Walking into the Shinagawa branch of Dean & Deluca’s for coffee with some friends on Sunday, rather than the usual cinnabon latte odours of the quiche and delicatessen swirling temptingly around us as I would normally have expected, instead, in its place, there was a monoblock olfactory moron of oud chemical idiocy that was so encompassing in its horrifying all-pervasiveness that it was like having my head, and my nasal receptors ( and, intelligence, also ) unwillingly hijacked by its sheer blockheaded ugliness and crassness.
The culprit? I don’t know. But it was coming from one of three groomed and musclebound gaijin sat together in the corner, probably after a grimacing couple of hours at the nearby Gold’s Gym. After showering. Poured into their tight-fitting tees: and thigh clinging Lycra.
Maybe it was the new Dior Sauvage Eau De
Or it could have been one of any number of hideously brutalizing recent men’s releases whose nuclear strength, and hulking assaults on the senses, just make me want to
Coming home later in the evening on the train, I was suddenly plunged into an equally space- eating, but this time quite definitely familiar, masculine scent. All ozone and marine greenness and decade-ago gay club cliche, I quickly realized that this was someone, out of eyeshot, doused in Armani’s Acqua Di Gio, at one time the best selling men’s fragrance in the world, as ubiquitous as its successor, the very nasty One Million by Paco Rabanne (one of the precursors of this bash-you-unconscious with-preposterone trend that so sickens me), but which, in retrospect, inhaling its unforgettable orchestrations for the journey back ( because I had no choice: also, as strong fragrance is so rare here in Japan to encounter it in such abundance makes my head spin ) I realized was actually vastly superior. At least in the Gio there is some gradation and airspace within the fragrance’s character: an orchestralness from the myriad of included ingredients. Some gentleness, or a hint, at least, perhaps, of human thoughtfulness. Although I never liked that perfume, while I was smelling it last night and making personal mental associations, I had to concede to myself that this former model of ‘masculinity’, in comparison with whatever the brute at Dean and Deluca’s was wearing, was almost heavenly.
It is only in retrospect, sometimes, that we realize what we have lost. And got, for our sins, in exchange: scents of rage and aggression very suited to these cheap and bigoted, Trumpian times where the worst instincts of human nature are being jack-in-the-boxed out into the open and legitimized; perfumes that are more like basic weaponry : cretinous and clobbering scents of ‘strength’ and debasing ‘maleness’ I find just monstrous.
FINALLY this term has finished and I can get on with writing this book. It has been an incredibly hectic few months and at times I have felt an erosion of my sanity creeping at the edge of my conscious ( I love the heat at home, but working in it has been punishing- complete renal overload).. Also I have realized : teaching and writing, though they flow into each other, when attempted simultaneously, are for me mutually incompatible. If I get into my space I can’t connect with the students, and if I teach properly I am too emptied to even write a word. Trying to get the first drafts in ( and then waiting to see if they are liked) while finishing the end of term courses has thus been a total mindfuck: the house is a slagheap, perfume samples everywhere; I haven’t been able to think straight or sleep well or know what to include ( my god there are SO many perfumes now – it’s out of control: do you even TRY to keep abreast of it all? And so many are shit! All those tedious woods drydowns…… trite dregs abound, so little inspiring…) At times I have wondered, deep down, whether I am even up to the task.
Anyway today I am taking a couple of days off from it all : I need to loosen up my brain a bit. Mong out. I am on my way to Tokyo, as pictured, to an underground cabaret event in Tokyo in which Duncan is performing as a 1920’s chameleon (‘Leon Charme, with an accent on the final ‘e’): we will stay in a hotel, maybe go to the flea market tomorrow and catch up with friends, and I might go back to Parfums Satori to refamiliarize myself.
I want to just be, and absorb. Watch. Smell. Perfume-wise, today I am in total vetiver mode : two different Indian Khus oils, Nubian Hemp and Haitian Vetiver body lotion, some Roger Et Gallet Vetyver: and also a couple of spritzes of the Green Tea cologne, on top : to keep El Gringo fresh.
As I head off to work in an approaching typhoon…..this is what a typhoon smells like
Last night, as the typhoon was still lashing Okinawa, when I got to the station at Ofuna and the train doors opened I just thought sea. The entire air had been convulsed and moiled, like a salty, kelp-loden interlude. I found it refreshing, inviting. A geographical shift; unexpected. As I walked up the hill to the house the air was mist-covered; shrouded, but clear. Touching, vaguely, on spooky, but more on the magical tip; with things and plants thrown into silhouetted, gloomy relief against the electric light of the moon, despite what a Japanese friend called, intriguingly, ‘this disquieting air’.
Today, as it rages across the country, offloading water by the godfull , causing all kinds of havoc in the southern prefecture of Kagoshima, Kyushu: where we are, near the capital, it was sunny this morning, only tinting into bruised and blowy by the afternoon, when the winds began to…
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Currently writing about spice perfumes for the book.
Completely relevant : nothing has changed
I must admit that despite all the suave aromatics – the Hermès Poivre Samarcande, the Quince, Mint and Moss, by Union; Eau du Gloire by Parfum D’Empire, the sensual, elegant, gentlemanly lavenders – Sartorial, Jicky, Ungaro, Lavande Velours de Guerlain; the occasional spicier, and dirtier scent such as Czech & Speake Cuba or 4160 Tuesday’s spicebomb Shazam, among others, that, despite the olfactive prowess and style these scents show, and the trails of intrigue that they leave in his presence, I would trade them all in, in an instant, for the scent, on Duncan’s skin, of Coppertone SPF 30 UV Protect.
The boy will steadfastly not consent to a floral, and yet here he is, inadvertently wearing one; all fresh air, frangipani leis, salt-kissed skin, and manly, oceanic florality doused in sweet, delicate memories of waves, of the beach, of the sky, and freedom; a delicately arousing sillage, sun-fused with…
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