Tuesday 30 April 2019

A Twilight zone Tom Ford encounter, meeting the Undinas, extreme burritos, and pancake urges: Part Two

I don't know about you, but I find shoe shopping quite a fraught business. However, undeterred by my usual trepidation, I have just ordered a pair of grey lace up plimsolls online. Or sneakers, as American friends might term them. Or gym shoes - or gutties, indeed - as comes more naturally to me. Pumps, if you will. It took me over an hour to find 'the ones', though that was a vast improvement on the seven hours I spent researching microwaves recently. There are of course so many factors to consider:

  • Price - £5.99 is worryingly cheap, while over £30 is pushing it
  • Customer reviews on quality and fit
  • Not having excessive lettering or logos
  • Not having gratuitous colour accents that hamper outfit coordination
  • Minimal white soles and toes - some of them look like a hovercraft
  • Returns policy
  • The website not making reference to 'millennials'

So this is the pair I have bought, for £25 including postage. Toes crossed!

I mention this purchase partly because as you know I have a habit of blogging about whatever happens to be uppermost on my mind at the time of sitting down to write a post(!), but also because there is a genuine link to the next part of my US tour post. In the end I decided to split it into three, so this is the perfume part. No, really it is!

A Twilight Zone Tom Ford encounter

For at the New York gig - held in Lower East Side's historic Bowery Ballroom - I hooked up with friend and fellow fan Brian, who is based in the Mid-West and had flown over specially, and his wife's cousin Peter, who lives in the city. Brian was keen for me to meet his cousin-in-law, for while his main business is an understated brand of Italian-made 'luxe sneakers' - he really does just say 'I make shoes' if you ask him what he does - Peter has been a creative and artistic director in various guises down the years. And one of his projects was coming up with the packaging design for the entire Tom Ford perfume line. (That's boxes and bottles.) This left field nugget of information knocked me properly for six, having owned examples of both the standard ribbed bottles and the tall rectangular version of the Private Blends collection. Peter readily admitted that it was just another brief for him, and that he doesn't have the same visceral connection to fragrance that we fumeheads have. Which makes it all the more of an achievement to have come up with such elegant and aesthetically pleasing designs. And in the case of the ribbed bottle, a haptically pleasing one to boot. (I promise I wasn't trying to shoehorn in a footwear pun there!)

Brian, Gerry and Peter

Anyway, Brian and Peter came out with us to dinner - stood us dinner, no less!, which was very kind - and then we all headed back to the venue. The gig went down a storm and garnered some very good reviews afterwards. I was chuffed to see my own handwritten set list feature in one of them. It even gets a mention in the title!


Source: P Squared 

After the show I got into conversation with some other fans, including Diane, whom I instantly recognised from the gig a couple of days previously in Philadelphia. I had clocked her there as a person who looked nice, and broadly my age, but never managed to have a word on that occasion. However, on seeing her again I didn't let the opportunity slip by, and soon we were chatting away at breakneck speed about all sorts of things. The speed being due to the fact that Diane had to catch the last train back to Philly shortly. And as we stood together, I noticed how good she smelt, and asked her what perfume she was wearing. "It's Tom Ford", she replied. Whoah, I thought. It is going to be one of those nights...! D wasn't too sure which, except that it had Vanille in the name. I think it may well have been Vanille Fatale, but will check. It has to be either that or Tobacco Vanille, but I think the word Vanille came first, which would point to the former.

Source: Fragrantica

Top notes: saffron, coriander, myrrh, olibanum
Heart notes: coffee, narcissus, frangipani
Basenotes: vanilla, mahogany, suede

Source: mixedgems.co.uk

Mixedgems closes her review with the observation: "This will be for you if you like to feel a ‘good enough to eat’ scrumptiousness when you catch an air of your fragrance." And having sniffed Diane I can but agree. As we were talking, we were joined by Bid, the singer, and at my suggestion he also leant in and had a sniff of my new fumehead/fan friend, whom he also pronounced to be very fragrant. While she had a reciprocal sniff of his chest, or what was visible of it, though I am not sure he even knew what he was wearing. The scene was all rather primal, indeed we were not unlike a trio of sniffer dogs - not to preempt a theme of Part Three, mind...;)

Meeting the Undinas

So that gig was on the Monday night, and by Friday we had made it to San Francisco, via Seattle, Portland and Redding. After the sound check, during which I diligently crafted my latest version of the set list (still without mistakes at this point!), the band headed off to one restaurant, Steve, our driver, peeled off to another to meet friends, while I hotfooted it to another eaterie again (all three in the vicinity of the venue) to meet Undina and her vSO. It was called Corridor, and we sat upstairs - that is our table for four - though we were of course three - in the far corner below the long mirror.

Source: Yelp

I had exactly two hours with Undina and her husband, which simply flew by. Having been in this exhausting but highly entertaining 'band on tour bubble' for the past ten days, where our whole routine is dictated by 'get ins' at gigs and radio stations, check ins at airports, and pick up times by vans and occasionally cabs, it took me a little while to adjust to being in the company of friends from a different sphere, though I have met Undina and her husband twice before, in Paris and London. And here I was on their home turf. It was all a bit discombobulating, but as lovely as ever to see the two of them. They kindly treated me to dinner too, and Undina gave me a zipped up cosmetics case full of samples, through which I am still steadily working my way, some six weeks on. Undina knows my taste very well, and the strike rate of success with this selection is pretty high, Maybe I could do a bunch of 'tiny unreviews of unprecedented vacuousness', as I keep promising Portia I will some day. Not that the perfumes don't deserve a better standard of review, it is just that I have such trouble describing what I smell. Shortly after 10pm, the Undinas hurried back to their parking garage, as their ticket was about to expire, while I plunged back into the murky gloom of the venue and snapped back into tour mode, marvelling that that brief encounter with a favourite fumehead friend and her vSO had really happened...

The rather pink green room at Rickshaw Stop, SF

UPDATE: Have checked with Diane, and it was indeed Vanille Fatale she wore to such great effect!

Tuesday 23 April 2019

Vital signs, and diving for Perles (de Lalique)

Ludlow, optimally fluffy and characterful
Contrary to all reasonable inferences from my latest (lengthy!) blogging hiatus, I am not dead. It would only be partially true to say that I sleepeth instead, though over the Easter weekend I did in fact spend 32 consecutive hours in bed: 14 of them awake and in the vice-like grip of a migraine, and the rest genuinely out for the count. But that is barely two days of my long absence. No, since I posted Part One of my US tour report - the rest of it will appear presently! - I have been unexpectedly working again in a three week stint of white heat activity that segued into a trip to France to sort out the house some more. A blog post may also be forthcoming about that eventful (and mercifully warmer ;) ) week.

Then on my return from France I hit the ground running in Airbnb mode, simultaneously hosting an acute medicine doctor providing cover at the hospital, and a scientific director at a well known pharmaceutical company. It occurred to me that had I been ill that night - rather than a little while after they had gone - one of them could have diagnosed my problem, while the other might have had just the pill for it! And then there was the 'ill'-timed migraine, from which I am slowly coming round, so I thought I would write a short post while the going was good.

And somewhere in all this blur of busyness, I rummaged in a perfume sample and decant drawer, and from its furthest recesses happened to pull out a small decant of Perles de Lalique, which I happily wore for five days' straight until it ran out. That degree of serial scent wearing is in itself noteworthy, and most untypical of me, but I think it has something to do with nostalgia for the early days of my perfume hobby, which it instantly conjured up. I have had that sample for eight or nine years at a guess, as part of a swap haul on MUA, judging from the handwriting - though whose handwriting in particular it might be is forever lost in the mists of time and gauzy musk.

Notes: bergamot, Bulgarian rose, iris, Bourbon pepper, Indonesian patchouli, oakmoss, vetiver, cashmeran

Now I associate Perles de Lalique with Roja Dove, way back when I looked up to the man as the David Attenborough of fragrance, the go-to guru of our time, his ubiquitous authority marred only by the odd typo. I may even have thought he was a perfumer. You can tell this was a long time ago because the prices will have gone up hugely since, but I think you used to be able to have some kind of fragrance consultancy with him up in the sumptuous surroundings of the Haute Parfumerie in Harrods for a mere £50. Or maybe it was with one of his sidekicks? I simply can't recall, but it was certainly a lot cheaper back then, whoever it was with. I have just checked Tinternet and the price today for one hour with Benjamin, Roja Dove's 'Maitre de Consultation', is £150, redeemable against purchase.  Quite possibly a bargain indeed.

So anyway, I clearly remember reading interviews with several people who had had this profiling experience, all of whom had been 'prescribed' Perles de Lalique on the basis of their stated tastes and preferences. Which at the time I thought was a tad lazy, but arguably it is more a tribute to the crowd pleasing nature of the perfume than any lack of analysis on the M de C's part. I might well have come out of the process with the same result.

Perles de Lalique, for anyone whom it has managed to pass by, is a modern twist on a chypre, which I for one am glad about, as I tend to shy away from those retro, green, sappy, stabby numbers. Perles is very much a 'fluffy' rather than a 'spiky' scent (see my blog post on the distinction here), despite its chypre label. It isn't that I don't like a number of chypres on a case-by-case basis, much as I do dogs, but I also half expect them to take my eye out (as with the larger and more sabre-toothed end of the canine spectrum).

Source: eBay

Perles is soft and pillowy, with just an outline of a rose's vegetal and earth-stained stem in there somewhere, and in the far drydown I also detect shafts of something juicy that I am quite at a loss to pinpoint further. Now I have never claimed to be much of a perfume reviewer, but Ludlow the bear does a pretty good job of evoking the 'atmosphere' of Perles de Lalique simply by sitting there with the empty vial perched on his leg. He manages to exude the requisite character and approachability, teamed with optimal amounts of fluffiness.

Amusingly, in her original review of Perles de Lalique, Bois de Jasmin spoke of its 'consumptive pallor' - that's my kind of chypre, hehe - but revised her view more recently.

"Edit (May 2011): I revisited Perles de Lalique recently, and I feel that I may have been too harsh in my criticism. What seemed pale 5 years ago comes across as lush and opulent today. Is it because most new launches have gotten so attenuated? Or is it because I grew to love the modern chypre style? Either way, worth revisiting."

Similarly, in her review of the fragrance in 2016, Jessica of NST describes her rediscovery of this old love after a long interval as a 'productive mid-winter reunion'.

Which is all to say that Perles de Lalique is the sort of scent you might at first judge to be underwhelming, or merely forget about while it languishes at the back of a drawer, only to find much later that it absolutely hits the spot. For as well as catapulting me back to my early state of unalloyed wonder and excitement about perfume and its associated 'scene', it served as a comforting counterpoint during the hyperactive time I have had lately.

Though I still wouldn't drop $645 on the exquisite 'cactus' bottle of the extrait, which is now relegated to the status of a very scarce find on eBay.

As for what I intend to do with the empty vial of Perles de Lalique, that is a topic for another day, hopefully not too far away...!