I was quite surprised, to say the least, to come across yesterday – only the second occasion this has happened in twenty three years of living in Japan – a bottle of Shiseido’s legendary Nombre Noir.
Praying it was the parfum version again like last time, I quickly realized it was the Eau (de Parfum): still rich and damasceny and very Eighties ; dated – in a precise way – but sometimes, especially in winter, I suddenly find myself wanting those luxuriant mafia wife perfumes such as L’Arte di Gucci, Fendi, Armani Pour Femme, Diva, even Knowing, a defunct and clandestine club to which Black Number now most definitely belongs ( and at 500 yen ( about 3 pounds fifty).you know you can’t go wrong).
The fragrance is not in perfect olfactory condition. In fact, when I destoppered the little plastic plug at the top of the bottle this morning, there was a slightly pooey aspidistra of napthalene and must, before clearing momentarily, revealing the plummy rose neon beneath. Burning Bush has been in a pleasing six month summertime hibernation; but often stirs again come winter – when fur coats and knotted, gnarled wigs are optimal for warmth – and I have a feeling that Nombre Noir will be a good alias.
Forgive the recent drought of posts ( this is just a rushed spontaneous piece written over lunch at a Chinese restaurant – I have to get back to school soon but just felt like checking in.) ; I have been prioritizing work, wanting to be more wholeheartedly involved in the lessons I am teaching, rather than just doing them half in a dream – as I have been for much of the year – and then feeling slightly guilty about it all : right now I feel more genuinely invested, in quieter, less ‘confessional’ mode – as the heat drains away so does some of my emotional vigor.
Plus- though I honestly don’t believe there can be many people in this world who are more smell-obsessed than I am – unless they are actually dogs- at the same time, despite the accidental weekend flea market finds and subsequent dousings, I have, in truth, also been slightly questioning my position within the ever expanding, and frankly overwhelming, world of Perfume.
At work this term I have not been wearing any to speak of; just citric deodorants, the odd bottle of bergamot essential oil left silently evaporating in my suit pocket, and my home made lemon handbalms. At weekends, and for nights out, I have really been enjoying Antonia by Puredistance,a green, luminous powder rose with sandalwood accents that just feels refined to me: generous and blanketing, yet clean, soap-like, with something shimmering underneath like unexpressed emotion. My sample bottle is running out and I might have to ask for the full version for my birthday in December : this, for me, is one perfume that has definitely reached ‘can’t live without’ status.
The thing is, though I would happily spend thousands regularly if I had unlimited cash to spare (probably), in reality, when I scope out the niche brands in places like Nose Shop in Ginza and Shinjuku, it dismays me to admit there are not all that many that I would unhesitatingly fork out my hard earned cash for : I like most of the Sorcinelli perfumes, Unum, the Music series, and bought the ozonic, marine weirdness that is Nebbia Spessa for Duncan’s birthday in September ( he loves the mind-altering textures of it), but many of the wood-chemicaled, passive aggressive ‘burnt’ or thickly floral and sweet perfumes coming out, continually. just strike me as absurdly overpriced and overrated.
I don’t know. Maybe I am still slightly in burn out mode myself after last year’s monumental book writing tasks; perhaps it will need perfumes of true and singular beauty to truly coax me back fully into the fold. I was at Shinjuku station the other day, and decided, on a whim – and also because I don’t actually have a copy of my own: it keeps getting given away to other people – to buy my book (it is on sale at the Kafkaesque vastness that is the bookstore in Takashimaya Times Square).
I had been so mellowed out and natural all summer long, with the smells of nature, people, or chosen perfumes from my own collection, that to suddenly be in the noxious, Coco Mademoisellish air – Dior; Ferragamo, Vuitton – that death choke of Beauty, as I ascended, and descended, the escalators trying in vain to find my own words wrapped in cellophane on some bookshelf ( I simply couldn’t FIND the place), I felt like a flower being placed close to an incinerator.