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3 for me: Jul et Mad

Article written for, and first published in CaFleureBon.

Urban morning in the east. Collage and photos by dana

Memories are like a video tape- they get old. Even when stored away in a box you have not touched for years, they dry up; the colors fade; the sound gets muffled. You know that, but you keep it--because you never throw anything away.

Then you take the tape out, you find a player that works, and you stick it in. The whirring sound revolutes your insides like a zoom back, looping your brain into a melancholy soup that’s both painful and ecstatic, self-punishing but insatiably blaming the world. And so, intentionally, you add color.

Looking down. Collage and photos by dana

I grew up in a could-have-well-been-apocalyptic, end-of-Communism, painfully practical, painfully provincial Romania that has nothing, NOTHING to do with French perfumery and stays with me always: I fix instead of throwing away; I mirror & detach; I find voluptuousness in sadness. My comfort is made of industrial ruins, macrame, beating carpets at 2PM on a Sunday, uncut books, Chinese supplements bought on the black market, standing in lines for hours, crowded weddings, bad teeth, good philosophy, cheap school supplies, Tilia Cordata, Nivea creme, gas lamps, mussels decaying on the shores of Black Sea, and static. And any, and all, color we could grasp in a sea of grey.

The law ("legea") is on the wall. Collage and photos by dana

Ever since I met Jul et Mad, drawn by the founder’s own storyline as by a book with a fantastic plot, I’ve been shamelessly searching for the Romanian colorature- old but new, conceptually strong, and emotionally challenging . I’ve since been assigning it to a few fragrances, as notes and accords tapped into my overly aware, nostalgia-hungry smell centers. Artificial coloring? Maybe, but what is consumption of beauty if not a personal translation of the creative arts?

So, with all due respect to Julien, I’ll do what we all dream of doing and publicly appropriate Madalina as my folk, attaching Romanianness, the way I see it from here, to 3 otherwise wordly fragrances. I dedicate them, with your permission, to 3 Romanians I met in passing, who’ll never, ever know I’m writing about them.

Of life. Collage and photos by dana

Amour de Palazzo, by Dorothee Piot, is for Arun. Born of who knows whom and raised on who knows what on the streets of a small town in the middle of nowhere, Arun had spirit, spark, and a thoroughly rehearsed discourse that allowed him to pass through life as the most artistic, flamboyant, solitary rroma boy there ever was. He sang and wanted to be a star; between selling newspapers and trying hard to literate himself he’d hitchhike to obscure festivals and troll provincial TV stations until, tired of his optimism, they’d put him on air, where he’d shine with sweat, tears, and the self-proclaimed endurance of his people. He was small, loud, relentless, and fast; every dialog--a written poem; every question--deflected with obliterating kindness and unapologetic pride of being what he called a true gipsy.

Amour de Palazzo, like Arun, acts exactly like star it wants to be: noble by blood and tradition, familiar by presence and aplomb, both smooth and incisive.

Official notes: pepper, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, absolute of Violette, Atlas cedarwood, leather, Indonesian patchouli, labdanum, musk, oud, Amber, Papyrus, Animal Castoreum.

Morning in the south. Photo and collage by dana

Terrasse a St-Germain, by Dorothee Piot, is for Raluca. Our fathers had some business, and for a while we vacationed together, forever separate like in parallel realities: her calm perfection / my disruptive turmoils; her inward smile / my outward screams; her combed, trim body / my exploratory ugliness; her calculated & wholesome self / my sharp(ened) corners. Everything about her was perfectly assembled, compact, and beautiful from the tip of her fingernails to her impeccable shoes, demure smile, feminine clothes; her hair was abundant and long to her bottom; her laughter was what writers write about; and her heterochromia made her unreal.

Terrasse a St-Germain is precisely that: essentially beautiful, and essentially feminine: delicate flowers in delicate hues, clear fruits in discreet arrangements, balanced essentials enough to provide an immovable presence but rarefied enough to permit existence, around, to others more strident- just like Raluca. And, just like her, absconding a darker truth made evident not through itself, but by the repeated exposure to the painfully beautiful serenity on top.

Official notes: Grapefruit, Tangerine, Rhubarb, Freesia, Lotus Flower, Blue Rose, musk, Sandalwood, Indonesian patchouli

Other perceived notes: jasmine, aldehydes, aquatic notes, benzoin

The art is in the eye. Photos and collage by dana

Fugit Amor, by Stephanie Bakouche, is for Sorin. I met him a few times in the neighborhood, when late evenings filled with torpor drove us teenagers out of our scorching apartments and into the streets to kill time. He was older, poorer, and more patient than me, with a philosophical resignation and contained acceptance of the simple, provincial, hard-laboring life ahead of him. He had shiny eyes and a gentle manner; watching him I understood that not all “boys will be boys”. He had poise, discipline, and dignity- and broke my young, idealistic me in half with an only conversation I never thought I’d talk about: we are not all the same, and that’s ok. To each their own burden to accept it and be happy, or fight it and be broken. You’re not for here. Thank you for talking to me. Go be great.

Fugit Amor is as surreal as that night, sitting on that step, watching the asphalt melt while listening to the words above: contained, clear, acontextual, of the core. Classy, neutral-warm, and slightly reminiscent of clean masculines in the ‘90s, it lifts and opens with a sincerity hard to find, and impresses with the simplicity of a formative word at a formative time.

My pick, from the very beginning.

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