Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Happy 800th Birthday, Rumi

Today is the 800th anniversary of Rumi's birth, so I wanted to celebrate by posting one of my favorite lines of his:

In drawing and drawing
you his pains are
delectable; his flames
are like water.

I first discovered the line where it appears in a beautiful series of Cy Twombly paintings titled Untitled (Analysis of the Rose as Sentimental Despair), 1985. I just visited these paintings in the incredible Cy Twombly Gallery, The Menil Collection, in Houston. If you can ever get to Houston, please do not miss a visit to this incredible collection.

Image from The National Gallery of Art.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Thank You, Billy Collins

I was reading this poem today, because it's one of my favorites, and it struck me how apt it is for those of us who try to put scents in words. This poem so gently, so amusingly and so effortlessly teaches me that putting any person or any sensual experience in words is arbitrary and ultimately a barrier to knowing. But what delectable fun you can have with arbitrary associations! But then you can also see the assignment of imagery in the poem as transcendent knowledge that acknowledges arbitrariness and knows something deeper, because by sharing the nourishing imagery (like the bread and wine) and assigning it to a loved one, the poet is partaking in a symbolic communion. One that is so playful it invites the reader to join in.

Anyway, I so adore the spiritual playfulness of this poem, and it struck me that I get a lot of joy from playing "pin-the-tail-on-the-perfume" in the blogosphere for sort of the same reasons. It's a playful way to exercise my writing and observation skills trying to describe something that is ephemeral and emotional. Whether I hit the nail on the head, or scatter arrows wide of my mark (to wildly mix metaphors while I'm at it--why not?), that's part of the fun. I'll shut up now so you can read this awesome poem.

Litany, by Billy Collins
You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine...

—Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.

You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and—somehow—the wine.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mitsouko is for today

It's raining. What's the big deal, you ask? No, you don't understand: it's Texas, and it's finally raining. What a relief. I could cry.

Well, okay the crying might also have something to do with it being 9/11 today, and I couldn't help reading some of the articles on The Morning News today, and remembering what it was like being in Boston on that day.

But this is not a 9/11 post. I just wanted to say that Mitsouko is perfect on a rainy day, and it's perfect on a sad day, and it's just abso-fucking-lutely perfect on an emotional bender day.

Today, Mitsouko is glowing like living creatures and undergrowth and funk and the sweetness of wet living tree bark and leaves. It's a whole, wet forest, even though I'm sitting in a cubicle copyediting precalculus activities. It's feeling. Tomorrow it'll feel different. And I'll feel different.

Image from parfumsdepub.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Impressions of a cranky perfumista

Usually you only hear about the rare successes among the many perfume samples I smell in a given month. That's just created too much pressure to find something I LOVE to talk about. But just like in getting out to hear some music (which I finally did with a dear friend from out of town recently) the fun is just getting out there. If you don't hear the bestest thing ever, well, you shrug and critique/make fun of/learn what not to do with the band you've got in front of you. Y'all may have noticed I'm just a teensy bit on the cerebral side, so squinting geekily and critiquing is almost (I said almost!) as much fun as the joy of surrendering to the transcendent when that rare beauty does comes along.

In that spirit, here are some of my recent, somewhat frustrating experiences with perfume samples. Keep in mind these are just first impressions--quickie glibness--so I hope nobody gets put out with me if I dis your new favorite!

Heeley - Cuir Pleine Fleur: This is wonderously medicinal leather, like the love child of Chanel's Cuir de Russie and vintage Guerlain L'Heure Bleue. Well, okay, maybe not *that* amazing--the world would probably implode with it's greatness if it truly were their love child. How about a cousin of Cuir de Russie plus the raspy but soft saffron of the new Cuir de Lancome? Pretty damn good, and even though I have all three of those other perfumes and it doesn't break any new ground, so I need this like a hole in my head, I may need to keep the sample around for a while.

Ego Facto - Me Myself & I: Well, I was so looking forward to the supposedly intriguing tuberose-vetiver combo here. And honestly, on paper it did smell a balance of those two notes, and it wasn't bad. But on my skin? Holy hell, what a scrubber. Cheap-smelling, cloying, and thoroughly unpleasant.

Les Nez - Manoumalia: Appealingly raspy tropical white flowers with a slightly menacing vetiver overtone. I can imagine these flowers would be the flesh-eating kind.

Annick Goutal - Eau de Camille: Similar to vintage Vent Vert but without the devil-may-care attitude. More prim.

Frederick Malle - Parfum de Therese: I'm so sad not to love this one. I just get pale, stale flower vase water with some decayed blooms still swimming in the bottom. I'm hoping my nose changes its mind.

Ava Luxe - Madame X: Yummy and tremblingly naughty, but when I go for naughty, this would always have to take a back seat to my vintage Bal a Versailles. I think. Well, I better make up my mind soon, 'cause the talented Ava Luxe isn't selling this lovely stuff anymore.

Le Labo - Oud 27: Cold, but still smoking, cedarwood firepit on a chilly autumn morning. It's a beautiful and unusual scent, but I get tired of smelling like a cedarwood firepit. Very linear, to my nose.

Dior - Bois d'Argent: Strange, doll's-head-plastic scent that morphs into a sweet, woody iris.

Hermes - Osmanthe Yunnan: I get orange, then some more orange, then a bit of sharpish tea leaf with some I usually love orange, but this is a fail for me. And I love tea, so I always think I will love tea scents. But I don't. Too...tannic.

Perfumerie Generale - Psychotrope: Aquatic, salty violet. Very weird, and intriguing on a sporadic basis, but then does that boring plasticky thing that all PG scents do for me.

Guerlain - Nahema edp: A mandarin-rose blast with the half-life of plutonium and for some reason reminds me of the color palette in Disney's "The Sorceror's Apprentice." You know, with the trippily animated mops and pails going berserk? Kinda like that.

Etro - Vetiver: Nose-hair-searing smoky vetiver. My vetiver touchstone is Guerlain's, which I love for it's perfect weight and subtle tobacco that took me a while to get, but this scent is for those truly committed to the heights (depths?) of vetiver barbarism.

Dior - Jules: Although coming from someone who bought a bottle of Yatagan, and loves it btw, this will sound weird, but it's too mucho mucho manly for even little ol' moi. The pepper/galbanum combo is about as subtle as getting run over by a Mack truck.

Divine - Divine: Gosh, as this dries down, I get the butteriness peeps talk about! This is named appropriately, I must say. For the first hour it's too tastefully peachy-tuberose to excite me, but then the creamy drydown as the florals start to melt into some kind of vanilla-moss goodness in the base almost enough to make me want a bottle. Just not really me--the combo of tuberose and vanilla is not my style, unfortunately.

I got the photo from an article entitled "64 Things Every Geek Should Know." It doesn't include any tips on perfume appreciation, sadly.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Fancy free

Hey you guys are awesome! Thanks for taking all that perfume off my hands. I feel like I can better enjoy my perfume cabinet of crazy because I'm reminded less of the misses I've made. All I have left is these:

Vintage Worth Je Reviens edp boule 1 oz. ($25)
Vintage Mary Chess White Lilac toilet water 6 oz. ($10)
Vintage Coriandre mini ($5)

So anyway, I'm kind of fancy free in another way, too. I've bought a lot of samples this summer, and very little has been inspiring. I'm trying to think of this as a good thing. Two things I might want are the Diptyque classics Tam Dao and Philosykos. I'm trolling the Labor Day sales for a good deal on one or both. I might need Egoiste this fall at some point. Maybe Divine by Divine. I can't quite decide if I need it's rosey-peachy-tuberose goodness or not. And of course I'm hoarding my Muscs Koublai Khan decant until I can finally get a bottle when it goes import this winter. I keep telling myself to wait and not buy anything else until I can get the one I REALLY want (a difficult standard to live by in many respects!). But I did, in a moment of weakness, buy Coty Wild Musk oil blind. It's on it's way to me now. It's just filler, sure, but any opinions on that one?

Some meh sample quickies:

Miller et Bertaux = a quiet morning
~ maybe I don't like saffron as much as I thought--surprisingly this seems a little nose-searingly spicy on me, not quiet at all

Donna Karan = Chaos (reissued)
~ lovely and quiet with its unexpected camomile-incense combo, but has a slightly sour edge on my skin

CB I Hate Perfume = Musk Reinvention
~ sour rotten berries and unwashed wino. yikes

Byredo = Bal d'Afrique
~ undistinguished ambery fruity thing with an herbal tinge

Miller Harris = Figue Amere
~ really nice bitter fig for about ten minutes, then collapses utterly

The picture I've used for this post is in honor of a different passion that has re-emerged lately: music. This is a great shot (not mine, I got it from here) of the band Dirty Three performing. One of my favorites. Maybe I'll post some about music until I get my perfume mojo back.