Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Things that smelled, May 2011

For me, the Smelly Month of May started with daffodils.  And rain, and dirt, and crabapple blossoms.

Then came a road trip.  The smell of the air on the Taconic parkway, detergent and stale water in a car wash.

 Alliums, with the one revealing itself to be a maturing morpher.  Starts out vaguely ozonic, hint of vegetation decay with a whiff of onion.  Turns into intoxicating sweetness.

And then, there are the deep purple ones, which have a hint of grape.  Fake grape.  But not at all fake.  Very huffable.

Homecoming.  More dirt.  Hyacinths.  Tulips.  Winter onions pulled and spring onions planted.

 Oh, yes, you potent permeating thing.  Viburnum carlesii, you reek.  In a knock you over with white flowers of the northern latitudes way.

Tartarian honeysuckle, which like certain perfumes (remember my time with Apercu?), registers best from a distance.  A new potted rose for planting, with full blooms while those in the ground are still working on shoots.  

Lilacs, and more rain.  

Just rain, rain + pavement + traffic, rain + fake car air.  Rain in freshly cut grass.  Rain, just rain.

 Rhubarb.  Sweet alyssum for tucking her and there.  Sweet woodruff, late for May Wine on May Day but welcome always.

Scented geranium starts.

Always dirt.

Always something new.

And, of course, the irises.  Irises come, like pallida and some of the german bearded.  Smells of sharp lemon and soft sweet lemon chiffon and an impossibly lilting sweet grape.

I have not been with words much in May.  I have been some with perfumes.

But I have been much, much with smells.

I hope you had a good month.  See you in June.

all images author's own

Monday, May 30, 2011


"The peonies should be out by Memorial Day."

"Whites, starting Memorial Day, ending Labor Day."


Barbecue.  Which I want to spell "barbeque."  Or Bar-b-que.

Three day weekend.

I grew up through a particular commodification of culture, I think.  I'm pretty sure I remember at least an equal emphasis on parades and honorings, though outdoor cooking and the unofficial start to summer were part of the equation.

But it was almost as if you had to be solemn first.  It made sense, like a blessing before a meal.  Let us take a moment to remember those who, whether by volunteering or by conscription, whether known to you or merely an idea, gave their life in service to their country.

And I would see all of us gathered at the parade, and off to the cemetery, all of those grown ups who would later probably vociferously argue about what justifies war and whether there should be a volunteer army and military industrial complexes and greater good and all sorts of ideas that started off as syllabic swirls and eventually became part of the swarm my own mouth formed...

...I would see all of us gathered in one location.  Out of respect.  Remembering perhaps with different sortings, but remembering.  Quietly.

Currently, a blow out isn't even a rout at a sporting event.  It's a mattress sale.  

I'd like to say I'm not passing judgement.  But I probably am. 

I try to remember instead of whinge.

Nobody warned me about the salute.  And I was just young enough to have it not occur to me, and just enough at the front edge of my adulthood to have it slay me.

When you make it through the funeral of a dearly loved one, when you are pacing your reserves like you do in the pool and are trying to swim as far underwater as possible before coming up for air, when you are doing the best you can to balance giving supportive looks and sneaking shared glances of agony without completely losing it, this calculation is very delicate.  The calculation becomes even more important when you feel like if you do lose it, you don't know how you will come back.

So you sit in your seat, and stare fiercely ahead when you realize the talking is half a sentence from being over.  It's nearly over.  You figure you can make it to the end after all, you will follow the cues, you know will never look upon that person living or dead again, but you will somehow either precede or follow them out of this room with the rest of these people sitting so stiffly in unusually formal clothes.  You get distracted for a moment at realizing just how many of them you have never seen in these kind of clothes.  You realize that these people who are usually familiar but currently in unusual clothes are still sitting, there is no cue to move.  Then there is a rustle in the rear, and an honor guard (you remember that term from parades in years past) enters, and you think, "oh, they will lead him/us out.  How nice."

But they don't move right away.  You need a cue.  You desperately need a cue.  You sit forward again, the air starting to swish in your ears, but figuring you'll just roll with whatever movement comes next, you can make it, you can make it, so  long as you don't make any eye contact now, you can make it.

And then there is an explosion, and you leap out of your chair.  Your cousin looks at you, giving you the same evaluating look as when you started to come out of the roller coaster seat heading down the big hill that year long ago and you both knew that you were on the precipice of Trouble.  At that moment of eye contact, the rifles, for now you realize they are rifles, fire again, and they pierce your veneer, and you start sobbing.  It is too much, this fright and this ceremony and this ending and knowing that people are already trying to remember.  The third and final shot is just loudness in a swirl.

And then Taps begins, and you realize you *thought* you lost it before, and you go back years before, when you saw your first eagle and found a tin cup hanging by a stream as if by magic and turned and saw a certain smile and it all goes into some odd expansion compression as you realize that your past was well into his future at the point that earned this Taps and it makes sense that the bugler is out of tune.

You remember that you can never fully know another's life.  But you deem it important to remember what you do know.

And in the case of Memorial/Decoration Day, you vow to remember what you don't know.

A NYT article exploring the backstory to Memorial Day in the United States.  David W. Blight, "Forgetting Why We Remember."

Thanks to Buglers Across America, because digital taps just doesn't play.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Smell of Fury: Mr. McGregor's Revenge

Among other places I've been lately is my own backyard.  Where I do attempt to garden.  Things intervene at times -- Mother Nature, life.  I generally roll with it.  One of my tenets for gardening is I only want to fuss if I feel like it.  Otherwise, the joint should be able to largely run on its own.  (I give it roots to grow, it needs to use its leaves to fly, so to speak.)

All is very Zen.  Weeds come, they get pulled.  Probably.  Edges are maintained, but not religiously.  Experiments in cohabitation (will it be okay if I grow this iris in the asparagus bed?) are made.  Harvests are assumed to be about 1/3 of potential, given the fact I like to maintain things wildlife-friendly.  Why 1/3?  Calculate 1/3 loss to wildlife, 1/3 potential loss to whatever, leaves 1/3 for us humans.  This sets the bar at a level that leads to minimal disappointment and maximum happy surprises.

Unless this happens.

Decapitation by rabbit.

In which case, The Peaceable Kingdom gets all rumbly.  The young me who cringed whenever Mr. McGregor menaced Peter Rabbit needs to go in a closet and hide, because the old and wizened me starts looking around for a hoe.

And I don't mean to start weeding.

Until I started growing vegetables, I never felt this kind of id-like response when dealing with things dirt.  I've seen hostas munched down to nibs, and merely shrugged, knowing they'd be back the next year.  But when it came to produce...tasty, fresh, labored, contemplated, organic, so fully imagined I drooled fruit of my labors, fruit whose cost came partially out of the family grocery budget...well...

...like a pea, I snapped.

The first year, I took to letting the dog out and encouraging him to go chase the leaping lepus.  I had to rethink that strategy when he was, erm, VERY enthusiastic about discovering a bunny den.  With babes.  (Turn away.  It gets worse.  I won't discuss, but yes, I had to practice "ethical" euthanasia.)  So I turned to prevention, which of course would have been best to practice from the very beginning.  I've tried hair, pet and human, red pepper spray, row covers.  Hair works erratically, and then only until it rains.  Red pepper spray works, unless it entices, and in either case, only until it rains.  Row covers work, until it gets hot, and then they need to come off.

And I don't like the way they look.  I like looking at greenery in my garden, not gauze.

So, it's a hodgepodge of prevention and acceptance around here.  With the occasional bout of mind-noise anger.

I inadvertently brought this topic up with some 'fume friends.  And, because I had sympathetic ears -- none of which quivered or were floppy -- who inspired me toward a particular slant.  A scented slant.  A proposal for Christopher Brosius.  To wit:

The Smell of Fury:  Mr. McGregor's Revenge

The title came to me in a flash.  But it took a little time--and some painful honesty--to compose a proposal/inquiry.

TO:  Christopher Brosius
FROM:  A Passionate Gardener, an Avid Scent Wearer
RE:  Brief for a New Project

CB, you're one to tackle this one.  It doesn't tell a story so much as take you down of (garden) path of personal development, vegetable patch style.

The story:  Discovery, Delirium, Reconcilement
The backstory:  Innocence lost, Peter Rabbit
The smells:  AT FIRST dirt, fresh air, other vegetation--for this writer, a rub of sage, a hint of garlic chive, the sharp medicine of creeping charlie, the ozonic yet odd decay of an allium flower, the hint of a leather glove, rubber and feet (hello, best garden clog ever).  A HARSH SMACK of tomato leaf which leads to a SHARP TRANSITION as the smell of metal glints invitingly in your nose.  Other writers might propose a hint of gunpowder at this point, but I'm thinking fur and the brush of pine and sweat and the smell of a blister forming as a runner tries to gain on a rabbit while wearing rubber clogs.  A SWIRL again of transition as you briefly but disturbingly ...oh, dear, it is so harsh to say...but you are bold, and you will go where I can't...it is only imagined, but my visual will become your fur plus blood, I think.  So QUICKLY a waft of the fresh breeze only hinted at in the allium now writ complete and non-compromised, green and ozonic all at once, leading to flowers and the crisp smells of green beans and peas and the oddly sharp (gee, is there a connection to the blood here?) smell of a properly ripened but not mushy tomato.  Perhaps a lovely balsamic vinagrette?

Fava beans, your call.  I say it is over the top.  But I have a friend who wants the whole denouement to be rabbit stew.  

Can we talk?

I dunno.  It's a start.  And certainly a catharsis.

I'm more demonic in my head than I ever am when it comes to real life.  In real life, I bought more tomato plants than I had space for.  Already, I'm mourning that I did not think to put Pink Lady, that modern faded something, in the ground first, for then I would be swapping it out for the robust vintage Mortgage Lifter.  But I tend to think positive (oh, hush), so was hoping I would just be offering up the extra plants to a neighbor.

So I brush the dog -- who has fur, I know, and does not offer any sebum-ish moments as I groom him.  I let him roam.  I make homemade non-toxic but hopefully highly repellant sprays.  

But mostly, I putter where I am inclined, let the rest go, and hope for the best.

Maybe one day, I'll be sneaking huffs of a new scent I'm testing, shorthanded as McGregor's Fury amongst perfume folk.  Wait, no--better yet--I'll be a pre-release tester.  You know.


So that this cosmetic can be identified as not having harmed rabbits in testing.

photo of decapitated tomato plant, (sadly) author's own
"stop animal testing" image found on various websites, including Amy's Gripping Commentary

Monday, May 9, 2011

Things I Remember I Know When I am On The Road

*I used to get carsick when I was a kid. There is no escape from your own --or anyone's-- perfume in a car cabin.

*I generally like amber as a category. I tend to think I ignore it during hours 2 and 3. But I just pretend to ignore it, or ignore it enough. (see above)

*when traveling alone, there's no one to blame but yourself. (see above, plus stands alone)

*you can smell cow manure at any speed

*when I was a kid, a house with its own pond and diving raft seemed to be all that and a bag of chips. Today, I saw two ponds with "narrows" and footbridges over. Footbridge = bag of chips. Pond still desired.

*last time I was on along road trip, Amouage sandalwood attar nearly killed me, then was my happiness. Luckily, I remembered this without recreating the incident.

*you can smell freshly cut grass at most any speed

*tandem trailer trucks make me nervous. Triples scare the bejeezus out of me.

*the Falling Timbers rest stop is still frozen in time. With the addition of the smell of Cinnabon.

*I used to be able to smell a lit cigarette is a passing/passed car. I don't know if I still can, but I do know these days there is always a spot near an entry door where the few, the unrepentant, the smoking crew congregate. And it smells like it used to when you opened the door to my dad's office,

*I may never afford a car that does not have cabin noise.

*tomorrow, I will not challenge the scent gods. The next 450 miles will get a cool iris, thank you very much.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Grafting (a review of Boyfriend perfume)

Ah, spring.  The dirt smells great, both of renewal and remnants of decay, along with a suggestion of worms.  The trees here are finally starting to bud.  We're finally moving beyond daffodils in our blooms, though it's still pretty bulb heavy.  Hello, tulips.  Hello, crown imperials with your odd extra-terrestrial upside down-ness.

Lots of walks through the garden.  Where one can't see much, really, but the vision...the vision imagines what is here, and there.  Attention marks when the asparagus roots come up, and how quickly.  Rotates a few vegetables in the mental array and makes note of an adjustment of where to put the seeds and plants for this year.

Looks at the fruit trees, and allows the brain to do a little ruminating on the advantages of dwarf versus full size trees when one's back yard is not an orchard.  Thinks of the rigorous near torturing that is an espalier.  Cringes a bit at the Frankenstein that is a 5-in-1 apple available in one's favorite catalog.

Grafting.  Slice and suture.  Thank goodness it works in surgery.  And while I cringe in principle when it comes to Frankencrafting plant life, I have to admit to having a couple of roses that rely on it.  Not to mention how many of those dwarf fruit trees owe their presence in our gardens.

Heck, I've even tried it once myself.  For propogation of a species.  In my garden.

But that does bring me to a treasured Saturday afternoon horror flick memory.

And Kate Walsh's Boyfriend.


If it's perfume that brings you here to the Ledge, you've already read about Boyfriend.  "Why should I have to give up his scent?," or something like that, asked Kate Walsh apres relationship.  Keep the scent, ditch the dude.  But, since one still lives within one's own skin, put in one bottle that which you liked smelling on him...and then that which you liked smelling on you.


Which brings me to Ray Milland and Rosie Greer.  The first time I smelled Boyfriend, the citrus/cologne-y opening was clear.  And then it fell, rather than transitioned, into a pleasant woody vanilla.

The cleft graft is used for topworking older established apple and pear trees, either on the trunk of a small tree or on the side branches of a larger tree.  {...}  Cut the cleft (avoid splitting if possible) with a grafting chisel, large knife or hatchet. After a few trials you will learn the proper depth of cleft. {...} Open the cleft slightly with a grafting tool or screw driver. Insert a scion on each side, with the inner bark of stock and scion in contact.
- University of Minnesota/Extension

That there is a cut and paste from instructions on how to perform the cut and the union in a cleft graft.  A cut and then a union is of course symbolically (and literally) appropriate when it comes to surgery.

I'm not sure exactly how it worked for the chemists who worked on Boyfriend, but let's take a look at how it worked in The Thing With Two Heads.

You see, unlike in one of my other favorite horror flick memories involving heads and grafting.  I won't say the title here, but fans love quoting this exchange:
Girl's head in petri dish: Don't tell me, I've been in a terrible accident, and I've lost my legs. Mad Scientist Boyfriend:  No, it's worse; much, much worse.
But I digress.  In The Thing With Two Heads, Ray Milland's head (okay, his CHARACTER's head) gets grafted onto another body.  Rosie Greer's body.  In the ways of memory and time and mental processing, I forget all about the important civics lesson the movie intended to impart.  (Milland's character was an SOB bigot who wanted to live longer, and needed to learn to get along.)  Instead, sunny side of the street
child that I was, I ended up remembering only the image of the two as one.  In still frames, except for the moment when Milland first sees the other head growing in the mirror.  Somehow, I split off that movie (a sort of Twilight Zone episode in my weak mental sorting) from "the other" movie, the part that happens after Rosie's head becomes full size.  Which is a faint awareness stored way back behind The Defiant Ones, and has overtones of learning to get along.

I share this with you, because at some point in the history of this blog, I had to reveal just how faulty and meandering my collective awareness can be.  Mind you, there is a certain logic to be found, even when not obvious.  But, nonetheless, since I usually review/think of perfume in context and not as a series of notes in my nose, well...fair and complete disclosure.

Anyway, The Thing With Two Heads involves putting two personalities into one vessel, as it were.  Which is how I came to think of it when imagining how I would review Boyfriend.

What's that you say?  I have not yet reviewed Boyfriend?

Right.  Okay, first start with what I said up there about pleasant woody vanilla.  As it turns out, the "boyfriend" part doesn't always darken my doorway; sometimes, it's straight to the heart of the matter.  Whether or not the boyfriend appears, the girl with wood is a consistent thing, and once she arrives, that's what you've got until it's over.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  Sometimes I get a hint of chemical-ness (this is where I suspect the affordability comes in), and nothing about the vanilla or the wood is notable.  BUT.  Hey.  It's okay.  And given that I prefer my vanilla not too sweet, when I'm wanting to wear some, I appreciate the woody aspect.

It is about here that I believe it is appropriate to note that it would seem Kate didn't really need that boyfriend after all.  Just a reminder that she had one/could have one.  And then go use her own wood.

Ba DUM bum!

By the way, the body butter is quite nice.  Works pretty darn well as a product, and has the nicest parts of the vanilla wood without the hint of chemical.

It is here that I will say that on the Thing With Two Heads scale, this one works in reverse motion.  The one head disappears, instead of growing.

By the way, the body butter is quite nice.  Works pretty darn well as a product, and has the nicest parts of the vanilla wood without the hint of chemical.

Also by the way, if you want a real mash-up, where both heads have equal weight, that would be Jose Eisenberg J'ose.  No, not Jai J'Ose.  Eisenberg J'ose.  I talked about it here.  Turns out, in retrospect, it was ahead of its time.  (Get it?  It was aHEAD of it's time???  Ahhhhhhhhhhahaha.)

image of grafting for asexual reproduction from TutorVista dot com.

image of Rosie Grier and Ray Milland challenging even the tailors at Men's Big & Tall from Badass Reviews, which proved itself to be just where I should borrow my image because not only did I entirely enjoy discovering the blog in general, this particular entry includes the movie poster (totally awesome, please go see) but the Burt Reynolds Cosmo centerfold which caused one of the longest threads of discussion I've ever seen among some perfume-loving Facebook friends recently.  In fact, I so enjoyed finding this level-headed review of the movie and its director that I forgive them for clearing the cobwebs in my mind and reminding me what the film really was.  Because that scene on the motorcycle with the mannequin head was worth remembering, and it came back full chortle, erm, throttle.