Not everyone grew up on a farm, so I can’t blame people for not recognizing August or the first week or two of September as the time when the second haying occurs. Hay, for urbanites and suburbanites, is something abstract, something horses eat, something you once smelled while visiting cousins who had it in a barn.
For the rest of us, hay is a remarkably versatile product. If your parents had the kind of hay bailers that bound up the hay in dense elongated cubes, then it was the basis of an impromptu architecture that you erected in the barn yourself. You could make hay mansions, with windows, and look out onto your summertime world.
None were lasting. Remember the fable of the three little pigs? The little pig who built his house of house of straw soon had it blown down by the big bad wolf, this in contrast to the pig who built of bricks. I remember the story and yes, I’d choose brick myself for permanent structures, but what is permanence?
Perhaps I’d understand if I were immortal, but being ephemeral myself, I know that all structures ultimately are built of hay, no matter what we think, because the hot breath of Time blows everything down in the end. It doesn’t matter what we use, and straw, compressed like the memories of a past summer full of sun, is just as durable as mud dried brick. That’s my guess, anyhow.
So that was what I thought of when I first smelled the old sample of Andy Warhol’s favorite fragrance, With Pleasure: hay, compressed sunlight in mown meadows, I said to myself. I don’t know of course if that was what Andy smelled. There is no asking him now, but the old perfume had a discreet beginning that fooled me into thinking that it had been damaged by the decades and had no radiance left. That was why I was so floored when the mother of all perfume rushes hit me about twenty minutes later.
The perfume had gained lift, and opened out, like the view under a plane that has hit cruising altitude, and the countryside that fanned out hundreds of feet below was the summertime green of meadows seen after you cross the cliffs of Dover and know you are over England. Green saturated with blue, and after the baking of a sunny July, almost equally toasted gold. This green was the color of With Pleasure, a rural smell of great naturalness and infectious joy.
With Pleasure is one of the happiest scents I’ve ever smelled. There is something about it, the hay, the grass, the flowers, that reminds you of barn swings and the exuberance of one good swing out into the bright sunlight of a late summer afternoon. Honestly, I can’t think of another fragrance so full of high spirits. Perhaps happiness is out of style, but in a world full of anti depressants, I can’t help but wish With Pleasure were still in production.
It’s unfair to write about a perfume that doesn’t really exist anymore, and you’re right to complain, but if we none of us know how wonderful scent can be at its best, then we no longer know what standard to hold the best perfumes to. With Pleasure answers at least one question I had at the back of my mind for a long time. Did Warhol know what beauty really was? Or did he stop at silk screened soup cans and self promotion?
Now I know. He did.