It is unexpectedly balmy for February, almost hot: yesterday I was overdressed in Tokyo, too many layers – in Shinjuku, after my last Saturday lessons for this term (so pleased to get my full three day weekend back again), to see D perform as Leon Charmé at Kings Of Tokyo, I had a couple of hours to kill having failed to get cinema tickets to see Bombshell, battling the winds that were so strong at times they could knock you over – but at least not cold – traipsing around looking what was on at other movie houses but nothing : and looking at perfumes that suit this time of year when I feel a certain loopiness in my veins as spring surges forth. Wanting to kill some time by just sitting for a short while in a local park and assessing some of the perfumes I had on me, I found myself instead being stopped by the police. Spot-checked, frisked by three young officers (in face masks: I myself, at least yesterday amid a maelstrom of emotions about the coronavirus, just got to a certain point of fuck it, look at all the surfaces everybody is touching, all the people on the trains, it’s in the air now, it’s really hard to avoid, and I just find the masks so encumbering and muzzling); outraged and indignant, as these three men invaded my space and mortified me, for absolutely no apparent reason, I found myself being very sarcastic and critical (in Japanese) with them: why weren’t also they also patting down and emptying the pockets and the bags of all the other people in the park? This is clearly racism; I am not a criminal, why are you doing this? This is SO ANNOYING because recently there have been a lot of dangerous people about, we have to do random spot checks – what’s this in your coat pocket? Essential oil infused vaseline. Lemon. And in this pocket? The same. IyokanOrange. And in this pocket. Also perfumed hand balm. YUZU. And this? Grapefruit essential oil. SMELL IT (thrusts bottle under the nose of young officer, who obediently lifts up his face mask and takes a hesitant sniff as though it were going to be a bottle of poppers) And how about in this pocket? PERFUME (a bottle of tampered-with Bergamote Soleil by Atelier Cologne, to which I had obviously added more bergamot, a blend I intended to spritz onto my person as soon as I entered the cabaret that was near by; Duncan was there getting ready with all the performers back stage wearing Ungaro Senso). Me, in the vicinity; searched, bag rummaged through; foreigner card checked (thank god I had it on me, else you know what could have happened – read my piece on The Other from the beginning of January if you want to know further); all humiliating and annoying, but it as I thought about it afterwards, wow, I was so supercilious and dismissive, but the three police officers were actually constantly apologetic, very polite, and looked almost sheepish as they rode off on their bicycles. I can tell you why this is: I had just watched Spike Lee’s excellent BlackKKlansman that morning, and you can be sure that any black Americans caught in a similar situation in the US , incensed, as I was, might not even be alive. All of this speaks volumes.
On my hand, but also seeped way too much onto my work clothes (which I am about to have to wash, as this perfume very quickly became a classic ‘scrubber’ for me, as in scrub that shit off it is disgusting ) was ‘Unexpected Mona 7753’, a green. exuberant floral that is supposed to somehow capture the enigmatic smile of the most overrated piece of art in the history of the world by Leonardo Da Vinci, the one that millions gather mindlessly around solely because it is famous, neglecting masterpieces elsewhere in the shadows of the Louvre that are yearning to be gazed at, rather than this dun mystery of dullness that the hordes gather around solely to take selfies. In this regard, the perfume is quite good; it is modern (full, ‘floral’), perhaps with a slight retro twist (the green top accord definitely reminded me of Estée Lauder Private Collection, a perfume my mother was wearing the last time I saw her in Italy, and which smells phenomenal); a fierce contradiction between an ivy/galbanum/bergamot/ vetiver greenness, with fruit notes of Barbary fig, Ma Khaen berry, and a woozy sandalwood, heliotrope and tuberose centre that on me very quickly became quite nauseating, stuck to my acrylic work coat and pervading my nostrils as I was searched, and delicately manhandled, by Tokyo’s finest (let’s just wash those humiliating memories right out of the clothing fibres, arigato very much- I am still stinging from it). While the Mona Lisa does have some intrigue – and I did really like those curiously beginning top notes – after a while, on me at least, this smelled vile.
Le Jade by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is another perfume that also obliquely references Private Collection, with its chrysanthemum top notes, a ‘nouveau retro’ green chypre that uses a pleasing overdose of the Japanese imperial flower, the kiku, a sharp, piney floral smell I personally really like despite its overabundant usage in pomp and circumstance, funeral and emperor’s ceremonial; (this year the new head of state rose to the Chrysanthemum Throne as his father abdicated, the first emperor to do so in two hundred years). There is something severe about this floral smell that I like, and it works perfectly in a mossier, shaded context. The same perfumer’s Taj Garden is described as a ‘supremely happy flower garden fragrance’ with notes of waterlilies, marigold, sambac Jasmine subtle Indian spices with leafy green notes, and this also is a pleasant ensemble indeed; a scent to just spray on without too much thought in the morning for a spot of pleasing uplift. How I would love to be just sitting in an Indian garden with peacocks roaming right this moment.
At a picnic in August, 1976, it is quite possible that one of the kaftan wearing attendees might well have been wearing liberal doses of the lovely Eau Libre by Yves Saint Laurent, one of the first ‘unisex colognes’ that was apparently popular for a while (I had never even heard of it until I saw a bottle in Z’s collection), a very easy, relaxed hedione/ vetiver green citrus oakmoss number that on me dries down to a lovely Chanel Pour Monsieur-like finish. BlackKKlansman, the absurd, but apparently true life story of an African American police officer infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan in the late seventies; impersonating a white supremacist on the telephone and talking to Satan at the head of the Organisation, the Hitler worshipping David Duke (a current Trump supporter), and then having his Jewish colleague penetrate the organisation from within, is also immersed in this period; The racist, ant-Semitic bile and hatred that spews from the characters’ mouths quite difficult to withstand, and yet Lee somehow melds it all together very skilfully and naturally in an outrageous comedy/ political statement movie that heavily critiques the discrimination that is inherent in the nation’s police force (even to this day); but also contains a love story, ‘hi-jinx’, and plenty of flares, huge Afros and indigenous print tunics along with the mellow and smooth score by Terence Blanchard and classic soul and funk tracks; again, Eau Libre would have probably been doing the rounds on these characters, unthreatening, easy, the CK One of its generation.
Hurwitz’s own confection celebrating a day out with friends in a meadow in 1976 is a delicious rhubarb and strawberry creation, green and tart; a perfect splicing of the two fruit notes with green leaves, galbanum, virginia cedar – a perfume I will be wearing when I feel like something simple, fun and emotionally energising ; I would also love to be able to hand it out to nephews and nieces like sweets for its celebration of summertimes memories and fresh air. As is well known, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is an insatiably prolific perfumer who creates fragrances from every whirl of the spectrum under the sun, literally every angle of the scentosphere; if you want rich and sweet she has it, floral, woody, she has it all covered. While some of the perfumes can feel more like unfinished sketches, experiments in seeing how far she can push certain ingredients or themes, I also like this boldness. Vert et Noir, for instance, is insanely green – breathtakingly so – a ‘vegetal fresh’ eau de cologne of cucumber, sharp chlorophyll green notes, lettuce, ozone and vetiver, black pepper – the dark soil to the foliage. I like the barbedness of green perfumes like this, the piercing sharpness that cuts straight through the bullshit:: mace, sprayed directly into the eye.
26 responses to “GREEN AND FRESH II : : EAU LIBRE by YVES SAINT LAURENT(1975) + UNEXPECTED MONA by HISTOIRES DE PARFUMS (2019) + VERT ET NOIR by DSH PERFUMES (2016) +TAJ GARDEN + AUGUST PICNIC, 1976 + LE JADE by DAWN SPENCER HURWITZ (2019)”
My favourite green scent is Goutal’s Figleaf ..Ninfeo Mio but it seems to have changed and the new version is thinner somehow. I agree with you that the Spike Lee movie was very good and showed how stupid those racist yanks can be. I am a big fan of Adam Driver.
It is so hard to know how to protect yourself against the virus in Tokyo -particularly when the Government handled the cruise ship so badly…..insane to lock them all up like that and the poor crew who don’t seem to rate a mention. It’s the same here…I have no faith in the honesty of our government who assure us that there are no cases here. I simply do not believe them.
I like the dryness of Ninfeo Mio but there was also something slightly ‘missing’ about it somehow, as though it lacked that one extra ingredient.
A nice one for summertime though.
As for the virus, it’s a global thing now. I wonder how it’s all going to pan out??
I wore a DSH fragrance yesterday, Le Roi Soleil. It’s a barbershop fragrance with extra leather and a petroleum accord (at least to my nose) that is so sexy….I got stopped by police officers 3 or 4 times during my time in Japan, usually around March. I guess they have to train the new recruits in gaijin interrogation tactics. Grin and bear it, right? The last time I was questioned was in a convenience store. I was reading some magazines, killing time before the gym opened. I was in sweats so maybe I looked suspicious or something (I think the staff called the police). Only one officer approached me. He was hot and polite and apologetic and did I mention he was hot? He asked me what I was doing. I explained I was just reading magazines before the gym opened. He was surprised that I could read Japanese (really I was just looking at cute guys in fashion magazines). He also praised my Japanese. I said, “Well, it’s easy to understand YOUR Japanese. You speak so clearly. Did you study public speaking?” He blushed so deeply. Then he apologized for bothering me. I said something like “I know you are just doing your job. And you did it so well.” More blushing. Is it bad of me that I was hoping a strip search or at least a pat down would have occurred?
LOL this is hilarious. 🙂
It is a totally relatable fantasy even if I personally find face masks viscerally repulsive.
What you have said here though has enlightened the situation actually as there were as you say two very young police officers as fresh faced as the dawn , and then an older officer who came along and asked if they had ‘ checked him’ properly, so perhaps it literally was some sort of on the job training as they did seem so very green, a situation I suppose I took advantage of.
Still quite annoying though.
Wow, you have really been in some miserable situations lately. Glad to hear all turned to well.
It’s funny. For me, miserable situations are the dreariness of daily life on a rainy day on a bus; people not expressing themselves properly in repressed office situations, shopping malls, business parks .. ( I could go on ).
Dramatic happenings can be unnerving or a bit frightening, but this was at least a novel experience. The point is, the police really might have been far more aggressive, even lethal, in other countries. I hope I never have to find out !
I remember fear rather than indignation when I was subjected to a search. I was on my own, traveling by train from Prague to Krakow. In the middle of the night I woke up with a vice grip around my heart to the sound of pounding — POUNDING — on my locked compartment door, and stern yelling, a command of some sort. I threw on my jeans and a t-shirt, afraid to open the door but seeing no alternative. Some guy in a uniform demanded my passport, searched my luggage, tossing everything out to every corner of the cabin. I felt as vulnerable as it’s possible to feel, I think. The train was nearly empty and I wasn’t sure who could hear me if I had to call out, if anyone at all. Anything could have happened to me. I was helpless. He took my passport and only returned it when we reached the station, without a word. I actually felt only relief and gratitude that nothing really bad happened. No room at all for the luxury of anger.
I’ll have to keep my eye out for a vintage bottle of Eau Libre. It sounds like just the thing for Ric’s miraculous skin.
What a terrifying experience! I don’t travel alone, and rarely to countries where I can’t speak the language. This reinforces my fear of ever doing so (shudder).
I didn’t personally find it terrifying as such – slightly alarming, but also quite amusing because of all the hidden perfumed balms which slightly baffled them I think.
ARREST THIS MAN ON SUSPICION OF CITRUS !!!!
But how terrifying.
This is really quite a nightmareish situation, compared to mine – because your agency was competely taken from you and anything could have happened.
I wonder why they did what they did?
Prague is very pretty, but I don’t need to go back.
I loved, loved, loved Krakow.
I didn’t really know what to think. Still can’t imagine why that train official did what he did. Weird, though, that for some reason I didn’t take it personally, sort of wound up lodged it in my memory banks as something that was over-the-top officious but benign, because ultimately it was. I think I was so shocked and confused while at the same time feeling abstractly protected by my innocence that it didn’t have the kind of PTSD power it could have had. Also, probably most importantly, he really could have done something bad to me — he had all the power — and didn’t, and that stuck with me as being quite essentially decent, and so somehow my brain processed that as being a (relatively) good thing, that I was still safe and would probably be safe in general.
Maybe I’ve had dumb luck, but (except for bus accidents and crooked border officials and gastrointestinal issues) (oh, yeah, and one stolen camera, I forgot) I’ve had no serious problems traveling, and that’s with doing some pretty risky things. Just thinking now of you and Duncan having that driver take off mid-tour with your money. That was a great story in the telling, crappy as it was at the time.
But I don’t think I’d ever get angry, indignant, etc., even if it were warranted. A sort of survival mechanism would kick in, I’m sure of it. I would love to have that kind of fearlessness of consequences that you do. I would love to feel that brave, that free.
I AM fairly strong in that regard, even reckless.
I will never go anywhere near a concentration camp. Phnom Penh taught me that.
I think that growing up you must have had a secure family environment where you could express yourself through the full range of strong feelings without fear. What a gift.
Oh it wasn’t quite that simple I can tell you : : are we really going here ?
I am FASCINATED by this subject though. D and I are polar opposites in this regard : like valves, set to very different operational mode ( someone clamp me the fuck down !)
No, we definitely don’t have to. Sorry, didn’t know we were going there.
I could talk about such things until the cows come home. Shame I can’t just drop by..
I’ve thought that too.
I’ll pop on over in a minute.
What are we drinking ?
Oh god you are reading my recent whiskey loving mind.
I’ve never been to Asia, but I have been to two black countries, Barbados and South Africa, which was very enlightening, being a minority for the first time in my life. Of course I was treated deferentially both times, not searched and harassed. I am quite conscious walking down a street in France that I am a foreigner, yet not subject to the scrutiny of police merely because I look like the locals, a privilege not granted to black or arabic people walking down the same street. Being so forcefully confronted with your otherness must be disturbing and annoying.
I’m glad to hear at least your weather has been warmer and your weekends are longer.
I recently ordered blind what turned out to be a poisonous green fragrance by British perfumer Sarah McCartney called Eat More Flowers. Filled with galbanum and violet leaf and totally unwearable to me. I can’t decide what to do with it.
I have a real problem with too much violet leaf in a blend, particularly with galbanum in excessive proportions. A bitter vegetality that can be quite shuddery.
PS what do you mean by deferential? I would find that hideous.
In Barbados, there will billboards everywhere admonishing the population to smile and be hospitable because tourism is their main business. In South Africa it was more disturbing, as the black hotel housekeeping staff for example would clap their hands and bow to receive gratuities and private homes had black household servants, it made me think of slavery in the southern U.S.
Intuitively I have never gone there. My cells would internally cringe. Can’t do it