A week at the front.

Day One
Mondays are not for Hermèssence Osmanthe Yunnan. True, its lovely quietude is ideal for workplace wear. But unobtrusiveness is not always a virtue; service desk work requires strong encouragement and mental vigor. As soon as Osmanthe Yunnan has decently died away, I opt for a contrasting follow-up. Unfortunately, my last remaining drops of Armani Privé Bois d'Encens seem to have "turned"-- smelling less like the profound incense I remember and more like hamster-cage cedar shavings. I deflate. Others find the scent wonderful -- enfolding me in a welcome-home embrace, my husband remarks that I smell gooooooood -- but I am skeptical.

Day Two
My day begins with a phone call from a woman ranting brokenly about mannequins, pedophiles, and terrorism; it ends with me filling out an incident report about the glowering male patron who threatened me in front of a half-dozen witnesses. The general perception of libraries -- that they are blissful centers of peaceable study and well-mannered monotony -- bears no resemblance whatsoever to the place where I work. Sadly, neither I nor my Guerlain Chamade prove equal to the reality. I go home early (calling my husband to act as bodyguard), douse myself thoroughly with Etro Shaal Nur and pour myself a drink so stiff it practically suffers from rigor mortis.

Day Three
Agitated and distressed from lack of sleep after yesterday's disturbing events, I attempt to get ready for work but find myself pacing around the house in tears. Three antidotes present themselves: 1) Take a personal day. 2) Go thrifting. 3)Parfumerie Générale Iris Taïzo. I choose all three. Let me face my troubles tomorrow-- god knows they'll be waiting for me.

Day Four
Up at 7:30 to head to the laundromat, the natural habitat of the sullen and unsociable. I fit right in. Home, shower, dress. Lunch: a quick egg frittata incorporating leftover chicken sausage, sauteed fennel, bell peppers, and Kalamata olives. I linger as long as possible over it, reluctant to leave the safety of my house. What better suits this mood than By Kilian's Back to Black ? It had better speak for me, because I have precious little to say today.

Day Four
Upon rising this morning, I feel so fucking lousy I don't even bother to shower. In America, failure to bathe at least once a day is considered a clear sign of antisocial mental illness. In Europe, no big whoop. Existential angst is très Continental: more Back to Black, please.

Day Five
Having spent the day cleaning, come evening I realize I've forgotten to wear any fragrance at all today. After dinner, I upend the tail end of a sample vial of Serge Lutens El Attarine into my palm, rub my hands together and slap the scent on like aftershave. It's pretty much like I remember it: sweet, ambery, inoffensive, reminiscent in some vague way of a better fragrance. Still, an easy thing to wear when you don't want to think too much.

Day Six
More Serge Lutens today-- Chergui in the morning, Shiseido Feminite du Bois at night. On one hand, I love this universal message of buttery woods. On the other hand, Black Mark smells so similar and is so much less expensive than anything Uncle Serge keeps in those fancy bell jars, I might as well declare my loyalty to proletarian perfume and be done.

Day Seven
Back to work with a heart wreathed in thorns of anger. With what should I cushion myself against the world-- or the world against me? Fearing that I might haul off and say the very words that will get me fired today, I need something that smells as bland and nonthreatening as possible. Amouage Opus I presents itself as a likely agent of salvation-- a plush throw rug of a fragrance, as warm as lambswool, as soft as a cloud. I make myself remote and unreachable within its center. By midday it has worked its magic-- my fury, having collided again and again against the inner walls of Opus I's padded room, is now blunted and silent. I can't say I feel good, exactly, but better than I did will have to do.

Creation (Ted Lapidus)

Where did I get the idea that Ted Lapidus Creation was a bludgeoner? Its 1984 birthdate? That tacky, Avonesque bottle? The memory of those impossibly huge Lapidus eyeglass frames worn by Mike Myers' Linda Richman? I can't account for the strange algebra my mind performs with disparate factors like these, but it didn't seem far-fetched to imagine that Creation would be as glitzy and drama-packed as an episode of Falcon Crest.

I realize my mistake now, of course. I should have sought my references elsewhere in time-- namely 1969, when John Lennon strolled across Abbey Lane wearing a Ted Lapidus bespoke two-piece in dazzling white. A contemporary of Yves Saint Laurent, Paco Rabanne, André Courrèges, Mary Quant, Ossie Clark, Foale & Tuffin, Rudi Gernreich and Pierre Cardin, Lapidus (1929-2008) promulgated a spare, structured, angular aesthetic that ran as contrary to '60s excesses as it would to those of the overblown '80's. It makes sense that a fragrance bearing his name would (ahem!) follow suit.

Even given its Big Hair Decade debut and a notes list that reads like a tropical fruit cocktail recipe, Creation possesses an upright backbone thanks to the inclusion of a lovely, earthy vetiver. Like patchouli, vetiver evokes an Eastern olfactory sensibility; here, blended with dry woods and slightly mellowed with vanilla, it counterbalances Creation's blowsy fruitchouli with ascetic elegance.

Subtract the embellishments, strip it down to the bare armature, and Creation shows its true style: sharp as a tack.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, mandarin, peach, passionfruit, mango, lemon, gardenia, jasmine, tuberose, daffodil, rose, ylang-ylang, amber, musk, sandalwood, vetiver, patchouli, vanilla

Two jasmines, both alike in dignity...

Strange: I used to be so leery of jasmine. I told myself it was too overpowering, too scary, too suggestive of a long slide into sex (whoot!) and death (wait!). But over the last year, I've found myself drawn deeper and deeper into the mysteries of this note. Joy, Yin Hao, Calcutta, Samsara, Sophia, Crushed, LouLou, Opardu-- I've gone from never wearing jasmine at all to eagerly trying it whenever it crosses my path. I may not have reached the obsession point just yet... but give me a year or so.

A year would be a drop in the bucket compared to the ten years of dedicated searching it took Carol of WAFT to track down a genuine vintage bottle of Özbek, the eponymous 'fume of Turkish textile designer Rifat Özbek. Released in 1995 but given only limited release here in the US prior to a sad demise, Özbek still seems to crop up frequently on eBay, although it's hard to say whether those minaret bottles are 'for real' or 'faux real'. My sample came from a reliable source (Undina) and is perfectly splendid.

Isn't confiture de fleurs de jasmin one of the central accords of the new L'Artisan? Having never had the pleasure of sampling either, I imagine a jam made out of jasmine would taste the way Özbek smells: honey and white petals simmered down to concentrated sweetness, to be enjoyed with restraint equal to one's ecstasy. For even if Özbek were as readily available as Love's Baby Soft, by nature it's not the type of treat to serve up by the bowlful. A touch of this perfume is all it takes to bathe in wafts of bliss all the livelong day. Its peach note is especially fresh and optimistic, and the jasmine-freesia-mock orange combination conjures up visions of tropical beaches where gentle breezes blow.

Why Özbek fell by the wayside I will never know.  (Honestly, what's not to like?) But every moment of the decade Carol dedicated to finding it would have to be called time well spent.

If Özbek is the daytime face of jasmine, it's fair to balance this review off with an equal dose of twilight... and I have the perfect creature-of-the-night in mind. At last year's Sniffapalooza Fall Ball, Patty delivered into my hands a boxed flacon of old-school Lili Bermuda 'Bermuda Jasmine' cologne. Having wandered through the Lili Bermuda garden two summers ago, I was excited to finally encounter one of this 85-year-old perfumery's vintage offerings... but compared to the clean, hale profile of their current scent library, this sexy, sultry, unexpurgated fragrance came as a total curveball.

Spraying it on a blotter hardly keeps you safe from Bermuda Jasmine's indoles, which are ferocious. Even from paper, they leap right up, throw themselves into your arms and start cooing "Zou Bisou Bisou". There is no mitigating 'clean' aspect here to tame them, no line-dried-laundry note to make this racy flower seem more domesticated. This is the jasmine most likely to greet the milkman at the door wearing nothing but pearls, heels, a gauzy apron and a smile.

Even after you throw the blotter away, that little chanteuse keeps warbling its siren song for hours. I really had to build up my courage before finally spraying Bermuda Jasmine on my skin, but once it was there, I found some very intriguing smoky-green notes including something that smells quite a bit like wild thyme. I can't imagine wearing it every day-- but for some fragrances, nighttime is indeed the right time.

Since then, I've stumbled across other bottles of Bermuda Jasmine in various antique stores-- as if everywhere, all at once, the jasmine season of 1970 has finally arrived via time machine. I hope its sudden proliferation in the aisles of thriftdom is not a sign of cultural rejection. If society is turning its back on everything that good old dirty jasmine stands for, I shudder to think what the future will hold-- a lot of white musk and Febreze, I should imagine.

Scent Elements: Jasmine, greens (Bermuda Jasmine Cologne); peach, freesia, pittosporum, jasmine, ylang-ylang, hyacinth, rosewood, honey, musk (Özbek Eau de Parfum)

Salvador Dalí Le Parfum (Parfums Salvador Dalí)

Remember what I said about Madame Jovan's gorgeous sandalwood drydown, stranded at the tail end of a disastrous chemical spill? Here it is paired with an head note worthy of its charms-- a delicious neroli that peals through the air like the "Morning" flute prelude from Peer Gynt, all sunlight and birdsong spilling over the horizon. Furthermore, the heart of this fragrance is an extravagant bouquet of springtime flowers, petals glistening like watered silk. That mouthwatering sandalwood clinches it: this is impeccable.

Other Dalí fragrances may be hit-or-miss. Love them and leave them as you will, but if you come across this one... let yourself be taken.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, mandarin, aldehydes, greens, basil, jasmine, tuberose, lily, daffodil, neroli, lily-of-the-valley, iris, cedar, sandalwood, ambergris, musk, vanilla, benzoin

Chloé, true and false.

Casting about for a tuberose with whom I enjoy a truce, I hit upon good old 1975 Chloé. This was the signature scent of a long-retired coworker of mine-- a woman named Lois whom I remember with deep fondness. I'm not alone in either the memory or the scent association; my friend TJ shares them with me whenever we meet. Say the name 'Lois', and TJ will exclaim, "Oh, remember her Chloé?"

So indivisible were Lois and her perfume -- and so accustomed were we to huffing it vicariously throughout the day as it gently evaporated from Lois' wrists, her hair, the fibers of her sweater -- that the idea of adopting that mantle of scent for ourselves seemed faintly sacreligious. The thing is, LOIS had to be there for TJ and I to enjoy Chloé. And when she retired, we were doubly bereft.

Lois rarely visited us in the workplace after that. It didn't feel right to her-- just the same as wearing Chloé doesn't feel right to us. And perhaps it didn't even feel right to Lois, anymore. When her last bottle of the 1975 vintage ran out, she went to buy a new one and ended up with the Michel Almirac 2008 reformulation-- a wilting rose-peony, pale and arch, which left her profoundly scandalized. What imposter had usurped the place of the bold, upright flower she loved?

If you had never known the ballsy, bra-less Chloé of yore, you might never realize how sad the new incarnation is. Perhaps after sniffing a thousand and one fruity-floral horrors of the Ed-Hardy-Vera-Wang species, it might come as a refresher for the sinuses-- some tiny cup of half-strength rosewater sorbet eaten to help forget a bad meal. If Edwardian vinaigrettes were still in style, you could carry it to sniff whenever you needed to clear your head-- but if you knew Chloé as we knew Chloé, you would agree that this was an unacceptable substitute.

Perhaps that's why I hold on to my little secondhand mini-bottle of vintage Chloé even though I never wear it. I figure that if we ever run into one another, there will be two reunions: me with Lois, and Lois with Chloé.

Scent Elements: Honeysuckle, lily-of-the-valley, orange blossom, hyacinth, ylang-ylang, tuberose, rose, jasmine, narcissus, carnation, sandalwood, amber, oakmoss (1975); peony, freesia, lychee, rose, lily-of-the-valley, magnolia, amber, cedarwood (2008)

Niki de Saint Phalle Eau de Toilette (Niki de Saint Phalle)

At the tail end of last year's medical leave, I took a quick trip to the Emporium at Waretown-- that lovely curiosity shop where I procured my beloved Fendi. A twinkle of light on cobalt glass caught my eye, followed by a rush of happy recognition at the sight of some friendly serpents. Niki de Saint Phalle! Her eponymous perfume (a prickly but pleasant chypre) reminds me instantly of my '80's youth, when the first photographs of Saint Phalle's nascent Giardino dei Tarocchi began to emerge. The half-full flacon appeared to be in good condition, with the artist's signature still traced in gold on the reverse. Price: $4, a pittance to pay for fine art.

At the cashwrap, the shop owner (an ebullient lady with a generous heart) pointed at the flacon and asked, "Know who that is?"

"Oh, yes, I love her Tarot Garden sculpture--"

To my surprise, she clapped her hands and declared, "Take it! Yours for free, a gift from karma!"

Apparently, sharing a fervent love of art has its rewards! Effervescent with glee, I headed home over the highways-- and let ahead of me every fellow driver who sought access to my lane. Pay it forward!

Fast forward one year. Ten hours. Two galleries. Five display cases. Seventeen artists. Fifty-four frames. Ten thousand footsteps, mostly taken at a full-out run. One little me. It wasn't just an angel of art I needed... it was an angel of protection.

I found my angel in that cobalt bottle marked with a pair of entwined sacred serpents and filled with the spirit of cempasúchil, the holy altar flower of the Aztecs that we know as tagetes or marigold. The marigold flower smells the way that a hive full of angry bees sounds: hot, piercing, insistent, unsettling. I know many who find this scent overpowering and maybe a little morbid. (¡Flores, flores de los muertos!) But I personally associate it with the gardens of my childhood, which burgeoned with every variation and color of tagetes from palest yellow to maroon edged with gold, each flower sought after and fought over by a thousand competing honeybees.

So in cempasúchil I cloaked myself, the way I invite a persistent honeybee it to just get it over with. And of course it never does; it alights for a second and flies off, leaving me breathless but unstung.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, peach, galbanum, rose, carnation, jasmine, iris, ylang-ylang, tagetes, armoise, spearmint, cedar, patchouli, oakmoss, vetiver, sandalwood, olibanum, leather, amber, musk