Saturday, January 30, 2021

Perfume Obsession, from Sweet Pea to Passion Flower

 In the summer of 1996, I went to France for summer school. Nice. I didn’t take advantage of any of the tours you could book for non-class days, but I did spend a fair amount of time shopping in Vieux Nice. I bought some perfume extracts there. Colorful liquid in mass-market bottles with the name on a band around the cap.


The scents weren’t complex. Violette, patchouli, lily. The liquid was a color to match the scent. The shops selling the scents were abundant. I bough several, although I only have one left. Years, moving and broken glass took care of the others. I didn’t ever wear them as perfume. I would just open them and smell them to bring back memories of my summer.

 Back in 2014, I went, by myself, on a trip to Europe, and made sure to include some time in Nice. I went to Vieux Nice and couldn’t find these same parfumiers there. But I did take tours. Two of those tours included visits to the parfumier Fragonard, in both Grasse and Eze. The tour each time ended in the giftshop. Can you believe it? And there I was, on tours with maybe 6 people in them, in the factory at the start of the off-season, in November.

 I fell in love. I fell in love with the aromas. I fell in love with the packaging. I fell in love with the history. I bought as many items in the giftshop as I could justify buying. And then a few more.

 Fragonard had already started making one flower the “flower of the year” by that time, although I wasn’t really aware of it. They didn’t emphasize it during the tours. The year I went, the flower of the year was sweet pea. Sweet pea also happens to be the flower of my birth month. I bought some. And because of their amazing packaging, I bought some remainders of the 2013 flower of the year, lily of the valley.


I’m someone who likes to wear perfume. If the perfume is too spicy, though, it can give me a migraine. I started using the sweet pea perfume, sometimes adding a spray of The Body Shop strawberry with it. I loved it. And I would get compliments on it. I decided to buy more. That’s when I found out what flower of the year meant.

 Flower of the year meant that after that year, they would still sell it only if they had stock remaining. Nothing else was being manufactured in sweet pea. And my timing was so bad that I bought it in November. The new flower of the year, jasmine, came out in January. I think I managed to buy one more bottle, but that was it.

 I was, however, so happy with the first flower of the year I had encountered, I was hopeful that the next flower of the year would be just as good. I might be one of the only people around, aside from those employed by Fragonard, who waits eagerly in early January to see what flower has been given the coveted title. It’s a bit like Pantone’s color of the year. There is no competition. The award is given by the people who invented the award, to a product they make. But it is still fun.

 Alas, jasmine did not live up to my expectations. But it did come with some lovely merchandise when you ordered it. An umbrella, a shopping bag, a small gift set with travel spray and soap, all with beautiful jasmine paintings. The flowers-of-the-year scents lacked the simplicity of the essences I bought years before, and the more complex “perfume” nature of them was missing the mark for me.

 So, jasmine had been an overall dud, but I was not deterred. I stuck with them through iris, peony, verbena, lavender and magnolia, each time thinking the perfume would be as good as the flower extract. Each year I was disappointed in the perfume, but happy to collect my umbrella and shopping bag with the beautiful artwork. I would also like to add that I am extremely frustrated by their website. They offer various products to different countries, and the US seems to have gotten the short end of the stick on what’s available. And being in California makes it even worse, because some products, like candles, are illegal to ship to California. Who knew? I didn’t until I tried to buy a candle.

 When I left the factory in Grasse, in 2014, they were having a contest/drawing for a big basket of products. I entered and did not win. But I was put on their mailing list. An actual, in-the-mail mailing list. Every few months I get the latest gift with purchase offer and some sample towelettes of their fragrances. This way, I did stumble upon another perfume of theirs that I really love, bigarade jasmine. Bigarade is bitter orange.


But the bigarade jasmine perfume is very heavy. It isn’t an everyday, go to work fragrance. The sweet pea had been.

 For 2021, the flower of the year is passion flower. And…so far I really like it. My sticking with them through thick and thin might have finally paid off. And I’ve learned to get the perfume early in the year, so there is plenty of time to stock up should it become a favorite. It is light and sweet, not sickly or overpowering. The other perfume elements of it work. And, as always, the packaging is beautiful.


I still have an alert on eBay to let me know if someone is selling their bottle of sweet pea. Unfortunately, the $25 (at the time bottle) now sells for $100 when one turns up. Too rich for me. Maybe one day they’ll look back on their best of the best flowers of the year and make it again.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

First Song of 2021 — Moon River

 After a “break” during the holidays, when I had too much stuff to do and couldn’t learn a new piano song, here’s our first duet of the year!

Friday, January 1, 2021

My Interview Stories - The Acting Class

 I used to work at a post production company. We edited trailers, did post production on low-budget feature films and various other things. One thing we would occasionally do is cut actor reels. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a compilation of little scenes an actor has done which they send out to agents or casting directors who might want a sample of work before working with someone. Tom Cruise doesn’t need one but the woman who plays a waitress against him probably does. Or at least, did in the olden days. I don’t know if they still make them now that everything is digital.

An actress who may or may not have been named Sydney, I don’t remember, was in our office having her reel cut. She was close to me in age, early 20s. She was slender and short. Tiny like many actresses or aspiring actresses. She had long red hair. But the most memorable thing about her was her catch phrase. Right on. “Do you want something to drink?” “Right on.” “I just need to hook up a different drive in this room.” “Right on.”

I wasn’t doing any specific work on her reel, but I’m sure it was my job to make copies of it for her when it was done. We chatted periodically when she would step out of the editing room. We got along well and she invited me to go with her to an acting class that week.

It’s always nice to make new friends, to quote Giselle in Enchanted. Maybe I’d learn something. Maybe I was making a new friend. It was free for me to sit in, so I agreed to join her. Then she told me it was in Santa Monica.

If you aren’t from LA, or haven’t spent much time here, you don’t know the horror of getting invited to an event “over the hill” from where you live. I lived in Glendale, over the hill from the office, which was in Hollywood. There was no point in me going home after work and then heading to Santa Monica because I’d never make it to Santa Monica in time, even though it is only about 25 miles away. At rush hour, that could be a three-hour drive. Work ended at six and the class started at eight. Driving there, finding it and parking would all take time. There was no such thing as GPS or map app on the phone. There was something called a Thomas Guide, which was a giant book of maps of Los Angeles that everyone kept in their cars.

I probably stopped to grab fast-food and headed out to the beach. I managed to find the place and find parking and still get to the class on time. The class took place in a small theater, with the audience seats rising up toward the back walls, so the audience looked down on the stage. I found Sydney. That night, everyone in the class was presenting monologues. Sydney’s turn came up.

“My vagina is angry,” she started. It was from the Vagina Monologues which burst onto the scene a few years earlier in 1996. Sydney was supposed to finish her lackluster performance and then remain on the stage while the teacher gave her notes.

She didn’t get very far before the teacher interrupted her. He wasn’t buying it. She had to start over. “My vagina is angry.” And over. “My vagina is angry.” And over. “My vagina is angry.” Until, finally, she started to cry. She wasn’t really connecting with the material, written by a woman in her 40s. The teacher told her to either keep working on it or present something different next time.

She must have been the last person to go, because she came back into the seats and sat beside me. She wasn’t done crying. By now it was late, anyway, so I went home. I don’t know if we talked about getting a snack after the class or not, but there was no way Sydney was doing anything that night but cry.

I don’t remember seeing her again. We didn’t become friends. She’s got to be in her 40s by now, so maybe she can finally understand that monologue. I was not inspired to be an actress or take an acting class, but I’ll never forget the one class I sat in on.