The Mutual Appreciation Society

marilynairkiss

 – without you, I’m nothing!

When I began my descent into the fragrant maelstrom that is perfume blogging almost three years ago, I likely had a good general knowledge of my subject matter – perfume – but not one clue as to what my love of that ephemeral art might come to signify. My main concern was really my only reason to begin – to become a better writer, on the premise that if you can write about perfume, you can write about anything.

But that airhead decision, born one summer night after the third glass of wine and pleasantly fuzzy White Zinfandel-tinted thoughts, would have consequences far above and way beyond anything I could possibly have imagined in even my wildest dreams.

In the perfumes I have come to love and adore – some of them many light years removed from my previous fragrant inclinations. In the knowledge I’ve acquired – about their making, their marketing, the machinations and mayhem of Planet Perfume. In the future I’ve come to envision (and create) for myself. In the writing I’ve done since then – if all my sometimes verbose reviews were put together end to end, you would have about five paperback novels worth of material.

But above all other considerations in the people I’ve come to know.

Some of my dearest, most precious friends have come through perfume and remained for reasons which have nothing to do with the juice and everything to do with common ground elsewhere. Phone conversations, Skype conversations, emails and PMs and DMs and onward – all of these fellow perfumoholics have somehow come into my life as invaluable additions to an otherwise fairly solitary existence and to such a degree I really don’t know how I could live without them.

Without the astonishing generosity of the international perfume community, the many connections I’ve made and the friendships I’ve forged in the process, this blog  – and indeed this writer! – would never, ever have been possible.

So when my laptop Cassius Dio exhibited signs of encroaching Elzheimer’s, I did what any social media-savvy, destitute writer would do. I created an Indiegogo campaign to see if I could raise the funds to acquire another and later model, one that might conjure even greater chances and opportunities and possibilities for a future once so far-fetched I didn’t even dare to dream about it.

As of today, the campaign runs for another twenty-six days. As of today, I’m over halfway to my goal. I arranged to have the campaign run as fixed funding, meaning if I don’t reach my goal and you have contributed, your pledge will be returned to you, since that seemed only fair. I’m emphatically not out to fleece people or to abuse such declarations of faith and trust. In the event I don’t, I’m enough of an optimist to believe that miracles can happen, and usually when we least expect them.

To say I am grateful, floored, flattered and completely humbled by that response is the Understatement of the Century.

Really, those two small yet all-important words ‘thank’ and ‘you’ aren’t nearly epic enough for my tastes.

I’m not about to embarrass anyone by pointing out to my contributors. You know who you are. You are my friends, my comrades in sillage, my daily inspirations, aspirations and confidantes. You enrich and elevate my earthly existence daily.

You more than anyone at all have made everything worthwhile in my life not just possible, but probable.

I really am about to set the world on fire, which is all I can say for now, but trust me – it’s all good!

But without you, without your input, your comments, your encouragement and your faith in one lowly, destitute perfume writer in her garret, it would have never happened at all.

If all goes well, I’ll do my utmost to live up to that declaration of faith – to challenge myself as a writer and a perfumista, to up the ante in terms of perfume writing, to do everything I humanly can to contribute any way I can to…

The Mutual Appreciation Society. I’ll blow you a fragrant kiss and last, but never, ever, ever least…

Thank YOU.  

____________________________

More on the Save The Genie campaign here.

The Scent of a Man

ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE

– Of memory, madness and Amouage Memoir Man

Nothing fires up our emotions or long-buried memories quite so well as a scent. It need not even be a perfume, although I’ve come to find more often than not that perfumes obviously have a special place in my heart precisely for that instant superhighway from nose to emotion and a whole slew of associations, images, and long-buried film reels of memory and feeling rush out to greet me.

Any man or woman, but maybe perfumistas in particular, will tell you… Clothes, demeanor, appearance, personal charm – all of these are fine and good, but really, those sparks and stomach butterflies and twinges in our hearts begin with our noses.

For all our sophistication, excuses and pretenses, that much of the primeval, atavistic animal remains.

I wasn’t consciously aware of it at the time, but I suspect that idea might have been bubbling away at the back of my mind that November night I wrote the short story that became ‘Midnight at the Crossroads Café’, which led to a book, which led to… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

In the course of my nearly three years as a perfume writer and over three hundred reviews, a select few are tattooed upon my soul in indelible, never-fading ink, often becoming so much a part of what defines me or my memory, it’s impossible to say where I end or the perfume begins.

When I’m confronted with this or that new perfume for review purposes, I myself often have startling reactions to the perfume I’m sampling. The best ones often involve a streak of spicy (and unrepeatable) language, or even inarticulate sounds that also can’t be repeated, which is no way to write about perfume.

Great art, so it’s said, has to be felt. This certainly applies to one in particular, which gave me such a violent reaction the first time I tried it I didn’t know where to begin or what to do.

Violent not for being bad, but for unleashing a whole blockbuster movie contained within that sample vial, one recurring, intertwined silken thread in my own life that runs silver and black, unbroken for over thirty years. For the longest time, it was padlocked and chained away in a secret vault in my mind until that afternoon just over two years ago when a spray and a sniff blew the padlock and chains to smithereens and out came… a story.

The perfume was Amouage’s Memoir Man. The story was inspired by that other story, that one real life tale of heaven and heartbreak, secrets and sighs called… The One.

Every woman has one. The one who got away, the one who lingers on, the one you try not to think too hard about. It’s over. It’s done. You know you will never again burn so hot nor feel so much, you know how that story ends (more heartbreak), you’re all grown up now, you’re over it, such madness, such magic can never happen again.

Yet if you’re a writer, it can and it will. It comes out in unexpected ways, provoked by who knows what hidden muses laboring away in the dark – by a perfume, or by the way that perfume accentuates and underlines that story and the man who inspired it. He was and still is the only one I’ve personally known who it defines and explains so beautifully.

I will go to my grave stating that no matter what they say to the contrary on all the perfume fora and discussion groups on Facebook, when it comes to bottling up the Guy Thing in terms of high romance, cinematic scope, style and personal statement, no one does it like Amouage. No other line’s masculine-slanted fragrances slay me or my ragged, battered, bruised and disillusioned heart to quite the same degree so consistently, and for over two years, I’ve wondered, as I often do… why?

It took serendipity to figure that out, or was it something even more portentous? Call it fate…

Because last week, while bobbing along on a summery tide of Business As Usual, bubbling with plans and dreams and things to do and perfectly serene, someone had the idea to track me down.

That one. The one who got away. Someone I’ve known for well over thirty years and seen in many moods and several disguises, the one who inspired a fair-sized portion of the Devil’s personality as he is portrayed in my novel Quantum Demonology.

Call him the Memoir Man. Or L’Homme Fatal.

Throughout those thirty-plus years, we were friends, both part of a tight-knit gang who had known each other through high school and far beyond. Until that fatal party thirty years ago that made us both take a good, hard look at each other, and in an instant, all our past lives and all our shared history of friendship was scorched away by something much more dangerous.

There was no turning back after that.

Since then, many other people wandered in and out of our separate lives. Ex-wives, an ex-husband, girlfriends and boyfriends, all the detritus we humans tend to accumulate as we proceed through our lives, and yet… chance encounters just kept happening. Unlooked for meetings on the street. Catching up. We began again because we couldn’t not. We ended. And began other ends, other chances to break each other’s hearts in ways no one else could ever manage.

Our last meeting thirteen years ago was high drama and super-heated words, and as he drove away, I was so glad I’d never, ever see him again.

I would be sane, I would be sensible, I would be cured and inured and inoculated forever more. If it killed me never again to burn so hot, never again to feel so much.

I would. Damn it.

Meanwhile, a writer was born, and as writers will come to know, no experience is ever wasted. Somehow, slivers of that old, repeating story would insinuate themselves into my writing of novels and stories and even a perfume review that came unlooked for as an old, dusty padlock blew up… with a perfume. That padlock came back on after my review, locked a little tighter and with thicker chains this time around.

Yet I swore a secret oath to myself, for reasons I could never articulate, if I ever met anyone again, he would be doomed to wear (among a few others)… Memoir Man.

So it was, until last week. I was a (little too) grown-up now, I was inoculated, I was sane and serieuse and a sensational writer (at least in my own mind). I certainly wasn’t that white-hot fury of thirteen years ago.

When I received that message, I wondered how to respond. As I walked to meet him again after all this time, (don’t ask) I wondered how much havoc was wrought with both of us in thirteen years. I wondered about that inoculation. Wrapped up my heart airtight with metaphorical Kevlar before I left, just in case. I wore an Amouage. (Fate!)

Everything had changed. Some things never did. We would be sane, we would be grown-ups, we would be sensible if it killed us.

We would. Damn it.

Last night, I suddenly bounced around the room and began to upend my perfume cabinet, looking for That One to remind me. My little sample vial of Memoir Man.

Because to me, that was – and is – the scent of a man.

The Memoir Man.

Image: Robert Mapplethorpe

With thanks to Christopher Chong, who knows a thing or two about getting a girl in trouble…

________________________________________

Save the Genie! Find out more here.

A Few Words From The Genie

Ladies, gentlemen and fellow Earthlings,

It’s now been a week since the Save The Genie campaign started, and no one is more surprised than I to find that I’m nearly halfway to my goal already!

🙂

So instead of foaming at the keybpard as I usually do, I decided to do something else instead which says everything I feel and (nearly) everything I wanted to say. Not rehearsed, not scripted, and yes, this is…yours truly, live and in color!

Save The Genie Campaign Update

No worries! I promise…there are many, many words to come!

 

A Waft of Dystopia

metropolis2

– a review of Robert Piguet’s Futur

Back in the early Pleistocene era, when yours truly was defining myself in many different ways, I decided early on that in order to choose my great perfume loves, there was only one way to do it – to choose something as far removed from my mother’s particular tastes and inclinations as I could get. My Scorpio mother was very much a diehard lover of bold Oriental perfumes, and although I could agree on the bold (not least for the impact effect), Orientals, for all their opulence were a bit much for a fourteen-year-old bookworm ingénue.

My ideas ran to more intellectual fare, something that defied explication and didn’t hint at promises I had no idea how to deliver. But what to choose? Floral-centric fragrances seemed grandmotherly to me at the time, Orientals were out of the question, and I was nowhere bold enough to cross the gender divide of the perfume counter, but luckily for me, I was at the right time and the right place…

This was the moment: A late afternoon in early May on the Pont Neuf in Paris in the late Seventies. Maman and I had spent the day at Versailles and both Trianons, and were simply strolling along in the May sunshine, thinking about all we had seen, talking about the wonders that awaited the next day at Guerlain and Dior, drinking in that revelation that was Paris on a sunny May afternoon.

Which was when I saw her walking towards us. Tall, blonde, effortlessly striding on the cobblestones in impossibly high heels and an impossibly ravishing outfit that exuded Bohemian Chic in capital letters – green panne velvet harem pants, an embroidered gold velvet tunic of flawless cut and precision, about five pounds of gold costume jewelry and a perfectly maquillaged face that could easily launch a thousand ships.

I had never seen anyone so beautiful in my fourteen years, or someone so defiantly stylish. But what struck me as she passed in a cumulus cloud with a wink at the gawking teenager was her perfume.

It was everything, she was everything I could ever aspire to being, everything I wanted in the woman I was to become, everything my immaculately groomed mother was not. It was, I came to discover later, a green aldehydic chypre of impeccable pedigree and make, made by that same couturier and designer who dreamed up her breathlessly beautiful clothes.

That was the moment I sold my soul to the greens and the chypres.

The next day, I chose Jicky – at the time, a gorgeously green Drrty Grrl if there ever were – as my first “proper” perfume. Many others followed in quick succession: the original Miss Dior, Vent Vert, Ma Griffe, Fidji, Cabochard, Ivoire, Dioressence, Chanel no. 19, Silences, Paloma Picasso’s Mon Parfum, Bandit… say the words “green” and “chypre”, and I’d be there in a heartbeat to set my paycheck on fire, even the very one worn by that unknown beauty on the Pont Neuf – Yves Saint Laurent’s Rive Gauche.

So this new wonder on my desk should have been a slam dunk, a home run, as obvious a love as any of those gloriously green galbanum bombshells I love and adore to this very day.

No.

So far as I’m concerned, the storied house of Robert Piguet should be right up there with the all-time greats in perfumery – mainly because he had the surpassing great judgment to choose Germaine Cellier to work with. Bandit ranks among my ‘desert island perfumes’ – if I could only choose ten, Bandit would surely be one of them.

Futur should likewise be an instant love – after all, isn’t it a green? Isn’t it a Piguet? Isn’t it the perfect recipe for pouring resolve and titanium into my spine and proclaiming to the world:

I may be only 5’1” and blonde, but you mess with me at your peril…

I wish it were otherwise, wish it were something else, wish things could have been so very, very different.

Futur was originally created in 1967, at a time when that nebulous term ‘the future’ was more style than substance, when relentless optimism overrode any dystopian rumblings in the underground, and the future looked so bright we all would have to wear shades.

What it was, I can’t say, but what it is…is a simulacrum. In other words, there’s a great idea in there somewhere, but I’m damned if I can find it in the first three hours.

Futur begins as a hot, soapy, sudsy, synthetic green mess that teeters on the brink of squeaky clean. You can mention bergamot, ‘green notes’ and jasmine until this cow goes home, but this green future is nothing so much as a rather dishy (in several senses), classy soap. It smells like the world’s cleanest, most immaculate machine. All gleaming chrome and a peerless reflection, but what is it reflecting?

That squeaky clean, man-made machine, that’s what. As it develops, it gets woodier and even slightly mossy without ever once descending into anything that might be called oakmoss territory. It’s just enough to qualify as a chypre by the skin of its teeth, but never loses that soapy blast of the opening. Somewhere near the bottom, it grows darker with more of a pine tree feel, and somewhere around here, I get the idea. I’m just not sure I like it that much.

That great, dystopian and highly romantic film, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis comes to mind, not so much in its vision of an unlikely future that’s ostensibly only thirteen years away, but of the dichotomy between the real Maria and the robot Maria, wreaking havoc in the pleasure district of Yoshiwara.

If robots wore perfume, this would be for the robot Maria. Not so much a woman as the simulacrum of one with a bitterly green, evil agenda. She was just real enough to fool the workers, the easily duped, the wretched creatures who saw only what they so desperately wanted to believe. She’s emerged from her pedestal and stalks out on gleaming chrome feet to take over the world. Be afraid!

I’ll pass on this waft of bleak and bitter dystopian future and console myself with another animal of imperfect biological origins.

Bandit.

Notes: Neroli, bergamot, green notes, jasmine, ylang ylang, violet, violet leaf, vetiver, patchouli, Virginia cedar.

Robert Piguet Futur was originally released in 1967 and recreated in 2009 by perfumer Aurelien Guichard.

With special thanks to Nick Gilbert, who made it possible.

Original image taken from Fritz Lang’s 1927 film ‘Metropolis’.

_____________________________________________

Save the Genie from extinction! Find out more here and also there. 

Price and Prejudice

2706246-des-pieces-d-39-or-relevant-rendre-3d-sur-fond-noir

 – Of luxury and lemmings

Recently, while trolling trawling through the recesses of blogs, comments and forum threads scattered throughout Planet Perfume, I’ve more than once come across a confounding, if not confusing ‘trend’. Call it a tendency, call it a predilection or even a preoccupation, it’s nevertheless just prevalent enough to catch this perfume writer’s attention in the dog days of summer.

Once upon a time in this exalted fragrant stratosphere, a phrase reverberated in cyberspace:

One hundred dollars is the new free!

In other words, with price points being what they were and with niche and indie perfume houses trying to trump each other in their eagerness to scratch our luxury itch and reel in new customers, the ante only had one way to go… up. And up. For a while, it seemed that fragrant cognoscenti were only too happy to comply.

After all… you got what you paid for, right? Which was what, precisely? Olfactory masterpieces in exquisite packaging with drop-dead blood-curdling attention to detail every step of the way from a creative director’s mind to the hot UPS guy on your doorstep?

Or was it something altogether darker and more devious… a big, fat, expensive-looking stamp on your person (and your credit statement) in neon letters proclaiming:

You, dear customer, have been had.

Those were the days, dear readers, the days that implied a kind of innocence if not naïveté about the nefarious doings of that everlasting aspirational business: Planet Perfume.

Not any longer. For increasingly across those forum threads and blog comments, those customers are no longer so easily bamboozled by hyperbolic PR copy stating their brand-new snake oil is ‘distilled by angels with the morning dew of the summer Solstice from the jasmine fields of Grasse.’ (Or words to similar effect.)

Increasingly, discontent if not disillusion rumbles in the undergrowth. Whether due to ennui in the face of relentless  – and endless – launches or simple overdrawn credit limits, those fragrant cognoscenti are beginning to protest that those luxurious, redolent juices we so adore to adorn our personalities with simply cost…

Too Damn Much.

Luxury, schmuxury.

Before I shoot myself in the metaphorical foot (a favorite summer pastime), let me start with what I define as luxury as it pertains to the world of perfume. I should add this is my definition and may not be yours, so feel free to argue my claims in the comments.

Luxury in a perfume brand is…

¤   The expression of a particular aesthetic approach in terms of concept, design and execution, an approach that appeals to the customer’s urge to distinguish his or her individuality from everyone else’s.

¤   Meticulous attention to detail throughout that process from idea to delivered product that makes the customer feel validated and appreciated in their choices.

¤   Although by definition a luxury brand should not be too readily available, since luxury also implies a certain degree of exclusivity, luxury in itself should not be exclusive in the sense that it excludes potential customers but inclusive, by offering them options to make informed decisions before handing over their hard-earned/ill-gotten/cash, and welcoming in new customers-to-be.

Stop for a moment and think about all those brands who might embody that definition for you. I know several niche brands that are supremely luxurious, and also quite a few indie brands who scratch my luxury itch to heights of surpassing pleasure, even some indie lines who don’t make any particular claims to over-hyped luxury and/or superheated PR copy one way or another, but nevertheless fulfill one even more important criterion which is even harder to define:

¤   That emotional response we have to a given perfume in a way so it becomes an extension of whatever mood we wish to express. In other words, if a brand with all its symbolic associations and those contained in any given juice is able to evoke an emotional response in you as the consumer, that too can be defined as a kind of luxury.

The Hijacked Concept

Perfume is the ultimate aspirational – and indeed inspirational – art form. Any perfume will perform differently on whomever wears it according to body chemistry, weather and composition.

Unlike, say, a luxury handbag that proclaims its aspirational message right out in the open; “I am the inordinately proud owner of a Chanel handbag, and you are dead-jealous because I have it and you don’t”, no one except other cognoscenti will ever know or even care you just blew your rent money on Absolute Essence of Aphrodite because you simply… Had. To. Have. It.

It is, in effect, the ultimate in private luxury. Which doesn’t mean it can’t and often does have a profound effect on your mood on any given day to literally waft smelling (and it is to be hoped – feeling) like a million bucks.

The problem is… the very idea of luxury as it exists in the general cultural imagination today has been hijacked if not altogether kidnapped to such an extent by advertising and marketing as to become virtually meaningless. Which leads to that other problem in the world of perfume, price and prejudice.

Everybody wants it…

As long as they don’t have to pay too much. Or if they should, it behooves a brand to make that price tag as painless as possible.

By now, a lot of us are aware that there’s often a severe disconnect between price and epiphany. In some cases, you certainly don’t get what you pay for, and in others, the price point is ridiculously low for such stellar stuff.

Some brands I could mention – although I shall restrain myself, just – are prefabricated sheep dressed up as semi-bespoke wolves. Not so long ago, I had an opportunity to try one highly touted brand launched to a great deal of fanfare a few years ago as being the Brand With The Mostest Of Everything. (Insert your own over-the-top adjectives here). At that price level, I was expecting at least an out-of-body experience or an ‘Exorcist’ moment – eyes rolling to the back of my head, convulsions of outright olfactory ecstasy, head rotating a full 178 degrees etc.

It didn’t happen. What did happen was this: I had to sit down in amazement. Next thing I knew, I was digging frantically through my perfume cabinet and finding the original inspirations for nearly every single one of them. They were exquisitely crafted, high-quality perfumes, no question about it. I just wasn’t ready – assuming I even had that kind of expendable cash to spend, which I emphatically don’t – to buy into anything that basically had ‘sucker’ printed on the bottle in 23-karat gold.

So what are we buying?

Ladies and gentlemen… we are buying an experience. We buy perfumes on the assumption that they will somehow make us express what we could otherwise never say in words, to reflect our best (or worst! 😉 ) selves, to surrender ourselves to a dream we want to reflect, a persona we want to be, a uniquely personal story we wish to tell without words. But I have to marvel at whether or not there isn’t some kind of mind over money disconnect at work in the background.

Because as we complain about the price, we’re really complaining about the deplorable state of affairs that keeps us from buying it right this instant, to jump on that express train of lemmings in the wake of a new review, to distinguish ourselves and our own impeccable taste above the hoi polloi who settle for aspirational masstige rather than the ‘real’ deal, the silly fools.

Meanwhile, the perfumer/brand owner in question might very well be the kind of obsessive-compulsive nutcase who insists on the highest level of quality he or she can sustain or support as a brand.

If that means it costs the sun, the moon and the stars in raw materials, packaging, execution, time and the many sleepless nights keeping the whole wretched enterprise in the black, all the while dreaming up new launches, new directions, marketing, PR copy, distribution, new epiphanies, then…oh, well.

Perfumery is an aspirational business, after all.

Which means there will also always be a market for those prefabricated sheep in wolves clothing, since who’s to know except the brand owner laughing all the way to the bank as the juice in question is not, in fact, fabricated by cherubim working in moonlight on those fabled Provençal hillsides, but by a very prosaic anonymous supplier who trucks it in industrial steel tanks?

Who cares? We’re buying the dream.

Reality bites

Here’s a paradox for you. In my nearly three years as a perfume writer, I have never been so penurious in my life. But as my late mother used to say in a wry comment to her own rags to riches to rags life story:

If you can’t afford anything, you can at least aspire to the best.

My first four perfume reviews came from two years of accumulated birthday presents, hunted down on discount sites at bargain prices. The one full bottle I’ve bought in all this time (since we can all agree decants, splits and unloved bottle bargains from dear friends don’t count) was my reward for completing my first novel. I saved up for it by forgoing hair dye (a perilous undertaking as a (vain) woman in your forties, I might add) for nine long months – the time it took me to write my book, in fact.

The day it arrived – exquisitely packaged, with a personal card, with numerous extras, with that magnificent, splendiferous perfume of perfection within that equally exquisite bottle – I felt as if I had arrived. (I also cried, I was so happy.)

It became infinitely more than a perfume (and indeed, it’s mentioned several times in the book itself, so hotly did I covet it), infinitely more than a personal adornment or accessory – it became a symbol of all I had sacrificed to write a very personal story, a statement to all I could now achieve and become, a testament that I had the power to manifest any dream I desired.

Three years on, I still have that bottle, the only one of its kind. The dream is tantalizingly close to coming true. By now, I have about 8 ml left.

But that beautiful bottle, the value it represents, the song its contents sing on my skin and the way it always makes me feel to this very day, is not simply an expensive luxury. It is a treasure that makes me happy every time I see it in my cabinet, and maybe, in our relentless chase after our own lemmings over that cliff, this is what we’ve forgotten in our bellyaching over pricing and our eagerness to have our prejudices validated by our peers.

A beloved perfume, regardless of what it costs, is a treasure to be cherished, worn, adorned and adored.

In other words, the ultimate private luxury.

Think about it. Isn’t that what you should be paying for?

___________________________________________

Help save the Genie! Find out more here.

Evaporation Blues!

Hand and Water

 

Ladies, gentlemen and readers of The Alembicated Genie…

I regret to say this, but say this I must:

I foresee an encroaching future when The Genie will no longer be able to…alembicate!

Not because I want it that way, not because I’m about to retire in the face of (stiff! 😉 ) competition, but something altogether more harrowing.

On the verge of Kicking Max A** (to quote one favorite inspiration), which is all I’m able to say at this time, when I’m poised to have one helluva third anniversary giveaway on TAG, when, in short, all manner of awesome is Just About To Happen, the one instrument that has made everything possible is about to… kick the bucket.

My geriatric PowerBook, my faithful companion for the past five years, is developing Elzheimer’s, and showing signs that it needs retirement, sooner if not later. In those five years (and it wasn’t new when I bought it, either), it has survived Sonic the Hedgehog, drops to the floor, and a losing contest with Hairy Krishna and a glass of water. I’ve written two full novels, three more books in progress and over five hundred blog posts, not counting about 12.000+ emails, PMs, tweets and FB status updates.

One of the crowning ironies of my existence as a perfume writer is that I can’t afford to buy anything I review. At all. And at this point in time, I can’t afford to replace Cassius Dio, either.

Yet I have faith and I have options, and I even still have hopes, too!

To that end, I’ve created an Indiegogo campaign where readers, fans and other altruistic souls can contribute a little or a lot to the cause of Saving The Genie.

You can find out much more on the campaign, including how to contribute, here.

Even if you can’t or won’t want to support my rise to fame and fortune (I wish I were kidding!), you can – completely risk-free! – tell those fellow fumehead friends you know about it. Or the world! Or anyone who might appreciate a new perspective on an ancient art.

My words might otherwise evaporate like so much poorly stored perfume.

Because without YOU, dear readers, I could never have made it so far. Who knows where we might end up, if we could continue our explorations though the jungles of Planet Perfume, or what creatures and chimaeras we could find?

Coda For A Muse

THE DEVILSCENT PROJECT XIV

Fallen-angel-6

 – a review of Esscentual Alchemy’s ‘Coda’ for the Devilscent Project

For months, I prevaricated and procrastinated over this one, knowing it would be The Last Review, The End, the closure I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted, because then what would happen? What would I find on the other side of that event horizon, would I even be the same woman who began it all out of boredom on a rainy, windy night in a faraway November?

Even Dev, I suspect, felt the same, since my original sample vanished and was not to be found anywhere I looked. I had to request another one. When it arrived, I stored it away with greater care. Ever since, no matter what I reviewed, it tugged away at the packed guilt trip suitcase in my mind.

I had to sniff it, write it, add a verbal flourish at the end of an undertaking that has changed me, my olfactory perspectives and even my life… forever.

So I did what I often do to kick my own procrastination to the curb. I proclaimed to Amanda Feeley of Esscentual Alchemy that by golly, I. Would. Review. It.

If it were the last thing I did.

Only to spend my Saturday night eating Bing cherries while watching history documentaries. In other words… procrastinating.

An inkling of what awaited lurked in my dreams this warm, sweaty Saturday night. That spectral black-clad figure that often stalks the edges of my dreams and has ever since that faraway November, wandered in and out of phantasmagorical storylines. In a sudden glimpse, I’d see him clearly, shaking his head with a laugh before he turned away and vanished, only to return in an unrelenting dream so powerful I woke up with a start far later than I expected.

“I was wondering when you’d ever wake up.” A familiar voice I knew, a form I felt burning down my back in the morning light of a blue sky day.

Hairy Krishna, usually plastered against me, took that as his cue breakfast would be served in a few, jumped out of bed and loudly proclaimed his immediate state of starvation, belied by the generous size of his backside. I chose to ignore it.

I blinked. “You!” The real world crashed into my consciousness. My iPhone by the bed, the postcards from friends on the opposite wall, that haunting dream that refused to fade away. “I’m not nearly dressed enough for this.” I tried to sit up, but Dev pulled me back down.

“I’ll be the judge of that. But what I’d really like to know,” he purred his baritone in my ear, “is why you think this is the end, just because it’s your last Devilscent review? I told you, baby…I’m not going anywhere. We. Have. Things. To. Do. You know.”

“I know. It’s just… a bit like that maxim I kept quoting in the story. Now that everything is about to happen, it feels so finite.”

Be careful what you wish for. You will get it.

What I didn’t say and didn’t have to: a lot could be said waking up in the morning with your muse wrapped around you. At my age, I’m so grateful, it’s bathetic.

“Here’s a secret, baby. It will never end. Your story poises on the brink of so many probabilities instead of possibilities, and so many people you never even knew when you wrote it now believe in it and more to the point, they believe in you. I think you’re terrified, is what I think.”

“If anyone else but me woke up with the stand-in for Evil Incarnate nearly naked and wrapped around their backs, they’d be rather terrified themselves.”

His voice dropped down to a very low D.

“I meant to say, before I was so rudely interrupted, that you’re terrified not of falling splat on your face and failing, but of succeeding beyond anything you ever dared to dream.”

“You’re right. I am.” All too true. Be careful what you wish for.

“OK.” He shifted a little away. “Breathe in. What story will this Coda tell of our little pas de deux, what secret did Amanda Feeley ferret out of your story?”

“She found the secret of how the story both ends and begins again.”

“Good girl. This isn’t an ending and you know it, and it never was. It’s just that terror that holds you back.” His lips were right by my ear, and I felt his hot breath as he growled:

 “I told you to believe.”

“Oh, I believe…how can I not, when the ending, the crossroads, that fulcrum of all time and destiny begins so…” I had to search for the right word. “Happy? Yes! That’s it! It’s zesty and lemony, it’s spicy and sparkling and is that a rose I sense in there somewhere? This is very romantic. Something like a big, blowsy, exuberant tea rose. I get it! This is you, standing at my door in nothing but a huge, yellow rose in your teeth you stole off a graveyard rosebush. You take it out just long enough to say: ‘Miss me?’.”

We both laughed in that Sunday morning sunshine. Hairy Krishna stalked off with an indignant twitch of his tail.

“You forgot the aviator shades.”

We laughed harder.

“So I did. My bad. That rose… is underpinned by that same dark and ominous thread she wove into the other three perfumes. I’m flying by the seat of my pants here, I don’t have any notes.”

“Too hot for those.” He moved closer and held on tighter. “Keep going.”

“Do you know, it’s surprising. Coda is very floral, spicy, even sweet. Not precisely something I’d say about you.”

“Only when I want to be.” Another growl. He held tighter. It was definitely getting hotter.

“You can prove it later.” I tried to edge away toward a cooler spot. “We have a review to write. That rose gets spicier, greener and mossier. There’s got to be oakmoss in there somewhere. Cinnamon, vanilla… Benzoin? Tolu balsam? Fir. Fir is in it, too. I swear it is.”

“It’s a tribute to my manly, furry chest.”

“A woman could wear this in a heartbeat, you know,” I felt compelled to add.

He never missed a beat. “Hopefully with a few more flowers and a lot less fur. On a nicely sized rack, that goes without saying.”

“Later, baby.” I had to bite the pillow so I wouldn’t laugh. As it was, I could scarcely believe I was having so much fun without even my first cup of coffee.

In the other room, Hairy Krishna and Janice were having their first marital spat of the day. They’d eat each other if I didn’t feed them soon.

“But…” I went on. “But it’s so not what I expected! I mean…who are you? You’re high drama and histrionics, Sturm und Drang and Beethoven’s Fifth, and this is just, well… the word joyous comes to mind.”

Dev sat up and looked me straight in the eye. It was his infamous ‘stop-being-stupid’ look.

“I usually leave the histrionics to you. You write about them so well. Listen up. You say you pay attention…” he left that statement to hang, and them went on. “But you’re forgetting something. Not all endings are unhappy, and not all beginnings are fraught with fear.” He leaned down over me, his face scant inches above my own. “When you’re very, very lucky and very, very good, the ending of one great thing is simply the glorious beginning of something better. Amanda got that right. This stuff should walk off the shelves. It’s far too good not to. As for you…”

I didn’t dare move, caught in the subtle gleam of two very brown eyes.

“I told you to believe. Your possibilities became probabilities, even maybe, a kind of certainty. You should have trusted your muse. Especially when he tells you, as I’m about to, to…believe. Now…you need to write it all down.”

Before I had a chance to blink, he was gone, and only a happy end or a glorious beginning to remind me what I woke up to on the fringes of yet another haunted dream.

But as I walked out to feed the feline George and Martha and make my coffee, I heard a laugh and a dangerous baritone sing:

‘Could I be less undone? Could I fall deeper down?” 

Wearing this Coda, I certainly could.

Coda is an all-natural perfume available from the Esscentual Alchemy website. With a thank you from the bottom of my pitch-black heart to Amanda Feeley.