Category Archives: Maps

travel tales

CB Hates Perfume; I Love CB

Long before I became a writer, before I learned French and Spanish with vague thoughts of being a simultaneous translator, before the year I turned twelve and thought architecture could be fun, I wanted to be a nose — that lucky person who played with scents all day long, inhaling luscious emanations from flowers and spices to create something no one else had ever smelled. Well, we all know that I ultimately traded words for dabbling with orchids and jasmine. But that intoxicated passion for scents has never evaporated.

A couple of weeks ago I entered the orgasmatron of all scent palaces —  an   out-of-the-way scent shop called CB I Hate Perfume. My daughter took me there —  one stop on pilgrimage of her favorite Williamsburg, as in Brooklyn, haunts. 

Christopher Brosius wanted to be an artist or a scientist when he was a child. As he says in his bio, he has become a bit of both. Brosius has this incredible shop in Williamsburg where fumeheads like me can go and sniff to our hearts’ delight. But his scents are not what you think of when you think of perfume. CB has done something better. He has recreated the scents of memory and poured them into two inch high clear glass bottles: winter’s first snow, bubble gum, campfires. Anything you can think of, and much you haven’t, has been distilled into mere milliliters of liquid ready to reawaken memories you don’t even know you’ve lost.

“Close your eyes,” Emma said to me, “and sniff this.” She wafted a bottle beneath my nostrils and instantly I tasted orange. But not breakfast orange bursting with juice and sunshine. No, what filled my nose was something slightly manufactured, a bit chalky.  And why did I have a childhood image of myself in bed in my pajamas?

“Orange Julius?” I guessed.

“Close,” Emma said. “Baby asprin.”  Ah, that accounted for the PJ’s.

Again and again we uncorked these little bottles wondering what rabbit-hole of memory we would fall into.  We played the game for nearly two hours, teasing shadowy images from our minds, trying to articulate a wordless frame or two of inner vision. It was astonishing to experience the scent of thunderstorms captured in a bottle labled “Cloudburst.” Some resonated much more than others.  Baseball Mitt did nothing for me, but Ink sure did.  Imagine what teeny doors a potion named Doll Head unlocked.  

“Try this,” Emma said, proffering up yet another. 

Instantly surrounded by the scent of pine sap and playing in pine straw, I guessed Pine Trees.  Close, and a bit more tragic. It was named Saw Mill. I was in the general neighborhood of nearly every one Emma opened and once again wondered if I’d missed my calling. A word of warning to those of you old enough to remember Paregoric: do not open the bottle labeled Licorice. Instant nausea will overtake you; you will see your mother before you  holding out a teaspoon of that vile preparation purported to calm your upset stomach.

I love that Emma’s favorite is Crayon, because it instantly conjures for me the image of her as a small child, drawing, drawing, drawing. The one I settled on is called Soaked Earth. It is loamy, rich with rain and the image of myself happily playing in the dirt, planting flowers.  I shared it with a friend and he instantly saw his mother at the kitchen sink.  

“Beets?” he asked.  Makes perfect sense, I said. Fresh beets are always covered in dirt.

For those of you here in Michigan, some of the CB scents are sold at a shop in the Rail District in Birmingham. But for the real fumeheads out there — you gotta go to the source. Have a blast.

A True Find

Down a sunny side street in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, a long staircase leads to a spacious studio tucked beneath a brick building dating from the 1880’s. On the door hangs a small painted sign: Regalia Handmade Clothing Studio. My first ramble through Eureka Springs, I missed it completely.  My second, the store was closed. But on the third foray into town, I hit pay dirt. 

Mark Hughs, Regalia’s proprietor and genius-in-residence, makes wonderful, stylish and fun linen clothing. Clothes of the ilk I have always wanted to wear but never could. You know the kind: simply shaped and loose fitting, in sumptuous colors and soothing neutrals, the kind of clothes that are somehow simultaneously elegant and casual. Plenty of women wear them. But not yours truly.

On moi, simply shaped is shapeless; loose fit looks like I’ve lost all fashion sense. Time and again I’d try on a skirt or a top somewhere and exit the dressing room full of hopes that were dashed the moment I looked in the mirror. I somehow simultaneously resembled an unmade bed on legs or a bolt of cascading cloth with a head sticking out of it. Until I stumbled upon Regalia.

It’s not every day, or even every decade, that a woman can go into a store and fall in love with nearly everything she puts on. I had an absolute blast just trying things on. The shoulder seams hit my shoulders.  The cuffs hit where cuffs are supposed to hit — at the wrist and not my thumb knuckle.  OK, the drawstring pants would need hemming but I’ve already alerted the re-incarnators that next time around I’m coming back five foot six. I tried on skirts with clever seaming, capped sleeve tops, pants with drawstrings and a cute little top finished with a three-inch flare of ruffle at the hem. My favorite is the Trapeze Jacket: a cropped delight with a deep back pleat that makes the whole garment swing. Ergo Trapeze, I assume.

And the colors!  A veritable crayon box of delight: rose, red, yellows, aquas. The hues are yummy and so area the names: wisteria, sumac, celadon. I don’t exactly get why a burlap mushroomy brown is called “inca.” Skin color? Dusty earth? I’d have more fun and call black “inka” and “inca” burlap mushroom. But that’s just me.

Mark, a former costume designer who has been designing and making clothes since he turned his childhood GI Joe’s parachute into a skirt, also works in silk and wool. One of my favorite fabrics is a really fun 1950’s evocation of cowboys on horses. Think Beaver Cleaver’s bedspread. I’ve put on my wish list the Trapeze Jacket in the denim cowboys or maybe pink. It also looks fabulous in “inka.”

Price — the crux of any purchase.  Regalia clothes aren’t inexpensive but they are quite fairly priced for what you get: handmade, beautifully constructed and finished, with all the facings topstitched and laying perfectly flat. I look at the garments as investment pieces — classically-designed clothes that I will wear for years to come. And when my novels sell, first thing I’m going to do is order that Trapeze Jacket in Beaver Cleaver cowboys.