Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Nosy Interview: Ayla Peggy Adler

Peggy in a portion of Star Cluster R136 Bursts Out, © NASA et al.

Did Peggy and I meet in Ann Arbor or in a past life? Either way, I know her better, now, courtesy of Facebook, than I know anyone on my street. That is strange in a way, I know, and I should put down my iPhone sometimes, but it's heart-expanding online-only friendships like hers that keep me from quitting Facebook, as I so often idly threaten to do. You could wonder later how you met her, too; start by visiting her blog.

What do you smell like?  
Oh, Nosy Girl, you have asked me questions I long to be able to answer Like most humans, my memory is triggered more by scent than anything else, even more than music. I can be walking down the street, and bam, I’m in my grandmother’s bathroom, with my high school boyfriend, at a college party. But, what did my grandmother’s bathroom smell like? Last year I was in Ethiopia and suddenly I smelled my Bedouin friend’s farm back in the Negev—the desert in southern Israel I call home. This connection felt profound, but what did I smell? And, does it matter? As a fiction writer, I understand that to bring our readers into place, sensory detail is the magic door, yet nothing makes me feel more false than when I’m writing sensory detail about scent. My grandmother’s bathroom smelled like powder, brown soap, and (because you need a third) Lysol. It may be true, it may help the reader, but I feel like a fraud. The sentence is overworked; the author more present than place. What did it smell like? My grandmother’s bathroom, dammit. 

So, what do I smell like? Really, Nosy Girl? Really? I can tell you what I don’t smell like: Perfumes. They irritate my eyes.The most scent you’ll find on me is from a cucumber soap or a grapefruit facial scrub.I also really believe that we find our mates like primates, via scent. I want to end up in the right cave. I want us to find each other sexier and more at home when we haven’t showered than when we have. I know that when I find my cave-mate, and you ask me what he smells like, I will have only one answer: his name. I also know that when we’re very old and I’m losing my mind and a nurse asks me if I remember him by stating his name, I’ll look blank. If he stands before me where I can see him, I still may not remember. But if he comes and lies beside me, close enough for me to smell, I’ll know it’s him. 

What do you like to smell? 
Others here have already beautifully described the splash of white wine into risotto, the smells of fall, of fire in winter. Yet something called me to the Negev, void of turning leaves and snow on pine. When I first moved here, I could only have described an absence of scent. Certainly the desert was lacking every smell from my childhood: pine, hyacinths, dogwood; nothing grows that effortlessly, here. Soon, however, I understood how much the desert smells like salt, which makes sense since when I look out at the desert, all I see is water. This is not only because I’m an optimist; water has, in fact, shaped, carved every bit of this landscape which is full of dry riverbeds, streams, the exposed roots of shrubs still leaning from the momentum of past floods. Every rock holds water; if only we would learn from Moses’ mistake and talk to the rock, not hit it, to quench our thirst. This place used to be ocean: ask anyone, whether they take their cues from Noah or Geology; it is still strewn with shells. But there I go, not describing scents. You see, Nosy Girl? Here’s what I can tell you: when it rains here, and particularly when it floods, the water awakens an orchestra of smells; a Chopin’s Nocturne meets whale’s song meets wolves’ howl meets heartbeat in the center of the earth’s womb concerto. What, can’t smell that? I’m only an hour and a half drive from the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth, and the saltiest. Even closer to me is the Machtesh Ramon—a geological formation described as a crater though it’s formed by water, not volcanic activity—and it holds 260 million year old sand. The collective memory awoken here by water might be why this is my cave. 

The most identifiable scent after the rain here is silt. This is very different than the smell of ocean. Ocean sand is refined, frequently wet, frequently in motion. Desert rock, however, holds every possible record; there is nothing it doesn’t remember. The ocean’s sand can’t imagine a meditation sit as long and deep as a desert rock’s. Talk to the rocks, listen; they’ll tell you anything you need to know. Sometimes I lick them, offering them water, watching how the wetness brings out their shininess, detail, depth. Then I smell them and I’m transported. 

In Bedouin tradition, mothers rub their newborns in a pungent mixture of herbs from the land and water. Then they don’t bathe the baby for a few days. They do this so the child will always know where he comes from, so that when he’s older, if he gets lost, he will always be able to find his way back. 

Just a few weeks ago, I was at a drum-making workshop in a place called Ma’agen Michael in Northern Israel not far from the Mediterranean coast. Something amazing about this country is the diversity in topography, and when I drove just a few hours and walked in, I was surprised to find myself immediately crying. At first I thought that maybe I felt something spiritually powerful; the workshop, though it hadn’t begun, was of Native American orientation. Then I realized what it was: cedar chips. I smelled forest, and it awakened such a longing in me, such a homesickness, I wondered if I’d have to move, to be closer to trees I can climb, in whose branches I can sit. Yet I’ve tried not living here before, so I know that when I’m not here, the homesickness I feel for the Negev is something like, perhaps, we all feel, longing to see the stars through the electrical lights, to remember how to make a fire without gas, to hear our own heartbeat, breathe our own breath, listen to the rock. I may not be able to describe for you the rock’s smell, but when I lick it and breathe it in, everything—no, really, everything—comes back.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

silent, passionate, & gloriosensual

I must eat my words; it's really called Paper Passion.  [image via Aedes de Venustas]

The smell of a freshly printed book is the best smell in the world,” according to Karl Lagerfeld, who we know would list "books" in his answer to the second Nosy Interview question (What do you like to smell?), and now, thanks to his collaboration with perfumer Geza Schoen, perhaps he could answer books to the first nosy question, about what he smells like, too.

According to press for the perfume, "[Paper Passion] is an opportunity to celebrate all the gloriosensuality of books, at a time when many in the industry are turning against them." I'm not sure I know exactly what gloriosensuality is, but I appreciate ambition in nouns, and am eager to see how silent the smell of paper really is this September, when Paper Passion arrives in U.S. stores, just in time to accompany all the real-book smells of back-to-school season.

[If you prefer to smell like older books, CB I Hate Perfume and Demeter have you covered.] 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Nosy Interview: Diane Staudt

Diane in the Monsters of IC 1396, © Geert Barentsen & Jorick Vink, & The IPHAS Collection

Aunt Diane is the first of my relatives to appear on Nosy Girl, and we met when I was a little baby, before my memories begin.

What do you smell like?
I think I smell like clothes that should have been washed yesterday. I do laundry weekly and bathe daily but for some reason, I just don't think I smell particularly fresh. It's disturbing. My nose is oftentimes dry so I do as my doctor suggested and put a tiny amount of Vaseline on the lining. I suppose that could dull my sense of smell. In the summer I wear three different body powders at the same time so I probably smell like magnesium or aluminum something or other. Sometimes I smell like Degree deodorant. I wish I smelled like clay from throwing pottery. Or ink from using a letterpress. But, sadly, I don't do either, so don't. Smell like either. I also wish I smelled like Jenny Di Meo's absolute favorite perfume because I also love, and use, Origin's Ginger. But fragrances just don't seem to last very long on me. Very disappointing. Or maybe I'm so used to it I can't smell it. I hope that's the case. And, that I don't really smell like clothes that should have been washed yesterday.

What do you like to smell?
I don't know smells, but I know what I like. Ha. I like the smell of freshly cut grass. I know, it's a cliché favorite scent, but it reminds me of my dad. Spanish peanuts, while not a scent I'd choose to wear, also remind me of my dad. He'd buy them for me from one of those old red bubble-on-a-stand vending machines when he took me across the street to the grain elevator. And, just-turned dirt--I like that smell. Must be the farmer's daughter in me. I also like the smell of the green covering on walnuts, especially when you scratch it. And Ticonderoga #2 pencil shavings, not that I could tell what kind of pencil the shavings came from, but those are the best you know. Ha. The smell of the unglazed parts of Raku pots--a smoky, woodsy smell--also appeals to me. I like the smell of my mom's pot roast with carrots, potatoes, onions, and cabbage. Salivating. I also like the smell of my Aunt Elizabeth's Arroz con Pollo. Both remind me of my mom and home. Gin smells good to me. Especially Hendrick's, which is infused with rose and cucumber. Salivating again. I like the smell of cucumber even without the gin. It's hard to find plain old cucumber scented candles. Candle makers usually mix it up with melon. Just like beverage makers who add strawberry to everything. Why is that?! My old Levi jacket smells good to me. It's had a lot of play and brings back many memories, stored deep in the denim. Just-laundered cotton bedding smells wonderful. So does bleach. The Butcher's Wax I use on furniture smells good to me. And gasoline. And I like the smell of the stuff I use to clean my hands after a day of projects around the house, didi seven. It has kind of an industrial smell. Every Aveda product the stylist uses on my hair smells wonderful and very buyable. They're no fools, those Aveda people. And I love the smell of Emma, my dog, especially when she's wet. Puppy breath is wonderful, too--sweet and fresh. Dog breath, not so much. You just do not want to know why their breath smells the way it does. Trust me.

Monday, August 20, 2012

i wish you could smell what i'm smellin'

Chelsea Peretti's hilarious Twitter feed introduced me to the delightful Daym Drops, and Julie Klausner's feed to the fact that his Five Guys Burgers & Fries review had been Auto-tuned, beautifully showcasing a favorite line:  "I wish you could smell what I'm smellin'." Speaking of Julie Klausner, I trust that, if you enjoy laughing, you're already subscribed to her podcast, How Was Your Week. It's the best! (She's also the guest on today's episode of WTF with Marc Maron; I'm headed out for a walk and a listen now).

This weekend I wore L'Air du Desert Morocain, a scent so dry it's almost scratchy. In the bottle it seems too sweet and thick for this heat and humidity, but spray and almost immediately it becomes resinous and reassuring, smoke and wood rising beautiful up off my arm, making me smell like a person alive long before Twitter, podcasts, or Auto-tune existed, lasting on the skin even through a shower, it seems, stray tendrils of that out-of-time smell reaching me even as I sit staring at this screen now.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

green shore winner

Everybody wins: Snack! Snack! Snack!

The winner of the Green Shore giveaway,  selected using random.org, is: RACHEL RUBIN!  Rachel, please e-mail me your mailing address and I'll get your prize in the mail. I hope you love  Natalie's book and enjoy the shimmery Nuxe oil. Thanks to all who entered for spreading the nosy word; there will be future giveaways, and I hope you'll play again next time.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

black lab

Lady Gaga's ink-black Fame perfume comes out next week, and Haus Laboratories, where all the chemists work shirtless, has released this trailer for the scent. I can't imagine Fame possibly smelling as dark and strange as the ad suggests, but Gaga did initially request that the fragrance be built around the molecular structures of blood and semen
"You get the after-feeling of sex from the semen and the blood is primal.  [The blood element] was taken out of my own blood sample so it’s a sense of having me on your skin. I wanted to extract sort of the feeling and sense of blood and semen from molecular structures...That is in the perfume but it doesn't smell like that. Actually the perfume smells like an expensive hooker."

The pitch has evolved since then, and, even if the flower in question is among the deadliest of nightshades, the press release now contains the celebuscent standby promise of "floral and fruity elements." Charlotte Cowles at The Cut offers this nutshell version of the release: "[Fame] looks black in the bottle but won't stain your clothes, and it smells like honey, saffron, apricots, orchid, and jasmine, which sounds nice."

The trailer had me imagining plum, tar, antique face powder, latex, crude oil, and bulletproof spaceship glass. What notes does the ad suggest to you?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Nosy Interview: Brian McGuigan

Brian & Sonny recline in a section of M16: Pillars of Creation, © J. Hester, P. Scowen (ASU), HST, NASA

I first met Brian at the beloved Seattle literary institution, Richard Hugo House, where he himself is a beloved institution, working as the Program Director and curating one of the most delightful reading series of all-time, Cheap Wine & Poetry (and its spin-off, Cheap Beer & Prose). Learn more about Brian and his work at brianwithani.com.

What do you smell like? 
I don't have a smell, I don't think. When I was a teenager, my nose was broken in a fight, and I never had it fixed. My sense of smell hasn't been the same. Back then, I'd describe my smell as a typical teenage boy's--a mix of sweat, cigarettes, pot and hormones, with a tinge of Cool Water cologne to cover it all up. I've since stopped smoking and wearing cologne, and I shower far more regularly than I did when I was thirteen. My smell is more neutral now, though considering I drink 4-6 cups of black coffee each day, that's probably what I smell like.

I asked my wife this question since she has a heightened sense of smell, like a Bloodhound or a blind person, and is probably most aware of what I smell like. She said my scent was "all-man," though I'm not sure if she's just appealing to my vanity or making fun of me. Sometimes I'm sure I have a hint of dog to my smell since I have two beasts who don't respect my personal space, always shoving their snouts in my crotch and laying all over me on the couch. Probably baby spit-up, too, which has found its way onto all of my clothing, and I rarely notice it until I'm in a meeting and I see someone staring at a stain on my shirt, and I have to say, "No, it's not what you think--that's baby puke!" 

What do you like to smell?  
I love the smell of brewing coffee; fresh mowed grass; the intense saltiness of popcorn when you first walk into the movies; my skin after it's baked in the sun for an hour; pages, real actual pages, of books, preferably old books, the smell of history in the words; pizza; peeled orange rinds; dry erase markers; fried chicken; charcoal grills; mornings when the air is cool and dewy; but, most of all, I love the smell of my baby's head. It's unlike anything I've ever smelled before and won't last forever because eventually he'll grow up, and as Sam Lipsyte said at Hugo House, his head will just smell like another dumb shit's head.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

'sex in the air i don't care i love the smell of it'

 You and me (and at least 6,714 others) both, Lily Allen 

What about smelling like Rihanna? Internet sinkhole the Daily Mail reports that "We all want to smell like Rihanna" and that her second fragrance has outsold all other celebrity fragrances in the UK, and is on pace to sell 4 million bottles by the end of the year. 

 Images via @badgirlriri on Instagram

But unless the notes are sex, drugs, and coconuts, there is no way Rebelle smells as dreamy as I suspect Rihanna does, based on her Instagram feed alone, which gives off a distinct tang of leather, yacht wax, lipstick, high-quality marijuana, five-star hotel lobby, several sweats, nail polish, beer & champagne, that smell that passes between women when they spend every day together, sea salt, fresh avocado, sunscreen, cotton, cocoa butter, and gold.

(Post title comes from Rihanna's song, S&M. The lyric is discussed with great depth and sensitivity here.)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

nosy's Green Shore giveaway

I'm back from summer break and I want to add to your summer to-read stack. Natalie Bakopoulos's gorgeous debut novel, The Green Shore, was published in June and if you haven't already, you should read it straightaway. Let me make it easy for you by giving you a copy of the book along with a travel-size 10 ml bottle of one of Natalie's preferred fragrant beauty products, Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse (Multi-Usage Dry Oil), in the shimmery golden version so you can gleam up your limbs and pretend you're frolicking on a Greek island.

Here's a pertinent passage from The Green Shore to leave you wanting more:
Eleni laughed and wanted to respond to his comment about his son, but the moment seemed lost. Instead, she asked Andreas if he thought history had a smell, and he’d responded as if he’d just been thinking of it. “The earthy smell of archaeological excavation. And the exhaust-infused smell of rain,” he’d said. Eleni agreed, and added the industrial smell of the ceramics factory blocks from her house, where her children used to play and dig for dishes, stoneware, porcelain.
To enter, please help spread the word that Nosy Girl is back by sharing the link to this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog. If you do not use any of these platforms, you are a bit of a modern marvel. You can e-mail someone or tell them in person. Then, please leave a comment on this post letting me know how you shared the link (as with all nosy giveaways, the honor system reigns) and telling me one thing you smelled that day.

I'll pick a winner (selected randomly from the comments) on August 16th.  Thanks for spreading the nosy word, and good luck to all the great-book-and-beachy-smell seekers!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Nosy Interview: Arielle Weinberg

Ari in Simeis 188 in Stars, Dust, and Gas © Dieter Willasch (Astro-Cabinet)

Ari writes the delightfully nerdy perfume blog, Scents of Self, where she reviews perfumes, gives away perfume samples (it's thanks to her generosity that I first sniffed Gurelain's gorgeous Après l’Ondée), and shows us what's in her purse in one of my favorite recurring features, "Getting Purse-onal" (I always want to see what's in your purse, people.) Learn what her cat, Zelda, is up to and what she smells like today by following @thescentsofself on Twitter. 

What do you smell like? 
I smell like whatever perfume I happen to be testing for my perfume blog that given day. If I am lucky, that perfume is an olfactory masterpiece; if I am unlucky, it smells like red fruit punch. When I am off-duty, I tend to favor sweet, warm perfumes with a little spice. Some of my favorites are Etat Libre d'Orange Bijou Romantique, Guerlain L'Heure Bleue, L'Artisan Parfumeur Safran Troublant, L de Lolita Lempicka, and Jo Malone Black Vetyver Cafe. 

What do you like to smell?
Burnt things! Lit matches, burnt wood, burnt marshmallows, burnt onions, burnt sugar, burnt grass, burnt coffee (which is probably why I am one of the very few people that actually enjoys Starbucks coffee).

Irish Spring soap on my boyfriend's skin. 

Rice steam and sencha tea. These two notes will feature prominently in my future perfume, "Eau de Benihana." 

My favorite smell in the world is the smell of the manta ray tank at my local aquarium. I get antsy if I have to go without that warm, salty smell for too long, so once a week I bring my textbooks down to the aquarium and do my studying there. 

And I always love to smell perfume on other people. Any perfume, it doesn't matter what. It just makes me so happy to encounter people who are experiencing the many pleasures of perfume.

Monday, August 6, 2012

smells like summer longing

Two perfumes I'm itching to sniff:
  •  L'Artisan Parfumeur's Séville à l’Aube: Inspired by "one of the most beautiful nights in [the] life," of popular perfume blogger and writer Denyse Beaulieu, the reviews of this fragrance, created by Bertrand Duchaufour, hit all my sweet spots: orange flower, beeswax, frankincense, jasmine, smoke, and benzoin. I am chomping at the bit for a whiff, veering precariously near full-bottle-sans-sniff territory.
  • A Lab on Fire's What We Do in Paris is Secret: When Dan Rolleri, Katie Puckrik's perfume pen pal, calls a fragrance gorgeous, I sit up straight and order a sample.
I'm also wearing a bucketload of sunscreen.

What I'm wearing this week:
  • Perennial humid-weather favorites Nuit de Tubereuse and Boyfriend. I understand the desire to wear sheer, citrusy perfumes in the summer, fragrances the color of celadon and the texture of cucumber seeds. I keep my robot rosewater in the fridge to satisfy this need for breeze. But my fragrance, when it's this muggy, needs to dig in and open up a bit wild. I can't be wearing something frothy or delicate to the swamp; it's got to be juicy and a bit animalic to hold its own on days and nights like these. 
 Dunham as Hannah Horvath on Girls. Summer smells and swells in this photo for sure. 
A stray smell from Lena Dunham's essay on first love in the latest issue of The New Yorker
"I don't think about it very often, but occasionally there's a smell--a whiff of cat, of stale air-conditioner, of a frozen, gluten-free pizza warming--that is so purely ours that I could resume being a woman who cries dolefully every fifteen minutes at some perceived slight."

Thursday, August 2, 2012

'in oceans before we had minds'

I'm reading Broken Harbour by Tana French, and last night I came across a passage that cast sea smells in a new light:
The smell of the sea swept over the wall and in through the empty window-hole, wide and wild with a million intoxicating secrets. I don't trust that smell. It hooks us somewhere deeper than reason or civilisation, in the fragments of our cells that rocked in oceans before we had minds, and it pulls till we follow mindlessly as rutting animals. When I was a teenager, that smell used to set me boiling, spark my muscles like electricity, bounce me off the walls of the caravan till my parents sprang me free to obey the call, bounding after whatever tantalising once-in-a-lifetimes it promised. Now I know better. That smell is bad medicine. It lures us to leap off high cliffs, fling ourselves on towering waves, leave behind everyone we love and face into thousands of miles of open water for the sake of what might be on the far shore.