Friday, July 31, 2009

It' s salty and hard / It is stern as a knife...

CB I Hate Perfume At the Beach 1966

Last night I was reading and ran across a line wherein the narrator mentioned how children in the South frequently refer to the grandfathers as Papaw (pronounced either Pa-paw or Paw-paw, I did the latter.) Though my grandfather has now been gone for over a decade, I spontaneously burst into tears. Grief is funny like that. You walk around, every day, not know you have a hole in your heart, until you run smack into it all the sudden. Then it just overwhelms you, and like the surf you have to roll with it or get sucked under. Then the tide of it goes out again and you can move on.

One of the strongest memories I have of my Papaw was of him taking me to our family beach house down in Crystal Beach, Texas. That house, and the memories I have from there, are one of the most precious things I possess in my life. I remember being well and truly loved and happy in there, in way I don’t remember happening anywhere else where I grew up. Passing all the azaleas on the freeway down to Galveston, waiting in line to ride the ferry across to the tip of Bolivar Penninsula, spending all day at the beach and then getting hamburgers and ice cream for dinner on the way to the water slide, which for the kids in the family substituted for a post-ocean shower since the house only had one for all the adults to share.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Crystal Beach. In fact, it’s been about eight years. But the love I feel for that place it like a mild hunger that never leaves me. I’ve always thought that if the good Lord saw fit to make me fabulously wealthy overnight, I’d buy a place down there of my very own. So you can imagine my surprise at trying on CB I Hate Perfume At the Beach 1966 and finding out someone managed to bottle my lovely memories into a scent I can carry around with me.

Christopher Brosius, who I can never say enough good things about, describes At the Beach 1966 as follows:

Imagine it's about 4 o'clock on a golden summer afternoon and you've been at the beach all day rubbing yourself with Coppertone suntan lotion – but Coppertone as it existed in the 60's, not quite as it is now... You walk into the surf as the waves break on the shore and, bending down to touch the surf, you notice the smell of your warm skin and of the salt water that seems so cold by comparison. It has just the faintest hint of watermelon rind!

The prime note in this scent is Coppertone 1967 blended with a new accord I created especially for this perfume – North Atlantic. The base of the scent contains a bit of Wet Sand, Seashell, Driftwood and just a hint of Boardwalk. The effect when you wear At The Beach 1966 is as if you've been swimming all day in the ocean.
This description, in my view, is dead on the money. On me I smell suntan lotion, warm leather car seats, sand and sweet sweat. It is exactly the scent I remember from going to Crystal Beach every summer, going so frequently that I remember going to Crystal Beach before I was able to form memories of going. For those of you who think you hate aquatics because no one ever gets them right, give this one a try. I promise it won’t disappoint. I'd differentiate this from Annick Goutal's Songes as the different between day and night of the same exact day. If At The Beach 1966 is day time with the family, then Songes is the evening dates along the Galveston Sea Wall with high school boyfriends. At The Beach 1966 feels like a nice fragrance for the day, whereas I associate the sweet sultriness of Songes with night time visits to the beach. Both lovely experiences, but different in form and fragrance.

Crystal Beach was just about plum wiped out last year by a hurricane, but somehow our little house managed to weather the storm still in one piece. Lots of others weren’t so lucky. I don’t know that the community as I remember it will ever return. Certainly a lot of the places that we went as a family, a family that really doesn’t exist anymore, are just as gone as the people I loved.

They say that olfactory memory is the strongest. To be given the ability to pull oneself back to a simple and sweet time in one’s life in an instant is a remarkable gift. At the Beach 1966 does that for me. As Marina at Perfume Smellin’ Things, writes so aptly in her review, “I can see these being the ultimate comfort scent: if I was ever seriously depressed, these memories of perfect childhood would perk me up better than Atavan...” I totally agree. And for that, even if I ignored all the other wonderful and unique scents CB has brought us, I will be eternally grateful.

Where the wind is for blowin' up hurricanes for showin'
The snakes how to swim and the trees how to lean...

- Guy Clark, "South Coast of Texas"

CB I Hate Perfume At the Beach 1966 is available direct here.

Want more? Check out reviews of At the Beach 1966 from…
~ Now Smell This!
~ Perfume Smellin’ Things.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"It's Good To Want Things."

CB I Hate Perfume I Am a Dandelion

"Dinky Dean Bossetti, is that the yellow sweater I bought for you last week? That was a thirty-two dollar sweater, missy, and you dyed it black, didn't you? After you promised me you wouldn't."
"Correction. I didn't promise I wouldn't. I said I'd try not to."

One of my all-time favorite films growing up was Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael a little indie flick starring Winona Ryder, the poster girl for teen angst and misunderstanding for my generation. One of my favorite lines involves a the former lover of a famous woman (the eponymous Roxy Carmichael), long gone from Dinky's home town, relating a story about roxy's preference for dandelions. He tells Dinky, "She loved dandelions. She said it was because they were wild and free and didn't give a shit where they lived."

There were a lot of dandelions where I grew up. So many that my mom would yell at me if she caught me blowing their delicate heads right off, spreading their seeds around our yard. I used to make jewelry out of them. Rings on my fingers, necklaces and crowns. I'd weave and twist their stalks and chew on them. I didn't realize they were a weed, not really. I thought they were beautiful, doubly so because they got to be two distinct incarnations, both beautiful yellow flower and delicate seeded head. I didn't understand why the world wouldn't want as many of them as would take root.

Charles Brosius clearly agrees with me and Roxy. The scent of CB I Hate Perfume's I Am a Dandelion is described simply:
This perfume is the simple scent of a Dandelion newly picked from the lawn
The story he writes to accompany the scent is so much more. Dandelions, Brosius writes, are "beautiful," "innocent," "fearless," "resilient," and "simple and humble." I tend to agree. What is a weed, really? According to Wikipedia, "[t]he dandelion plant is truly a weed in the classical sense: "a plant for which we once knew the use but we've forgotten it." there is a lot of beauty in the world we seem to have lost the purpose of. it doesn't make it any less beautiful. Luckily for us, we have Brosius to remind us.

I am a Dandelion, on initial application, smells so strongly of the smell of freshly cut grass that if you close your eyes you will forget that you aren't standing in the middle of one. You will smell the scent that dandelions' hold, milky and sweet and almost cinnamon spicy. It won't matter how old you are now, how dreams didn't turn out, how lonely life can be, how the world can see only a weed where your purpose and beauty used to grow.

Instead, you will remember the milk on your fingers, the stems in your teeth, the flowers crowning your head, your own innocence, your beauty, your resilience, your youth.

At least I do. Every time.

And that is truly magical.

CB I Hate Perfume I Am a Dandelion is available direct from Brosius's store in NYC.

Monday, July 27, 2009

More recommended reading!

I'd also like to give a reader recommendation to Notes From the Ledge's piece on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, entitled Potter's Potions, which discusses imagery related to love and perfume and memory beautifully!

Image courtesy of IMDB, Warners Bros. Pictures.

Recommended Reading

Angela over at "Now Smell This! has wrriten a great article entitled, "How to Help a Friend Choose Perfume." Angela, who has genius taste in everything from fashion to food to perfume, correctly identified me in the last category and brought me a sample of Dzing!, which I wear to this day and is probably one of my all-time favorites. It would be one of my "Top 5, all-time, have to live with only these forever" scents. I'll never quite understand how she identified me as being someone who would begin a lifelong relationship with perfume, but I am so grateful. If you have ever been asked to help a friend find a perfume, or if you yourself would like a place to start, this article includes a great list of options. Definitely a must read next to Perfume Posse's Perfume 101 and Perfume 201 pieces.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I wanna do bad things to you...

Waaaay back 2002, I read the first of the Sookie Stackhouse novels Dead Until Dark. You may know them as the “True Blood” series, but back then they were known as the “Sookie Stackhouse books” or the “Southern Vampire mysteries.” I think there were two of them. I remember thinking the book was passable. I never bothered with the second one.

I finally broke down and watched the True Blood recently and the HBO series was surprisingly good – much better than I remembered the books being. To my recollection, the books were – in terms of writing – not even as good a quality as the Twilight series and that is saying something. (However, True Blood, the tv series, is miles better than the Twilight films thus far. Trust me.)

Given how good the show was I decided to try the books again. I even gave myself a pass on the first book, and started with Living Dead in Dallas. The writing seemed as bad as I remembered, slightly below Twilight quality, only these books aren’t aimed at preteens. By the end of book three, Club Dead which I kept reading because (a) I’m an intellectual masochist and (b) they read fast and I was curious – see (a), the writing has risen to on par with the Twilight books. That said, I actually have bigger problems with the gender dynamic that goes on in the Stackhouse series, and I’d like to talk a bit about that since it is one area that does not all seem to improve over the books.

Firstly, I would like, just once, to see one of the female “sups,” or “supernaturals,” other than Sookie do something ‘heroic.’ I use air quotes there because a lot of the actions and decisions made by any of the characters in the book aren’t heroic at all, but at least they are intended to be in a sort of traditional, hegemonic masculine way – facing down danger, taking a bullet for someone, compound raids and daring rescues, etc. It seems to me that part of the reason that all the supernatural men in Sookie’s world seem to want her (unless the writer expressly connotes a preference for men – even if the character in question is supposed to be bisexual), is because, despite being the most breakable thing around, she tends to shove herself into harm’s way. While Charlaine Harris, the author, tries to pass this off as Sookie’s determination to be her own woman and take care of herself in order to maintain independence in an increasingly dangerous world, writing things like “After a second I realized my help would not be needed, and I decided the Goddess of Really Tough Gals would have to excuse me while I closed my eyes,” undercuts actual any actual strength Sookie displays by making it seem like a kind of show. Sookie wants to be seen as tough, but when she gets an escort to do some digging around in book three, the following lines define the new relationship:
“This was the way life was supposed to be, for normal people. It was morning, time to get up and work, time for a woman to cook breakfast for a man, if he had to go out and earn. This big rough man was eating real food. He almost certainly had a pickup truck sitting out in front of my house.”

“Alcide Herveaux looked plenty rough. He was as big as a boulder, with biceps that I could do push-ups on. He would have to shave a second time if he planned on going out in the evening. He would fit right in on a construction site or a wharf.

He was a proper man.”
Seriously. That’s the line. Sitting right there in its own paragraph. Just like that. “He was a proper man.” Damn, do I feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t drive an F-150 or have huge biceps. I guess any real expression of masculinity is foreclosed to them. It’s this type of stereotypical role writing that makes me crazy when it comes to these books. Even if I could ignore the weird repetitive exposition pieces – not from book to book like you get with a good series, like the Harry Potter books or the Anne Rice vampire novels, so that someone can pick up any book in the series and still get the gist of the world mechanics – but from very short chapter to chapter, as though there is legitimate concern that someone might pick up the book and start reading right smack dab from the middle, I cannot get around the weird traditional gender descriptions/dynamics. While, on the next page after the “proper man” line, Sookie is bitching about the “paternalism” of the men in her life, but she seems pissed if there isn’t some paternalism going on. If a chair isn’t pulled out, she notes a lack of “manners,” but doesn’t seem to link this with someone throwing themselves in front of her in the next fight scene.

At the same time, Sookie seems to dither when it comes to whether she wants to get into a “top/bottom” relationship with any of the men around her. (The tv show demonstrates way more sexual agency on Sookie’s part in terms of defining sexual relationships than the books do, and thank god for that or the show would be unwatchable.) I’ve read through over five hundred pages of Sookie, and not once has she made a legitimate first move on anyone. Sex just seems to “happen” to Sookie, even when her inner dialogue sees it coming for a Kentucky mile. When these interchanges happen, she rarely asserts her displeasure, and when she does, it is in a weak way that props up the myth that “no means yes” when she gets carnal with someone for five-thirty minutes before she exhales the equivalent “No, we mustn’t!” Sookie never negotiates her role in these exchanges. Personally I am all for relationships with established sex roles related to top/bottom, possession/ownership, etc. but Sookie repeatedly portrays herself as someone who has no say in the matter and is frustrated by it, all the while playing along. I want to scream at Harris – for the love of goodness, give us a freaking safe word!

While the Twilight gender dynamics may be just as static and traditional and possessory, Bella actually talks to Edward about her needs/wants/desires. Bella very clear talks about when she wants sex, how she wants sex, what she’s comfortable with and how she thinks things should occur. Critiques of the book feel that Bella is painted as weak and sex seeking while Edward is strong, noble, and virtuous (by, of course, denying his basic animal needs – wretch), but to them I say, what the hell is wrong with saying you want it? I may not love that Bella goes ahead and marries Edward to get sex, but at least there was a discussion, clearly defined terms, and a feeling that there was equal participation in sex decision making. In the books, Sookie has someone inside her before she considered whether or not she wants them there.

All of this said, I will probably keep reading the books. If nothing else, there are enough books I can definitely get a conference presentation out of the materials. Most of the critique I’m seeing aimed heavily at Twilight, but within the genre of the vamp novels/films/tv, of which I am an admitted lifetime addict, I really don’t find Twilight as terrible as the critique its taking. To me it just feels young. I remember feeling like Bella when I was fourteen, fifteen, sixteen years old. I remember feeling like the first boy I loved was the only one I ever would, and that living with my heart, once broken, was like trying to breathe without oxygen. I read the books and think, “I would have identified/do identify with this,” even if I do so now with a rueful head shake. I sometimes wonder if that is what scares the crap out of readers. We may not like fifteen year old girls identifying with Bella, and we may wish for a world that acculturates young women differently, but I have to say that Bella demonstrates more sexual agency than I did or most of my friends did until well into our twenties. My disappointments with the books, which are several and varied, don’t have a lot to do with Bella’s sexual relationships. Neither Bella nor Sookie are Nancy Collin’s Sonja Blue, and just once I’d like to see a vamp story with positive role models for top/bottom relationships between two women, but I’ll take Bella over Sookie any day.

What does all this have to do with perfume? Well, honestly, not a lot, but I never promised to talk exclusively about perfume here. Harris does talk about perfume some in the books, and Meyer talks about scent extensively, so maybe I’ll do a sister post that.

Also, in honor Sookie and her poor Southern roots (which I share), I will be starting a week of classic drug store scent reviews a week from tomorrow (8/3). Be on the look out for that. I’ll probably post again often before then, but I wanted to tee that up while I had a chance.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Romantic piscean seeks angel in disguise...

Top Ten Scents of Summer 2009

I'm a little late to the party on top 10 summer scents of 2009, but I have an excuse -- a midsummer move! That's right, readers, I am now located in lovely Riverside, California, which is in the greater Los Angeles area. I can *drive* to the LuckyScent bar -- lord help me and my wallet!

Moving from a temperate rainforest to basically an arid desert climate caused me to retry all my scents to ensure that, new climate taken into account, I would still be rocking these all summer long. Particularly now that I live in the land of perpetual sunshine it seemed pertinent to ask -- will I still love you tomorrow? For the following ten scents, neither life in the rain shadow nor life newly sprung amidst the desert flowers could dissuade my affections. without further adieu, the list!

1. L’Artisan L’Eau de Jatamansi
Spicy and sultry, I smell in L’Eau de Jatamansi salt and pepper, licorice and lime (at least that's how the grapefruit and wood notes read on me). It's like someone dressed me for a summer grill. (I mean that in a good way.) I think its sexy and light, a wonderful hot weather fragrance.

2. CB I Hate Perfume I Am a Dandelion
This one deserves a full review, which I hope to do soon. Its sweet, green, its all about the best of things that the Earth gives us, just growing wildly around us, overlooked and underappreciated. A must have for me. More on this excellent fragrance very soon to come. Can Christopher Brosius do no wrong?

3. Chanel Coco Mademoiselle
I bought this on a summer vacation to L.A. because nothing I had with me was standing up the long days and hot sun. Coco Mademoiselle is great for summer because it is light and spicy, perfect for summer. See my full review here.

4. Tauer Perfumes L’air du desert marocain
Ever wondered what a woman who wanted to attract a cowboy at the state fair would wear to overcome all the varied and wild smells of a livestock show and radio? This beautiful concoction would turn heads anywhere, but seems particularly at home for the kind of warm night outdoor fun befitting a rugged summer in Montana or Eastern Oregon. See my full review here.

5. CB I Hate Perfume At the Beach 1966
On of the best summer perfumes ever made. It’s what you imagine suddenly finding yourself as an extra in “Where the Boys Are” would smell like – fifties swim suits, sand, sun, and waves.

6. TDC Sublime Balkiss
Mixed berries & flowers, but not overly flowery sweet or powdery and becomes less so over time. The black currant is particularly strong on me. It reads on me the way edible flowers -- like sugared violets -- taste. The patchouli comes in around the ten minute mark on me, making this not a classically fruity combination because it has a little more dirty/musk to it, which creates nice warm undercurrents.

7. S-Perfume 100% Love
Chocolate and roses – a summer love affair I enjoy every year. One of my all time favs! See my full review here.

8. Serge Lutens Bois de Violette
I love this! Of all the violets I’ve tried this is the most beautiful. Not overly ‘soapy,’ but sweet and warm and woody. I love it all year round, but it especially sings in the warm weather. A snuggly kind of summer fragrance, like what one wears on a warm night out along the boardwalk. LT gives it five stars, so you don’t have to take my word for it – this is lovely.

9. Comptoir Sud Pacifique Vanille Abricot
Some people are going to hate this, which is strong, long lasting, and smells (deliciously IMO) like cotton candy. I think this is an amazing candy floss, and if you can get behind smelling so much like confection that people will want to lick you like an amusement park treat, then you may enjoy this, too!

10. Annick Goutal Songes
Wearing this one today. I never seem to grow tired of it. Sillage is strong, but its like being hit with a swarm sea spray on a hot evening -- who wouldn't enjoy it? Perfect for a warm night spent barefoot on a beach along the Gulf or other sultry locale. See my full review here.

So that's my list! Now it's your turn -- what are your favorite summer scents?

And it's you & me in the summertime.
We'll be hand down in the park,
with a squeeze and a sigh
and that twinkle in your eye.
All the sunshine banishes the dark.
And it's you I need in the summertime
as I turn my white skin red.
Two peas from the same pod, yes, we are!
Or have I read too much fiction?
Is this how it happens?

The Sundays, "Summertime"

Check other summer top 10 lists from Now Smell This!, Perfume Posse, Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, and Perfume Smellin' Things.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Perfumer in Love!

Here's a little treat for all you perfumistas out there. The second episode of a canceled tv show, "Valentine", about Greek gods and goddesses trying to help soulmates find love in the modern world. This episode is about a food delivery girl and a young man who makes -- what else? Perfume.