Sometimes, a big city can be welcoming, and sometimes it can wallop you with an urban blight that impacts you so profoundly, it makes you scratch your head and wonder why you love that particular place so much to begin with.
When I crossed the border into Ontario for the first time since my enemy radical status was rescinded, I couldn´t wait for that first glimpse of the CN Tower that reveals itself from across Lake Ontario as you drive along on the Queen Elizabeth Way, somewhere between St. Catharines and Hamilton. It almost reminds me of seeing Manhattan from mid-span on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge between Staten Island and Brooklyn, only the distance from St. Catharines to Toronto is much greater. As you view either metropolis from those vantage points, you can´t help but be filled with hope and anticipation of experiencing all each city has to offer, until you see them up close and discover appearances aren´t always what they seem.
Two days into my visit, municipal employees declared war on the city of Toronto and many relied upon services were casualties of their declaration. Their work stoppage has affected city-run daycare centers, community swimming pools, public parks and other essential city services. The most obvious and frankly disgusting casualty has been the cessation of garbage, recycling and compost collections, which have caused unsightly mountains of refuse to pile up all over the landscape. It looks awful and smells even worse. To add insult to psychological, visual and olfactory injuries, striking workers have blockaded garbage transfer stations and temporary drop-off sites and will periodically not allow tax-paying citizens to dispose of their refuse. When they do allow individuals to unburden themselves of their trash, they restrict entry into these stations or drop sites by allowing access to only one vehicle at a time in 15 minute intervals. I don´t know which part of this surprises me more: the fact that they are able to do that, or that people are willing to wait in line for hours at a time to drop off their garbage. As of this posting, there is no end in sight to this strike and negotiations are progressing at a snail´s pace.
So what does the cynical perfumista do in order to stave off the offensive stench of rotting garbage? Head indoors to the fragrance counters in order to get some relief.
I´ve been very reticent to go downtown since the garbage situation has been affecting the tourist areas the most. Instead, I went over to the Yorkdale mall and perused the fragrance counters at The Bay and Holt Renfrew. At Holt Renfrew I discovered two new Italian fragrances that for the life of me I cannot remember which house made them, or what their names were. All I know is that they both smelled amazing and cost $180.00 a bottle. I lamented to Henni, one of the Beauty Advisors, that right now, they were way too rich for my pocketbook.
I noticed the complete range of Bond No. 9 scents with Brooklyn and Astor Place front and center. Kilian Hennessy´s By Kilian scents were nearby, but my interest was piqued by the newest Creed scent, Acqua Fiorentina. It is packaged in the same bottle as Love in White and Love in Black, the major difference being the color of the juice. Nabi, the Creed counter manager told me this was the first pink-toned Creed scent, and that the company will be making donations to breast cancer charities during Breast Cancer Awareness month in October. I haven´t been that crazy about a lot of the more recent Creed scents (with the exception of Virgin Island Water), but Acqua Fiorentina has a lovely, tart plum note that blends well with Calabrian lemon, carnation, rose, sandalwood and cedar. This is a tad fruity, but not in the ubiquitous celebrity scent way; the fruitiness of the plum and the dry cedar are reminiscent of a Serge Lutens creation, but it is a cinch to wear. If you like Spring Flower, you´ll like this one; it is really well done.
Speaking of Serge, the last time I ventured into The Bay at Yorkdale, there was a fairly comprehensive selection of the export fragrances. This time, they were nowhere to be found. I was rather surprised, but I have enough Serge to keep me occupied for a while. Honestly, The Bay at Yorkdale was a bit disappointing; however, they did have the reissued Givenchys, including a stockpile of Organza Indecence. Paging March: your favorite “sexy cupcake” scent is alive and well here in T.O. It smelled a bit boozier than the bottle I´ve got, but you´d be splitting hairs trying to tell them apart. Escada Incredible Me was interesting, and very reminiscent of Collection. I was tempted by it, but I´m glad I passed because it now smells a tad too perfumey on the blotter paper.
No sniffing expedition would be complete without a visit to my favorite haunt, Shoppers Drug Mart. There I discovered Kate Moss Velvet Hour, which I fell for completely. It´s an eau de toilette concentration and the notes of blue pepper, freesia, cashmere incense, patchouli, nutmeg sandalwood and amber are light enough to wear in warmer weather. It has a nice bit of “skank” appeal and I really had to force myself to walk away from it. I rationalized that the bottle was something of a deal-breaker with its dark blue flying saucer-ish shape that really doesn´t do the scent justice. This potion would be much more at home in a Dianne Brill/Fifi Chachnil/Agent Provocateur-type vessel. That way, you know what you´re getting.
The other scent I zeroed in on was Lise Watier´s Désirable. Now that I´m officially in the club, I really want to like a perfume from a Canadian cosmetics and fragrance house, but sadly, none of Ms. Watier´s scents are remotely appealing to me. Désirable is as potent as a genetically modified fruit salad and way too over-the-top for my liking. Her Neiges scent is another that, much as I´d like to, I just can´t wrap my nose around. Brutal Canadian winters notwithstanding, what could be better than to smell clean and pure as the driven… well, you know the rest. Sorry, no can do. Fans of Lorenzo Villoresi´s Teint de Neige would like this; the two are practically interchangeable.
I´d like to give a shout-out to Angela over at “Now Smell This”. I read her entry from this past Monday, “Lament of a Penniless Perfumista”, and it really struck a chord with me. As I gazed wistfully at all the shiny bottles, I was thinking exactly what Angela so eloquently wrote: “It´s challenging times like these that remind me to slow down and appreciate what I already have.” I couldn´t have said it any better. Being reunited with my family and friends and knowing they are there to support me through anything warms my heart much more than a bottle of fragrance ever could. And, like Angela, I have more than enough of those to tide me over. Now, if only my aunt could get rid of all her smelly garbage and compost…
I´m heading back to my US abode today, so I will read and respond to comments tomorrow.