Sep 142014

I have a few music videos recorded from Hit Video USA, which was channel 41 on Cable Alabama when we moved to the Huntsville area when I was 15 years old.

Hit Video USA has a place in my heart forever, because it’s emblematic of just how small-town my upbringing had been to date. I thought our cable lineup right after we moved was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me. You mean these channels go up to 70-something? In Anniston, our top channel number was 22. You got to channels 14 through 22 by putting the TV on channel 3, then pushing a mechanical button on a separate converter box. Remote control? Pish-tosh.

What else? I couldn’t believe we had such a great mall just down the road. I thought the Olive Garden was beyond amazing. Hey, look—an actual Porsche dealership. Remember Carriage Motors at Drake and the Parkway?

I remember stopping in there shortly after I got my driver’s license, hoping to score some sales literature with large, high-quality photos. Realizing that a kid in jeans in a ten-year-old Celica wouldn’t look like a serious prospect, my story was that a friend of mine had just come into some money, and I was out researching new cars for him. (Perfect! What could go wrong?) The salesman was polite, and actually did give me a little tri-fold brochure. I think I still have it somewhere.

I’ll probably never be particularly well-traveled, which means that through some lenses, I’ll never be well-rounded. That’s fine. Those who would make such judgments are often the same folks who would instantly write me off for my deep love of Alabama anyway.

I think I do all right most of the time. But in August 1986, there was a bit more “hayseed come to the big city” about me than I’d have cared to admit.

 Posted by at 11:12 pm
Sep 122014

nose“They” say that the sense of smell is tied very closely to memory. Want a citation? There you go. (Is “they”?)

There are three smells from my childhood that still trigger powerful happy memories for me. When I encounter them today, if I have the time, I stop and consider them carefully.

  • The self-cleaning oven cycle. This was unambiguously a bad smell. It was hot and industrial. It was as if the kitchen in my house had suddenly transformed into a little area of Southern Tool, but without the pleasant connotations of being with my dad at work. My mother ran the cleaning cycle on our oven two or three times a year, but she always did it right before she started Christmas cooking and baking. So I loved the smell of the self-cleaning oven cycle in the middle of December, because it was the lead-in for two straight weeks of non-stop smellarific paradise. I sure do miss my mom. Have I ever mentioned that?
  • A well-run aquarium shop. Oh, this one is just glorious. The smell of healthy tropical fish and aquatic plants is rich, clean, and primally natural. It’s vibrant. It smells like what you’d imagine “life” would smell like in a scratch-and-sniff book. I was usually one-on-one with my dad when I smelled it, so there’s that good association too. The two big places I got this one were The Fish Net in Saks, on 431 close to where I grew up in Anniston; and Water World in Decatur, just south of the Beltline on 6th Ave. Both have been gone for decades. Practically all shops now do considerably more than tropical fish, so the smell is markedly diluted.
  • An old car. Until Dad got interested in his lake house, the primary thing he did with discretionary time and income was restore classic cars. We had a near-endless stream of cool stuff coming through the garage when I was growing up—Corvettes, Mustangs, a Thunderbird or two. There’s a complex smell cocktail to a classic car. The dominant smell is a sweet, warm one of gasoline exhaust untouched by emissions controls of any kind. Some of this persists whether the engine is running or not. It’s mixed with mostly interior smells—vinyl, rubber, the olfactory signature of a 30-year-old window or top motor that still works fine, but that lets you know it’s doing so. Again, this is also happy time with my dad—hanging around while he worked, or accompanying him to auctions.

Are there any particularly evocative smells from your childhood? What are they? How do they make you feel today if/when you encounter them?

 Posted by at 8:00 am
Sep 052014

My friend Carol recently expressed frustration that we’re all running around babbling about stars’ naughty bits and football team nicknames, and the ostensible leader of the free world is golfing and hobnobbing as it burns down. (That’s not exactly what she said, but I suspect she’d be fine with that account of her concern.) To be [...]

 Posted by at 11:35 am is using WP-Gravatar