Chaos – by Nava

I heard you all missed me… 

I´ve returned a bit later than I planned to, so I hope everyone had an enjoyable holiday season and 2009 is off to a good start. I wish I could say the same from where I´m sitting; things did not work out exactly as I´d planned, and instead of a communiqué from the Great White North, I am now hailing from somewhere south of the Mason Dixon Line. A dramatic paradigm shift, I know, and I am calling it a “pit stop”. It may be a cliché, but, “The best laid plans…” Well, you know the rest.

When last seen, I was heading to Canada for what I thought was going to be more than a “pit stop”, but the Canadian Border Services Agency thought otherwise. Although I am not a Canadian citizen, I am the daughter of a Canadian citizen (my deceased mother), and have been traveling there all my life to visit my family. I´ve never had a problem crossing the border via land or air, even over the past 7 years since “security” has taken on a whole new meaning. I´ve always known my luck was bound to run out sooner or later and run out it did, spectacularly, and at a very inconvenient time. I´ll spare you all the gory details, but I will advise anyone planning to travel to Canada to do so with caution, especially if you choose to cross at the Thousand Islands land border crossing in New York State. This facility serves as a “sin bin” for those Canadian Border Services employees of questionable character and intelligence. If you don´t believe me, I´ll give you my immigration attorney´s phone number. His exact words to me were, “That is one bad-ass border crossing.”

In the meantime, I am barred from traveling to Canada until next October; Seriously. Feel free to think of me as your friendly neighborhood enemy radical. You can literally smell me coming. The upside is that I am now working towards finally obtaining dual citizenship. I´ve started and abandoned the process a number of times; governmental bureaucracy is not my preferred poison, especially when dealing with the Canadian government. Their citizenship guidelines have changed many times over the years, and I´ve been eligible and ineligible at different points. Now it seems I will once again be eligible in a few months, so I am definitely planning on doing the deed. By the way, the fragrance selection in the duty-free shop on the Canadian side at Thousand Islands is lame; REALLY LAME. Not exactly what I wanted to say, but I´m trying to keep this within the boundaries of good taste.

Suffice it to say, this entire situation has been a shock to my system, and it has affected me in ways I could never have imagined. I´ve been vacillating between the gallows humor, anger, ridiculousness, and sheer ignorance and stupidity of it all. This would surely make a damn good story to regale people with at cocktail parties; not that I attend many cocktail parties, but if I did, I can definitely envision holding court in someone´s living room, putting people off their drinks and watching their jaws drop to the floor. In reality, I´ve been fogged over to the point where I have been unable to take pleasure in most things that used to give me pleasure; including fragrance. Things smell differently to me now, and what I used to love to smell, I can´t seem to stomach. Fragrances I´ve raved about smell “off” and ones I used to sport on rare occasions now provide more comfort than I ever thought possible. Is it any wonder that Donna Karan´s newly re-issued Chaos is what I reach for most often now? My rave review of Estée Lauder Sensuous should be stricken from the Posse archives because it now makes me gag. Lostmarc´h Lann Ael: Syrup of Ipecac. Bond Scent of Peace: a metallic, sour grapefruit nightmare. L´Artisan Vanilia: rancid burnt sugar mixed with baby vomit. I am not well…

The only smells that make me happy these days are the aforementioned Chaos, Comme des Garà§ons´ Harissa; am I literally full of piss and vinegar – er, blood oranges and chili peppers? I think I might be. Incense Zagorsk; pimento berries and pine have never smelled so right. Occasionally, Satellite Padparadscha works its way in, but Idole de Lubin makes me feel like I have an over-proof rum hangover. My bottle of Christian Lacroix Tumulte Pour Homme is down to the dregs. I had squirreled it away because it is impossible to get. Now I would offer up a vital organ to whoever can tell me where I can get some more. My Serges? Don´t even go there. Muscs Koublai Kahn reminds me of a horse barn that hasn´t been mucked out in decades. Borneo 1834 smells like a construction worker in need of a steel wool scrub-down. Animalic is completely out of the question and skank is officially off the menu.

The only “foodie” or “gourmand” scents I seem to be able to tolerate are Philosophy´s Cranberry shower gel, which I believe has been discontinued, and Pacifica´s Mexican Cocoa pillar candle. Actually, you might find me curled up in the fetal position in front of the Pacifica candle display at Whole Foods. I never cared for them before, but now I find them powerfully soothing. Trolling department store fragrance counters used to be powerfully soothing, but I can´t bring myself to go there yet. I think I´ll get back to them eventually, or this could possibly be an existential crisis that will permanently alter the course of my life. There are many days when I don´t reach for fragrance at all, which is what I find most shocking. In the past, not spritzing or dabbing on something was tantamount to forgetting to put on underwear. Now, it´s a regular thing.  

Here´s an update: I ventured to the local mall for the first time since my reverse-relocation to pick up a few non-essential kitchen implements. I´ve been watching a lot of Food Network cooking shows over the past few months and those seem to soothe me almost as much as Pacifica candles. I realized I couldn´t live without one of those long-handled mesh strainer thingies, so I ended up getting two. Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, has me jonesing a French food mill, but I couldn´t find one. I´m not that disappointed; I do own a food processor and a blender. I wandered through Sephora and sampled Ed Hardy Love & Luck. Big mistake; worse than Ed Hardy Women.

I deliberately parked outside one of the department stores so I could exit through the cosmetics/fragrance area. The only scent I sampled was Harajuku Lovers “G”. It was soft, coconutty and not too sweet. There were still some of those cute solid perfume compacts for sale and they made me smile. I didn´t buy them, but I´m seriously thinking I need them. The road back might not be as long as I thought. Stay tuned…

  • Cheri says:

    Nava, I hope your immigration issues are resolved soon.

    My husband and I were returning from Vancouver BC a few years ago. We had no problems going through Canadian customs but upon return to the U.S., the border guard was ready to delay us because my husband accidentally said he was born in a city and not the airforce base within the city. When hubby corrected himself, the guard snapped “Which one is it?!!” Hubby said “Both, actually. The AFB is within the city limits.” The guard was silent, then asked one of the other border guards a question. Afterward,the guard finally let us through.

    We were only delayed about 15 minutes. In the meantime, a car full of teenagers quickly passed through the neighboring gate. :-l#

  • nancy says:

    Nava, just returned from NZ so have read this late. If you need more Tumulte in the future, after the bottle you receive, you could try Strawberry net.

  • Meggie says:

    Oh Nava, I have missed you! If this ever happens again, hang a left and camp out at my house instead! Will email this weekend, I swear ~Mwah!~

  • Tommasina says:

    Gah: 3rd time trying to reply! Basically saying thanks for kind words; cats both asleep, as is husband in France, so can’t even ask which wine I’m “allowed” to open:-w

    Btw, I don’t know who you are on MUA…

  • Tommasina says:

    Nava, I really feel for you and am so sorry. I’m writing this having just this morning – finally – become a US citizen: it’s taken me 9 1/2 years to get this far. I have often said that, had I come illegally into the country, speaking no English, and with no qualifications, I’d probably have had no problems (no flames from the venerable immigration workers here, please!) I’m also going through a load of other stressful stuff right now and completely understand your aversion to perfume and other former pleasures / diversions; I trust your appetite for all will return soon, and that your immigration woes will be resolved as smoothly and quickly as human(e)ly possible. Meanwhile, just dig those fingernails into that ledge – if you have any left by this point, that is!

    • Nava says:

      Thanks Tommasina. I’ve seen your posts on MUA as well. It’s been a tough road, and I barely have any fingernails left. I’m trying to remain positive that all will work out. The toughest part is not being able to see my family, but everyone is being very supportive. Congratulations on becoming a citizen. I hope you’ll be celebrating! 🙂

  • Erika says:

    I have (sadly) bountiful knowledge of that particular border crossing, as it’s the closest to me, and I’m so sorry you got treated badly. Ironically, I seem to get through quickly when I’m with husband and 2 quiet children, and if I’m on my own it takes HOURS…because obviously I’m a mom on the run with a car full of sippy cups, reeking of Infusion d’Iris 😉

    It’s 30 below today, so the only thing smelling great in the house is woodsmoke and coffee…

  • Nava says:

    There was one Toronto winter morning about 5 years ago when it was -7 Fahrenheight. When I started my car, it made this horrific whining sound because the oil was semi-frozen. What I wouldn’t give to be there and hear that sound again.

  • Aparatchick says:

    So, you’re south of the Mason-Dixon? Will it make you feel any better if I point out that the high temperature in Toronto tomorrow will be 4 degrees with a wind-chill of -10? I think that might come under the “living well is the best revenge category!”

    Seriously, I sympathize – it’s such an awful feeling to have your plans turned upside down. Here’s hoping that everything works out well for you.

  • grizzlesnort says:

    I am an immigration lawyer (US, not Canada, so you can imagine what I see day in/ day out for folks coming this way). Encounters like these leave you badlyshaken at best. i’m glad you’ve recovered enough to do a post here. Thanks.
    BTW, For my next border crossing I plan to wear “Passsage D’Enfer.”

    • Nava says:

      Definitely! And everyone in the US thinks only the southern border is the “Gates of Hell”. :d

  • MarkDavid says:

    Nava –

    So sorry to read of your border troubles. Why is it that the people with bags of coke strapped to the underside of their vehicles seem to glide right through but its the completely harmless people who are given all of the grief? Here’s to a relatively painless, easy, and expedited turn at Dual Citizenships! May it be over before you know it.

    Although, like March, I’m not going to lie – I do love knowing someone who’s been red-flagged. Although in your case, it seems they went a little further and tied the red flag right around your person.

    Enjoy that Chaos!
    I’ll keep my eyes out for some Tumulte for you!


    • Nava says:

      MD, I have asked myself that same question a million times. And I hope the dual citizenship process goes smoothly; Keep everything crossed for me.

      Maybe I should have a cocktail party after all! I didn’t know my enemy radical status was so appealing. Btw, the flag I am wrapped in is red and white. 😉

  • Tara says:

    I can only imagine what you’ve gone through with immigration. Having experienced both US and Canadian immigration, I offer you my most heartfelt sympathies. I now have my dual Canadian/US citizenship (also through my Canadian mother) and it has resolved everything very satisfactorily. I wish you a speedy resolution and a renewed pleasure in your favorite things. Fragrant hugs, Tara

    • Nava says:

      Thank you Tara. I am hoping for a positive resolution. It would be the best vindication I could ask for.

  • violetnoir says:

    Oh my dear, I am hoping that the road back might not be as long for you, either.

    Please keep us updated. We have missed you.


  • Jubilee says:

    You poor thing! I’m so sorry to hear that you’re having to go through all this– especially since it’s the kind of thing that turns everything else in your life upside down,

    I can commiserate, a little bit at least, about the crazy bureaucracy of all of this. I’m an American gearing up to move from New York to Toronto (my boyfriend is Canadian, and he’s taken a year-or-so-long project there), and having an amazingly frustrating time navigating the process of obtaining a temporary resident visa. Apparently, an American wanting to be in Canada for longer than six months just blows immigration officials’ minds. I’ve also spent more hours than I care to count in customs or immigration (or both! in the same trip!) at Pearson Airport or on the Niagara border with Amtraak. I guess what’s most frustrating about it is that generally everything else about Canada and Canadians is so lovely.

    I hope this ordeal is over for you soon, and that you find some simple joys to keep you going in the meantime.

    Best of luck, Nava. Keep us posted.

  • Lee says:

    Canadian immigration personalities seem to be hired from the tiny pool of nasty Canadians, cuz most of those folks are lovely. The last time I entered Canada was pre-9/11. Toronto. Hell, they make the people at JFK seem like lil darlins. The interrogation led to me missing my connecting flight to Thunder Bay, of all places… Grrrr. I can’t begin to imagine how much more ornery they are now.

    Hey, if you need shot of that MKK….:-? 😉

    • Nava says:

      Lee, they’ve moved way past ornery and are now downright militant.

      Hang on to that MKK. I can’t handle it right now!

  • Kathryn says:

    Dear Nava, As someone who grew up on the American/Canadian border, I am so sad about what happened to you and about what is happening at our borders generally. Change is needed and I hope coming soon. In the meantime, all best wishes and hopes for a better future. (And I completely agree with you about the duty-frees; along the eastern stretch of the border that I know the best, they are just dreadful!)

    • Nava says:

      Thanks Kathryn. There’s lots of “hope” and “change” being bandied about, and I sincerely hope we get to see some real results. 🙂

  • Disteza says:

    What a horrible mess! Hopefully you’ll wend your way back to sanity and a good mental state from which you can survey the whole thing calmly. Too much rancor is not good for the soul. Don’t feel bad that your mood has affected your tastes–those books and bottles will be there if you want to re-visit them. And if not, at least you know where you can find good homes for them. 😉

  • Kristy says:

    I have to ask: on what grounds have you been banned from Canada?

    • Nava says:


      I’d rather not say what their reason for banning me is, but I will tell you that it is monumentally ludicrous.

      • March says:

        You smelled a little civetty? Actually they’d probably like that… 😕

        • Nava says:

          Nah, I think I was overly redolent of ambergris. The way the whole thing went down (not to mention the reason) reeks more of fresh whale vomit than civet. :-&

  • Linda says:

    Yikes, Nava. I am glad to hear you’re safe, and distraught to hear you’ve been through hell. All my best wishes for a swift recovery to tranquil equilibrium.

  • helenviolette says:

    I will echo lunarose in how heartwarming it is to read these responses. And I am just the same- I can’t wear perfume or eat much when I am the wrong shade of blue. Nava- hope you get the news you want very soon. 😡

  • March says:

    I always fly, but have heard some tales of people who’ve tried to cross via land and lived to regret it. The upside for me is, hey, I get to meet my first radical persona non grata! I’m excited about that.

    We’ll try to make your exile more comfortable. And hating all your old perfumes just means you’ll have to find some new ones. 🙂

  • MJ says:

    I completely understand – I had a personal crisis in the recent past and totally lost my prior loves in books and music. And fragrance too. I just could not bear to consume anything at all. It took me about a year to come back around and in that time a number of my tastes changed. I think that when we are forced to strain and change this much, change in tastes is normal and probably to be expected. Just hang on through the uncertainty and it will get better. Chaos is wonderful stuff – I love it now, post-crisis, myself.

    • Nava says:

      I lost my joy of reading and listening to music, too. I went about 2 months without picking up a book, which is absolutely unprecidented, and drove around with not so much as talk radio in the car. I’ve gotten back to both recently, but so far, the fragrance thing is still very much a work-in-progress.

  • lunarose says:

    just popping in to say how wonderful it is to read such supportive posts……..i love that people’s response is to send you a little luxury that might make your situation a bit more bearable. (and this country’s ‘homeland security’ campaign is a crock.)

    i hope things settle down for you quickly and smoothly! @};-

  • Graham says:

    Funny – I just happen to have a fairly full bottle of Tumulte Pour Homme, sitting more or less unloved in my closet (I got it at TJ Maxx). I’ve just never been able to really get into it. Would you like it? Shoot me an email to [email protected], and I’ll get your address and send it… Sorry to hear about all your grief with the Canadian Border folks. I’m an “habitue” of Quebec, and it’s usually just dandy there. New Brunswick sucks though (not the province, the border guards)….

    • Nava says:

      Thank you Graham. You will have mail. 🙂

      When a Canadian immigration attorney says what mine said to me, then you know bad is most certainly bad. I don’t want to be overtly political since this is not the forum, but I think we all know what brought us to this point. As I said, we hopefully have a brighter future to look forward to.

  • Silvia says:

    That really sucks, I feel for you. Hitting the rubber wall of state bureaucracy is so frustrating, I am Italian, believe me, I know!
    On the subject of Chaos, I work in finance and during the height of the recent crisis, Chaos was all I could manage. I don’t know if I was influenced by the name, which reflected what was going on around me, or if this scent actually has some grounding and calming effects, but it worked well for me and am glad it’s bringing some relief to you too.
    Btw, Harissa is a great “misunderestimated” scent ;))

    • Nava says:

      Chaos barely scratches the surface! However, I, too find the scent very calming, and the name just happens to be apropos on so many levels.

      I hope the days of “misunderestimated” will soon be a faint memory, and we can all look forward to a better future. 🙂

  • Millicent says:

    Oh, Nava, I am so sorry to hear even this little bit of what you’ve gone through. I am wishing you all the best for a smooth and timely resolution. And meanwhile, thank you so much for sharing how all this has affected your response to fragrance — I found it fascinating. We all sort of know how mood affects us (Haven’t we all been crabby and snapped at people inappropriately?), but I really appreciate your describing something quite a lot deeper.

    • Nava says:

      Thanks Millicent. It will take time to get this mess sorted out, and hopefully there will be some good on the other side of it.

  • Louise says:

    Ah, Nava, so sorry to hear of your troubles 🙁

    I had one very tricky border crossing on the way to Montreal (well, my companions were of, um, dubious character), and it was extraordinarily unpleasant. I hope the dual citizenship status works out quickly :d/

    I find it rings so true how sensitive our perfume tastes are to life events. I have phases of only tolerating one fragrance family (last spring it was green chypres), but those phases do shift over a few weeks or months. I hope this insult will heal quickly, and you’ll be soon back to enjoying some of your old favs.

    Meanwhile, I left you a potential source for Tumulte in the contact area for PP-I hope it works out for you 🙂 !

    • Nava says:

      Thanks Louise. The CBSA prides itself on being “extraordinarily unpleasant.” It just goes to show how allowing people of dubious character to have total autonomy is extremely dangerous. I’m not referring to your travel companions. 🙂

  • Eva says:

    Dear Nava my heart goes out to you – what a situation! It is strange how our bodies and emotions can totally alter our preferences and tastes when udergoing a major ordeal like this. I can relate. Who knows why, but I guess you just have to trust in whatever is going on. I have not smelled Chaos but from the description it sounds like it has a very comforting and healing component to it. All the very best to you and glad you are back.

    • Nava says:

      Thanks Eva. Of all the emotional upheaval in my life, nothing before this has ever affected my sense of smell so profoundly. All part of the journey, I imagine.

  • Bryan says:

    You are in my thoughts and prayers. If I had any Tumulte (I haven’t even smelled it) I would send it your way.
    Your ability to put into words, indeed paper, that which is swirling around your heart and mind is truly a gift to behold. I hope said gift is a continued comfort as much as “Chaos” is. I will be thinking about you.

    • Nava says:

      Thank you, sweet Bryan. It was indeed a cathartic journey to put all this down on “paper”. It definitely takes some of the sting out of what happened, as does knowing there are people out there like you. 😡

  • Oy, Nava. What a mess. The whole “homeland security” issue is such a long piece of tripe. I’m glad you are here, but I really wish you could be wherever you wanted to be. Meanwhile, scents do change a lot, don’t they? I raved about Elena’s Mousson, only to hate it so much now, I bought one of those long-handled nest things to move it waaaaay back to the closet. Glad you are back.