If You Like Pià±a Coladas…


As we´ve complained ad nauseam, we’ve barely had a spring here in the east, only to suddenly wake up to ninety degree temperatures. It´s been a bit disorienting to say the least, but it definitely puts into perspective the approaching misery of summer. I say misery because my bikini beach days are decades behind me, and my mid-forties are fast approaching. That means loading up on sunscreen and setting the air conditioning at a temperature somewhere in the vicinity of meat locker. This will be my first Mid-Atlantic summer, so please feel free to inform me what I am in for. As of now, there is no escaping to north of the 49th for me, so unless I can get a cheap ticket to Antarctica (passage on the Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin, perhaps?), I´ll most likely go crazy in the heat. And, I´ll be bringing along some of my favorite kitschy summer scents:


Creed Virgin Island Water: I never thought I would refer to any Creed scent as “kitschy”, considering they´ve been around since 1760, but this scent is a total departure for them. From the quintessentially feminine Fleurissimo to the bracing maleness of Green Irish Tweed, Virgin Island Water does not smell like a typical Creed scent. Even their more recent compositions like Spring Flower and Silver Mountain Water have that Creed signature something that Virgin Island Water does not. It is a tropical cocktail in a bottle, with notes of coconut, lime, white rum, bergamot, Mandarin orange, hibiscus, ginger, ylang ylang and jasmine. Is there such a thing as a “refined” pià±a colada? Virgin Island Water is a fun and easy scent to wear, regardless of your frozen cocktail of choice.


Bond No. 9 Coney Island: When I was a kid in Brooklyn, Coney Island had a somewhat dubious reputation. You didn´t go there for any reason but for a few rides on the Cyclone, the landmark roller coaster that the Astroland amusement park was famous for. After that, you hauled what was left of your cookies to Jahn´s Ice Cream Parlor on the corner of Avenue U and Gerritsen Avenue, and ordered their Kitchen Sink Sundae, which was 16 scoops of ice cream along with various toppings. A couple of plates of French fries would inevitably arrive at the table, to use  in lieu of spoons. Hey – don´t knock it; think of it as dipping pretzels in chocolate.


None of Coney Island´s notes have anything to do with the Coney Island experience, but it still manages to strike an emotional chord in me. The combination of margarita mix, guava melon, cinnamon, chocolate, caramel, musk, vanilla, cedar wood and sandalwood might strike some as noxious. But, if you´ve ever gotten a whiff of the real Coney Island – Nathan´s hot dogs, ripe garbage and the polluted Atlantic Ocean, you´d beg for the bottle. I think it´s what I always wanted Coney Island to smell like, but it never did. Coney Island the scent makes me smile, and gives me a serious craving for ice cream and French fries. A ride on the Cyclone, however, would now be followed by a recuperative forty minute rest before I could even think about food.


Bond No. 9 Fire Island: If this one was named Bain de Soleil Orange Suntan Gelée, it would be instantly recognizable. Having only been to Fire Island once in my life, I have no memory of what it smells like, only that I was totally paranoid about going in the water and getting bitten by a shark. All these years later, I still can´t watch the movie “Jaws” without shuddering. The notes of cardamom, neroli, white musk, tuberose and patchouli don´t exactly scream suntan lotion, but I can´t think of a better interpretation of the iconic orange gelée than this one. It only has an SPF of 4, so anyone as pasty as me wouldn´t be caught dead wearing it. Thank goodness for Fire Island.


Marc Jacobs Daisy: The kitschy-est thing about this scent is the bottle; those white vinyl daisies on the cap instantly bring a smile to my face. And the green ones on the new limited edition bottle totally remind me of my family´s green vinyl kitchen chairs and white Formica table. Yeah, that kitchen set was the epitome of  late 60s-early 70s stylish home decor. With the exception of the plastic slipcovers on my grandmother´s chesterfield, nothing hurt worse than having to peel myself off those chairs in the summertime. I think enduring simultaneous laser hair removal and a bikini wax probably doesn´t hurt as much. As for Daisy the fragrance, it just works in the hot weather. Not too fruity, not too sweet, just enough sparkly grapefruit to keep me happy.


Here are a few that are no longer with us, but deserve honorable mention:


Ava Luxe Coconut perfume oil: This was quite possibly the most perfect coconut scent I have ever smelled. It wasn´t overly sweet, and not at all plasticky. It had a boozy rummy-ness to it that gave it depth and personality. If you´re reading this Serena, please bring it back!


Majenty Hidden Cove: I can´t remember what the notes were, but this oil was a tropical masterpiece without the dizzying intensity of pikaki or gardenia. It doesn´t seem to be available anywhere anymore, and the bottle I had is M.I.A. Figures. Update: I’m trying to find out if the company is still producing the scents, or if they’re out of business. Their website is still up, but I’m not sure if it is active.


VIP Room: I have a bit left in the bottle I bought at Aedes de Venustas, and I could swear I had a backup somewhere in my stash, but no such luck. This was a limited edition scent named after the famous Parisian nightclub, and now it is nowhere to be found. The combination of leather and pineapple shouts insanity from the highest peak, but it is genius; even on the doggiest of summer days.


The title of this entry is from the song “Escape (The Pià±a Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes. My apologies for any earworms.


Image by artist Bella Pilar: magnetreps.com.

  • Elle says:

    I grew up mostly in Central America and the Middle East, but *never* experienced heat like I did my first summer in DC. The air simply didn’t move. Also spent many years in Manhattan, but the heat didn’t seem as intense as in DC or NC (where I am now). The humidity is the issue. Also gnats. I’m gnat phobic. I’ve been in DC in the summer when there have been no gnats, but other summers I’ve visited and they’ve been out in force. Not sure what the explanation for that is. Maybe me and my choice of perfume during the gnat dense visits? Anyway, I shouldn’t complain because I adore hot weather and will take even humid heat over the slightest bit of cold (which for me means anything below 55).
    Great choice of scents! I had no idea VIP had disappeared! Why didn’t I stock up? Loved the stuff! And loved the heft of that super heavy top in my hand. Always imagined that if a robber entered our home and I had no other way to defend myself, I could just reach for the VIP bottle and knock them out cold w/ one well aimed toss of that top. My current fave Pina Colada scent is Hilde Soliani’s Sipario. Delicious!

  • Tara says:

    I just love the swampy humidity of Montreal summers – it’s like wading through a pool of warm water. It’s not as hot as the Atlantic coast of the US fortunately, nor the Caribbean (shudder). It is such a pleasure to be able to wear summer dresses and sandals! Can’t wait.

  • Gretchen says:

    You all have confirmed my resolution never to live anywhere but in a Mediterranean or desert climate. No humidity, PLEASE!

  • Aparatchick says:

    So much word to everything Olfacta said. I moved to Florida from Washington state 13 years ago (now THERE’S a change in climate) and during that first summer the no-sleeves rule died a fast death. Heck, I nearly died a fast death that first summer. Now in the summer you’ll find me on the screened porch, reading a book, sipping iced tea, and jumping in the pool now and then. I have my “spray with abandon” scents for summer: the Bvlgari teas, and (oh, the shame!) BBW Coconut Lime Verbena and an Avon Lemon Sugar thing. Not in the spray with abandon category, but loved in the summer: PdN eau exotique and eau d’ete.

    • Musette says:

      No shame in that game, baby! Cheap, citrusy/tropical summer scents can be THE way to go in sweltering heat.


    • Nava says:

      A screened in porch, a book and iced tea; sounds like you’ve got it made, sweetie! 🙂

  • tmp00 says:

    I move to SoCal partly to get away from humidity. I had it back east for quite a few years, thanks and on one trip to NYC a few years ago I had a reminder what it was like. No thanks.

    Olfacta has it right- no poly, light, loose cotton or linen only. I used to keep a semi-frozen water bottle with me to both frink from and hold to the back of my neck when I know I was going to be out for a while (drink about a third of a bottle of water then stick it in the freezer). That, and move sloooowly.

    • Nava says:

      Once you leave the NYC/east coast summer climate it is impossible to get used to it again. When everything including the floors are sweating, it’s not a pleasant scene.

  • Disteza says:

    Ahh, DC in the summertime! I had to fly out to CO one year in June on a business trip, and I felt odd the whole time. I didn’t figure it out until I got back–it was the complete lack of humidity! It was like missing your shadow, I felt that wrong without it. You’ll probably not have to worry too much about dry skin, however you’ll need to be on constant mold patrol, especially if you live in an older house. I’ll agree with everyone else’s suggestions too: natural fibers, lost of iced tea, and mind the skeeters, ticks, and chiggers. Once you’ve been here a while it’s really not that bad, believe me: I honeymooned in New Orleans in August for a week in a B&B with no A/C. Not only was it uncomfortable, it pretty much killed any chance at romance.

    • Nava says:

      Wow – NOLA in August. I thought Vegas in August was brutal, but at least I had air conditioning. I generally don’t wear synthetic fibers, and I love iced tea, so I’m just gonna hope for the best. Thanks for the advice. 🙂

  • Mrs.Honey says:

    Here in semi-tropical Florida, we don’t get to the 100s, but we do get 100% humidity (at 90-95F) for most of the summer. Our “summer” is June-October. I pretty much wear whatever I want to, given that indoor settings here are air-conditioned to icy cold. If I know I will be out in the steamy heat, I wear Monyette. It just says, “Tropical Isle” instead of “steaming swamp.” Just the ticket to change one’s frame of mind.

    • Nava says:

      Those few June days I spent in the Keys chased me out of your state. It was like spending a week in a rainforest. I admire you’re ability to wear Moneyette. I so wanted to like that one, but the heady florals never agreed with me.

  • Olfacta says:

    How to Cope: Never, never nev-ah wear anything made of polyester. It holds the heat to your skin and makes you smell and want to die. Linen and cotton only. And unless your arms scare people, forget the no-sleeveless after 40 rule. Cotton undies too. Even bras. Put your hair up or wear it short. Carry a little bottle of unscented “Off” in your purse; you never know about the mosquitoes. If they bite you, Benedryl gel works well to stop the itching. Nev-ahsit on the grass bare-legged (all native Southerners know this from infancy.) Fire ants and these little bugs that you can’t even see but have a vicious bite. Carry a fan, yes, a fan! They work and there is some style to doing so. Get to know body powders, well. Drink lots of iced tea. And know it will be over eventually!

    I like the perfumes that are light and citrus-y in high summer; 4711, O, etc. You know your own favorites. Use lavishly. Decant some into a sprayer and keep it in your handbag.

    So welcome to July on the East Coast!

    • Nava says:

      The fire ants are here, too?? OK, I admit – I did no vermin research whatsoever. Brooklyn waterbugs were the scourge of my youth and Long Island mosquitos tormented my adulthood. Now fire ants – can’t wait. 😉

  • Musette says:

    Nava –

    We have our own version of hell here but it’s tempered by the lake if you’re in the shore area (past Ashland Ave, all bets are off). Out here in the country it’s just hot and humid but since there are no buildings around (and it’s shockin’ windy) the heat dissipates quickly.

    I’m with Louise on Calyx and Joe on Ananas Fizz for our summer heat. Vida and I both fell in love with Heeley Selmarin recently – don’t know if the love’s lasting for her (weigh in here Vidalicious o’ mine). I almost didn’t continue to love it, then I realized it’s because it has turned cool and grey here – this scent is flat-out made for heavy heat, with loads of salt and that lovely marine accord, with a touch of melon (aiiiiy)….like eating a piece of salted cantaloupe on the Lido.

    Fun post! and thanks for the earworm.


    • Nava says:

      Thanks Musette. I’ve only ever been to Chicago in the winter, and it happened to be mild when I was there.

      Bond Hamptons is another favorite of mine: salty, musty old books. I would love to wear Ananas Fizz, but it has no lasting power whatsoever on me.

      • Musette says:

        Sweetie –

        I really don’t recommend Chicago (or anywhere else in the Midwest for that matter) in the winter. You lucked out. You could’ve been caught in a cold snap that freezes your very breath as it comes out of your mouth – you know, the kind of cold where the smoke coming out of chimneys hangs frozen in the air.

        That kind of cold.


        • Nava says:

          You’re preaching to the choir: Ontario in January isn’t exactly balmy. And as much as my relatives moan and complain, none of them ever leave. ‘Splain that one, Lucy! 😀

          • Shelley says:

            Yer both right. Musette, I like the “so-cold-your-nostrils-stick-together variation,” or the “knives in your lungs” effect. OTOH, there are indeed four seasons, people rarely fester…and I am convinced, Nava, there is some sort of magnet around the 45th parallel for some people. Will be curious to hear how you end up finding DC after a year or two.

  • Koki says:

    I live in Virginia “about 7 miles from the White House,” as we say in the DC area. I’ve also lived in Memphis, New Orleans (without air conditioning one summer, too) and Houston. DC is much better in the summer than any of those three. My favorite semi-kitchy summer scent is called White Witch by Perfumes Jamaica. I was first given a bottle in college, and its scent transports me back to New Orleans in less than a nano-second. Very inexpensive too, from a fun perfumery in the Islands.

    • Nava says:

      Koki, I can say with absolute certainty that I would never live in the state of Louisiana. I was watching the A&E reality series “The Exterminators” and just the thought of a possible encounter with snakes, gators and any number of indiginous vermin would keep me up nights. I’d love to visit one day, but live? Nah, sorry – never gonna happen. 😀

    • carter says:


      The only time I have ever seriously contemplated suicide was in New Orleans in August. I feel your pain 😉

  • March says:

    Nava, what a fun post! It’s so gloomy this morning it’s refreshing to think about the summer.

    I grew up in Arlington and didn’t have A/C until I graduated from college and got a window unit for my first apt at Dupont Circle. So, yeah, it’s hot. But it won’t kill you, and I think the heat has its own diversions if you cave in to it.

    The most distressing local change to me has been the arrival of the Asian tiger mosquitos in the last decade. They’re daytime mosquitos, which I’d never seen before. If you’re a mosquito magnet, start researching bug repellants. 🙂

    God, I love VIW. It’s just the tackiest sh!t, and so utterly cheerful and swashbuckling about it. It’s too expensive but if it were cheaper I’d own it in a heartbeat.

    Estee Lauder Azuree is a great sunscreen-smell scent, and NARS Monoi oil makes me think of summer too. Dior Addict Eau Fraiche has that Coney Island thing going on, and there’s something similar in the Jo Malone Lotus Blossom that screams summer to me.

    • Nava says:

      Asian tiger mosquitos? OK, now I’m worried.

      I’ve been feeling really nostalgic lately and all these scents are ones that I associate with some very happy memories. I’m glad I was able to brighten up your day. 🙂

      I have to re-sniff those Jo Malones. I remember them being quite figgy.

    • carter says:

      March–How about yer Bronze Goddess?

  • DJ says:


    ps I went to VIP in Paris. It smelled of cigarettes, heavy perfume, sweat, machine fog, champagne and whiskey and some weird carpet-y smell.

    Make of that what you will 😉

  • Melissa says:

    Hi Nava

    Welcome to the great cemented swamp that you now call home. Carter and I can have a debate/bitch-fest to determine the winner of the heat-misery index between New York and the DC metropolitan area. The piss-laden streets and subways of NYC vs the boiling- bog-of-DC smackdown!

    I am currently wearing scents like TF Champaca Absolute, L’Artisan Tubereuse, PdN Number One and a variety of indolic jasmine bombs then switching to my beloved aldehydes. The usual suspects: No 5, YSL Rive Gauche, Iris Poudre etc. The 90 degree+ weather has only been with us for a few days. I wonder what I will be wearing in July?

    • Nava says:

      Count me in on that bitch fest. I’ve got some pretty wild stories about NYC in the summertime, but you’ve all got me quite concerned right now. 🙂

  • DJ says:

    I love ice cream and french fries–in high school I used to dip my fries in my milkshakes. I also love chocolate covered pretzels.

    I tried Virgin Island Water. It smelled like Burt’s Bees Rum on me. And I’m a girl. lol

    In high school, I used to use Bain de Soliel. I can still smell it.

    Is it wrong that I love Azurée (EL) so much? I use my bottle infrequently, but it has been so gorgeous here (English countryside), I have used it twice this week!

    I don’t mind heavy scents in summer, either–especially in NYC. Much more preferable to the ‘cooking urine on concrete smell’, or ‘the delivery man on the subway after a day of heaving packages smell’.

    • Nava says:

      Nothing wrong with Azuree. I still love Aliage.

      For me it was always a toss-up between sweaty subway and sweaty commuter train. They were both pretty rank in the heat.

    • carter says:

      Oh, those delivery guys!

      I do love the BdS Gelee…the color, the texture, the commercial! Bain de Soleil for the St. Tropez tan…ahhhh yes.

  • Louise says:

    Aw, Nava-it’s not so bad. Depending. On the year.

    The day I first arrived in D.C. was in early June, oh, about 25 years ago. It was 104 degrees and humid. My gracious hosts thought to give me a tour of the town, minus a/c in their car (not broken, just no a/c). We took a fabulous tour of 14th street, which at the time was Hooker Central. So, my first impressions were, um, not great 🙂

    It’s been all uphill since. Some summers are beastly, recent ones just hot, and sometimes even pleasant. Not a lot worse than some childhood summers I spent in and around Boston.

    In this transitional weather, I’m falling back on Calyx. Always right.

    By the way, I have a lovely pool here, come on by…:)

    • Melissa says:

      Funny, our impressions of the weather. I think that recent summers have been just as hot as they have always been. Beastly, scorching, humid, etc. We’ve just grown accustomed to it. Either that or our thermostats are completely out of whack now. Yeah, that.

    • Nava says:

      I was on 14th St. last week; didn’t see any working girls.

      I have a pool here too, so you are also welcome. And you smell wonderful; I love Calyx.

    • carter says:

      Having grown up in the DC area I can attest to how disgusting the summers are there, too. It was built on a swamp, after all, and Takoma Park — just 15 minutes from downtown — was developed as an “escape” from the torrid conditions (and festering disease) because it was built on somewhat higher ground.

      The real difference between NYC and cities like DC or SF is a) the miles of reflective surfaces, both vertical and horizontal, b) and the sheer numbers of steaming, teaming citizens. This is Shalimar country. The French invented perfume for the very reason that it is de rigeur in the summer in the city.

  • carter says:

    Urine. That’s what yer in for.

    Rotting garbage aside, that’s the quintessential smell of NYC in summer and no tutti-fruiti, frangipani, cotton-candy, candy-ass teenybopper toilet water is going to cut the Nathan’s mustard when the hundred-degree heat is radiating from a two hundred miles of concrete and you’re stuck on a subterranean platform with God knows how many sweating tourists waiting on the F train.

    No, no candy apple in the Big Apple in August. No Bain de Soleil, no virtuous Virgin, no dainty Daisy will do. You need a femme fatale; a huge, kill-or-be-killed, take-no-prisoners floral. Tuberose Criminelle. Carnal Flower if you’re nervous.

    Because when the piss hits the fan, this ain’t no place for sissies. And I promise, your fellow inmates will thank you for it.

    • Musette says:

      Whenever I think of moving to SanFrancisco proper I remember that the concrete (and there’s as much in SF as NY, relatively speaking) is permanently permeated with urine….uh, I think I’ll take the ferry across, thanks!)

      I’ve done the Big White Flower Bomb in heavy heat and….well, it works, as long as I’m not moving around overmuch. It can be a real ‘bite me’ experience. Sometimes I will spray my fan with Fracas but wear something more obvious, like Cologne Bigarade. Or the reverse: soak a fan with Guerlain Vetyver or 4711 and wear the hockey sticks out of Fracas.


      ps. thinking Sublime Balkiss (currently in review on my wrist) might be a fabbo summer scent as well.

    • Nava says:

      Please, Carter darling; you’re making me homesick. 😀

  • Alicia says:

    Great essay! I wish I could reassure you about the summer weather where you are now living, but when I lived in NY (and in NJ), I found the summers unbearable. I remember just walking to a coffee shop around the corner from my apartment felt like trying to move through thick, murky, sweaty fire. I apologize for being so negative, but that is truly what it felt like.

    • Nava says:

      Thanks Alicia. I’ve been in your shoes many times in that kind of weather. 🙂

  • Joe says:

    Hi, Nava. I grew up in the Mid-Atlantic… mercifully, a stone’s throw from the Jersey Shore, which usually offered some relief.

    What are you in for? =)) You might as well be on the Mosquito Coast, without the palm trees. Seriously, I spent eight months in equatorial Africa and the temperatures weren’t much worse than a New Jersey summer, but with air conditioning more difficult to come by (it was always a treat just going to a cheap Chinese restaurant with A/C).

    In any case, I really have any kitschy summer scents, but it only gets above 80 degrees about 15-20 days per year at most here on the central California coast. I do have a sample of L’Artisan Ananas Fizz, which I just pulled out, and it’s definitely a fun scent. Thanks for reminding me that I really still want to try Fire Island (love the bottle) and I think I have to try Virgin Island Water at some point.

    • Joe says:

      I should also mention another, which isn’t exactly kitschy, but is definitely summer vacation in a bottle: a generous friend just sent me a sample of Montale Soleil de Capri. All I can say is that it’s delicious.

      • Nava says:

        I think my worst summer was 6 years ago when I spent 5 days in June in the Florida Keys. I haven’t been back since.

        I haven’t had much luck with any of the Montales, but I’m always hopeful.