Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Journey

What led you here?

For me, it was the daily trip to the drugstore with my mother. After a life of travel to and living in exotic places like Panama and Japan, she found herself moored in a smallish Southern town, home to my father’s aerospace corporation, a great place to raise bored, suburban kids. I realize now that she, too, was going a little nuts. We always had something we had to pick up at the drugstore, though, and so she dragged me there with her nearly every day. While she read labels and chatted with the pharmacist, I’d wander over to the perfume section. I’d drench myself with the drugstore scents of the day: Heaven Sent, Mugnet des Bois, Wind Song, Intimate. I’d compare them, wondering how they were made. It was a habit I never lost. Later, in college, I’d stop at the neighborhood pharmacy as I walked home, and do the same. Then it was free-standing perfume stores, so rare now. At one of them, I discovered Jean-Louis Scherrer and Joy. Then, as I began to travel around Europe, I found my first true-love perfume, Bal a Versailles, in a duty-free shop in Andorra. (I wrote my first entry to this blog about that experience.)

So much of what we are is based on the random. If I hadn’t gone to see a particular band on a particular night, I wouldn’t have met my husband. If Tom Petty hadn’t released “Southern Accents” at a time when I was exhausted with L.A., I might have never returned home to Georgia. If my next-door neighbor hadn’t worked the perfume counter at Saks in Beverly Hills, she might not have brought me all those samples, and I might never have known what the really good stuff smells like.

If I hadn’t been looking for a new bottle of Jean-Louis Scherrer, which I could no longer find at the mass-market perfume outlets, I might not have found the online discounters, and, if I hadn’t poked around on their sites for details, might not have found Basenotes, and Perfume Shrine, and Perfume Posse, and MUA, and, well, you know…so here I am.

And so on.

One of my first discoveries in this tiny back-alley of the blogosphere was the “Steps to Becoming a Perfumista” at Now Smell This (link below). Here is the list’s bare bones, and where I think I am on it:

1. Strong Interest: been here since, oh, about age 12 or so)

2. Beginning Perfume Mania: familiar to most of you I’m sure: the obsessive reading and cross-linking, discovery of sample and decant sellers, wearing out the numbers on the credit cards; also you run out of shelf space. I lived here for a few months.

3. Full-blown Perfume Mania: I used to read the newspaper in the morning, but now I’m on the perfume forums; also have discovered swapping, and can speak this arcane language of accords, not fluently, but well enough to be understood (although I still can’t speak French worth a damn and mangle the names beyond belief!) and, um, well, I started a blog; and, best of all, a bunch of blog-pals who speak this odd tongue too;

4. Connoisseurship: Not here yet. When you get here, does it mean that you’ve arrived? At what? A destination of a kind? Not sure I ever want to; this long, strange trip is so much fun!

How is your journey going?

Where are you on the list?

The David Hockney photo collage “PearBlossom Highway" is from the Getty Museum’s site.

The “Steps to Becoming a Perfumista” posted by Angela on October 19 of 2007, can be found at


Lucy said...

I love your story that starts at the drugstores. Drugstores are the new hardware stores. They have everything you need, you could reconstruct Western Civ if necessary from a good drugstore these days. So glad you followed your nose and here you are.

My post will be up tomorrow, as tagged...about 1pm

Shazzie said...

I love this post, and it made me laugh because I work for the company that now produces Wind Song (we acquired Prince Matchabelli in the early 90s). I've just started reading your blog and am eager to see what comes next!