Tuesday, October 01, 2013
Olfactory pleasures lost in the smoke of time
They say that no sense is more evocative or emotionally tied than olfactory, and I believe this.  I talk perhaps more than people prefer about perfumes, but a beautiful fragrance can be a talisman against all the nasty crap the world would serve you up in your day to day.

When Wet Ones came out in the 1970s, I remember they had a nice-but-not-overpowering lemony scent-- I'd love to smell that one more time-- it was one of the best fragrances of a cleaning product I've ever smelled. 

Like any other trend-based commodity, industrial scents imbued into household products like cleansers tend to follow some continuum of what is popular in taste for fragrances/perfumes.  We are in a rather insipid fruity/floral ring of the Inferno at present.  All that stuff meant to have marine accords evocative of fresh ocean spray just smell bad to me, so I can avoid that entire range of the candle aisle, too.  I like resins like amber and myrrh, and musk and sandalwood and patchouli is more glorious and varied than you may perhaps realize.  But, again, florals and fruits are everywhere.  Today, the chypree and fougere fragrances of yore smell like "old lady" and "old man" to a lot of young people.  I hope I get to hear today's crop of young adults recoil with horror when future youngsters refer to their fruity/florals as smelling "old."  Yup: it's all a cycle.  Anyway, the marine stuff is unpleasant to me, and it's in a lot of laundry detergent now.

But that is just me-- sea water accords in perfume may smell like heaven to you, in which case, good on you!  It SHOULD be deeply personal.

I feel a twinge of nostalgia for some things I know I'll never smell again.  When I was a kid, one of my vaccinations was something (foul to me at that moment) that was put on a sugar cube, but the smell was strange and unlike anything before or since, and the scent was not unpleasant to me. I feel just on the verge of remembering it, like strands of smoke you can see but never grasp.  It's not sad, just odd.

If you think about it, isn't there something so pleasing and comforting about the sheer un-changing nature of the smell of alcohol swabs on your skin before getting a shot?  No, the shot isn't pleasant, but we feel like we know what we're getting, and that we can rely on this product that's cleaning the area, because we can tell it's the same thing it's always been-- it has that smell.

For me, the undisputed KING of gone-forever smells is leaded gasoline.  Yes, I know it was bad for you to breathe, but when I started driving in the early 80s, it was not entirely a chore to pump my own gas into my car.  I wasn't hunkered down over the pump handle and trying to suck up as much fumes as possible, but the smell was rather delicious to me.

To complement the king, the Queen of toxic odors was the (methyl alcohol?) ditto fluid used in those lovely mimeograph machines.  I loved the feel of the cool, wet paper in stacks fresh from printing and I'd always volunteer to help hand them out.  That purple ink was lovely, too. Probably killed a few brain cells, there.  I never sniffed glue or paint or anything, and these were just mere passing whiffs, but they are cemented for a moment for me, and I'd love to have a little smell-file where I could just call them up and remember. Maybe a scratch n sniff?

Odd experience-- I went to grade school in Marion, Arkansas, and the cafeteria made a rather nice roll for our meals at lunch.  Many years later, I was in Belgium and walking next to a primary school, I smelled bread baking that smelled identical.  It was mesmerizing and a little treat to remember, even if I wasn't destined to taste it again.

What smells do you remember and miss, or abhor and are glad they are gone?
Written by phlegmfatale
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Name: Phlegmfatale
Location: Elsewhere, Texas, USA

I'm not whining;
I'm unburdening.

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