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?
Wow, just wow. You had me at “gasping at Michael Stipe’s beauty” and from there I could not stop. Please write here (or anywhere) more often!
I want photos of that cheerleeding outfit, L, as soon as you have it made and [email protected])
What a lovely post! You should totally do it more often! Oh, and did I say I just love your name? I grew up watching a Russian cartoon called The Cat Leopold who had the kindest of hearts, in spite of being set up to fail time and time again. Anyways, I’m rambling now. So, is it Lee or Leo? Cuz I’ve been calling you Leo on my blog. :d
Leopoldo, that was lovely. Please do write again! You don’t have to replace dear P&M! But do be careful about the cheerleader thing. Did you know that GW Bush was a cheerleader in prep school?
My dad was hospitalized for a heart attack, on a needlessly grim diet. In his ward was a completely senile old guy, eating dessert. My mom said, “It could be worse. You could be like him.” My dad replied, “Yes, but at least HE has watermelon!” It became a family touchstone — it’s time to go when you no longer can enjoy even your watermelon. …
Thanks so much for your warm comment. I too am a massive fan of Patty and March. Keep it quiet, but I’ve actually designed myself a perfume posse cheerleader outfit. Expect to see me parading in cyberspace sometime soon, wafts of Caronade (for P) and Guerlainade (for M) extruding from each shaken pom-pom.
We’re often too busy living to see that big picture stuff (and that’s a good thing!). Now, time for you to wear Tubereuse Criminelle outside!
You smell glorious. Waft some in Patty’s direction.
Judith – I think it’s best I’m fully clothed. Even on milk and cookies, people’s digestions can be upset…
Tigs – as part of a previous job, I used to have to do godawful morning assemblies to an audience of 250+ adolescents. I’d always start somewhere and see where I could get to by the end of my allotted time. I love having to tie the apparently irreconcilable together…
… and sometimes, the kids’d even enjoy those assemblies!
I’m not sure how profound it is Bryan, but it feels true. Thanks for your comment.
Dear Leopold, thank you for your lovely story, I’m at work right now, and I was carried away momentarily by your reverie. I love this blog and the ladies are the best, they make me laugh and keep me posted on all the great fragrances. I welcome you to this blog and I look forward to reading your posts.
wonderful post Lee-
a lot of the time we forget what’s important. thanks for the beautiful reminder…
This is a beautifully written post, Leopoldo, and very thought-provoking.
I’ll wear Arabie today in your honor. I think you too like it.
Incredible post! Milk and cookies for everyone! And I second the request for a picture of Lee, in whatever clothes (or lack of them) he would prefer.
–longtime fan of BOTH Michael Stipe and Andy Kaufman
Leo – a really interesting post. I have to admit, I had no idea how you were going to tie the movie and your own experience into smell, but you did it. “Itâ€™s that simple and that wondrous” indeed. It’s true that there is something so moving about the sense of smell that way, something transient, ephemeral but also very direct and powerful.
My obsession with scent has just received a very profound defense. God bless you Leo, and please write on!
Thanks Iris. As long as the PP ladies don’t take out a restraining order, I’m bound to throw something else out sooner or later.
Andy – thanks for your lovely comment. It’s great knowing you, y’know.
What a lovely post. I look forward to reading others from you.
Marina – I did once have my photo taken in a dress (never a negligee) – it’s the only time I’ve ever worn one, I hated it, and I look like a right sulky-drawers in the pic. My face is easily seen elsewhere on the internet-o-sphere – PoL has a photo or two somewheres…
A lifetime ago for me too, March.
I’m busy sniffing Eau Noire today. Thought you and Marina would appreciate knowing that.
Dusan – seems like we sould start a Smiths fan club too (though I’ve been there, done that, as you’ll see if you venture to my sporadic PoL blog).
I’m scythe-free, fortunately! Hurrah!
Thanks for your lovely reply!
Elle – thank you so much – you charmer you!
Shall we start a pre-Automatic for the People Michael Stipe appreciation society?
Patty – well thank you for zee compliment. I’ve just attempted post-Christmas sales shopping, and being a devout shopaphobic, the whole thing was miserable from start to finish. I always hope that I’ll return having handed over my sackful of misanthropy to someone or other – no such luck. So these replies have cheered me up.
At some point Patty, I’m going to attempt an anti-snow dance for you.
what a touching post, dear Leopoldo. I was listening to Steve Reich’s desert music when reading it and watched the scenery between Zurich and Berne past by, melancholic and post-Christmas depressed… Very true, my dear, life on earth doesn’t last. Let’s pray this feature of life does not change as long as I live!
That Smiths song is one of my favs of all time.
And, note to self: Do *not* comment pre-coffee w/out proofreading. Stipe!!! Not Stipes. Ugh. I adore him. Did not mean to add that s.
I loved the article so much! I demand more posts from Leopoldo! An accompanying photo of him in a diaphanous negligee would be nice too :d
Michael Stipe! Oh, the flashback…. I remember the first time I heard Murmur. We all used to sit around listening… it seems like a lifetime ago. I just turned my daughter onto REM.
Thanks for the lovely post.
Just beautiful, awfully sad and yet life-affirming! And so true (for me) in many respects… Leo my friend, I hope whatever scythe was hovering above your head is now back in the shed 🙂
The image of you rubbing your dying roommate’s back while gazing at the sun will forever be imprinted in my mind. Thank you so much for sharing this… Enjoy your cookies!
ELLE, There Is a Light That Never Goes Out is one of the most beautiful songs – ever. 🙂
Absolutely beautiful post and somehow perfect for the season. And speaking of beautiful, Michael Stipes is indeed that in the Man on the Moon video.
And in case anyone believes your statement that you you don’t have a talent for describing scents, they need only read your POL blog and your recent description of the scents in your home and the scent descriptions in the There is a Light that Never Goes Out post.
Very few people can head into deep waters paragraphs and exit quite so well as you do.
Milk and cookies does make everything better, and it is often the simple that bonks us over the head.
Now, would that the milk and cookies could make that other foot or two of snow we are supposed to get AGAIN this week go away.
Mwah! Glad you’re still here with us. 🙂