Sep 172014

Went to Monaco Pictures last night with Dad and clan BamaDan to catch Guardians of the Galaxy. (Fun film.) I hadn’t been to the north end of Bridge Street in some time. All of the structure for the new parking deck adjacent to Belk appears to be in place.


Now given my longstanding affection for Madison Square Mall and my contempt of the (in my view, unnecessary) sadistically slow decay it is experiencing, I’m perhaps a bit predisposed to dislike the idea of closing the Madison Square Belk to open this one. And there is the fact that Bridge Street, being a particularly heinous example of a peoplequarium, had a lot of winning over to do with me in the first place. (It’s been open seven years; can you believe that?)

Still, I’d made my peace with the place, and mostly even on its terms. Yes, it looks like a shopping area at Walt Disney World. No, there’s not much in here I want to buy. But it’s a nice place to walk, the best place to see a movie in town, and it’s not too hard to find a pleasant meal either.

That said, this new construction is abominable. It’s a dissonant monstrosity. It feels as if Bridge Street is suddenly right next to the interstate—and I don’t mean conveniently located, I mean directly in the space surrounded by the exit ramp and the overpass. “East Germany with nicer cars,” Dan and I mused together, which prompted a few Gotcha! quotes. (Mmm, Linda Fiorentino. Meeoooowwwrrr.)

Bridge Street had charm. It was corporate and contrived, but it was done well enough to win you over, at least somewhat. Now, they might as well build a roof over the place and be done with it.

 Posted by at 7:59 am
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