Hi Josh,

Any typos are courtesy of my wine-pouring husband. Also the rambling ( I am editing as best I can, a couple of paragraphs down and many sips later).

I have my smell back, thank goodness. I’m kicking myself a little that when I had about 20 minutes to make perfume purchase decisions in the Dubai airport in June, of all the Amouages I bought freaking Reflections Woman. It is the Bath & Body Works of Amouages. Amouage is about $60 cheaper at that airport than anywhere else in the world. And that’s what I chose?? But I did smell, and make a snap decision, and Fate was available to me – and I’ll be honest, my nose said the bottle of Chopard Madness that I have and could back up for about $20 would do the same job as Fate. I probably could have not spent the money on Reflections, but it was so different from everything I own and after a very intense week of my Father-in-Law’s funeral and the descending of all that truly meant on my shoulders (I am not kidding you, he was/is revered much like Desmond Tutu is and from anecdotes I was told, the two did indeed meet) I think just I needed something calm. Floral cucumber? Sure, when stressed beyond rationality. My scents for this trip were Tom Ford’s Ombre De Hyacinth – samples procured via eBay, I must have read enough to make me interested although I don’t really *like* Tom Ford and this was almost a hatesniff that happened to work – and decants of Dior 1947 for the plane ride because 1947 is a very significant date for India and I believe that it is a civic duty to smell good during air travel, as so much else in that realm is so barbaric now.

I think I might have told you that Eki got me through the trip in May. That trip was a different intense. I am the daughter-in-law that my Indian Father-in-Law (I cannot think of not putting capital letters on that designation) did not get to choose. He was the head of a church of 5 million followers; had my to-be husband had a very different life path his wife would have been arranged and the family would have had the pick of the Anglican Communion world. Instead my to-be in some ways avoided his family and fell for this East Coast Jewish girl and his father got to meet the bride at the wedding in a synagogue. Eki, good grief. You had sent it to me and I already loved it before the trip. If I was tied to one note for the rest of my life – married, as it were – it would be jasmine. And Eki is so different. So many Jasmines are Sophia Loren – utter, indolic bombshells – and while those have, indeed, their well-deserved place – Eki let me sit in Appa’s century-old house with regulated electricity and 90-ish degree heat and occasional blackouts that knocked out the relieving fans, and sit on his bed and stroke his brow — all he wanted — while he was fading and he was accepting his decline. He was riddled with cancer that was claiming his liver and his stomach and aiming at his lungs. He didn’t wish for anything beyond palliative care. My husband and I got to the small village he insisted on living in, to the cottage he insisted on living in (India is a country where it is so easy and tempting to pull strings and live at the level at which you’re perceived – yet my F-in-L insisted on a humble life). A couple of days into the visit he called us close and with his remaining strength thanked G-d for our marriage and its strength, in English, which was no small feat for his energy level at that point. As much as I have an affinity for languages and have indeed learned a handful of others, Kerala’s Malayalam has escaped me as a grammatical form and its vocabulary just taunts me. After that talk, perhaps it could be called a benediction in the raw Latin “good speech” – I could see in his eyes that we were ghosts that he was surprised to see in his house; he was ready to let go. It did not surprise me that we were told only a couple of weeks later, despite his doctor’s assurances that there were months to go, that the end was near and we needed to prepare to return. I am only now able to dab some Eki, and the intimacy as a skin scent it had prior to the trip is now manifold; I wear it when I am certain I am not going to be asked about it; I can’t talk about it yet.

Appa (this is a Malayalam term for Daddy; so intimate; every other person having contact with him in those days called him Thirumeni, meaning “Your High Holiness”) died while we were en route for that second trip. We chose a different airline and thus a different itinerary for that June trip, and we were able to fly from Seattle to Dubai and then to Trivandrum, the capital seat of Kerala; other trips have necessitated a PDX-LA or SF-either to Hong Kong or Tokyo stop – Singapore – Trivandrum trip. Emirates Airlines has an eternal loathing from me for not being able to figure out that me and the brown-skinned Mr are a married couple (we were asked to split up to accommodate a married couple whose seats were split, as if we weren’t also a married couple) and Emirates are too bleeping cheap to put the support beams between seats at sensible intervals in the regular class, so you’re sitting with your legs askew for hours. We were given notice via email and so found out when we checked out e-devices on the brief layover between Dubai and Trivandrum – Appa had died on our way there; I think he was at rest knowing family was coming and I still feel somewhat and guiltily relieved not to witness those very last hours in a hospital he resisted until he could no longer. D-to-T is about 4 hours, if I am remembering correctly, and so not a big deal compared to the other massive leg of the journey. Emirates puts a lot of stock in hiring a multicultural customer service staff but can’t seem to train its service crew that they might be some in contact with multicultural families; I am – I know you’re shocked, even knowing me electronically thus far – more extroverted than my husband and so I spent the whole flight in protector mode. Even the short leg was painful but not as crowded. (I’m going to add, as a not-so-small perfume/culture note about where we were going: Hermes’ Un Jardin Apres La Mousson is supposed to reflect Kerala, the Indian state we call home; Jean Claude Elena clearly blew his mango cred on the Sur le Nil and the melon-that-is-supposed-to-be-aquatic note in Mousson is cultural bullshit. The rare perfumeur to get India right is Neela Vermiere. Trayee is supposed to represent ancient, Vedic India but the air smells like that now and likely/hopefully always will.) We landed, got to our hotel, showered and changed, and went to the first of many days of funeral services.

We have another trip to anticipate; Appa willed his house to the Diocese to reconstruct into a chapel and we expect to attend the dedication when it is completed – and we are already willing to spend more time and money on a Singapore Airlines route than Emirates.

Those are really, really long paragraphs to get through to get to any kind of point that the subject line hints at, eh?

So today my kids had an “inservice day” which actually means the PPS teachers are furloughed by any other reasonable term. I took them to the Portland Art Museum to see the samurai exhibit. And while I’ll wear Rume to work -well hell, I have some managerial oversight of the library I work in – I chose to wear Amouage Reflection Woman to the Portland Art Museum on my day off, as if I were scared of being perceptible to other patrons. Harumph. As it turns out, something in that museum smells of urine – maybe the taxidermied horses that the samurai sit upon? – and I regretted my so classy, so safe choice nearly as much as I regret that bottle.

(The other bottles I purchased at Dubai in the very brief time I had on the way home were YSL’s Noble Leather, part of a quasi-exclusive Oriental series released in five cities, none in the US. Leather and plenty of jammy preserved fruits. Of the five YSL Orientals, the most interesting. I also bought Aramis’ Calligraphy Rose; if you’ve smelled Penhaligon’s Hammam Bouquet, it is a similar masculine rose but the spice notes are more green/herbacious. I was tempted by something travel-exclusive in Thierry Mugler’s Miroir line and did not have time to claim it, although I lucked upon chance to buy it later; it is bottle design over juice and heavily oud-based. Oud can actually turn my stomach after a a short bit, but I have an all-Mugler shelf in my perfume cabinet – I know! It’s like having a Beyonce shelf in an all-indie music collection – but had to have on that primal collection level.)

That is, what, 8 paragraph breaks without getting to the heart of 17 versus 21? Poor patient you. So you know I had a shut-up-and-take-my-money reaction to 17, and frankly that still stands with the two wrist-to-wrist. But. But But. The lingering spiciness in 17 will scream holiday season to some people, and they will shy away from wearing it outside of December. They may be morons, but I don’t wish you to suffer reviews that bolster this impression or the financial consequences thereof. There is a green note that quickly takes prominence in 21; initially it reminded me of Andy Tauer’s Carrilon Pour Un Ange, something that has been taunting me for a full bottle for a while but I have not mustered the will to wander back up to the Perfume House and plonk down for it. I sprayed these at 6 ish, so it’s 4 hours into wearing. I still get a lot of spice on wrist 17; wrist 21 is calmer but maybe I’d want that in April 2014 and wouldn’t spray 17 in that season? The initial reaction to the green in 21 was that there was grass/Grasse and maybe some jasmine in there; 21 by comparison has rhubarb and something astringent that the spices cling to. The redness lingers more strongly in 17 than 21. The plushness exists in 21, the red in 17 – do you want the crushed red velvet to be more red, or more velvet?

I’ve resprayed while writing this, into the crooks of my elbows; this is really my favorite place to spray and I only recently realized that the act of rolling up my sleeves and the look on anticipation on my face bring the caricature of the junkie to life. Immediately after the initial blast, 17 and 21 are much the same in intensity; 21 is less camphorus to my nose. 21 is more cuddly. (This is a good thing, right?) One hour in and the spice levels are nearly equivalent; if anything, the 21 has something richer to cling to than 17. You have clear winners either way, but the seasonality that 17 seems bound to is lessened in 21 and that is probably a strength.

A saner thing to do would be to remove multiple paragraphs from this before clicking send; I completely understand an ‘okay got it thanks’ response if any comes. Maybe this is testament to how much emotion perfume carries in people at its best expression; that the choice of one bottle over another for the daily spritz seems arbitrary but can be laden with so much more. I have a difficult time bringing words to scent, as I feel in my bones that it is an unspoken language; forgive me if I take the opportunity to cut and paste and blog this before sending it.

Thank you,