Viewing entries in
30-40 years ago

No title - this represents a collective memory

I find I tend to relate olfactory memories to experiences where smells act as triggers , sometimes visual experiences evoke olfactory memories and sometimes a sound can evoke an olfactory memory as the sensory experiences all seem to link back to a holistic sensory memory of all that I remember about something ...

The song ‘new york’ makes me recall my father’s cigarettes, his bourbon , Worn ( burgundy ) leather and the times spent with him at the jazz 100 club in London

The sight of climbing roses makes me think of freshly mown grass. Petrol-the lawn mower and suntan oil, as well as my mothered gardening gloves and the sweet sharp smell of the home made lemonade age maid the slightly musty smell of the wicker pic nic basket and the fresh linen smell of napkins. 

Oil smells of the garden shed and magazines and sun loungers - from the shed !
Going to the beach is the radio the picnic rug - smelling of cigar smoke or pipe tobacco - sweet tobacco as my grandad smoked in the shed!

Summer is baking , patchouli, strawberries, sweet oil- like Hawaiian tropic suntan oil my mum used- cliff Richard songs she played as well as leather and deep tones of jazz melodies and toasted almonds and copper whisky in crystal tumblers with clinking ice and smells of the sea and salt if you laid back on the blanket and closed your eyes in the sunshine - then cucumbers tomatoes and cheese from salads ...

- Nathalie Elwood

Olfactory Alarm Clock: Tucson Summer, 1965-1975

When the swamp cooler kicked at 7:00 in the morning it woke me with a dusty funk. Unlike the first ignition of the heater in winter when the hot air on the cold metal vent emits a choking burnt dust smell, the swamp cooler blows hot desert air through water-soaked hemp pads, creating a muddy, slightly fishy aroma.  Maybe the pads were doused in some kind of coolant or mold retardant back then, or maybe it was simply the mustiness of bacteria and mold spores that grew during winter, but hempish-chemical combination always reminded me of the inside of the Rexall pharmacy and the local hippie health food co-op at the same time.  Once the cooler got going awhile, the odor dissipated.  But despite the odd funk, the first burst of air in those ninety-degree Tucson mornings always smelled like a promise of relief.

That promise was always broken in the hundred-plus degree afternoons where we’d seek relief in the local pool.  I spent hours with the neighborhood kids, going in and out of the cool- chlorine-and-warm-pee water.  When our fingers got too pickled and pruny, we pressed our shivering bodies against our sun-warmed towels that were laid out on the concrete deck.  We inhaled the chlorinated steam rising from the cement, filtered through Tide-scented towels.   By the time we walked across the park to our cinder-block house across the street, we were hot and dry again.  I would plant myself directly under the hallway vent of the swamp cooler lifting my matted hair off my neck.  My dad invariably shooed me away, warning of catching coldor a stiff neck.”   Then Mom would pull me by the ponytail into the bathroom with a brush in her hand for a half-hour of tangled hair torture. 

Naturally, by the teenage years, I defied my parents.  Standing under the swamp cooler vent for as long as I wanted in my navy blue daisy bikini, I combed my own hair with a wide-tooth comb.  The perfumed spritz No More Tears conditioner in the swamp-cooled air created a new promise— one of peace, freedom, and independence.

- Judy Geraci




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


the smell of old rocks
Grandpa’s tools
dusty oil cans
and the riding mower
old rocks smothering
tooth marked cribs
jars of pickles, unlabeled
sweaters with Grandma’s smell
water seeping in
frozen in the morning
Mother calling from upstairs
offering heat
the smell of old rocks
blood I didn’t know was mine
old rocks around me
my blood, here
the smell of
my blood

- Bob McHeffey

Burnt Dust

I can't get over the smell of burnt dust, warm dust, cooked dust, baked dust; really when you think about it, it's mostly skin—which is creepy—but I remember Winter in Utah and my grandmother would bring a blanket to the heater on the floor and I would smell the blanket and it wasn't washed for months, was dusty, and then the grill of the heater vent was dusty, warm. The smell of rose milk and grandmother's cupboard full of Sen-Sen flower mints mixed in with all of that, and so did the occasional strange, mysterious female things that were also strange and mysterious for having been the habit of decades past.

So all of that, all of my grandmother's house and its smells, rest behind the front door of the warmed dust, the scent of the house itself and its decay as it pumps through the chill air, as it mixes with and fights against the cold. I remember that when someone opened the door and there was any kind of a wind a gust of cold and the scent of cold would rush in, would spear your nostrils and shock them with cold, and then all of a sudden, in the very next breath, the warm dry air of the house would wash all of that away, lull it away with the delicacy of grandmother's decades old blankets, with the soft give of the velvet couches, with the faint yet ever present smell of the old cleaners she used downstairs, the strong cleaners—also rooted in another era—stronger and (I assume) less mysteriously toxic.
Everything had a much more honest smell in my grandmother's house; more than anything, more than the television shows or newspapers or books or whatever, I always felt the smells from the past were more honest; that smell was the one thing the modern (or post-modern) world attacked most ruthlessly; smells were simpler.

My grandfather's wool hat smelled like the warm dust kind of; men's clothes in general smell very similar. Also, things in that house could smell like metal in ways that nothing else in my world seemed to; grandpa's watch, the lamp with the lit-glass base, the gooseneck lamps, and indeed the smell of dust as it warms on a light. My grandmother would bring me plates of food, usually lunch but sometimes dinner too, as I sat on the floor at the heating vent. The smell of shipwreck, and maybe corn or steamed green beans, would mix and mingle with the dry, warm, powdered air. After there’d always be desert, of course; my grandmother supplied us with Otter Pops, sherbets, ice cream, anything with a sharp fruit taste. The best desert, though, was when she still had raspberries left over from her garden. She and grandpa used to be farmers; they knew how to grow things like how most people don’t. Raspberries smell even more when they’ve been frozen then reheated; she’d usually mix them up with milk and sugar. So much of my childhood was dust and bursting raspberries.

Another distinctive smell, something I wasn’t used to in my everyday life, something I only encountered at my grandparents’, was the smell of the ditches outside of my grandparents' house; also, there was the smell of the canvas and tin and wood of the irrigation that my grandfather used to divert the ditches to the grass, to the garden. I had no idea you could even do something like that, but I guess farmers were used to taking on engineering projects for their farm; the idea of setting up his own irrigation was not more foreign to my grandfather, no more strange or surreal, than Model T cars or black and white television. I could smell the ditches and the silt and dirt in the ditches and really they were just like the baked dust, except on a different wavelength, at a lower energy. Instead of winter and cold, though, this dust smell reminded me of summer—the smell of green from crushing leaves between fingers, the smell of oil as my granddad lubed the Radio Flyer so he could take me to the park. Somehow, the park and the ditch irrigation were always existentially at odds with each other and yet also inextricably tied to each other.

The only other childhood dust I remember is saltier than the rest; we first moved to California when I was seven; our apartment was near the beach. More importantly, my school was near the beach. Itself a survivor of my grandparents’ era, the school had large, metal, rounded rectangle heaters suspended from each ceiling; they connected to the building with ducts and were painted in what I can only describe as a pastel brown. Those heaters in the winter intermingled with the dust and salt already in the air, the smell of tired schoolchildren and the ocean beckoning them, always on the very edge of awareness. For me, that was what winter in this strange new snow-less place smelled like. It didn’t happen clearly or cleanly, either, it snuck up after summer and didn’t really leave so much as fade and slowly warm into spring. These were the smells I remember from then: wet cotton from my shirt, wet polyester from my backpack, sweat and wet hair, fresh paper battling beneath all the smells, barely winning the first day of school, losing easily from there on after.

- Brian Thedell