WHAT TO DO WITH A MOMENT SUPREME?

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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?

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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.

 

 

Swoon.

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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.

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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:

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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?

35 Comments

Filed under Flowers

35 responses to “WHAT TO DO WITH A MOMENT SUPREME?

  1. K.C.

    Absolutely. As I’ve come to understand your ardor for the sublime olfactory experience, if it happens to be gorgeous, it would be nothing short of an abomination to leave it sealed. Something that is increasingly more evident to me as time ambles onward (in a world where nothing is guaranteed) is that we truly have only the present. As such, though one should never completely dismiss plans for the future, the idea of saving some things for a moment which may never arrive – we simply cannot know – seems irresponsible (as far as relishing our time here goes). I say open it and ideally add to that eternally redolent paradise of treasured scents you’ve come to cherish. Surely, as is evident by your lovely blog, such experiences mean more to you than a dollar or two.

    • How very beautifully put.

      In truth, I have never in my life managed NOT to open a bottle, though.

      To try and not do so is almost exciting, but I think you are right: I need to smell it!

      • Renee Stout

        K.C. is right. If you’ve never experienced the scent you should open it. There are days when I fret at using the last drops of something rare that I have, like my (literally) last 4 drops of vintage Caron Alpona that rarely comes up anywhere including Ebay. What am I saving it for? I could die tomorrow and my family would throw it out thinking of it as an empty bottle when I see it as 4 drops full – 2 whole wearings! Life is short and should be about sensual experiences as much as possible.

  2. Don’t give the location of your sources away..you have given enough away already..the vultures will descend and take everything.

  3. What a wonderful coming home gift! The universe loves you. You certainly deserved it after that horrific trip. (Though I worry a bit about someone who travels without more of a financial cushion. So risky!)

    As someone who has sold things on eBay, I would say, perhaps just sell things once in a while here to friends you know. (I would, for instance, be interested in that Mitsouko bottle.) Shipping it out of the country would indeed be a pain in the ass, and you should check on it before you try it. And if you use something like eBay, you have to have a way to deal with the people who claim they never got it, that it leaked, that it’s counterfeit (because it doesn’t “smell like they remember”) – plus paying whatever applicable taxes and fees there are. I sell things on eBay sometimes just to recycle, but it’s a pain. People treat you like you’re a store. And they don’t treat stores well.

    There’s a person in Thailand who essentially does have a business doing just what you’re contemplating, though. It does happen. You have to get prices to make the hassle worthwhile. And do the research to see where to exclude. (Apparently just shipping ANYTHING to Italy is pointless. It gets lost, or stolen by customs, all the time.)

    • Thanks for the info.

      As a person who hates even the most minute hassle, the laziest scum in the universe, this ‘business’ is disappearing before it even starts.

      Hurrah!

      (and you are definitely right about the financial riskiness. Some changes need to be made).

  4. I have a vintage bottle of Moment Supreme…not actually from 1927 but pretty old and the original formula…and it still smells supremely wonderful!

  5. I loved all your posts about your trip to the USA. Alas, I live in the USA and have never come upon a perfume shop the likes of which you guys seem to encounter. In my area, I think I would run into an alligator before a vintage perfume of any kind. I mention the alligator because more than likely unless at a zoo, one would never run into one….although the likelihood is more prevalent than running into a great vintage perfume!

  6. By the way, you should definitely open that Moment Supreme. How else will you ever experience such a supreme moment? Hopefully the perfume will still smell lovely after the top notes have disappeared. But if you don’t open it and just look at it in all is supremacy, you will have no experience at all. Go for it and then cherish it forever…even if the juice has turned somewhat.

    • You are right, of course. I will just feel disappointed in myself for having NO self restraint.

      But, as you say, it is pretty much a waste of time just staring at an empty bottle when I am not a bottle collector but a perfume lover. A consensus is rising. Where are the scissors?

  7. Open the bottle…if you haven’t already!
    I made quite a bit of money on eBay selling a load of 50-year-old model cars (!) I was given free. They had been in a closed-up room in a family house all that time and so were in great condition. As another of your followers (sounds like Blanche Dubois) has said, be prepared for amazing hassles from your customers – I was even accused of selling copies as originals since the quality was “too good”. As for saving for the future…I spent all of the money I made on a holiday. I would NEVER go through all the eBay stress again, no matter what the profit.

    • It sounds like we are similar. I would also have sold those model cars in a shot (lucky you), but also have tragic levels of intolerance for things I find a hassle – you should see my desk at work, it is abominable, seriously. I can imagine me really stressing out over post office bullshit and the like. Nope. It ain’t happening.

      Like you I value experience over accountancy. It shall be opened

  8. It’s The same dilemma that stares me in the face when I see Black Narcissus in my mailbox. Should I read it at once and be doused in wonderful words that I can almost see like a movie. And now another one of the Senses is added: smell. Quite a first!
    Or should I just wait and wait and anticipate? I am the kind of person that wants to open and give presents at once and who eats the bonbons in two days.
    I sometimes buy on Ebay and it’s very expensive and impersonal. I like little shops and I think supermarkten are a not So very pleasant fact of life. I weigh wist and cost and act on that. Often the delivery is more than the price of my Purchase. Capitals are not mine. I would NEVER (these are mine) sell on Ebay. I go dutch and buy, mostly, on Marktplaats, the small dutch cousin of Ebay: I have pleasant conversation and reasonable delivery and no tax. No sweat as they say in the Antipodes, I love that word, as I love yours. Go and gorge.

    • I will. I also can’t savor the bon bons but eat them in one go (not two days). I regret it, but rather that than martyrdom and self negation, two qualities I despise.

      And thanks for the compliments about my writing. I am delighted to imagine that what I write can genuinely please people, although too much of such comments and I’ll get writer’s block.

  9. Tania

    OMG! I would have wanted to buy all of those bottles in one go! Even if I had to rob a bank first. 🙂 How lovely for you.
    I have some Moment Supreme parfum (although not as old as your find) and it’s an amber lavender, to my nose. I like it a lot.

    Ebay….. well, I’ve thought about it, but I’m probably just too lazy and hassle-averse to actually do it. For a start, the rules are biased towards the buyer, and sellers are screwed over financially. And as unseencenser says, buyers can be awful. I don’t understand it myself – as a buyer, I’m always nice to the seller even if there is an issue, because one day, they could be me. But apparently the rules, insanely, forbid sellers from giving a buyer bad feedback!
    In short – I don’t need that much stress, even though my collection could doing with thinning, and my bank account with fattening…. 😉

  10. Missionista

    I say open the bottle. It was made to be used and enjoyed, and you are just the person to do so. It is so much fun to read about these wonderful discoveries.

    As far as opening a business, I agree with everything unseencenser said above.

  11. Lilybelle

    I don’t know whether you will love Moment Supreme, but I can say that it is magnificent, magical. I ADORE it. And it is so rare. You must open it just to bestow upon yourself the experience of smelling a rare, incomparable Patou. I really do think it will knock your socks off. Those vintage Patous are the BEST, but they have to have been well sealed and stored, as yours looks to have been. You find the most amazing treasures! I love Weil Antilope, too. Moment Supreme is in a class of its own, though. You can always start a perfume e-business. But do sniff this one.

  12. Wow!! Gorgeous finds! xx

  13. emmawoolf

    Of course you will open it. How could you not? (I predict it is in fact already open as I type – you are not one to shilly-shally on these matters.) If not, then to paraphrase the great Nora Ephron, “always use the good bath oil”.

    • You know me too well, Emma. Self control has never been my forte. On the other hand, despite my arrogance and intractability I am also kind of influenceable. If everyone on here and said no keep it, don’t open it, I reckon I might not have.

  14. Rafael

    Crack it open (the Vol de Nuit). You’ll find the Moment Supreme as jeune fille as Anais Anais so may as well preserve it. It won’t hold any interest for you I don’t think and you can always barter it for something else. We squander too many things in life. Perfume shouldn’t be one of them.

    Happy New Year btw. Sorry your trip sucked. Would have loved to meet up but family holidays are always a crush.I hope there will be a next time or a first time somewhere around the globe.

    Revillon and Weil were both originally furriers. Their fragrances were created to be used on furs while being aired out aftern venturing into miasmic, smoke-filled rooms.. Thus, Antilope, Secret de Venus all the way down until you get to Weil de Weil are oily, heavy, trenchant fragrances. The same for the Revillon fragrances until you get to Detchema. Of which, in the movie Rosemary’s baby, Mia Farrow’s fragrance is Detchema so figure these houses don’t change their fragrance purpose until around the mid-60’s.

    I have so many weepy, sad stories of e-bay purchases and also have many triumphs and therefore continue. The addiction. Giving in is much easier than trying to fight the pull. Ask my 2oz Cabochard parfum I bought for Christmas.

    Glad to have you back online and in such great creative form.

    • Thank you. I thought of you as we passed Fort Lauderdale train station on Amtrak. I said hello out loud in our sleeper compartment.

      The trip most definitely did NOT suck. In fact, it might be why you say I am in fine creative form. I could write night and day right now if I had the time. The holiday opened something up in me and made me see America in a new way. The things I dislike remain, but so many other positives arose to balance them out that it has done me a world of good.

      You also know my perfume tastes. Indeed, the jeune fille fragrances are not me (although I think I could wear Antilope: I once had a small miniature of the parfum and really liked it. I need to go back to the shop and get the full bottle).

      I also have and quite like Detchema (how fascinating that it was the perfume in Rosemary’s Baby, one of Duncan’s very favourite films, so damn CREEPY that film, yet hilarious at the same time, with those Nu Nyawker neighbours and their scary, rouged cheeks).

      Happy new year

  15. OPEN IT!!!!!!! no question whatsoever. ebay would shatter the romance of this beautiful collection and the stories that acccompany it. having said that I still have, as you know, an unopened bottle of Apres L’Ondee parfum and I cannot bear to open the seal. but that’s because there will be NO CHANCE of finding any more, within my means and then it will be gone. there is every chance also that i could find myself stupidly short of money one day and desperately needing to cash in, but i wouldn’t dream of doing so until that day is upon me. although yours is a big collection and not every one has the same significance to you as my one bottle does to me, but i see the collection as a whole, a very precious thing in its entirety. only start to chip away at it if and when you actually have to.
    cannot wait to hear more about miami & new orleans!

    • You see, you DO have that bottle of unopened Apres L’Ondee, Helen, the one I know so well, because you and Georgia DO have the restraint that I don’t. I genuinely envy it. The ability to wait until the right moment. There is a certain stomach-clenched pleasure in resisting, I reckon, but my sticky chocolate fingers always wreck it.

      As you say, though, e-bay would destroy the romance. Especially from Japan, where it is almost impossible to send any perfume out to begin with. It isn’t me, is it?

      As for America, we really enjoyed it. Miami South Beach was unbelievably beautiful and has seared itself into my memory. PURE American in the best possible way. And New Orleans was weird and wonderful and equally interesting. I think the being sociable for a change was very good for me. D’s nieces and nephews are so sweet and it was great being away from Japan for a while. I have realized that we one hundred per cent cannot finish our days here if that can be avoided. Going to America helped to loosen the chains just that little bit more. I need to be free. I understand how the culture works here, and I respect and adore it, but codified behavior just isn’t, and never will be, me.

      • jennyredhen

        Everywhere is great you are on a nice holiday. It’s a different story when you actually live there….

      • Obviously. Miami is murder central, I realize that. But for just a day, wandering in a dream in the hot sunshine with that architecture, it was nothing short of splendid.

  16. Miami is very close to Cuba…..now there is a place worth going to…..

  17. First off, you must buy the Carnet de Bal! It is a classic aldehydic chypre/ floral with ambery oriental character. I just wore mine the other night and am sure you would love it.
    Secondly, I know you already opened the Moment Supreme, which I knew you would love. It is one of the nicest lavander scents in the world, without being too lavandery.
    Lastly, eBay is a great place to sell things, but it is sometimes a wee bit more of a hassle than it is worth. But it is also a great way to make some extra cash. You would just have to be sure you would not run into postal issues, that would be a problem in and of itself.

    As far as saving for retirement, do give it some much needed thought and start doing that now. My mother was of the generation that never thought of retirement, thinking the pension would be enough, and that us why I am taking care of her now. If she had put some well needed funds aside for her older years, as opposed to her watch and jewelry collecting, she could be in a beautiful assisted living and I would not gave to be her nurse. So think on that and plan accordingly.

    Now to give you the Huzzah you deserve for finding such treasures. After such a horrible journey through the skies, fortune smiled down upon you and Bestowed glorious parfumed happiness upon you.

    Would live to get my hands upon the Mitsouko, oh how lively that would be.

    You will have to let me know if you end up with the Carnet de Bal, which I feel you most definitely need. I certainly adore it, and recommend it highly.

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