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Smell: Woody/Resinous

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

Red Rock Country

 If you breathe deeply when you are in red rock country, you can smell geology. The smell of millennia, of ages old. The smell of dust and bones and the span of wing tips over boulders red as hunger, heavy as memory.


You don't hold your breath among all that sandstone, that sage and pine and sycamore. You breathe your own life into it and remember a time before and your remembering sets cottonwood leaves atremble and lifts through the clear air to blue sky. 


That sky is how the name turquoise came to be. This is what they called azure. It is lapis at mid-afternoon and sapphire near evening, before the lavender, the orange sherbet, the magenta so deep it has a sound.


You hear big cats growling and imagine bears in caves where there are none. The hissing of snakes, the translucent skin of scorpion. It is your longing for something you once knew.
You gather fallen leaves, thread brown pine needles in your hair, stow broken rocks like dried scabs in your pocket and search for signs of recognition.


"Do you feel home here?" you ask your sisters. "Yes, yes," one says. The other is gazing at blocks of red rock, stacked as if by a god who lives close to the ground, whose blood is clear rivers, whose heart you beat when you walk upon it. 


Your sister is imagining building her own red clay walls. She will line them with quartz, she says. She is talking to God.

- Judy Reeves

Scents Memory

“Those pancakes are burning! Can’t you smell them?” 

In fact I cannot, as my mate well knows. Ditto garlic sizzling in hot sesame oil, and spice cake just out of the oven. Likewise the Mexican marigolds in the garden, their foliage bruised by a tossing wind, and the cold, wet-cardboard smell of a rare rainy day. Too the cedarn atmosphere within a stand of redwoods—my favorite fragrance—and the aura of heat blowing in from the east: a Mississippi of air.

I savor these only in memory. My sense of smell faded about a decade ago, a sign (I found out later) of progressing Parkinson’s disease. It was a loss so gradual and unobtrusive that I didn’t notice until the sense was quite gone. Because they’re so closely linked, my sense of taste is crippled as well: I can detect only saltiness, sweetness, or the burn of capsaicin (which causes the heat you feel when eating chili peppers, and which I’m not even sure is a flavor). The smell and taste sensations appear to me as phantoms—brain-invented illusions without basis or cause—in the most incongruous situations. Lingering in bed in the morning, dozing and waking in short cycles, I’ll catch the salty splatter of bay water and the sinus-stinging smoke from cheap gas churning in the violent wake of the ski boat my family had when I was a teenager. Working the odorless decomposed granite that answers for soil in my vegetable plot, my mouth waters from the smell of popping corn or the taste of hot chocolate.

It’s hard not to be bitter over what I’ve lost: two-fifths of my interface with the world (though, being honest, I’d rather live without taste and smell than sight and hearing). I try to focus on and be grateful for the mechanism, whatever it is, that still allows me to relish the greasy aroma of fat rendered from browning bacon, or the sharp, astringent perfume of lavender soap, even if the former comes during a performance of act two of La Boheme and the latter while driving to the DMV to renew my license. Most of all I treasure the odd, disorienting moments when my senses suddenly return, and I breathe in the incense of the week-old garbage I’m carrying out to the bin. Seconds later, my burden is again odorless, blank as ice, and my memory book one glorious, fragrant chapter richer.

- Jim Brega


The Rare Woods Room

Summer in El Cajon blisters the bougainvillea and scares lizards into hiding. Birds go silent. In the forties, before air conditioning, women sat in front of electric fans, their dresses drawn up to their thighs, and maybe a secret glass of Jack Daniels in their hand. Men swore in the heat and mopped their necks with a kerchief. 


Back then, acres of raisin grape vineyards lined East Main Street. In summer, the vines twisted on their wooden crosses, stunned by the heat. Down Main Street to the west sat W.D. Hall Lumberyard. On the way to our cabin in La Cresta, my parents and I sometimes stopped there for nails or some board lengths for doing repairs. 


Out in the open lumberyard, in summer, the heat liquefied the sap in stacks of pine two by fours, two by eights, two by tens. It oozed down the sides, creating a sweet mountain smell that mixed with the dry dirt scent of the decomposed granite underfoot. 


But that was only a preview. We weren’t always invited to go into the rare woods room since we weren’t in the market for those spendy boards, but sometimes an employee would invite us there, out of the heat, for a quick look. 


The long, narrow room stretched upward almost into darkness. It felt cool. Against the walls leaned boards that must have been ten or twelve feet tall. The clean, heady smell that saturated the air was a mix of teak’s spicy, paved-road scent with a tang of sweet and peppery, walnut’s odor so much like the nut, only moist like a forest floor, and cherrywood, actually smelling like cherries crossed with bark. And there was maple, a woodish version of maple syrup. Mahogany like nothing so much as a country dirt road. Alder faintly smelling like rubber; and oak smelling like a faraway swamp. There would also have been some woods that can’t be imported today like flowery Brazilian rosewood and Hawaiian koa, which smells like a warm bakery. 


When the thermometer hit triple digits in El Cajon, we were often tempted to go by W.D. Hall less for wood and nails than for the rare woods room. You could close your eyes there and let the scents of those hardwoods take you somewhere else. Somewhere cool. Sweet. Unforgettable.

- Anitra Carol Smith
 


Window Shades and Linoleum

From 1934 until the 1960’s, my parents owned Harry Smith Shade and Linoleum Company in North Park at 2912 University, where Off the Record is now. At the front half of our shop, six-foot-high rolls of linoleum lined up in rows. I had favorites like the Armstrong abstracts with pieces of shine in them that caught the light. Or a pattern called Tessera made of tiny mosaic squares. (You can sometimes still see Tessera on the bathroom floors of old restaurants.) All of the linoleum smelled like its white asbestos fiber backing: A businesslike, chemical scent something like asphalt, sharp and unmistakable.


But down in the basement, the big nine-foot rolls of linoleum lay lengthwise on the floor like felled trees. After my father died in 1956, the work of unrolling and slicing lengths off those giants fell to my mom and her new helper, a young single mother named Carol Arnold. That linoleum got its scent from its dark gray tarpaper backing. You could pick up its tar smell as soon as you came down the wooden stairs.


During World War II, because the government was afraid of bombing raids, San Diegans were ordered to buy regulation window shades to black out the city at night. Lines formed around the block leading into our window shade store. After the war, people were glad to switch out their dark green shades for eggshell, white, and cream, and later on, pale blue, sunshiny yellow, and a soft green. In the fifties, when customers were starting to feel expansive from having a little extra cash, they wanted the ends of their window shades cut into fancy designs like scallops. They wanted them trimmed in rickrack or fringe. 


The ten-by-ten-foot shade-making table stood on six-by-six-inch square wooden legs. A soft dusty scent came from underneath where shelves stored cutting tools and scraps of window shade material.


We sewed a casement across the bottom of each window shade for a wooden slat. So, from time to time, a light odor of sawdust and fresh pinewood would puff out in the back of the store when somebody pushed a long slat into the cutter and smashed down the heavy handle to cut it to length. 


Twenty-foot ceilings in the store kept the place cool, and the scent that drifted through that coolness was the signature smell of our shop: the soft, oily, painty odor of window shade fabric. 


Today, I go into Off the Record in North Park once in a while so that I can press the metal thumb tab on the old door handle and hear it click. The same heavy front door closes behind me with its familiar chonk. But the new owners have installed an acoustic tile ceiling nine feet up, so you can no longer see the mark my dad put on the wall at 12’ 11 7/8”, which was his world pole-vaulting record. The old scents of our shop are gone too, replaced now by the 1950’s vintage smell of vinyl records.

- Anitra Carol Smith