Sunday, March 30, 2008

At precisely 11:37am

I made a note on a piece of paper that I finally put a new scent on. After 5:30's (approximately) revelation about the Maine winter and my nearly week long obsession with the scent-that-shall-not-be-named, I felt that I had had enough, at least for now. It was time to move on. My love had lost it's mystery. Sigh.

I didn't want to try anything that might challenge me. Nor did I want to smell anything that I was too familiar with. Interesting dilemma there. But the answer lay in Chanel's Eau de Cologne, which was the "boring" scent from the Exclusifs collection. It's a nice refreshing and unsurprising cologne which lasts about 10 minutes at most on my skin. A cool breeze of bergamot - and poof - it's gone.

I decided to layer some Frapin 1270 over what was left of the cologne. This was an odd choice, since I've never even opened the sample vial to sniff it. I knew nothing about this scent and still don't, for I intentionally disregarded it when I applied it.

I feel like I've insulted Beatrice Cointreau by ignoring her creation and combining it with another on it's first try (though I highly doubt she'd be too upset by this Maine yokel's faux pas or opinion, but I could be wrong). I was rude to it and owe it an apology. Yet, a few hours later, I smell very little of note, or to note. It just smells nice, but I've got all sorts of scents on me at the moment and I am guessing that the soap I used to wash my hands and forearms at 11:30 is the predominant smell. It was Caldrea's Italian Cypress Pear, which was their unpopular Christmas release.

To make up for my snubbing the Frapin 1270, I put up this drawing: the nave of the Amiens Cathedral, the cathedral church of Notre Dame, Amiens, northern France. It is the largest Gothic cathedral in France and among the most famous religious monuments in the world. It replaced an earlier building that burnt down in 1218 and was built for the most part between 1220 and 1270.

The Frapin perfume is named 1270 for the year the Frapin family established itself in the Cognac region of France. Frapin is a Cognac maker; I am bit confused, for I cannot find anything about their perfume on the Web except reviews and where to buy it. Stay tuned, or if you know, please enlighten me. I don't think I"m all that interested in this scent, but it's history is intriguing. What I did learn, I got from Lucky Scent.

The final word (hopefully)

I awoke at 5:30 this morning with my wrist up against my nose. I had a scorching pain in my big toe, sending pulsations of sensation up my leg, which is probably what woke me. Never mind, I thought, as I intentionally deeply inhaled the now somewhat flowery lingering scent of last night's application of Passage D'enfer. In that moment, when the smell took me away from my pain, I realized exactly why this is the perfect scent right now and why I seem to reject every other fragrance as imperfect (and know, in time, that I'll come to reach for another, of course).

It is the smell of Maine in April. You've heard of April in Paris but you probably don't know that much, if anything, about April in Maine. I know we're not quite there yet, but we might as well be.

In April, we are all stir crazy. Cabin fever is the correct term but I never hear anyone use it. I hear that they feel that can't stand it any longer. I hear that person X's husband beat her up yet again. I see the declining stock of liquor at the General Store. I hear the complaints of those whom everyone complains to, and how every person seems to be having some sort of crisis. I hear that this year is oh so much worse than last year and musings about whether one can make it through yet another Maine winter. I heard that last year (and every year before that - sorry, folks).

Did I mention I feel it, too? I am certainly not immune. I despise this season in Maine.

It can be warm (if you call the upper reaches of 40 degrees warm). This year it is not. It hovers around the freezing point during the day, which seems to be a temperature that makes me feel like crap. It's damp. When the sun is out, which is infrequent, the snow starts to melt. It is not pretty. It was only fifteen degrees at 6:00am, which has been fairly typical and I am so done with Winter!

Some years we have more snow in April than during the entire winter. This happened last year and I do believe we're all holding our breath that it doesn't happen again. Last year we hadn't much snow by the time it happened. This year we've had nearly 200 inches of snow. The records have been broken and noone is jumping up and down about it. I suppose the skiers may be, but I don't know any one who's a skier, so I couldn't tell you.

So, Julie, please try to keep on topic (as if that's even remotely possible!)

Passage D'enfer is the perfect scent for this time of year. It's austere with a hint of softness. It's cold but not icey. It's dry but not powdery. I hadn't thought it would be comforting, but I certainly felt it was this morning. It wasn't the comfort of a warm cup of cocoa but the comfort of something old and reliable, perhaps akin to a well loved throw that one thinks should perhaps be retired, but hey, it can always be patched, right?

We who live in Maine bitch and moan and bitch, bitch and bitch some more come this time of year, but we are also somewhat proud of being able to live through it and come out relatively intact. Somehow that relates to my last sentence above, but I can't put this connection into words. Perhaps you, the reader, can see it, or sense or something. I'm tired.

Image: "Passage D'enfer, Paris" by Miho Hirawkawa

Saturday, March 29, 2008


There's no mystery left. Dr. Frank Tallis has written a book called "Lovesick: Love as Mental Illness". Here is an excerpt from the preface:

"The symptoms of love are many and varied. What’s intriguing is that if we list them- for example, preoccupation with the loved one, tearfulness, euphoria- and check them against accepted diagnostic criteria for mental illness, we find that most ‘lovers’ qualify for diagnoses of obsessional illness, depression or manic depression. And this is no superficial relationship. Neurochemical and brain scanning investigations have shown a considerable overlap between ‘the brain in love’ and ‘the brain in the throes of mental illness’"

The other night, I said to a friend that even if we could explain everything with science, there would still be something ineffable, mysterious and transcendent about human experience. Though our feelings of love may simply be the effects of too much oxytocin, we still feel emotions. These emotions lead us to see the world and others in a different way. They may be "crazy", or be chemically induced, but does that render them less important or meaningful? No.

Dr. Andrew Newberg, in his book "Why God Won't Go Away" explains the neurochemical state of meditators. In a Q & A on his website, he states:" Our studies, as well as those of other investigators, have shown that meditation increases activity in the front part of the brain and decreases activity in the area of the brain that orients our bodies in space. . .The decreased activity in the orientation area is believed to be related to the changes in spatial perception and the loss of a sense of self that are associated with meditative states."

This sense of "loss of self" and changed spatial perception are the same phenomenon found in those we call "lovesick". In both, the meditator who feels the exhilaration of a new found expansiveness and oneness with the universe or the lover who finds a oneness with the beloved - can we say these are illusions only because they can be "explained away" by chemicals? Absolutely not. Altered states can show us things we would otherwise not experience.

This is one of those moments where I want to opt out of an intellectual point that I'm trying to make. I am lazy. I don't have the intellectual rigor it takes to, shall we say, close the deal. I may be prone to debate, but when the going gets rough, I'd rather walk away. As my father says (accusingly), I am just a ruminator.

I like to chew on thoughts. I don't really care if I'm "right or wrong". I don't care if you agree or not, either. Ideas are like grass to this cow and I need to graze in the field of ideas. My words are, then. . .what? Excrement? I didn't know I'd wind up here when I wrote "Lovesick" in the title. Hmmm.

Aromatherapy: I am still in love with the perfume Passage D'enfer and had to scrub off some lotion a friend asked me to try, Demeter's "Fiery Curry". I only want to smell the L'artisan scent. I keep smelling my wrists. Is Passage D'enfer a good substitute for an anti-depressant drug for me?

There has always been a beauty standard

When looking for an image, I stumbled upon this book, "Beauty and Virtue: Leonardo's Ginevra de' Benci and Renaissance Portraits of Women", which sounds terribly interesting, but it's probably bone dry and dull. I say this because I can't stomach "art speak", even though I was schooled in it, in, of all places (surprise!), art school. I know I shouldn't make assumptions, but since the book is forty bucks in paperback, I'll pass. . .

I was looking at the 1970's woman in the ad for Listerine and thought how "ugly" she seemed to me. This rather hard look is considered "sexy" in our society, even if it's become more refined than back in the seventies. Think of all the women in the Miss America Pageant. They are all under 23 (I believe) but look uniformly like sexy thirty-somethings. The beauty pageant woman always reminds me of "The Stepford Wives". Not being even close to the American beauty standard myself, I've always taken a snarky pleasure in thinking that they will all age poorly.

I wanted to find a painting that showed how much the beauty standard has changed over the years. I was disappointed. It hasn't changed all that much. Perhaps there was once more of an emphasis on the "virtue" of a woman and and innocent, youthful looks were prized more for their conveyance of a certain sense of non-worldliness as opposed to the rather lurid focus on youth we have now (think Jean Benet Ramsey).

I would venture to say that the real difference between now and "then" (whenever that was) is that we are all subject to these standards now. In the past, it was reserved for the upper classes. I mean, who had time for that when you were busy tending to the potatoes?

I had originally wanted to post on the subject of love, but I'm putting that off for as long as possible (well, not really, but I am given to hyperbole). There will be more on this subject, I'm sure, for it irks me no end (note: that's an understatement). I have known few women for whom the expectations of society's overemphasis on looks hasn't taken some sort of toll. Perhaps I know none, in fact. How about you?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Is that all she could say about love?

Yes, it was. I should sit myself down and give this subject more thought. I try not to think about romantic love. That's telling, isn't it?

We all use the word frequently. People "love" their iPhones, their sexual partners, movies, a particular restaurant (blah blah blah). The same word, love, is applied to all. What a broad brush we are using!

The Gates of Hell: Falling in love with or without incense

Warning: This is a long post. I've included every last note I made to myself, just in case someone would care too see how this three day obsession manifested itself in words. If you want to scroll down to the bits about love, they start in red. . .

While studying, I left myself notes about L'artisan's Passage D'enfer (yet again). Here are the thoughts I had at the end of the day, in all their muddled glory:

I almost want to go back and find out what the weather was like the first time I tried it. It certainly was colder, but was it windy, was it snowing? I know I hadn’t tried it during the daytime. That in itself could make a difference. What mood was I in before I put it on?

As I think it’s all a subjective, emotional experience, the last question is important. But I won’t drive myself insane by trying to get all the details I missed the first time around.

I have earlier notes from the day, including exact times I reapplied. The weather: bright and sunny. Temps: most of the day in the mid-forties. Right now. . I’ll have to check. But I don’t feel particularly cold. It’s not windy. It’s a quiet night.

I’ve had the scent on all day and feel sad when it dissipates. It doesn’t have that much staying power.

It is not “scaring me” like it did the first time. Evocative, yes. But my brain is going back and forth between that sense of Catholic Mass (without a lot of people – wow – so detailed!) and a feeling of Japanese incense. This was probably prompted by my buying a new box of incense a few days ago, one that I haven’t used before. Okay – gotta check that (and I’ll check the weather) It’s 32 degrees. Which is warm for 10pm in Maine in March.

The incense: Shoyeido’s Goyei-koh (Eternal Treasure). Strong sandalwood. Totally unlike Passage D’enfer (I’m comparing them now). BUT, they both have a strong sense of dryness. I like this.

I’m craving it, in fact, like I craved Vanllla last week (and didn’t get it).

Perhaps I want dryness ‘cause I’m sick of the snow. Who knows?

Or because there’s something rather straightforward about it? It’s an incense smell without all the mystery – I’m not even sure what that means. It doesn’t smell “exotic”? It is not a “sexy” smell to me. I hear there’s some musk In it but I’m not sensing that. There’s absolutely no animalistic anything about this scent. It’s asexual. Like Church? Ha!

But I was thinking this earlier and once again, I think a perfume is truly great when it conjures up so many memories, evokes feelings and thoughts which I am surprised at having. . .

It's like falling in love. It is. I miss the smell when it’s gone. Like a lover whom you’re head over heels with, you just can’t stand it when they are not there. You want to reapply, over and over! You want them with you, as much as possible. You want them under your skin (in you) as much as you can stand. . .and then, perhaps, you tire of it (him, her) or perhaps it just gets old or too understandable. You’ve figured it out. Or not. Perhaps they’ll always be a mystery. . .that’s the kind of love affair that really is the kicker. The one that was elusive. Never resolved.

But with me, as in love affairs and deep friendships, there’s always this first moment, so many times I’ve had an instant dislike for someone and I know – I think to myself, oh, I'm going to come to love this person. . .like passage d’enfer, it scared me, like a lover who’s a bit too dangerous oooohhh and then the next time I had no feelings at all and got drawn in and totally seduced. Everything else paled. I didn’t want to smell anything else or if I did, I hated it. The new incense is eh. The caldrea dish liquid (yes, I'm including that because I enjoy it whenever I do the dishes) is eh. Everything is eh except passage d’enfer. . .tho’ my other new lover is calling me (douce amere). I can’t afford either. Ha ha!

I had said there was nothing "animalistic" about the scent. This is the lover who doesn't love back, who you want but doesn't want you. Or pretends not to. He doesn't slouch or shout "I'm sexy", but he is in his aloofness. His posture is a bit too erect though he's cool. He makes his bed in the morning and seems to live like a monk (and I think he must need incense in that case).

My dear woman, you are starting to write about a particular person and you know it. You must stop now! This is what fragrance does to me. I am haunted by memories. Perhaps scent is too much for me to take.

And here are the sticky notes I had left on my desktop during the course of two days:

i have long avoided oil scents from health food stores and the like. didn't want to smell like a hippie. the line was long and i lingered. . .and wondered what Wood smelled like. Surprise! I was entranced. Such a juxtaposition to the lingering smell of tea that clung to me. deep, rich and almost-hippie (yes), I am drawn into it and wonder about it's layering possibilities. I thought "oh, my nose is changing!" For 11.04, how could I resist? I have always loved incense

2:10pm Smells so different in the "light of day". i just reapplied, much more heavily. Can smell the sweetness but it's still wet. i put ROOT on the other wrist and it smells rather disgusting in comparison, but it's not got frankincense & myrrh in it, unlike what i thought.
damn: i'm loving yet another expensive fragrance.
what a comparison, tho: i just thought "wow, a lot of thought went into this scent". On the other hand, i'm wnating to love the super cheap AuraCacia but it smells vulgar in comparison; let's give it some time.

3:00pm Accidentally smelled my left wrist and mentally said "mmmm". The flower note is now apparent (but what is it?). Root smells "hippie-ish in comparison" but i think they shouldn't be compared, perhaps.

Root: Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Citrus x Limon (Lemon) Oil, Vetiveria Zizanoides (Vetiver) Oil, Nardostachys Jatamansi (Spikenard) Oil, Viola Odorata (Violet) Leaf Absolute, Angelica Archangelica (Angelica) Root Oil, Jasminum Officinale (Jasmine) Absolute, Cananga Odorata (Ylang Ylang) Extra Oil.
this should smell less like passage hmmm

4:20pm : i had them mixed up. This should smell like more like Passage. .

Wood: Caprylic/Capric Trigyceride, Boswellia Sacra (Frankincense) Oil, Cedrus Atlantica (Atlas Cedar) Oil, Amyris Balsamifera (Amyris) Oil, Commiphora Myrrha (Myrrh) Oil, Santalum Spicatum (Sandalwood) Oil, Citrus x Limon (Lemon) Oil, Jasminum Officinale (Jasmine) Absolute.


put on more passage d'

thought of "good"
pencil shavings

but what are bad ones? ones with no smell? ones I got in trouble for when I was a kid (when my father sharpened a pencil onto a desk, instead of the waste paper basket and I got blamed - the reason for many of my neuroses, I'm sure)

Is there cedar?

8:20pm I realize I accidentally bought the wrong AuraCacia. Must go purchase some Wood. . .

8:30-ish (the next day):
I swear that one sample of Passage d'enfer is better than the other one.
is that possible? and why? Answer to that question, by Molly, on the Perfume Critic. . .

Jean Nate after bath splash!

Yesterday I opened up a bottle of Jean Nate After Bath Splash (with no exclamation mark, but there's one in my mind) at the drugstore (secretly, of course) out of curiosity. I haven’t smelled that stuff for so many years I don’t want to divulge the number. I expected to recoil or something similarly extreme. NO! I admit it: I LOVED it. It smelled like Jean Nate (well, it was Jean Nate, after all), the stuff I doused myself with when I was just hitting puberty. . .and as any scent does, it brought me back. I can picture the bathroom in my parents’ house, a place I haven’t been able to recall with that much clarity (nor would I want to. . .) screw niche snobbery – it smells fantastic to me. BUT, would I wear it? I doubt it. Now, why is that? I almost want to buy a bottle to find out if that is indeed true.

Note: I spent way too much of my time trying to find an old Jean Nate ad on the web. This scent was ubiquitous; so why aren't I finding any old ads? Instead, I chose this image. Yes, I lived through this time period. Thank goodness my visual memory is so terrible.

This pic reminded me of a sleep over party I went to in early Junior High School. One girl had just gotten a hot roller set and we were playing around with it. Perhaps I shouldn't say "we", for I wanted nothing to do with the whole endeavor. This may have been the nail in the coffin that caused me to become the weirdo teenager that I was. I had no idea what these girls were talking about and why they were talking about it (boys, boys, boys, makeup, hair, boys. . .) I would have preferred to talk about music and science fiction. I was a baby hipster nerd. Too bad for me, the hipster nerd phenomenon didn't happen until I had become an adult.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Last time we made roast duck, we put the fat outside under the birdfeeders. The next day, there was an ermine eating the duck fat. I had never seen an ermine before. It is a beautiful creature, unlike the one DaVinci painted. It was pure white, startlingly white, even glaringly white in the way a fresh snow looks on the day after the storm, when the sky is a high bright blue and the sun seems to catch every crystal upon the landscape. I sometimes feel I have to look away, it is so intense.

This is the color of an ermine in winter. It has a bit on black on the tip of it's long tail. I've heard that they are vicious creatures. The man who owns the General Store here said to me "They kill for fun."

As we had duck on sunday, we put out some more congealed grease, hoping for a return of the ermine, but only got the neighbor's dog.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Au The Rouge Redux

Monday morning. Slept late. Not an unusual thing.

It was just that I had to get to a doctor's appointment and I had very little time. I was scrambling. So, I threw on the same clothes I wore yesterday, reheated a cup of cold coffee in the microwave, brushed my teeth, threw a pretty scarf on, 'cause, after all, I was wearing leftovers which I'm sure smelled of duck grease. . .and then I reached for the Bulgari Au The Rouge.

And then I realized I've contradicted myself in an earlier post for I had written that this scent would make a better air freshener than perfume.

I am fickle (characterized by erratic changeableness or instability, especially with regard to affections or attachments; capricious). As an aside, I find the word changeableness objectionable, it just sounds wrong in some way, but this is the definition in the American Heritage Dictionary, so who am I to say?

The Rouge was the perfect thing for a groggy Monday morning. It is fresh without greenery, which seemed perfect for a day like this one. The sky was a cloudless bright blue. The sun seemed brighter than usual. The idea of spring seemed not too far fetched, though any evidence of it's arrival was not apparent. We are still surrounded by snow. But this snow is no longer beautiful. There are piles higher than my head, filled with the detritus of a ruined driveway. Large patches where the snow has melted are filled with sawdust, tree bark in chunks of all sizes, and sunflower seed hulls.

It is bleak and ugly and lasts until May 1st. This is the Maine that tourists don't often see.

I've had such a yearning for Spring as does everyone I speak to. We all get cranky around now. I am hoarding my little vial of CB I Hate Perfume's "Memories of Kindness" for it smells exactly like tomato vines on a hot summer day and I need that. But there's something almost pathetic about looking for (and finding) summer in a bottle when it's so bleak outside.

I could have reached for my favorite Chanel, which is the epitome of green, but I am trying new scents these days, so I passed.

The Rouge was perfect. No, it's not very complicated. What memories and feelings it evokes are rather humdrum to me. A cooling cup of tea in a plain white cup. But sometimes you just need something simple.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

I don't know him from a hole in the wall

I have just spent at least an hour trying to find the origin of this phrase. I gave up.

Today I did a bit more searching. I still can't find anything.

I get frustrated when I can't find an answer on the web or if I discover I actually have to buy a book to find the answer. Isn't that rather archaic?

Oh, but I still love the library!

Never mind that. Here's what I have found, thus far:

Brewer's Dictionary of Modern Phrase & Fable posits that the expression "hole in the wall" was originally used in the United States, in the late 1900's, to denote places of illicit drinking. We all recognize the phrase "hole in the wall" as a shabby place, though it's often coupled with some discovery, as in "You know that awful little hole in the wall we pass by every day? A friend told me that the food is really heavenly, but don't tell anyone."

So, I'm thinking that "I don't know him from a hole in the wall" may mean that a person doesn't know someone from an illicit setting, but why would you admit having been there in the first place? So, it doesn't quite add up.

More later. And I need this like a hole in the head.

Human Existence

This is the name of a perfume.

I quote from Thierry Mugler's website:
"How can something so ugly become so beautiful?
Why do we all need some dirtiness to find addiction and love?
The everyday struggle in perfumery.

To emulate the absurd blend, the duo of perfumers has selected a natural malt absolute containing notes reminiscent of cheese. They added a laboratory-created reconstruction of civet, and some cumin for acridness."

Why do we all need some dirtiness to find addiction and love?

Let's take a look at this sentence: . . . "we all need". . .
Who is this "we" that Thierry Mugler is speaking to? I suppose one could make the argument that anyone who shells out 700 bucks for a box of weird fragrances might fit the description of someone in the throes of an addiction. But mostly, I think it's just rich people who will buy this. Though I can imagine stealing to obtain the money to buy the Comfret. . .but I won't. I promise. I don't do that.


I really want that box.

Okay. . .let's look at the sentence again: "Why do we all need some dirtiness. . ."
So, um, you're assuming we all need dirtiness. What is dirtiness? I read somewhere that this "Human Existence" is redolent of a woman who is unkempt. The cheese is the scent of the inside of a young girl's navel. And as a former body piercer, I will attest to the fact that even the loveliest, sweet smelling, well dressed young woman's navel does not smell "nice". It is an acquired taste, one that I never acquired.

And this unkempt woman, what does she really smell of? I will say the unspoken words: pussy and cum. Isn't that what we're talking about here? The real smell of sex. The two scents that come together to make life, thus, human existence.

Is human existence inherently ugly and sex inherently dirty? Are we scent obsessed because of some basic existential disgust for our bodies. . .these dying things that they are, with all their awful needs and excrements. I can feel my mouth curling and my nostrils flaring while I'm writing this.

I have, at times, felt this way. The horror of the body. The days when I don't want to take off my clothes and bathe, for I don't want to see this body, naked, raw, and imperfect.

So, why would I want to buy this in a bottle? Curiosity. Lots of it. I'd like to know what they think this horrible life smells like.

Odd footnote: I wanted to find a Rubens painting for this post. Obviously, I did; "Rape of the Sabine Women". And where did I find the image, just by chance? On a discussion about this:

March 07, 2007 05:31am
Article from: Agence France-Presse
"(Rome) A CONTROVERSIAL ad by fashion designers Dolce and Gabbana suggesting gang rape has been banned from Italian publications. . ."

Come to your own conclusions. . .

It's all subjective

Yesterday I read Chandler Burr's Top Ten List of Perfumes. Now, Chandler Burr has written two fine books about scent and is the fragrance reviewer for the New York Times, so I'm not going to dis anything he thinks. He knows forty zillion times more about this subject than I'll ever know and has sniffed thousands of scents. I love his writing and he's solid on the science of the whole biz.

But, when I read this, "God knows Nos 19 and 22 can be tough to appreciate immediately", I was rather taken aback. I adore adore adore (and on and on until the word is meaningless) Chanel No. 19. I still remember the first time I sniffed it. Hard to appreciate? Why? What's hard about it? Someone please tell me.

The first time I smelled No. 19 I was at B. Altman's on 34th St. and 5th Avenue in New York. This dates me, as the store closed on December 1, 1989.

I loved Altman's. There was something totally wrong with the store by the time I was shopping there as an adult. One could sense it was doomed. Unlike Macy's, which was perpetually packed, Altman's was quiet. It had few customers and quite a small stock. It felt personal shopping there even though it was a big store, for the service was always lovely without being nagging. I always felt very young in that store. Everyone who worked and shopped there was "of a certain age". What age is that, exactly? I think I might be beyond it now!

Again, I am getting off topic. There are two topics. One: Chanel No. 19. Two. Altman's. I suppose the third is Chandler Burr's estimation of No. 19 as being somewhat difficult, but I'll drop that one. I won't fight with a professional!

I bought all my perfume at Altman's. I could have gone to Saks or Henri Bendel. At the time I'm talking about, Barney's was still a men's clothing store only. I suppose I could have gone to Macy's, for that matter. They had a huge cosmetics department. I forget there was also Lord & Taylor, but if I get into why I loathe that store, this post will be endless (but if you want to know, leave a comment!) On second thought, I'll tell the story some time, with or without coaxing. It's pretty crazy.

So: Chanel No. 19. The one perfume that I have always loved above all others and judged every other perfume on. Why do I love it so? I do not know. The first time I sniffed it, I fell in love. Can you explain what love is? Love at first sight, at first sniff, at first hearing or first taste?

We can deconstruct all we want. We can find the little pieces that point to what we love: "He had such piercing blue eyes." But many people have piercing blue eyes. "I love the taste of honey." But I bet you wouldn't eat dog food with honey, would you? "I love the beat. Yes, it's the beat." So? "It's that first rush of bergamot, followed by. . ." Nah, I'm not buying it. Love is subjective. Once we objectify it, it's no longer love. It's just analysis.

I'm not saying it's random. It's not. But I'm saying that the factors that go into "what we love" are so complex as to defy deconstruction. Oooh, I don't want to deconstruct! How pre-modern of me! I don't.

Let love be a mystery. I love Chanel No. 19 and I don't want to know why. It makes me feel happy. Isn't that enough?

Note: Photograph of B. Altman's can be found here, along with an essay about it's architecture and the hey-day of 5th Avenue department stores.

What to wear while duck is cooking

I had a shower and was without scent. The house is filled with the smell of duck; greasy, deep and gamey. I'm not going out and I'll be spending a good deal of time in the kitchen later. . .

. . .hmmm. What scent goes with the smell of duck? I'm sure Chandler Burr would tell me exactly what scent to wear, since he hosts scent dinners.

It would be lovely to ring him up and ask him, but a.) it's Easter Sunday and I'm sure he's got a pretty full day, and b.) He doesn't know me from a hole in the wall (what the hell does that expression mean, anyway?).

I got sidetracked trying to track down the origins of the above expression. I couldn't find it readily. The scent of cooking duck pulled me back to my original task. . .oh, my brain is constantly thinking parenthetically, tangentially. . .why can't I get it into line?!

Since I had just posted about Passage D'enfer, I did think of that. It is Easter Sunday, after all. I don't particularly associate Easter with those candy chicks (Peeps?), chocolate bunnies or colored eggs. Besides, there's a couple of feet of snow outside. Not exactly a Spring-like day here.

I never got that about Easter, anyway. Isn't that all about the Pagan celebration of Spring? Isn't this a celebration of the resurrection of Christ? Goodness, the whole week leading up the this day is one that should be somber, in my humble opinion. Now I've got an image of Jesus on the cross whilst children with baskets filled with plastic grass search for eggs frolic beneath him. Very strange little vignette in my mind.

Oh, the Duck. Decision: Serge Luten's Chypre Rouge. I've only worn it once, liked it instantly, and remembered it being somewhat dark without being depressing. Yes, depressing. Smokiness comes to mind - a scent I love, but at this time of the year, I'm sick of. I use a woodstove (yes, people still do) in my house and I smell burning wood all day (note to readers: locust bark or wood on the grill makes food even yummier than mesquite.)

Chypre Rouge is not smoky. It's sweeter than I remember it. When wet, I smelled curry quite strongly and felt sad when that dissipated. Curry scents, of course, go beautifully with duck. I'm planning on making curried duck with the leftover tomorrow, in fact.

Still, though the curry is now gone, it is a fine scent with the duck. I wish it was darker. I noticed the patchouli and thought: "Wait: I loathe patchouli!" Guess I've been wrong about that for a long time. I can smell it and it does not bother me.

Once, when I was the boss of a small clothing boutique, I asked a girl to scrub off her Patchouli. No matter how much she washed, I could still smell it, and I sent her home. I got a bad reputation for that. Another time, I was having breakfast in a small diner and the waitress was wearing patchouli. I had to leave. I felt like I might throw up.

Well, Serge Lutens, whatever company is supplying you with the bio-identical patchouli does a grand job. Unfortunately (or fortunately 'cause I can't afford it) the scent is just not bowling me over. It's beautiful, for sure. . .wait. . .I better stop analyzing it or else I might convince myself I need it. . .

It's too sweet. No, it's not. It's perfect. No, it's just okay. I like it. Shut up. It goes with the duck. Do I detect a hint of wine in it? Ah, perhaps my mind is playing olfactory tricks on me again.

Now I have to cut up onions and potatoes. I wonder how it will "go" with that.

Note: The painting is Jean-Baptiste Oudry's Still Life with Hare, Duck, Loaf of Bread, Cheese and Flasks of Wine (1742). This painting is the smell of roasting duck.

And again I waffle: this scent bothers me in an some way. I'm thinking "it smells like a very good perfume". That's an odd statement, but it's true. It seems almost generic. I think it reminds me of my grandmother's bedroom. That's what is bothering me. It smells like the inside of her heavy (and i mean heavy!) black lamb coat but without the mothballs. Yes, I'm waiting for the mothball smell to kick in! I am! I can picture her shoes now. Where the hell did she get those shoes? Was there a store in Brooklyn that sold 19th century shoes? Her shoes were heavy. I am trying to conjure up something, anything, light about her and I can not. It is a sign of the times in which she lived. A true depression-era woman. She carried a valise, not a suitcase. He handbag must have weighed twenty pounds. She always carried a tin of Pond's cold cream, a compact with pressed powder and bobby pins.

Okay. This is the hallmark of a great perfume. I could go on for hours about my grandmother, her house, her coats, her bags and the only slightly post-Victorian person that she was.

I have thought of something light: One picture of her. Alone. Smiling. Wearing the clothes of a flapper. I wonder what times she had then!

And now back to reality: I must go cut up potatoes and onions!

The grey sticky notes: L'artisan Passage D'Enfer

first grey sticky note:
both m. & l. sent this. L. w/no comment.
I don't know what I'm smelling. It is outside of what I normally "like" but I 'm loving it. It DOES smell like an old church. Or the old library where I grew up. It's "old" in a good way, not as in "old-fashioned". It is NOT what I think of as "perfume".
However I am craving vanilla. Have been all day - for comfort, I think. I'd hate to ruin this scent with that

then: i have a desire to listen to Gregorian Chant, but D's asleep. can't find earbuds. i keep smelling my wrists. images: empty churches. robed monks swinging the censers.

last one:
2am can't sleep
passage d'enfer had to scrub at 1am booth's products did the trick an hour ago. couldn't imagine sleeping w/ this scent-nightmares? an hour later totally awake a coincidence? no vanilla comfort. rose absolue does the trick.
ah, maybe i'm not so complicated after all

Buy Catholic Church supplies here. The image above is from the Gothia Gazette. I know nothing about this. I found the image on Google and thought it felt like "Passage D'enfer". . .

And how is this bad?

I was looking for a positive quote about being a dilettante and stumbled upon this (dabbler being a synonym for dilettante).

“If you look at history you'll find that no state has been so plagued by its rulers as when power has fallen into the hands of some dabbler in philosophy or literary addict.”
-Desiderius Erasmus

Personally, I'd be quite happy if we had rulers (read: politicians) who were literate. It'd be a damn sight better than ones who seem not to have finished 12th grade English or spend their free time shooting birds and friends. . .

If you know something about Erasmus and would like to explain the context, please leave a comment.

Dreaming of roses

Sometime last month, I dreamt of roses. I dreamt I was in a garden filled with roses in rows. It was a bit like a place that I used to visit regularly, Westbury Gardens (which I just googled for the link and discovered is called Old Westbury Gardens - was it always so?).

If you live near Long Island, New York or plan to visit, I highly recommend a visit. Sadly, I thought perhaps if one clicked on the link I provided, you could have a glimpse of what my dream looked like, but no, Old Westbury Gardens doesn't seem to want you to even have a glimpse of their horticultural wonders without visiting in person. Just one lousy photo of a building. Yeah, it's a mansion, but that is not what makes this place so special.

So, my dream started with me strolling through the formal paths of their Rose test gardens. They have many varieties (including the dreaded yellow ones). These gardens, both in reality and in my dreams, are laid out in a series of rooms, which is a wonderful experience (at least for me). I love not being able to see "what's next"; the surprise of it.

In my dream, the rooms became larger and larger until I found myself standing in a field of roses. This was no ordinary field. It was infinite. Roses as far as the eye could see in all directions. The bright blue sky above. I may have twirled a few times in my life, but it's not big in my repertoire of "girly" behaviors. . .but I think I did twirl.

I am having an olfactory hallucination at this moment. I thought I smelled roses. There are none. As soon as I realized I was mistaken, the sense of this stopped. Wow. That was cool.

Rose sticky note

The sticky note was pink. When I think of roses, I do think of the color red. I also can picture white and pink roses. Right now, I'm thinking of two roses with a bit of baby's breath (yes, it's typical) in a long stem glass bottle. One flower is pink. The other is white. Oh, there is a long stemmed dead white rose with a bit of baby's breath in a glass cylinder on my kitchen table.

I know there are yellow roses, black roses, blue roses. . .Nearly black red roses are nice, but for some reason even the idea of yellow and blue roses offends my sensibilities. I shudder at the thought of a yellow rose.

Here's the sticky note:"3/11 rose absolue yves rocher
this is a beautiful rose and reminds me that i really do love the smell of roses. fantastic how long it lasts but not old lady and not too strong"
Note to readers: this eau de parfum is a bargain.

I long for my old beautiful bottle YSL Paris. It was pure rose with a capital R. I want to shoot myself, for when I moved to Maine, I gave my perfume collection to the Salvation Army.

They probably threw it away. . .it had vintage Chanel Cristalle, Hermes Caleche. . .stuff that's been messed with, reformulated and inferior to what once was. . .

Another sticky note snippet

About eight years ago, I attempted to learn to read classical chinese on my own. I am insane. I wanted to read poetry without translation. I memorized about 150 characters and got to the point where I could read a little bit. . .such a little bit! Here's what a poem, translated by this ignorant dilettante may have sounded like in my translation:

i dunno know
I dunno know
maybe a gate?
big mountain
i dunno
I dunno
I dunno
mountain mountain

Here's a sticky note, which is not from that time (for this computer is not that old) but shows I'm still thinking about this subject:
language also shapes thought or is it the other way around? it's not either/or but both/and. . . consider the translations of chinese poetry and the assumptions western writers imposed upon the language

The book pictured above was the culprit that started my folly.

Sticky notes on my dashboard

I have a Mac laptop. Before I go any further in this post, I want to say that I am an Apple loyalist of the highest degree and so is my entire family (including engineers and physicists, which proves Macs aren't just for "creatives" nyah nyah). A few years back I bought a Dell laptop and my aunt was so shocked, you'd think I had told her I was converting to Islam.

The odd thing is that the computer made me nauseous. Literally. I had to lay down on the floor because I thought I was going to faint or throw up. I have no idea why. An LCD screen has no flicker, so it wasn't that. Was it purely emotional?! Anyway, I spent 150 bucks by owning it for a few days, because when I returned it to Best Buy, they told me there was a restocking fee. The salesman said I had two weeks to "try it". No problems! By the way, if one writes a letter of complaint to Best Buy, you will not get a response.

Okay, I digress. I always digress.

The Mac has this thing called the "Dashboard" for those who don't have one. It has widgets on it; stuff like a google link, the weather, a calendar, a tiny dictionary link (and much more), but what I love is the virtual sticky notes. When I have a little thought, I write it on one of these, just like I used to do in the so-called real world.

But my dashboard is overflowing with the things. Perhaps one reason I've started this blog is to clean up my dashboard. Yes, indeed - it's true. I will now put my little notes on this blog for everyone (all two of you, probably) to read.

Here's an example, which is apropos of nothing I've written about thus far:
I was taught in grammar school that our language was "superior". not so. different. chinese language shaped and was shaped by taoism/buddhism. difficult to understand in our concrete language.
language limits thought: slang and illiteracy limit thought, undoubtedly but we as a society do not want to admit this. it appears elitist

Now I can go and remove that sticky note. More to come.

The way I write about fragrance

Please be advised: I will not be using words like "sillage", "top notes" and other traditional terms when I write about scent. There are two reasons. The first one is that I am not an expert. I make no bones about it. There are fantastic sites where you can read very well informed reviews of perfume and learn all the jargon. When I'm not feeling lazy, I'll post some links.

The other reason is this: I may like to analyze scent (and I will), but even though I can often identify a particular "note" (uh oh - perfume term alert!) like bergamot, vanilla (etc etc). . .the important thing for me about scent is what it evokes and how it makes me feel.

For instance, right now as I'm wearing the Bulgari, which I've written about below, I'm "feeling nothing". Yes, it's evocative of a box of tea. It even made me think of a wonderful tea that I'd forgotten about and hope to find next time I'm grocery shopping.

But what really interests me is the emotional component of smell.

Fragrance, scent, smell, odor, aroma. . .all are words that are olfactory, but they conjure up such different images and associations.

If I wrote that Chanel No. 5 had an odor you would probably assume I didn't like it, wouldn't you?

Here's a dictionary definition of odor, with an example of its usage:
"A strong, pervasive quality: An odor of sadness permeated the gathering."

That is what I want to write about. And I will. Disregard the medical illustration above! It's there 'cause I wanted a graphic and I like medical illustrations but I am no Luca Turin and will not be telling you anything about the molecular structure of perfume.

Bvlgari Eau Parfumee Au The Rouge

You will hear much about my eternal quest to find extraordinary bargains at Marshall's and TJ Maxx. I hear people find some truly fantastic fragrances there every once in a while. This past Friday at T.J.Maxx was a bust. Just the usual suspects - Curve, Curve and more Curve. The leftover gift sets of celebrity scents. I left, empty handed.

Marshall's was a bit better than usual, for they were discounting many boxed fragrances because the boxes had been opened or ripped. I'll admit it: I opened a few myself. Unfortunately, this caused me to wind up with fingers smelling of a combination of Davidoff Cool Water, Azzaro Pure Cedrat, Bulgari Au The Rouge and Lacroix Tumulte.

I bought the Bvlgari for 17 bucks. It's a disappointing fragrance. I'd call it limp. I'm wearing it now and feel like I'm sitting in a large box of Twinings Earl Grey Tea. It doesn't smell liked brewed tea. It smells like the box of tea; the whole shebang, paper and all. I happen to love that smell. I love opening a new box of tea. Ooh. Right now this reminds me of a truly fantastic tea which I've forgotten all about. I can't even remember the brand, so I'll google it. . . .hold on. . .okay. . .got it: Revolution Earl Grey and Lavender. Delicious! Needs milk and sugar (or raw honey, which is what I use). Beautiful bouquet.

But there's no pic of a box of tea on this post, so I should get to the point, shouldn't I?

Bulgari Au The Rouge smells nice. Do I want to smell like a box of tea? No. Shall I pawn it off on someone else? Perhaps, if they want to smell like tea. Call me old-fashioned, but I think scent should be a bit sexy. Somehow, a nice cup of tea isn't sexy.

Bottom line: this stuff is great as an air freshener for the bathroom that is next to my kitchen. It was a bit pricey for that, but I've got it and I have to find a use for it, don't I?

Starting a new blog

I've had many blogs. I still have a few up. "The Craft Yogini" was supposed to be devoted to my crafts obsessions, somehow linked to my yoga practice. Another (now down) was about Zen Buddhist texts. "Medical Assistance Anyone?" was a way for me to memorize new terminology and blow off some steam while studying. There have been others.

Sounds like I'm writing about past lovers, no? There have been others. . .

I also regularly post comments on other sites; sites about music, politics, perfume, knitting, religion, psychiatry, medicine . . .do I need to go on? You get the picture.

Today as I put up another virtual sticky note on my computer desktop about the new perfume I'm wearing, I realized that I'd just have to start a new blog. Why not share my thoughts about EVERYTHING?

So, prepare to be bored or interested, depending on the topic.

And the disclaimer is: I am an inveterate dilettante and make no apologies for it. I hate this age of specialization. I may not know everything there is to know about what I'm writing about, but I've got my opinion. As do you. I welcome comments of sorts: second opinions, disagreements, encouragement, third and fourth opinions and suggestions. Welcome!