Long, Strange Trip

WARNING: ADULT CONTENT. Contains drug use, SA mockery, fragrance addiction, caffeine abuse, sexual references, chocolate and mild obscenities.

Louise and I were supposed to meet at Tysons II at 10:30 for some sniffage, but we were already running behind. For one thing, she woke up with a migraine and she was a little loopy on her meds. I always have trouble hustling two four-year-olds out the door, and I had a wicked sinus headache, plus I´m taking drugs for my leaf-mold allergies, so I was feeling a little spacey. It was all okay until the traffic on the Beltway stopped because they´d closed our exit for a bomb scare. Honest to God, only in Washington, D.C., with paranoia at Cold War levels, could you get a Beltway closure, three news helicopters and the bomb squad for a section of PVC pipe on the side of the road that probably fell off the back of a plumber´s truck. But there we sat, and I really needed a ladies´ room. It was beginning to cross my mind that layering two kinds of antihistamines with my hard-core prescription headache pills on an empty stomach was maybe not a good idea. We idled. Eventually we came up with Plan B – head further up the highway and double back in the Tysons Corner holiday traffic, my idea of hell. I was addled enough at that point I remember thinking, come on, a pipe bomb?! How many people can you kill with that thing, anyway!? Open the exit and let me through!

But we made it. We started at Starbucks with a little more caffeine for our headaches, where I made myself a sample of Louise´s C&S Frankincense and Myrrh, and handed over my end of the deal. With me flying high, we wandered into Saks, where we had an existential discussion with the SA regarding whether Flowerbomb Extreme really existed anywhere other than in my mind, and she´d only give us one paper test strip at a time (grudgingly). So, Patty and others, you´re right — F-bomb Extreme is a rather nice scent, I can see your guilty pleasure, although honestly its praline-comfort thing reminded me a lot of Betsey Johnson. Then we stopped by the Jo Malone kiosk, where Louise enjoyed the cocoa-powder goodness of Blue Agava & Cacao, and we discussed the question of which JM we hated the most. (Answer: Pom Noir).

At NM I went looking for the Parfum des Merveilles. But again we were stymied by the SA, who wouldn´t let Louise smell Versace’s The Dreamer (“it´s a men´s fragrance,” she kept explaining) and then worked hard to convince me that the Elixir des Merveilles was the parfum variant of the Eau. When that failed, she got busy trying to convince me that the larger of their two Eau bottles was actually the Parfum, and the walls were vibrating a little, at which point I started looking around for the caterpillar with the hookah. She kept producing things I didn´t want to smell but couldn´t find the things I did want to smell, and again there were no paper test strips – they´re all pre-sprayed with Cartier Baiser du Dragon now, and whenever we asked for some clean ones, she left. (Is there some paper shortage I´m unaware of?) I was feeling a little Hunter-Thompson-gonzo-perfume-ish, only I´m female and the drugs were legal, but the trip just kept getting more surreal. I smelled Cartier Declaration, which you can have, and Louise totally fell for the immortelle wonder of Dior´s aptly named Eau Noire.

Along about 2:00 I realized I was hungry, and I should have eaten a salad or something real, but I knew there was no way I could sit still in a chair. So instead we headed for Art With Flowers to smell some niche product, and I had a Vosges Goji chocolate bar (goji berries, pink Himalayan salt – they have other great flavors, too, my second favorite being Red Fire with chipotle chiles and cinnamon), which would have been a perfect lunch in a parallel universe where smart women make foolish choices but don´t get vicious rebound headaches the next day. My discovery of Vosges resembles my discovery of Malle fragrances – I thought $7 was an absurd amount of money for a 3-oz. bar of chocolate, until I tasted it, at which point it seemed perfectly reasonable.

Things got a little hazy after the Vosges. The SMN Kyoto went all soapy on Louise, and I sniffed the L´Artisan Bottega Veneta Intreccio #2 candle, which is less leather, more woods-incense, and just gorgeous, and then I´m pretty sure Bill showed us a new line they´re carrying which features three fragrance oils, some candles built specially for dripping hot wax on the body, a bondage blindfold and vibrators at three price points (gold, silver and platinum!) There I was, holding a vibrator and trying not to giggle because I was worried about snorting a goji berry up my nose, when it dawned on me that the flickering lights were probably a looming migraine and maybe I should go home while I could still see. Louise had some shoe-shopping to do, so we said our goodbyes and I went to throw some cold water on my face in the Neiman Marcus ladies´ before getting behind the wheel.

On the way home I turned on the iPod, which is when I realized my 12-year-old´s been expanding her iTunes playlist beyond Cher and U2 to that rollicking, hilariously unprintable paean to oral pleasure, Pitbull’s Lengua Fuera (“tongue out”) – which, okay, I love reggaeton, if you´re not squirming to that beat you must be dead, and is there anything hotter than the way those guys say “mami”? But where on earth did she find this song, and now that she’s in her second year of Spanish, does she have any idea what he´s talking about? (Note to self: check iPod playlist when you get home. Discuss.)

I went home and cleaned up – the house, I mean. I thought some physical labor would help me re-tether to planet Earth. It helped. Eating a sandwich and drinking several large glasses of water helped, too. I had a great time, except I worry that Louise thought I was insane. Louise, hon, if you´re reading this – I think you should buy the Eau Noire. Definitely.

  • minette says:

    i couldn’t even make it out of the house with a migraine, so i applaud your ability to function – and in d.c. traffic, too! that’s crazy even when you’re feeling fine. your SAs sound hideous. no wonder my friend up in mclean couldn’t find the things on the list i gave him (for his wife). hope you’re feeling perkier now.

  • Robin says:

    If all the SAs were knowledgeable & cooperative, you’d have to worry about your meds, wouldn’t you LOL…

    Sounds like a great day regardless.

  • Leopoldo says:


    I just think you’ve hit the nail on the head as to why I love Déclaration so much…:”>

  • Bryan says:

    OK, after all this, here’s what I get out of it….I have to try CB Musk. What to read between the lines, right?
    March, you never fail to make me laugh. I should have been commenting long ago. How come I never get offered platinum vibrators when I go shopping?:d

  • Katie says:

    I’ll just pretend I didn’t hear that.

  • March says:

    Katie — none of it seemed real. Maybe the SA would have whipped out a sword. Or turned into Chewbacca or something. I was playing it safe.

    The C&S … uh … have I mentioned how very, very long I’ve been wanting to try it? And how you couldn’t pick a better name for something I’d love than “Frankincense & Myrrh”? And how insanely grateful I am I didn’t buy this unsniffed, because I might as well be dabbing on turpentine?:-“

  • March says:

    Maria — Oh, my — :((

    Call the exorcist!!!!

    You will never get rid of Terre d’Hermes, because >:) takes the cap off each night and drips it around your rooms. Lord, I hate that stuff. The 99% of people who love it? Are nuts.

    Actually, the joke over here is that the general computer area smells heavily perfumed. Even the kids’ friends notice it.

  • March says:

    Sariah — thanks for the tip — it sounds wonderful! I think I smelled human existence (and it smelled like sewer.) It’s funny, though — I smell stuff like that over and over again. I can’t really stop. I have a wee vile of TC (shhh, don’t tell Patty!) and Borneo, and every blue moon I uncap them to confirm that they’re like drinking sour milk.

  • March says:

    Tigs — hahahahahhahaaha!!! Yep, we have GOT to protect you from Vosges. Gotta keep that border strong. It’s getting harder to get my cheap Canadian meds over to this side, too. Thank God the U.S. govt’ is protecting me from foreign Zyrtec.

  • March says:

    Patty — see my description above.:o

    You know what? You might really love it, though. Your skin just evens all that stuff out. I bet it would be like a Paradise of Gentle Woods on you, or something equally unfair.

  • March says:

    Leopoldo — okay, let me refine my answer, it’s more like: whip up some curry, put it in a cedar bowl, have sex with your boyfriend and then bury your nose in his sweaty armpit.

    Can you imagine?

    I bet you can.

  • March says:

    Tom — I have this ginormous bottle of Baiser I’m going to try to get somebody to trade me something for, one of these days. Really, it’s a lifetime supply.8-x

  • Katie says:

    Oh March! This was great. ‘Fumes, sex (sort of) and chocolate: what more could one ask for? I mean besides The Dreamer? God, that just would irk me to no end. I can’t believe you guys didn’t throw a mini-snit to make an embarassing scene about it!

    Whadja think of the C&S Frankincense and Myrrh?:d

  • Maria B. says:

    It was so nice to be taken on a stroll down memory lane. I moved out of the DC area in 1997 and, even back then in the days when no one gave a thought to national security, getting to Tyson’s Corner meant sitting in a highway parking lot.

    I’m sitting here at the computer baffled about where the smell of Terre d’Hermes is coming from. My husband and I got a sample at the Sacramento Sephora on Saturday. Last night I tried it and was driven so crazy by it that I had to wash it off–wash and wash and wash. Today my husband put it on and is now sitting in his office going insane. I’m just mystified about what else I could have gotten it on. The clothes I was wearing got washed this morning. I’m sorry. I know Terre has its fans–and it’s by Jean Claude Ellena!

  • sariah says:

    hey March,

    Yep, I was there for the Perfume movie screening, it was like perfume heaven as Karen (one of the organizers) put it. I absolutely loved the movie, even more than the book, it was just so vivid and engrossing. It makes me want to go to Grasse and play in a big field of lavendar. I also love Tykwer’s other movies – Run Lola Run and The Warrior and the Princess – highly recommended sensory overload type movies that I can keep watching over and over again. After lunch the very nice Les Christophes spoke about the development of the scents, and then passed out 6 or so for us to try. My god, there is one called something like Human Existance that is the most vile thing ever, it crawled right up my nose, it was like 500 pairs of unwashed old-man socks. And of course I kept sniffing it to repeatedly gross myself out – I’m weird like that. Well, I could go on but Lucy on the indieperfumes blog did a really good write-up, you should check it out.

  • Tigs says:

    Oooo, I wish everyone would stop mentioning Vosges – I tried to order from them in November and they bascially said it wouldn’t make it across the border without melting or going bad or something. *sigh* I had trouble reading the SA section, March, it was just painfully, painfully true. I had to leave a store recently because I found myself nearly shouting “This is NOT the only men’s release, it is NOT!” Even my husband has started torturing the poor, untrained things saying things like: “What do you MEAN you don’t carry the extrait, I am informed it is a great CLASSIC!”

  • Patty says:

    March and L — I can’t say that I’ve ever smelled Declaration? I could have sworn I had a sample around here somewhere, but I can’t find it now. Odd.

    Feet and butt? My boyfriend may have been having an off day.

  • Leopoldo says:

    That CB Musk and its lady zone qualities still makes me chuckle. I’m gonna do a fangita sniffarama now and see if I can discover the hideaway heinie inside the cumin/curry/orange spice/chutney (but light and liquid and oh so shimmery) loveliness of Declaration…

  • tmp00 says:

    I’ve sniffed that one. I call it Baiser de Mort. :d

  • March says:

    Tom — well, it was WEIRD, more than anything. When I’m confronted by sales people who seem actively engaged in thwarting my requests, which are simple and relatively benign, sometimes I get mad but eventually I start to laugh. Trying to get them to give us tester strips was like trying to score the Holy Grail — and the one SA could NOT understand that her whole stack of strips was pre-sprayed with Dragon (how do you miss THAT?!?) so could not understand why we kept saying, ew, use different paper!!! Here’s a hint: Don’t layer Dragon with Dreamer. or anything else, either.

  • March says:

    Vi — some day, you and I are going to go on a Girly Sniffathon.@};-

  • March says:

    Anya — honest, it was FUN!!! Okay, my idea of fun is a little off, but at least it wasn’t boring. Louise is very fun to play with, too. I ate all my Vosges bars in, like, three days.

  • March says:

    Bev — welcome!!!! My Magic 8-Ball says you will just LOVE Carnal Flower. What an amazing scent.

    The traffic here is just wretched. I try to drive as little as possible.

    Blue Agava is one of the few (two?) I actually sort like, and my only cocoa scent. It’s not foody, really — weirder than that. Comfort scent. And it’s nothing like Angel, which I loathe with unbridled passion. (Although I do think the A-men is kind of nice, but don’t own it.)

    Art with Flowers is in the top of Tysons II, it looks like a florist shop — fear not. The frags are in the back. They also have a HUGE candle collection. Bill and Neela are great.

  • March says:

    Lynne — caramels, yum!!!! Thanks for the link!

  • March says:

    Marina — I could barely remember what stores we went into, much less what we smelled. For all I know I was smelling Stella … I promise I’ll try it again. (It’s the DARK purple one, right?) Glad I made you laugh.

  • March says:

    Patty — well, I’m glad to see you haven’t turned off my access.:”> Really, I wish there’d been a camera on my face when Bill trotted out the vibrators.

    Hey, Leopoldo and I want to know — What do you think of Cartier Declaration, since your boyfriend made it? (I think it smells like feet and maybe a little heinie too).

  • March says:

    Leopoldo — I wonder if Patty’s tried Declaration?:-? Let’s ask her. Gad, you know how you felt about the CB Musk? That’s how I feel about Declaration.

  • March says:

    Elle — it was pretty funny, they are such witches (particularly in NM, in Saks they’re just sort of clueless). It was Louise’s birthday, and she was actually SHOPPING the jewelry, and this one woman was such a b!tch. They must send them to some special training.

  • March says:

    Sariah — NYC on Saturday? Uh, what were you thinking? Also — was that the sniffa? The Perfume movie thing? Tell, tell!

  • March says:

    Sariah — ah, another Pom Noir hater!!! It’s up there on my list of things you could torture me with:-”

    Noire smelled sooo good on Louise.

  • March says:

    Chaya — oh, I dunno. I wasn’t really feeling too much pain. Also, nobody shops in Tysons II, it’s like a mausoleum most of the time, full of the undead (sort of) and stroller mommies.

  • March says:

    Louise — oh, good — you’re still speaking to me!;) It was a riot. Let’s do it again.

  • tmp00 says:

    So was it the Vosges or the meds that kept you from decking that SA?

    Strangely, I was in the Beverly Center here in LA this Saturday and I could have bowled in it: practically nobody there.

    Oy I have to get my shopping done.

  • violetnoir says:

    I have no doubt that Louise thought you were totally insane! 😕 But I wouldn’t worry about it, babe. Isn’t everyone a bit bonkers? 🙂


  • Anya says:

    Starved, stoned and abused by SA’s. Girl, you are hardcore to keep going through all that! If I wore a hat, it would be off to you.

  • Bev says:

    Hi March – I’m a newby reader, (since purchasing my yet to be received but anxiously awaited Carnal Flower sample 😕 from Patty and I LOVE your blog. I, too, am a DC-dweller from Bethesda and can totally sympathize with the beltway traffic situation. It is so awful. So, is Blue Agave with Cacao anything like Angel? (ewwwgggghhhh) because it sounds as if it might be Would love to try the Vosges bars – is Art with Flower at Tyson’s II? Thanks for writing this terrific blog with Patty. Bev

  • Lynne says:

    Yummie day, if you like the Vosges chocolate you must try their caramels.

  • Marina says:

    I laughed so hard, March….but, March…Flowerbomb Extreme is nothing like the silly scent by Johnson. It’s all those drugs, honey, and the headache. You have to re-try it. Oh, and I hope your friend does buy Eau Noire. I can’t even express how much I love it.

  • Patty says:

    Sounds like a blast, and isn’t there a blog rule that you can’t use chocolate bar and vibrator in the same post?

  • Leopoldo says:

    Poor things, especially as you reacted negatively to Declaration, which I can’t understand in the least… However, Patty MUST love this one, given her Ellena fixation. Glad that there were enough highlights to make up for the languors, frustrations and aches.

    And Eau Noire can make up for most things, I think.

  • Elle says:

    Oh, those Vosges bars are worth every cent. The Red Fire one makes me weak in my knees and I can’t wait to try the curry one. Must try the Goji bar as well.
    I would rather be doused in Pink Sugar than go to a shopping mall at this time of year. I admire your restraint w/ those SAs.

  • sariah says:

    Oh, and talk about holiday shopping hell, I foolishly tried to walk down 5th ave in NY on Saturday. There were actually people LINED UP to go in the Tiffany store.

  • sariah says:

    Fun! My most hated Jo Malone is also Pom Noir – so sad that the ones I like last about 10 minutes, but that one is really tenacious.

    Louise – I’m totally with you on the Eau Noire, I got my mits on a decant and have now realised it’s super strong, so I will probably never need one of those giant bottles.

  • chayaruchama says:

    No Sh-t!
    Ah, the pleasures of la vie quotidienne…
    You poor buggers.
    Forays like that can suck the holiday spirit right out of one…

  • Louise says:

    Now, March, I didn’t think you the least bit crackers. Maybe it was my migraine aura, but it all struck me as quite the normal sniffing trip-in D.C., that is. Bombs, snotty SAs, a little kink, horrible traffic, but, but-great friends. Also, insane is a good thing in my book.

    Thanks for introducing my to those insanely good chocolate bars, and especially Eau Noire. It’s on my serious-Jewish-girl-needs-a-xmas-present list! Thanks for a grand outing!