Saturday, July 31, 2010


I need to put less latitude in my attitude.  And maybe accept how dirty I am.

I've been so focused on parallels...on knowing that my sweet spot lies right around 45...that it never occurred to me to pay attention to longitude.  After all, I've been pretty consistent across the sweep of my home country, which was not a width that seemed worthy of dismissing.

For the second time in my life, I completed a travel that involved crossing seven time zones.  This time, I moved beyond the all hallowed Greenwich.  Which was an increase of one time zone from the last trip, but meant skipping a day.  Moving forward in time.  Time travel.  Wow.

I was there for two weeks.  And never fully let go of my old clock.  Or, is it better to say, never fully adjusted to the new?  Essentially, I stayed up for two days every day...I started with the new, in the future day, but finished out with the old, behind the time day.  Good thing that daylight contributed to the phenomenon--I think--in providing light for most of both.

Maybe the truth is I need a couple of hours of non-daytime before I can go to sleep.  In which case, I should try traveling a fair distance in the other direction sometime.  As a noble experiment, of course.

But who wants to sleep through a stay in Hawaii??

In Paris, I visited the Dreamlands exhibit at the Pompidou.  The exhibit is constructed around the idea of utopias, or more specifically, in the museum's words, it
considers for the first time the question of how World's Fairs, international exhibitions, theme parks and kindred institutions have influenced ideas about the city and the way it is used. 
This has been a busy year for thinking about city construction in my life.  Last spring, when I visited the Phoenix area, I went to both Arcosanti and Taliesin West.  Arcosanti is one architect's vision of a perfectly designed community; Taliesin West is the same.  There's a heavier emphasis on the architect's digs at Taliesin West, but both consider home within the community, as well as the individual in the home.

It's also fair to point out that I visited Scottsdale and Sun City, a shopping/living complex called Westgate, and Phoenix itself.  Fully operating, contemporary expressions of communities with homes.  Oddly, sadly, interestingly, it would be Sun City and the shopping/living center that closest resemble the visions of Paolo Soleri's arcology and Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture.  There's a lot more emphasis on commerce in the real life applications.  I'm sure Stuart Brand would have something to say about that, if he applied the ideas he raises in How Buildings Learn to the greater community.

It's pretty clear that commodities are less present in utopian visions than in practical applications.  In one way, all of the places I've been in 2010 are at least as identifiable by their consumables as by the amount of time people spend in/with community.  The consumables, and their delivery apparatus, vary:  haute couture, omnipresent cuisine, temples of perfume, visions of art and culture (but don't touch...i.e. the museum)?  Paris, New York.  Umpteen stores of mid and low-range clothing, kebobs in the 48 pack (oh, Costco, you have changed American lives so), home goods?  Say hello, Phoenix and suburbs.  (Suburbs of any city, that is.)

How does this take me home?  I'm working it out.  I live outside a major city that I once resided soundly within.  I have a Costco within an easy drive, at least 5 low and high end grocery stores to choose from within the same driving radius, stores ranging from Wal-Mart, Target and Kohl's thru Neiman Marcus and Max Mara to buy clothes from (and a slew of mail order catalogs should I desire to "save gas").  The city offers temples of food (highest ranked restaurant experience in the country, by more than one opinion is here, and has plenty of similar tier compatriots), is denser, blah blah.  But I have to say, there's a heck of a lot more walking that goes on on the island Manhattan, and in Paris.  In fact, I'm not sure that any city other than NYC matches the walk factor of Paris.  Yes, San Francisco has the highest "walkability score," but honestly, I don't see a lot of people hoofing it further than a few blocks in their neighborhood.  Biking it, for sure.  Using urban public transit, you bet.  But relying on walking to do the bulk of their business, their getting from here to there?  I didn't see it.  Being "walkable" doesn't make a culture of walkers.

A few hundred years of practice seems to, however.

I haven't gotten down to the dirty yet.  I walked in Paris.  A lot.  In comfortable shoes.  And yes, a couple of days wearing a clothing item that led to me developing an amusing internal audio tape:
"Does this skort make me look too American?"  
The shoes, they were a bit nebulous in defining tourist factor (in terms of country of origin), especially on days I wore black dresses or skirts or pants and endeavored to look "chic, if a bit sporty."  "Arty" days were nebulous, too.  But skort days?  Totally American.

Still, I like to think I rocked the skort.  Wasn't any other streetwalker wearing denim like I did.


ANYWAY, I walked a lot.  So much so that I challenged my Achilles tendon, a new entry in the (still short) list of personal injuries.  Learned the metro, walked plenty of streets, parks, stairs, hills, etcetera.  And in all of those miles of walking cobblestones and concrete and park and metro and marble stairs of hallowed institutions, my nebulous comfortable but somewhat chic sandals never once collected dirt.

Not once.

Because in Paris, there is no dirt.  Unless it is in a pot, with a plant growing out of it.  Even in the parks, the area underneath the trees is generally a sandy mix, suitable for boules and heavy foot traffic.  There was dirt underneath the occasional grassy knoll, I am sure, but by the time I had passed the one week mark and ticked off at least five arrondissment on my generous perambulations, I realized I had seen no dirt.  I watered pots on the terrace of the apartment every day, and that was my only contact with dirt.

I learned that at 2'20° east, 48'50° north, I was sweating and getting grimy at times, but never getting dirty.  Not how I am used to.

Which is probably why when I returned to approximately 41'59° north, 87'54° west, one of the first things I did was go to my dirt.  It was weed infested, but present.

I'll need to go back and investigate those utopian communities with a sharp eye for the dirt angle.  Ironically, both Arcosanti and Taliesin West are going to lean Parisian, being in the desert and having to deal with non-loamy soil and all.  The Dreamlands exhibit consisted of a lot of artistic concepts on paper, and of World Exhibitions...I'll have to research.  Maybe I'll write the next World Expo-based bestselling fiction based on my findings; I'll call it "Dirt Haul in the White City."

So, I'm dirty.  And tired.  But happy.  And thinking.

Thinkings that will probably infiltrate my next post, a musing on things Mediterranean, prompted by an invitation from my blog correspondent Ines over at All I am - a Redhead.

Meanwhile, my "French manicure" (what I call it on the rare occasion I apply lacquer to my nails, which is almost always a color that is transparent and neutral) already has dirt under the nails.  Perhaps that is one of the best answers I can give at the moment to the question "What is home?"

"Home, end of July 2010"

image the first from the Basic Navigation page of Flight Simulator Navigation
image the second author's own

requisite music link which is inevitable but still, connections enough ... this

Monday, July 26, 2010

As I was walking down the rue one day...

No, no homme came up to me and asked me what the time was that was on my watch.  I did, however, reach an Accord.

Promenade left at a circle (they happen here, regularly), and after progressing past the Prada, I did a double take.  What was that?  That quiet facade, that charming door, that lettering in gold on the white paint...


Yes it was.  We had business nearby, and as you know I had put off serious thoughts of serious perfume investigation until next (now this) week.  But there it was, yes indeed, Caron, confirmed without a doubt when I opened the door and beheld in front of my eyes The Urns.  Themselves.

(Why doesn't Donatella Versace have a wall of these herself?  Does she?)

It's amazing how quickly embarrassment at terrible language skills will melt in the face of so much juice, so prettily displayed.  I walked up to them, and slowly walked from one to the other and back again, first taking it in, then taking note.  Sure, there was Or et Noir, in a volume that would question the very existence of my hoarded vial at home.  Yes, there was Pois de Senteur.  Parfum Sacre.  And.  And.  Tabac Blond.  And.  And.  And.

And what's this, tucked up in the left corner of the collection of urns to the right of the doorway?  L'Accord?  I rifle through my brain, and come up with nothing.  I cannot remember hearing anything, reading anything.  Curiosity wins, and it becomes the final strip sprayed.  Mmmm...oh, dear, this seems to be a dark fruity-ish floral-ish but don't call it fruity-floral something.  Texture is viscous.  It doesn't take me long to decide.  Though known loves lined up with knowing smiles, thinking they would be the ones asked to dance, it was L'Accord -- a creature unlike any of the others -- that was invited to my wrist.

A wrist I huffed and I huffed up and down the Elysses.

Oh, suprisingly happy opening.  You may well (all too well, perhaps) know that I am not bent toward fruit nor floral nor the combination thereof.  But there are certain roses...and every now and then a special blackberry...that will cause me to sniff again.  And then there was this thing on my wrist, which was warm without being sickly sweet, which threatened to be to thick for a summer day on the pavement on Paris, but which was always just...pretty bending toward beautiful.  Dense flower.  Some chocolate (which my brain keeps telling me could be patch) weaving in and out.  A trace of something medicinal.  Perhaps one could call it a dessert with hints of savory, anchored in bread.  That's it, more bread pudding than pastry.  But staying there is not fair, because it is more grown up somehow.  Yet it doesn't cheat by simply being a liqueur version of something with mass.

What was this thing?

It dried down beautifully, and was tenacious.  Became somewhat drier, in a leathery not woodsy way. And I start wondering just what flower it is I'm smelling, whether it was just suggestion that said it was a rose?  It's not now, not's less sweet, and other stuff, dried greenery made liquid, is hinted at.

Oh, I think I have to do this again.

(I thought.)

And so I have.


L'Accord (Code 119).  I came here thinking I might let something vault the walls of resistance...Bois des Iles in extrait?  A non-export Serge?  Something from Patricia de Nicolai?  Instead, from a shop I hadn't determined as a "must visit," a fragrance that was a complete surprise.

As of two days later, so totally purchased.

I desperately tried to hunt down information on this perfume, in an attempt to be "thoughtful" and sensible about a purchase.  All I got was Octavian...and given how much I respect his thoughts, all he spelled was doom for my pocketbook in his brief look at L'Accord here.  I probably would have gotten it anyway, but not so freely.

Incidentally, I asked the salesperson about the "mystery of number 119."  She laughed and replied that it was a reference to the address where it was created, initially put on the perfume because the company was interested in seeing how customers would respond.

I hesitated to write anything about this one...yet...the voodoo, you know.  Seemed like it, and I, should be home safe and sound first.  But there was also the bad karma of holding, here you go.

I am wearing it now.  Patch/choc has not made the appearance it did that day on the Champs d'Elysses, but it is cooler, and I'm not on the pavement at the moment.  The sounds of a flute rehearsing across the courtyard have stopped, and now a soprano and a tenor are running through a duet.  Somewhere, my brain is thinking this is appropriate and related.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Magic Numbers

The number I am looking forward to discussing with you is 119.

Unfortunately, I have other numbers in my head.  Like 500.  As in mg.  And a new word, "paracétamo."  Life isn't always romantic in Paris.

Not sure if this what son the elder had in mind when he wanted us to behave more "naturally."  I know it isn't what son the younger wanted--he is the one who first caught the bug.  And was pretty misérable about having done so in Paris.  (I'm pretty sure he got it from the older dude one row ahead of them on the plane, who was snorfling and coughing and honking...with honking being the only thing he bothered to capture.)

So, I spent a day reading, among other things, about LSD as psychiatric treatment in 1950's Hollywood.  Which of course resulted with the necessary reference to "Go Ask Alice" getting all tangled up in my head with my translation of dosages in French: une pill renre vous what?  Then, relying on said son to figure out dosage for his weight...made me have odd thoughts like "why can't I be sick in Barcelona?"

Je suis désolé.  Oops, no, wait, can't use that; that is what son the younger thought to say when for some reason the card reader at the Monoprix wouldn't comprehend our credit card.  What, karmic payback?  It doesn't speak my bank's language?  Ha! Universal comedy in a magnetic strip!!  Anyway, son the younger and I emptied our pockets, and managed to find the full amount in cash.  Lots of smiles and such exchanged, but when I heard him say "désolé" to the clerk, I knew it was just...comical.

Anyway, lest I leave the impression that I have been completely bumbling my way through this lovely city, I share with you once again that magic number.  119.  Which I will speak fully once I have safely returned.

Must to respect la voudou, you know.  Who do?  I do.  Even in Paris.

Maybe doing so will help with the cold.

Or perhaps the older dude from 36B is feeling a prickle of désolé, whether he knows why or not.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pairing: Bonne chance, gentiane + Ninfeo Mio

The other day, two new things in two of my favorite categories.

One:  Gentian liqueur.
Two:  Ninfeo Mio perfume.

Within a block of each other.

Sprayed the Ninfeo Mio first, in a tiny cute shop tucked away on a street leading from the Metro stop to the D'Orsay museum.  Could have predicted enjoying Goutal's version of a "bracing" opening--refreshing, but not so much a hard slap as the quick schmack! followed by the 'not really painful but you can tell something violent led to' relief of cold water splashed on hot pavement.  The bergamot is part of that.  A lemony bergamot that is quickly pulled back by some dryness, dryness which doesn't remove the citrus, but makes it behave differently.  The kind of thing DH calls "peppery."  (Sharp generally = "peppery" in his book, especially if bergamot is involved.)  Quite pleasing, if you go in for that sort of thing.  And I do.

Later, it transitions into a smooth herby gently sweet something.  Which I want to experience again.  And plan to.  And perhaps will describe better then.  But meanwhile, I was distracted by...

...gentiane.  On a cafe menu.  I've been enjoying this business of the public aperitif; back home, I'm like some lady in her dotage, sneaking a nip of the sherry when cooking.  You see, nobody "does" aperitifs in my local circles.  I'm working on changing that...but for now, if I'm enjoying an apertif, it's generally just me and my gardening companion The 70 Pound Dog, sitting out on the patio, staring at the plants and trying to conjecture what I can cook in 30 minutes or less that will seem like it was something I gave serious consideration for part of the day.  (The old days of no time to stop to breathe seem to have their most serious vestiges in my cooking habits...)

Here, my spouse joins me, and we join others, and there's a whole shelf of things to choose from.  Not always gentiane, however, so I took my chance.  And it was bitter herbal tonically good.  Fabulous color, too...not the hyper fluorescence of absinthe, but something that the good forest might have conjured.

Those herbs?  I fancied I found them in the drydown of Ninfeo Mio.  Tucked away among a layer of gentle floral.

This is one corner of Paris I'll be able to enjoy in my grotto, whether I am alone or with company.  Give me a ring if you're in the neighborhood; I'll set you up.  A slap on the wrist and a sharp in the glass.

If you don't like 'em, you can always swap for Shalimar and a vanilla creme soda.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Where am I?

Rain is rain.

A simple concept...a cliche...the sun shines everywhere on the turns to night turns to day...rain falls from the sky.

Yet, somehow, due to my romantic? gullible? narrow? mind, when rain fell the other day, it was a fell whomp of familiar and Oh! and I am in Pareeee all at once.

Why should the rain do this?  Why not the sound of the children's voices in the courtyard?  Perhaps because the "foreign" language suggests distance.  Why not the sound of a door closing?  Honestly, the sound of a door closing tends to be different.  Different mechanisms, different doors...and then there is the ubiquitous process of needing to press a button before passing through a, no, door entry/exit not profoundly universal.  Why not the sun upon my face?  Um, that *is* different...a more northerly parallel stretches the "magic hour" beautifully, and even if I didn't have a filmmaking background, I'd be struck by the quality of light.  Why not the huff of perfume on my wrist?  Dare I point back to how my Poussiere de Rose seemed to smell different?  No?  How about I stick to my one shop experience so far, where my limited language skills were most vexing.  NOT universal, not for me.

But the rain.  The rain, it grounded me, and seemed like something new, all at once.

It was gentle, just beyond a drizzle, and didn't last for long.  Didn't really do much to alter the pleasant but clearly summer temperature, either.  It did alter the light, it did act both as a soundtrack and sound damper, and it entirely brought a new focus to my senses.  I was in Paris.  It is raining.  I am on someone else's fifth floor terrace.  I am among someone else's plants.  I am among plants.  I am outside, in the rain.  All the ways in which I was alien and familiar burbled and then settled at once.

I mentioned magic hour to some friends, and one asked if I was wearing L'Heure Bleu.  Entirely logical. It does not happen to be one of bitty decants I brought, so no, I was not.  And I wasn't even sure if I wanted to...I knew that if I had, if I do, L'HB will forever in the future be strongly Paris.  And I love so much what it is to me now, I don't know if I can give that up.  Maybe I'll run into a Guerlain shop toward the end of my stay, and spray some.  For now, I have the rain as my bridge between what I know and what I don't know, locating all in one moment.

Other such connections, not quite as "vortex of all experience in one":

Household dirt.  I spent some time cleaning the charming apartment we are using for our stay.  "Surface dirt," as my mom would have said.  Vacuum the floors, dust/clean flat surfaces.  Okay, and wipe down the tile walls on the bathroom.  All of which yielded results which were sufficient enough to veer beyond "satisfactory" into "um, I'm really glad I did this."  And why was this so important to me?  I don't know. Yes, I do.  I am not fond of surface dirt.  I'll tolerate it in my house, of course...just try to stay ahead of the dust bunnies and dirt in a house with gas forced air heat and two cats and one dog and lots of books and teens galumphing through and a gardener trudging in and out.  It's almost as if there is something personal about dirt...would I rather share a home with my own dirt?  Hmmm.  And, lest you mistakenly get the impression I am staying in a place en désespoir, the linens in the closets are all ironed.  ALL of them.  And everything is in its place, and there is a lovely amount of "stuff" (books, art, etc.)--which I love having about--without having so much that it starts to feel "noisy" or overwhelming.  Nope, it was more the feeling of...somebody else not having a chance to attend to that element, and then handing over the key.

Anyway, why do I bring it up?  Because, honest to Pete, the dirt was...different.  A different dirt to dust to grease ratio, which could have everything to do with this being a more urban environment than I usually clean in, combined with no screens on the windows, plus the proximity of the kitchen (and cooking issues) to the rest.  Scientifically, I remain skeptical.  In my heart, I know that stuff I was wiping off the walls was blacker and "threadier" than what I clean off my own house.

When I do, that is.

The walkability of this city is awesome.  Really.  I am still a little puzzled by the street layout, which I shouldn't be, because there is a certain logic in the radiation of the boulevards and such.  Heck, I grew up in a city whose grid was laid out by L'Enfant.  It's just...well...for one, the lack of a hard edge.  Where I grew up, the river was a hard edge, because it was an international boundary; where I live, the lake is a hard edge, because, well, it's big; in New York and San Francisco and Seattle, other cities I've gotten to know and love, water gives a hard edge.  Here, the Seine flows through, and physically speaking, you can flow back and forth...though yes, I am full aware of the cultural distinction between Left and Right bank.  Which are south and north, incidentally.  Which perhaps is the second factor in my confusion.  Really?   Where I come from, we have these east-west lines, too.  Mason-Dixon line, Michigan-Ohio, North Dakota South Dakota.  But left-right is for things like the Continental Divide, the Mississippi, East Side West Side.  Things that are left, or right, according to true north.

And it's hillier than I expected.  Well, roll-y.  Well, something in between.  European street proportions, combined with the necessary sharp angles on street intersections because they were carved to fit contours.  I dare say this out loud, though somehow I suspect there is a Great Work of Literature that is absent from my reading that one of you will point out and say "Hey, graduate student of Literature, how the heck could you not know that?  Haven't you read X?"  That, or some basic piece of history that shows how Napoleon had to run uphill three ways when he came home to smell Josephine which should have suggested to me the contours of the city.  But no, I didn't have it in my pre-impressions.

The best smell so far?  Food smells have been great, of course.  But I have to say, my favorite to date has been stumbling upon that rose plant outside the fleuriste, followed by the unmistakable smell of old books and dusty wood in a used book stall inside a charming arcade by the Bibliothéque Nationale.  Making the scent of those few blocks a floral with an unusual but pleasant drydown.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Shop Window Earns Sad Emoticon

I did not say anything about that shop window that I pressed my nose against on Sunday.  The Guerlain?  Near the Opera?

Mind you, it was an outpost.  Not THE shop.  And I tend to forget that Guerlain also offers make-up.  Silly me.  So I'm going to forgive the fact that of the two, the left one flanking the lovely door was entirely devoted to face paint.

But to dedicate the other window entirely to the Aqua Allegoria line?  Say it ain't so, Josephine.


Monday, July 19, 2010

A confession

I am traveling again.  Rather, I have traveled.  J'ai voyagé.  I am happy, the whole family is with me, we are adventuring.

So many things are right.  I am above the 45th parallel in the summer, I am staying in place for nearly two weeks so that I can soak up as much as I can of a new experience without falling prey to or imposing some sort of tourist whirlwind on the proceedings.  I am, for only the second time in my life, learning how my body responds to jet lag.  I am hyper aware of budget, just like when I traveled as a near-student; I am equally cognizant of when I toss it to the gutter as the locals sometimes do with their trash.  I am savoring every bite of fabulous food.  I am enjoying every sip of aperitif and every moment of light refracted through the atmosphere during the magic hours that suspend themselves over us at the start and especially end of each day.

A couple of things are desafinado.  I never learned this language.  I am doing my level best to gain traction as I go, because I would feel so much better if I had at least a rudimentary working ability to communicate.  Sometimes, 
lamento que yo no pudiera hablar el español.

  De temps en temps, je regrette que je ne puisse pas glisser en espagnol.

I wish I could slip into Spanish.  Just to show that I am not a self-centered American who doesn't care about bothering to learn any other languages.  (Or an American who was never given the opportunity, or whose "opportunity" was two lame years of a mock high school requirement.  Oh, wait...that was was college where I learned.  Anyway...)

...things are conversationally desafinado.  And, the other thing that is slightly out of tune...I have not yet run to the shrine, the altar, the Mecca, the whateveryoucallit.  Three days, and no visit to an olfactory temple.

Yes.  I am in Paris, and I have only pressed my nose to the glass of a Guerlain outpost on the day when all shops are closed.

I don't think that it's the age of the internets and swappage and sharing that has led me to this, a potential sacrilege among the devout, a potential revocation of any perfumista card I might have laid claim to.  My lack of homage is not a result of abundant sniff opportunity.  It has more to do with the dual realities of my broader life--interest in many things, and the logistics of sharing this experience with other folks who have their own agendas (and from whom it is more difficult to separate).

I am here for the whole enchilada...erm, the whole tortiere.  There have been fresh baguettes and croissants, pastis on the sidewalk, meanderings down boulevards, expeditions up constructions of wrought iron, boats on the Seine.  There will be exhibits, and mansion museums, and parks, and more food and more walking.

And yes, I am sure, there will be perfume.  Parfum.  But there is time.  First I wish to inhabit.

Meanwhile, let it be known that TDC de Sens et Bois is lovely on a moderate summer day in its upright posture gently cutting way, and Parfums de Rosine Poussiere de Rose is somehow sweeter.  Perhaps the barest hint of that which might be skank?  No, not really.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Vamp à NY, redux: The bubblegum cometh

Well, shoot.

I sprayed Vamp on my wrist yesterday morning, just for yucks, because someone had offered to bring a bit more into my life.  And I said no, thinking I was being appropriate, given my first two experiences.  But, knowing that things can change--not often, and especially not after such definitive first and second times, but still, there is room for learning--I spritzed.

A bit more generously than intended, I should perhaps say.

And somewhere between the mist and my nose, I immediately caught...bubblegum.  Sonofagun, THAT's what some of those commenters were talking about.  So I went in for the snorfle.  And sure enough, I find bubblegum...along with a very pretty flower, vaguely raspy, hint of that thing that sometimes gets called rubber, but altogether enjoyable.


Huff again.  Yup, it's something that is sweet without being that way from sugar, it's pleasant, it's...okay, I'll say it:  it's girly.  YES, this can be worn by anyone.  I am just saying, when I smell it, it makes me think *girl *some make-up *being aware of how you laugh *effortlessly remembering your posture.  In other words, generally not me.  But I like it.


So, I try to kill the experience.  Me, my unshowered self, some gardening.  Let's go.  Into the somewhat hot, somewhat humid day.  Work, work.  Brace for insta-headache, and...huff.  And...I like.  Sonofagun again!!  Weed, weed, sniff.  Like.  Water, stroke, examine.  Huff.  Like.  Go to mailbox.  Huff.  Like.  Wave to neighbor.  Huff.  Like.  Huff.  Like.

Go back to air conditioning.  Distract self from wrist with tea.  Huff.

Well, pooh.  It's just a really nice something today.  I could see having a split of this.  It's not me, I probably won't be able to wear it mindlessly (will have to make sure head and weather and situation all suit), but yeah, I could have this.  It's actually more cheerful than Songes, which opens my chest with a full range of moods, including from the melancholy range.

Here I thought that white florals only challenged my head in terms of inducing headaches.  These white floral experiments are sorely testing my sanity.

Oh, yeah...and as for root beer?  I caught that in the opening.  In the bubbles, more than on my wrist.  It's not a true root beer...not so earthy, I don't know if sasparilla is more appropriate...but definitely something from that branch of the soda tree.  Interestink.

Monday, July 12, 2010

New Frontiers in Pairings

You know I haz fun with perfume/cocktail pairings.

There are folks, not only Chandler Burr, who like to play with perfume/food pairings.

And, of course, there is ye olde beverage/food pairing.

But give the winners of the Euroscientist Journalism contest their due:  They offered up a six-course meal, with each course coming with a correlated presentation on a particular scientific investigation.

While the sequencing of the truffle genome may not be your bag of tea, it didn't really have to be, as the science was apparently served "lite."  Nonetheless, the idea tickles my does the topic of the dessert course.  (Sex, natch.)  Seems ornamentation does well for pannacotta and males interested in sex.  (Maybe that's why we like our perfume packaging???)

Complete article here.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Independence Anniversary Eve

Dateline:  3 July 2010
Location:  Old Mountains, North region, Land of Granola and Granite

After English country dancing, before square dancing.
After Cologne Imperiale, before Shalimar.
American contra dancing.
After crafters guilds, before the UAW
I find myself in a nearly impossibly perfect location, the Grange hall in Montpelier, Vermont.  Part church, part one-room school house, part Elks hall...100% American.  I’ve stepped out of Pa Ingalls difficult decision whether or not to join the Grange, an activist fellowship/fellowship activist tradition of a collective of American farmers from the 19th century.  
Joining me in the top set of the first line is a wonderful person I just met as the dear friend of mutual friends.  On the other side of the hall is my son the erstwhile driver, joining nothing but strangers in the third line.  The crowd ranges from teenage to octagenarian, amazingly well distributed down the age range and across genders.  Dress styles range from granola-punk to casual evening out, but there is general vibe of skirt-iness:  easy peasant-style elastic top skirts, in muted or vibrant colors, simple or many panels.  On girls, mostly, but there are guys in skirts, which is feeling like a cognitively dissonant throw-back to a certain era of my life.  (Plus the kilted punk dude with devil horn hair in Edinburgh.)  There are lines, but the lines are in squares of four, so depending how you look down the hall, you feel either like you’ve stepped into a Soul Train dance line, folk style, or as if an elaborate Busby Berkley set-up of pinwheels and such is about to begin.
Turns out both are right.
I have never done this before.  Never even HEARD of contra dancing.  Square dancing, yes; dutifully trained in a complete unit in elementary school.  Virginia Reel, yes; Scarlett O’Hara scandalized the matrons by joining in a reel while still in her mourning clothes.  But this?  When the gentleman first suggested a group go to a “contra dance,” my son’s eyes flew open wide.  “Nicaraguan rebels?”  (I tried to ignore the sparks of interest visible in those eyes.)  
No, no rebels.  Just a bunch of welcoming folks who were very patient and friendly with newbie strangers from a different part of the country.  
And belly dancer sourpuss.  But she was definitely the exception to the rule.
So there I am, the female half of the Number One couple at the Top of the Set.  By “top of the set,” one indicates ones relative position to the band.  Oh, yes; I forgot to music.  Real musicians, like gather to play Nova Scotia shanties or American folk or that music that was in the spine of the narrative in Widdershins, which for a meandering reason I picked up as a summer at the cabin read a few summers ago.  These particular musicians were quite fine.  And the caller next to them, a beautiful woman with salty salt & pepper curly long hair, was extremely fine.  
Anyway, Number One at the Top of the Set.  We’re closer to the band...and if we were playing cards, we would be dealing the round.  One would think that a prerequisite of being a member of a Number One couple would be that one would know what the heck one was doing, but apparently not so.  Luckily things work out.  The caller starts each dance by leading us through the pattern, and the pattern does not include any move that our “host” didn’t explain in the car on the ride over.  As we walk through the dance, he helps me pick up how to spin.  My male “neighbor” (from Couple Number Two in our square) gives me a tip on how to hold my right hand as he moves me through a “courtesy turn.”  
The dance begins in earnest.
This spin business?  Did you ever join hands with a friend on the playground and lean back and circle around, using your momentum and weight to create a multi-person dervish that got crazier and crazier until you fell down laughing and collapsed with dizziness?  Well...imagine two grown-ups facing each other, assuming the traditional waltz position, leaning back into the arm on your shoulder blade, and doing a little two-step around and around and around...generally for 10 or 12 beats.  Just enough to make you a little tipsy until you get used to it.  And even then, it’ being on the playground.  :)
Turns out the couples/squares are going to move themselves down the Soul Train line, so that by the end of the particular set you will have danced your way through every Number One male and made contact with every single neighbor...not to mention your regular revisiting with your own Number One partner.  There is foot stomping involved, sort of--I kept on thinking Scottish clogging meets Western two-step, but that’s not quite right.
I fell in without falling out, as it were.  And smiled the whole darn time.
After dependence, before striking out on one’s own

I sat out every other dance.  Because a) you are moving the whole time (take that, interval trainers), b) I don’t glow, I sweat, and that meeting hall was not air conditioned, and c) it was fun to watch and learn and enjoy the patterns and the mood.  I sat there for the second dance, with the same goofy grin on my face, just taking in the scene, and then I realized there was a tall blond looking sort of new-ish but quite comfortable in the third line.  He was handsome, and he was doing fine.  
I immediately looked away, because I didn’t want to send the vibe of mother eyes upon him.  Got caught up in looking at the mass of dancers closer to me.  Forgot about him, remembered.  Looked back.  And realized my powerful mother vibe wasn’t really all that anymore.  Because he wasn’t going to receive it anyway.  
At a pause between dances a couple of songs later, I was getting ready to join the crowd when I realized the tall blond was walking toward me.  He gave me the look and the words that said he was just seeing how I was doing.  And then he walked away to rejoin the action.
Old friends, new friends

I rejoined our “host” for our last dance of the evening, having joined other partners for the intervening rounds.  There was a new move incorporated in this one, and by the time I was at the end of the line, I pretty much had it down.  We loaded into the car, crunched gravel as we pulled out of the lot...but not so loudly that my son’s last partner couldn’t call out “Come back again!  Soon!!”
The new friend flies planes, is a math whiz, bypassed high school before going to college.  Loves contra dancing.
The new friend is my son’s new friend.  And mine.
Before me, the new friend.  After me, my child.

More traveling yet to do.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Land Yacht

Do you remember referring to certain large make American automobiles as "land yachts"?  The LTD's, the ginormous Caddies, the long heavy steel carriages that floated down the highways like hippo-weight marshmallow clouds?

As a kid, riding in the back of a Pinto station wagon, I'd check out those land cruisers.  I'd feel sorry for their hog-ness.  And I'd wonder if maybe people who rode in those didn't get car sick.

Who knew that one day they'd turn a truck into a passenger vehicle, and the whole game would change?

It's road trip time.

For reasons not quite vacation, certainly not business, and everything having to do with family and moving toward independence, I am pointed east.  With a driver's permit equipped teenager, a slew of Google maps, and a loose plan that has two firm pin-points on the agenda.

Yesterday's miles took us onto tollroad and Turnpike.  And the layers of memories started to lift up like calendar pages in the "time passes" montage from old movies.  Roadside sign symbols.  Place names.  Sounds of voices.  Proximity of people.  An odd, triangle on its side shaped back window that you could only pop out a little bit.

And then, not at the Knute Rockne traveler's station, but at Falling Timbers, a move out of my experience to my mother's.  For in that outdated "oasis," a paean to things 1950's, in the worn at the heels women's restroom, was what at first glance seemed to be a standard issue feature.  A diaper changing room.  With a groovy light up sign mounted above the door directing you to it, mind you, but still; we've all seen a changing station before.

Except that as I paused to look, feeling an odd mix of curiosity at the janitor's closet ambience and the requisite wondering if the men's room had one and a touch of nostalgia at the fact that the one of the subject/objects of diaper changes in my parenting life was taking his turn driving.  And as I paused, my mind tracked back to one of those impressions.  Why janitor's closet?  Oh, right, there's a sink in there.  These days, you get a fold down piece of plastic with a picture of a koala and an empty wipe dispenser inside and hope to goodness the hinge will be strong enough to support your baby.  Okay, walk by.

Come again?  No, that wasn't it.  Look back.  Step fully inside this time.  Ah, it's that the sink is oversize.  Large enough wash a diaper out.  Holy freakin' cow.  And that drain at the bottom?  It's not a metal-flower covered 2" opening.  No, it's a genuine, rock 'em sock 'em toilet exit type egress.  So now I am frozen for a moment, trying to take in a) one giant sink, at just below waist level, b) the fact that it is plumbed like a toilet, sort of, and c) omg, this is the kind of thing that would have made life easier for my mother.  Because don't know how awful family road trips are until you try to pack food for a day and travel with a baby and if you're the passenger up front you have the diaper pail between your legs.  

And with that, my mother persuaded my green self to use disposable diapers while on the road, and convinced me my harried life as a young parent would never have the same flavor hers did.

Janitor toilet sink with a faucet and hot and cold handles.

So, flooded with more memories than perhaps even the janitor toilet sink could dispose of, I headed back to my vehicle.  Climbed into the passenger seat.  And held my breath as my son backed out of the parking space and accelerated onto the turnpike.

For those of you keeping track of the perfume score, I hit the road wearing--but of course--Normadie.  I put it on, thinking it was pleasant enough, kind of cologne-y, but was too distracted by the hubbub of getting ready to hit the road to think much about it.  Perfumista mistake, of course, since I was trying it for the first time.  So much for thoughtful notes.  So much for even just taking it in.

Two hours later, I regretted not paying a little attention, because I thought it was gone.

Three hours later, I smelled something that smelled good.  On my wrist.  Well, I'll be.  WHOOPS there's a situation to talk new driver through....and again, distracted.

Five hours later, it's still there.  And now I've been on the road long enough I'm started to rethink the idea of applying scent for a car trip.  Which I knew, I KNEW, would potentially be a something to take into account.

At eight hours, and nearly to our stopping point, it was nearly gone.  Irony, irony, irony.  I am going to pause by Lake Erie, my benchmark for least retention time, and Normandie is a disappearing/reappearing tenacious quiet lovely thing.  I think.  I'll pay more attention next time.  For sure, it was more a Huron or Michigan on my wrist, even as I looked out onto Lake Erie.

About to head out for Leg Two.  With Amouage Abyadh attar on my wrists.  Which I will report on next.