I have a very…wait. Play this while you read:


I have a very immediate visceral response to Gospel choirs which is cathartic weeping while smiling. I imagine it looks something like the Ecstacy of Teresa of Avila but with lots more snot. Thus it has always been, at least since I hit puberty. And I should probably stop listening to it at work. “Are you okay?”

“ALLERGIES.” I say with “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” pinging out of my headphones.

I can’t handle Sister Act II.  At least in mixed company.

When I was 20, a friend of mine and I were spending the summer at our university doing summer theatre. In the lag time between the end of the school year and the beginning of rehearsals, we had a couple weeks to bum around Oxford, Ohio waiting on our fellow summer theatre friends to return. We watched a lot of movies. Ate a lot of crap. And we attended some of the relaxed events of a University in Summer. Steel drum bands. That sort of thing. We also taught a class to a theatre summer camp that I had actually attended as a high schooler. The camp was part of a larger program called Governor’s Institute that many Ohio colleges provided to “gifted and talented” high school kids from all over the state. Miami’s included a theatre portion, among several fine arts programs, AND a Gospel Choir program. My friend Matt and I were intrigued by the Gospel kids. It was headed by one of the more prestigious professors in the music department.

“The Gospel kids have their final performance today. You wanna check it out?” Matt asked me.
“Sure!” I said.

We popped into the back of Souers Recital Hall just as the program was starting.

I don’t remember exactly what they sang, or what happened in general, because I was so swept away by the voices I was left devastated and sobbing. I’m not exaggerating. It was one of those emotional outbursts where your body takes over and your consciousness is left only to marvel at what a mess this mortal coil can be.
“Are you, heh heh, okay?” Matt says as I sob into his t-shirt.
“I think sooooo-ooooo-ooooo. I don’t know what’s happeningggggggg.”

This might imply that I was an enthusiastic church singer as a child. I was not. I was a reluctant church singer as a child.   But you can’t be the niece of the minister (who also holds a doctorate in music) and NOT participate. Or MAYBE you can’t be the child of my Mother and NOT participate. Not sure. Doesn’t matter. I’m onstage in a black velvet dress with white lace trim and a red bow in my hair. Arms folded.  Barely audible. I walk away from the mic before I’m finished singing my line.

That is, in fact, the anti-mic drop.

“Well, I guess we know what Betsy’s NOT going to do when she grows up,” my Dad chuckles in my Aunt and Minister Uncle’s kitchen after the service.

It’s not that I’m an actively contrary person, but…

Quick anecdote: First time I rehearsed that song I broke down into tears immediately much to the discomfort of everyone else in the room. “The soldier’s name is WILLLLIIEEEEEEE,” I snotted into the piano, arms draped over my head.  These poor people knew me so little they didn’t even know my husband’s name yet, so that little bit of trivia probably did not help their discomfort.  “I guess…use that?” said my director.

See, church choir for MY church wasn’t staid, exactly. Nor was it true gospel. It was… Folksy. This was the 80’s and the choir of St John’s UCC in Archbold, Ohio was populated with basically Elise and Steven Keatons peppered with the occasional Les Nessman.. Think “By My Side” from Godspell.

The KIDS choir, however, was headed up by an entrepreneurial sort. No, we weren’t hawking our wares. She was just…how shall I say…innovative, I guess. We didn’t sing things like “Praise Him All Ye Little Children.” That was for the congregation to belt out on Palm Sunday. No we sang, “Pharoah, Pharoah” which is just “Louis, Louis” with the words changed. “Pharaoh, Pharoah, Pharoah, WOa-ooooahh baby, let my people go.”

May God strike me down if I’m lying. Go Buckeyes.

The point is, I don’t exactly know what transpired in between pained solos… “We’re tired of slaving night and day, without even getting a penny for paa-aay. You treat the Israelites real bad, and that really ma-aa-akes (walk away from mic) mee–eee maaad. Pharoah, Pharoah, Pharoah…” and total catharsis in shorts and a tee shirt on a Saturday afternoon at Miami.

I have experienced total catharsis twice in my life. Once was in the back of Souer’s Recital Hall. The other was after I saw Finding Neverland (recent loss of a close female family member). Both times I managed to embarrass both myself and my companion. Belated apologies to Matt. Will wasn’t too bothered. “I’m going to lean you against this wall. I have to go to the bathroom. Be right back.” Later in a grocery store parking lot- I’m still wailing. Already at the sup sups- Will says, “I’m going to get a six-pack now. Are you okay?”
“Ye-eeh-ehhhsssssss,” I slide my damp and mascara and snot-smeared cheek down the passenger side window.  “Get *hic* a bottle of *sniff* Menaaaaaagggggeeeeeee waaaaaaaaaaa….”  I did not pull it together for two real hours.

 photo cryingtammy.jpg

I am not a Religious person, per se. I do not adhere to any particular teaching. I am, as one of my favorite writer’s coined, “A spiritual mutt.” I believe in vastness and peace. Life, I suppose. For my parents, while we definitely attended some church yes ma’am, nature seems to be their house of worship. For me, it’s soaring music. And sometimes not so soaring.

Our voices, humans in general I mean, are naturally melodic. Even the tone deaf among us are speaking on a particular note, monotone it may be. What is it about that note when we choose to sustain it – turning speech to song?

PEOPLE I DON’T KNOW. That is one of life’s great mysteries to me. THAT is a higher power. It’s universal. It’s sweeping. It’s transcendant.

Well, sometimes.

My sister once came home from a “hard” day at work. “YOU GUYS I WORKED FIVE HOURS OKAY.” And as she relayed the horrible details of her shift, my Mom and I without consulting each other, began to hum “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” intermittently.
“My boss was in a shitty mood…”
“Alright now,” I interjected.
“HMMMMMMM!” sang my Momma.
“Shut up Betsy.”
“Don’t tell your sister to shut up.”
“Hallelujah!” I belted.
“ANYWAY this horrible bitch (came in and-)”
“(Precious Lord) Take. MY HAAAANNNDDD, LEAD ME ONNNNNN HELP ME STANNNNDDD…” Our arms were in the air and we were harmonizing to boot.

You can do a lot of things in my family.  Most things, in fact, except self-pity and taking yourself too seriously.

I will sing Gospel alone.  I will sing it with a friend.  I will sing it with a mouse.  I will sing it in a house.  I will sing it near and far.  I will sing it in your car.

Even if you don’t want me to.

Anyway, you may reach me lying prone on my bedroom floor, perhaps on the bottom rung of “Jacob’s Ladder”, “Wading in the Water” of “Heaven’s Bright Shore”, mascara streaming, kleenex hanging out of one nostril, with one erect arm spasmodically shaking a tambourine.

I don’t understand why I react the way I do to music.  (I also get goosebumps and/or emotional during certain progressions, powerful modulations, familiar iconic phrases, including “9-5” and…um…kick lines.)

But I know it’s Divine.

Goodbye Big Brown Bathtub

William and I have signed a new lease and are departing for a new apartment on the North Side.  While I’m looking forward to the features of the new apartment, there is one particular element of our old place I’ve come to love in that way you can only love odd features in weird old apartments-


The Big Brown Bathtub

Goodbye, Big Brown Bathtub
By Elizabeth Morgan

Goodbye, Big Brown Bathtub
I remember when we met
I stared at you in disbelief
Hardly a moment of Kismet

“A big brown bathtub!”
I exclaimed. “What a horrid sight!
Howe’er will I design a space
to incorporate your blight?!”

I called my mother instantly,
Overwhelmed with a sense of doom.
This hulking beast
This lurking blot
Was stinking up my bathroom.

“Tell me about the apartment,”
Mom said. “I can’t wait to help when we come to town.”
I said, “The kitchen is big, and the street is so cute.
But the bathtub is dark poopy brown!”

My husband said, “You must calm down
In the scheme of things, this is not an issue.”
Now please hand me a tissue.”

My friends said, “Just think! It will hide all the stains.
You’ll need to clean it less.”
Yet in your diabolical way
You revealed MORE of a mess.

Even cleaning products seemed to stick
Upon your dark brown sides.
“What evil is this!?”
I shouted at you.
What’s wrong with a little house pride?

And yet, as time went on
And I adjusted to your presence
With a coat of taupe paint
And a dash of restraint
I was starting to find you quite pleasant.

I stared at you, disbelief in my eyes,
One hand leaning on the bathroom shelf.
“You’re out of date. You’re finish ain’t great…
But I like ya, in spite of myself.”

You warmed up the room.
Patiently stood by
Through all that a bathtub must witness.
Your dark corners will never reveal
The least attractive parts of my bidness

It’s gotten to the point
As I look through my Pinterest
That white bathtubs somehow look loco.
White is so boring!
Look what you’re ignoring!
What color is more luxurious than cocoa?

We’ve shared a lot
In our short time together
Bubbles, books, tears, and glasses of wine
I’m sure you will miss my En Shower performance
Of the scores to Gypsy and A Chorus Line.

Yet bathtub it’s time
That we go our separate ways
er…I guess, that leaves me for the walking
There’s not much you can do
With your no legs to my two
Not to mention all the caulking

Well, the packing’s begun
Bathtub, it was fun.
Still I must leave you in situ
But Bathtub, Just know
As your waters abundantly flow
How hard it was for me to quit you.

The new place is great!
It has features I’ve longed for
And the time is approaching so soon it
won’t be long before I get what I’ve dreamed of
Washer dryer in unit.

But someday, perhaps twenty years from now
I may build a brand new house
We’ll gather our plans and blueprints and such
Just me, an architect and my Spouse.
We pencil in features we’ve wanted to add: french doors, walk in closets, lovely shrubs.
But with a tear in my eye
And a pining sigh
I’ll say, “I once had a Big Brown Bathtub…”

Call Me Ishmael

Somebody sometime said something about how what you wear is your message to the world.  Sure I could go find the exact quote but you get the idea.  I’m not entirely against this point of view.  I just ask that it not be applied to me between the hours of 8 and 5 Monday through Friday.  The only message you will receive is “Look. I found a cardigan on my floor.”  I simply don’t do business casual.  To quote Dita Von Teese, “It chafes me, if not physically then emotionally.”  So I just get by on technicalities.  No denim.  No tshirts.  No fun.  It’s been said you should “dress for the job you want.”  But I don’t think a Mrs. Lovett costume fits the dress code around here.

“I’m sorry, lovey.  Mr. Todd’s in a meetin’.  May I take a message, dear?”

I really do love my wardrobe outside the office environment.  But within these walls, it’s dismal and unfixable.  Mostly because I don’t want to spend my shopping money on work clothes.  Ugh.  I will drop silly cash on an audition dress, but dress pants?  What is this?  Church?  Game day?  Also, since I have the build of a small russet potato lodged onto two pool cues, I can’t ever find pants (in store – yes, I am aware of the “online” option) that are long enough.  Except for, God bless it, The Limited.  Thank you, Les Wexner, for allowing the long-legged to have some pant-related dignity.  Your name may sound like a super villain, but your heart is true.  At any other store (I’m looking at you EXPRESS) I have to try on the regular length, and then go home and order the long length.  “Plus shipping!” says my Mother.  True.

My latest fashion related white whale is a pair of skinny black pants that are neither jeans, nor leggings, nor ankle length.  I want them to be able to go out for a day on the town, and then transition to dinner.  I want them long enough to bunch slightly at the ankle.  I would accept a zip ankle as well, as long as they err on the side of too long as opposed to flood length.   I quote Agador Spartacus, “I want that nice Armani break in the front, you know? But don’t just pull it. Do it, down there– I got highwaters here.”  I would also ask that they not flat iron my already non-existent butt resulting in a look similar to two flattened Pillsbury Crescent Rolls hermetically sealed to the back of my thighs (I’m looking at you, Target pants.)

A pause to tell an illustrative story.  My sisters and one of their best friends came to visit me a few years ago.  We decided to spend a day sunbathing at North Avenue beach.  Because my once quite tawny complexion is now permanently lily white thanks to years in a theatre and aforementioned office day job, I decided to wear a tshirt over my two piece and expose only my legs to nature for fear that if I exposed the rest of my incandescent body I would serve as some sort of accidental beacon to the lake freighters and cause some sort of maritime disaster.

It worked.  I didn’t come home with blisteringly red shoulders or anything, except for a tiny patch, just above my bikini bottom and below the hem of my shirt where a teensy but vulnerable bit of my back was burned.  When we got back home that afternoon, I winced in pain as I sat down.  “Let’s see it!” said my middle sister, a little too eagerly.

“My burn?”  I asked.
“Yeah, show us how bad it is.”
“Alright,” so I stood, turning my back to the girls and exposing the line between the burn and my butt.
“Isn’t it flat?!” my sister whispered to her friend, giggling maniacally.
“Hey!”  I shouted.  “You just did that so I would show her my flat butt!”
“Well, we were just talking about it earlier.  You wouldn’t have done it if I had just asked you to.”

Yes I would have.   I’m an oldest.  We will moon at any opportunity.

The point is, I would like these skinny black pants to perhaps enhance my posterior or at least pretend like I have one.  I honestly don’t think these pants exist.  Maybe on Pinterest.  But clothing items on Pinterest are the sartorial equivalent of the Loch Ness Monster.  You need more than a photo to prove it’s existence.

Marc Jacobs- Orange

Look at her. So smug. And they aren’t even real.


Steve Feltham, who has dedicated the past 21 years to hunting for Nessie was unequivocval.

“It is the best photograph I think I have ever seen,” he said.

From his base on Dores beach and has studied many Nessie sighting photographs.

“I think the images are fantastic – that’s the pants…er animal I have been looking for all this time,” he said yesterday. (Source:

My last clothing white whale was a tartan blouse that was neither a flannel nor sheer.  Crisp but able to go to work or play or as a layering piece.  Also, a true Scotch tartan, not just a plaid.  I was looking for Wallace (my Grandpa’s namesake) or Black Stewart, or Dress Stewart.  I looked everywhere. I thought I found it out of stock at J Crew where I called both my J Crew employee sister (who was helpful I should say) and J Crew customer service who I basically begged on my hands and knees, via email, to send me what they had.  But they had nothing.  I felt they wished they could help, though.  Good folks, J Crew customer service.

Then I suspected I found it at LL Bean.  But LL Bean is not targeting me as their customer.  They are targeting my friend’s Moms.  As such, the fashion photography at LL Bean is a bit…frumpy.  So while the dimensions, description, and fabric were exactly what I was looking for  (Black Stewart!).  The styling of the photo wasn’t clear enough.  Lucky for me, there’s an LL Bean store just up good I-94  and lo and behold, ’twas perfect.   One unbutton lower than Bean’s advertisement, a stylish roll of the sleeves, and we are in youthful and stylish business.

Unfortunately, Bean is not in the market for hot skinny non-denim black pants with optional ankle zip.

Buy it: Blake Lively’s Black Leather Jacket


Maybe someday I’ll find Nessie (I’m calling the pants “Nessie” now.)  I can’t give up hope.  The implications for society, er, my wardrobe are too far-reaching.  All of a sudden, that sweater could go to dinner.  Those boots could hit the town.  That jacket could brunch.  That tshirt could go out for drinks.  The repercussions are astounding.

But what happens if I do find them?  It’s like Frodo and Sam after they destroy the Ring.  Now what?  Do I just go back to The Shire and have a pint?  Pretend like I still have purpose? Find another questing beast?


A slightly shrunken, classic, not overly detailed or moto black leather jacket.

Lovely jacketBiker Jacket #newJacket #topfashion #topmode #kelly751  #BikerJacket

I believe.

An Open Letter to Morning News Shows*

I watch the Today show.  I watch the Today Show because it comes on after NBC 5 morning news here in Chicago, and I like to know about weather and CTA problems and Andy Avalos is just downright the most pleasant human being on the planet.

I am a lone viewer and not likely to cause any change but here goes.

There has been much talk about why the big morning shows, and more specifically the Today Show continue to lose viewers.  They blamed it on Ann Curry, and unceremoniously booted her.  But the ratings continue to fall.  Now, let me be clear, I don’t love Ann Curry because the only loveable news anchor is Brian Williams.  That’s a fact, Jack.  But it’s pretty clear Curry got screwed.  And while yes, Lauer seems to be a bit of a pompous unpleasant guy, I don’t really care.

I want the networks to know that the reason these morning shows are failing is because THEY SUCK.  You may wonder why I continue to watch these shows.  Because I am a creature of habit and for the 20 minutes the Today Show is on before I leave in the morning, I have their segment timing memorized so even if I’m putting on mascara, I know what time it is without having to look.  It’s a skill.

But back to the issue at hand:  the suckage.

I understand that morning shows are supposed to be a light blend of news, entertainment, and a ladies magazine and maybe a little bit of cartoony weather.

Well, here’s the thing.  We have the internet now.  There is no longer a monopoly on information.  We now know that  the shallow coverage of news items that make it through the issue gate are not the only things happening in the world.  And I have to tell you that in the first ten minutes of a “news” show, I should not hear the name Justin Bieber uttered once.  Not once.  And yet, this morning, this was not the case.

I read somewhere that the Today Show considers its main audience base to be, basically, a 45 year-old-woman.  Well, I’m 32.  But I can’t imagine that your average 45 year-old-woman would care MORE about Justin Bieber than a 32-year-old woman.

I mean, it all feels made up.  Whatever stupid non-threat of a hyped “here’s the drug the kids are doing now” story to the absolutely gaggy and overly reverent coverage of new Pope installation to the ongoing drone of celebrity non-news where you will say…..YOU WILL SAY RIGHT OUT LOUD MATT LAUER, “TMZ confirms….”

Two things.

1.  I’ll just read TMZ’s blog for (long and despair-filled sigh) better and more in-depth coverage

2.  Your source is THIS GUY:

This guy.

And yet, even though Harvey Levin is doing your dirty work, there is no sense of humor.  (Dressing in Halloween costumes once a year is not a sense of humor.  It’s…well, for you know, elite educated journalists, sad and unprofessional.  I mean, you guys are AT WORK.  It’s why I don’t watch Good Morning America.  I love Stephanopolous too much to watch him suffer.)

I mean, yes, it’s true.  You had a great thing with Meredith Viera.  But, unfortunately, she’s a human and she had to go, you know, be human with her human family.  I suspect, and I bet she would confirm, that working with all you guys was liking working with multiple Lt. Commander Data.

“But I am not capable of love.”

I mean, I know.  I know.  I’m the idiot here.  I should just turn off my tv, but I like the low and predictable noise of your dumb show with the volume set on 5 or 6 at most.

So look, I know I’m only one voice here.  But please.  For the love of all things, cover some actual in-depth news.  LAUER.  WE KNOW YOU KNOW HOW TO DO THIS.  I think THAT is why I am so mad.  It’s not like you’re not capable!  Do you guys know what kind of educations you have?! And yet you keep covering CHRIS BROWN!?

Meanwhile, I will never understand why morning news anchor on a stupid show like Today ranks much higher in the news world scheme of things than motherf*cking WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT!  HELLO? Chuck Todd should be calling the shots.  Not only because he has a first name for a last name, but also he COVERS ACTUAL HAPPENINGS.  And you give him, like a second and a half to do it. But Bieber spits on a guy, and I hear the headline before you play the theme song?!  And even that isn’t coming close to the Richard Engel level of reportage. He should be FAR more revered than Matt Lauer.  I read that Vanity Fair article.  GOOD GOD.  But I’m not talking about the foreign assignments that may or may not end in kidnapping or head chopping.  I’m talking about WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT.  I mean, yes, I could be wrong.  I’m basing most of this on pretending that CJ Cregg is the Press Secretary and how it would be awesome to work around her.  But seriously?  Covering Justin Beiber SPITTING and Chris Brown saying anything at all is more prestigious in the journalism world than White House Correspondent?

Alright.  Whatever.  I’ll take your word for it.  I mean a Lean Cuisine is better than a big ol’ slice of Lou Malnati’s, right?

The answer is NO.




Speaking of former White House regulars, let’s talk about Stephanopolous for a moment.  Like I said before, I like him TOO MUCH to watch him on a morning show.  So, you see, it doesn’t matter who the anchors are.  (I may have loved Meredith, but she still had to cover some stupid shit.  “Brangelina” stories pop into my mind… ) What matters is that everything you are telling me DOESN’T MATTER.  Sure, every once in a while during an election cycle, you might ask a tough question or two, but you are so constrained by your segment time that you can’t (or won’t…I have no idea) MAKE those slippery politicos answer the damn thing!  Are you afraid we’re going to be uncomfortable?  Did you see Ann Curry’s last day? That ship has sailed, friends.  Might as well use the harbor.

Yet, when something truly newsworthy (and usually horrifying) does make it through the Beiber/Brangelina gate, and you are covering a shooting or something equally as horrid, you don’t cover it.  You WORSHIP it.  You glorify it. Beware. Like most institutions who view the world with cynicism and greed, you eventually crumble. You are charged with educating a voting public on the days issues, events and major players.  To do this using sound bytes and sensationalism is nothing short of an affront to truth and democracy.

It’s not the personalities.  These are talented, educated journalists. It’s the crap that they are covering and the insipid way they are covering it.  Bring on Anderson Cooper if you want to, but until you radically reform the structure of the show, it’s going to be the same thing all over again.

Die to live, Today Show.  Go back to the drawing board.  Tell us stories with truth and complexity.  Ask questions of leaders and public figures that they don’t want to be asked.  Don’t reach us using our fears.  Reach us using our brains and our empathy and compassion.  And stop making your weather people stand in hurricanes.  That’s just silly.

*Never get rid of Hoda and Kathy Lee. 

I’m a Feminist. Say it With Me.

I’m in a bad mood today. That’s actually pretty rare for me, but today it is what it is. I’m in a bad mood because some shit I wanted to happen fell apart over the past couple days. So instead of dealing with it head on, I’m going to go ahead and tell you some things that piss me off.

1. Women who balk at calling themselves “feminist.” I hate that shit. It doesn’t make you any less sexually attractive nor does it mean everyone will think you are a lesbian. And, for the record, let’s say it did? “I support women’s rights but I don’t really think of myself as a feminist…” Because you are afraid someone will think you have armpit hair? Jesus.
1a.  Men who balk at calling themselves feminist.
2. People who tell me and the rest of society what they are allowed to think is funny.
3. People who nit pick the tiny battles and keep their mouths shut about the big ones.

Do I love the term feminist?  I don’t.  It doesn’t address the stock men have in feminism, which is to say that Equality is good for Everyone.  I’ve always felt “Equalist” was more appropriate, but then again, someone might think I really love aspartame.

But that’s the thing.  We get so hung up on jargon and slight offense.  I get it.  It’s easier to get pissed at Seth McFarlane for a (well done) production number than to rally around the complex and total tonnage of the lack of female equality in these here United States, not to mention the world.

Instead, I get pissed at Marissa Meyer who continuously fails to make shit better.  A majorly high-profile CEO who seems intent on proving she is one of the boys.  She took, like a four-second maternity leave and guess what?  Doesn’t really like to call herself a feminist.  Well, that’s fine.  Because she fucking isn’t one.  She could have made strides for working women, pushing for flexible schedules.  She could have made the point that the average American maternity leave (or PATERNITY leave) for that matter is laughable.  But she didn’t.  She was so keen to prove that AS a woman she could function like a man.  Maybe it didn’t occur to her that she’s their boss.  So yeah, Marissa, go ahead and not call yourself a feminist.  You’re just not one.

But if you don’t like calling yourself a feminist because someone MIGHT think you are a lesbian or that they might throw in the word “militant”, ain’t nobody got time for that.  What if?  What if somebody thinks of you as fundamentally less appealing to them because you call yourself a feminist?  What happens then? That’s something you have to ask yourself.  I can’t answer that for you.  I answered it for myself:  NOTHING I CARE ABOUT.  Maybe there are some dudes out there that find me fundamentally less attractive because of all my messy opinions, but I don’t care.  I married a dude who seems to enjoy my opinions and what do you know?  He calls himself a feminist.  AND, get this, he’s super secure in his sexuality.  And guess what else?  He’s happy being married to me.  And I to him.

I remember about ten years ago I saw a feminist documentary, I regret to say, I can’t remember which one.  And a woman who appeared in it said this (I’m paraphrasing because it was ten years ago.)
“When  a woman says she doesn’t see herself as a feminist, I think, how can you not be?”


My feminism is bold but simple.

1.  I get the same rights, pay, and consideration as everybody else.

2.  Men have absolutely as much investment in female equality.  Men have to put up with a lot of bullshit too.  This whole sexism thing hurts everybody.  Men are expected to be strong all the time.  They are expected to hide emotion, except good ol’ manly anger.  Sadness, vulnerability?  Not acceptable.  Worse, when they enjoy things typically deemed “feminine” in nature, everybody starts questioning their sexuality which is just not even what I’m trying to say over here.  My father loves the movie Steel Magnolias. He likes to bake breakfast casseroles. He also loves chopping up firewood and watching basketball.  What does this mean?  Nothing!  Except I have an awesome Dad.  My husband loves Elaine Stritch and football.  I love nail polish and mob movies.  Look at us!  Being all 3-D.

3.  Integrating traditionally female/feminine behaviors into places where traditionally male/masculine behaviors are accepted (i.e. the business world, film, academia, the medical profession,you know…modern Western society) makes the world a better place. What if there were more flexible schedules to accommodate working parents OR EVEN NON-PARENTS who just have a dream or two and also want to pay some bills and eat some food.  What if empathy was a thing?

3a.  I want “feminine” principles EQUAL to “masculine” principles.  I don’t want to see masculine principles go away.  Not at all.  Just let me get my nurture on, too.

4.  Birth control.

5.  Women’s health, wellness, and treating the female body as a different entity, rather than something to be corrected.

6.  Getting over periods.  Menstruation isn’t something to be hidden, or ashamed of, nor is it a disease to be knocked into submission.  Nor is it something I need to apologize for.  Menstruating women bleed from their genitals on a monthly basis because their uterus figured out that a baby wasn’t going to happen so it kicks out an egg and the nutrient (ie blood) rich uterine lining.  There it is.  If you think that’s gross.  That’s your problem, not mine.  This is a natural force that 1.  Regulates itself to other menstruating women (AMAZING!) 2.  IS INFLUENCED BY THE GODDAMN MOON 3. Is necessary for , you know, YOU.  Being born.

6a.  To be perfectly honest, I want to live in a society where I get to say, “I’ve got my period guys.  I’m thinking a little on the dark side today which means, let’s not have meetings.  But let’s maybe go destroy some rickety policies that aren’t working very well anymore and then we might break early for a nap because my hormones are telling my my body needs rest.”  THAT is harnessing feminine power.  CREATE and DESTROY.  Giving birth, making babies, art, food, that’s creation.  Periods?  Cleaning?  Getting rid of the old and making way for the new?  That’s destruction.  And it’s all feminine.  It scares the shit out of you, doesn’t it?  Me too.  It’s awesome.

7.  I am not obligated to have a body that looks the way you want it to nor do I really want to talk about how it looks with acquaintances or strangers

8.  I am not obligated to find EVERYTHING that could be construed as misogynist, or what have you, as offensive.  I HATE BEING TOLD WHAT I CAN FIND FUNNY.  As a feminist, I am not interested in being Content Police.  I just want to get paid the same as a dude with my same job, I want to be able to gain or lose ten pounds without the world noticing, I want to walk down the street after I go to a bar at night without clutching my keys and praying not to get raped.

9.  That’s right.  Any girl you know who leaves a bar is at some point going to pray she doesn’t get raped.  Put yourself in those shoes, whether they are stiletto or crocs.  Imagine what that is like, to be regularly terrified of assault in a really real way, particularly when you are supposed to be having fun.

Now I walk out of this bar
And hope I don’t get raped on my way to my car.

10.  I want to be able to wear whatever the hell I want without somebody having some sort of goddamn opinion about it whether it’s a predator or the pearl clutchers.

11.  I want no one to ever again tell me to smile when I am walking down the street.  “Come on, cutie. Smile, it’s not that bad.” Yes it is.  Some dude I don’t know is telling me how to wear my face.

12.  I don’t want to feel guilty about feeling confident when I’m not perfect.  Talk about feminine.  That is female dark side.

I am (voluntarily) in a career where looks and age play far more into my success than my talent does.  I know this.  I know this really well.  I am perpetually in an adolescence where I am consistently too old or too young.  Too ugly or too pretty.  Too this or too that.  Something to be harnessed, wrangled, fixed.  I want to tell you that THANK GOD, this is limited to acting.  The thing is, it’s not.  I just happen to be in the one profession where nobody has to hide the reasons behind these kind of decisions.  It’s kind of refreshing.  In an excruciating painful way.

And if you think there isn’t a glass ceiling, or that the goofy shit that happens in sexual harassment videos doesn’t happen, or that women are culturally obligated not to react and experience life authentically, you are plain wrong.  It’s not opinion.  It’s fact.

So why am I not curled up in fetal position and crying in bed, or screaming at the top of my lungs and writing things on poster board and shouting in front of an official-looking building?  Because I’m pretty awesome. But I also have a life to live.  Up until now, I’ve always felt feminism is best lived by example.

Be awesome and the people will know that the awesomeness is within us all.

I suspect that isn’t as true as I once thought, what with all the trans vaginal ultrasounds.  So while I plan on continuing my awesomeness agenda and frankly doing whatever the hell I want to do, IUD in place and brain fully-functioning, I think I want to do more because the conversation is just  a mess.  I mean, you guys, we’re gettin’ all mad about tv and shit, and meanwhile women in other countries are getting systematically raped and having acid thrown in their faces. FOR REAL.  AND I STILL, I know this is nowhere near the horror of the rapes and the acid, I STILL DREAM of the day I can walk home from a bar by myself and not do the no rape prayer.  Wow, wouldn’t that be great.

So, obviously I’ve got to figure some shit out.  And damned if I might not watch an episode of American Dad while I do it.  Roger is hilarious.

So take a deep breath and call yourself a feminist.  We need all the awesome we can get.

Essential Theatrical

Essential Theatrical

Alexander McQueen long ball gown
$5,090 –

$56 –

Rag bone knit sweater

Velvet v neck tee

Citizens of humanity
$345 –

Converse shoes
$72 –

Dolce Gabbana leopard scarve
$510 –

Shu uemura

Christian dior

Beauty product

The Entertainer

Parfum de Vie – The Smells We Love and Perfume Psychosis – A Meditation


Americans are famous for loving shriekingly clean scents, shunning anything remotely unwashed, and themselves smelling like nothing interesting to the point that more than once, when smelling the latest designer released flanker intended for just such an audience,  I’ve wondered if they were simply bottling drugstore cleaning fluid and calling it a day.  Once when sniffing an unlabeled sample I was forced to wonder, “Is this Versace Bright Crystal or CLR?” So I was absolutely enthralled when I posed the question “What are your favorite smells?” on Facebook, and got responses that ranged from earthy to filthy.  A Perfume Freak’s Dream.

Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Scent memories are powerful.  With one whiff of a familiar smell, we can be mentally whisked to a moment in our past, the presence of an old companion, or a particular time or place we will never forget.  I know that when my college friends smell Calgon Turquoise Seas body spray (if it’s even manufactured anymore) they think of me which is pretty hilarious, but whatever.  I cannot deny my past and frankly, I still dig some Calgon.  (And Victoria’s Secret Dream Angels Heavenly which resulted in more than one person telling me, “You smell like a stripper….no no!  That’s good.”  Alright, sure.)

My past is full of lots of potent and unforgettable smells (I did live on a farm for some time, you know…) For years I have dreamed of a perfume that would smell like my Dad on a morning before church.  It is the most wonderfully comforting scent of Irish Spring, coffee, toast, perhaps a smidge of smoky bacon, shaving cream, mouthwash, and Tuscany Pour Homme.  Nothing smells more like “home” to me than that.  Penhaligons Sartorial comes close.  As does Creed’s Green Irish Tweed, but the toast and coffee are missing.

Similarly, another scent from my past that I wish I could recreate is the scent my parents seemed to effortlessly emit when they would return from an evening out.  Melded perfume and cologne, a touch of charbroil from the steaks they probably had, someone else’s cigarette smoke, a hint of booze, hairspray, leather, and the fantastic zing of a wool coat that has just come in from the cold.   They would walk in the door looking handsome and beautiful respectively, and that scent would just take over the house.  It was so grown up and mysterious and I miss it, although I suspect that I might occasionally smell this way myself.  There is something about Molinard’s Habanita that grasps this concept for me, and it is downright cheap and cheerful.  CB I Hate Perfume has an offering called Winter 1972 that has that cold wool coat with just a hint of cigarette.  Jasmin et Cigarette by Etat Libre D’Orange gets the smoke, but lacks the beef.

Yet another scent I wish to smell again is that of my Gramps’ basement, which sounds dubious, but read on.  Gramps, in his heyday, had a fully finished basement complete with wet bar and jazzy 70’s organ.  It was a wonderful place.  It smelled, quite frankly, like the business end of a wine cork.  To the wine cork add a bit of pipe tobacco, perhaps a bit of basement-related mustiness, maybe a bit of pine (for the holidays), a lingering waft of cigarette from somebody’s coat (we’re talking early 80’s here), and more than a dash of bourbon (Truly, I thought eggnog was the color of dishwater due to the ratios of rum to mix my Gramps used. Only in college did I discover it’s true density.)  Think about it: wine, cork, smoke, must…truly, if any of these scents are to be taken literally, this is the one that would make a fantastic men’s fragrance.  If only  I were a chemist.

Great smells in their natural habitat need only be experienced, however.  They need not necessarily be bottled. Certainly, they aren’t all meant to be worn on the skin.  That said, owning a bottle of something that, when sprayed, has the ability to transport you is an experience of pure comfort and joy.

Using the scents put forth on my Fbook page, I’m going to offer perfume-related  suggestions that just might spark a memory or two.

Let me first state, however, that the intent is not to be literal.  For an exercise in literal scent recreation, check out the Demeter line of fragrances.  It’s arguable that they are fully-fledged perfumes, but they are a master’s course in scent science. So, truly, if the scent of a thunderstorm is what you are after, Demeter has a scent aptly named Thunderstorm (as well as Earthworm, Funeral Home, and Humidor, just to name a few).  My project, rather,  is an experiment in the art of true perfumery and it’s ability to be an appealingly wearable scent, and yet still evoke an ethereal image of something you love.

In the meanwhile, some of our favorite scents are available quite easily in bottle form.  Flowers, woods,  and bakery treats dominate the perfume market, particularly those available and heavily advertised in the US.  So, for our purposes here, I am far more interested in conceptual scents and oddities.  A good lavender isn’t so hard to find.  Something with the snapcrackle of printer paper straight out of a Xerox or the spice of your dog’s fur may prove more difficult.

What can I say?  It’s a hobby.

Certainly, smell is all about context.  While my friend Nick and I agree that shallots slowly caramelizing in butter is probably the best smell on the face of the earth, I wouldn’t want to smell that way sitting at my desk.  Just like the smell of fresh raspberries might be a delight in nature, and refreshing post-bath, it would be hard to take someone seriously in a business meeting.  As such, I believe that flowers are best experienced as, well, flowers.  They are what they are.  There’s no great lilac perfume because you’re better off just smellin’ a lilac.

I guess this is just my way of saying the following perfumes are all in the name of fun, and if you are so interested, broadening your perfumery horizons.  I will never have smelled All the Perfumes, but I have made a bit of a dent.  I hope you enjoy.

Books, Magazines, and Other Related Paper
:  People love the smell of paper in it’s many incarnations, as do I.  However, the scent of newsprint is not the same as an old book.  Sharp crisp copies still hot off the printer don’t smell the same as a freshly cracked magazine.  A trade paperback smells very different from a leather bound classic.  The library, the used book shop and Barnes and Noble all are singular smelly beasts.  Certainly, paper is, underneath it all, wood.  But if you were only identifying things by smell, a cedar chip and a ream of printer paper wouldn’t seem very near to each other.  The cedar is still rich with it’s oil, the printer paper bleached and sharp.

The creator of the aforementioned Demeter line is also the genius behind CB I Hate Perfume which seeks to create in either water perfume or extrait (pure perfume) form, just such things as these amalgamated dream scents from our past and our experiences.  One such creation is a scent called In the Library.  It’s an intimate scent.  Vanillic in the way that, trust me, a good ol’ book is vanillic.  Warm, aged.  It’s a great pick, and I highly recommend it.  Truly, the love of the scent of paper seems fairly universal.  A newly launched scent called, aptly, Paper Passion has just launched, it’s subtitle – “perfume for book lovers.”

For that hot off the press slightly shrieky cleanness, I recommend Thierry Mugler Cologne.  It is far from subtle.  I believe Perfumes the A-Z Guide calls it “steam iron.”  Like paper, it somehow manages to evoke sharp coldness and steamed fresh ink.

Tires, Cars, Industry, Tar, Gasoline and WD 40.  For all the times I’ve driven through Gary, Indiana and experienced the sulfurous fumes that emanate from Steel plants, one would think I would be convinced that industry = stink.  However, this is not always the case.  The Blommer chocolate factory, on occasion, fills the city of Chicago with a very out of context air of baking brownie.  It is wonderful, and as reported in the Tribune a couple of years ago, likely highly carcinogenic.  BUT with our inherent love of pipe tobacco, gasoline, and vinyl, humans love to stick their noise into a cancer causing chemical and breathe deeply.  I ain’t here for your health.

My father, an engineer in the automotive industry has a job that is both white collar and yet requires trips to the plant floor donning earplugs and goggles.  When he arrives at home, he smells like a freshly sprayed can of WD 40 and it is one of the world’s most wonderful smells.

My husband loves a fresh tire.  He describes them as “sweet” and so they are, and of course rubbery.  Bvlgari Black is the premiere rubber perfume.  It looks like a puck, it is unisex and it smells great.  Women the world over have been attempting to woo men with bottles of fruity silliness, clean musks, and flowers, when all the time it was grease they were after.  Good, clean, grease and rubber.

Grass, Snapped Grean Beans, New Mown Hay, Horse Barns, Alfalfa, and Good, Clean, Dirt.  Only a kid from the country could assert that, in fact, cow shit is a vast improvement on all other kinds of barnyard shit including pig and turkey, in particular.  It is second only to the nicely grassy horse or rabbit shit which, in comparison isn’t just “not bad” it’s sort of kind of nice.  Even comforting if you were ever on first name basis with a horse or rabbit.

And I was.

I mention this because in perfumery there is an aroma-chemical called Indole that makes an appearance in both white flowers and poop, so if I mention that something has a barnyard quality or rather lacks a barnyard quality, I mean it with much affection and all seriousness (as the discussion of perfume allows).

But let us begin with a proper lawn mowing which engages no indolics whatsoever.  Newly mown grass is one of the world’s most wonderful, fresh and naturally occurring smells.  Frankly Gap’s recently re-issued Grass scent smells just about like it.  I’ve never smelled Demeter’s grass scent, but I bet that ‘s pretty great too.  I often wonder if Californians or Floridians feel quite as passionately about grass as we Midwesterners.  Surely they don’t have that bleary eyed look we all get stumbling our of homes in late March and maniacally fall to our knees, praising the heavens taht we have seen something that is both naturally occuring and green.  LOOK AT IT!  IT’S GROWING!!!!!!!  I sort of get why dogs roll around in things.  I bet they are just grateful that it’s there at all.

But I digress.

Moving away from the literal green of grass and moving on to the conceptual family of “green scents.”  Galbanum, a resin, is the primary player in the most famous green scents:  Chanel no 19, Gucci Envy, Chanel Cristalle (a green citrus).  Many Iris perfumes find themselves in the green family.  The Vintage Vent Vert.  Parfums di Nicolai’s Odalisque.

Diptyque’s L’Ombre Dans L’Eau is a trip through a rain-soaked garden on a hot August morning.  Tania Sanchez says it better than I that it smells like a “snapped green bean”.  To that I would add a dash of tomato leaves.  To anyone who grew up with and/or now tends to a veggie garden, this is a trip down memory lane.

Hay is sweet.  Not straw, but hay.  I prefer alfalfa, myself.  Green, sweet, fresh, and earthy.  I’ve read that Hay Absolute is a perfume in and of itself, but I’ve never had the pleasure.  And, unfortunately, for me I am allergic to it all.  Still, I rarely let that stop me.  Parfums di Nicolai has a very sweet offering both in scent and concept with a delicious hay accord that is actually a bit sweet for me.  It’s called Kiss Me Tender.  Serge Luten’s offering, Chergui, is hay inspired with a dash of honey and tobacco which evokes something of a Baltus Van Tassel-like character, in my mind:

Baltus Van Tassel from Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Baltus Van Tassel’s Bursting Barn from Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Bath and Body Works had a “clover” scented lotion that came as close to my childhood memories of an alfalfa field that anyone has ever gotten (that I know of).  I long for someone to recreate that scent.  I’ll help if I have to.

Love, Sex, Bodies, Babies’ Heads, and other Animalic Bits:  This would be the area in which Americans tend to squirm and look around for their Puritan bonnets, buckled shoes, and bottles of Dolce and Gabbana Blue.  One whiff of Muscs Kublai Kahn has the potential for the sniffer to look at you like you’ve just told a dirty joke in church.  If you’ve ever met someone from basically anywhere BUT the US, Canada, and the UK, you’ll quickly come to realize that the rest of the world just isn’t bothered by the natural smell of the human armpit.  In fact, during the creation of Sarah Jessica Parker’s perfume, Lovely, she insisted on a little body odor because, “Secretly I think everyone likes it.”  While I think the true dirty animalics were probably focus-grouped out of the formula, a bit of duskiness remains.  And, indeed, it’s one of my favorite perfumes.

The new formulation of the perfume classic Femme by Rochas has a distinct and dirty-minded cumin note, and cumin smells like pits.  The Chanel orientals do not shy from the civet, leather, or animalic notes available to them in quality form.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:  Often these big ol’ classics (Chanels, Lauders, Guerlains) are quickly dismissed by people of my generation and younger as “old lady perfumes” but per usual, your grandmother has lived longer and knows more than you do about such things as quality and class.  So to dismiss her Youth Dew as a scrubber is to dismiss the true art of perfumery.  Sniff again, and notice the cinnamon, vanilla and booze.

Lovers of Mad Men and all things retro, I implore you to move beyond the Chanel no 5 and experience the Guerlains, Balmains, Lanvins, and other grand players from the great age of perfume.  It will challenge you.  You will have the urge to wrinkle your virginal little nose in distaste.  THIS IS THE MODERN ERA OF PERFUMERY’S INFLUENCE ON YOU AND MOST OF IT IS CRAP.  Not all, certainly.  But our noses have been trained to love nothing but what amounts to hand soap and shampoo in EDT form.

Grab a bottle of Shalimar and experience the genius of Guerlain’s inedible desserty masterpiece.

If you can, find a bottle of the long discontinued My Sin and prepare yourself for a perfume adventure.  It loops from aldehydes to grimy leather in the blink of an eye.

Sarah Jessica’s Parker’s Covet perfume was said to be inspired by the scent of her babies’ heads.  Now, I have never smelled the noggins of her children, but this perfume smells more chocolatey to me (if my memory serves.)  Still, thought I would mention.  Rather to capture the close to the skin-ness that I think one is looking to evoke here, I would suggest an oil based scent.  Perhaps Sarah Jessica Parker’s Lovely in the oil form.  I have a great little amber oil I picked up in the hippie dippie section of Whole Foods (is there any other section?) for 8 bucks.

Leather, while a chapter of perfume that stands alone, is by all accounts animalic, no?  So is honey, if we’re getting technical.  In a more specific area of perfumery lies the animal fur.  Clean, living animal fur is a spicy natural wonder.  We have a cat that is downright perfumed naturally.  Peppery.  Dry.  And comforting.  We have another cat who some people say smells like butt, and I say smells like beeswax…which probably smells like bee butt.  If so, count me in as a fan of bee butt.

Just one more weird statement I have made when talking about perfume.

The Grand Joke played on the world of perfumery by Etat Libre D’Orange comes in a small glass bottle adorned with the infamous “crying penis” artwork that I am downright not joking about.  It is called Secretions Magnifique and it is nauseating.  However, it fits the category as it is an experience, most certainly, and moreover inspired by all bodily secretions that are not urinous or fecal.  That still leaves a lot of secretions.  They also threw a little jasmine in there for good measure.  But then again, sometimes jasmine smells like floral bad breath.

The ocean, salt, beaches and the primordialDune by Dior is considered a marine scent.  This doesn’t quite do it justice.  But, in fact, there is a dry salty note in it.  It’s wonderful.  Vetiver is a dry grass that rasps, in a way.  I burn the essential oil sometimes, and if I overdo the vetiver I feel like I’m mummifying.  That said, vetiver fragrances are downright sexy.

Hermes Eau des Merveilles is salty and incensy and very very calm.  Very close to the skin, and very dry.  It is unisex, and I would recommend it for somebody who wanted to broaden their horizons beyond fruity florals, without announcing it to the world.  A good subtle experiment, and nicely beachy.  But not summery beachy – Eau des Merveilles is a beach after the tourists have left for the season.  It mysterious and moody.  I suspect it would layer nicely with a bit of amber or vanilla, as well.

In a complete reversal, let’s talk about the old school european suntan lotion fragrances.  Those would be Bobbi Brown Beach and Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess.  I have a mild distaste for white flowers and I feel that these fragrances, Bronze Goddess in particular could be my in road.

Tobacco, Cinnamon, Vanilla, Burnt Sugar, Espresso, Booze, Ground Coffee and the gourmand.  These are the least challenging and easy to come by perfume offerings.  Prada’s latest:  Candy.  The cognac firm Frapin’s offerings.  Aqualina Pink Sugar.  On a more classic note, Guerlain’s Shalimar and L’Heure Bleu.  If you walk up to the department store perfume counter and say you want something that isn’t floral or citrusy, you will walk away with one of these most likely. 

So, I’m going to go a bit weird with this one and give you some slightly less literal takes on the gourmand.

Ready?  Let’s go.

Anne Pliska is a bit Christmasy.  There’s gingerbread here.  And oranges.  Apparently, orange is not an easy note in perfumery.  Mainly because I can only count about three of them that manage to have an orange note that sticks around.  While it is a gourmand, it’s also icy.  It’s frankly gorgeous and completely reasonable in price.  I only hesitated to tell you about it because I wear it and I convinced my mother in law to wear it, too.

Sacrebleu is a gourmand in the sense it has gourmand ingredients…but you wouldn’t want to eat these.  It’s one of the few fragrances with a  detectable tuberose  that I still love.  (Tuberose is very challenging for me.  I’m trying to push myself.)  IF I had a “signature scent” which I just don’t, this would probably be it. Similarly (with FAR more tuberose) is Dior Hypnotic Poison.  I am convinced, if the Bronze Goddess thing doesn’t work out,  that this will be my in-road to tuberose, because THIS tuberose is covered in coconut and almonds.

Coco by Chanel.  I call it the Brunette of the Chanel bunch.  It’s warm, spicy,  a bit loud but never shouty, and full of layers.

Tabu by Dana.  Now listen.  It’s going to stonk your socks off the first time you smell it, and if you are just dipping a toe into the older perfumes, maybe avoid this one.  It smells cheap.  It IS cheap.  But it is very hilarious and a great gourmand.  My advice is look for the root beer.  There is a distinct root beer note to Tabu that can be heard about all the shoutin’, and there IS shoutin’.  Patchouli has some things tosay.  As does clove.  Musk.  Heavy hitters all.  Seek ye the root beer.

Coffee – Bond no 9 has a very warm and welcoming frag called I Love New York.  And even though it’s never been my experience, their version of loving New York smells like coffee.  Still, not a bad thing to smell like.  My only qualm is that it might smell slightly too much like coffee.

The best vanilla ever created is the aformentioned Shalimar.  There is no getting around it.  It is the finest, Frenchiest, richest, most sumptuous vanilla to be had.

If, however, you were looking for a lighter vanilla.  Less creme brulee.  Check out Vanilia by L’Artistan Parfeumer.  Sadly, it’s been discontinued, but it wasn’t discontinued very long ago, and thanks to the Internets, you can get your hands on a decant, or even a bottle.

Lolita Lempicka – I talk about this perfume a lot.  It was one of my Autumn picks.  It is one of my faves.  And it is a vanillic licorice with herbs.  Grand.  Distinct.  And very well done.  Also can easily be had for a reasonable price.

I put tobacco under the gourmands because it smells like you could almost eat it.  When, as a teenager I smelled an unlit cigarette up close and personal fo rht efirst time I shouted “IT SMELLS LIKE A FIG NEWTON!”  Uncool.  But accurate.  Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille makes you want to eat yer tobackey.  How very un-Ford like behavior.  A drier and smokier tobacco you might want to check out is Sonoma Scent Studio’s Tabac Aurea.

Wood, Forests, Workshops and Cedar Chips

Wood smells great.  It has natural oils.  It smells clean and warm at the same time.  Each wood has a distinct smell.  While we may not be up on the obscurities of the many different trees, certainly we know the difference between pine and cedar.  Sandalwood is the queen bee of the wood perfume family.  Mysore sandalwood oil (heavily overharvested and endangered) is supposed to be a perfume in and of itself.  I’ve never had the pleasure.

Ormonde Jayne Woman lists Black Hemlock as one of its primary notes.  When you sniff Ormonde Jayne Woman for the first time, when you look up you expect to have been magically transported to an enchanted forest where you may or may not be in danger due to the local sorceress.

On an more earthly plain, fresh unsullied hamster shavings smell downright grand.  The cedar ones in particular.  Cedar oil, in it’s essential form, somehow isn’t quite as warm and cozy as the wood itself.  In fact the oil can be a bit harsh.  Lately, the cedar that has been invigorating my pulse points is Commes des Garcons White.  It’s cinnamon and cedar and it’s downright cozy.

Recently…very recently, as in I got the sample a couple days ago, I discovered Sonoma Scent Studio. Perfumer Laurie Erickson’s work is just great.  Honestly, I can’t recommend it more highly.  Her perfumes are old school good.  They aren’t dumbed down.  There’s no flash.  They are adult and really well crafted.  My personal favorite at the moment is Winter Woods (I got this last Friday and I’ve already gotten several compliments).  It sort of combines the mystery of Ormonde Woman with a very really woodsiness and just a hint of smoke.  Although it isn’t listed in the notes, I get a very subtle vanilla and a pure incense in the drydown.

And then we have agarwood or oudh or aoudh or any of the other spellings that indicate as an American, you are just not gonna pronounce it right.  I say oudh with an “oo” that sounds like the “oo” in “foot.”  Here’s hoping I won’t get laughed at.  Anyhoo, I don’t know too much about oudh except that it’s like Hansel:  So hot right now.  I’m only just teaching myself about it, and will just have to report back.  I CAN tell you that if you are just dying to drop insane amounts of cash on perfume, start here.

Smoke, Fire and the Burned.  Growing up staunchly Protestant, I never experienced what my Catholic and formerly Catholic brethren think of as “church smell”.  To them, church smell is distinctly related to incense.  To me, church smell is a combination of green beans with ham in it, that cheap pink public bathroom soap, floor cleaner, Youth Dew, coffee in styrofoam cups and cheesey potatoes.  It’s true, being a Protestant just isn’t quite as glamorous as the ritual-practicing incense-burning Catholics, particularly when talking perfume.  Thankfully, through perfume, I can still relive what I never experienced.  In perfumery, incense goes far beyond a gas station purveyed joss stick.  Incense ranges from cracklin’ breath-takin’ frankincense to sweet purrin’ myrrh.  Resins.  Saps.  It’s fascinating. I like Armani Prive Bois d’encens, Annick Goutals Encens Flamboyant and Sonoma Scent Studio’s Incense Pure.  The best, however, is Chanel’s Coromandel which is just wonderful and I would bathe in it if I could.  White Chocolate Incense is the best way I can describe it.  Imagine having a mug of spiked hot white chocolate placed in your hand and a cashmere blanket wrapped around you.  You are ushered into a room that is bathed in silk, cashmere, angora and leather.  There is the purest frankincense burning in the corner and the floor is of the smoothest cedar.  That’s Coromandel.

It’s not just incense our noses like to burn.  Wood, fireplaces, even sugar (which I will address under a different category.)  Smoke is downright a-okay.

I mentioned CB I Hate Perfume earlier.  They have a particularly smoky offering called Burning Leaves.  If that is a bit too much bonfire for you, I recommend Sonoma Scent Studio’s Fireside Intense which is smoky but a bit closer to the skin and wearable.

Patchouli 24 by Le Labo is more than just smoke, but it’s the smoke that helps it stand apart.  Frankly, I could have thrown this under many categories such as the Animalics, or even the blurb on Books.  As Luca Turin says, There is a vanillic sweetness to an old book, and you will find that here in Patchouli 24.  Fear not the Patchouli, my friends. We all have our hippie related patchouli fears but patchouli is used is many many perfumes to round them out.  If you are a fan of the more oriental Chanels or Diors, it’s patchouli that is toasting your toes.  Think rich sumptuousness not raspy head shop.


The Aromatic Fougere incarnate

In perfumery, herbs range from the very literal to the very weird.  The oldest cologne recipes originating from medieval times (even Egyptian) utilize thyme, rosemary, mint, and many other aromatics.  A perfect example of British style apothecary perfume (ie smells “older” than it is) is one of my faves: crisp, clean and herbal L’Eau by Diptyque.  In fact, L’Eau was one of my “in roads” to niche perfumery, but that’s a different post.  Herbs tend to be a bit masculine in perfumery.  The classic “masculine” scents are called Aromatic Fougeres and are packed with Lavender, Rosemary, Thyme and Vetiver.

However herbs are not always so very manly.  An herbal selection that falls under the “minty” category (a notoriously difficult note to achieve…however, I love mint in most forms and am therefore not as picky as your average perfume freak bear) would be a selection from the Guerlain Acqua Allegoria collection (a very reasonably priced way to get some Guerlain).  It is called Acqua Allegoria Herba Fresca. Another great mint pick is Dirty by Lush, and the solid is about ten bucks.

Herbs and Citrus often go hand in hand in the perfumery world.  One of my summertime picks is Eau d’Hadrian by Annick Goutal.  It’s unisex, fresh and decidedly herbal.  I wear it on the hottest days of summer when most perfumes are too much but none won’t do.

If you are really into aromatic herbs, however,  you should probably wade into the men’s department (that goes for both men and women.  Perfume is invisible. The only gendering happens in the marketing.  Again, another post…) , but keep your wits about you.  Head for the older stuff.  Perfumes for men are notoriously badly made and insulting to it’s audience.  The reason many people hate fragrance is because of newer Versaces and anything with the label of “sport.” Look for the classic Guerlains, Diors, Chanels.  Tom Ford has done well for men. A good in road for those who are nervous about crossing gender lines is the classic Acqua Di Parma or Christian Dior’s Eau Sauvage.

A classic that has maintained a little world of it’s own is Clinique’s Aromatic’s Elixir.  I’ll be honest.  It’s a bit of a love-hate perfume and I am just not on the love side of the aisle.  However, much reading and research tells me it is very well done and a true classic.  It’s clear it is made from very high quality ingredients and is incredibly well made.  It’s distinct.  It smells like a classic from its era (the 70’s.   A wonderful time in perfumery.)  I’m just…not there yet.  (This opens the opportunity to discuss, “Why can’t you just not like it?”  I can.  I mean, I don’t.  I don’t like it.  But I know that Aromatics Elixir can teach me something about perfumery.  Whereas Fame by Lady Gaga, another perfume I don’t like, is just more of the same old crap that’s been flooding the shelves for all of the 2000’s.  As a cultural figure, she might have some lessons for me to learn, as a perfume figure, I’ve heard it all before.)

Seasons, Holidays and Memories – In a previous post, I attempted to capture All That Is Autumn To Me via perfume, and I made much headway.  Above, I’ve mentioned more conceptual memories I’d love to recreate.  My next project will probably be The Ultimate Christmas Perfume.  It’s hard to recommend perfumes for other people’s memories.  But even my own can be perplexing.  One of my favorite scents in the whole wide world is very specific and very strong.  It is Opening Night at a Theatre, Act Two Post Intermission.  The smells range from fresh sawdust, the oily smell of stage makeup, the heat of the lights, the booze in the patrons, the faint scent of cocktail meatballs and party trays, the range in perfumes in colognes, sweat, nerves, paint, leather, dust, hairspray, cigarettes,mentholated cough drops, mints….  The amalgamated smell is so wonderful and singular
and in some form has been a part of almost all of my life from my Dad’s performance of King Arthur in Camelot to my latest opening night just a couple months ago.  I don’t know if I’d want to wear it on my skin (if I don’t already by rote) but a candle would be nice.

Speaking of candles, sometimes this category is better served by atmospheric scents.  Every year my Momma (and now me and my sisters) make “Christmas smell” which is just a saucepan filled with all things Christmasey and simmered.  I love pine-scented candles.  Vanilla hand lotion.  Scent doesn’t always have to be EdP.

Nor does it need to be artificial.  Each March, some day comes along that registers above 60 degrees and I fling the windows open with glee to smell fresh air, soil, and green sprigs.  It’s a perfect scent, and one that must be walked into rather than put on.

There’s another category of scent is one that I think probably is the most fun, and also marks the true perfume geek:  The scent memory of an experience you’ve never had.  I remember the first time this happened for me.  I knew that my Aunt had worn White Shoulders for years.  And when I came across a description of White Shoulders in a book, I figured, “What the hell?”  A bottle of the EdC concentration is about 12 bucks at Walgreens.  If nothing else, the bottle is pretty.  I grabbed some on my lunch break.  When I smelled it, I expected to have immediate thoughts of my Aunt assuming I would remember the scent from childhood.  Instead, for some reason, I was mentally whisked to Ginger’s first visit to her new house in the movie Casino.  “What a Difference a Day Makes” was playing in the background and the world of the early seventies appears in a classic Scorcese long shot through closet upon closet of fur and jewels.  I just knew that the house smelled like White Shoulders.  And White Shoulders is just the sort of thing Ginger would have worn.  That day at least.  Trying to prove her innocence with an innocent perfume.  I just have to figure out what she must have worn at night.

Jean Claude Ellena, Hermes’ in house perfumer, says he is inspired by the paintings of Cezanne and Matisse.  Not their literal contents, but rather their spirits.  This appeals to me.  What’s the point of these big human brains if we can’t stretch out senses a bit?