Bobby won a small jackpot, about fifteen thousand dollars, from a scratch-off he bought at that place with all the beer and the flags at 45th & Duval, and now he’s talking about shooting a movie version of some obscure porn book from the early Seventies.
Except he doesn’t call it porn, of course: He calls it erotica. “It’s called Cleavage to Beaver,” he tells me over pancakes at Kerbey Lane Cafe.
Well, Bobby’s having pancakes – buttermilk with blueberries – and I’m having that crabmeat Benedict thing they do that’s always like a kind of multiple seafood orgasm in my mouth’s dripping interior.
“Cleavage to Beaver,” I repeat around a bite of Hollandaised crab. “Nice.”
“It’s a conflation of that old TV show ‘Leave It to Beaver’ and Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis,” he says, mopping at his cornsyrup puddle with a forkful of pancake.
“So it’s funny porn?”
“Oh, it’s fucking hilarious,” he says. “But it’s also really serious, you know? The thing goes deep into representations of sexual desire in the media and of how those constructs and the constructs of gender are finally being shattered by this new generation of kids coming up through the Internet.”
“Um,” I say. “I thought you said it was from the Seventies.”
“It is,” says Bobby. “It’s from 1973 – but there’s this new edition that just came out last year, and it’s got this new introduction by de Gruyter that looks at the work with a totally modern perspective. The introduction’s almost as long as the original text.”
“Cleavage to Beaver II: Electric Boogaloo,” I say.
Bobby shakes his head. “You’re a regular fucking riot, Annabelle,” he tells me.
I take a long sip of coffee, letting the fragrant steam fill my nostrils. “What I don’t understand,” I say, “is how you can even think about making a movie.”
“Why the hell wouldn’t I?” says Bobby. “I mean, okay, I don’t really have the technical skills – yet. But I’ve assisted on some films. I helped Clay Liford with that thing he did before Slash, I know what it takes.”
“Yeah, you what? You scouted a location for him?”
“Among other things,” says Bobby, spearing pancake, neglecting to be more specific. "And, fuck it, look at all the posters I’ve been doing for Sarah’s dance troupe. It took me just a month to get all that InDesign and Illustrator stuff down, how hard can it be to learn FinalCut Pro, right?”
“There’s a lot more to making a movie than just editing software,” I say.
Bobby’s mouth is too stuffed with syrup-drenched pancake to let him reply immediately, so I quickly add, “But that’s not even what I’m talking about. I mean, look at how you’re living: That efficiency you’ve got is a goddam rathole, your car is on its last legs, you’re like hand-to-mouth and paycheck-to-paycheck on what HalfPrice pays you. Why don’t you take some of that money and use it to, you know, improve your basic quality of life?”
Bobby swigs his iced tea, washes down what his snaggly teeth have done to the pancake. “Because – unlike you, Ms. Media Sales Rep – I happen to be an artist.”
“Well, sure you are,” I say. “That’s why I call them movies and you call them films.”
And we went on like that for a while, bantering, trading insults – what are usually called lighthearted insults – in a way that two old friends sometimes do. But what’s more important is what happened next, which is that a new waitress came up to our booth and said that she was taking over for the first waitress who'd had to leave due to some emergency.
And maybe whatever that emergency was, maybe that’s a whole other story involving the waitress and who knows what sort of personal catastrophe – because there are a million stories in every city, whether that city’s naked or fully dressed or whatever, as there always are.
But that’s not what this story is about: This story is about that second waitress. Or, to be more specific, about what that waitress smelled like.
I got a noseful as soon as she walked up to the booth: It was as if someone had scrawled a love letter in orange oil on old parchment and sent it to me through a burning forest.
So after she told us the situation and before she left to get more coffee, I asked the waitress – her name was Sarah, coincidentally, just like Bobby’s girlfriend, and her eyes were a blue that I wanted to drown in for several days at a time – I asked her about the scent.
“It’s Ça Sent Beau by Kenzo,” she said, smiling. “It’s pretty nice, huh?”
And later, after we'd left Kerbey Lane and I’d dropped Bobby off at HalfPrice Books in time for his afternoon shift, I sat in the parking lot and Googled Kenzo and Ça Sent Beau on my iPad. And of course it was available through Amazon, and of course I ordered a small (1.70 ounce) bottle. And when it gets here – in two days, with free shipping – I’m planning on applying a thin line of it, in honor of the circumstances in which I discovered it, from cleavage to beaver. Applying it with a totally modern perspective, yes.
But what’s made me at least as happy as this new scent, or anyway the anticipation of owning a temporary portion of the scent, is the other thing I found while searching for Kenzo online: A project called Perfume Area by Sydney Shen and Laurel Schwulst.
It’s a book of 36 fragrance reviews, published by Ambient Works out of New York City, and the descriptions in it are marvelous. This is what they said about Ça Sent Beau:
Woodsy, fiery, sage essence in Japanese style.
A frayed kimono. A grandma in a frayed kimono, smoking and playing sudoku.
A department store lobby, where no one is seen but a woman playing Vivaldi on a grand piano. Quickly but calmly, department store clerks stockpile every possible object for sale in the center. A match is lit. The clerks bow their heads as if praying while the lobby fills with smoke. Ah, all possible smells together at last, says the pianist while coughing.
This scent was made in 1988, but really 1889 is not out of the picture. Another classic time warp/fuck: grandma remembers her non-sexual winter honeymoon that lasted 1000 years. Or maybe the honeymoon starts tomorrow, trapped in a snowglobe filled with gasoline.
And I'm planning on sharing this with Sarah-with-the-blue-eyes at Kerbey Lane, because I really don’t think that the power of words – or of scent, or of the Internet – can be overestimated.