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.