June 28, 2010

Having Good Scents

They say that our olfactory sense, more than any other, triggers memories (and in this case, I read it somewhere.  "They" are the people who wrote the article.  Scientific, huh?).

This has got to be true.  One whiff of a particular scent and I'm right back in the moment that defines it for me.  As a matter of fact, this happened to me today.

Ladies, you'll probably relate to this far more than you guys out there, but I was using some rub-on transfers in my artwork today and the new Barbie-vinyl smell was overwhelming.  All of a sudden, it's 1972 or '73 and I'm in the parking lot with my family on an outing to buy our Barbie doll cases (yep, that's mine in the picture there).  To me, it's one of the finest scents of my world, second only to crayons (which, "They" say, is the most recognized scent in the U.S.).  I wish I could describe it well enough for you to be there too; it's definitely plasticky, with petroleum undertones.  It's a "new" smell; it doesn't last long, unless it's kept hermetically sealed.  I guess it just smells like childhood.  And Barbie accessories.

More of my favorite smells?  Lemon and wood smoke.  I love the former because of its sunshiney-clean goodness (and what it does for drinks!).  The lemon is such a versatile fruit - it's equally delish on fish or in pie.  I've never tasted anything with lemon that I didn't love. 
Woodsmoke is the opposite scent, but probably my favorite scent ever.  It smells like home to me.  It reminds me of campfires - and who doesn't love campfires?  That crackling fire sound, the camraderie (because rarely is one at a campfire by him- or herself), the laughter (or poignancy), the s'mores - there isn't anything about campfires I don't like.  It's also a fireplace-y smell, which for most of us conjures up visions of Christmas/Hanukkah, cozy winter nights, and contentment.

While we're talking about smells, there are some that people may not associate with "good" smells, but I love them just the same.  The first is the (old) smell of a bowling alley.

I was on a bowling league for the newspaper where I worked, The Reporter, for the 2006-07 season.  I was terrible - ask anyone.  One night my game score was 39.  No, that's not a typo.  But I still went, every week, and gave it my all.  Near the end of the season I began noticing the very distinct odor that our bowling alley had - a mixture of cigarette smoke, fried food, shoe spray, and the oil or grease that is used to lube up the ball returns.  It's a very nostalgic smell for me now, and one that I won't smell for much longer, now that Wisconsin will be completely smoke-free a week from today.  Time marches on.

Is it just me, or does anyone else love the smell of skunk?  Is this weird?  I don't know why, but there's something so comforting about that smell!!  Same with manure - I actually really enjoy it.  I guess the manure smell  reminds me of summer road trips and being out in the country, but I really honestly don't know why the skunk smell is so appealing; it may have something to do with Smelly Stickers, of which I had a plethora in 8th grade; the skunk one was my favorite.

And last but not least, that old basement smell.  Many folks simply cannot handle this smell - some are even allergic to the mold from which the smell originates.  To me, it's all about antiques, old books, history, and my great-grandpa's old house in Hoopeston, IL that we visited twice before he passed away in 1977.  It had a marvelous attic, filled with old games and toys (and I can't even think about all of the old ephemera that was probably tossed - *shudder*), letters, medals, records (warped, natch) and sundry items.  There was also a cellar, which was creepy beyond belief; it consisted mostly of old canning that my great-grandma had done before she died in 1967.  But the attic made up for it.  I got a TON of old books at our live trade on Saturday and like a time machine, that old book smell transported me back to Hoopeston, even though it's been 33 years.  If prompted I could still draw a floor plan of that house - THAT'S a powerful smell.


  1. Autumn has a very distinct smell that my wife and I are very fond of. Baskin and Robbins also has a distinctive smell, in an airport I usually smell the ice cream before I see the store.

  2. Oh yeah, Eric - autumn. That's a delicious smell - the leaves, the brisk wind - you're totally right! :D I haven't been in a Baskin-Robbins since I was about 10, so I'll have to search one out to get that smell. Does it smell like ice cream? :D