Thursday, August 30, 2012

And I dream of magnolias in June, and I'm wishing I was there...

A week of scents, music and movies in honor of New Orleans

Speaking of smells, let's talk about some NOLA-ish scents, shall we? Some of these scents merely remind me of NOLA, some are from perfumeries based in NOLA proper, and some are scents created by perfumers inspired by NOLA.

First up, I'd like to talk a little about Lagniappe Oaks Perfumery, sold via the website of sister company Bourbon French Parfums. Bourbon French Parfums has a shop located on Royal in the French Quarter, originally established in 1845 by August Dussan. The LOP line, sold there, focuses on scents that capture the spirit of the region.

There are three separate sample set you can order from: Jazz Ensemble, Heirloom Collection, and Renaissance Florals, which provides you, for ~$40 a set, a purse roller (~10ml) of the EdT formulation of each scent in the collection. FN1.

Rather than review every single scent in the collection now, I'm going to highlight a little something of each collection.

From the Jazz Ensemble set, Jazzelle is described as follows:
 Provocative & Passionate, Jazzell is orange blossom and rose hips, dusted with cinnamon and then drenched in Belgium chocolate.
I love Jazzelle. Of all the Lagniappe Oaks scents I've tried, this is in heavy running for my favorite. You know how sometimes a scent can be astonishing? How it can surprise you when you think you've smelled it all in some form or another? Jazzelle is like that. Jazelle has heavy food notes, and yet does not read as foodie at all. The chocolate is a thick coating of dry warm dust mingled with warmed cinnamon reminiscent of the exterior of a rich truffle, and when joined to the light floral aspects, becomes ethereal. Jazelle is sweet but not powerfully so. It has an open air quality, as though you are wandering through a market and catches snatches of the notes until they blend together at the edge of your olfactory understanding.

When I wear Jazzelle I feel like I am bring surrounded by a suit of armor made of a spun sugar frame and filled in with tiny flowers. I feel it around me. It has a presence, and it seems to swirl invisibly in the air around me, being large and palpable, but without being intimidating or necessarily powerful. It's not an aggressive scent; that's what is so impressive. It has a looming presence, but in the way faint light can soften and deepen darkness, or or the way a soft whisper can be louder and more profound than a scream. It is the memory of a soft caress, soft puffs of sweets floating into your French Quarter garden from the bakery across the street. Proof that big is not the only kind of beautiful, that sometimes less is really more.

In a single word: beautiful.

Jazzelle has low to moderate sillage and lingers on my skin about six hours.

You can get an entire ounce of Jazelle parfum for a mere $41.00. For $61.50, you can get the bath gel, powder, lotion and 1.3 ounces of EdT. For those of you who like solid perfumes, Jazelle is also available in that form as well, though this review is of the EdT.

In a world where marketing makes up the cost of most commercial scents and you can wind up with a lot less value for your money, this is a true winner. Buy Jazelle direct from the perfumer here.

Book and film recommendations

Starting with the realm of young adult world, I have not one but TWO recommendations for you, dear reader. The first is the Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Now, these books are not technically set in Lousiana. They're set in Gatlin, Georgia. BUT! The film adapation of the first book is currently being filmed, and it is being done in and around New Orleans. The books are some of my very favorites in the YA genre. The world of Beautiful Creatures is peopled with complicated and interesting characters, and the cast for the film is sure to bear that out. (Two words: EMMA THOMPSON. Also, Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert, Viola Davis, Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson, and Emmy Rossum.) If you love any/all things southern gothic, I really recommend the books. The last in the series of four, Beautiful Redemption, releases October 23, and the first film is anticipated in Spring 2013.

The second book is a riskier, darker effort in many ways, particularly for lovers of New Orleans. Darkness Becomes Her (Gods & Monsters, #1) by Kelly Keaton envisions a future where a post-disaster New Orleans has been abandoned by the United States, and exists as a place beyond our borders. New 2 is a town without a country, a land that rules itself. Filled with magic and mystery, New 2 holds many secrets, including the secret behind Ari's personal history.  Dark as futures for NOLA go, but truly, also an interesting dystopian possibility.

NOLA songs of the day

I have two songs today, both representations of the ongoing difficulties the area has had struggling to survive circumstances of geography in the face of an often indifferent and deeply bureaucratic world. the second, sadly, will not embed, but I encourage you to head on over to youtube to take a listen.

First Up: Randy' Newman's "Louisiana 1927"

I love this song, not because it is positive, but because when I hear it, I have *ALLTHEFEELINGS.* If art is meant to move you, than this song is art. There is so much sadness and resignation, so much weariness. If you can imagine people feeling down-trodden, this song will speak to you.

This song is sort of the flipside of the first. It is a defiant, hopeful song. In the face of people who would see NOLA and her people fail and fall, some people remain defiant. This song is for them, and for their indomitable spirit.

My Lord how the rains came down.
The waters made a mighty sound,
when the levees broke that day
washin' all those souls away[...]

Bring it all, fire and flood.
Fill the rivers up with mud.
To cut and run, ain't in our blood.
We are New Orleans.

So, baby, let the life roll on.
The blues were made to make us strong.
We're walkin' in a brighter day,
And nothin' can get in our way.

The whole world stood to watch us drown
but we took it to a higher ground.

It takes more than a hurricane
to empty out the Pontachatrain.
Long ago we broke the chains,
in New Orleans, New Orleans.

When Brother Bill and Sister Nell
are singing like a ringing bell,
then you'll know all is well
in New Orleans, New Orleans.

Keep checking back for more scents related to sweet New Orleans, along with music, movies, and a drawing in this homage to that sweet city that dwells in the warm lowlands of my heart.

Until then, laissez les bon temps rouler!


FN1. For those of you new to perfume math, it goes like this: 4 scents, 10 ml a scent, is 40ml of perfume for $40, which breaks down to ~$1/ml. This is better than you'll find in most sampling programs ($3-4/ml), and gives you a variety of scents to keep, gift, or swap, depending on how they land. That's a pretty good deal, 'fume speaking.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The feeling's getting stronger each day I stay away...

A week of scents, music and movies in honor of New Orleans

(Ed. note: I had already been working on this series, but in light of Hurricane Isaac pummeling NOLA today, on the seventh anniversary of one of the worst disasters in American history, I'm moving forward with it beginning today.)

I've been thinking a lot about New Orleans lately.

Okay, that's a lie. I think about New Orleans all the time. Is it strange to long for a place you knew only once and briefly, like a love affair that last only a few hours but has stayed with me all my life? That's how I feel about New Orleans.

 When I hear a singer croon, "Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans, and miss her each night and day?" I have to say, with an emphatic breathless strain, "Oh yes!" Maybe stems from my Gulf-focused upbringing which included so many trips to Bolivar Peninsula and the small moss-covered towns of deep East Texas I lost count. Maybe it is that the smell of those waters and trees haunt my dreams, thick and pungent, like a veil draped across each memory. Maybe it is that New Orleans has become a symbol for everything good, bad, and ugly about growing up in those wooded swamps, and the older I get, the easier it is to focus more on the rich history and music and food and less on the visceral experiences of living there, which was mostly bad for me. Whatever the reason, Naw'leans, ya'll, it calls to me -- the siren song of a lost love, the lingering regret of the road not taken.

I recognize not everyone feels like this. Over lunch a few weeks ago, someone I know was criticizing my beloved City of Saints, and I balked. He complained it was a crime-ridden, cramped, hot, damp, nightmare, with mind-boggling roads full of strip clubs and drunks. As far as he was concerned, the only thing worth having in sweet NOLA was the food.

"I think a lot depends on who you go with and what they're interested in," I said with strained diplomacy.

"Oh," he said frowning. "I was there with a bunch of surgeons."

She dreams of NOLA, too.
While I waxed on in eager poetry about the beautiful architecture of the buildings and cemeteries, the region's rich history, soul-filling music, and hidden mysteries, I watched him push food around his plate. "It's the only place I've ever been robbed," he muttered into his pad thai.

And there it is. He will never love New Orleans, or if he does, it will be a long hard battle. Whereas, you would have to beat the love for the place out of me through of each and every one of my pores. Every time I hear a little Zydeco or eat a hot beignet or see an image of Spanish moss hanging from a live oak tree, I am seized with particular ache. And because I am lowland swamp born and bred, I have an inherent sense of certain barometric drops in pressure (which believe it or not, have a distinctive smell) and of a season that doesn't exist outside the region. We are deep in the heart of hurricane season, and I meet it each year with a sense of deep trepidation for those living in the path of potential destruction, and a perverse longing to join them in their stand against the threatening tides both real and socio-political.

I cannot go right now, not physically. It's a sad, practical reality. But in my dreams, I stroll along the muddy banks of the Lake Pontchartrain, breathing in the smell of brackish water and knotty pines, live oaks and magnolias and moss and salt and sticky air until they cling to my hot skin, clothing me in their shimmer and gleam, and I am home.

Keep checking this week for more posts related to sweet New Orleans!  Perfumes both from and inspired by New Orleans will be highlighted, along with music, movies, and a drawing in this homage to that sweet city that dwells in the warm lowlands of my heart.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Brown paper packages, tied up with string....

Dear reader:

Because I owe you a full post, but it may take until this next weekend to get it to you, I offer the following brief reflections, links, and photos to tide you over.
Flowers from my yard next to a painting
I own on my desk at work... FN1.

On watering the lawn...

I watered the law for the first time last week. I don't mean this lawn, or a lawn of my own. I mean I haven't lived in a house for more than a few weeks since I was a little girl, and even back then yard work was done by people other than me (i.e. my brother) because I had a lot of the indoor chores and nursing responsibilities. So this is the first time in my life that I can remember deliberately turning on a hose and watering a lawn. It was late afternoon/early evening. I stood in the shadow of the house with my thumb pressed over the end of the nozzle.

 As the water hit the parched grass and tree roots and bark, I smelt their thirst. Is that a weird thing to say? Maybe. True, though. I smelt the relief of the earth and the way the dirt turned from dust back into something more, the water and the wetness and the life. It was a visceral scent experience that left me feeling more aware of the space around me, and I thought, "I have to tell someone." I wanted to say it was sweet, or earthy, or green, but it was and wasn't those things, the sum of the parts being more than their individual pieces summed up in some neat cosmic column. It made me love and marvel at the Earth can manage without and often in spite of us. We should take better care of it.

On random acts of kindess....

So tired....
A few days ago I stood sobbing in one of the worst neighborhoods in Portland next to my broken car, trying to figure out who I could call to help me. In my despair, I hardly noticed as a car pulled up next to me. This is a reflection of my general unhingedness, as I am usually hyper-aware of stranger danger and the like.

A nice little old man got out and helped me, even offering to follow me to his cousin's auto repair place if I needed. I declined since I was very far from my house and couldn't figure out how to get home without having to take a very expensive taxi during rush hour. He told me to be careful and drove away.

Thank goodness for the goodness in the world. Sometimes it is the only thing you can keep faith in.

On aquatics...

I normally hate what passes for an aquatic scent, but it has been so hot here (breaking 100 degrees!) and I have been dessssperate. Luckily for me, I have been the recipient of some of the based water inspired scents I've ever been lucky enough to try, so get ready for a little something-something about that soon.

On books...

This last week and weekend I was mostly housebound outside of work, and while I spent the bulk of my time working, working, working on putting the house together, I also read three books. All three were terrific, so I thought I'd tell you all about them really briefly.

I read the second installation of Veronica Roth's series, Insurgent. For fans of The Hunger Games (Happy DVD release!), I think you'd enjoy the adventures and inner struggles of the heroine, Tris. I think the books are tightly written and fast paced. High on my list of recommended YA dystopian reading.

Speaking of dystopia (so hot right now!), I also read Lauren Oliver's Delirium. Oliver's writing has a lyrical quality to it that is beautiful, lush, and majestic. It made me want to visit Portland, Maine (or "the other Portland," as we call it) to see how much the fiction and the reality overlapped. It is a beautiful book, and I'm excited to see where the second in the series, Pandemonium takes the story.

So many books...and we
took over ten boxed to Powells.
We're book hoarders!
Last, I finally sat down and read John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. And by sat down and read it, I mean I literally sat down on the couch and read the entire thing in one sitting. I couldn't put it down. It was the most entertaining, hilarious serious book about cancer I think you could ever read. I still can't get over the all the ways it shouldn't work but magically does. It deserves all the intensely high praise it gets; I bet I read it again within the year. It's a very dense book; lots of big ideas compressed into throw away lines of funny dialogue. I cannot imagine how much work it took.  Truly an accomplishment of the writer that so much is done with such a conservation of language.

Thanks to Hillary K. for demanding I read it, and then coming home from Europe, so I would finally get around to it.

Okay readers. That's all the news that is fit to print for now, I'm afraid. I'll be back soon though.

FN1. To clarify, sometimes when I say "my," I mean, "I possess the bundle of rights pertaining to said object," not as in "I created that."  "My" sometimes (most often, in fact, in colloquial speech) implies ,"I have the rights to said object or property, including the right to transfer, lease, sell, destroy, or keep said objection."

And that's your law & linguistics lesson of the day.

David just told me to stop feeding the trolls, so I'm done now.