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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Stimulus: Response. Share with me.

Remember when, for a few years in the 1980's, music videos actually would, with some regularity, tell you a story?

No, I never had MTV.

But I saw a few videos back then, which were the years of my teens. I remember enjoying most the ones that at no point showed the musician singing, or did so only in the far background. Oh, the "Money For Nothing" video with Dire Straits shown on one of the background televisions was okay, I suppose. (though that video didn't tell a story-- it just set a mood.)
_ _ _

I am a big one for associating senses with occasions.

Strangely, I recall the lead-in riff from that "Money For Nothing" song best as playing in the background while my best friend Scott and I threw clay birds for each other in the August, getting our shotgunning eye ready for dove season.

The sight of an unearthly-orange cheese doodle receding to a tiny dot as it fell away from me as my girlfriend and I leaned over the rail of the Rio Grande gorge bridge west of Taos in 1992 is one image/memory my wife brought up to me the other day. (I married that girl.)

The smell of the rain up the valley hitting the desert creosote on a hot summer day brings back Alamogordo, NM, 1988.

The sulforous smell of a flare that I pop for traffic direction briefly pops flashes into my head the memories of:
--sitting on the front lawn with my dad and a large brown bag of firecrackers on an Independence Day in the mid-to-late '70s.
--another Boy Scout pounding my back in congratulations as I ejected the case from the little Stevens single-shot .22 at Boy Scout camp, some time in the early eighties. Our patrol had just won the marksmanship award in the only event that I could compete in, with my broken ankle.
--fear of getting caught, playing with a book of matches that I had sneaked out of my baby-sitter's house after school, in the fall of 1977.

The after-image on my retina left by my car strobe suddenly reminds me of my paternal grandmother "Big Mama" touching off a flash cube on top of the Instamatic 110 camera after much cajoling for me and my cousins to "scrunch together" in front of the Christmas tree.

The smell of broken evergreen needles always reminds me of a dozen different childhood Christmases.

The sound of compacting snow usually brings to mind the smell of snow. Please don't ask me to describe it.

The smell of popcorn and freshly-turned animal manure and hay (note to city folk-- Not necessarily a bad smell, unless you're near the carnivores) will inject very powerful circus images in my head.

The smell of clean hair and a whiff of some perfumes, along with perhaps the whiff of school (chalk dust and pencil shavings with floor wax) will sometimes bring back those angst-filled memories of teen interactions with girls. [To quote Rich Lucibella when referring to his love-making and his shooting: "Long periods of shameful failure, interspersed with occasional flashes of brilliance."]

The touch of unplucked feathers brings back memories of going through Dad's game bag when he came back form duck hunting in the early-to-mid '70s.

The sound of locusts always makes me feel hot.

The taste of boiling-hot, percolator-brewed coffee in a metal cup pops numerous camping and hunting memories into my head. (Of course there would be a coffee memory.)

Closed-knit, nappy green carpet evokes immediate memories that low brick rent house that we lived in when I was a young boy. Look down, see dark olive carpet. Look up, see bulls eye central air registers.

When I hear a small engine with a hole in the exhaust system, I'm taken back to numerous jalopies that I drove in my teens and early twenties.

When I feel scratchy crocheted mittens and scarves, I immediately flash back to being overheated from running, with frostbitten fingers and toes, taking my aluminum saucer up the hill to slide down yet again on a snow day, in the sleet and snow as a kid.

_ _ _
You know, I initially started this blog as a reference to a decent little video that I had run across, putting a pretty cool science fiction twist to a modern song by way of simple (today, I mean. Back in 1987, this would have completely blown the minds of professional videographic artists) computer graphics. The concept of stopping the waste of your "life" and going on to find joy is powerfully presented there.

But instead, I've taken you down a short walk down memory lane, regarding the way different stimuli can evoke powerful memories. Please: share with me (in comments) some of the more powerful ones that you've noticed in your life.

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21 Comments:

At Thursday, December 06, 2007 2:40:00 PM, Blogger Arthur said...

Heh, this is dumb as hell, but when I was in 4th grade I got REALLY sick - strep throat and friends. I was off school for two weeks puking my guts out.

My mom bought me a small wind-up robot toy to cheer me up.

Years later I was rummaging through some old boxes and came across that robot and *BAM* a run to the bathroom with instant waves of nausea.

I still can't get over how deeply that toy had become connected with illness.

 
At Thursday, December 06, 2007 4:12:00 PM, Blogger The Lily said...

Cicadas are the end of summer. Of heavy, hot august air, wind through the yellowing leaves of poplars, the smell of chlorine on my skin, playing night tennis and swatting more bugs than balls.

*SIIIIIIIGH*

 
At Thursday, December 06, 2007 4:31:00 PM, Anonymous Michael said...

The summer of 1996 I ended my engagement for a variety of different reasons. Understandably, she was less than civil and after a particularly nasty argument, a friend (who was going through something similar) and I want to a Renascence Faire opening nearby. We had such a great time in that “other” world that we got jobs and spent every weekend working and playing at the Faire temporarily escaping the ugly realities of our “normal” lives. The only toilets available were the blue port-o-potties and in order to avoid the unwashed masses, the boss had one in the back of the store for our use only. Consequently that sickly semi-sweet smell was a constant from Friday night to Sunday evening. Even now, 11 years later, that smell makes me think of the Faire and brings back powerful memories of friends who helped me through one of the most difficult times in my life.

 
At Thursday, December 06, 2007 4:48:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

These are awesome.

Keep them coming.

 
At Thursday, December 06, 2007 5:43:00 PM, Blogger Farmgirl said...

Hay, sawdust, and horse is the barn, and is now inseparably welded in my mind to the pleasantly sore, wobbly-legged feeling that comes from riding for hours on end.

The scent of diesel fumes often gives me a ghost sting of sunburn, after years of working road construction.

The song "Strawberry Wine" pops up my first slow dance with a boy, and Ludacris "What's Your Fantasy" takes me back to many, many late nights in high school with my best friend driving up and down Main Street singing the lyrics at the top of our lungs.

Damp earth and green things (yet another of those indescribable scents) is spring as a kid, running through a wheat field with my dog.

There are so many more, but I'll stop there for the moment.

 
At Friday, December 07, 2007 12:29:00 AM, Blogger Christina said...

The indescribable smell of spring.
Even though I live in Las Vegas now, when I smell spring, I'm instantly back in the apartment in Berlin, Germany, with my bedroom window WIDE open to let the breeze billow my sheers. Traffic noises barely registering, sun staying up later and later, crocuses popping up in the medians, a barely-there green haze on the weeping willows along the Landwehr Canal...

 
At Friday, December 07, 2007 1:15:00 AM, Blogger Melodee, said...

I read this post and pondered it for just a few seconds and then my eye caught the next post. Hawaii 5-0 theme song . . . it will forever remind me of brand new beginnings with my new love. We were watching TV on Christmas Eve eve at his parents' house, very, very late at night/early in the morning, just after he came home on leave after finishing basic training. 25 years later and we're still married. Happily even! Married 25 years . . . that's something of an anomaly in law enforcement.

 
At Friday, December 07, 2007 3:45:00 AM, Blogger Pagan Blacksmith said...

Memories:

spent gun powder: Learning to shoot with Grand dad, rifle range in basic training, time with Dad at the pistol range.

Fireworks: 6 ft deep foxholes in snow during training maneuvers in Graf, hot blood from a traininag accident at the grenade range.

Oil: days spent in the armory cleaning other people's weapons to pay rent for my stored sidearm.

Sound of sliding doors: the jail cell door slamming shut

Smell Winter fireplaces and wood stoves: my blacksmithing forge

Sound of a popping fire: cherished memory of camping with Dad.

Smell of Noxema: memories of my maternal grandmother (throat cancer)

Smell of vomit: grand dad's cabinet shop in spring with wet pine

Amonia and bleach: hospital stay for a heart attack @ 20.

 
At Friday, December 07, 2007 9:24:00 AM, Blogger Canadian Girl said...

Popcorn: Friday nights as a kid at the neighbours' house, parents upstairs, kids in the basement.

Diesel: weekends at my uncle's farm, begging to be allowed to drive the tractor. (My brother was allowed, but I wasn't because I was a girl. I had to help my aunt in the garden.)

Freshly mown grass: running down the hill on our front lawn as an eight-year-old.

Chanel No. 5 perfume: sitting on the edge of the tub as a little girl, watching my mum get ready to go out for the evening.

 
At Friday, December 07, 2007 9:37:00 AM, Blogger night lightning woman said...

Smells are the most evocative of memories I have. And of them all--you would have been oh, 13, 14. And we went to Alamogordo and visited the Footes. It was a fairly wet year for New Mexico. The greasewood smell was wonderful in the evenings. Our friends took us to a cherry farm owned by friends of theirs in the foothills. We were invited to pick all we wanted. They had planted mint between the trees, so the scent rose from the ground as we walked. We climbed trees or ladders to pick sun-warmed cherries, which added another fragrance. They were in the foothills, which brought in the scent of pinon and pine from the higher mountains. On the way back to town, a long snake wriggled across the road, and Leroy jerked to a stop while you and he enthusiastically jumped out to investigate. It is one of the happiest days of my life. And so much of it has to do with the smells. AND being with people I loved unconditionally. But the smells are the signal. Sometimes I imagine them. And I smile.

 
At Friday, December 07, 2007 9:56:00 AM, Blogger drc said...

I love the smell of the air just before it snows. It always reminds me of sledding as a kid. We had a HUGE hill that took ten minutes to climb. There was a bump in the middle that if you hit it right, we would fly through the air and fall off when we landed. On a good day, you would continue on down the hill without your tube.

As for music videos, "She's A Beauty" is my favorite. Set in a carnival of some kind.

And music - especially Journey and Def Leppard - bring back tons of memories from high school. Wow...maybe I shouldn't mention some of those things on this blog...

 
At Friday, December 07, 2007 12:37:00 PM, Blogger James E. Griffin said...

Teaching someone a martial arts move, the first time they have the really "get it" look in their eyes: I'm looking through the eyes of my many instructors, and over 40 years of other students. Let the chain be unbroken. All of the lessons that with power and authority, comes responsibility. The pitfalls of pride and arrogance. Brings up my most uttered prayer "God, help me be the man my friends think I am."

Even here, in Byzantium-on-the-Potomac: The sight of a set of spurs, or the smell of horse sweat. Reminds me of near 20 years ago, retraining spoiled horses in the American West. A much beloved, now deceased mentor screaming, "All this $#%^ is man made. Horses don't do this @#$^% *&^%$ naturally. Some ^%$#^%& taught them how to do this." When as a political consultant, I've wished to be able to take an errant politician to task the same way you'd do with an errant horse. Knowing who's a horseman by their vocabulary in an emergency.

Hand fitting a custom barrel in a model 1911a1, the feel first time it "press fits into battery." I see the smile on the face of "Mr." Pachmayr. All that is old is new again. What a true master craftsman does.

 
At Friday, December 07, 2007 2:36:00 PM, Blogger DMP said...

When the frogs start croaking in the spring it reminds me of being a teenager and going to sleep each night with my window cracked open so I could hear the frogs. That feeling of the air seeping in because it was too cold to really have the window open.

 
At Friday, December 07, 2007 10:47:00 PM, Blogger William the Coroner said...

Well, the smell of the B&M baked bean factory just outside of Portland, ME on the way north. The smell of beans makes me flashback.

I can see the old Tip-Top bakery my Grandfather drove for and can smell the fresh bread-though it's been closed for nearly twenty years.

Male Irish accents. I can still hear my attending whose favourite phrase was "Now that I've humilated you, you'll learn."

 
At Saturday, December 08, 2007 8:51:00 AM, Blogger SpeakerTweaker said...

I quit smoking last January, after about 15 years. The smell of a Marlboro still takes me back to the pool hall I frequented in Mississippi when I was 14, hoping the barkeep wasn't watching as I was popping quarters into the cigarette machine. I cut my teeth on those felt tables.

Certain popcorn smells (and I haven't figgered out which) take me to numerous movie outings of my youth. First movie I ever saw without my parents? SPACEBALLS! I couldn't have been more than 8 or 9, with my folks a couple theaters down.

Iodine takes me to an injury. I got strung up by a huge greenbriar about 3 or 4 feet off the ground, tearing my chest and face to pieces.

TOTAL absence of odor + cold? The Caesarian birth of my daughter.

Nice post, Matt. Oh, and the mere mention of "flash cube" puts thousands of images of pictures I took with my own little 110 camera when I was a kid (the 80's were my childhood). Good times...



tweaker

 
At Saturday, December 08, 2007 10:54:00 AM, Blogger Anonymous said...

The distinct and sharp smell of rotting leaves, especially on a cool day, will always 100% of the time transport me back to my childhood in Maine. If I happen to catch even the smallest whiff of that particular odor then I suddenly find myself a million miles away.

 
At Saturday, December 08, 2007 11:29:00 AM, Blogger Roberta X said...

...Memories:

Taste: hot coffee with plenty of Coffee Rich and sugar: drinking it from a plastic thermos cup, years before I was otherwise allowed to, while riding in a car through the dark with my Dad driving, on our way to "hunt deer" (his term for tramping around in the woods, carrying a shotgun and enjoying nature; AFAIK, he shot and dressed three deer his entire life but he loved the woods). Or going squirrel hunting with him; those, he hunted, .22 in one hand and a pair of silver half-dollars in the other, rubbed together between thumb and finger to call the little tree-rats. I have that .22 now, a beautful little Remington, and all the good memories it brings. (The move to stow the coins between palm and stock while bringing the rifle to bear, I never did master. But I can still see him do it). Gosh, I miss him!

The smell of black powder or cordite: hammering caps on the back porch in the summer, aged 8 or 9, caps I'd filch from baby brother's capgun, just to hear the *bang* and enjoy the scent.
Or Dad teaching me how to shoot in the back yard, with the root cellar as a backstop, learning the Four Rules through concrete examples: "What's behind the storm cellar? Cornfields. What's past them? A barn, yes, and out of sight over there--?" (About a mile away). "Umm, Mr. Troyer's house?" "Right. So don't point the muzzle that direction!!!"
Or, years later, learning how to shoot a handgun with my (then) spouse. And the many happy hours I've spent on the range since.

The mingled scents of Giorgio perfume, stale and fresh cigarette smoke and Seagrams & 7-Up fizzing right under my nose: the happier times of my interestingly-misspent young adulthood.

I can smell freshly-cut grass and feel the sun on my shoulder, arms and legs, and I'm 16 all over again, mowing the lawn on an ancient riding mower and daydreaming. The yard was just about big enough to compose a whole novella while mowing.

The smell of clean bedclothes, the spicy scent of a clean cat and the hot-metal smell of a gas furnace make me happy and sleepy.

The smell of libraries...! The whole world was in there, the entire universe! It was magical. It still is. My hometown Carnagie library in all its well-worn glory and the comfortable, tatterdemalion library/lounge at the Purdue's Student Union where I read "Lost Horizions" for the first time in a single sitting, etch themselves in my mind's eye when I smell the distinctive aroma of thousands of books all in one place.

The weirdest one: in the '90s, NBC reran the old "Peter Pan" teleplay the network used to air every year but had not since I was very young. I didn't have clear memories of it until I saw it; watching with a friend, I suddenly burst into tears, overwhelmed by how long ago it had been and how vast the world and its possibilities had seemed to me then. It was like suddenly looking down after climbing unaware to a great height.

Remember the smell of memeograph ink? Wonderful! (Thank you, Mr. Edison!)

 
At Saturday, December 08, 2007 12:24:00 PM, Blogger CrankyProf said...

Pipe smoke: Cranky Grandfather smoked three pipes a day for as long as I could remember, and everything he owned had the faint blue sheen and smell of pipe smoke. One whiff, and I'm on his lap, pen in my left hand as he guides me through drawing dragons.

Mothballs -- Cranky Grandma believed in the power of the mothball, and all her good Scots woolens were packed in them. YThe smell ,akes me remember her infamous retort to complaints: "If the cheeky little buggers washed, it wouldn't smell."

Triseptin antiseptic hospital wash: Endless hours in the NICU with Butter Biscuit, and cracked hands from so much hand washing. Even now, if I smell antiseptic soap, my hands ache.

 
At Saturday, December 08, 2007 1:15:00 PM, Anonymous Brian said...

Hoppe's #9 - My Grandfather's gunroom. Sometimes, when I open a bottle, many years later, he's back with me for just an moment, and it is a precious moment.

Diesel fumes - When they are just right, and the weather is just so, late at night... I'm back on board a boat, casting off lines at 3 in the morning from the fuel dock in Kodiak; the tingle and anticipation come back in a rush that is missing in my current life, but the memories are pleasant... and cherished.

Fresh earth - newly plowed fields in the spring. Planting time, of course, but I learned to fish in a creek that ran alongside our field - fresh earth scent means trout season!

 
At Tuesday, December 11, 2007 12:37:00 PM, Anonymous turtled28 said...

When I get a whiff of a certain kind of diesel or gas, it reminds me of summers at Lake Pleasant in Arizona as a kid, as well as the musty green smell that accompanies lakes, fish, and birds.
Another scent that brings very fond memories is that desert scent- flowers and dust and particular kinds of scrub-brush or succulent that proliferates in the AZ desert. As well as Northern Arizona's forests, the scent of vanilla-like pine brings me right back to Girl Scouts when they would have us smell trees to see if they were scented like Vanilla, butterscotch, or something else.
One of the most vivid flashbacks I had was when I found a long-lost bottle of perfume (5th Avenue) I wore as a teenager when I worked at Chick-fil-a. As soon as the fragrance hit my nose, I *instantly* could smell the fryer grease, the pickle juice, the seasoning flour, and even faintly hear the voices of coworkers past. Visions of their faces floated past my mind's eye.
When I smell Old Spice deodorant, I am reminded of my deceased fiance.
Lavender reminds me of a summer spent in France, the scent of frying oil always reminds me of homemade mexican cooking, and the scent of pan-cooked bacon and the whiff of cigarette smoke brings back time at Gramma's house. God I miss her.
Thank you for the beautiful memories (yours and mine!)
turtled28

 
At Friday, December 14, 2007 12:19:00 AM, Blogger mdmnm said...

Spent shotgun shell- despite time hunting other birds and burning lots of other powder, always brings to mind dove hunting in far West Texas while in single digits.

Venison- that slightly peppery smell of fresh deer meat makes me think of a cold Sunday in NM when my dad and I spent the day cutting up a couple of bucks we'd been fortunate enough to come upon, kill, and get out in the same day. We cut meat for eight hours and fed our cat so many handfuls of trimmings he could barely stagger over in front of the fire to lay there drummed-out and in a food coma before coming back for more. I think I was eighteen that year.

 

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