Last year Angela from Now Smell This and I visited the Cimetière du Montparnasse near the apartment where we were staying in Paris. Baudelaire’s one of the famous residents (not Jim Morrison) and we walked around awhile, studying the interesting sculptural markers, including deliriously wack ones done by Niki de St. Phalle.
But the one that sticks in my mind is the one to the left – it’s probably famous but I have no idea who it’s for – the top portion of which is a flat slab of marble, the kind meant to lie on the cold earth, only in this case it’s being pushed skyward by the woman who’s presumably been buried beneath it, a soul ascending to heaven or possibly being dragged to hell by the shrouded figure beside her. There’s a weeping, naked man standing by. I found the thing quietly horrifying, a reaction I’m guessing was not the intent of the artist.
Not dead yet. The leaves are curling and falling, crunching on the stairs, wet and brown on the pavement. Let it bleed, let it rot, let it all fall down. The roses fade, the seed pods set and scatter as grey clouds scud across the sky.
Fall is a time of loss, a promise of an end without a beginning. Everyone needs a perfume or two for grieving. Mitsouko’s good for that. Mitsouko is every color of fall, even the most melancholy. There’s no frivolity. She’s there when you need her, she’s a sword and a shield, maybe even a superpower – although it’s not invisibility, that’s for sure. She’s an autumnal cloak of peach and rose gold and iridescent poisoned-beetle green.
Or, if you need bucking up, put on some Fendi Theorema, if you have some tucked away. Okay, it’s not for everyone. (What fun would it be if it were?) But I put it on after a long absence I think, how could I have forgotten? It’s a wool shawl around the shoulders and a glass of some strange elixir pressed into the hand. Theorema’s a macerated barrel of orange, properly aged, condensed to its most powerful essence.
Lilac seems kind of contrarian for a list of perfumes for mourning, and in the language of flowers they apparently symbolize the “first emotions of love,” but I find them sad. Mostly in perfume they’re sad in a Glade room-freshener way, in that they suck. But the lilacs of Malle’s En Passant are not only strikingly real, they’re infused with melancholy – that wet-fence smell, the boulangerie offering solace up the road. En Passant is lovely, but it’s lovely like a loose bouquet on a damp, freshly dug grave in spring.
My seventeen-year-old daughter Diva has become enamored of the LP, and she wanted to learn how to use our turntable, so she dug my old albums out of the basement and I showed her, amused by the fact that once again I’m so behind the times I’m now ahead of them. Hilarity ensued. I plucked some classics from the pile (B-52s, anyone?) and busted a few moves, and then played cuts from various albums, skipping around by carefully picking up the needle arm and putting it down again in the smooth groove between songs as she watched intently. Then Diva, child of the iPod, asked me: how do you repeat a song? And I answered, well, you lift the needle and move it back to the beginning. She gave me the deadpan stare that signifies: mmmooommm. It took awhile to convince her I was serious.
I put on Simon & Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme, because Diva learned how to play Scarborough Fair on her guitar years ago, and I wanted her to hear how amazing the rest of that album is. And eventually she put her arms around me and rested her chin on my shoulder while I thought of rain-soaked lilacs and sang along with the boys:
I’m blinded by the light
Of G-d and truth and right
And I wander in the night without direction.
So I’ll continue to continue to pretend
My life will never end,
And flowers never bend
With the rainfall.
image: Roman Suzuki, wikimedia commons. Lyrics, Simon & Garfunkel