This is from Patty — As you can tell, we are still bothering our guy friends to write for us, and Lee (Leopoldo) has been so kind as to give in to my pestering. If this keeps up, we’re gonna put a cowboy up there with the
Patty said a while back that that she´d be prepared for me, nay be pleased for me, to write some blather for Perfume Posse. It´s very generous of her, seeing as I look nothing like either of the ladies at the top of the blog, although I am rather fetching in a diaphanous negligee. So here I am. It´s been said before, and I don´t mind repeating it – Leopoldo takes what he can get. A truth universally acknowledged, I reckon.
Now, I know my writing exercise is really a cover story hatched by both PP ladies so they can get on with their other´ projects: Patty needs some time clearing snow from her back yard so that she can continue with her cool room extension, set to rival the Osmotheque according to undisclosed sources (there´s even gonna be a special shrine where visitors can pay homage to Jean Claude – NO TOUCHING ALLOWED!); March is busy building a supercomputer large enough to hold all the data on her gazillions of decants. Apparently she´s cross-referencing them to track down every trace of cedar known to woman. I admire their work, and am happy to fill a hole if this allows them completion, and eventual world domination, I do not doubt. Thanks for this chance, my ladies. Now, get on with your work…
However, I have to be clear and admit that my talent doesn´t especially lie in capturing the essence of a scent in words. Indeed, I´ve yet to find where it does lie, but I know it´s not transposing the ineffable transience of smell into the more permanent fabric of language. So, can I take you off on a tangent instead, and hopefully return to the fragrant world by the end?
I finally got round to watching the Andy Kaufman bio, Man on the Moon´ the other day. Initially, I was more interested in gasping at Michael Stipe´s beauty in the eponymous music video accompanying the film (do check him out and remind yourselves – it´s absolutely worth it). I think this was partly because, being a Brit, I´m not sure Kaufman has the significance for me he might have Stateside – I remember watching him in Taxi´ as a kid and laughing, though I always found him a little too odd, too outré and therefore scary, and felt that I was happier with the more amenable and more directly sympathetic Christopher Lloyd character. However, the film was something of a revelation.
Don´t get me wrong, I didn´t enjoy it all – it seemed patchy, episodic and irritatingly quirky at times, much like the man himself I suppose. But the final third of the movie moved me profoundly. Andy knows he´s dying, and aside from a last desperate dash to the Philippines for a cure (which he witnesses to be a trick, like so much of his own career), he seems to accept his fate with dignity. This is encapsulated for me in two episodes from his Carnegie Hall performance. In the first, he makes a very old woman ride around the stage on a hobbyhorse and his orchestral directing at lightning speed forces the inevitable – the poor old girl clutches her chest, collapses and dies. A doctor comes to check – no heartbeat. Andy has walked off stage and now returns to perform a levitation act – the woman (no! gasp! laughter and tears!) recovers. We, the film audience, pretty much know all along this is going to happen, especially when we see it´s Andy´s brother performing the role of doctor. What´s significant about this to me is its tragicomic nature – as though death, the inevitable, can be laughed off and kept at bay, even though both Andy and the hobbyhorse woman know the scythe is by now tapping them on their shoulders.
The second episode moved me to tears, without me quite knowing why. You know that way such tears start: you´re profoundly whacked round the chops with feeling, and yet somehow you can´t put in place what exactly dealt the blow? Andy takes all of his audience for milk and cookies. It´s that simple and that wondrous. I´ve pondered this for some time now, and the best I can come up with is that what touched me so deeply was the return to childhood represented in this act – the cookies became a symbol of time reversed, and yet also seemed to reverberate as the most apposite symbol of life´s transience. At that moment, I was made aware, without understanding exactly how, of the fact that life is beautiful precisely because it doesn´t last.
So forgive me as I head into the penultimate deep waters paragraph. Last year, I nearly died. I won´t bore you with the details or the melodrama. But one early morning, in hospital, three days before I was finally released, I was busy rubbing my bed neighbour´s back, a dear old man called Fred who was slowly drowning. Emphysema. We stared out the large window that ran along the end of the ward bay; it faced east and the sun was rising. A light breeze susurrated the curtains. The scent of late summer, the change to autumn, crept its way in with the dew´s evaporation. Fred told me he wanted to die. We continued to fix our gazes on the dawn. For a small moment it seemed enough to look and smell and wonder. I hope Fred felt so too.
My love of smell seemed reborn at that precise mid-September moment. What better way to experience life than to have a pleasure that doesn´t last, be haunted by traces from time now gone, on your clothes and on the skin of others, to be lost for words in a reverie of sense? It´s a truism so true it may seem empty, but it bears repeating: life doesn´t last; make sure you live it. And be sure to continue living it through smell.
I´m off for milk and cookies and a sniff of Ambre Narguilé. How bout you?