New Perfume Review Gustave Eiffel Bois de Panama- Big Construction

I will start with another “I love my readers” interlude. In a comment on my Sidonie Lancesseur 201 column I was asked about my opinion of her perfumes for Gustave Eiffel perfumes. My answer was I don’t have one let me see if I can find samples. After putting some requests out I received a sample set and here we are.

Gustave Eiffel as a brand was established in 2016 which is when they released five perfumes. Four composed by Mme Lancesseur and the other by Dorothee Piot. I also received a sixth release from 2018 by perfumer Herve Bruno. You can tell by the name these are perfumes inspired by the French civil engineer known for his eponymous tower in Paris and the Statue of Liberty in New York. When you think back on that time period of building things the idea of this kind of big construction was the equivalent of trying to fly to the moon. These were grandiose imaginings of minds who couldn’t understand the concept of limits. Early perfumery was a lot like that too. The memorable perfumes all go for their own kind of big construction.

Sidonie Lancesseur

As I was going through my sample set it is that thought which shone through, these form a collection of large soaring fragrances. While there are Gustave Eiffel perfumes which celebrate his most famous engineering feats it was one which was his last which captured my attention the most; Bois de Panama.

At the end of the 19th century another of these grand projects was underway; The Panama Canal. After coming to the realization they weren’t going to be able to just dig a giant trench connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean they had to re-think things. Which is where Gustave Eiffel enters the picture. He would conceive of the giant locks which would become part of the eventual construction. This is what Mme Lancesseur captures in Bois de Panama.

Bois de Panama opens with a beautifully engineered top accord of violet, cardamom, and peach. You might look at that and think fruity floral but Mme Lancesseur has something else in mind. The violet is focused on its silvery sharp aspects while the cardamom is a green version with a sharp sticky character. The peach is there not to provide a fruity contrast but as a softener. To keep the sharper aspects from becoming rough edges. This is an accord that is more than the sum of its parts. Mme Lancesseur then increases the spiciness with nutmeg and cinnamon. It takes things in a more humid direction; fitting for perfume inspired by the tropics. The base comes together with sandalwood, amber, and some skin musks. This is where I catch a little bit of a clean sweat underneath it all. The labor of constructing big things. There is a tiny amount of vanilla to act as the peach did in the top accord to keep things in line.

Bois de Panama has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

As I mentioned above the intelligently engineered aspects of Bois de Panama are reflected throughout the Gustave Eiffel collection where big construction leads to impressive perfumes.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples supplied by Gustave Eiffel.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Art de Parfum Encore une Fois- Transparent Aquatic Gourmand

In a business environment which seems to tell the independent perfume brand that a new release every few months is a necessity; I admire those who go their own way. Which means that they run the risk of being forgotten by me as I navigate my overflowing desk. One brand which is doing things on its own timetable is Art de Parfum.

Ruta Degutyte

I met founder and creative director Ruta Degutyte in the fall of 2016 at a trade show where she was debuting her new brand. When I had the opportunity to sit down with her new collection, I saw a cohesiveness within that which made me feel this was one to keep an eye on.

Just after the New Year Ms. Degutyte contacted me and informed me the sixth perfume had been released; Encore une Fois. I’ll admit I had forgotten about Ms. Degutyte and Art de Parfum. Encore une Fois reminded me why I had seen such potential.

Sofia Koronaiou

Collaborating again with perfumer Sofia Koronaiou they decided to go in a different direction. If the first five perfumes were about establishing an Art de Parfum aesthetic; Encore une Fois is about showing where it can go. What I mean by that is the first five releases were great examples of existing styles of perfume. Encore une Fois is an existing style of perfume given a gourmand twist.

When I saw the description of Encore une Fois and the quote “the salty intimacy of loved skin” I was expecting a typical aquatic of ozonic notes, ambergris, and fresh florals. All of that is here but it becomes fascinating as a twist of incense and caramel turn things upside down in the later going.

In the first seconds on my skin it is all those typical “sea salt” accord ingredients matched to a sunny bergamot. The top accord of too many to count aquatics. Rapidly they are covered with a set of alternatively fresh florals, peony, violet, and muguet. This is a nice change to the fresh air accords usually employed in aquatics. As I was admiring that a set of skin musks provide the salty sun-kissed skin effect. Again typical of the genre. Then something atypical happened. A strong swirl of dry incense accompanied the Ambrox while a luscious caramel oozed into sight with benzoin and balasam. It had my attention now. Ms. Koronaiou has found an odd intersection within these ingredients which works. I kept thinking this was a salted caramel skin accord. What helps is the Ambrox and musks make the caramel quite expansive instead of a leaden weight on the base. It all comes together in a transparent aquatic gourmand.

Encore une Fois has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Transparent floral gourmands are the current trend in mainstream perfume. I’m not sure when I have ever tried a transparent aquatic gourmand previously. I like this one so much I am hoping it also starts a trend. I don’t know how long I’ll have to wait for the next release but if taking the time to get it right, as in Encore une Fois; take all the time you need.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Art de Parfum.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Virus of Spoilers

These current days feel like Geek Mardi Gras. There is so much fun stuff happening. Part of that fun, for most, is the anticipation. As I sat in the theatre on Thursday night before Avengers: Endgame I was ready to see the ending. It is part of my Geek street cred that I have seen every Star Wars, Star Trek, and Marvel movie first day first showing. It matters to nobody but me. What has been an invisible merit badge on my invisible Geek Eagle Scout uniform has now become a necessity. That’s because of the scourge of spoilers.

Before I start ranting on my soapbox, I want to distinguish about what I am talking about. There are fans of any show who want to know everything including what is going to happen. They will drive to the set and take pictures from far away to try and figure out the future. I have no problems with that. That is fans being fans. The reason I don’t have a problem with that is that community generally keeps to itself. If you are of similar mindset you can find that information and willingly immerse yourself. To those groups I say keep on enjoying your fandom.

It is the other kinds, not the obsessed who will serve the other obsessed. I’m talking about the jerks who just must let you know that they know something. My first experience with this kind of idiot came in November of 1977. I had won tickets to an early preview screening of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. It was in one of the largest theatres in South Florida which held about 1,500 people. We get to the end where a fleet of small alien ships have made contact with humans on the top of Devil’s Tower. It is an exhilarating scene which feels like the payoff for what we have been watching. As the ships fly off you are made to think this is first contact. Then at this screening as loud as if he was using a megaphone some jerk says, “Here comes the big ship!” If I was sitting next to him, I would’ve whipped him with Twizzlers. When we were walking out my friends and I remarked about what a moron he was.

Those were pre-Internet days. Now it doesn’t have to be a loud-mouthed lout in the theatre. It can just be an idiot a thousand miles away who wants to ruin it for others. I don’t know when it got so bad. I know that nobody went around spoiling the key moment in “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back”. I prefaced every conversation with, “Have you seen it yet?” Because that is part of the communal experience of going to see a movie with a few hundred other people. My favorite time in the movie theatre has been that shared delight at a plot twist where everyone makes a noise.

Nowadays people can’t go visit their favorite internet sites for fear of having a plot point spoiled. I went on YouTube last night and because I have been watching Avengers: Endgame clips leading up to it the algorithm is going to put them at the top of the page. At 10pm near the end of the first day of showing there was a clip which someone had filmed off a movie screen titled with a key plot twist. If I could I’d turn them into the studio.

This has caused people to stay off the internet entirely until they see the movie. One set of idiots cause this. As much as I enjoy being a Geek in this period of time; those who live to put spoilers out aren’t Geeks they’re jerks.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Baie Rose

I was only a couple years into writing about perfume when I asked to visit one of the big perfume oil houses. What drew me to request a visit was the chemist in me had heard about this new way of isolating new perfume materials via supercritical fluid extraction. I got my invitation along with a demonstration. The material they extracted for me were pink peppercorns. I was told prior to this; traditional methods of extraction were unsatisfactory due to yield and scent profile. When we finished the demonstration, they gave me some of the finished product to try. It was an herbal, slightly piquant slightly flowery soft scent. I took home a tiny vial. I didn’t really need to because this has become one of the most used ingredients in all of perfumery over the last ten years or so. I can honestly say a week does not pass where I do not smell a perfume which does not contain it. There is some confusion about the name because you will see it listed as pink pepper, pink peppercorn, Schinus mole, and the name I use for consistency, baie rose. Despite its ubiquity some of the earliest uses were the best at displaying all the facets of this dynamic perfume ingredient. Here are five of my favorites.

If there is any perfumer, I would label a maestro of baie rose it would be Geza Schoen. Over the years he has plumbed the depths of its use. He also was the forerunner of using it as he made it a keynote of many of the perfumes he made for Linda Pilkington’s brand, Ormonde Jayne. I could fill this list with five favorites, but I’ll stick to my very favorite; Ormonde Man. The baie rose is the linchpin for the fantastic spicy top accord as Hr. Schoen sets coriander, cardamom, juniper berry, and hemlock into orbit around it. This remains one of the most compelling spicy accords of a perfume I wear. It is balanced with a set of woods, but it is that spicy accord which lingers for hours which was my introduction to baie rose.

Another early use came in Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Angelique Sous La Pluie. Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena would use it as the counterweight to the angelica root in the heart. There is a terpenic piece to baie rose and that matches the more pronounced terpenes in angelica root. For those who enjoy M. Ellena’s style this is one of the perfumes where his sets of minimal perfume ingredients which overlap in olfactory Venn diagrams is at a pinnacle.

Of anything which captures the minimalism of Coco Chanel’s fashion aesthetic the perfumes in the Chanel Les Exclusif collection are it. One of the most compelling, 28 La Pausa, features baie rose as part of a three-ingredient set along with the keynote of iris and vetiver. The baie rose is used as a modulator to extract the chilly silvery rooty quality of the best iris. It does it brilliantly. 28 La Pausa is close to my favorite iris soliflore because perfumers Christopher Sheldrake and Jacques Polge embraced the “less is more” philosophy.

For once Le Labo Baie Rose 26 actually featured the ingredient on the label. It is not a common event within the line.  In 2010 as baie rose was gaining popularity so were the woody aromachemicals represented by Ambrox. Perfumer Frank Voelkl pairs baie rose with spicy rose in the heart. It produces a fascinating effect which is able to stand up to the monolithic synthetic wood of Ambrox. It also makes for one of the most contemporary uses of baie rose I own.

My favorite mainstream use of baie rose is in the first perfume released by Bottega Veneta in 2011. Used as the tip of a triangle with jasmine sambac and patchouli it forms an earthy floral effect which rest on a leathery chypre base. Perfumer Michel Almairac use the baie rose to get the most out of the jasmine and patchouli. They form a floral accord the equal to the base accord.

If you love perfume you smell baie rose everywhere. Here are five worth seeking out in the madding crowd.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Beaufort London Rake & Ruin- An Unruly Perfume

The best new perfume brands find their own space; their own aesthetic. The independent brands tend to find the more interesting perspectives. This is certainly true of Beaufort London. Founder and creative director Leo Crabtree is interested in portraying a version of English history as perfume. The first five perfumes focused on the sea-faring height of the British Empire. What made them stand out was an embrace of the less pleasant scents of the milieus he was capturing. This has made Beaufort London so striking. In 2017 he began his second collection called Revenants wherein he would use British historical figures as inspiration. The new Beaufort London Rake & Ruin is the second of that series.

Leo Crabtree

The historical figure used as inspiration for Rake & Ruin is artist William Hogarth. Mr. Hogarth is most known for a series of eight paintings called “A Rake’s Progress”. They are an 18th century graphic novel on the life of the titular Rake, Tom Rakewell. The early paintings show him coming into a substantial inheritance and living the high-life. The remaining panels display the decline and eventual commission to an asylum. Each painting is stuffed with detail. Which is one of the places where the inspiration and the perfume intersect.

William Hogarth "A Rake's Progress" Panel 6

Mr. Crabtree wanted to capture one of the middle paintings in the series where Tom Rakewell is out and about in the taverns slowly progressing to his eventual downfall. Mr. Crabtree turns to perfumer Julie Dunkley with whom he has collaborated on all the previous Beaufort London perfumes. They create a perfume which captures a life spiraling out of control with a perfume which reflects that unruliness.

Rake & Ruin opens with a gin-soaked accord. It is buttressed by a set of terpenic ingredients; angelica seed and pine. This produces a rawer gin accord as if you can smell the distillation inside the liquor. A mix of Sichuan pepper and baie rose lurch into view as licorice also appears to lead into the leather accord in the heart. This is where our rake’s leather jacket is stained with the cheap gin he is drinking. This is an odd effect which I alternatively found appealing and not so much. The same dichotomy happened for me in the base as Ms. Dunkley veers towards the smoky animalic. A strong decaying gin-sweat skin accord is made up of ambrarome, castoreum and costus. The costus is brilliantly used even if the effect is slightly nauseating. A haze of smoke is layered over all of this.

Rake & Ruin has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

It is so rare to find a perfume willing to capture the unpleasant side of the scent spectrum. Rake & Ruin does this. That Mr. Crabtree is making perfume which doesn’t pull its punches unflinchingly capturing the sweet with the sour is amazing. Rake & Ruin is the apotheosis of that aesthetic as an unruly life is captured in an unruly perfume.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Beaufort London.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Violet & Amber Absolu- Warm Violet

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There is so much I am enjoying about the current wave of Jo Malone releases. Creative Director Celine Roux has re-invigorated this venerable line through her enthusiastic direction. I’ve listed the multiple efforts she has brought to the brand in previous reviews. One of those was initiated with last year’s Rose & White Musk Absolu. Working with perfumer Anne Flipo they came up with a perfume with more character than the name implied. Mme Roux promised there would be more and a year later Jo Malone Violet & Amber Absolu has arrived.

Celine Roux

It is difficult to know how much to buy into the press release babble. For Rose & White Musk Absolu there was a lot of chatter about adding the fresh Jo Malone aesthetic on top of a Middle Eastern set of ingredients like oud, white musk, and amber. If I squinted, I could have mentioned that in my review of that earlier release. To be honest that didn’t jump out at me. I remembered that when I tried Violet & Amber Absolu for the first time; I got that. This more recent press release is all Arabian Nights, “yadda, yadda, yadda”. I want to tell them this is where you talk about Jo Malone combined with Middle Eastern perfumery.  Mme Flipo creates a perfume of violet warmed by those ingredients.

Anne Flipo

Violet & Amber Absolu opens with rich violet on display. Violet is one of my top tier favorite perfume ingredients. This is a great one to use. Mme Flipo threads through filaments of labdanum and patchouli. These take what was already fully-rounded violet and makes it three-dimensional. The patchouli adds an earthiness which is the right support for the violet. The base accord are those Middle Eastern ingredients. Amber is the focal point but there is an expansive white musk and subtle oud which rise off the warmth of the amber. It as if they are a brazier warming the violet accord above.

Violet & Amber Absolu has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

This has been a spring morning standout since I received it. It is an ideal shoulder season perfume. Mme Roux promises even more Absolus. Bring ‘em on. They have found a new way to make Jo Malone modern again by warming up violet.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Weil Kipling- Actions and Reactions

There are shelves in the Dead Letter Office which contain too many from the same brand which are amazing. The Weil shelf is one of those. The brand itself was one of the earliest brands of modern perfumery. Created by three brothers, in 1927, they came to fragrance as an accessory to their main business of selling fur coats. Their first perfumes were meant to be worn on their fur coats to camouflage the smell of the skins. When I’ve smelled Zibeline from this period it is hard to see it as masking much of anything. It seemed like it would amplify the furry quality. They would graduate to making perfume to be worn as perfume. That ended abruptly as World War 2 broke out and they fled their factory for the US. The family would return post-war and pick up the pieces. The best of that time period was Antilope.

That was the extent of my personal knowledge of Weil until my reader who gifted me with the box of discontinued samples appeared. As part of what was sent there was almost an entire set of Weil releases. I finally got to experience Weil de Weil and Eau de Fraicheur. As I mentioned every one of these perfumes are on a shelf in the Dead Letter Office. As part of my treasure trove I ran across a Weil I hadn’t heard of previously; Kipling. I was always going to write about Weil and this group of perfumes which have been discontinued. The four I mentioned to start are the acknowledged gems. I will probably return to them another time for future columns. As I learned of the current history of the brand Kipling felt like a good representative.

Where I left off in the brand history was as the family returned to Paris post-war. They would continue to make perfume until the early 1960’s. Then would begin a merry-go-round of different owners. Each owner wanted to capture the glorious past, but their vision was less assured when it came to new perfumes. When it hit; as in 1971’s Weil de Weil it was great. When the next owners took over, they wanted to put their stamp on the brand. Through the last part of the 20th century the brand always seemed to be a tiny step behind sometimes seeming like a reactive brand instead of a trendsetter. Weil de Weil was released soon after Chanel No. 19 as an example.

When the chairs stopped in 1986 Fashion Fragrances oversaw Weil. These were the latter days of the masculine leather fougere powerhouses. There seemed to be a desire to do a fuller version of that style. Kipling was going to be a reaction that upped the elegance of the style. Perfumer Jean-Pierre Mary oversaw realizing that brief.

When I smell Kipling now it seems part of that period in masculine perfumery. By itself I didn’t rate it as something different. It wasn’t until I pulled some of its contemporaries off the shelf that what M. Mary did was more evident. The trend in the late 1980’s for this kind of perfumes was to be drier. For Kipling, M. Mary added back something more rounded.

That shows right away with a mixture of lavender, juniper, and artemisia. The latter two ingredients accentuate the herbal-ness of the lavender. The licorice quality of the artemisia meshes beautifully. A green intermezzo of basil and pine leads to a heart dominated by geranium. M. Mary adds in a tiny amount of clove to accentuate that part of geranium’s scent profile. It lands on a classic base of leather supported by oakmoss, and patchouli. Both of those elevate M. Mary’s leather accord.

Kipling has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Why did Kipling end up on the Weil shelf in the Dead Letter Office? The ownership wheel spun again. As had been done during other changes last in was first to go. There was a market for this kind of stepped-up spicy leather fougere. Weil just didn’t have the stable ownership invested enough in making Kipling one of those. As before the reaction instead of the action ends up in the Dead Letter Office.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample sent to me by a reader.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Marlou Poudrextase- The Skin of a Courtesan

I have never shied away from the stronger polarizing scents in perfumery. One of my favorites is musk in all its forms. Some of it comes from the underlying chemistry which is fascinating to my scientist side. Most of it comes from the way the best musk feels vital. When used intelligently perfumes which feature it feel alive. I, and many other writers, use terms like feral or growling to describe it because of that. That’s the carnal funky animalic version of musk. There is a next level above which is less furry. These are the musks which smell like skin. These find their way into many summery beach perfumes as the sun-kissed skin accord. They have also been part of the fresh “clean skin” accords of those shower-fresh perfumes. Those are often banal perfumes; Marlou Poudrextase shows that does not need to be the case.

Marlou is a small artisanal brand from Grasse, France. I discovered them about eighteen months ago when friends who know how much I enjoy the animalic musk pointed me in their direction. Of the first two releases D’Ambiguite has become a favorite on my perfume shelves becoming one of the few in that section. That was a dynamic mixture of cumin, castoreum, and costus. It was raw and glorious.

The Bath by Alfred Stevens c.1867

When I heard Poudrextase was coming I ordered a sample immediately. Reading the description on their brand-new website it said it would be “composed around notes of the sweet natural secretions of clean skin.” From this brand I was wondering what it could be.

What the to date anonymous creative team does with Poudrextase is to use both parts of the French portmanteau word; powder and ecstasy. They take the fine rose powder of an elegant courtesan as she dusts herself after her bath. The ecstasy is the smell of that clean skin below the powder which has just the right dash of the animalic to remind you this is an erotic assignation.

As my courtesan sits at her vanity, she considers the man she is to meet. He is a man of cultured tastes outside the boudoir. She looks through her possibilities and her eye alight on the pot with the Japanese characters on top. Perfect. A rice powder scented with dried roses. She shrugs off her bath wrap and applies it. As the subtle rice and the more present rose tint the air she smiles into her mirror. As she moves to her closet to choose her clothing the scent of her freshly bathed skin meshes with the powder creating a discrete soapiness. As she thinks about the evening to come her skin begins to add a hint of the sensual ending as powder and ecstasy combine.

Poudrextase has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I would really like to know the team behind this perfume because it is so precisely balanced. In the first two Marlou releases because that was all animalic ferocity I probably overlooked that takes a similar skill to get right. Poudrextase must wear that kind of delicacy on its sleeve. If you thought the two earlier Marlou releases were just too much I urge you to give Poudrextase a try. This is how clean skin should appear in perfume; on the surface of a courtesan.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Diptyque Eau de Minthe- Termin(t)ator

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As a child one of the few alcoholic things I begged for from my parents was Crème de Menthe. I would ask to have a drizzle on my ice cream or to sip a small amount over crushed ice. I craved the coolness of the mint over cold things. To eat, or as part of a cocktail, I still enjoy mint. I even drizzle some Crème de Menthe on my Ben & Jerry’s. (Pro Tip: put it on Chocolate Fudge Brownie) I don’t know why it is such a problematic ingredient in perfume for me. It is one of those ingredients which needs to find the right concentration. Alternatively it can be part of an interesting effect which was what I found in Diptyque Eau de Minthe.

As soon as I saw the name, I recoiled a bit. This was going to be a perfume which featured mint as a keynote. I expected not to enjoy what perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin had put in the bottle. The press release mentions the name comes from Greek mythology. Minthe was a water nymph who was having an affair with Hades; until Persephone found out. As is the norm in these tales poor Minthe was turned in to the herb mint. When I read that I’m thinking some classic type of perfume. Which shows why press releases are not predictors of the perfume they promote. Eau de Minthe was much more sci-fi than mythology.

Fabrice Pellegrin

One of the tends in perfumery is to try and smell “natural”. I put that word in quotes because it is also mainly PR speak. I understand what it means. What it translates to are perfumes which do not embrace the overtly synthetic. Eau de Minthe chooses an un- “natural” approach.

The boogeyman I was worried about most wallops me right out of the sprayer; mint. This is the mint scent of every antiseptic you’ve ever smelled. It is the kind of mint which usually has me looking for a cosmetic wipe. Except M. Pellegrin embraced those hard aspects and encased them in a synthetic heart of rose oxide and geraniol. He turns the mint from mouthwash to something subtly metallic and even more stridently green. I liked it. This was the mint of the android coolly calculating possibilities. The final ingredient is a patchouli fraction which also fits in to the whole synthetic vibe. An engineered version of a common perfume ingredient.

Eau de Minthe has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I suspect there are going to be people who try Eau de Minthe and keep it at arm’s length. This is not really a crowd pleaser type of fragrance. There are going to be a few who will love the sleek modernity of it all. I admire the choice to go in this direction by Diptyque., While this might sound like damnation via faint praise; M. Pellegrin got me to enjoy a perfume with a high amount of mint in it. There is a part of me that want this Termin(t)ator to tell me “I’ll be back!”

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Diptyque.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Faith of Friendship

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I am not an atheist despite being a scientist. I will always take facts over the fantastic, yet I also believe there is a spiritual component to my life. I was taken through the Catholic Church all the way to Confirmation. The scientific mind driving the older priest crazy while the younger one, Father Leonardi, seemed amused. He took me serious enough to answer instead of bluster. The part of me which is still Catholic, is because of him. I am happy to commune with the higher spirit in my own way while respecting all who choose a different path.

I was reminded this week as Passover and Easter fall on the same weekend that my horizons were broadened in high school because of my friends I call my “family by choice”. The one I was most temperamentally like was Rich. We could bounce off each other until our friends would yell at us to “Shut Up!”. Which would achieve the desired effect while we cackled. Fifty years later we still try our loved one’s patience.

I spent a lot of time at my friend’s homes. Rich’s parents were the ones most likely to engage us in conversation. One of the key conversations I had in my life on bigotry was Rich’s dad showing me the pamphlets which were passed around about Jews by white supremacy organizations. It was eye-opening on how easy it was to demonize another race. It is one of the earliest conversations I remember having with an adult on a serious subject. I can say the foundation of my beliefs on that subject were formed that day.

I don’t remember when exactly that conversation took place but upon the next Passover, I was invited to the family Seder. It was a chance to see something more of the Jewish faith other than the Bar Mitzvahs I had been to. Rich’s dad and grandfather took us through all the ceremony explaining everything to me. It was something I soaked up greedily. Along with the food. I am not a good singer and while part of a Passover Seder is singing songs, I kept my voice down. Until we sang Chad Gadya. It was the last song of the night and I decided to give it my all pitching my voice low for the three syllables in the title.

I’ve been to both of Rich’s children’s Mitzvahs. I mentioned my enjoyment of that earlier conversation with Rich’s dad. As a teenager I didn’t have the perspective to know how important it was. It was nice for me to let him know how his words shaped the adult I became.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about where I do place my faith. One of those places is in the friendship of my family and friends. It may not be a church, but it is where I feel the spirit the most.

Mark Behnke