Monday, March 24, 2008
Today, I’ll be pondering smells. If that doesn’t interest you, come back tomorrow when I’ll be smelling ponders.
(That doesn’t make much sense, but it’s better than the following: Today, I’ll be pondering smells. If that doesn’t interest you, come back tomorrow when I’ll be Tony Curtis.)
The reason I’m a smelly panda is because it’s Easter. I’ve had the opportunity to whiff two of my favorite aromas: a freshly opened bag of circus peanuts and a big pot of turnip cooking.
(Some folks would choose fresh cut roses or, perhaps, a newborn infant as their favorite smell. Boring! And you can’t eat a newborn infant. Well, at least not in Massachusetts, though the legislature may have something in the works – you never know in this state.)
Circus Peanuts are neither a circus nor peanuts. What they are is sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, and single-handedly responsible for at least 15% of the teeth I’m missing. You would be hard pressed to find anything unhealthier to eat. Therefore, I love them and consider them an irreplaceable joy of life. When I saw that MY EASTER BUNNY had left some in my basket this morning, I was thrilled. I ripped open the bag and was hit in the face by that unmistakable aroma, which is sort of a cross between birthday cake and when you let the air out of a balloon. I immediately ate 12 or 15 of them and passed out from insulin overload. It was the best Easter ever!
Turnip is also known as rutabaga, unless you’re familiar with old actresses and then it’s known as Ruta Lee. It is a root vegetable (or a ruta vegetable) about the size of a candlepin bowling ball and similarly easy to peel and chop. I can’t even begin to imagine how the first person to eat a turnip came to do so. He had to be so hard up for food that he could find none on top of the ground, so he burrowed until he found this purple and yellow thing as hard as a rock. He tried to bite into it and left three of his front teeth behind. Then he took a big rock, smashed it onto the turnip, and ate the rock when it broke into little pebbles. Meanwhile, he could have walked down the street to the 7-11 and grabbed a bag of circus peanuts. Such is the irony in life.
I associate the smell of cooking turnip with holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, which should give you an idea of just how jolly those occasions are in my family. No, honestly, there is something tremendously comforting about the smell of turnip cooking. Perhaps it’s knowing that if someone were to break into your house while it was happening, they would immediately sniff the air and run away.
All of the foregoing should have you doing likewise, of course, but if you’re still hanging around (much like the smell of the turnip the next day) then it’s too late. You’ll now be subjected to my thoughts on more favorite smells. About the only thing you have to be thankful for, at this point, is that I’m not going to write about my least favorite smells. I’m saving that for a more apropos stinky time, such as the presidential election.
BAN ROLL-ON DEODORANT
The first time I ever got a real kiss from a girl – tongue and such - it was the middle of summer. We were on a rooftop in downtown Boston, it was very hot, and when we locked lips, the smell of deodorant and sweat wafted it’s way into my nostrils. I’ve associated that particular smell with teenage lust ever since.
Now, you may be wondering how I know it was Ban roll-on. I obviously didn’t say to her, "Hey, you’re really sweaty, but I like the smell. What brand of deodorant are you wearing?" Here's how I know. About two years after that kiss, I applied some Ban roll-on deodorant after a shower. Later on, after a hot day, I sniffed my armpit to see if I stank.
(Don’t get all uppity on me here. You’ve done it. Everybody has. I’m just the first one to admit it in public.)
Anyway, I sniffed my armpit and I was immediately transported back to that rooftop. It then dawned on me that I had been smelling the odor of my own sweaty pits that night two years back. It finally made sense to me why that girl never kissed me again. On the plus side, I was able to turn myself on by sniffing my own armpit for years afterwards.
SULFUR & TOBACCO
I first started smoking cigarettes in 1970. At that time, baseball players were still being paid relatively normal salaries, rather than the millions they receive today. As a result, most baseball teams were still able to schedule a couple of doubleheaders during the season. They didn’t have to have the revenue available to them by making every game a separate admission. If you were a baseball junkie – like me – you always went to a doubleheader when one was scheduled. You’d get 7 or 8 hours in the ballpark for your dollar-or-so bleacher ticket. It was great.
These doubleheaders were usually scheduled on Sunday, against teams considered a weaker draw. On this particular Sunday, the Red Sox were playing the Kansas City Royals. This was before the Royals became a decent team that contended for the pennant every year. That year, they stunk. So, my friend Joey Santucci and I decided to buy bleacher tickets and spend the day in Fenway Park watching the Sox win two.
In those prehistoric days, smoking was still allowed in the ballpark. This was an extra perk for us. Since we didn’t smoke in front of our parents, this gave us a relatively risk-free opportunity to puff away all day. And so we did.
It was a fairly windy day, and we were inexperienced in the art of cupping a match to protect it from blowing out, so when we lit up, we had to attack the match with the cigarette before the match died. As a result, we got a strong taste of the sulfur match head with each first draw on a cigarette. And now, any time I don’t wait for the sulfur to burn off before lighting a smoke with a match, and I get that same taste again, I am transported back to the bleachers at Fenway – 14 years old, most of life still ahead of me, and the announcement over the loudspeaker, "Now batting for Kansas City, Amos Otis" reducing Joey and me to helpless fits of laughter for some inexplicable reason.
Lilac Vegetal is an aftershave manufactured by Pinaud. As you might have guessed, the main smell is of lilacs. It was a mainstay in the barbershops of my youth. There, it was used not only as an aftershave, but also as a general scalp treatment of sorts. Whenever the barber finished cutting your hair, he’d liberally sprinkle some Lilac Vegetal into his hands, rub them together, and then give you a scalp massage, finishing by combing your hair afterwards. It’s probably the main reason why I’m bald today. I don’t care. I loved the smell of the stuff. I always keep a bottle of it in the bathroom and when I splash some on after shaving, it takes me back to childhood.
Isn’t it amazing how smells seem to make a connection with past events so much more readily than the other senses do? Seems that way to me, anyway. Maybe it’s all that Lilac Vegetal that seeped into my brain.
I think it should be a law that you have to carry a pack of Crayola crayons with you at all times. Then, when something stresses you out, you open the box and take a whiff. I guarantee you’ll imagine yourself back in kindergarten, which is good for a drop of a few points on your blood pressure – unless you constantly peed your pants in kindergarten and got laughed at by the other kids and scolded by the teacher and it was the most traumatic time of your life, in which case smelling the crayons probably won’t do YOU much good and I’m sorry I brought it up.
ESSENCE OF FABULOUS BABE
I could tell you about a lot of other smells I sometimes enjoy, some of them normal (Christmas trees), some of them perhaps not readily obvious (Bell’s Seasoning, the heel from a loaf of wheat bread), some of them inexplicable (subways, bus exhaust), and some of them almost impossible to convey via the written word (when a very soft rain falls on a city street and mixes with the sand left over from when public works spread it on the snow to avoid slippage in winter), but I can’t leave without telling you about the best smell in the world.
That smell is Essence Of Fabulous Babe.
It is a very rare smell, and I’m afraid you may never get to smell it. It is the combination of White Linen perfume and MY WIFE. Just White Linen won’t do it, of course. Perfumes react to the person they’re put on. When White Linen combines with MY WIFE, it does to me what the sound of "Pop Goes The Weasel" does to Curley in Punch Drunks, except I don’t become a wild man who beats up everybody in sight and goes on to become the heavyweight boxing champion. I just become... aroused, which I suppose could be considered much worse, depending upon your sexual tastes.
Anyway, as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing my favorite smells with you, if I found you putting your nose on MY WIFE, I’d have to sock you in the chops, so forget I even mentioned it.
Well, that about wraps it up, not unlike a big fish in a newspaper. By the way, this entire blog is historic. It is the first scratch ‘n sniff blog ever. If you put your face right up next to your monitor and give the screen a couple of scrapes with your fingernail, you’ll smell glass.
Soon, with less stinky stuff.