Vandal stinks up store

The patchouli bandit is on the loose, and the owners of a downtown music store want justice. Or at least a carpet cleaning.

Lenny Goldberg produced video evidence that he said shows a woman intentionally pouring patchouli oil &

which carries a pungent, musky fragrance &

on the carpet of his shop on East Main Street, CD or not CD, on April 1.

— Surveillance video courtesy of CD or Not to CD

Footage from a security camera inside the store, from which Goldberg produced still photos, shows a woman with dreadlocks wearing glasses, a long dress and a sweatshirt spilling a substance out of a container onto the carpet.

The store was busy the day of the attack, and Goldberg and his employees noticed the smell the next day, he said.

What is patchouli? —

Webster defines patchouli as "1. A plant, Pogostemon cablin, of tropical Asia, that yields a fragrant oil (patchouli oil) used in the manufacture of perfumes. 2. A penetrating perfume made from this oil."

According to Wikipedia, patchouli is "a bushy herb of the mint family that bears small pale pink-white flowers. The plant is native to tropical regions of Asia and is now extensively cultivated in Caribbean countries, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Philippines, West Africa and Vietnam. Sources disagree over how to obtain the best quality oil. Some claim the highest quality oil is usually produced from fresh leaves, distilled close to the plantation, while others claim allowing the leaves to dry and ferment is the best process. During the 18th and 19th century silk traders from China traveling to the Middle East packed their silk cloth with dried patchouli leaves to prevent moths from laying eggs on the cloth. Many historians think that this association with opulent eastern goods is why patchouli was considered by Europeans of that era to be a luxurious scent."

"Patchouli oil and incense had a surge in popularity in the 1960s and 1970s. Contrary to its common association with an alternative lifestyle, patchouli has a widespread use in modern industry. It is a component in about a third of modern, high-end perfumes, including more than half of perfumes for men. In Asian countries, such as Japan and Malaysia, Patchouli is used as an antidote to a poisonous snakebite. Chinese medicine uses the herb to treat headaches, colds, nausea, diarrhea and abdominal pain."

According to , patchouli is also a "traditional aphrodisiac, cosmetic, insect repellent."

The Urban Dictionary defines patchouli as "hippie perfume" that "smells like the forest, marijuana and snuggling." The Urban Dictionary defines those who wear patchouli as "someone who is freed from societal obligations, like getting a job or taking a shower."

— Mandy Valencia | For the Tidings

"It really, really smelled. So we went on the security camera for the day before," he said. "It was very clear: this woman walking around the store, sprinkling the oil."

Police were called to the scene regarding the property damage.

"The charge could qualify as criminal mischief in the third degree, if the cost to shampoo the carpet exceeds $100," officer Bob Smith said. "Since there are pictures of the woman, we would show it to the officers in the department and see if anyone recognizes her. Or if her pictures appear in the paper and someone knows who she is they should contact us."

The strong smell of the patchouli oil has been a deterrent to customers, Goldberg said.

"Just yesterday, people walked in and walked right out," he said.

The heavy presence of the essential oil also could be a health hazard to the Goldbergs' cats, who live inside the store, Goldberg said.

Because of the cats' presence &

and the Goldbergs' dislike of patchouli &

a sign is posted on the door of the store that states, "Dog Free Zone, Patchouli Free Zone."

"We get so many positive comments about the sign, and having dogs and patchouli on the same sign is a little odd; they're only related in the sense that they're both forbidden," he said.

"We're known for discouraging patchouli, but people come in here with patchouli on and we don't kick them out. A customer is a customer," he added. "Someone asked me a few days before it happened, 'Why don't you allow patchouli in your store?' I said, 'Because it stinks!'"

Someone has been applying the oil to the front door of the business at night, as well, Goldberg said.

The alleged spillage on the carpet likely was in retaliation to the store's anti-patchouli policy, Goldberg said.

"That would make sense, right? Why else? Why would somebody do that?" he said. "I mean, maybe they have some grievance, but we have a fair return policy. Some people are sore at us for other stuff &

we don't carry music with profanity, sometimes rap fans get mad at us because of that. I don't think a rap fan would put patchouli in our store, though."

"We have to assume that it is," he continued. "Otherwise, it could be happening all over town, because we're the only ones with a 'no patchouli' sign. Someone could misconstrue that we don't like hippies, but we used to be total hippies. We used to sell drug paraphernalia in the store, black lights and lava lamps. This used to be a total hippie store. If someone thinks we're anti-hippie, that would an error. We have a whole history of that kind of stuff. We were part organizers of the harmonic convergence in this town."

Goldberg's wife, Diana, has tried everything she can think of to get rid of the smell in the carpet. She's poured coffee grounds on the spills and vacuumed them up &

to no avail.

The store's employees will be on the lookout for future attacks, Goldberg said.

"Well, we're all going to try to keep our eyes and nostrils open," he said. "I mean she did it when there were three employees here, which is pretty amazing &

that everyone was so busy that no one paid attention. I think that we just need to pay attention to that. We looked at her and made eye contact. If someone really wants to do it, they can do it while no one is looking."

Despite the trouble, the sign will remain posted in front of the store, Golberg said.

Any leads to the identity of the woman shown in the pictures in The Daily Tidings or in the video on the Web site should be called in to the Ashland Police Department at 482-2211.

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