6/22/21

Post-Pandemic Update: Stuff I've Been Into

My Chinese knock-off of a brass Victorian mantle clock, cherub intact

So it looks like this pandemic is finally winding down. I've been vaccinated (Moderna) and after a few achy bedridden days, have emerged victorious over the 'Rona. For the last few weeks I've been enjoying going to public places without wearing a mask, and find it interesting that many people insist on wearing them, despite CDC guidelines now giving fully vaccinated people the green light to go naked-faced. Either folks no longer care to listen to the CDC, or they're not vaccinated. Neither of those possibilities are good, but I'm in the clear, so if they want to mask up for the rest of time, great! Not only do I get to go mask-free, but the air around me is that much cleaner. 

I'm off grape juice. After a few months of imbibing in nonalcoholic wine, I found the lining in my throat was beginning to wear, to the point where I suffered soreness for days on end. As of late April I am fully healed, and will no longer be pursuing grape beverages. I know, I know. Imparting this important news to you wasn't easy, but I thought it better to put it in writing, rather than tell you personally. Takes the sting out of it, at least for me. But on the bright side, I've been antiquing again. Not on eBay. In actual antique stores. Which brings us to my recent foray to Portland, Connecticut, and a truly wonderful little place called Never Say Goodbye. 

One sunny Saturday I was sitting on the computer perusing eBay when a buddy texts me. He and his girlfriend were at this "cool place," just slumming. The guy who owned it was swell, there were all sorts of interesting toiletries from the 1940s, and look at all these Messenger pictures! Colognes, talcs, makeup and soaps, hair dressings, oils, you name it. It was "new old stock." Apparently an old department store in West Haven closed recently and discovered in the furthest back corner of their basement two dozen boxes of things they never got around to putting on shelves. Nothing out of the ordinary, except everything's over seventy years old. I'll cut to the chase on the toiletries - I checked 'em out and they were great, but the only item that really tickled my fancy were the big full tins of tooth powder from the late 1950s. Here's the can I bought, looking as new as the day it rolled out of its New England factory:



It took me a minute to get myself together and hit the road. Forty minutes later I was talking to Bruce, the mad genius who decided to turn a hulking warehouse-sized garage next to his house into an anything-goes antique bonanza. It was a terrific afternoon. I really admire people like Bruce. He isn't in it for the money, which is rare and enviable. The prices on his items were reasonable, with some actually unreasonable for being too cheap. Case in point: the eighty dollar Crosa clock I bought for ten dollars, which Bruce had marked down from thirty. 

When it comes to the Crosa clock, your guess is as good as mine. From what little there is about Crosa on the internet, I'm gleaning that they're mostly made in China, although I see some comments here and there from people claiming theirs are made in Germany and Japan. One guy bought a variation of my clock for fifty cents. Mine has no markings on it, no "Made In" sticker, so I've no idea. It appears from pictures that Crosa's knock-off clock designs spanned a few eras, mostly eighteenth century French Louis XIV (rather Rococo), to nineteenth century English Queen Victoria (very Victorian). Mine isn't as waterskis-over-the-shark as a florid Rococo piece, but it's definitely in that Dickensian tradition of ringing in Ebenezer Scrooge's Christmas ghosts.  

How have I never heard of Crosa clocks before? They're incredible. They're made of hard rubber that looks indistinguishable from tarnished brass or cast iron. They weigh almost the same as cast iron. They're pretty well made, with intricate detailing, and I'm impressed by how anatomically accurate the sculptural elements are on mine. (Some are better than others.) I find that cheap sculptures are usually awkward in that regard, but this clock at least looks right to me. It keeps perfect time, which is to be expected from a standard quartz movement. I understand these were being made in the 1970s through to around 2000, but past that I'm not sure how far they go. Mine is notable in that the original design has been accidentally modified. There's supposed to be two cherubs, one on top of the clock, the other to its right. Well, looks like someone chipped the second one clean off. If you look closely at the picture above, you can see his little feet still planted to the base, but the rest of his body is nowhere to be found. 

I'm okay with one cherub. If both had survived, I wouldn't have bought it. One cherub is quaint, a flourish of compositional balance, a forgivable acquiescence to sentimentality. Two cherubs is a little too colors-of-the-rainbow, which I'm certainly not against at all - not at all - but it's not like I have to put that out there for houseguests to see on a central timepiece. If you didn't know about the second cherub, you'd never notice that the sculpture is technically "broken." But whatever. It still looks good, especially for a tenner. Now I want another Crosa clock. 

Other things I'm into: Cop videos on youtube. The smell of spring flowers. Women who manage to get through a day without mentioning food. Men who manage to get through a day without saying "Bro" a thousand times. People who think their Robinhood account is trustworthy. Speaking of stock accounts, my Fidelity account holds 167 shares of ACIC, an SPAC that supposedly will merge with Archer Aviation, an electric "air taxi" startup that recently inked a $1 billion deal with United Airlines. Cathie Wood, the new Warren Buffett, has invested significantly in it, and so far I've lost a buttload of money. So here's to hoping ACIC picks up, both literally and figuratively. It would be nice if these WallStreetBets jerks short-squeezed these hedge fund jerks by targeting special purpose acquisition companies. But no, instead they squeeze garbage like GameStop and AMC. I kinda get the GameStop thing, but short-squeezing AMC? Do we really need to buy up loads of a dying movie theater chain, just to spite hedgies that weren't even interested in shorting AMC to begin with? SPACS are begging to be squeezed, they're being shorted into the deepest bowels of the earth, yet nobody bothers with them. It makes little to no cents. For me, anyway. 

I'll close off by saying that my summer plans are up in the air. I have to pay off my student loans in September. If my stock market investment comes through, I'll finally get to put the master bedroom together, and polish off the living room and kitchen. If not, well, the struggle continues. But hey, at least I have you guys, to read my blog, and feed my fragrance obsession. As Trump would say, "I love you. You're very special." 

Too soon? Too soon. 

6/12/21

Club de Nuit Milestone (Armaf)

Eat your heart out, Laurice.

Youtube reviewers have a bad habit of jumping on bandwagons without actually using their noses, or their brains, for that matter. When Armaf released Club de Nuit Milestone in 2019, everyone was dazzled by the pageantry of its Millésime Impérial-like visual cues: the gold bottle, the folded company card under the box flap (just like Creed!), and the fact that its predecessor, Club de Nuit Intense, is a bestselling clone of Aventus. It walks like a duck, right? It must be one, then. So let's hop on the noisemaker, boys. We have to talk about how Milestone is an amazing clone of Millésime Impérial. La Dee Da. 

Well, guess what, Youtube? I smell a Bond no.9 frag here. Sure, the packaging is made to trick buyers into thinking they're in for a Creed clone, but the perfume itself is clearly a Bond. It's like Armaf cloned the top of Wall Street and conjoined it to the base of Chez Bond. Which makes sense, when you consider that Millésime Impérial is just a Green Irish Tweed with salty ozonic melons on top, and that Chez Bond is comparable to GIT, and that Wall Street is comparable to Millésime Impérial. But let's talk about why Armaf's decision to clone Bond frags, but then pretend they've cloned Creed frags, is genius. 

Armaf knows it can't afford to convincingly clone a Creed. But they know they can afford to convincingly clone a serial Creed-cloner brand like Bond. See, Bond doesn't use old-world maceration techniques and unicorn tears. Bond uses top-tier synthetics, which are pricy but not that pricy, and then banks on perception. What if Armaf did a GC analysis of Wall Street and Chez Bond, bought all the same chems, and hired a skilled perfumer to Tetris them into something 99% similar to both? The result is an hour of salty-sweet ozonic melons that smell amazing, followed by seven hours of milk-sweetened black tea and violets, which smell even more amazing. 

But Bryan, you cry, there's nothing impressive about cloning a Bond! Exactly. But Bonds smell pretty damn good. Like, grey market Bond prices good. About $130 a bottle good, to be exact. What if Armaf can give you the exact same experience for $40 instead? And since Bonds smell so luxurious, why not use that quality to convince buyers you've sold them a brand-killing clone of a Creed instead? Just shellac the bottle in rose gold, call it Milestone instead of Millesime, and let the dummies on Youtube do the rest. 

6/1/21

Tribute Cologne for Men (Avon)



The sticker on the bottom of my 1976 Liberty Bell-shaped bottle

It's been a while since something impressed me, but I'm about to review a fragrance that has impressed me to no end since the moment I accidentally happened across a full bottle. It's a little fougere from 1963 called Tribute, and it's excellent. I truly enjoy this stuff, and wish Avon still made it.

As one of Avon's first masculine colognes, Tribute was a bit of a Hail Mary pass to the market. With only two or three relatively obscure predecessors, the brand must have been nervous about how their fragrance would land. The masculine perfume landscape of the early 1960s hadn't fully resolved itself, and only a few commercial hits, including Chanel Pour Monsieur, Arden Sandalwood, Tabac, Monsieur de Givenchy and Vetyver, Guerlain Vetiver, and Royall Lyme and Spyce, had formed the terrain. The execs at Avon had a choice: imitate or innovate. They decided to imitate Jicky by Guerlain, and made one of the best manly lavenders of the time period.

This fragrance is just a big burnished (buurrrly) lavender note, plain and simple. I could get into abstract notions of notes and accords, but that wouldn't be an honest account. Instead I'll simply point out that there are vague accoutrements to the lavender note, things that you could probably label, but names don't matter here. This isn't a minty-herbal lavender. This is a furniture-polished woody lavender. This is a saturnine beauty prancing through sunburnt grass lavender. A chiaroscuro oil painting lavender, under a fresh coat of linseed oil. An austere father to Sex Appeal lavender. Its ambery tones are suggestive of orientalism, yet there's a clarity to the star note, and a bit of a cushioned, musky, hay-like sweetness, which gives me an unmistakable French fern vibe. 

Avon's everyman pitch was likely bolstered in the years following Tribute's release, and I imagine it made them plenty of moolah until the 1980s, when men finally lost interest in buying barbershop stuff in kitschy, toy-shaped bottles. Tribute is probably too simple to succeed today, but if they ever reissue it - make that correctly reissue it - I will eagerly seek it out. It's a fougere lover's dream.