Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Traveling and Scent

They pop up every now and then; follow the perfume blogs long enough, and you'll notice that most eventually get around to the question of perfume and traveling.  As in--how do you pick your scents for a trip?  Does it depend on where you are going?  What type of trip?  What phase of your perfume exploration you are in?  Do you pack any at all?

If you are flying, and are trying to do the footloose and fancy-free no checked baggage style of travel, you also have to contend with security regulations.  That habit of decanting/preparing samples comes in handy here.  If you wish to tote.

Personally, I don't usually sweat it.  Since I'm one of those types who is frequently taking either a conscious or "oops, I did it again" sabbatical from perfume, the idea of finding myself in a new location without fragrance doesn't phase me.  Of course, I have to admit that I generally have a vial of something or other in my purse or toiletries bag, and that the opportunistic stowaway is there because it's either the object of current fascination/investigation, so there's not necessarily an all out blackout in the cards.

And, I'll have to admit that if I am kind of a fan of picking up a scent to associate with a vacation/place.  So, if time and opportunity permit, I'll check out the local offerings and see if I can find something to use while on the road and then bring home.  (That's how Elizabeth W ended up in my inventory. Another story.)

But if time, or budget, or circumstance don't offer the chance to shop for perfume, I'm not devastated.  In fact, I might not be paying attention.  It's all good.

I'm on the road right now.  And I'm traveling on the half-plan.  Which means I didn't think through *exactly* what I wanted to have along based on where I knew I'd be, the weather, the company, etc.  I did decide to bring something, and looked through my samples and small decants for what I thought would be good.  Three vials, I said.  Period.  Have to be prepared to surrender/lose them; have to be happy to have them along if I for some reason feel a craving to wear.

And I can't think about this too much, because I've got to pack in a short amount of time, wrangle pet care, finish up jobs at home, etc. etc. etc.

So, only moderately under the gun, I end up with three scents for the mountainous desert southwest.  All end up being a floral, which is kind of weird, because I'm not particularly a floral person.  They do hit the following logic in my head:  one is one I've been meaning to try, one is one I recall finding the love for last spring, and one is one that sometimes struck as refreshing w/o simply being a cologne.

So far, I've only bothered with two, and both in the same day.  #3 is a fail.  Fresh Violet Moss.  Discontinued, incidentally.  Too strong on the violet--is it the dry weather?  Can't be heat, per se; it's not so terribly hot.

#2 is a winner.  On a whim I applied it not long before bed, and thought, THIS would have worked.  Hermenessence Rose Ikebana.  If I'm going out, I'll wear it.

We'll see if I get to #1.  Could be a strong association if I do try it here, since I've only sampled it once or twice.  Parfumerie Generale Psychotrope.  Not today, for sure.  Too much time outside.

The truth is, I'm only thinking about this to this degree because I've got this window to write before the day gets started.  As interesting as this perfume thing can be, it doesn't trump the attention I devote to new vistas and time with people I don't often get to see.  This is not the kind of time where I would use perfume for comfort, or armor, or setting a scene.

Nice to take a moment and reflect, though.  And wave to anyone stopping by here.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A moment with two Les Heures

I consider these little sample vials precious, so haven't hit them much.  Yesterday was the third time, in fact.  But it may be the first time it was just them, all day.  XII and XIII, that is.  First time all alone, perhaps because sometimes I'll try something on bare skin but after something else already is developing...the "I'm so excited to see this I want to try some now!" slip.  Or perhaps because one of the times I was for sure in a sniffing orgy with a friend in perfume.

This time, just me, those two vials, and passing hours.

Out of the bottle (vial), they continued to be what all the first reports were.  One bitter tea patch mash up, the other cold earth spice spiked leather.  NO, more than that.  I'll come back to that, in fact, because they are complex and interesting and challenging and I'm still not sure if I am seduced by them but I am intrigued.

It's the creature that comes out after that seduced me.  My goodness, folks...these things morph.  And for all the demands the opening makes, the drydown is...easily beautiful.  Hints of Attrape-Couer wafting in the air above your skin, kind of like how En Passant can sometimes haunt you with Apres L'Ondee.  Which means you can start your spray/day projecting I Am Complex and Interesting And You Will Have To Spend Some Time With Me to Figure Me Out (Though It May Not Be Easy).

And then end it with purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

I am making a note to return to this, to do a more traditional job of catching XII and XIII in words.  But for now, I thought I had to share.  Share the discovery that yes, after hours and hours of catching whiffs of this delightful, deep, and yet ghostly cloud, I was able to confirm that it came from spending time with The Hours.

If you find yourself in a position to sample them, do so.  And sample nothing else.  (Fight that urge!  Fight it!!  Bring vials, remember?  Make up samples to take home.  Nothing on your skin but Time!!!)  Then engage with those openings...they're doozies.  But wait for the waft in the drydown.  I am telling you, I think Mathilde Laurent is haunting herself.

See Denyse Beaulieu's reviews of XII and XIII in her wonderful Grain de Musc blog.  She'll take you through the notes, as well as illuminate backstory to their creation.  These reviews are part of a series on Les Heures, along with an interview of perfumer Mathilde Laurent.  

☛ My sample of XII and XIII was prepared by me in a Cartier store, with permission from the sales associate.  I *have* mentioned keeping vials with you, yes?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The wait, redux

In my mail, and now posing for a picture on my table:

Allow me to introduce you to my latest.  As I get ready to tell you about them, it occurs to me that, like my friends, there is quite a variety of personalities and how/why they have a place in my life.  This quintet did arrive as a clique, erm, lot, so it was all or nothing when it came to bidding on them.

You may recall how I described them in my previous post.  There is Vivara, the former formula.  Chypre, but not brash like YSL "Y."  Easy to get to know.  Quickly entered the realm of "I'd call it a staple if I had enough."  I have enough now.  That, right there, made the lot worth the cost to me.  But wait...there's more....

Giorgio.  Giorgio, Giorgio, wherefore art thou Giorgio?  A blast by any other name...would scream '80's.  But this one, THIS one, was what formed a cloud around the escalators in the Hudson's where I sold shoes for three years.  Ladies going up, ladies going down.  The perfume counter wasn't far from my department.  I usually ran by, because a colleague was always going over and grabbing a few spritzes of Poison, so I associated that glass with potential asphyxiation.  Except for the day I stopped for KL.  But that's another story.  ANYWAY, I never once applied Giorgio to my skin.  And then it was gone.  Until now.

Tuscany per Donna.  You spend enough time with perfume blogs, books, and banter, and you can develop impressions of scents you don't really pay attention to.  Like this one.  I saw the name and vague memories of love/hate came to mind.  Was it lauded in The Guide?  Turin for sure tends to extol the virtues of Lauder.  But might it not be a big screamer?  Look, it comes with friends like Giorgio and Knowing, not my bag.  But there's Vivara...and there's The One...aw, heck, give it a try.

Knowing.  Had it already.  Same miniature came in an Estee Lauder sample collection I got a while back.  (See this post.)  This one will probably be set aside for gift or swap.  'Sokay.  Need a little quiet like that for a moment before I turn my full attention to the next one.  'Cause it's a doozy.

I'm not even going to call it by name.  You can read the label.  What if I fall head over heels in love?  What if that one encounter, an evening with me, some friends, and the lovely smell behind the ear of one of my lovely companions, ends up being my downfall?  I never expected to even get this far.  But here it is.  My own bottle.  You can see by the picture that it is a "partial bottle," which is to say that the bottle is fully intact but the contents are not at full volume.  I could see that in the listing pic, too.  What I could not see in the listing is that the bottle IS STILL SEALED.

Still sealed.  That brings an extra layer of "oooh, special" to the equation.  Could be nearly perfect, the juice inside.  Or, the fact that so much evaporated off might show just how faulty the seal is.  Maybe it smells like Froot Loops.  Or a litter box.  Or my nail polish.  Or...nothing.  This still being sealed business means only one thing for sure.  I'm going to stare at and gently handle that little bottle for weeks before I attempt to open it.

Back to finding the joy in the waiting.

And so I shall.  Me, with a new Steady Eddie, and blast from the past, a novelty to explore, a gift to share, and a passionate obsession.

Kinda cool.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Small pleasures

Ah, beauty thing.

You know how you read about a scent and have that "oh, that one I've GOT to try" feeling?  And the sad variation on that is a vintage scent?  Worse yet, a long ago discontinued vintage scent?

Okay, take that.  Now...meet a perfume person who is wearing that scent.  Take a good huff.  Because, as perfume creatures do, it won't matter if you've known each other a minute or a decade.  She'll offer up the skin, and you'll...inhale.  Okay, gently at first, if this is your first time.  But...if you are captured...you ask and put your nose in for more...just a little more...

And then it's gone.  Because the social agenda says it's probably not appropriate for you to proceed with the evening with your nose stuck in your new friend's neck.  And you do enjoy the conversation, after all.  And probably wish to not be shunned.

But the perfume.  It haunts you.  And now, it's under your skin.  Because, of course, it's the one you can't have.

You're a reasonable person.  You know from obsession.  So, sure, you rekindle your online trolling habit.  'Cause what's the harm in just...looking?  And you start paying attention to pictures.  Because every now and then, the key word won't pick up on a listing.  You ride the line of "just how much time should I spend looking through collections and lots, anyway?"  You decide to give yourself a limit.

You listen to your limit.  Mostly.  And just as you think you've settled down...

...there it is.

Really?  Seriously?  ZOMG, says your teenage text reading mind.  Could it be?  You click on the listing.  Enlarge the picture.  Because it's clearly the house, but is it The One?  Because you are oddly superstitious (a baseball player in another life?), you don't look directly at that bottle first.  You force yourself to identify the other bottles first.  Hey, perfumista point!  You know just what "?" is.  ("?" is Estee Lauder Knowing, your mind flashes on the Turin review, the image of Paulina Poriskova, you hear a few bars of The Cars.)  You think, holy cow, Giorgio?!?  And you rest on the bottle on the left.  The easy chypre from a previous generation.  It's on your "if it comes up for $x, get it" list.  And there is a bottle of parfum, for heaven's sake.  When it's parfum, the bottle is small-ish.  You can see how it's been grouped with some miniatures.  You don't believe your freakin' luck.

And you haven't even turned your attention to The One.

So, in your vaguely superstitious mind, you click bid.  Because you have already purchased some perfume this quarter, and your budget is your budget, and you are going to bid on this lot based on budget and the pre-existing "if you can find vintage Vivara for less than $x, get it."  So you toss in your lot, even as part of an eyeball is staring at that enlarged picture.

You've bid.  And now, the part of your brain that you've let attend to the picture starts shaking your shoulders and laughing and doing a little dance.  The other part of your brain says "cool it, man; you're bringing in bad mojo." (Did I mention a little superstition?)  The image is clear; you can read the label.


Your mind reels...how much would I be willing to pay?  What if it's not good?  It's just a partial bottle, it's a mini; how much could that be worth?  What's it worth to you?  You only smelled it once on one other person; even if it hasn't turned, you don't really know if you'll like it, right??  Your fingers hover over the "increase maximum bid" button.  You put them back down.

You have a budget.  You are in control.  You have enough perfume to spray you and a couple of friends every day for a number of years.  Center.

Another part of your brain comments.  "Oh, pretty bottle."  What? I'm not really a bottle person!  Where did that come from?  But...it is pretty.

You take your hands away from the keyboard.  And you wait.  Because if the stars are right, this will work.  And if they're not...you have a budget.

Time passes.  You're going to have to wait a few days.

And it's not so bad, the waiting.  You look at that picture, you think about why it would make sense to have that particular assortment of scents, why you can survive without them.  How fabulous it would be to win the lot.  Because you'll have such a ridiculous assortment of "types" in one shipment.  The known quantity.  The I've Only Known It as an Inescapable Waft.  The I have no idea, but it would be fun to know what the love-hate is about.  (Didn't mention that one yet.)  The It's Not for Me, But Someone Will Like It.

And...The One.

You wait some more.  The waiting is not so bad.  In the waiting, you think...which is what you do half the time, anyway.  Read about 'em and imagine.  Life will be fine either way.  Okay, it would be "sah-weeet," as teen tweets go, if you won.  But you are already this|close to something you didn't even know existed a month ago.  And the memory of it on your friend's neck would be enough tangible connection to a ghost to last a lifetime.

You wait.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Comfort Scents for Uncomfortable Times

It is the vernal equinox, and I have had a habit of writing about “balance” when the equipoise of day and night arrive.  However, I was invited to join some wonderful bloggers in thinking about “Comforting Scents for Uncomfortable Times”...and given the range of perspectives and styles of voice among this fun group, I’m gonna call this balance.  Rather, a post.  About balance.  In the form of comfort.  When not comfortable.
Okay.  Think it through.  In order to say what is comforting, I need to be particular about what kind of comfort we’re talking about.  
For example, am I seeking/enjoying comfort in the company of another?  In the arms of another?
Am I looking to lose myself?  Be blissful, without worrying out how anyone else is doing?
Am I seeking the comfort of protection?  When I need this protection to feel safe--comforted--do I need it to be low key?  Loud?  Something that will keep people at a distance, or something that will only seem like armor if you keep your distance?
I thought.  And came up with some scents...and a couple of surprises.  But I get ahead of myself.  First...
Comfort.  For the Vernal Equinox 2010.  
Comfort, as I am thinking of it today, is something sought.  It’s not centering which brings peace.  It’s not “happy.”  It is a place...some perfumes can take you there.
But there is variety in the where that is “there.”
✒Just me?  Doesn’t matter who might smell me?  But I want to feel...
     Sensuous ~ Feminite du Bois
     Wrapped in warmth with a hint of elation ~ Attrape Couer
     In touch with my inner bitch ~ Bandit
     In touch with my inner naif ~ Acqua Allegoria Aqua Fresca
     Gently reminded of beauty, on and off but throughout the day ~ En Passant
     Is there anyone else in the world? ~ once upon a time, this was L’Ombre Fauve.  Liz Zorn’s Journeyman was there for a while, but it is discontinued.  Position is open.  Please apply. 
✒Me and someone else?  And I’d like them to enjoy, too?
     Sensuous ~ Magie Noire
     Cozy in cashmere ~ Chergui
     Mmmmmm ~ Ava Luxe Vamp wafting up from my top drawer.  
✒Makes you think I’m a cool customer...until you get to know me ~ Chanel No. 19
✒Cozy, warm, but strangely unavailable ~ Bois Blond 
✒Hey, you smell good...what’s this force field? ~ Pick a cool iris.  Like Hiris.
The surprises?  Two of them.  One, a realization that something that something I like, that as a note is generally guaranteed to get me to say “ahhhh, nice,” actually serves as a kind of chain mail.  No, silly, not chain mail that is super annoying and against postal law anyway.  The woven metal kind.  The lighter than full-out armor but still provides protection stuff.  The kind butchers and fishmongers wear as gloves to this day as protection from sharp blades.  The kind that is apparently beneath the note than can be warm orris root, but when chilled and earthed out a bit, still says “beautiful”...but Not Vulnerable.  Iris.  Cool iris.
The other surprise hit me after I drafted my list.  Bois Blond?  But that’s my happy sunshine scent!  Of course, there’s comfort in laying in the sun on a spring day when you can smell the grass and the ground and know everything is warming up, right down to the bones...yours...the earth’s....how in the world did that end up in the “protected” category?  And it struck me.  It’s the opposite of the chilly reception followed by the reveal of a warm heart that is a scent like Chanel No. 19.  Bois Blond is...warm heart, on your sleeve, everything in motion toward joy...with a hint of resolve.  Not steely resolve, like, say, a cool iris.  Not Imma Gonna SmackYa resolve of leather.  No, it’s strong, tenacious, stubborn resolve.  The note that I think does that is tobacco.  The effect, whatever the note, is very appropriate. The effect tells you the wearer has a back which is flexible but is not going to be easily broken.    
No wonder it came to me for both protection and the equinox.  As you lay on the earth on a warm mid-spring day, and can smell both dried plant material and growing greens, all being coaxed out by the heat of the sun on the dirt which is coming up to temperature but not quite ready for planting, you rest.  Assured that whatever the challenges, the earth will keep turning.  
With a smile on its face.  Resolve doesn’t always have to be grim.
✍ ✍ ✍ ✍ ✍

Here are the other bloggers participating in today’s project.  I always enjoy reading their various perspectives; hope you do, too.
Roxana's Illuminated Journal ** BitterGrace Notes ** Perfume Shrine ** Scent Hive ** The Non Blonde ** Perfume in Progress ** Katie Puckrik Smells ** A Rose Beyond the Thames ** I Smell Therefore I Am ** Olfactarama ** All I Am A Redhead  ** Savvy Thinker ** SmellyBlog

This group blog was coordinated by Ayala Sender.  I thank her for the invite.  Ayala informs me the title of the post is an homage to Michelyn Camen's original article of this same name on Sniffapalooza Magazine in 2008, in which she interviewed several perfumers to comment on what botanical elements make their perfumes comforting.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Michelle, Ma Bell Ringer.

File this under "I'm Trying."

Michelle, by Balenciaga.  Torpedoed by...no, it's not the fruit compote...for though that can go one way or the other for me...and I *want* to say it's the aldehydes, which are there, but pesky...gosh, I know people I often nod in agreement like this...but what IS that thing that won't get out of my nose?  That keeps interrupting me whenever I try to pay attention to any other part, and says ME, MEEE, and flavors both isolated elements and the whole?

I'm not having a good time here.  I'm trying.

Ackergh.  What in the world?

Get out of my nose!!! What are you???  I'm supposed to be finding tuberose in here!!!!*

Oh.  Helg tells me.  Its...bug spray.  Gosh, I love Helg.  Golly, but I don't get "tempered and tamed."  Maybe Muse in Wooden Shoes will end up taking mine.  She likes it loud.

*Terry Pratchett quote: "Five exclamation points, the sure sign of an insane mind."  Clearly, Michelle has driven me one mark shy of being committed.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tangible Past -- capture and release

Earlier this week, there was piece about something (can't even remember what) on NPR, where a man made the comment along the lines of "future generations will have so much material to help document their ancestors, what with all this digital media allowing for sound and image and recordings of so much stuff."  Right away, I turned to the radio and said "unh unh...."  Digital media keep on changing.  Methods of recording, both the machinery and the process, as well as recovery, have evolved at a pace quicker than the changing of a generation.  My iPod stores a heckuva a lot more information--including types of information, like complex sound (music) and visuals (video/film) than the crazy Smackintosh I wrote my first graduate papers on.  And that Smackintosh (remember the cute little face that would smile at you from the center of the screen?) allowed me to divert attention to things like playing Tetris, which would have thrilled the professor I had as an undergraduate who kept on talking about the "incredible" new Tandy he got that allowed him to store *more than one chapter!* at a time!

Perhaps more profoundly, as a filmmaker, I entered my studies shooting on 16mm, and left as folks were recording Hi8 and trying to settle on a way to record digital sound.  Less than five years after that, Hi8 was no longer the visual medium of choice, the department was getting rid of 16mm classes, and the uber-advanced Avid training I had gone through was now de rigueur.  I don't need to point out how many "citizens" nowadays have created their own videos, with transitions and overlaid soundtracks, of their vacations/weddings/dog's first trip to "Grandma's house," right?

I can't play my Hi8 tapes from anywhere but in the machine I recorded them.  My 16mm was transferred to video, which is now being tranferred to digital.  This year's digital, mind you.  If I had done this close to ten years ago, it would have all been on a floppy drive which my current computer can't even receive, let alone recognize.

Meanwhile, I still have stashes of family photos.  A crew of men standing on top of a load of logs taller than my elementary school, in an image whose appearance is recreated by selecting "sepia" in iPhoto.  A tintype of I have no idea who in a pram.  A Kodacolor of my Nana yukking it up with her girlfriends, all in rollers.  Some Fuji slides of my one trip beyond the borders of this country.  A letter from my great-grandfather to my mother.  All of which are degrading at the same pace they were when I first looked at them in the "dawn of the digital era."  But which I can still go and examine at my own whim.

There is an article in the New York Times today exploring the need for digital forensics, as they explore the emerging generation of digital collections in libraries.  There is no standard for archiving these collections.  There is no easy method for taking a look at the 5 1/4 floppies of John Updike, the 3 1/2 floppies from Salman Rushdie, the jump drives and hard drives and captures from cloud computing that will be the format of collections yet to come.  Even as a smattering of librarians with digital knowledge (some with reasonable expertise) emerge, the only source of people truly trained in rooting out digital content are...police.

You and I are better off rolling through microfiche.

Yesterday, perfumer and blogger Ayala Sender wrote about the happy confluence of events that united her with an eBay trophy:  a vintage bottle of Patou 1000.  (Read her SmellyBlog here.)  I think about the recovery of the past, the connection that tangible objects (and smells) allows us to our past when we are able to touch/see/smell the actual something, or an actual something that somebody/something no longer extant also touched/saw/smelled.  You will notice I don't mention hearing, or taste, here...which is worth sorting out at another time.  Oh, yes, I am well aware of the inextricable connection of taste & smell...in a given moment.... And I have other thoughts about sound and recordings.   Later.  I think, and my musings run over the conversations about vintage vs. new formulations, about historical concept for the olfactory perception of a perfume (both visceral and intellectual), about ghosts on the earth.

Not to mention, of course, about whether or not I "like" something, and whether it smells "old"--both in an "off" way and in a "my Grandma!" way.

I listen to Ayala, and I empathetically get caught up in her thoughts.  I sit down to write about mechanics, and reproduction, and archiving, and saving the past, and experiencing the past, and "Grandma perfume," and I remember this exchange from three days ago:

teenage son:  Okay, so I smelled one of those papers that fell out of the magazine, and I immediately thought of Grandma.  How weird is that?  I mean, *is* that weird?  I totally smelled Grandma!

me (happy to share a meaningful moment with son):  Only weird feeling...but scientifically supported...lots of my perfume people will talk about smells associated with memory, of course, but they aren't the only anecdotes... 

teenage son:  Right, like Proust with the madeleine?  

me (I love this kid) : Exactly.  Curiosity striking  Hey, do you remember what perfume it was?

teenage son:  No, but...goes out of room, returns with insert...This one.

me:  Cognitive dissonance moment, as the evidence registers in my brain.  Oh.

meanwhile, teenage son:  So it isn't weird?  Does she wear this?

me:  feeling like I am lying  No, it's not weird.  collecting myself I don't know if she wears this, but she probably wears something like it.

He walks away feeling better.  I am...discombobulated.  I am staring at... a scented strip for... Light Blue.

So, there you go.  We've been tossing around this description of "granny perfume," and protesting or professing love or proferring evidence why it shouldn't be labeled as such.  This whole time, I am, of course, carrying in my olfactory mind whiffs of civet, of aldehydes, maybe oakmoss.

My kid is thinking Light Blue.

Life.  Constantly reminding me that the more I learn, the more I integrate and make connections, the more that await my reckoning.

No matter how we record images/presentations of our past, we'd better be sure we are clear in our offering.  And we'd also be sure to be aware of the means through which we examine the material.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Smoke, but no Fire : Mecca Balsam

It's very nice, mind you.  Stir two parts pine (either your Wazamba or your Filles en Aiguilles will do), add in one part incense.  Lovely drydown.


I have this.  Without the incense.  With my Wazamba.  I think I'll try a little layering.

If you have none of these...yet...it is worth trying.  I'm just saying...my goal these days is to reduce spending.

Listen to people be happy about it.  Remember, it's not that I *don't* like it; I just don't need to go there.
Scent Hive
Perfume Shrine
Perfume Posse

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rula Lenska

"I'm Rula Lenska."

Trill the "r" a little bit, but keep it slightly guttural at the same time.  Great hair, great cheekbones...sport a scarf a certain way...

Rula Lenska appeared out of nowhere, a spokeswoman in a commercial for a beauty product.  She carried herself such, and looked the part, and was on t.v., so people assumed they should know who she was.  It took a while for them to start asking questions.

It was all in the presentation.

Another woman from my youth offered another view into glamour.  She was young, she was beautiful, she carried herself like a dancer, but was a piano player.  SUCH a piano player.  She was my brother's teacher, and I went with him to her studio once a week.  Occasionally, I'd get a sighting, or better yet, a "hearing."  She could move from classical to jazz in the blink of an eye, in firm command of either.  If it was a sighting, there would always be steady eye contact, a warm but steady fixing of the eye that made me think about my own posture and wonder if I could ever be half as beautiful.

She moved away to New York City and became something that she dreamed of and I had trouble even imagining.  A mash up of a glamorous old-school movie-star and demon musician.  She played "the clubs," wore gowns from Paris, added a little distance to that fix-you-with-her-eyes.  Turns out she could sing, too, and added that into the layers of presentation.

In her bio, she tells the story of a beautiful glamorous woman from her own youth, who wore scarves in a certain way, who insisted on a certain level of performance, and who seemed to suggest a level of glamour and intrigue in her personal life that could never be confirmed.  This woman was, of course, one of her own teachers.

Rula slipped from the public eye.  NY's teacher slipped to a world beyond.  And NY, my brother's teacher, the glamorous talent playing to the light clinking of glassware and appreciative audiences?  She's been slipped out the door.  No work for her these days.

There are fewer and fewer homes for glamorous talented beauty.  The real deal, the kind that could, for example, cite AND play Gershwin chapter and verse, and mess you up trying to contemplate it because you got caught in the show.  The kind that worked for a while to achieve not only mastery of their talent, but of their look.

I'm your basic fresh-faced earth girl who is happy to see women have the opportunity to "be themselves" and compete on a sporting pitch instead of in front of a mirror.  But...I miss Rula.

I miss vintage Diorella and Tabac Blond.  I'm glad the new Jolie Madame exists, but I miss the old one.  In fact, you can say the same of Le Dix.  And Madame Rochas.

Clocks turn, fads come and go, tastes also come and go (albeit in slower cycles).  Surface and even talent are both prey to the whims of convention.  Market forces have always existed, even before marketers and advertising, or the exchange of money, for that matter.  If they won't line up to see it...heck, if you can't get a handful of takers...there's nowhere to go.

Rula couldn't emerge as a mysterious anything these days; I'd Google her accented self before you can say "fake Polish countess" and learn all about her.  My brother's beautiful talented teacher no longer plays to NY society high above it all...and not because the room highest above it all exists, like her teacher, only in memory.

I'm hoping that there is a pocket, though.  A pocket where you can find music well played by a person who chooses to do so via a certain presentation of mystery and glamour.  A pocket where the Tabac Blond can always be worn, where you can spend the day as a Jolie Madame...where you can where a Jubilation 25 to an event with your modern friends and have them stop and ask about it.


"Who the hell is Rula Lenska?"

Somebody did start asking questions.  (*)  Which led to other questions.  Turns out she was, actually, the daughter of a Polish countess.  But if you Wikipedia her, you'll find most of the body of her work listed comes after the famous commercial.  She was young, of course, when the commercial aired, and had most of her life ahead of her.

In the humorous vagaries that can be part of a Wiki-bio, the first miscellanea you learn about her is that she is a blood donor.  Which goes to show that when you peel off layers of mystery, you can a) find things very mundane, and b) reflect that in the mundane can lie profound and important.


I need to go and turn forward the clocks now.

I'll be wearing comfortable clothes.  And maybe, just maybe, a tiny hint of the smidge of Tabac Blond that I know will one day run dry.