Apologies for the delay in replying to all the interesting comments about our nightmarish journey back from the U.S. Not only had we also managed to lose the computer adaptor somewhere along the line, meaning I couldn’t write anything, but the jet lag and exhaustion that ensued was so extreme that I am only now just about compos mentis enough to be able to put fingertip to key.
The kind of jet lag where even when you have slept eleven hours and almost feel lucid, there is still something always there, heavy and somnabulent, tugging at your eyelids and fuzzing up your brain like sickness. A weird, zombie-like state you have no control over whatsoever, no matter how much coffee you drink or how much ginseng you take.
You plan to do something, unpack your suitcase that has finally arrived, or think that, maybe, you should go out to get something to eat, as there is nothing in the house, but mid-film – the only activity possible – you just, suddenly out of the blue, plop your head forwards; plod towards your bed, brainwashed for a ‘nap’…….
“just a nap” you say, and wake up lost somewhere down in the depths with your alarm clock bleeping somewhere on the surface at the mutually agreed prescribed time (“Let’s go out for Thai”), then….”No, let’s order a pizz…” and find you have both conked out again fully clothed with the lights on, and wake up another eleven hours later still hugging the futon in the fog of melatonin weirdness, hardly able to get your bearings, not washing or showering, and finally realizing you haven’t left the house for two days.
Yesterday we did. We had to get out and embrace Japan again.
I absolutely had to see the new David Cronenberg film “Maps To The Stars”, which had just come out in Tokyo (it was a mesmerizingly acidic affair starring Julianne Moore I found quite compelling), while Duncan was out and about in Yokohama. We met up later, as previously planned, for Thai (desperate for real Asian cuisine, with its fragrance, its liquidity, its herbs, its vegetables, after two weeks on the meat’n’fries’n’salads American Diet!).
We met at a Yokohama station, and the first thing that greets my blistering ears is ” I’ve found you a new vintage perfume shop”.
“Take me there now!” I order, and we thus meander our way down our overly familiar streets of ‘recycle’ shops and discounted ‘brand bargain’ emporia, me thinking, no, I’ve probably been there before he just doesn’t know it:
“Is it this one?” “No”. “The one just down there on the right that has all the antique samurai swords and ceramic leopards and stuff?” “No”. “How much further up is it, my leg is killing me”. “Just up here on the right”. “On the right? In that case, I definitely don’t know it”.
“You are going to love it”, I am told.
I am tight with anticipation. What unsuspecting perfumed riches are going to greet me this time? I love the mystery. Every time. The only thing is, I am broke after the holiday in America and can’t really afford to buy anything. But I walk in, a bric-a-brac shop full of god knows what (my eyes settling immediately on the perfume), and the very first thing I see on the shelf isthat familiar zebra box, my beloved, and always always sought after Guerlain Vol De Nuit parfum.
But which flacon will it be?
it is the bottle. The classic propeller design, still in use for the current parfum, but containing 14ml (slightly evaporated), messieurs et mesdames of the vintage. I grab it close to my chest….Yes, 3,500 yen, 35 dollars you sneer, but it is money I don’t really have, but I would gladly forfeit the evening’s dinner if necessary, starving though I am, as I have wanted to own this bottle for two decades, have wanted it for so long, and here it suddenly is, affordable, just propped up ungalantly on a shelf next to some old batteries and comic books.
In the U.S , the only taste I had of vintage perfume was at one market we discovered down Magazine Street, in New Orleans, a place full of intriguing trinkets and gaudy Americana (which I like, actually – I would gladly have exported a box or two of objets if I could have done), but Duncan and his parents were suddenly saying excitedly, Look Neil: Perfume! and I whizz round corners of glass and dolls and old records and statuary to take a look, but then I immediately begin to understand what you all say in America and England about there being nothing really comparable to what I keep finding here in Japan, at least not on the whole (except for those heart-raising random garage sales or even better those estate sales you mention, where you rummage about like a necrophiliac for loot like at such dreadfully low prices and know in your heart it is a sin). No, here there was none of that, as you can see, just tons of White Shoulders, a perfume I was never aware of in England but which I gather is a kind of Institution in America, a sort of Chanel 22 ish tuberose, powdery number, not bad at all, actually, but not something I can be bothered to buy for some reason, and except that – just half empty, or worse, bottles of old things that are vastly overpriced.
What I found in yesterday’s new treasure trove (which, I must selfishly say, I am keeping somewhat secret for the time being) was entirely different. Mystère parfum, sealed Weil Antilope parfum as well as Revillon Carnet De Bal parfum (don’t know it: can anyone tell me what it is like?), Balenciaga Fleeting Moment, in eau de toilette, and a huge bottle of the tulip bottle parfum of Mitsouko (if anyone requires information on that one, you can e-mail me on opoponax8@.hotmail.com), but I can live my life fully without Mitsouko and anyway, it is always turning up in Japan. I could start a vintage Mitsouko business.
Which brings me to this. Aside my beautiful Vol De Nuit, which I will eventually open and use myself (the joy and beauty of’cutting the strings’, the ritualistic pleasure of it all), the other amazing treasure I got (leaving all those other beauties behind for the time being, taking the terrible risk), was this:
A sealed, pristinely preserved extrait of Moment Suprême by Jean Patou!
Look at that box. The bottle, so obviously from near the time when the perfume was first released in 1927. So elegantly nautical and tactile. The thick glass. The sealed stopper……
I haven’t smelled it. I haven’t opened it. And this is the dilemma:
If you were me, and kept finding such things for 20 dollars – though it is usually more – as I did yesterday, would you, as I am, in my heart, inclined to do, just keep and treasure such a perfume, use it, love it (I gather it is a lovely and strange amber clove scent – again, any information on this one most welcome) or, be more business savvy, dollar-eyed, and actually start thinking about your retirement and making some money rather than the homeless-on-a-park-bench-but-at-least-he-has-a-box-of-amazing-vintage-perfumes future I am looking at; start trying to flog such things on e-bay?
Were I not the person I am, were I more profit and money- minded and less living-in-a-dream I would start a business (but I am glad that I am not, in truth, and, sweetly, Duncan also said spontaneously said the same thing in the Thai restaurant when I brought it up ” I wouldn’t feel right about it. And in any case, could we even ship them out of the country?”)
But, to just assuage my fears of being a fool, do you think perhaps, in fact, I should start the whole e-bay thing? The surrender to chance Perfumed court thing.
Would you? Could you be bothered?
Or would all this, the money orders, the horrendous hassle of the post office, would all this sully the pure pleasure and beauty of just coming across these things at such advantaged prices (he even gave me a discount) and enjoying them for what they are…
Would I be compromising the magic?
Should I open it?