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Scratch 'n Sniff
The sweet smell of excess

I'm not one of those guys who's afraid cologne will make me smell too good. I mean, is there such a thing as smelling too good? I'm in favor of anything that makes me smell better. It's not that I smell particularly bad, it's just that left to our own devices, people as a species are no bed of roses.

Fragrances are powerful—after all, the nerve cells in the nose are directly connected to cells on the cerebral cortex. Then they go to the limbic system which has to do with feelings and memory. I can so vividly remember the smell of my mother's perfume (Norell) and my father's electric razor (Norelco) that the memory is more like an out-of-body experience.

Now—I've forgotten where I was. Ah, downtown San Francisco. Salt air, diesel, and Chanel #5. Since I was already parked (a feat that costs more than giving a gift of chickens to a family in Zimbabwe at http://catalog.heifer.org ) I figured I'd stop at the gigantic Macy's, where they arguably have more cologne than in all of Cologne, Germany.

Macy's Union Square is a block-long, nine-story emporium—so big it's like a sovereign retail country where I often feel like an illegal alien. So I slink into the cologne alcove. It's lined with bottles of every shape, color, and connotation. I mean, come on, some of these bottles aren't very subtle (but at least they're big!). The bottles look like everything from something that would satisfy Madonna (I'm a little afraid to pick it up), to a titanium orange (think "The Terminator meets fruit").

It's sad that some men think "Old Spice" is the only thing they can smell like when there are so many different scents you can wear. One of my favorite's is a nondescript little bottle labeled "Dirt" which really does have the wonderful clean smell of freshly turned dirt. I have another called "Cappuccino" which is just the ticket for when I meet with caffeine addicts.

I avoid spraying untested scents on myself ever since the unfortunate incident where, post-spritzing, I got in the car with my wife and she couldn't stop sneezing. Since then she taught me to apply cologne by spraying the air then walking into the mist, the human equivalent of waving vermouth over a martini.

So I get one of those little white strips of paper you spray scent on. Then you can then take it home and decide if, after smelling it for a while, it counts as a fragrance or has become merely a stench.

I spray it, not paying attention to the direction of the nozzle and end up squirting the entire left side of my body. This is unfortunate, as it smells to me like urinal cake—a smell I hate.

Wanting to cover if not eliminate that odor, I spot the new Calvin Klein fragrance called "Crazed" or "Cranky" or "Kewl" or something that begins with a C or K—I can't remember. I chalk it up to the powerful effect of smell on the brain. This new cologne is in this odd frosted plastic bottle that looks kind of like something you'd find on a nightstand at a hospital. And I don't mean something friendly.

Suspended inside is another bottle, and the mystery of how they got one bottle inside the other drives me to throw caution to the wind and pick it up. My first instinct is to figure out how to open it and get the little bottle out—but of course it doesn't open. There also doesn't appear to be any button to spray it, either. There is, however, a thing that looks like orange duct tape on the side, and when I pull at it, the bottle sprays, right in my face.

My nostrils are now permeated with what I can only describe as an odd combination of wet horse hooves and tartar sauce. I'm not sure how this combination would be an improvement over anyone's natural "human" smell, unless of course they rode horses. I make a note to get this for my sister, then I am overwhelmed by a brief mental picture of a stampede of shrimp.

The smell is now lodged firmly in my nostrils which means I'll be smelling this for a very long time. Maybe months. I have a habit of getting smells stuck in my nose. My wife says this is more about my overactive olfactory imagination than reality. I do have to admit I smell things my wife claims aren't there. Things like Nachos. And salami. Occasionally oranges. Then there are the smells I can't explain, like swimming-pool chlorine, vinyl, and the way cotton smells after ironing. Of course, sometimes I can't smell anything at all. Unfortunately, this is not one of those times.

Luckily, there is a small bowl of coffee beans handy. If you don't frequent fragrance counters then you might think that's odd, but all good perfume counters have a bowl of coffee beans. Why? Because after you've smelled two or three fragrances you can no longer really smell any new ones—you're just adding the new smells to the old ones and the results can range from mere confusion to full out nausea.

So I stick my nose near the beans and take a long whiff to reset my nostrils. Now the smell in my nose makes me think of Juan Valdez's donkey. I decide to stop before I spray again and skulk out of the store—praying I don't encounter mounted police or Columbians.

I drive home with the car windows open, hoping to air myself out. The combination of 60 mph winds and my own unique body chemistry have transformed the aroma to something my wife describes as "a combination of dry cleaning fluid and cloves, but not a bad combination." I took a shower.

Luckily there's one thing I know always smells good—my wife. So maybe I should stick with "Dirt" and let her be the fragrant blossom.

Daniel Will-Harris

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Unusual Fragrances

Dirt, Cappucino, and more unusual scents are all from Demeter Fragrances. You can buy them online at http://www.fashion-planet.com/shopping/demeter/deme terhome.html . Some other fun ones: Celery, Cinnamon Bun, Crust of Bread, Cucumber, Fireplace, Humidor, Iris, Laundromat, Lobster, Martini, Mulled Cider, Paperback, Popcorn, Saw Dust, Sushi, Wet Garden... and MANY more!

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ONE MORE THING:

Here's to a fragrant holiday season!
 

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The SchoomozeLetter is ©1998-2005, Daniel Will-Harris, all rights reserved. If you'd like to use any article on the web or in print, please ask for permission. If you're an agent or publisher looking to publish these pieces, just drop me a note.