soon to be available in paperback.

Rose Barbare, the highly priced rose from the Le Art et la Matiere series.  Guerlain says it is a "rose over chypre."  

Fans are legion for the first, it seems; more mixed for the second.

On me, Nahema has always had an underlying hum of screech, a combination of something vaguely plasticky--ever eat a Jolly Rancher and wonder if part of the wrapper was still stuck to it? can a Jolly Rancher go bad? but that kind of taste/smell--plus sharp fruit.  There is a Crabtree and Evelyn scent, Nadira, which I thought I liked for a while, and has less plastic with more honest fruit.  Fresh Jolly Rancher, if there could be such a thing.  And the rose feels...fake.  Not in a "Oh this is an interesting something" way, but in a "hey, who's trying to pull the wool over my eyes?" way.

Could just be the bad Jolly Rancher, of course, getting in the way of rose alternative genius.

Rose Barbare, on the other hand, works for me.  It's also sweet and fruity, but for whatever reason, doesn't grate my nerve.  I think that's because while it opens with this fruity rose, I am willing to stay for the ride because it doesn't grate.  And then there's a payoff, because if you wait for it, Rose Barbare dries into something a deeper, almost as if it has hints of the chypre-y rose that something like Ungaro Diva hits you in the face with from the start.

So it's a sweet that won't set my teeth on edge, and then has a grown-up justification for eating it in the first place.

I have to say, I feel kind of badly about this...people whose writing I enjoy and whose perfume friendship has sent me many a joyful vial really tried to hook me on Nahema.  But it's been over a year now.  And because of their enthusiasm, and a touch of my own insecurity willingness to learn, I will continue to take a hit on it every now and then, to go for a Sunday drive and see if there isn't something I've missed about that one.

Meanwhile, if I had the chance, I'd go for a decant of the Rose Barbare.

In the end, I still like my roses with a little Night Magic.  Or flat out "Chypree."

Friday, October 9, 2009

Rainy Ruminations

I'm relatively new to my neighborhood.  Moved here almost four years ago, but still haven't had the opportunity to connect with many neighbors.  Funny, that--"many"--the ones I know by name I could count and sort of need both hands.  A few more I know by sight, but I'm pretty sure only one of them realizes I am a neighbor and not a passing through crazy when I smile and wave.

In my last neighborhood, which was urban and rather dense, I could walk around the block and tell you the names of the residents of every house and multi-flat.  So you see, the current experience is...different.

All of which is a prelude to what I witnessed today.  A moving truck.  Again. The third in the past year--the horrible downturn in the real estate market is starting to correct itself, I guess.  The house across the street from us actually sat empty for a year.  The one next to that on the left was half-occupied, but grown adult children who spent most of their time somewhere else.  The house to the right has been lived in, but I never knew by whom.

Until today, and a moving truck that pulled in nice and early.

Just the sight of a truck hauling out has the potential me a little verklempt...lots of moves in my childhood, plus an overactive metaphorical mind.  But with moving trucks every few months, and an ambulance that makes regular thrice weekly visits to a house down the street for some sort of transport run--yeah, I get all cycle of life.  A bit lonely, and feeling badly for those who will move in, because there no longer is a Welcome Wagon person that comes and greets you like they did when I was a kid.

All of that is prelude.  The story is in a single vision.  In what happened later.

It's rainy and grey and autumn is descending today with a relenting drumbeat that we should prepare, prepare, prepare for winter.  The moving guys start collapsing the loading ramp, clearly preparing the truck for departure.  Out walks a woman, of certain age, probably, but rather indeterminate just where in the range.  Dark coat and scarf about her head, both clearly protecting her against the elements, and making her visage anything but clear.  You can only draw conclusions by her gait.  And her gait seems almost sprightly at first, from the rear...she walks up to the truck, gestures to the guys...turns toward the house...and suddenly I see a curve in the spine, a catch in the step.  She turns slowly back to the truck, engages in conversation again.  I watch in amazement as she shape-shifts from a capable physical appearance to a more frail one.  And it continues.  Then, in an unpredictable cap to it all, she waves good bye to the car that I know belongs (belonged?) to the house, and gets in the truck cab with the guys.  All pull away.

She gets in, and leaves with her belongings, headed to wherever.  End of chapter here, however long it was.  Methinks much longer than four years, but I'll never know.

I am left yet again with my brain wrapping itself around that image.  Wondering how I will be her, when I am her.


When it comes to perfume, my brain wraps and wanders and finds itself in the land of vintage perfumes and reformulations.  And how while on the one hand, I still feel like the new kid on the block when it comes to being a Perfume Person, I realize I have already been the welcome wagon, as it were, to others who are earlier on the trail than I.  I'm not as young nor as inexperienced as I think I am, it seems.  That woman getting on the truck?  For a moment, she became the current Grand Dame Perfumes, about to move on, no longer accessible. Should I be glad I never really got to know some of those old perfumes?  Or more current ones who will obviously need to change to continue to stay in the neighborhood?

I can't really change anything.  I'm glad that I got some backstory, glad I always stayed friendly, even if I couldn't spend any meaningful time with them.  I did get to know a couple, and whether or not I liked them, they will always inform how I understand the future.


That woman stayed in the cold grey drizzle, and made sure everything was okay.  Then, rather than turning her back, she stepped up into that big cab and helped drive it away.

She was both old and young.

She was someone.


If you've ever seen Bruce Conner's short film "The White Rose," all moody and b&w and Miles as the soundtrack and a moving truck and an artist's major work being cleared out and an empty space left behind--that's how I'm feeling.  I am not yet sure how to scent it.  Others would, I think, say Mitsouko, or Apres L'Ondee, but to me Mitsouko is reconciliation, and Apres L'Ondee is smiling while you let go.

Oh.  Maybe those are good scents.  But they didn't feel right until I gave them words.  I'm still going to think on that.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Quick hits: J'ai Ose, 10 Corso Como

In which I violate my own rule and make snap judgements.  

I put on the J'ai Ose, and feel like I'm not done until a Band-Aid goes over it. What *is* that note?  Bactine?

On the other arm, 10 Corso Como is all "aw, come snorfle."  Sandalwood peeking through a not too sweet viscous cirrus cloud, just over my skin.

If I stopped now, it would have been done.  J'ai Ose would have been scrubbed, 10 Corso Como would have been entered in the "try to trade for some" list.  But already J'ai Ose is morphing, settling down into that woody? wth?  Meanwhile, 10 Corso Como is staying true to its (initial) fashion...

Now J'ai has gone undercover, very very low key...poor 10 Corso now seems loud...these simultaneous runs can be tough on the participants.

I'm not done, but it seems like J'ai is going to win the second date award, while 10 Corso becomes a back pocket "sure if you find it cheap snap it up because it's a comfort scent but you'll get tired of too much of it." Life is so unfair.  I don't even know if I *like* J'ai, but I'll come back.  Meanwhile, 10 Corso continues to do what it promised...and is set aside.

Must return to each, separately, for another experience, and a fuller treatment.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Not much, you? : Agarwood

Just wanted to point you to an interesting travelogue, perfumer style.

In this installment of her blog, Absolute Trygve's explores agarwood--musing about the value of wild vs. farmed agarwood, giving a sense of the process of obtaining the precious agar resin, and painting a picture of agarwood as commodity as she journeys through Laos.

Trygve runs Enfleurage in NYC.

Straight Up Seduction: Amouage Epic Woman

Those of you have been reading for a while know that I have used the term "stealth scent" to mean a scent that sneaks into your good graces.  Denyse of Grain de Musc recently used the term more poetically in her review of Prada's L'Eau Ambree -- for her, "stealth scent" is one that you realize is about you, you wonder where it is coming from, and is you.

Either way, cloaking is involved.  A obscuring of effect before a reveal.

Epic, my friends, has come to get you.  Cloakless.  And it does its job.  No pretense, no veneer.  Straight up after your love purse.  And knows how to get there.

It may not be the best trip you'll ever have, but you won't regret it.  It will be good.  And it knows it.  Put on the Barry White, and prepare to smell your oud.

Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. In her face were too sharply blended the delicate features of her mother, a Coast aristocrat of French descent, and the heavy ones of her florid Irish father.* 

Up until this day, I would have said:  I don't know nothing 'bout enjoying no oud, Ms. Scarlett.

Epic opens with traditional beauty, then slides the oud right between something honeyish and some rose -- which, by the way, ends up being bread that is neither rose nor honey but something gold -- and you never quite rest on one or the other.  Which for me is a good thing, because oud has a way of poking a dagger up the back of my sinuses right to a headache spot, and rose can create an oppressive cloud that strangles almost the same exact spot like some sort of blankety anaconda.

But it was an arresting face, pointed of chin, square of jaw. Her eyes were pale green without a touch of hazel, starred with bristly black lashes and slightly tilted at the ends. Above them, her thick black brows slanted upward, cutting a startling oblique line in her magnolia-white skin . . .*

Somehow, you put it all together here, and the oud just keeps things heightened as you relax more and more into the gold.

In any other incarnation, I would have focused on the oud, because whether mild or prominent, oud has always gone to the camphor spot.  (Not a happy place for me.) The other half, the warmed sweetened dirty rose, would have been just too much--too thick, too heavy.  Put the two together...hello.

Epic is that guy who looks you in the eye and says "yeah."  And you say "c8#p," 'cause he's right.  Wrong, but right.

This is one of those scents, by the way, that invites both huffing AND enjoying its hovering presence.  The huff reveals the magic, puts the elements into relief; the close waft has that "hey, what smells so good?" element to it.  If you descend through the cloud to try to get close, it will move from soft focus to sharp.

Not that you'll mind.

Epic, I give a damn.  Dangit.

* quotes are from Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind.  

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Honest Scrap

The Daily Connoisseur has presented me with an "Honest Scrap" award. She says such nice things:

Scentscelf’s witty and humorous fragrance observations are life-affirming and never fail to bring a smile to my face.

{Blushes} awww.....

I have procrastinated putting together my "10 honest scraps about myself" list, largely because I don't like this blog to be about me. (Though apparently I have no trouble blogging what I think. Hmmm.) What's that you say? Perhaps there is another reason? Oh, okay; yes, it could somewhat be because I am a procrastinator. Or more than somewhat. WAIT...I get ahead of myself...that could have been #1 on my list of "honest scrap about me," the first of the two requirements for accepting the reward. Here, then, are ten pieces of honest scrap about me:

Ten Honest Scraps
  1. I tend to put off the oddest chores, sending out packages/mail chief among them. Oh, I love writing letters, old style; I love preparing packages. I just have trouble actually posting them.
  2. I'd rather not talk much about myself, I think possibly because I could easily develop a nattering habit.
  3. I wish I could capoiera. I can't.
  4. I love tending to my garden much more than I love tending to interior tasks, such as the laundry pile. Which means the laundry pile is inevitably taller than the compost heap.
  5. For much of my childhood, I was pretty sure that was biting into alien life forms whenever I had to eat raw tomato.
  6. I sometimes apologize to greenery when I trim it.
  7. Languages I have studied: Spanish. Middle English. Old English.
  8. A film I co-wrote has been screened on every continent but Antarctica. (Two magical words: "independent film.") One that I partially shot has been on POV, but since it was B-roll shot on a lark, I didn't get credit.
  9. Blond in my youth, brunette as an adult. Always my own color. Always true to my fashion.
  10. I have "murderer's thumbs." Also known as clubbed thumbs. They are atypically short and wide, and look kind of like big toes, and made my high school Spanish teacher gasp in horror when she saw them. (That is to say, noticed them in my third year of class with her.) I read about them in some true crime fact book when I was a kid--a higher percentage of convicted murderers have this, um, variation than the general population. And, as long as I'm starting to natter, when I hold my index fingers up next to each other, one starts to point east and the other west--they curve away starting at the first joint. My big toes, should you be wondering by this point, look like big toes, and are the tallest of the bunch.
...erm, #2 became prophetic, no? Just think, had I but started with the original #1, you never would have known...
And now, I am to award blogs that I enjoy with the Honest Scrap Award. As is my wont, I'm going to spread the love around a few of the subjects I enjoy poking around in...perfume, books, gardening, literature, parenting, music, what have you.

10 Blogs I Enjoy and Would Award Honest Scrap To
  1. Spy Vibe. Because there's no better way to start surfing bloggery on the intertubes than with a little fun. Focus is spydom ca.1960's. Groovy.
  2. Mr. McGregor's Daughter. While I think of myself as related to Mr. McGregor because becoming a gardener led me to understand Mr. McGregor's issues with Peter Rabbit, I think that McG's D is more about being down with the plants than coming down on the rabbits.
  3. Scientific Blogging. Not only did certain entry into adulthood involve developing a taste for documentaries, teaching hungry minds opened up my inner scientific curiosity. Scientific Blogging helps me explore without having to tip my hand in terms of just how rote a beginner I am.
  4. Okay, here's a benefit of doing this list: I go back and peek at blogs that have been off my radar for a while, like Music Cognition. In one place, I can unify my inner geek, my brief but always a part of me foray into cognitive psychology, and my recurring passion for music.
  5. Bibliophile? Design nut? If you haven't been, you'll love Book-By-It's-Cover, which does indeed judge a book by its cover.
  6. I'm tossing this one in, though it is brand spanking new to me, and I wouldn't have known about it if Gaia, The Non-Blonde, hadn't posted about it just today: a place where artists are invited to create projects based on a perfume (unidentified) they are given. The blog presenting the results of these projects, Inspire, is French, so it gives me a fresh opportunity to ask my kids to practice their translations. (Perfumista mom calculations: Guerlain's website, safe to ask for translations...Denyse's awesome blog, not always, but fortunately she writes in both French and English...)
  7. For home design, I love Mrs. Blandings (aw, go ahead, see her here), but have plugged her before. So today I offer restoration fun, in the form of Retro Renovation. They've got plenty of mid-century modern, with other tossed in. As a person who once carefully, slowly, laboriously, lovingly, respectfully, cursingly lived with the never ending project that was a 115 year old balloon frame Victorian, helped restore a "modernized" pink & blue flat (that I *rented,* mind you), and now lives in a post-mid-century modern ode to suburban split, I feel the many vibes of restoration issues. I particularly enjoy being able to now simply contemplate, rather than worry if the bathroom renovation might adversely affect the cloth & paper electrical wiring, which can't be updated as yet because we are paying for the bathroom renovation.
  8. I love looking at images. Shorpy culls wonderful specimens (HD, from 19th c through 1950's) from the Library of Congress to post. I have a friend who has some great prints from the Library of Congress, ordered from them back when you could get a print cheap. REALLY cheap. Before the New York Times and other newspapers started charging for reproductions as a high-profit margin business. I, foolishly, considered myself too poor to spend that much money (" ") on photography. Little did I know what the future would hold...not only would I like perfume, I would spend money on it. More on one bottle than on one LOC print.
  9. Okay, so it's clear that I like books, in perfume, in home decorating. Also in building themselves, so the photos and brief essays at Life Without Buildings are a fun way to peek at thoughts about architecture. Don't be mislead by the's not a variation on The Earth Without Us. Though, come to think about it, that could be cool.
  10. As my final shout out for this group, I'd like to acknowledge the honest scrap I see in Vintage Books My Kid Loves, which is about just what you would think. This appeals particularly to me, because a) the memories of childhood books are particularly visceral, and b) I have been priviledged to be a part of other children's discoveries of favorite and influential books, both as a parent and as a teacher. VBMKL includes photo illustrations of each book discussed, and whether or not you actually have read the book, you will enjoy checking it out. If you are a parent, you'll enjoy finding fresh oldies but goodies. If you are into graphics, you'll have fun perusing the various styles.
So, me and my green murderer's thumbs are done for the moment. Do you have a favorite? Quirky, insightful, informative, beautiful, other? Please do tell. I love surfing. (Oops, that's another scrap...)

image is from a Make magazine article on ScrapFu, which you can read here. I dig Make magazine, incidentally--and there you have piece of (honest) scrap #13.