Friday, April 30, 2010

Magnum Soapus

"Soap is soap, as long as it's cheap and you're clean" say the masses and this is the very statement that has kept Ivory in business for 125 years. My family staple has always been Dial, the preferred brand of my mother but others have snuck in to the rotation from time to time. I don't recall resisting bath time too much growing up, any more than I gave Mom a hard time over dinner as long as she didn't serve lima beans or liver. It was a particular delight to soak in a tub of hot water and absorb the different fragrances in to my skin.

I love soap. Don't ask me why, I just do. My earliest fascination was reading about the legend of the Titanic and the level of service provided on this magnificent ship during her fateful maiden voyage. The article highlighted Vinolia Otto Toilet Soap as being exclusively offered to First Class passengers. I wasn't thinking whether or not soap of any kind was offered to Second or Third Class on the boat - I only knew that from the picture it bore a resemblance to the rounded oval I was using at the time by the makers of Vel. My left-brained imagination simply allowed that I was using the same product.

In my professional life I have worked as a day laborer moving furniture, fast food and field sales, jobs where the end of the day can't get there fast enough for the chance to unwind under some water and lather the day's troubles away. On those days when I was particularly grimy from dirt, grease, soot or had really stunk up the joint there was nothing I wanted more than a long, cleansing shower and a full bar of soap of which half would be used before I finally felt human again. During cold weather I'd come home with frozen feet, ice in my goatee, numb skin and tingling fingers, all wrapped in two to three layers clothing and socks that were equally soaked through. Oi, the sounds of ecstasy that came from my shower on those days....

While traveling around the world there came a natural curiosity with what kinds of toiletries were used in other countries. As a child growing up in Germany "Fa" was a sentimental old favorite and I also came to enjoy Yardley's Oatmeal and Almond. From Italy comes the Alchimia Soap line which features natural ingredients infused with essences of rich florals such as Hydrangea, Cornflower and Tuber Rose. I don't bathe with those so much as use them for air fresheners in clothing drawers and for the car.

Friends in New Zealand think I'm mental because I have been known to ship home boxes of Knight's Castille as a durable every day soap over the domestic brands. They remain equally as perplexed when I said that soap from a different country serves me like food in reminding me of good times from another corner of the world.

I felt that I had hit the jackpot when I discovered Roger & Gallet's Oat Milk from France but that was before I went to Japan and was introduced to Kao White. Kao is as every day in Japan as Dial is the United States but I have never come across another bar of soap that seemingly lathers at the mere suggestion of water. Thick, billowing clouds of the stuff all around me with a mild fragrance that lingers long in to the day. The fastidious Japanese are known for multiple soap and rinse cycles in their daily toilet and with Kao at their ready disposal I can easily understand why.

Imagine my delight when in Paris I discovered the high end toiletry counter where "triple French milled" really meant something. Oh my God. I didn't know where to begin but I knew where I would end up once I saw those prices; hey, clearance merchandise in Paris still beats off the shelf back home! I wonder what they use in Russia.

I'll spare you the discovery of liquid body wash but I've often wondered what happened to Vinolia Soap from the Titanic? It is still made and sold in the United Kingdom today. Hmmmmm....

Gotta go.

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