Tag Archives: Washington DC

Of farewells and not forgotten… Scenes from The Perfumed Dandy’s American Adventure Part Five : Washington DC

IMG_20130624_222913

Our final day in DC coincides with the great return to work.

Memorial Weekend over, we decide to see the memorials themselves, hoping that they will have been shorn the attendant crowds that have flowed all holiday from them like curls from  the head of abundantly haired child.

Yet at the mouth of the narrow entrance to the  Vietnam War Memorial a line has formed even at this early hour of the day.

People wait in relative quiet to file past the shining polished stone with the names of the nearly sixty thousand men, all the dead recorded are men save eight women added after the wall was originally built, inscribed carefully in a sans serif font.

Saddest perhaps are those leafing through the books of names, great telephone directory like lists, looking up the location of inscriptions of people known to them, if not personally then through memory or family connection.

I feel this place deserves a scent, as The Great War Cemeteries of Northern France and Flanders smell of perpetually fresh cut grass and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier carries a feint hint of the gas that keeps the undimmed flame forever alight.

But there is nothing.

Nothing except a sort of anti-smell composed of the cellophane that wraps commemorative flowers too tightly to allow anything of their aroma to escape and the neutral void of over-washed and too neat children dressed in what would in an earlier age be termed their Sunday best.

My memory reshapes around funerals, the interments that many of the deceased remembered here would be denied, and of the flowers that accompany them.

Chrysanthemums.

Chrysanthemums coming flooding into my mind.

Like the great wave of these greenest of flowers that is Estee Lauder’s Private Collection.

Originally intended as a perfume solely for the great lady’s own use, like grief it was initially regarded as too personal for mass consumption.

But over time fallen soldiers and fragrances, it would appear, become everybody’s property.

As I am disgorged at the memorial’s end, I begin to walk away when a young woman, an enthusiastic intern in turns out, grasps my arm. She is working for CBS Radio and would like to know my thoughts, no ‘my feelings’ about what I have just seen.

I mumble a few words about being deeply moved and as I am speaking realise how many men and women there are in uniform all around and how America can sometimes feel like a nation still in arms.

As this realisation dawns, I find myself truly moved, understanding the connection that a country with almost one and a half million military personnel must feel towards its lost and missing in action and the many that face the same fate every day.

IMG_20130624_202801

One thing I have wondered at throughout my time in Washington DC is how few churches there are.

The National Cathedral I learn from a map is set apart in parkland someway off from Downtown.

Instead the city is dominated by great pagan temples, dedicated not to gods but men and in a style borrowed from Imperial not Papal Rome.

IMG_20130624_203509

The Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials are the greatest of these neo-classical conundrums.

One to remember the man who’s ideas formed the constitution, the other the President who waged a war and lost his life so that the privileges of that constitution could be made available to all men.

IMG_20130624_204017

These are places meant to inspire awe and assert America’s importance, in this they succeed in the way one imagines The Forum did when it was complete and functioning and not the ramshackle tourist highway it is today.

The sacred elements of both shrines are the words on the walls, the constitutional pronouncements on the ones the great address on the others.

The profanity is the subtle air of idolatry that lingers in the presence of such massively produced statues of men who were merely Presidents.

These are settings fit only for human not holy sacrements, and so Caron’s Parfum Sacre Intense, a mix of mountains of spice and myrrh, seems a suitable scent to accompany whatever theatricals need to be enacted here to keep the myth alive.

Right up next to the Potomac River, across from Arlington Cemetery, the massive marble slab of The Kennedy Centre, is like an enormous and immovable tombstone resting on its side.

IMG_20130624_204818

Its blank modernity is simply too much, too impersonal to remember a far too personable President by.

This block, an audition piece for an interplanetary parliament if ever one is to be built, says nothing of the man who lived in the White House with his young family, his back pain, his mistresses or of the tragedy of that dark day in Dallas.

As a monument it fails for it can never depose from our minds the images of Kennedy’s assassination or especially his funeral.

Jackie veiled, gloved, immaculate in black.

John John in powder blue, saluting the coffin.

The jasmine and animal smell of his mother’s Joy by Patou floating on the air.

The perfume that was once the most expensive in the world worn by the woman who would find solace in the arms of the one of the world’s richest men.

How distant they seem now, as far away as Guinevere and Arthur and the knights of the first Camelot.

How much closer, if not in time then in temperament, the touchingly low key memorial to FDR seems to today’s world.

IMG_20130618_123609

Here he is, with his frailty and four legged friend, amongst his words that speak so practically of justice and of real enemies abroad and poverty at home.

Here too is Eleanor, recognised in her own right for her own achievements.

IMG_20130618_123059

The first First Lady, but not the last, to hold high office of her own.

I can hear her words being spoken so distinctively:

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

And I dream a carpet of lilies of valley, beautiful on the banks of the tidal basin and the sweet, innocent smell of muguet to mind me on my way. Caron’s soap supreme Mugueut to Bonheur to be precise. The perfume that was her favourite.

It is time to go.

A taxi ride across town to a railway station based on the Baths of Diolcetian conflated with the Arch of Constantine into an epic and enduring gesture.

IMG_20130624_210824

Here between incredible columns and beneath vast vaults, I contemplate….

IMG_20130624_211431

Why are arrivals always in outrageous technicolor , whilst departing is in invariably merely monochrome?

IMG_20130624_213550

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

Advertisements

25 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Of Andy Warhol, Art and Imperium Scenes from The Perfumed Dandy’s American Adventure Part Three : Washington DC

IMG_20130618_114337

The seemingly endless curve of the circular exterior wall of the Hirshhorn Museum is broken here and there with radial partitions, creating segment-like rooms that conceal surprises.

Entering one such space I find myself face to face with the grand master of Pop Art, a floating torso against a black void rendered in brilliant white and lurid pink paint Andy Warhol appears a dark angel of death.

Staring into his grey eyes it is impossible to put aside thoughts of his technicolor on steroid screen prints of icons from Queen Elizabeth to Elizabeth Taylor by way of Liza Minelli and David Bowie.

Equally, images of his notorious electric chair and car crash series invade the consciousness.

But what perfume would the world’s shyest egomaniac wear?

Of course Bond No 9 have asserted their retrospective right to him releasing a whole range of fragrances alluding to his life, his work, his NYC, none of which, despite their likability, alights on the spirit or the sensibility of the man.

Parfums Andy Warhol too for all their blunt use of their namesake’s most famous works as product packaging, miss the point.

After all Andy preferred to turn packaging into art not vice versa.

So I will choose instead a fragrance I have read filled the air at Studio 54, the New York club that I always feel, after the Factory, to be the master’s natural habitat.

Halston for Woman as was: it goes by different names today and has been endlessly diluted and the composition occasionally disturbed.

Yet in every variation from the genius of the original to the bordering on generic of the contemporary, this is the most bone dry of floral chypres ever to have donned a gold lamme jump suit and stack heals to grace an underlit dancefloor.

Are we still in Washington? Is that Bianca Jagger on a horse?

Perspex discs arranged in improbable suspensions and Sol le Witt’s over bright disco light wall-sized paintings only serve to add to the night club vibe.

IMG_20130618_114728
IMG_20130621_221106

I am sure if music had started to play like Pavlov’s discotheque dog I would have begun to sway rythmically and to worry about last dances, looking cool and getting all my apparel back at the coat check.

As we leave the Hirshhorn, the stuff of coat check dreams appears…

IMG_20130621_223805

How I wish I could have taken home from any club of any sort at any time Yayoi Kusama‘s bronzed, rose embroidered manteau, rather than my own affair, no matter how dapper it might have been.

It’s meticulous craftsmanship and eloquent opulence call for a powerfully elegant and self-possessed perfume to go with it.

The baroque intensity of Chanel’s Coco tempts for a moment, then Serge Luten’s Sa Majeste la rose seems perfect.

But reflecting on Kusama’s troubled existence, an uncalm rose seems the only thing, and the medieval splendour of Paco Rabanne’s la Nuit the only one that could possibly do this warrior of the heart’s armour justice.

The National Botanical Gardens

IMG_20130621_221923 (1)

Outside the air has warmed to an improbable early afternoon high of near ninety degrees.

Of course the logical thing would have been to seek out air conditioning and art once again, but mad dogs and Welsh men go out in the midday sun and so we amble on to the most unlooked for treasure of our trip.

Tucked away in a corner at The Capitol Hill end of The National Mall, The National Botanical Garden is a diminutive delight both inside and out its ornamental glasshouses.

Here plants unfamiliar and familiar-looking but with new and unfamiliar names jostle for our attention in a ready made riot of colours and non-colours.

IMG_20130618_134713

Who knew grey petals could be so beautiful?

IMG_20130618_140806

One plot of botanical beauties has me rhapsodising once again on space travel, for surely they cannot be of this world…

IMG_20130622_004816

Their elongated alien forms exploding here and there into fronds and antenna-like extrusions are the stuff of science fiction fantasy, and yet they sit here quite happily before me bustling up against one another in the breeze in their busy bed.

Immediately Norell by Norell comes to mind.

A now nearly lost vision of the future from a point some point in the middle part of the last century, it is the perfect scent to accompany these tiny Trifids, who sadly have no smell to call their own.

Its hyperspace hyacinth, bright green nettle-like laser beam heart and nuclear charged pepper fired carnation are just perfect for these Star Trek saplings.

Looking above the flowers and into the distance, the most unusual of all the domes that surmount this city comes into sight.

IMG_20130618_135053

Like a parliament of an ancient nation or world, the organic form of the angle avoiding National Museum of the American Indian is as inviting and enveloping as a mother’s arms.

Walking towards the sunshine the smell of woodsmoke is on my mind.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

18 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Of Angels, Art and Imperium Scenes from The Perfumed Dandy’s American Adventure Part One : Washington DC

IMG_20130618_143247

Some impressions of a city that impressed us much more than we could have expected.

Important and self-important all at once, fitted out in wall to wall marble punctuated by red velvet ropes and heavy curtains.

A Capitol and Capital of Imperial Proportions, like a vast movie set Rome in elongated letterbox Cinemascope: inflated and stretched almost to the horizon and absurdity.

And yet, and yet at once quite profoundly beautiful, marked out everywhere by memorials for lost souls and past presidents.

And the Art so much of it and all around and so very, very good…

1. The Hotel

IMG_20130618_151112

The place is vast, as American hotels seem to be.

The lobby long enough to accommodate a golf range if so chose it.

Apparently the Inauguration Ball for newly sworn in Presidents is held here. They must do something right as two have chosen to stay while their own abode was being fixed up.

The fixtures here are something very special, harking back to an age in which gold leaf was elegant rather than merely gauche.

IMG_20130618_150837

IMG_20130618_151518

That peculiar rams head motif on each side of the patriarch’s broad face reminds us how much like rutting goats politicians are: so obstinate and unnecessarily aggressive, and with invariably voracious appetites (for food, for fame, for fornication) .

I reflect on the neo-classical surroundings, the pomp, the powerful people who have been here, their presidential or even imperial ambitions and can think of only one perfume…

Van Cleef and Arpels Tsar.

I wonder if anyone wears this egocentric aromatic fougere extraordinaire any more?

Then a thought occurs: if… when a woman occupies The White House, as anything other than a First Lady, will she be allowed to break perfume rules as well as glass ceilings?

Could she where a fougere herself?

Tauer Perfumes 04 Reverie au Jardin?

Its creamy coniferousness, its resinous, iris and lavender could usher in an entirely new type of perfumed executive power.

2. That House

IMG_20130617_222528

Of course the place is terribly grand.

But not ostentatiously so.

It’s nothing that could outshine the megalomaniac follies of the magnates who made their fortunes on the vast continent in the nineteenth and America’s century, the twentieth.

Just modest enough, in fact, to remind the inhabitant that the Commander in Chief is ultimately meant to be a servant  and not master of the people.

So the President may not have anything approaching absolute power, but he is still allowed his toys.

The whirring of helicopters the whole time in Washington bears testament to this.

IMG_20130617_223108

On this occasion at least, so the policewoman told me, it was  The Man.

Creating a whirlwind off to visit the victims of a real storm in Oklahoma.

Helicopters, an infrequent sight in London save for the military and police, are synonymous in my mind with war.

With war in Vietnam in particular.

The cinema that retells that conflict has fixed this association.

Helicopters, ‘Apocalypse’ and Wagner.

Strangely, I begin to ponder whether there was a perfume like Worth’s Je Reviens that sweethearts wore to remember their far away soldiers in the sixties and seventies. Or a scent like Shalimar by Guerlain than men brought back as a gift.

Then I reflect that there were no couture houses in Saigon, no Chanel or Guerlain boutiques in Hanoi.

Perhaps the perfume the women left back home wore depended more on their political persuasion than fashion.

Jane Fonda and protesters in patchouli oil smelling as rough and ready as le labo’s 24.

Marine wives holding it together in Avon, or No.5.

A decade later it would have been easy, Estee Lauder’s White Linen.

3. Angels in Leather

IMG_20130618_111954

The hum of choppers comes and goes, but the first part of Memorial Weekend is accompanied by the constant roar of engines.

Harleys mainly, but other American motorcycles too.

Men, who when they were considered or were counter cultural, were called Hell’s Angels have descended on the Capital.

From across the Continent they have come on thousand mile sponsored rides to remember the POWs and MIAs as their banners, fluttering along side stars and stripes, proclaim.

IMG_20130618_150123

IMG_20130618_150028

The machines all around smell of petrol and polish, of gasoline and grime-defying sheen.

The men, almost invariably men, that drive them smell of gas, and sweat and unusually of sweet fruity sodas they drink all day through straws from the enormous buckets of sugary liquid they carry around with them.

Only one scent comes to mind.

That of the first mechanised war.

The perfume of petrol and peaches that is The Great Fragrance of the end of The Great War.

The war that was supposed to end all wars but didn’t.

The faded photographs and photocopies of lost brothers, friends and perhaps lovers show that.

All attached with sellotape and tender care to mudguards and windshields of shining machines.

The unmistakable smell of Mitsouko is in my nose and on my mind as we turn and walk towards The National Mall and the formal memorials…

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

14 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Perfumed Dandy’s Surprise Scent… Private Collection by Estee Lauder 

IMG_20130618_165051

Memories are an odd thing aren’t they?

Even those of the happiest times can seem bitter sweet.

So it has been sorting through my snaps of Washington DC.

On reflection it seems a city almost haunted by the past, by lost hopes of optimistic futures and many, many lost lives.

Perhaps it was because I was there over the Memorial Weekend.

Memorial weekend in a Capital of Memorials.

More of that later.

But what perfume can encapsulate this sense of commemoration?

For The Dandy, nothing expresses remembrance better than Estee Lauder‘s contemplation in green chrysanthemum, Private Collection.

So the photograph above of some of the same reflective flowers with the scent on my bedroom windowsill seems just right.

Until later today.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

10 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

What should The Perfumed Dandy do on his Great American Adventure?

Dearests (& very welcome Bright New Things)

By the time you read these lines The Perfumed Dandy will have departed Across The Pond to the United States of America.

Of course, if I had my way we’d be going by liner, but, I fear (on this occasion at least) time and tide seem to be against me.

So after a shortish interlude aboard a giant winged aluminium tube I shall be on American Soil.

My travels encompass Four Cities and A Wedding

Washington DC, New York (where my dear brother will wed), Charleston (South Carolina) and Miami.

Now, the thing is, I will of course be plenty occupied the whole time, but The Perfumed Dandy is always open to suggestions… especially of the scented kind.

So, I wondered whether you, my dear friends, might be kind enough to recommend (as you so generously do each day) some great American fragrances for me to try whilst I’m on the opposite side of the Atlantic.

In particular I’d be interested to hear about smaller American houses and niche producers.

Perhaps some scents that never make it to my part of The World.

Oh and any picks of prettier-than-pink perfume stores you feel I should visit would be most welcome too.

By the way, don’t feel constrained to stick to scent, any special places or stores you feel I must pay homage to, please do jot them down!!

Whenever the technology, or at least my knowledge of it, allows (do remember I am more a gentleman of The Eighteenth Century than The Internet Age) I will be checking in to take a peek and my lead from you as to where I might find the finest fumes and fun in The New World.

Who knows, now and again I may even be able to pop up a picture of my adventures and scribble down a few bon mots to boot!!!

Well, The Dandy thinks that’s just about all for now…

Except to say thank you ever so much in advance for any and all your kind considerations.

See you all when I return to Blighty not too long after the 15th of June in The Year of Our Lord 2013!!!

Pip Pip!!!!!

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

28 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized