Thank You, Austin

(Note for the perfumistas: There is some scent and perfume talk down at the bottom of this post and a giveaway for those of you who make it all the way through.)


Long ago, back in the dark, pre-perfume days of my life when I was still trying my damnedest to get a job as an English professor come hell, highwater or a temp position in a town I couldn’t find on a map, I would be coming around the particularly pretty curve of North Lamar that runs alongside Shoal Creek on my way from one of the best indie bookstores in the country to one of the best grocery stores in the country, or swimming through the cold, glassy green spring-fed water of Barton Springs in the still quiet of the morning, or picking strawberries at Boggy Creek Farm (where I know the farmers by name and a photo of me holding a bouquet of zinnias magically appeared on the farm stand wall one day) and a small voice, just loud enough to be heard over the dull roar of my chronic anxiety, would ask: What if this were your life?  What if, instead of an academic, you became a…Texan! Read the rest of this entry »

Naming Names: Chapter One Perfume Round-up


People, I’ll be honest. There are so many perfumes in this little book of mine that I’m not sure I’ll ever get them all named and written about, even with big round-ups like this one. But I’ll continue trying for awhile yet…
Many people have asked for the names of the perfumes packed into the long paragraph that begins on page 12, with  “The scent of dry summer heat shimmering above asphalt, dusty earth and the blond grass of the foothills that surround the city of my childhood.” Giving a good answer is a little tricky, since only some of these smells are straightforward descriptions of perfumes, while others are scent memories, or pieces of perfumes, or some combination of all three.
The nameable perfumes I had in mind include: Les Nez’s Let Me Play the Lion (“the scent of dry summer heat…”), which I’ve written about here and down near the end of this postAnnick Goutal’s Chevrefeuille, (“the high singing scent of lemons fading to the spring green of honeysuckle…”) which was one of the answers to the giveaway, as were Etat Libre’s Jasmin et Cigarette (“The scent of night-blooming jasmine…with a touch of ashtray) and Frederic Malle’s En Passant. Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Halloween: Vintage Caron Poivre (Chapter Nine)



Happy Halloween! In honor of the holiday and the upcoming Day of the Dead, I’m wearing a Not Quite Dearly Departed Perfume, an original formulation of Caron’s fiery carnation, Poivre.  I was about to write that we’ll be getting back to naming perfumes from Coming to My Senses tomorrow, when I realized that Poivre is, in fact, one of the many unnamed perfumes in the book. Here’s the description from Chapter Nine:


“I would be out on my morning walk…sniffing as as the latest…rare  perfume the Correspondent had sent me unfurled on my warming skin from a spiky bud of fiery black pepper and cloves into one of the richest carnations I’ve ever smelled…”


Poivre is the fierce grandmama of Golconda, the haute couture carnation from the JAR line, and Caron’s own much softer, sweeter Bellodgia, whose dark base has disappeared since this otherwise still accurate review. When I say “carnation”  I’m not talking about the sad, refrigerated scent of cheap prom corsages. Read the rest of this entry »

Aftermath: Après L’ondée


Like everyone else, I’ve been following the news reports today.  I’m still waiting to hear from a few friends affected by the storm. I’m not too worried–they were in relatively safe areas and there’s a lot to do right now besides pick up a phone, especially when the power is off. But when I try to think about other things my mind goes back to all the images I’ve seen today: Water gushing out around the edges of closed elevator doors in a New York subway station. A rainbow over the brimful Gowanus canal. The Potomac still rising. Ambulances lined up around the block at NYU Hospital waiting to transfer patients carried down nine flights of stairs by the staff.  A building on 8th Avenue in New York with its front facade completely gone, the rooms inside on display as though in a dollhouse—that photo taken by a friend who lived not too far away.


And all day long the gentle, loving messages of worry and relief going back and forth on Twitter and Facebook: Are you there? Are you OK? What does it look like over there? So glad to see your message. Be well. Be safe. Take care, take care, take care.


There’s still so much to do.  The story of the storm will continue long after the clouds have cleared and the power comes back on. So I’m still working with whatever sympathetic magic is to hand. This time, it’s Guerlain’s Après L’ondée.

Read the rest of this entry »

Stormy Monday: Niki de St. Phalle



I’ll be continuing on with the reveal series this week, but my head and heart are so much with all my friends on the Eastern Seaboard that I want to take a moment first, to wish everyone safe passage through the storm.


Austin was–and still is–a safe haven for many people driven from their homes by hurricanes.  Each storm is unique. There’s no way to compare what’s happening right now in New York, D.C., and elsewhere to what happened in New Orleans. Nevertheless, I can’t look at images of Sandy like the one above without vivid memories of watching Katrina, and then Rita make their inevitable way into the Gulf.  It makes a gut-level difference, having lived through those events, even secondhand. I can’t even imagine how it feels for people with more direct experience.


So far, my city friends seems to be tackling storm prep with typical style. Reports on Twitter suggest wine and liquor stores are emptying out–and apparently there was a run on kale in Brooklyn.  I’m seeing many crockpots fired up to make chili, braised ribs and other comfort foods before the storm truly arrives and much ice cream consumed before the power goes out. I’m crossing my fingers that all the media attention will mean those without true shelter will get some help during and after the storm.


In the meantime, since I’m worried, but can’t help in any practical way, I’m depending on sympathetic magic. Read the rest of this entry »