Abstraction and confliction

Not quite sure whether the second word in the post title actually even exists but meh…

Yes, I do know there are more worthy causes to spend my money on. There are charities who need cash to put food on the table or provide clothes for those less well off. And this and that. You don’t have to tell me about them to know that money needs to go to such entities (something which I know should be on the mind of Muslims around the world [i.e. zakat] currently given that it is Ramadan now).

So I find myself always torn when it comes to buying things like toiletries. Especially fragrances (i.e. frags). Or heck, even the thought of buying toiletries and frags. Why am I even bringing this up?

I paid a visit to Nick & Ben this arvo after work at one of my favorite city boutiques, Apartment on Elizabeth St. Nick & Ben are fellow coffee junkies at Neat Espresso and I am sure that the barista at Neat also doubles as the menswear model for the Apartment online catalog. The clothes there are definitely items where you do pay for what you get: finely tailored ready-to-wear pieces in exquisite fabrics that for the most part are not “Made in China”. The footwear there, oh yeah… Gotta love them boots. Their range of denim there beats the crap out of most places in Brisbane bar a few other boutiques and of the department stores, David Jones @ Queens Plaza. I mean, they do sell Japanese selvage under their own in-house brand plus also selvage by Head Porter Plus and Edwin.

One of the few places that sell Head Porter and Head Porter Plus here in Brisbane; Japanese sized clothes which would actually fit me pretty darn well if I didn’t have a paunch.

Note to self: drink more water, eat less, sleep well and actually try to get some exercise every day. *cusses at himself for not watching his weight properly*

But that’s not the point here, the boys at Apartment also sell fragrances too, namely from the Comme des Garçons (CdG) range of mainly unisex frags. Those of you who know frags know that CdG is not cheap. But what you do get with CdG are fragrances that the majority of the frag wearing population wouldn’t be wearing and a little bit of olfactory heaven here on earth.

I am now thoroughly in love with CdG Monocle Scent One: Hinoki which has taken quite a while to grow on me. I smell pine, cedar and moss more than “hinoki” along with a big kick of vulgar astringency to finish the whole thing off. If one is used to the stuff you find in David Jones or Myer frag counters (which are quite “sweet” to my nose), CdG Hinoki is definitely not for you. But I have a bottle that I have pulled out sparingly to get my “hit” every now and then.

The CdG/Artek of Finland collaboration “Standard” is another unusual frag in that there is a very strong metallic/rust tinge on the base notes, which I personally quite like as a counter to the more “organic” notes that come through on top (citrus, musk, cedar).

So I walked in today, poked my head in, said “Hi” to Nick & Ben, scouted around the racks and got a bit excited at the minor renos they are doing to put a new concept area in the shop for Carhartt threads that are coming in season for Australia Spring/Summer ’10-’11 (Carhartt Europe’s Fall/Winter ’10-’11 season in actuality).

And after all was said and done, I sampled a couple of CdG’s “anti-perfumes” that they had there: the notorious Odeur 53 (originally released in 1998) and its kinkier relative Odeur 71 (originally released in 2000). And CdG 2 Man as well.

CdG 2 Man is very pleasant. Soothing and relaxing woody-incense frag to my nose. I could wear it on special occasions. Relatively good value for money. It’s unisex parent, CdG 2 is gorgeous too.

Odeur 71 is vulgarity in olfactory form (courtesy of 71 distinct notes blended into the fragrance). Well at least based on what I can smell from the testing strip I sprayed it onto. When you have fragrance notes like the following…

Electricity, Metal, Office, Mineral, Dust on a hot light bulb, photocopier toner, Hot metal, Toaster, fountain pen ink, Pencil Shavings, The salty taste of a battery, incense, Wood, Moss, Willow, Elm, Birch, Bamboo, Hyacinth and Lettuce Juice…

instead of the usual notes like Cedarwood, Sandalwood, Vetiver, Musk, Tonka, etc, etc, you know that you are in for a surprise. The metallic note in here I like, but the rest of it I just can’t quite put my nose to actually describe. Maybe I should try this on skin the next time I’m in there before passing judgment on it too quickly.

But Odeur 53, my oh my… How you have pulled at my heartstrings. And my neural pathways. And my nasal passages. I still smell you on me 6 hours later and your ethereal jasmine-like notes (pinned down to hedione by what I’ve been able to research online) still bring me joy. Notes that the CdG nose was charged with bringing into existence were:

Freshness of Oxygen, Flash of Metal, Fire Energy, Washing drying in the wind, Mineral intensity of carbon, Sand Dunes, Nail Polish, Cellulosic smell, Pure air of the high mountains, Ultimate Fusion, Burnt Rubber, Flaming Rock….

So what does it smell like? It’s floral. It’s woody. It’s musky. It’s citrusy. It’s very zen. It’s a combination of 53 untraditional notes that don’t make any sense on their own. It’s abstract art in a 200mL bottle suspended in a water and ethanol solution. And I ❤ it. I could so wear this on a daily basis.

But back to the point of this post, they aren’t cheap. “Hinoki” has set me back A$180 for 50mL. “Standard” was A$160. And Odeur 53 is A$190 (from memory) for 200mL. That’s a lotta moolah. For something that vanishes with the wind (literally in this case).

Given that I’ve been reading Ecclesiastes a lot lately, I’m reminded of Qoholeth’s statement that it is a gift from God for a man to enjoy the wealth, possessions and authority that he has been given. But oh how true it is that it is all “vanity of vanities”. There has to be a place for both charitable giving and the enjoyment of some of these material goods that we who work are able to purchase. So there is abstraction that brings joy but also a little confliction in my life. With the austere monastic part of me and the hedonistic, materialistic part. One tries to change from one to the other but it just brings grief of mind. I guess I will have to learn to cope, deal with and enjoy the contradictions that my life brings. At least it keeps things interesting.



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