Emma, the book and the computer

Emma’s full name is Emma de Jesús Sánchez Perdomo and her book is called Fetiches.  From leafing through it and with my very limited knowledge of Spanish, it seems more a collection of short stories than a novel.  Click here for the background post.


Buying Emma the computer wasn’t a difficult choice.  Anyone else would do the same thing.  When she read my email saying that I would get her a laptop sometime in 2013, she wrote back saying that her coworkers ran to her desk because she had jumped out of her seat and screamed.  They must have thought she had received bad news.

On December 26th, 2012 I went to Bureau en Gros (Staples in Québec) and found a HP laptop with Windows 7 which had been used as a demonstrator.  The sales associate was quick to tell me that Windows had been reinstalled with all the current updates… and that the computer was guaranteed for 1 full year.

Me :  Well… that won’t be of much use.  It’s a gift for someone who doesn’t live in Canada.  By the way, I also need a 56K modem… the kind that plugs into a telephone jack.

SA : Are you kidding me?  Where is this computer going?

Me : Havana

SA : Let me check but I doubt it!

He came back 5 minutes later.

SA : It’s the LAST one.  Take it or…


Of course, buying the computer was the easy part.  Getting it to Havana would prove to be more difficult… but a friend came through and Jacques agreed to take it with him on his Christmas trip.

With the deal finalized, I, wickedly, wrote to Emma to tell her that, although I had the laptop, I couldn’t find someone to take it to her on such short notice.

A few days later, Jacques met up with Amado.  On returning home from the New Year’s Eve’s celebrations (just past midnight, in fact), Amado listened in at Emma’s door.  He heard people talking.  He knocked and when Emma opened the door, the laptop was delivered.  I only wish I was there… you see, a computer changes a Cuban family’s life.

And from then on, things just proceeded with emails being sent over an 8-year period.  Now, I don’t want people to think that I sent A LOT of money.  I sent what I could and with the currency exchange, you can actually buy a brand new, automatic washer for less than $120 Cdn.  It certainly beats washing clothes in the bathtub or sink which many Cubans do.

I can’t say I know very much about Emma.  She certainly loved perfume, like all Cubans.  I always sent her and her granddaughter perfumes in beautiful, romantic bottles… Vera Wang’s Princess in the shape of a heart, for instance.  The perfume I brought on this last trip was  Mugler Angel Eau Croisière in the shape of a rose- and amber-hued star.


I think Emma was religious.  She was always telling me that God was with me during the last years with my parents.  On my last trip, I visited the Havana Cathedral although I had seen it before.  No doubt I will visit it again.


Havana and Emma


I travelled to Havana this past March, the first real vacation since 2011.  My intention was to get away and perhaps visit two friends, Amado and Emma.  I finally did have supper with Amado but I did not see Emma on this trip.  I stupidly declined to see her and her granddaughter, Heidi, because my Spanish is so pitiful.

I first met Emma during my 2011 trip.  Amado had invited me to his family’s apartment in La Lisa for dinner and there was a knock at the door.  Emma, his neighbour, had dropped in to give me a book that she had written knowing that I was a librarian.  We exchanged very few words when I visited her flat and when I offered her 20 Cucs (about $24 Cdn), she refused it outright.  We exchanged email addresses and she promised to write to me from the computer she used at the hospital where she worked.

We started an exchange of emails… 2-3 per month (thank God for Google translate).  When Emma retired in 2012 and informed me that she could no longer write novels nor send me emails, I bought a computer here in Montreal and arranged to have it delivered to her for her birthday.  Laptops seem to grow like mushrooms in our wealthy world.  A computer was simply unattainable for a Cuban and this way, I knew we could continue to exchange emails.


Emma (third from left) with co-workers and the new computer.

I was more than happy to send her money on occasion.  And I was always delighted to hear what she had bought with the money… food for the family, an automatic washing machine, a camera to take photos of her great granddaughter, a floor fan for the hot Havana summers.  What I got in return was priceless… a confidante, whose advice to me was always measured and thoughtful.  She was with me throughout my parents’ demise.

My trip to Havana this year was uneventful.  I saw many of the museums, churches and tourist sites that I had seen before. I returned to Montreal on March 30th thinking I might never return.

Three weeks later, I received an email from Heidi.  Emma had suffered a stroke and had passed away 24 hours later.  Even now, several days later, the emptiness is palpable.



Jeremy Fragrance : this fragrance smashes my body apart, your brain will explode!


The Fall of Icarus (c. 1610) by Jacob Peter Gowy

Jeremy Fragrance is the most watched perfume vlogger on YouTube today.  His channel boasts over 600,000 subscribers and in a recent Kickstarter campaign, he raised over $1M dollars to hire perfume creator Alberto Morillas of Firmenich to create his first perfume.  Let me add that Mr. Morillas is no slouch… he created many extremely popular perfumes including Acqua de Gio by Giorgio Armani. Calvin Klein’s CK One and Daisy by Marc Jacobs.

I won’t be buying Jeremy’s perfume and so I can’t criticize it.  You can view Jeremy’s video below where he describes his new fragrance.   The video is very, very odd.

So what is Jeremy’s YouTube channel about?  It’s not perfume criticism… I’ve never heard him not like any perfume.  Jeremy Fragrance is the fast fashion of perfume vlogs with click bait titles such as Top Five Fragrances for Men and What Fragrance do Women Like on Men.

I find Jeremy’s videos disturbing.  I ask myself… WHAT has happened to perfume criticism that THIS kind of vlog has so many followers!   He appears to have a very small vocabulary.  All men’s fragrances are fresh, woodsy.  Women’s fragrances are fruity and/or floral.  That’s basically it.  Now, you might say, “Normand, Jeremy is German.  He can’t be expected to master English.”  Maybe not. But his vlog is in English and he actually does very well… he just doesn’t seem to know a lot about perfume.

For me, Jeremy Fragrance is an Icarus-like figure… moving from perfume vlogging to manufacturer… getting closer and closer to the sun, although he was warned by his wiser, more experienced father, Daedalus, not to fly too low or too high.  I wonder how it will end.  It looks like a reality show… scripted, but difficult to predict.  Many other vloggers are criticizing Jeremy to the hilt and many laugh almost hysterically, but I’m not laughing.  Something is not quite right.

And this particular video is REALLY disturbing.  It’s all very odd.

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