Astrolabe Soap from Ono Kine Grindz

“Danger Will Robinson”

I bought this soap from the Ono Kine Grindz store in Wauwatosa, pretty excited in that it looked to me like some homemade soap that was then being sold through the store (I'm just guessing here, didn't ask)—using kind of weird molds for their soap, some with creepy images, like sea creatures, or this one, which looks like a really old gravestone or something... I'm not really sure! Anyway, once I got it home, since it's only wrapped in a mesh bag, it threatened to permeate my entire abode with its considerable dominating fragrance—so I wrapped it in several layers of plastic and put it in a cardboard box, waiting to be used. Now the time has come, but I have a bit of anxiety about this soap. Pretty much everything about it is a little scary—from the image of the mold, to the color—a kind of otherworldly blue that would be beautiful for something, but not soap—it's the same color of my dental floss container, and also, certain ghosts. But most of all—the smell—which is very familiar, but not pleasing. Very much like an older woman's perfume, but not high-end—maybe more like department store perfume from just before or after WWII—I'm not sure how the war might have affected perfume availability and evolution, if it all—something to look into. Anyway, you might have had the experience where you encounter a very elderly woman whose perfume smells like it was applied with no degree of subtlety—you have to love her, it's kind of touching—and if you have love in your heart, you'll feel that way—but you may also have a kind of survival skill instinct to get away, to escape! The fragrance is overwhelming, coming at you like creeping vines via time-lapse fast-motion. And it might not just be that the fragrance of this soap is too heavy, too much—it might be that it would be repulsive no matter how little there was.

Another thing it reminds me of is the Norma Desmond character (played by Gloria Swanson) in Sunset Blvd. (1950) and the part where Joe Gillis describes her, or her house, as smelling like tuberose. He says: “...which is not my favorite perfume, not by a long shot.” I'm not exactly sure how tuberose smells, but you think of Norma Desmond and you get the picture. So maybe that's what this scent is—maybe that's it—the core scent, here. It's a very cloying, suffocating floral scent—what you might associate with church, or funerals, or anywhere with an overwhelming amount of flowers. I think there is a deep-seated instinctual thing in humans where we know that once we lose our dominance on Earth (a time coming maybe sooner than we think) the plants will take it back, slowly but surely, and it'll only be a matter of time before there is no trace of man left.

I'm making this sound kind of dreadful, but the weird thing is that the soap grew on me (no pun intended). I actually got to like it more as time went on. I realized it reminded me a little of Tide laundry detergent, which has a certain nostalgic appeal—to the extent that once I had to mop the floor of a restaurant kitchen with a big mop pail, and we used Tide laundry soap in it—and I actually found that quite pleasing! Same thing as when you're walking around and smell someone's laundry room. I mean, that can also be a dreadful smell, it just depends. Same as this soap. It will be lovely one time and repulsive the next. Maybe it's a “she loves me, she loves me not,” kind of deal, a two sides of the same coin kind of thing, love and hate, darkness and light—they need each other. It's messed up, but if it wasn't for that, the world would stop spinning and we'd all die of boredom. On the other hand, it's just soap.

Soap Review No. 40