Monday, March 24, 2008

Instead Of The Usual Figuratively, Today My Writing Literally Stinks

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.


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.


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.


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.


Jeri Burtchell (TickledPink) said...

"I lak the way yew tawk." ~ Sling Blade

You have a phenomenal sense of humor along with your sense of smell. Keep on writing so I can keep on laughing, k?

Happy Easter to you, too, and thanks for visiting my blog even tho it creeps me out that you must have seen me on here and followed me back to my place. :-)

Lisa Emrich said...

Thanks Suldog for giving me a good laugh. Now I'll be thinking of smells all day and probably wondering if I smell.

Melinda said...

Hey! It worked! I DO smell glass!

(please excuse me while i go find some cleaner to remove the fingerprints)

One of my favourite smells is my mom's spaghetti sauce - an old recipe given to her as a wedding present from an little old italian lady. Whenever I make it, I become immediately homesick... said...

Wonderfully creative post my's like smellablogging!

Good stuff.

Suldog said...

TickledPink - You thought this was funny? I'm offended. I was being absolutely serious. Or absolutely cereal. It had something to do with corn, anyway. I know that much.

LisaEmrich - If it helps any, I can't smell you.

Melinda - Seriously, there is at least one smell I'll never be able to enjoy again that I miss dearly: Baked Stuffed Pork Chops. My Dad used to make them, I never got the recipe from him, and I have been unable to recreate them exactly, although I've tried a few times.

Mushy - Smellablogging! We should copyright that.

Minnesotablue said...

What a great post! I love circus peanuts also. I can eat a bag of them and then will wait for another year before I do it again. The aroma stays with me.
My favorite smell would be a great pork roast, I salvitate even now thinking about it.

Janet said...

The ban thing cracked me up.
I love the smell of freshly-cut lumber.

Buck said...

Great good stuff, yet again, Jim.

One of my favorite smells is Shell Super-M, a bean oil used in racing two-strokes. Not just ANY castor oil... Shell Super-M. I haven't smelled (smelt? no...that's a fish...) it in years, but I know Shell still makes it. Maybe it's coz I haven't been to a bike race in years, excluding the street-racing sorts.

Suldog said...

MinnesotaBlue - I love the smell of a good roast. Pork is especially succulent.

Janet - Mmmmmm. Freshly cut wood always smells good.

Buck - You should just buy a quart and sniff it whenever you want to remember the track. Seriously.

Cath said...

Awwwww Stinky no, I mean Suldog, Jim, whatever....

That is so sweet! I was enjoying your reminiscing, and then that last one made my heart melt! Your wife must be delighted! What a compliment.
I suppose you might let ME sniff, but it won't do for me what it does for you (no, it won't. Just don't go there!)
This is a lovely post. And I'm gonna second a nomination for post of the day....
My fave smells right now - flowers. Flowers, plants, spring and flowers. Chocolate, panache and charlie perfume (the 70s version) and yes, crayola!

Balcony Gal said...

Hmm, there was a time I would have agreed with you about the crayons. Now that I've had to wash them off walls and chairs and other surfaces that aren't paper I would have to vote against that legislation. The rest is great, though.

David Sullivan said...

Those city smells like rain on the street and bus exhaust are buried in my hippocampus, the primative part of the brain which switches those memories to "on" when smelling those things.

Suntan lotion and the smell of wet wood drying in the sunlight, like on a cabin, do it for me.

David Sullivan said...

Another thing. At a summer camp dance when I was 12 there was a girl I was dancing with. I wispered in her ear "You smell good, what perfume are you weraing?". She pushed back and looked me in the eye and said "Ban Roll On". I avoided her the rest of the week.

Brian in Oxford said...

I had a 16-pack of Crayola scented crayons once.

It was like the best of both....the aroma of regular crayola wax (or whatever that is), plus the bonus of licorice, or grape, or strawberry, depending on the color.

Merisi said...

I feel a fainting spell comin, quick hand me the salts, er, a crayola box or a bottle of Dioressimo!

lime said...

what a great olfactory stroll through your world. as for why smells trigger such powerful memoris...the olfactory (smell) region of your brain is located closest to the part of your brain responsible for filing long term memories. ;)

once upon a time a little over a year ago i did a post about all my favorite smells too.

in case you're at al linterested.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely and unexpectedly hilarious post. (Or was it hilarious and unexpectedly lovely? One of those, anyway.) I thoroughly enjoyed your list of favorite smells, which triggered some great memories of my own -- and also reminded me of my difficulty in explaining to people why the smell of an auto shop makes me ridiculously happy.


RiverPoet said...

Oh man! Circus Peanuts! My dad used to love those nasty little things, those and Brach's creme drops - pure sugar.

I love turnips, too. There are always plenty of greens at any of our family get-togethers.

Thanks for the memories and a wonderful read! Peace - D

Jeni said...

Great post! LOved your descriptions of favorite smells and it reminded me of what I think is probably my very favorite smell and it's sort of the same thing but in two different stages - bread rising and then fresh bread baking or just out of the oven, inviting me to grab a stick of REAL butter and slather it all over a slice of piping hot bread! I miss the stick smell that used to permeate this old house for a couple weeks prior to Christmas when my Grandmother would set her dried salt codfish to soak for the Lutfisk supper we would have Christmas Eve. (Loved the meal but the smell beforehand could be prett bad at times.)
Finally though -I always thought turnips were those veggies as you have pictured but rutabagas were or are a whitish colored veggie resembling a carrot but with a distinctly different flavor. Never heard of them being one and the same thing.

Janet said...

If you want to ride a camel, it's 5 bucks a person at the Knoxville Zoo, weather permitting. They charge $5 for a photo, but I cheated with the digital.

Suldog said...

CrazyCath - MY WIFE smells good even without the White Linen. But, you're probably right; it might not be quite the same thrill for you.

BalconyGal - What? Do you mean the Balcony Princess and the Balcony Baby are drawing all over things? They're such nice kids. That can't be. You must be talking about Balcony Guy. Him drawing on the walls I could believe.

Suldog said...

Cuz - Suntan Lotion is OK, but it's usually the sight of what it's on that gets my attention. Also, I guess we Sullivan men just have a thing about Ban roll-on. There should be some way we can make a buck on an endorsement deal.

BrianInOxford - Do they still sell those? I would think that, somewhere down the line, they would have had some kid eat a box of them and faced a lawsuit.

Merisi - Diorissimo? The perfume? Nice taste! Of course, anything with ylang-ylang in it is OK by me.

Suldog said...

Lime - That was a great read! Everybody who enjoyed this should go read that.

Shelley - Everybody has some odd ones they like, it seems. I mean, only so many folks would like subway smells, but I do.

Momma - You're very welcome! Thanks for the kind words. And your Dad must have been a grand man. Only the best like Circus Peanuts and creme drops.

Suldog said...

Jeni - You've mistaken a turnip (or perhaps Ruta Lee) for a Parsnip. I'm afraid you've flunked your agriculture final. We still like you, though. Have a Circus Peanut!

Janet - As I said at your place, I would like to ride a camel. However, now that I think of the smell...