In an interview of a few years back, cultural critic Wayne Koestenbaum told ArtForum that if he could create his own perfume he would name it "Hotel" or "Standing Room Only." When asked which word would best describe it, he answered simply "banquette." Recently, Koestenbaum has published Hotel Theory (Soft Skull Press), a Heideggerian deconstruction of the place, category, and metaphor of hotels alongside a dime novel starring Lana Turner and Liberace (!!) printed in a parallel column on each page. While catsitting last week at a friend's loft, I read it and mused on the category of what, for me, could be dubbed "hotel" scents. Would such scents be anodynes to the appalling blandness of so many chain hotels? or ways of bringing traces of "home" into the mix? Or, alternatively, would they revel (olfactively) in the smells and sensations of such temporary, multiply occupied dwellings? Or, in a different way entirely, would they suspend their owners between the domesticities of home and the exoticisms of "the grand abroad," in artificially-created, private fantasy worlds? Would they, in fine, transport?
For myself at least, the scents for which I reach when packing my toiletries are all too often the ones that travel well: Hermès Eau d'Orange Verte scented soap (whose translucent green case is strangely for me a travel essential of nearly fetishistic significance), a deluxe-sample-size flacon of Annick Goutal's Eau d'Hadrien as well as the matching shampoo, and a small spray bottle of Montale's Oud Cuir d'Arabie for when I'm feeling just a tad "Indiana Jones." For protracted overseas travel, I add to these a bottle of Etro's Vetiver, which I feel is one of those ever-appropriate scents, as fitting at breakfast as it would be during intermission. Travel scents are not risky scents. They do not call attention to themselves. If anything they call attention to the wayfarer's identity, his masculinity, and the simple fact that, what with the foreign water, the temperature and the possible lack of some amenities, he's going to smell like a packhorse if he doesn't spray something. Now, what do women pack? (Also curious about other guys.) Is there a particular note or accord that suits airplanes, trains and hotels?