A Bygone Fashion

In the early 1960s, when the fog rolled in off the ocean onto Point Loma, and the mornings were too damp and chilly to play outside, I loved to snuggle and hide in my mother’s fur closet. Opening one of the master bedroom closet doors with my small hands, I’d tug aside the heavy coats to lift the hidden brass latch, releasing the smell of pine. I’d crawl into the small space and close the door behind me. The fact that it was as dark as a cave inside and verboten made it even more exciting and scary. In the quiet, I’d rub my nose into the deep fur of my mother’s mink coat and a musty primal scent with a tinge of cigarette smoke would permeate my being. Then I’d caress the white fox fur, a fluff of tenderness. I avoided though the one with beady-eyed heads on either end. 

Although I couldn’t make them out in the blackness, I knew what each looked like from seeing them wrapped around my mother’s shoulders on her way to a cocktail party or charity ball. Her hair done up just so with a bright red lipstick smile. A favorite was the lime green dress with the slits over the bust that made her look like Marilyn Monroe, especially when smoking a cigarette or waving a martini glass. I couldn’t wait until I was a big girl and could wear one of those furs to a party too. 

A few years ago they were passed down to me, but I never got to sport them in public. It is forbidden by our society now to wear fur. Before I gave them away I put my nose into the mink stole again to smell the musty scent one last time, and with tears in my eyes, memories of my mother’s beauty during that era came rushing back to me again.

- Jill G. Hall

The smells along the way to school

On the way to school... The smell of musty plastic from the heater running in the 1970 alfa romeo and the burn on my toes as it finally began to come alive. The smell of my mothers hairspray in her freshly curled and coiffed '80s doo mingling with her french perfume as she dropped me off in front of the school... the scent strongest when she kissed me before I slid out of my seat, invariably touched by pink lipstick. The scent of plastic again, this time the scooby doo thermos lid I drank my orange juice from after quickly gobbling a granola bar before the bell rang. It's amazing how, working through scent, my mind clears and shows me memories I doubt I could have found searching through time or any other filter... man, I miss that thermos.

- Lauren

Dewy Grass

It was 12th grade. I was 17 years old and I dropped out of high school and like went on the run. I was couch surfing and stayin’ in my friend’s mom’s garage and stuff like that. Doing a lot of drugs. Basically like kind of a homeless person.

And I met this girl who lived across the hall from my mom. My mom lived downtown in a loft on 10th and E St. And I met this girl, this 21 or 22 year old woman who lived across the hall, and she was like an ecstasy dealer. For some reason we hit it off. I can’t explain it, but she liked me for some reason. I was only 17, but whatever. 

So we would hang out. And I didn’t know what ecstasy was - this was like 1986. I don’t know if it was illegal yet, or if it was semi-legal. But we took ecstasy and somehow wound up in Balboa Park. I don’t know how we got there. I just have these vivid memories of it being late, late night, early morning, maybe the sun just coming up, and us rolling around in dewy grass on a hill. It was a little bit south of the fountain. And we were like … It was like this hallucinatory ecstasy and this incredibly blissed out trip that you’re on, and there’s water and you can smell the grass and we were tangled up. We had our clothes on, but it was like we were semi making out. It was rad.

Of course, that experience in my life ended horribly. I ended up begging my parents for help, and went to rehab for a while and all this crazy stuff. So it was mostly shit that was punctuated by awesome moments like that. 

- Anonymous

The Basketball Story

Every good basketball player who has come out of San Diego has played at Muni Gym.  It’s like the oldest indoor court in San Diego. Or one of the oldest. At least it smells like its the oldest. The ventilation is bad and it gets really hot in the summertime. It reminds me of the way gyms smelled when I was a kid when all the balls were still made out of leather. Even now, I can go to Muni and the gym can be totally empty and it still smells like sweat and leather and wood. It takes me back twenty-five years.

Back in the day, depending on what time of day you’d go, the games could get pretty competitive. If you lost, you could easily wait an hour just to get another game. Forget the other team; your own teammates would get in your face if you did something wrong. That’s the other thing the gym smelled like: nervousness. It’s a different kind of sweaty smell. Sharper, more pungent. Everyone wanted to play their best at Muni.

I’m thinking about this one time—it had to be in ’99 or 2000. I caught a long rebound and turned to run the fast break. My teammate must have known I grabbed the ball, because he took off to start the fast break. I caught the ball, took one dribble, and passed it nearly the length of the court. I passed it so that all my man had to do was catch it, take one step and lay it in. No dribble. Well, he caught it alright. But as he planted his left foot to go up, his left knee popped out of socket, and the lower part of his leg snapped outward—the direction it’s not supposed to bend.  The kid let out a yelp and then just fell on the ground. I can still remember the sound of his yelp, because, it wasn’t, shall we say, commensurate with the injury he sustained. The gym went quiet. All the games stopped and people went looking for the facilities manager. The facilities manager sort of sauntered in, armed with a ghetto icepack—you know, like you fill up a dixie cup with water and put it in the freezer. Anyway, he walks in with this ice pack and sort of goes pale when he sees this guy quivering on the court with his leg broke in half.

The facility manager is dumbfounded. “You want me to call an ambulance?” 
“No man. No. It’s all good, just help me up. It’s all good.”

You need to remember that “It’s all good” was like a year or two old at that time. Everyone was saying, "It’s all good." 

Well here I am in this hot, leathery gym, looking down at this guy who looked like he just stepped on a land mine, and he’s saying “It’s all good” when clearly—CLEARLY—it is anything but good. 

But I wasn’t gonna argue with him. I might have overthrown it a little bit, so if it was all good with him, it was all good with me. 

- Brian Goeltzenleuchter

Olfaction on a trip to Bermuda

Scent has been a part of my life since I can remember; the scent of places, the scent of people, the scent of things. 

The very earliest memory, around three or four, was of my mom's Chanel No5, first thing in the morning, after she left for the office. The kitchen would have the lingering, aromatic molecular mixture of White flowers, Aldehydes and Arachis hypogaea, also known as peanut-butter toast. The second memory is from the same timeframe when Lena, our babysitter, would take us over to her house, where her husband smoked pipe tobacco. I vividly remember watching him play pool in their basement, me sitting on a black leather bar stool, breathing in the acrid, dense air of pipe smoke, spicy Avon cologne and chalk dust from the pool cue. 

At the age of five we went on a trip to Bermuda, where we toured the island for a number of days. Having parents that were travel agents, it seemed that we got to visit every museum and interesting sight, no matter where we traveled. Looking back, I have to thank my parents for exposing me to such amazing art, culture and experiences. Today being Fathers day, I'm posting a picture of my sister, my dad and me standing at one of the armaments from that trip to Bermuda.

During that trip we visited a small perfumery, which I don't remember the name, but might have been The Bermuda Perfumery. The tour of the small perfumery included seeing how they made and bottled the perfume, as well as some of the techniques for creating raw materials. At that time they had raised tables, with wooden legs and glass plates slathered with fat and flowers placed upside-down. I can still see myself on tip toes, looking over the edge of the tables, inhaling the scent. To this day, whenever I take a tour of a city, museum or attend a class, I'm very attentive, never wanting to miss a piece of information. I recall them telling us about how they made perfumes and essences, it all seemed so logical. 

On that trip to Bermuda, I remember getting a few things: my blue t-shirt that said "I Survived the Bermuda Triangle", a slice of aromatic wood with a crystal attached and a profound olfactory experience that inspired my lifelong pursuit of aromatics. The t-shirt is long gone, the aromatic wood, which I deeply inhaled the scent for years, is lost to time but the experience at the perfumery is with me every day. I have my father searching for the photos from that tour. My family remembers many of the photos, but after all these years, which box are they in? Thank you dad for looking for those photos and making my life happen.

- Daniel Krasofski