My strongest perfume-locale association is in San Francisco. Double, actually. I was in San Francisco with my husband David when his company were performing at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts a few years ago. While they were in the theater during the day I went to see a show a friend had curated at The Contemporary Jewish Museum (Ten Portraits Reconsidered) only to realize I’d missed it by a day. So I wandered the city and happened into a perfume shop that was half kiosk and half storefront. It looked as if it had been growing imperceptibly, creeping toward the curb over a period of decades. They had one boxed, sealed bottle of the original Givenchy Insensé, which I’d never tried but had searched for. The djinn/bottle. Does everyone have the perfume they Had To Find after reading the Sanchez/Turin Guide? I put it on immediately and wandered the city for hours following any whim that struck me. Perfume alters scale in an instant. All of San Francisco was just a backdrop for me to experience this flawless perfume. It still sets me off every time i smell it.
A year or so later I met David in San Francisco for a long weekend in autumn, a season I love in places that have weather (unlike Los Angeles and hell). I bought a bottle of Parfumerie Générale l’Ombre Fauve on the way to LAX and opened it when I landed. It was a cool and rainy time and I was in heaven. I have a sort of reverse seasonal affective disorder where light and heat are bleach but cool and dark are where inside and outside balance. That perfume permeated every step of that weekend and is fixed in my neurology as a reference moment of joy. Here is my basis for the value of state over narrative in many things, but especially perfume. Narrative comes at you unsolicited and cheaply from every angle. State is the thing.
(image source unknown)