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Red's Lumberyard

A Perfumed Last Will and Testament

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A Perfumed Last Will and Testament

They say that one should never wear perfume to a funeral. Although not wearing a scent does seem like a safe bet, it isn't always the best one. As noted by several of my fellow perfumistas and colognoisseurs, there are funereal occasions - if only a few - when it makes sense to say something with fragrance. Wearing a relative's favorite scent, or an old friend's signature perfume, on their day of final rest, seems incredibly touching to me. Who could argue with that? And some people - particularly those who instruct that their departure be a joyous occasion - would likely not object to fragrance. Indeed, if someone directs that people should wear bright colors to the graveside, with free whiskey and beer to follow, then it's more likely than not that a little perfume ain't gonna matter. Respect is, ultimately, up to the recipient.

In a previous discussion, I had joked about requiring that people wear fragrance to my funeral. Alas, this still seemed like a final act of control - almost as bad as forbidding perfume. Perfume isn't like that. And as important as fragrance is in my life, I wanted to make sure that its message of truth, beauty, and kindness would be spoken well in my death.

Tonight, as I was sitting in an old theater, listening to our local musicians performing a spirited rendition of Beethoven's Symphony no. 9 in D Minor, I was thinking about many things. During the first movement, I immediately relaxed - decompressing from a full day's crisis just to get there. The greatness of music from an era long before our modern technology, reminded me of the greatness of the sciences and arts from centuries ago. Mozart may have known about neither neutrons nor psychobilly, but I think he was doing pretty well with Newton and Corelli.

As the second movement took flight, my mind wandered to flights of fancy and imagination. I thought of things past, present, and future. As I reclined in my seat, I couldn't help but notice the buxom gilded angel, naked as a jay-bird from halo to toe, next to the centerpiece in the woodwork above the stage. Heavens to Goldfinger! I smiled, but not too greatly, lest our local version of the Taliban discover this full frontal archaeological treasure, soon to aim their artillery at either one of those perfect breasts. No - these things had clearly survived into this century through nothing short of a miracle, and it was just as clearly God's will that I should protect the artist's vision of heavenly beauty from greater rediscovery.

Rising up in my seat, I thought for a moment that I smelled a perfume other than my own - and most likely not belonging to the angel, either. I had intended to wear Chanel no.5 Eau Première, but in my mad rush to leave home, I had distrusted my ability to apply the correct amount, and opted for a more practiced application of the equally enjoyable Tom Ford Grey Vetiver. My wife had worn L'Instant de Guerlain, a favorite of mine. Our hostess - the wife of the bass player - was wearing a fruity floral of unknown parentage. My son was wearing a very cool gamer T-shirt, and most likely Boss Pure deodorant underneath. No - all smells were present and accounted for, save this one. I thought for a moment that what I was smelling might be a remnant of my earlier Eau de Sisley no. 3, or the base of either Eau Première or 24, Faubourg, but I couldn't be sure. Looking around the audience, I realized that it was likely a scented superposition of fragrance fields from all points in symphony space .

And then the third movement began. The beauty of the music did make my eyes moisten, but so did a new thought. Perhaps the highest form of perfume is not the solo instrument, but the symphony. A gathering of artists and their beautiful instruments in one place, under one roof, creating something greater than the sum of the parts. And then I realized what I would have to mark my passing - a symphony of scent. I would have my entire collection placed on a table, so that my family and friends might take a bottle to remember me by. As the music began, my woody woodwinds would fill the air softly and gently. The floral flutes would call out quietly for a moment of silence with the chypre ghost note, but they would be joined gently by the first violin, Sel de Vétiver. Then, the first vetivers. Second vetivers. My hand-carved wooden violas of violet and violet leaf, led by Un Parfum des Sens et Bois and Eau de Cartier Concentrée. The horns of Havana and Homme would call out softly for now - with restraint. Terre d'Hermès and L'Instant de Guerlain would be my cellos - the great but unheralded workhorses who would carry the molecular message of my send-off symphony to the stars. Holding everything in time would be my deep and resounding basses, led by Comme des Garçons 2 Man. Suddenly, a triumphant blast by Thierry Mugler A*Men Pure Coffee! Joined by the brassy fougères and pounding powerhouses, they would raise a ruckus and then be still - as the third movement ended, and the fourth began.

Solemnly and strongly, the percussive strikes and resonating realities of my Neil Morris scents would call attention to the very nature of the music itself, making all rise in their seats. But amidst the profundity of artisanal niche, hints of popular designer melodies would shine through. Suddenly, all would recognize L'Homme and La Nuit de L'Homme, but in the full glory of the music, none would call them common or cliché. There would be a moment of grace in which the love of scent transcended all. And then the singing would begin.

My fellow scent-lovers would sing in the way that we all sing in dreams. With a swell of fragrance and music behind them, they would sing of their joy - and in all the languages and fragrances of the world. Taking turns in perfect pitch, they would call all men and women to the glory and joy of perfume. The chorus would rise until every tavern and bowling alley in town emptied out to see what in the hell was going on. Crowding around the chain link fence at the cemetery, my fellow rednecks would watch the remainder of the proceedings in a state of disbelief. But as the happy perfumistas and colognoisseurs all headed back to my cabin for free whiskey and beer, one bucktoothed country boy would linger at the table and - thinking he was shoplifting - stuff my bottle of Acqua di Giò into his pocket. In the words of Schiller via Beethoven: "Joy, Beautiful Spark of The Gods!"

Thy magic reunites those
Whom stern custom has parted;
All men will become brothers
Under thy gentle wing.

(from Ode to Joy)


  1. 's Avatar all seriousness.....why aren't you a fragrance writer of some ilk? Even if only as a hobby writer, you need to expound your finely woven stories and put to shame some of the charlatans that do it for a living.

    You may be a redneck, but your vocabulary and ability to turn a phrase has me questioning your hillbilly heritage.:rolleyes:

    Once again, a terrifically entertaining read.
  2. Redneck Perfumisto's Avatar
    Thanks, aromi. Again, it was momentary passion made me do it.

    You may be a redneck, but your vocabulary and ability to turn a phrase has me questioning your hillbilly heritage.
    I can only offer one excuse. American teachers. Terribly, terribly underrated. They can turn lead into gold. And the one thing that really burns me up is the saying that "those who can't do, teach." Bullshit. I wanted to teach, but couldn't connect with average students, so I wisely gave up and chose a "do" route with more monetary reward. But I will never fool myself by thinking that I ever knew as much about any subject as those who taught me. I only know an interesting and employable combination of subsets of what they knew.

    Here's to teachers!
  3. 's Avatar
    [QUOTE=Redneck Perfumisto;bt1891] But I will never fool myself by thinking that I ever knew as much about any subject as those who taught me. I only know an interesting and employable combination of subsets of what they knew.[/QUOTE]

    It takes a cunning and shrewd mind to "streamline" and glean the quality while shirking off the filler you speak of.

    Don't sell yourself short my friend.;)
  4. Aiona's Avatar
    I didn't know you had "2 Man!" Some compare it to Vetiver 46. I'm curious to know if you find them similar also. I plan to stop by the Post Office Monday!

    Goodness knows, I don't think any of my relatives would take any of my scents. Not after I let them try my civet sample, last time I visited them.
  5. MFJ's Avatar
    Hey RP, I do agree with Aromi about you being fantastic at writing. Your wit has always been intellectually and tactfully woven in. Thanks again for the excellent read, my friend.
  6. ECaruthers's Avatar

    I love the idea of an olfactory symphony. But I think you should compose your own & not leave it to chance. At least the rudiments of using room air handling to move one scent after another exist. Remember this talk by Luca Turin?
  7. Redneck Perfumisto's Avatar
    Aiona - I will definitely love trying Vetiver 46 if it is ANYTHING like 2 Man! And thanks for the kind words, Matt. I'm really glad you liked that one. It was sort of special for me.

    I do remember that talk, Ed. It's just so watchable - I think I've seen it 5 times already, but I watched it again. Thanks for the link - I really appreciate it. I suppose I could try to pre-arrange my little symphony, but I thought about it, and...well...there are times when I just want to have faith that things will work out for the best - and after I'm gone is definitely one of them!
  8. Hebe's Avatar
    I truly enjoy your writing Red. Now, to what you were writing about...

    I would love perfume to be worn at my funeral. After all, it's not as if I'm going to object to anyone's choice. I might be inspired by you and have goody-bags of scents and samples at the wake.
  9. Redneck Perfumisto's Avatar
    Thanks very kindly, Hebe! And wishing you a very long and fulfilling life, with much love and happiness - I am nevertheless pleased as punch to hear that you will be joining me (although most certainly at a later performance) in a fragrant final symphony!


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