One Thousand Scents

Friday, October 18, 2013

Free Association: Cocoa Tamarind by Voluspa (eventually)


Have you seen "Gravity" yet? I saw it last Thursday, and it haunted me so much that I went to see it again on Saturday. You really need to see it, on the biggest screen possible and preferably in 3-D.* It's virtuoso filmmaking, terrifying and exhilarating. I figure the only excuse to not see it is: if you are inconsolably horrified by the idea of being stranded in the middle of an infinite ocean, like Pip the cabin boy in "Moby-Dick" or the two hapless tourists in "Open Water", then you had probably better avoid this movie, because bobbing around untethered in the ocean is peanuts compared to bobbing around untethered in the universe**. Otherwise, just go. Trust me.

Speaking of attempting to heave yourself off the surface of the Earth for a while, have you seen this clip from the British show "Airline"?

   

I feel kind of bad about laughing at her, but the way that fretful voice just keeps ratcheting upwards until it's in dog-whistle territory is hilarious. And her excuse just doesn't hold water: she thought the flight was later than it turned out to be and her cab was twenty minutes late. I don't care. If making the flight was as important as she claimed, then she should have planned to be at the airport at least two hours early. I can't work up any sympathy for people who miss flights due to their own negligence. Jim and I always plan to be at the airport at least ninety minutes before departure time, and for international flights, two to three hours: neither of us has ever missed a flight***. If you're a busy person and there's work to be done, you can do it at the airport: who nowadays doesn't have a portable computer of some sort, and what decent airport doesn't have wireless Internet?

Speaking of people missing their flights, one of the things you are likely to hear at an airport, particularly if you are there a couple of hours before your flight, as we were at the San Francisco airport when heading back to Canada last month, is final-boarding-call announcements requesting that one or more passengers head to gate whatever. And then five minutes later, another final boarding call for those same passengers. And then another. So: the first two were not really that final, were they? But how rude of those passengers to wander off to the bar or whatever and hold up the flight for everyone else.

Speaking of public-address-system announcements at the San Francisco airport, I swear to you I heard the following call over the PA: "Norma Stitz**** to the courtesy desk, please. Norma Stitz to the courtesy desk." I told Jim, who hadn't heard it but immediately got that it was a prank (whether played on or by the announcer I have no idea): a few minutes later, the same announcement was made (Jim heard it this time), and then again, and then a fourth time. I don't know what kind of nerve it takes to go up to some innocent airline employee and ask them to page Norma Stitz or Robin Banks or Phil McCracken, but I do know that I don't have it.


Speaking of misleading names in San Francisco, I went to a tiny, tiny incense shop in Japantown called Asakichi where I sampled a bunch of Voluspa scents in their slender one-ounce bottles and ended up buying one called Cocoa Tamarind. Now, with a name like that, you are going to be thinking that it smells like, oh, cocoa and tamarinds? And it does, a bit, at first: it's all top-loaded so if you smell it in the store, you think you're getting a delicious chocolate-orange scent with a bit of exotic fruit thrown in. Bait and switch! After ten minutes of this, it starts to shift, becoming interestingly musty, which chocolate scents can sometimes do, and then all of a sudden it turns into a full-blown gardenia scent. Just bang, just like that.

I am not necessarily opposed to a gardenia scent: vintage Cartier Panthère is a dark oriental awash in gardenia and it's pretty amazing. But this is a gardenia pretending to be something else long enough to trick someone (i.e. me) into buying it, and that seems kind of low.

Still, having said that, I should note that I've been wearing it for the last four days, around the house, to the gym, and to work, and it is really something. It's not a pretty white floral: the gardenia is ripe and complicated, with a mushroomy-dirty facet and a cheesy undertone. No doubt this is going to sound (and smell) vile to some people, but it's fascinating; not everything has to be beautiful (although the base is a lovely, if generic, vanilla-scented musk). Cocoa Tamarind is not what I thought I was getting, but I'm glad I got it.

* Even if you're the kind of person easily moved to vertigo and nausea by spinning cameras and the lack of a frame of reference, you can make it through this movie: Jim did, and as a rule he gets queasy very quickly when the camera is unmoored and whipping around. (He says he avoided nausea during such scenes, which aren't that numerous, by focusing on whatever wasn't moving, such as the Earth in the background.) Such things never trouble me: I find the jitter-cam moviemaking style to be annoying but not vomitous, and I love roller coasters.

**Although in fact that is exactly what we are. We wander around under the comfortable delusion that we are more or less fixed in place, but in reality we are gravitationally pinioned to the surface of a small silicon-dioxide spaceship hurtling endlessly through an inconceivably vast universe. Really, it's best just not to think about it too much.

***I did come close once when the bus I was on broke down completely on the way to the Pearson Airport in Toronto. Luckily, the company eventually sent a replacement bus and I got to the airport with minutes to spare, back in the days when going through security wasn't a half-hour undertaking.

****I suppose I should point out without posting any pictures — it's the Internet, you can look them up for yourself — that there is a lady named Annie Hawkins-Turner who goes by that alias for photographic purposes: she is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the largest natural breasts in the world and she seems like a very nice person, judging from her interviews. The fact that she exists makes it just barely possible that she was in the airport at the same time we were, but I think the prank call is a more likely bet.

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