A WALK THROUGH ROME ~ MIRTO DI PANAREA by Acqua di Parma

For the first time since she had arrived in Rome Helen Rivers felt good enough to get out of bed. Her husband and son had gone off for a day trip to Florence with their Cornell Alumni tour group. She was left on her own to recuperate from the bad cold that had hit her almost as soon as their plane from Seattle touched down on the tarmac at Fiumicino International.

It was an almost warm sunny morning that February 14th 1999, and it was her 70th birthday. She would be spending alone until that evening when Earl and Mark returned. Her first birthday alone. She dressed quickly and while applying her rose petal pink lipstick she tried to think of what to do on her own in Rome. She was at a loss. Maybe just wander?

At the elevator on the 5th floor of the Excelsior Hotel she saw the two burly young men who stood guard to the entrance to the south wing of the hotel. They had been there for two days now standing guard, handsome young men, one blond the other black. They nodded to her for the first time.

“Who is staying on this floor with us? It must be someone very important to have you boys here day and night.”

“Sorry Ma’am, we are not at liberty to say.” The blond said in a buttery British baritone.

“Oh, I see,” she said with a wink in her voice. “If you did tell me you would have to kill me. Just like in a James Bond movie.”

The black guard looked at the carpet before him and tried to suppress a smile.

The elevator door opened, Helen stepped in and turned to face the two men in the little marble and gilt lobby. She smiled. “I bet I can guess by the time I see you again just who it is. Have a nice day.”  The blond man winked at her.

“I bet you can’t.” he said as the elevator doors slid shut.

After a light breakfast of coffee, croissants and a juicy Blood Orange, Helen stepped from the porte-cochère of the hotel onto the once very glamorous Via Veneto.  She turned left to stroll down the curving avenue past the American Embassy into the heart of Rome. She took a deep breath and for the first time in a week realize that she could smell things again. Rome smelled like the most fabulous open air restaurant in the world. A delicious mix of fresh bread, roasting Osso Buco, spices, herbs and roasting coffee beans. It was intoxicating, and for the first time that week she forgot all about her cold.

Helen wandered and simply surrendered to let the city surprise her.  The Quirinale Gardens she found quite by accident and they in turn lead her to the Trevi Fountain. From there she went north along the Via dei due Macelli to the Spanish Steps where she refreshed herself with tea at Babingtons Tea Rooms. She found the windows of Bulgari on the Via dei Condotti and admired the baubles safe behind bullet proof glass. At the Via del Corso she turned south until she reached the Piazza Colonna, she sauntered west through this, the political heart of Rome then south again to the Piazza di Pietra where she was astounded to see encased in a 17th century Papal Palace the facade of the eighteen hundred year old temple of Hadrian. Now instead of a Roman God, it housed an ordinary bank.

She had been walking for quite some time and the cobblestones beneath her marshmallow white tennis shoes were beginning to make their impression on her tender soles. Somehow it didn’t matter. She had to see what was around the next corner.

She stumbled upon the baroque and very theatrical Piazza di Sant’Ignazio. It was magical in the noon light. And along the southern side of the piazza was the glorious Chiesa di Sant’ Ignazio di Loyola with an open door that lead into whispering darkness. Inside she found the amazing trompe l’oeil ceiling that created the illusion of a dome over the center of the church. She sat in a pew looking up in wonder at the near photo realistic illusion in paint and plaster.

After lighting a candle in memory of her mother Helen left the church, she was getting hungry and decided to head west to find a cafe. There was a slight curve to the street and as she walked along it an astonishing sight slid into view. It loomed in epic magnificence brilliant in the sun between the dark walls of the five-story tall canyon that was the Via del Seminario.  When she reached the end of the road the walls of the canyon fell away to reveal the Piazza della Rotunda and there sanding as strong and eternal as it had when the Visigoth Kings Alaric and Genseric both spared its destruction for its beauty stood The Pantheon. The temple to all the Gods built by Marcus Agrippa after the battle of Actium and rebuilt by the emperor Hadrian.

Helen was awestruck by the only completely intact temple standing in Rome. Its sixty-foot-tall columns of red Egyptian granted soared to the pediment they so gracefully and effortlessly supported. The dome, the largest until Saint Peter’s was erected a thousand years later floated above the thick walls of the round building creating the top of the perfect invisible sphere it encased within.  Church bells around the city began to peal. As a bus load of tourists filed past her all looking up just as she was, the sounds of the half full piazza fell way. Time melted around her and she could hear the heart of Rome beating in her ears. Feel it within her body pulsating in time with her own heart.  The spirits of two thousand or more years past though her in the blink of an eye. She knew in that moment the eternal connection to history that was the city of Rome, a connection to life, death, and love.  This was the best birthday present she had ever received. Rome!

After what seemed to her a very long time but was in fact less than a few seconds Helen took a step toward the temple. She walked up to the third column that stood directly under the R in AGRIPPA carved deep into the pediment above. She reached out to touch it lightly with tips of her fingers. It was not cool stone but warm to the touch having all that morning absorbed the heat of the Italian Sun. Helen raised both arms and embraced the column in a loving hug. Being that the circumference of the granite columns are 15 feet Helen was more or less plastered arms wide against the side of the column.  She stood there eyes closed listening to the building tell her its story.

“Thank you for being here.” She mouthed the words. “Thank you for….”

“Ma’am are you alright? Do you need to sit down?”

She ignored the voice and pressed her cheek hard against the stone.

“Do you feel faint?”

Helen opened her eyes to see an young Italian tour guide with her group crowded up behind her. All eyes wide upon her.  The young woman looked very concerned.

Helen’s smile was warm and confident and her eyes began to fill with tears.

“No I am fine, thank you. I just need to make it real.”

 ***

The aromatic citrus spring beauty I find in Acqua di Parma’s Mirto di Panarea is simply stunning. Created in 2008 this fragrance is one of my favorite in the Blu Mediterraneo line of the house. A line created to evoke the islands and parts of Italy that are drenched in that very special light that kisses the Mediterranean between Gibraltar and Tel Aviv. Such places at Sicily, Tuscany, and Taormina are represented in the Blu Mediterraneo line. In Mirto di Panarea we are taken to the second smallest of the eight Aeolian Island in the southern Tyrrhenian Sea, and one of the most beautiful in the chain, Panarea. This woody aromatic fragrance is perfect for spring and summer, or in the winter months when you need a bit of sunny warmth it is a perfect spritz-cation that will carry you to the hills and shores of Italy.

It opens in its top notes with the signature of its name, Myrtle, and this marvelous woody note is complemented by, bergamot, bight and sunny. Lemon tangy as a sip of Limoncello from the Amalfi coast. All is topped off with the favorite cooking ingredient in Italian food. Green herbaceous basil. A feast for the nose indeed and all in the bright brilliant opening.

How could it be any better. Hold on for your olfactory vacation is just beginning. The mid notes are of Roses warmed in the late afternoon sun. You know that scent of roses in summer, natures spike of glamour to the season. The rose is gorgeous and this is in turn wrapped in light subtle wafts of jasmine all lifted by a sea breeze accord that whispers come with me to where The Nereids sing their siren song as they have for the ages.

The dry down is a sunset over the waves of what remains of the myrtle, flowers, and citrus. A piney and resin rich Mastic adds depth to a green juniper. These notes combine with a dry cedarwood and add a warm glow to the final touch of golden honey like amber.

It is a Roman tale of the sea gods and mortals meeting on this beautiful island where time is forgotten and something magical could happen on a warm sleepy afternoon. A scent that you can nap in under a bright yellow umbrella. A perfect vacation scent that works extremely well for everyone. I can’t imagine it not being a summertime favorite. Day or night it is the kind of scent that will carry you though the day, it has a depth that defies the usual warm weather fragrances and last about eight hours on my skin. This is one of the fragrances that I find I like to reactivate about half way through wearing just to get that brilliant opening a second act.

Mirto di Panarea is of my favorites from the house of Aqcua di Parma, when you wear it, everything looks brighter, more intense, more real.

A GLITTERING RIBBON OF CELLULOID ~ “You Or Someone Like You” Fragrance Review

When the light hits just right at sunset, Hollywood Boulevard looks like a 70mm strip of celluloid unspooling with memories of the Golden Age of the movies. As dawn breaks in the high bleak valley between the distant eastern peaks of Mt. San Jacinto and San Gorgonio the rays of the Sun race westward toward the Pacific.  About seventeen miles before the sea the morning sun slams into the ivory top of the Deco step pyramid that caps Los Angeles City Hall. In its faded splendor at first light the old building that cradled that famous last shot in Mildred Pierce eclipses the modern Manhattanized towers that surround it. By noon when the summer sun is baking the City from Boyle Heights to Santa Monica beach the City Of Dreams is more alive, more exciting, more dangerous than any femme fatale that every walked the pages of a Raymond Chandler novel. Los Angeles is a city of hidden treasures. A city that only shares its veiled beauty to those who take the time to look past her endless prairie of post war tract houses. The very prairie which at midnight from the top of Mulholland Drive becomes a jewel box of lights more spectacular today than they were when James Mason told Judy Garland that all of the city below was hers when her star was born.

It is the city where I was born under the shadow of the walls of M.G.M. The city that gave me my first taste of life in the false lush simi tropical green that would be gone in one summer were it not for the water it syphons from the north. The Los Angeles of my infancy the major exports were Airplanes, Oranges, and Movies. As a child, my grandmother would take me to Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown L.A. and there in a fake redwood forest I would eat strawberry Jell-O with wiped cream wrapped in a day dream of Johnny Weissmuller swinging through the trees. There were trips to the Alligator Farm in Buena Park, to the Huntington Gardens, the L.A. County Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits which have bubbled there for hundreds of thousands of years. Who knows how many Saber Tooth Tigers lay entombed in its sticky goo?  Then most wonderful of all, were the high walled movie studios full of secrets and the old movie palaces that lined Hollywood Boulevard filled with escape.

Every Friday night and Saturday afternoon I would go to the movies. They were my textbook of life. They taught me all about history, religion, and love, Hollywood style. Everything a kid in L.A. needed or wanted to know. To me Andrew Jackson was Charlton Heston, David and Bathsheba were Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward. Marylin Monroe was cotton candy and lipstick glamour yet somehow sad around the edges.  And Elizabeth Taylor? Well, she was not only the Queen of Egypt but Queen of Everything. In the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater I would wander among the hands and footprints of my personal Gods and Goddesses. At ten my hands fit into Shirley Temple’s hand prints. By twenty they fit perfectly with Clark Gable.

As I grew older and began to explore Los Angeles on my own I began to put my Movie star fueled ideas of the world into perspective without losing the dreams.  This is when I began to realize that the Spanish words and world that Los Angles grew out of were so very important to the fabric of the city. A major part of what made it so magical. Real History.  Then there was the architecture. I began to see the beauty of the unique way in which Los Angles embraces the architecture of the world. The revelation was clear, all of Los Angles is one mega backlot. You can find the walls of Babylon at the old Firestone Tire Company. In Beverly Hills, Italian Villas snuggle up next to Elizabethan country homes. The Japanese gardens in San Marino.  Hong Kong re-imagined in Chinatown butts up next to the glorious Spanish Revival cathedral that is Union Station. All at once in one epic sprawl, all of it is tacky, beautiful, insane, and wonderful. Knit together with freeways and festooned with imported Royal Palms. A city like no other on earth. The city where the past is tomorrow.

I have not lived in Los Angeles for a very long time. I miss it often and sometimes I will pop an old movie into my DVR that will take me back to different times in its history from the 1920’s to today. Some of the images I see of the city tug at my heart and whisper to me “come home. The dream is still here.”  That opening shot in “Strangers When We Meet.” In particular, reminds me of my childhood. But something is always missing in my movie visit to Los Angeles. The smell of the place in summer.  It was the most unlikely mix of smells that could make up a memory, but it is none the less one of the strongest and dearest memories I have of the place. In the summer, the scent covers the city in a loving embrace. The smell of honeysuckle and jasmine, white flowers, and Max Factor red roses caresses by the hint of a Santa Ana wind from the north. Burning Eucalyptus leaves and sharp Italian cedar. Wet freshly mown grass.  And everywhere the smell of entire Orange trees from the blossoms to the waxy leaves.  This is complemented by the slight burning of carbon monoxide and dangles in the smog, and the clear clean nearly antiseptic sent of chlorine from a million swimming pools.

It is the smell that takes me home.

*******

The new fragrance by Etat Libre d’Orange was inspired by a novel by Chandler Burr and in fact shares the name of the book. “You Or Someone Like You.” The fragrance came into being when Etienne de Swardt, founder of Etat Libre d’Orange read the novel and called Chandler Burr to ask if he could make a perfume based on the book he had so loved. He wanted to base the perfume on the setting, Los Angles, and the narrator Anne Rosenbaum wife of a powerful Hollywood film executive. The story revolves around her resulting transformation when she is asked to create a reading list for the head of a studio. That leads to an unexpected interest from screenwriters, agents, and producers around town. A Hollywood book club is formed where Anne blooms in the process. Then when a religious crisis in her husband’s life occurs when their son journeys to Israel , Anne is challenged to save her marriage.

(CHANDLER BURR)

For Chandler Burr who not only wrote the novel but was also the New York Times fragrance critic and author of “The Perfect Scent” and “The Emperor of Scent” this was both a challenge and very exciting. Over the course of the creation of the scent it became tremendous learning experience for him.  The experience was so profound he has noted that he feels that he should have made a fragrance before becoming the critic for the New York Times. For the creation of the scent Chandler as creative director for the Eau de Parfum teamed up with perfumer Caroline Sabas and together they came up with “You Or Someone Like You.”

For me this is an extremely emotional fragrance, moving and nostalgic. Chandler Burr says it is not Los Angeles stuffed in a bottle but to me, it is like coming home to my long-abandoned home town.  It carries all and more that I wrote about above in the memories and feelings this fragrance brought up for me. It inspires me to dream of spring and summer in the city of angles. A spring that comes in February and a summer that ends in November. It is a uni-sex fragrance that carries in it the DNA of classic citrus colognes of the past. Yet like the city of Los Angeles it is layered with facades of modernity over a historical base.  There is in “You Or Someone Like You.” Elements of the sage brush of this Hollywood hills baking in the heat, of tropical flowers and swimming pools, high above the exhaust clouds of the 405 freeway. Peeling eucalyptus bark and dyeing orange blossoms and the wonderful scent of night blooming jasmine. All it comes together in “You Or Someone Like You” in a bright opening. It carries and holds for me this feeling, this L.A. sensation all the way through the fragrance to the end. Yet it does evolve as it goes along from the “morning” of the fragrance all the way through to the “evening” and finally into a “magic hour” drydown. It swirls, rises, and falls in intensity only to rise again on my skin.  I found this aspect of the fragrance to be delightful.

For those to whom such things matter about a fragrance, it projects at about six inches, the sillage is soft. The longevity is substantial, being that is an eau de parfum over an eau de toilette it lasted on my skin nearly to eighteen hours. And even then, the next morning there were faint traces of it.  It wears best for most in spring and summer, but I’m sure that I shall be visiting “You Or Someone Like You” in fall and winter for a brief trip to my past, to the land of the lotus eaters, the place where dreams are manufactured and Hollywood Boulevard at sunset looks like a glittering ribbon of celluloid.

(CHANDLER BURR TALKS ABOUT THE FRAGRANCE)

LE ROI DES DIAMANTS ~ Rahele by Neela Vermeire Creations

 

A thick blue mist clung to the tall trees like uncarded wool and muffled the predawn calls of the forest birds as they fluttered and fussed themselves to wakefulness. It moved slowly, lazily, like a taffeta silk encased courtesan through the lower wilder gardens making its way up to the chateau of Versailles. With cool fingers it caressed the cream-colored stone and pressed against the wavy glass of the windows. There it condensed into impersonal tears and sensuously slid down the glass to puddle on the windowsill. At one glowing window the little puddles reflected the candlelit room within the palace. A tiny image of the scene within shimmered in the puddle  of the only room in the palace where the occupant was awake. The Sun King was up before the Sun.

Louis XIV King of all France was sitting up in bed. Beside him gently mumbling in her sleep was his mistress Madame de Montespan. He paid not a note of attention to her and had completely forgotten to wake her to send her off before the courtiers were to arrive to  Rituality  wake and dress him.  The thing that held him in rapt attention, that had kept him awake since three in the morning was pinched between his thumb and index finger. A 115.16-carat blue diamond. It fascinated him by its uncut beauty.  The story of its travels and how Jean-Baptiste Tavernier had brought it and along with it  many fabulous tales from the court of Shah Jahan, the Emperor of Mogul India.

He turned the diamond this way and that to see how the light from the candles danced a merry minuet within the stone. The King threw back the bedclothes and slipped into his brocade robe then walked to the window. He held the diamond toward the blue misty imperceptibly brightening eastern sky to study it. He squinted his eyes and tired to pierce the heart of the diamond with his mind.

“Your majesty, this stone is but a pale shard in comparison to the beauty of India.” Louis recalled the voice of Jean-Baptiste Tavernier when the afternoon before he had presented the king for a certain price the priceless stone. “There are colors in India unknown in the west, the music of the court is like nothing you have ever heard. It is like the universe is singing with golden bells and  flutes of sandalwood and ivory. The women are unsurpassed in beauty and grace. The cities are vast and teaming with vibrant excitement. In the midst of all of this cacophony of smells and sights and sounds there is the great Taj Mahal. An edifice of such sparkling splendor that I am left with nothing but a melancholy  whisper in my heart when I think of it.”

The King smiled to himself and pressed the stone against the windowpane and moved his head toward it as if he were about to look into a spyglass. The world took on a violet blue hue. Cool and calm and of such beauty he wanted to live within the diamond forever.

There he stood his face pressed against the window lost within the magic of the stone.

“You shall my symbol of France, of the enduring monarchy that shall last forever.” He said softly to the stone. “You shall bring glory to my rein and prosperity to my people.”

“And how will I do all of that? I am just a woman.”

The king startled turned to see Madame de Montespan sitting up, her knees drawn up to her chin, arms encircling them. She was sleepy eyed and smiling.

“Indeed, how shall you do all of that my dear.” He put the diamond in his robe pocket and patted the pocket for luck.

“Come now my dear, the courtiers will be here any moment and you must be gone. After all there is my wife to consider.”

“What do you have in your pocket?” she demanded coyly.

“Nothing of consequence.”

“It’s that diamond. Oh, Louie please let me hold it.”

He laughed and walked to the edge of the bed and handed her the diamond. Her eyes danced across the stone in glittering madness captivated by the stone.

“Louis may I have it. Will you give it to me in a necklace or on a pin? Oh please!”

“No… I am the State, and this diamond is, in essence the heart of France. It belongs not to me but to France.”

“Oh! You are hopeless!”

“On the contrary, my dear. I am filled with hope.”

At that moment, the door to the King’s chamber silently opened just as the King leaned down to kiss Madame de Montespan. Three aristocratic heads of the King’s bedchamber peeked in. Eyes widened, the three heads then retreated and very gently closed the door. The royal dressing would have to wait.

***

Neela Vermeire Creations with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour have over the years since the House was launched created perfumes that are inspired by India but with a French Flair and chic. The new fragrance Rahele (2016) is no exception. Travel is what Rahele means and this fragrance was sparked by three 17th Century French travelers to India. Jean Thévenot, Francois Bernier, and the man responsible for bringing the premier crown jewel of France to King Louis XIV and what became finally the Hope Diamond, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier.

Rahele is a foral woody and earthy fragrance that rises to an interesting level of stylish sophistication. It is bright, pure and ozonic to my nose. It does remind me of travel, that wonderful smell you experience when you first exit an international airport and breath in the air of a strange foreign city. It has a blend of both Western Europe and the Asian sub-continent. It is fluid each time I wear it. Some times I am in Paris and other times I am in  Jaipur.

We begin our trip with a bright almost ripe yet on the edge of green mandarin. Cardamom which falls on the spicy side complements the citrus.  Then from Ancient markets comes the once rare and precious spice note of cinnamon. I love how this plays against the slightly metallic violet leaf note in the opening.

The midway point of the trip with Rahele is a pure lush Indian garden after the monsoon. A peachy exotic Osmanthis is surrounded by the reddest of rose, a velvet rose in fact and completely devoid of thorns. A fleshy sensual magnolia note hovers above this garden, It is moist and nearly dripping in the heat and there in the heart of this rises up a sweet almost hypnotic jasmine.  The kind of jasmine that lifts the senses in the night. The earth below is introduced with purple notes of violet and rooty dry Iris. At this point the flower notes shimmer and move forward and recede in the most interesting way.

When we reach our final destination in the base there is a somber smooth finish of patchouli leaves that are packed in layers of oakmoss, silky aromatic sandalwood and resinous crisp cedar. This nearly finishes the perfume but all is not over. The dominating note here and what constantly rises though out the fragrance is a refined supple leather note. It never over powers the perfume but rather carries the perfume in subtle grace. It seems in the first hour to suddenly die, yet by hour two and beyond it returns to tease and tantalize for many hours to come. It in fact it  undulates on the skin. This is pure magic and quite interesting.

Indeed, subtlety is the hallmark of this elegant fragrance. By no means is Rahele ever overpowering or demanding. It is suggestive, intuitive, and lightly sensual. A perfect fragrance for both discerning men of taste and chic women of elegant refinement.

 (photo above and below from Fragrantica)

(Neela Vermeire)

HANGING AROUND – MUSK PURE by Tom Ford

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The screams of the horses where horrifying as they plunged into the cavernous canyon. Lily Chu’s British protector had pushed her ahead of himself at the last moment of their dash across the rope bridge. The force of that final shove sent her into the side of the mountain and she fell in a bruised heap within a sheltering crevice.   The pursuing Chinese solders could not see her from the opposite side of the gorge where they had shot the support ropes of the suspension bridge causing its collapse.

Lily didn’t move. Some instinct within her held her plastered into the crevice holding her breath. She could hear the Chinese talking loudly and laughing on the other side. Slowly she counted to ten as their voices trailed away. They were leaving. The wind chaffed her ears. Only then did Lily realize that the Nepalese men must have fallen to their deaths with the horses.

“Is it safe? Are they gone?

No one answered. It was cold and silent save for the very faint sound of the laughing Chinese. Lily’s hand covered her mouth in horror. He had fallen with the Nepalese and the horses. She was utterly alone on the side of a frozen mountain in Nepal.

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“Hey…HEY!” an urgent horse cry ravaged the wind. “Lily?”

“Oh, my God! Where are you?”

The rising sun’s rays were creeping down the walls of the mountains as she scrambled out from the crevasse onto the narrow horse path. The bridge was gone and only two ropes dangled over the edge of the precipice where once the bridge had been.

“I’m just hanging around waiting for the coast to be clear.

She dropped to her knees and crawled to the edge and looked over the side. There, hanging onto a few wooden cross slats of what remained of the bridge was the British Agent. And hanging on to his back was Atash. Far below the river raged having long moments before swallowed up the men and horses and carried them away.

“Atash, climb up over me and then you and Lily can help me up. Hurry I don’t think….” Before he could finish Atash was scrambling over him up to Lily’s outstretched hand.

“Come on Jim” Atash called out to his friend as he and Lily reached down to help him up.

“So, that is his mysterious name!” Lilly thought as his fingers just reached hers.

“Yes, come on Jim you owe me that perfume bath you promised me and I can’t very well have it without you?”

He laughed as the morning sun hit him square in the face.

The ping of lead on rock ricocheted into a sorrowful echo. The three looked back down the gorge to see a lone Chinese solder at the far bend. He must have been the last in line and looked back in time to see the three survivors.

“COME ON!” Atash urged.

Jim was up and over in a flash, grabbing Lily and Atash they dashed and dogged a fusillade of bullets to the next bend that lead to higher ground and the interior of Nepal.

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***

Lily stood next to the little duty free shop in the Lukla Airport. It was closed. Locked inside there were bottles of perfume lined up along the back wall. Lilly laughed.  “Who would have dreamed that in this backwater there would be Chanel, Dior, and Tom Ford and… that it would be closed.” She really wanted to freshen up if only with a spritz or two of perfume.

“Religious holy day Miss.” Atash said looking in with her. “I wear Savage Miss, It is very popular here in Nepal.”

“Come on Miss Chu” Jim said. We have to say goodbye to Atash and get on board before the weather changes. Its a long flight to Jaipur.”

Lilly looked out onto what passed for a tarmac and a very short runway that ended on the edge of a cliff. A small single engine plane quivered as like a dead leaf as a gust of wind hit it from the side.  “Isn’t there another way to get to Jaipur?”

“To India? No, not from here. Don’t worry only one in six flight are lost takeoff out of Lukla.”

Twenty minutes later Lily Chu rapped in her mink up to her chin sat huddled next to Jim as he guided the rickety plane down the runway at break neck speed toward the abyss. She grabbed the sides of her seat as the asphalt slipped further and further towards its end.

“Pull UP!” She screamed. “We’re running out of runway!”

Jim let out a whoop and grinned as he pulled the stick towards him at the very last second. Everything solid fell away beneath the plane as it bounced into very heavy turbulence and began to climb hesitantly towards the misty blanket that hid the Himalayas from view.

“Well Lilly next stop Jaipur, unless we hit the mountain hidden somewhere in that cloud.”

Lily squeezed her eyes shut.

“Oh and by the way, my name isn’t Jim.”

At a window next to the Duty Free overlooking the runway a man stood watching as the plane disappeared into the clouds.  He walked to the ticket desk and bought a one way ticket on the next plane to Jaipur.

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***

Tom Ford’s Musk Pure is one of four of the 2009 Private Blend White Musk collection.  To me it is something of a cliffhanger. What do I mean by that? Well it starts off rather generic fresh and boring and with a very acetate vibe radiating out in the opening. That I did not like at all. In fact, I thought my sample had gone off and turned. I was going to dismiss it and wash if off but got distracted by my morning routine and headed out to the Post Office to pick up a package from Paris. Thus, I forgot to give it the heave ho

At about an hour into the life of the fragrance I noticed while standing in line at the Post Office that a warm and wonderful scent was wafting about me. I wondered what the woman in front of me was wearing and was about to ask her when I realized that it was my perfume that was delighting my senses. .  I am glad that I ended up unintentionally giving it a chance to bloom on my skin. At that point when it began to reveal itself I was hanging on every moment of the development not sure just where it was going but hooked never the less for the duration of the adventure. A real cliffhanger!

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The fragrance opens with the top notes of Bergamot, pepper, and ylang-ylang. Where that acetate accord came from I can’t say unless the unfortunate smell is the result of those three notes? Who’s to say? I could just be my skin chemistry saying whoa wait a moment. If you too get that accord…wait a moment.  The mid notes are where the magic comes in. Sambac Jasmin, Lily of the Valley (Muguet) a beautiful Oris butter that radiates warmth when it mixed with a golden bee’s wax note. I was simply stunned at this point and drove home in a delicious cloud.

As beautiful as that first radiation that enveloped me was it was nothing compared to the dry down.  This immensely gorgeous beauty last a ridiculously long time. I put it on at 8 am and it is now 10 pm and the dry down is ripe, warm, and hypnotic. This is NOT your typical laundry fresh musk. Here the Musk is baked with benzoin and a rather woody rather than vanilic tonka bean.  I have spent the day discovering my wrist pressed to my nose repeatedly and smiling in delight at what this perfume does. It is enticing, delightful, and mysteriously compelling. It leads me on and on deeper and deeper into its warm beating beautiful heart.

Musk Pure might just be my most favorite Tom Ford Fragrance. To me it is a day to night scent because the longer you wear it the more complex and mysterious it becomes Perfect for winter and fall in my estimation. As for gender, marketed to women in my view it works for both sexes. With glowing balsamic, woody accords at the end that just make this one so very memorable.

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LUKLA IS A REAL AIRPORT IN NEPAL AND CONSIDERED THE MOST DANGEROUS IN THE WORLD.

HERE IS A VIDEO OF A TAKE OFF ON A GOOD DAY.

Liaisons Secrètes ~ EAU D`HERMES & ACQUA DI PARMA COLONIA

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After World War II movies became more frank in subject matter. This was in part due to the changing mores of the returning vets and the women they came home to. After the horrors of war things would never be the same for them or for Hollywood. The other factor was the slow demise over the 50’s of the studio system and the rise of television as a threat to the box office. The censors began to relax and allowed more adult themes to be presented on the big screen. By the early 1960’s movies were well on there way to growing up. Taboo subjects such as prostitution, homosexuality and adultery were now subjects Hollywood was now eagerly taking on.

One of the more interesting and surprisingly un-judgmental of these films was the 1960 Colombia release, `Strangers When We Meet’. Produced by Kirk Douglas’ company Bryna Productions and Richard Quinn Productions and taken from the novel by Evan Hunter the film is a fascinating look into the suburban lives of a Los Angeles architect, his wife and the other woman in his life.

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Kirk Douglas gives a fine, understated performance as the architect Larry Coe. It is a stark contrast to his epic Spartacus of the same year. At a cross roads in his life Larry is given the chance to build the kind of house he always wanted to for upcoming novelist Ernie Kovaks while his company wants him to go on doing the same dull work they expect.  He fights for his chance to take the chance of a life time with the skill of a fine screen actor. Add to this his character’s  meeting one fall morning with Miss Novak at at school bus stop, and you have not only a fine actor living within a character but the beginning of a truly electric cinema chemistry. An impact of flesh and desire that jumps off the screen.

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As his wife, Barbara Rush is outstanding in one of her finest moments on screen. She is cold and withholding yet needy of her husbands love. Her finest moments come in her scenes with Douglas where they argue over their future and in her chilling confrontation with the lecherous Walter Matthau on a dark rainy afternoon. A scene that is so shocking in its brutal and frighting portrait of a man who thinks women are disposable sexual objects. Barbra Rush is amazing to watch as she struggles to thwart off Matthau’s creepy advances.

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As Maggie Gault actress Kim Novak turns in a nuanced and deeply felt performance. She is a woman that men have been hunting down all her life. Her beauty is something that brings her only sorrow and despair through a string of meaningless affairs. Her husband seems to be the only man who has no interest in sleeping with her and though she does love him he drives her away embarrassed by her open and honest desire for him. When Douglas says to her on their first meeting in a supermarket, “You’re not so pretty.” it throws her and intrigues her. Throughout the affair she embarks on with Douglas she is smart enough to know that this like all the others will ultimately lead nowhere. In the final frames of the film she is shown this very fact when faced with another leering man.

Kim Novak is so cool and remote at times that it seems the perfect fit for her, the role of Maggie. She is the kind of natural actress that when left alone with her instincts and the eye of the camera she surprises the viewer with the dark emotions that live just beneath her lovely features. One scene among many where she shines is when she is confronted with her past and has to tell the truth to Douglas about it. This too shines a harsh light on how men expect women to behave when it comes to previous encounters with other men.

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The cinematography is wonderful to see in the widescreen aspect and shows the great talent of cinematographer, Charles Lang who also shot such classics as `Charade’ and “Some Like It Hot’ and the stunning “One-Eyed Jacks”.The score by George Dunning is the perfect meeting of the romantic and dramatic. It stands along side his classic scores for “Bell, Book, and Candle”, “The World of Suzy Wong” and “Picnic.”Jean Louis one of the top designers of costumes for actresses of the period turns in just enough suburban glamour to keep the ladies in the cast looking wonderful.

Director Richard Quinn pulls it all together with his usual style. He presents us with not only a good drama but also an interesting look at the suburban life of Los Angeles in 1960. The locations are memorable, the glamorous old Romanoff’s restaurant, the stunning house that is built through the course of the film, and the beautiful beach at Malibu where the lovers rendezvous. This film stands along with “Suzy Wong,” “Bell Book and Candle”, and “How to Murder Your Wife” as some of his best work. The film holds up after Fifty plus years as a fresh and timely look at the relationships between husbands and wives and lovers who are always “Strangers When We Meet.”

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***

Illicit love has a scent, the scent of the forbidden, of excitement, and danger.  In Strangers When We Meet we are presented with two of the most photogenic and arresting faces of the early 1960’s. Both Kirk Douglas and Kim Novak were at the height of their careers, fame, and beauty.

As Larry Coe, a well-dressed, smart, and stylish Southern California architect Douglas brings a gentle yet powerful machismo to the role. What would he splash on in the morning, every morning before he went to the drafting table to design his dream house. My cinematic nose tells me that it would be a classic, something that in fact in this period in history was becoming a byword of elegance and sophistication in the Movie Colony at the time. Cary Grant wore it, as did Ava Gardner in the 50’s. Larry Coe would have certainly been drawn to its simple straight forward beauty. Acqua di Parma Colonia. Created in 1916 it would be a perfect Citrus for the sunny casual lifestyle in Bel Air.

Woody, fresh and spicy with dominant notes of blended Italian citrus, sharp eye opening lavender and rosemary it would be perfect for him.  There is a dash of rose and jasmine that waft over the senses in the middle and are fine-tuned by a sharp bright Lemon Verbena. A shimmering smooth sandalwood with an earthy snap of vetiver and the laundry fresh white musk just make it perfect for both men and women. The dry down is subtle and lush with amber and patchouli joining in on the woody beauty of that sandalwood.  It is a classic that works it’s magic every time.  And If Larry did wear it well, Maggie Galt would I’m sure find it a scents memory that would stay with her the rest of her life. His scent … bitter sweet and haunting.

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As Maggie Kim Novak is conflicted in her sensuality, both yearning and repressed. Banked fires smolder in her soul making her irresistible to most men. She is smoky, both in her voice and in her movement. She trails and lingers and wafts. What better scent for her than Eau D`Hermes.  Created by Edmond Roudnitska in 1951 this leather based fragrance also has a warm spicy edge to it. A mix of masculine and feminine that like Acqua di Parma’s Colonia make it very wearable for both women and men.

It opens with a bold blend of cinnamon, lime, lavender, and cardamom. And a surprising sprinkle of clover. Oh, boy but it’s beautiful even arresting in this opening. Like Novak herself it is almost too much of a good thing at first, but you sink into it and get lost in its heart. A heart made up of a glorious jasmine, geranium, and a brilliant slightly sweet tonka bean.

As it wears over a long period of time (up to 8 – 10 hours on my skin)  the vanilla comes up to warm it and keep the leather in its base supple as a fine cedar along with a dry white birch add vibrant vibrations to the smooth sandalwood dry down.   It is a classic that adds class to whoever wears it or to any occasion. Even when you are meeting an intimate stranger.

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***

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HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY TO ACQUA DI PARMA COLONIA

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HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY TO KIRK DOUGLAS BORN DECEMBER 9, 1916

THE FIRST MEETING OF DOUGLAS AND NOVAK IN THE OPENING SCENE OF

STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET.

IDENTIKIT ~ A FRAGRANCE TO DIE FOR! CHANEL No. 19 Parfum

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“It takes one day to die, another to be born…” Elizabeth Taylor reportedly said those words to her director Griffi when she came on the set the day after she left Richard Burton for their first divorce. So with that mindset she went to work on one of her most unusual, daring and controversial films. From the moment “The Diver’s Seat” begins you know you are in a strange place. In Europe the movie was called “Idendikit” so, with two names tagged to it thus making it schizophrenic from the first it easily falls into the realm of the ambiguous art film genre of the late 60’s and early 70’s. It’s star, Elizabeth Taylor, appears here in one of her most remote and dangerous roles. She plays Lise a woman who is consumed by insanity and the desire to find the ultimate lover, the be all and end all of boyfriends you might say.

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As the film opens you are presented with a shattered view of a woman on the edge of something terrible. The camera moves in a disjointed way, past naked mannequins heads covered in tin foil. Is this Lise’s view of others or is it a reflection of her inner life? Or possibly her future.  Upon being told to take a holiday from work after causing a scene in the office the film opens with her preparations to take flight to Rome. The film jump cuts from past to present as the police in Rome try to reconstruct the mystery of her holiday in terrorist gripped Rome. Even Rome comes off as off kilter. This is not the Rome of Audrey Hepburn or Marcello Mastroianni but a city one hardly recognizes from the lack of typical filming locations one associates with “Made In Rome!” movies.

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(Lise meets Andy Warhol at Fiumicino International Airport)

Director Giuseppe Patroni Griffi succeeds in presenting a inimitably Italian cinema verite film of the Muriel Spark novel. This is a unique film and very much of it’s day. Its non-linear, experimental, almost documentary style will be hard to get into for any one not used to movies of this sort. But it is well worth the effort. So strange and challenging a film it is that it left the opening night audience at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival in stunned silence.

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(with Ian Bannan)

The cast is well chosen and gives some oddly memorable performances. Ian Bannan as the macrobiotic sex-nut who tires to pick up Lise on the plane to Rome seems almost as mad as she is. It is a wickedly off kilter wild-eyed performance. The charming and always wonderful Mona Washbourne is sweetly touching as the woman who befriends the mad Lise and in doing so leads her to meet the man of her dreams.

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(with Mona Washborne)

But the glue that holds it all together is provided by Miss Taylor who tops off her short list of insane characters from Susanna Drake (Raintree County) to Catherine Holly (Suddenly Last Summer) with this daring and shocking portrait of Lise. She opens up as an actress that at the time would have been unthinkable to most of her contemporaries from the old M.G.M. days. That’s one of the wonderful things about her film career. She came from an era in old Hollywood where she was trained and groomed to be glossy and perfect. But as times changed so did she and in doing so became much more than an MGM glamour girl, she became an actress with guts. In “The Driver’s Seat” she shows her chops as an actress and her willingness to accept challenges in her roles and in Lise she found a great one. One stunning image of her is when in her loud madwoman dress and raccoon painted eyes she challenges the airport security to frisk her. In that scene she seems totally there, totally gone, and totally in control as an actress.

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***

Even the sweetest perfume has a hint of madness in it. That darkness must exist in a perfume or it has no chance of being complex or perhaps even a classic in time.

Perfume played a huge part in the theater which was Elizabeth Taylor’s life. A life lived before us all which unfolded in a flurry of purple and glittering diamonds in the center of the strobbing glare of paparazzi press for the last half of the twentieth Century. She was famous for wearing Bal a Versailles when she conquered not only Rome in 1962 but but also the denunciation of her by Pope John XXIII. Later in the 1980’s she created Elizabeth Taylor’s Passion and thus launched “Celebrity” Perfumes in to a realm yet untested.  Her perfume “White Diamonds” is still to this day one of the top sellers on the market.

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(Elizabeth Taylor and Andy Warhol
at the 1974 screening of Identikit ~ The Driver’s Seat at Cannes)

It is interesting to ponder what perfume Elizabeth Taylor’s character Lise might have worn in the film “The Driver’s Seat”? Symbolism and nonverbal signals are an important aspect of her character, from her wardrobe, the way she applies her makeup and even the book she carries with her on her travels. Every visual aspect is covered in her quest. So, there must be a fragrance she employed to attract that which she seeks and in the end finds in the darkest part of the Borghese Gardens in the heart of Rome in the dead of night.

This fragrance must be green and full of life and promise and yet carry a dark heart and of the period, the early 1970’s.  For Lise it would be Chanel No. 19 Eau de Parfum (1970).  The last perfume made during Mademoiselle Chanel’s life, named for the date of her birth and a personal favorite of hers.

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It is known and loved as a superlative Green fragrance. It is in fact onion like in its layers upon layers of facets. Like enfiladed rooms opening one upon another leading to an unknown end. In fact, it is the marriage between the fresh crisp smell of grass and the opposing heavy indolic white flowers all wrapped up in a fine supple leather which only hints at its complex schizoid nature.  It is like slipping on a fine pair of white kid gloves be they for horseback riding in a French wood in spring or driving gloves for that mad getaway drive along the Amalfi coast in winter.  Both rides are just on the edge of losing control.

Then the darkness comes. It comes from the interior of that leather where deep under its folds you find nestled a dark dirty vetiver and a deadly serious oak moss. And deeper still below that there is the deeply sensual and frankly fleshy sex of Iris or perhaps full blown oris butter. Slipper smooth and intoxicatingly drenched over a softly sweet and green narcissus. The rose that lies in there near the heart is bleeding and barely alive encased in a coffin of sandalwood. And upon this coffin, is placed a wreath of lily of the valley and ylang-ylang. There under all that green rebirth in its beginning is the solemn promise that it will die.

No. 19  is in fact like Lise very beautiful and hides a complicated inner world of Belle vie et mort inéluctable. As Lise moved ever closer to her rendezvous in the dark gardens of her soul in the center of the eternal city she must have smelled the clean green of the grass and the bereavement in the decaying flowers where she lay down.

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One of the most wonderful aspects of No.19 is that anyone, man or woman can wear it. and at any age. It is timeless, ageless, classic and yet very modern.

HUMMINGBIRDS IN AUGUST ~ Hummingbird by Zoologist

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At fifty-three beats per second the wings of the hummingbird warmed the air around the Honeysuckle flowers ten degrees higher than the 98.6  that was the normal temperature in most boys. Twelve-year-old Craig Thomas leaned on the window sill of his best friends Ricky De Fiore’s bedroom window watching the tiny bird flit and flutter about the yellow and fuchsia colored flowers.  Ricky sitting on one of the twin beds behind him was setting up the Monopoly board for the game they were about to play.

Clackity clang! The old swamp cooler in the back of the house complained as it tried to cool the sweltering small tract house. Then came the bang! Mrs. Di Fiore called from the kitchen where she was stewing plums, for Rickey to go out back and reattach the fan belt that keep the antiquated contraction going.  The temperature instantly began to climb in the room. Craig flung open the window scaring off the Hummingbird. He leaned out into the dry oven heat of that summer of 1962. There was not even a hint of a breeze up from Huntington Beach . Only the the smell of roses, lilacs and peony flowers that grew at the front of the house distracted Craig slightly from the sweltering August air.

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The sounds of kids playing down the street bounced of the sides of the houses on the block. The Good Humor ice-cream truck’s song floated along the curbs from three blocks away. By the eighth week of summer vacation It was all so predictable and boring. Spending every day at Ricky’s playing games and watching What’s My Line, Soupy Sales, and Rocky and Bullwinkle in the afternoon. Just about the only exciting thing to happen so far that summer was when his neighbor Mr. Ramirez got locked in his backyard bomb shelter for a week and everyone including his wife thought he had left town for another woman over in Tarzana.  Craig’s eyes drifted to the corner of Robin Avenue just as a 1955 pink Thunderbird raced around the corner. “Johnny Angel was blasting from the car radio.

Kiki Beaumont who was the prettiest girl in Westminster was behind the wheel. Most of the kids in the neighborhood thought she was cool because she had a summer job at Disneyland as Cinderella. Craig thought she wasn’t that pretty and besides, she was kind of stuck on herself. Sitting beside her, shirtless and glistening in the sun was Ricky’s brother, Tony De Fiore. Black hair still wet from the beach, tanned and muscular. He had a smile that was more dazzling than Ricky Nelson’s. And best of all, he was nice to Craig. Wispy voiced Shelley Fabares whispered “Johnny Angel” from the car radio. Craig took it all in, the car, the song, the girl, and Tony. The temperature jumped to 102.

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With an unlit cigarette clamped in his mouth Tony looked angry.  Kiki stared straight ahead expressionless beneath her sunglasses. The T-Bird purred undeterred by whatever had gone wrong at the beach. Shelley was still lamenting her Johnny Angel. Tony reached over and cut her off with an violent twist of the radio nob.

“It’s my favorite song.”  Kiki said between clenched teeth.

“I hate it. It’s stupid. They play it too much.”

“Get out of my car!”

With panther grace Tony took the cigarette from his mouth and put it behind his ear, opened the car door and rose to his five-foot eleven-and-a-half-inch glory. The sun’s rays ran like rain over his shoulders and back. His tan line peeked out just above the waistline of his black 501 jeans.

“Oh my goodness!” Craig thought. “Are they breaking up?”

“The Beach Boys rule.” Tony said with utterly cool conviction.

Blue smoke jetted from the burning tires of the T-Bird and in a shrieking streak of pink Kiki and her favorite song were gone. Tony looked down the street after her. Craig studied the back of his neck where it met the ear.  A tiny bead of sweat formed then let go to slide down to the trapezius and disappear over the edge of it to travel unseen over his chest.  The Good Humor Ice-cream song was coming around the corner.  Children ran into the street with dimes are quarters at the ready. The clackity clang sound of the swamp cooler came back on. Tony turned around and caught Craig watching him. He frowned and looked even more angry than he had in the T.Bird. The bottom of Craig’s stomach turned queasy and dropped in fear.

Then Tony smiled his teen idol smile then winked. “Girls! Why do we need them?”

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“I ah, I don’t know Tony.” Craig squeaked.  He watched as Tony walked toward the house gripped by the strange new feelings the mere sight of the seventeen-year-old teenager was causing in his heart.

“What ya looking at?” Ricky was standing behind him.

“Nothing.” Craig slammed down the window. “Let’s play Monopoly.”

  ***

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From the house of Zoologist comes a new Eau de Parfum, Hummingbird. The nose behind this fragrance is the wonderfully talented perfumer Shelley Waddington. She has in the past created some of my favorite fragrances for her own house, En Voyage.  The great neoclassic Zelda, New York Man and Fiore de Bellagio to name but three. Creator of the house of Zoologist, Victor Wong found in Shelly the perfect perfume to create this floral, gourmand laced with succulent fruity undertones.

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Perfumer Shelley Waddington

The fragrance opens in springtime beauty with a dominating lily-of-the-valley as fresh and bright a morning. There is a warmed by the sun Southern California vibe to it when the nature sweet notes of pear and juicy plum come in to play with hints of apple, cheery and citruses. Low tones of lilac rose and violet leaf add florals to set the scene in a garden any hummingbird would love.

As it progresses to the heart of the garden and the birds begin the ballet of wings and nectar as a gorgeous photo real honeysuckle opens to the air. Redolent with a honey that is natural, not cloying it is lush. Mimosa sweet and clear is joined by a luxurious full bloomed peony, this flower brings Dior like glamour to the fragrance. Full and voluminous. It enhances the other florals, the shy tulip and the sexy addictively yummy ylang-ylang. Here the garden of the hummingbirds is in full throttle glory.

At about an hour to an hour and a half the fragrance drops into a skin scent. Rich and cozy the sweetness fades into notes of woods. There is dry hay like coumarin. Cool even dryer moss, and blends of austere white woods and musk. The Amber in the scent is subtle adding a touch of warmth the way paving stones on a garden path reflect the heat of the sun at twilight. There is a creaminess in the sandalwood which is boosted by a dollop of whipped cream. Yes, whipped cream!

It takes a really well made Fruity floral gourmand to win me over as I am normally not a fan of the genre. Most are too sweet, to immature, too common in this age of sugar water passing as perfume. Yes, most hummingbirds will fall for sugar water feeders in a garden over real flowers because it is so easy. Yet there is always one or two birds with refined taste who seek out the true nectar of nature. Hummingbird by Zoologist is made of real flowers, and ripe fruit without the candy and sugar that I detest. This Hummingbird has won my heart.

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MY INTERVIEW WITH SHELLEY WADDINGTON

JOHNNY ANGEL ~ SHELLEY FABARES

THE ROOF OF THE WORLD ~ Jasmin Rouge by Tom Ford

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Annapurna Massif Panorama

An explosion of laughter came over the gun barrels sending a damp chill up Lily Chu’s back. The voice belonged to a short rough man dressed not as Chinese military but in mountain garb of a Nepalese bandit. He was clean shaven and wore wire rimmed glasses.   A trickle of clammy sweat escaped Lily’s temple and ran down her jaw to her neck.

“Your horses and escort await my old friend!” the bandit spoke like an Eaton College man.

“Aatish! So you found us after all, I was beginning to doubt that you would make it over the border undetected by the Chinese. “

Lily turned eyes wide to her British protector. “You know this man?”

“He winked at her. Like I said, you will need your mink. Come on!”  They were surrounded by the small band of men and lead away from the truck and into the dark foothills.

“Whos is he? How did he find Us? How did ….Wait!” She ran after him determined to get an answer.

Hours later just before dawn Lilly, wrapped up in her mink under which was a dirty stinking pair of men’s trousers, a wool shirt that itched and Yak hat, clung to the neck of mountain horse as they approached the border from China to Nepal. She dared not look down into the gorge below. If she did she was sure she would faint.  The hooves of the horse ahead of her clattered on the rough stones sending loose rocks plunging to the river below, the wind howled and whipped around her with the ferocity of an irate yeti.

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At a somewhat wider part of the mountain path her companion rode up next to her giving her horse a start. Lily buried her face in the horses main and held on even tighter.

“What are you doing?”

He laughed without humor. “Relax we are fine…for now.”

“For now?”

He pointed to the rope suspension bridge ahead. “On the other side  is Nepal. We will walk over, then the horses will be brought over by the smallest men. You must be very quiet. There may be Chinese solders about. Aatish thinks we are being followed. They more likely than not just might try to shoot us off the bridge. We have to get across before the Sun comes over the ridge and makes us even better targets.” Lilly followed his eyes up and up to the highest point of the highest mountains she had ever seen. Ice and snow made pink in the pre-dawn glow loomed in impersonal splendor.

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When they reached the bridge the wind was at its most ferocious. She could hear the cry of discernable pain from the ancient ropes as they strained to hold the swaying contraption together. The floor of the bridge was of wooden slats that did not meet or touch. She looked down only once through the cracks.”

Lily hesitated.

“You can do it.” He said. “After all, I promised you a bath in perfume on the other side.”

She looked at him with a smile of brave relief. “Yes you did and I am keeping you to your promise.”

He smiled back. Suddenly the sound of a galloping horse from the rear of the line and shouts echoed off the cliffs surrounding them.

“RUN! The Chinese are behind us!” Aatish yelled.

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Their horses raced the short distance to the bridge. Lily jumped from her mount onto the narrow ledge she was too frightened to be afraid. She looked back to see a line of mounted Chinese soldiers just coming around the last bend along the sheer cliff side. The British man took her by the hand and together they charged onto the bridge. Gun fire erupted, bullets ripped into the frayed ropes. There were distressing pings and snapping sounds like strings on a huge cello snapping. The bridge lurched and began to swing violently just as the first rays of the sun hit the far side of the gorge.

 

 ***

Tom Ford’s lush oriental fragrance Jasmin Rouge from the private blend collection is something a mix of romance and danger, an enveloping adventure.  Crated in 2011 by one of my favorite noses Rodrigo Flores-Roux who is also known for his beautiful works for Carlos Huber’s Arquiste line. A few of his creations being among my favorites are Fleur de Louis and Flor y Canto which I have reviewed previously. Also I have a weakness for the stunning Oeillet Bengale by Aedes de Venustas and so many more. He is a truly great modern olfactory artist.

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(Rodrigo Flores-Roux)

What he has created her is a lush voluptuous romantic poem of superlative blending, a perfume that opens with the clear rose hues of dawn and flowers into the full rush of dazzling Jasmin, amber and leather beauty. Exotic and enticing it floats and flows about the body like an entwining spell. It has a classism that speaks to me and that I have not found in many Tom Ford presentations.

The opening is bright with bergamot, and mandarin. These citrus notes are sprinkled with the king of ancient spices, cinnamon, and a springy sharpened ginger note. Upon his lively opening is added an aromatic cardamom, black and white pepper top of the top with a zing.

In the mid notes we have the eponymous Jasmine. This is a Sambac Jasmine that comes from the Himalayas. This sweet flower from Nepal, India and Bhutan is also used in tea. Here in Jasmine Rouge the white flower, the queen of perfumery is married with exotic yellow ylang ylang, golden Spanish Broom, neroli blossoms that keep the bright glow of the opening going along with the aid of a dry Clary Sage. Arberous, leathery and with a hint of lavender this Clary Sage sets us up for what is to come. This blending brings out sense of high drama in low tones, it whispers promises and desires too deep to explore and yet draws you onward to the denouement of the fragrance.

The base is brilliant. The voluptuous sensuality of a ripe labdanum is rubbed deep into the almost boozy amber. Warmed by the skin the leather here is thick and sensual and rises with the pulse point heat to warm a rich delectable Mexican Vanilla…and still there is the hint of cinnamon that only enriches the entire dry down. There is an infusion of arid wood notes that give the perfume a decidedly austere and very elegant finale.

The longevity for me is about 6 hours at full bloom and then becomes a skin scent for another six hours, I put it on at 6 p.m. on my last wearing and the next morning at 6 a.m. the fragrance still lingered on my wrists.  The sillage is moderate at about 18 inches. It becomes a skin scent me at about two hours.

Overall a delightful sexy experience can be found here in Jasmin Rouge. Strong enough for a femme fatal and butch enough or her intended hero.

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WINTER IN ROME ~ Mandarine Glaciale by Atelier Cologne

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Rene Michel Petriz had a flat look, dead eyes smiled at her. The rich American Actress who was on the beginning of her long slow decline from Goddess to “who was she?”, handed him a parting gift. She had enjoyed her fling with the Parisian Gentleman for hire and she understood that it was nothing more than a business arrangement. Besides the French and English Press had caught wind of her liaison dangereuses. It was time to pay him off and board the plane for Rome before she made a fool of herself on TMZ.  He took the red box from her not looking at it. Something from Cartier to add to his collection that might come in handy when his long slow decline began.

ca. 1960s, New York City, New York, USA --- French actress Anouk Aimee wearing hip-length coat made from the tails of Russian sable; bracelets by Jack Gilbert. --- Image by © Condé Nast Archive/Corbis

Rolling along the partially closed Via Imperiale in the back of a Silver Cloud Rolls Royce Rosaline Roclaire looked out the window the view of the shattered ruins of the Imperial Forum whizzing past. She sighed and sank back into the lush warm cushion created by her grey Russian sable coat. Rome was not a disappointment even on a cold and overcast February it always made her happy. A good place to forget the loss of time and youth amid so many broken stones.  She noticed the street vendors along the side of the road selling postcards and tacky knick knacks in the cold.

“Alberto, stop the car.”

“But Signora there is no parking here.”

“Then pull over and let me out. I want to walk.”

“It is not wise, lots of tourists here. They will recognize you and you will be mobbed.”

“I don’t care, Stop the car!”

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photo by Giorgio Clamenti

She overpaid a sweet old man who had no idea she was the biggest movie star in the world for an accordion folded set of picture postcards of Rome.  Rosaline dropped the twelve Euro at the Forum gate then sauntered down the pitched path into the Forum between the temple of Antonius and Faustina and the stumps of marble that were all that was left of the Basilica Amelia. She pulled the collar of her sable up to her chin. The Roman winter air was much colder than It looked it, much colder. Despite Alberto’s warning the Forum was devoid of tourist. She was all alone. She wandered on taking in the shapes of crumbled temples and tried to imagine what they might have looked like two thousand years ago. Much more impressive than the false fronted forum she’d seen at Cinecitta, she was positively sure of that.

At the entrance to the Palatine she caught a glimpse of a little girl all in white running up the path ahead. She turned and smiled at Rosaline. And with a laugh she skipped ahead. There was something so familiar about the way the girl laughed.

“She must be very cold in that skimpy white dress and sandals.” Rosaline thought as she climbed up to the top of the hill where the fountain stood at the entrance of the Farnese Gardens its waters frozen over. There was music, in the distance beyond the gardens. Percussion and reeds, and then a voice singing in… was it Latin? She followed the sounds that led her to the ruins of the house of Augustus. She could just barely see down into part of what remained of the atrium.

“This way, come this way….”

 

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The music suddenly expired, she turned to see who had spoken to her. There was no one there. It began to snow. She walked on through the ruins of the imperial palaces. Snowflakes drifted down to settle on her hair, and the shoulders of her sable coat. She came to the lookout over the Circus Maximus and the Aventine Hill beyond. One of her favorite views of Rome. She lit a cigarette and watched the early rush hour traffic race along the Via Del Circo Massimo. Headlights flickered in the low light, taillights winked. She stood there dreamily alone and at peace for a long time as the snow fell. By the time she realized that it was getting dark the snow had completely covered the ground. She turned to go back. There before here were foot prints in the snow. Someone with very small feet had come up behind her and stood there watching her and was now gone.  Then she heard the little girl laughing from very far way.

“This way, come this way…”

She never found the little girl, she was always just turning a corner or running too fast and far ahead. Finally Rosaline did find her way back to the Excelsior on the Via Veneto where Paparazzi lay in wait for her.

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“Ah well,” she thought  “the little Parisian scandal has reached Rome.”  As they rushed screaming her name like hungry seagulls she smiled and endured the onslaught.

Rosaline looked back over her shoulder and swept her sable in a dramatic arc when she reached the top steps in the Port Coacher and struck a pose. She then gave the little boys of the Press a grand movie star go to hell glamour smile. The photos made the tabloids but she didn’t care, her walk in the ruins had been the most fun she had known in a very long time.

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***

A new presentation from Atelier Cologne last year (2015) one of four in their exclusive Collection Azur   release though Sephora (also available Atelier Cologne’s website), Mandarine Glaciale is a summer time fragrance perfect for a snowy winter day by which to conjure up the warm sunny shores of the Amalfi Coast in Italy.  It is romantic, enticing, and filled with passion and desire. All the things we find so appealing when the weather grows frosty. Not to say that Mandarine Glaciale is not right for the spring and summer. Well in fact this spicy bright as sunshine over Ischia fragrance is perfect all year round.

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It splashes across the skin in stunning opening notes of Delicious Mandarin orange, tart, succulent Sicilian Lemon, and bitter green Calabrian Bergamot all of these together are so reminiscent to me of the smells one gets in the spring and summer along the coast of Italy from Castellammare di Stabia to Positano.

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The heart of this fragrance is where we get a spicy bite, the romance of the fragrance dwells here. There is a sharp almost peppery Ginger that shoots into the air like Italian fireworks, a creamy Jasmine adds glamour, and greet sharp Petitgrain from Paraguay keeps it lively and sparkling. In the dry down there is a grassy earthy touch of Heart of Vetiver, a rich dark Oakmoss adds depth and weight, and it is all topped off with a very subtle touch of White Amber. This Amber gives a creamy sophistication to the ending of the fragrance leaving you wanting to spray it on again.

The nose behind this stunning fragrance is Burgundy born Jérôme Epinette

Jerome-Epinette-new-Pic-Aug-20121-001who was educated in the art of perfumery in Grasse at the Grasse Institute of Perfumery. He is known for such creations as Bal d’Afrique by Byredo, and Fougere by Jovoy Paris. He has done seven fragrances for Atelier Cologne as well including Sud Magnolia.

Mandarine Glaciale along with Sud Magnolia, Figuier Ardent, and Cedar Atlas all presented by Atelier Colognes in their Collection Azur.   Each fragrance was inspired by places in the south warmer climates. From the American South to Morocco, Southern Italy and the south of France. So there is certainly more beautiful fragrances to explore in the collection.

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For me it is a perfectly blended pure perfume not a cologne as is often the common mistake people make when it comes to Atelier Cologne’s fragrances.  The pure perfume therefore gives it a fine life on the skin of about six to eight hours. The sillage is moderate but when you get up close quite enticing, inviting and invigorating.  Mandarine Glaciale for me is a winner for any season. A Beauty that will be a part of my collection for years to come.

Mandaerine Glaciale

 

Mandarine Glaciale Five Gold Stars *****

CALL ME IRRESPONSIBLE ~ CHANEL LES EXCLUSIFS NO. 22

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Red and white automobile lights glittered in the rain choked gutters, like discarded diamonds and rubies being swept into the parched sewers of the city.  Long into the morning the three globed very elegant Parisian streetlamps along Market Street shown in a warm glow of amber which added a ribbon of gold to the rubies and diamonds in the street. The rain danced in sheets across the wide road snatching dead sycamore leaves from the nearly barren trees to bring them down to earth.  The first rains of January were the best rains of the year. So all of San Francisco agreed and no one loved the gray skies and perpetual twilight of a rainstorm more than Matt Simmons.

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(Market Street ~ Artist  Hsin-Yao Tseng)

Wrapped in a long black Dior overcoat, with a white Pashmina scarf artfully arranged around his neck he made the dash across market at Stockton just as the yellow light turned red causing an Uber driver to swerve out of his path. The diver having just missed him peeled off toward “Twitterville” up at 10th in a shower of curses. Blithely unaware as the soundtrack of “Two For The Road” blasted through his earbuds he turned on to Eddy street. Diamond like raindrops sputtered from the ends of his Louis Vuitton Giboulées Umbrella. He felt filled with love for his city and radiated a joy for life that was infectious to almost everyone. This delight in life made him seem twenty years younger than fifty nine.

Seated at his favorite table in the warm cozy wood paneled old San Francisco glamour that was John’s Grill he ordered his usual, a Vesper martini.  He smilingly told Tommy  to make it three Vespers and that he would wait for his friends to arrive before ordering lunch.   Marie and Holly would be joining him for a fun run through the Union Square department stores on a perfume hunt. They usually met up about once a month to catch up, have lunch and go shopping. It was something to do on a Sunday.

maltese140.JPG The sign announcing John's Grill seen from the second story of the restaurant. The falcon statue was stolen nearby. A replica of the famous Maltese falcon used in the 1941 Humphrey Bogart film has been stolen from John's Grill restaurant in downtown San Francisco. {Brant Ward/San Francisco Chronicle}2/12/07

Tommy set the Vesper before him just as Matt noticed that there was beautiful piano music drifting down from the second floor.

“Live music in the afternoon Tommy? I thought that was only in the evenings. That wonderful Jazz I can’t get enough of.”

“We are trying it out on the weekends. You like it?”

“Lovely.”

Tommy vanished to the bar. As Matt sipped his cocktail he recognized the song. “Call Me Irresponsible” by‎ Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn. Matt began to hum along.

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(Artist~ Seth Couture)

Just as the martini glass reached his lower lip for a second sip everything seemed to slow down around him. The glass wavered in his hand. He looked down at the swirl of lemon peel. His hand was shaking.

Had it really been only four years? Were there days now when he forgot to think of him? It was true, he didn’t think of him the first thing upon waking anymore. Matt set the martini on the white table cloth, took out his wallet and opened it. Richard’s movie star smile beamed up at him through worn and brittle plastic.   Eyes as blue as the skies over Paris and that noble nose that gave his face gravity as well as beauty.  Everything was still now only the rain outside and the piano playing.  He could hear Richard singing to him over the phone from Manhattan his broad baritone just as he used to on Sunday mornings.  His voice would come cross the Catskills and zoom effortlessly over the Great Plains. It soared over the Rockies, dipped low into the deserts of Nevada and finally climbed the over the steep shear eastern Sierra’s caressing a high note so effortlessly only to slip sweetly, softly into Matt’s waiting ear in San Francisco.

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“Call me irresponsible, call me unreliable
Throw in undependable too.”

Matt recalled the dream they shared of Richard moving to San Francisco, the promise to marry and build a mature life together. The dream that never came true

“Do my foolish alibis bore you?
Well, I’m not too clever; I just adore you.”

Richard’s last three voice mails still lived Matt’s on phone, the last one from the hospital where he died so suddenly and unexpectedly.

“Call me unpredictable, tell me I’m impractical
Rainbows I’m inclined to pursue.”

Richard’s photo glowed more beautifully than the golden streetlights on Market and it was more precious than any diamonds and rubies that were ensconced behind the rain spattered windows of Bvlgari and Cartier.

“Call me irresponsible; yes, I’m unreliable
But it’s undeniably true: I’m irresponsibly mad for you.”

Holly’s voice broke the spell. The lights brightened and the world sped up again. Marie was just behind her with a big smile.

“Sorry we are late. What a storm! It is coming down like the end of the world out there. How are you darling man?”

Matt slowly and gently closed his wallet and placed it in his coat pocket over his heart.

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 ( Hsin-Yao Tseng)

***

It is a perfume of lost love and rainy afternoons. Of missed trains to warmer climates and of melancholy cocktails in the twilight when everything turns lavender in the last moments of the day. It is a beauty that rivals its creators most famous creation. No.5.  Rumor has it that it was in the lineup for Coco Chanel to try when she chose No.5 to be her first perfume launch. If that is true it is no surprise for Chanel No.22 crated by Ernest Beaux released only a year after No.5, in 1922 is a more somber, romantic and even wistfully sad cousin to No.5.

Where No.5 is stunningly glamourous and breathtaking, No.22 is of a less obvious beauty. It has mystery a, blue dreamy sad mystery.

It opens with a gorgeous Aldehyde note that is less of a blast than you get in No.5. It is more like a breeze coming up from a damp garden after a rainstorm. In this breeze are carried the lovely floral note of Lily of the Valley and a fresh sharp Neroli. It is a dewy sun dappled and perfect opening to the beauty that is to follow.

Ylang ylang dominates the middle where it shimmers in all its golden glory supported by the famous Chanel jasmine, a subtle rich rose is denuded of its thorns and then there is the tuberose. This is not your grandmother’s screechy tuberose. Now that may surprise you being that this fragrance is from 1922 but in its reissue of 2007 by Jacques Polge it is a stubble touch of the tuberose that comes to lay close to the heart of the fragrance.

The bitter note that gives No.22 is melancholy is in the dry down where a crunchy dry vetiver marries with a creamy vanilla note. This is for me where the dance of the rising vetiver and the dying flower notes make this such a stunning fragrance. Sorrowfully dreamy and beautiful in its somewhat dramatic case of the blues, it likes feeling slightly tragic for after all it has lived in the shadows of No. 5 all these years.  Like that old Frank Sinatra song, No. 22 is “Glad To Be Unhappy.”

The longevity of No. 22 is very long, lasting on my skin a good 12 to 14 hours. The projection is not overpowering but at about a foot to eighteen inches. It is noticeable in tight quarters for sure but on the street it has a subtle grace about it. It is balsamic, aldehydic and powdery but not overtly so. It is a powdery scent for the faint of heart who shy away from the powder perfumes in general.  And as with almost all of the Les Exclusifs line No.22 works well on a man or a woman. If that man or woman is in the mood to be blue and sophisticated with an air of mystery about them.

CHANEL LES EXCLUSIFS NO. 22 ~ FIVE STARS *****

NO 22

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