Friday, May 05, 2006

Time Portals

I think we all have the ability to travel back in time, and it doesn’t require fiddling with the space/time continuum or enrolling in mystic school to do it either. For a lot of people, all it takes is a certain song or a peculiar smell. A friend of mine claims a song from the sixties (I forget which one) can immediately transport him back to a warm summer’s day in the Navy hanging out at the PX. The song was piped through the PA system that day, and, for some reason, it stuck with him all these years. For me, the only song that has that effect is Back On the Chain Gang by The Pretenders. When I hear that, I instantly travel back in time to when I returned to college after a prolonged hiatus at the grand old age of 26. I remember exactly how I felt, just ending a long-standing relationship with my girlfriend, changing my life completely by heading down this strange and different track, and placing myself in an environment where I was older than most of my peers. That song was really popular at the time — you couldn’t turn on a radio without hearing it — and I’ve always associated it with that transitional phase.

Smells, I think, are the most potent time portals. Whenever I smell Clearasil, for instance (which isn’t often I must add), I think of my first girlfriend in junior high. I remember catching the lovely scent of her Clearasil during our first kiss, and how I tried to be all cool and nonchalant about kissing her but wound up shaking like a wet Chihuahua on a block of ice. And, whenever I smell a car burning oil, I am instantly reunited with my first car, a maroon, 1964, “unsafe at any speed” Chevy Corvair Monza (how I loved that piece of junk!). Yes, for my money, smells are the most effective way to put yourself into a hopelessly nostalgic time warp.

For me, here’s the best-time traveling smell of all: a box of crayons. I take one whiff of a package of Crayolas and boom! I’m right back in Mrs. Fleming’s first grade class again. There I am, my first day of school, a kindergarten graduate coming off summer recess, feeling like a ballplayer from the minor leagues finally making it to The Show. I’m wearing the new shirt my mother bought the day before that’s all stiff and itchy and redolent of unmistakable new shirt smell. Everybody gets assigned their desk that day, and after seating ourselves Mrs. Fleming has us go over the articles placed inside them: the wooden ruler with the strangely enchanting urethane odor, a pad of yellow paper with wide rules, two soft-leaded pencils, a big pink eraser, and an eight-pack of fat crayons, the kind that lose their points in less than two seconds of use. Ah, the aroma of those crayons! They seemed to hold so much promise! I was truly in the land of milk and honey.

Question du jour: what’s your favorite time portal?


Blogger Kathleen said...

Not so much time portals as just instant memories:

Everybody Wants To Rule The World by Tears for Fears instantly takes me back to college and the University Mall before the first big renovation when the radio station was still in the big black tower. And it always makes me think of Thomas who was the DJ who first played it.

My paternal grandmother wore Youth Dew by Estee Lauder. To this day it's an old lady perfume and I'm stunned when I smell it on a young person.

The entire My Fair Lady soundtrack will transport me back to my parents' living room where I played the ever living crap out of the tape while doing homework on the floor and the family watching TV in the family room. I could sing along with Julie Andrews perfectly - every inflection, every pause, every elongated note.

6:31 AM  
Blogger LL said...

When I hear "Rock You Like a Hurricane" it takes me back to the first time I heard it on my brand spankin new Walkman. It was a tape player AND an FM radio yet was only the size of a cereal box. 'Twas the bees knees...

6:58 AM  
Blogger Henry said...

Music Music Music
I hear a song on the radio and I am driving in my 1978 Volare wearing my acid washed black denim coat. Semi mullet and all.
Ahhhh--those were the days.
"Here I go again on my owwwwnnnn"

Thanks schprock

7:00 AM  
Blogger boo said...

chinese opera that my papa loves to listen to.

murmurs of my parents talking late in the night always put me into a deep comfortable slumber when i was widdle.

smell of noodles my mama make with flour, salt & eggs.

smell of grass after the rain, sun in my eye, out in my primary school yard.

7:02 AM  
Blogger Claire said...

Music does it for me all the time...

"Fancy" by Reba McEntire takes me straight to one of the most creative birthdays I've ever had - a boyfriend who was the only one who ever surprised me....managing to get me into another state, to a Reba concert, then got me backstage passes.

"Under the Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers - back to high school in my friend's basement singing along as her mom tried to put her kid brothers to bed.

In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel - I still can't listen to this one because it takes me straight back to a green wool plaid couch from the 70s where I got my first kiss (and second and third and 10th) from the one who got away....And "Under the Milky Way" by the Church...losing my virginity to the same man..

7:07 AM  
Blogger trinamick said...

How Can I Help You To Say Goodbye by Patty Loveless always takes me back to sitting in my grandmother's hospital room while she was dying of cancer. That song came on the radio, and was eerily appropriate.

Beer & Bones by John Michael Montgomery always reminds me of when my sister and BIL moved into the house they are now moving out of. We were painting the whole house, and my sister was addicted to CMT. They played that song every day at least 3 times for the entire week we worked there.

8:10 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Kathleen, an old girlfriend of mine wore the fragrance Chloe, and whenever I smell that it feels just like she's nearby. And I discovered My Fair Lady rather late in life, but absolutely love that soundtrack album too. I can tell you I wore out my record of Jesus Christ Superstar when I was a kid, and when I listen to a CD of it, I'm still surprised not to hear the scratches and skips from my old LPs.

"It was a tape player AND an FM radio yet was only the size of a cereal box. 'Twas the bees knees..."

Was it at least a snack pack size cereal box?

"I hear a song on the radio and I am driving in my 1978 Volare wearing my acid washed black denim coat. Semi mullet and all."

I'd be willing to spend up to 5 bucks to see a picture of you in the acid washed black denim coat and semi mullet. I dare you to post it. I dare you.

Boo, you didn't write a comment, you wrote a poem. Really beautiful.

Claire, awesome comment! Very revealing. The last two songs listed open up a whole new line of inquiry, songs that are hard to listen because of personal associations.

"How Can I Help You To Say Goodbye by Patty Loveless always takes me back to sitting in my grandmother's hospital room while she was dying of cancer."

Funny you should bring that up about associating a song with death. You know that Beatles song that begins with "Just a poor young country boy, Mother Nature's son…"? They played that at 16-year-old Bobby Perry's funeral on a crappy record player a little too loud, and everytime I hear that song I'm taken right back to that moment.

8:31 AM  
Blogger Wordnerd said...

Oh, wow! Music has always done this for me. Let me just name a few.

"Daniel" - Elton John. It constantly played on the jukebox at the pizza restaurant my parents owned. When I hear that song, I immediately smell pepperoni pizza and am transported back to those early high school years.

"Hotel California" - Eagles. Senior year in high school. And all that that implies.

Some of the smells that take me back include Mennen's Baby Magic lotion (my babies! when they were babies!), Ambush cologne by Dana (8th-9th grade -- great times), and, like Mr. Schprock, a box of Crayola crayons, along with old fashioned white paste (Mrs. Brantley's first grade classroom). I still sniff my kids' crayons when they get a new box. Stop it. You know you do too.

8:34 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Of course, the big question is, did you eat the white paste? I never did, but I know some kids who did. And I'm tellin'.

9:39 AM  
Blogger Mrs.T said...

Baby smell, always takes me back to holding Elyssa during the first months...

10:04 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Right! Baby smell! How do babies make themselves smell like that?

10:36 AM  
Blogger magnetbabe said...

"Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer reminds me of being a kid (I was about 5 or 6. I know, I'm still a youngin). My mom had the 45 and listened to it over and over. She would sing with it and dance around the house. She was so young and pretty and all I wanted was to be just like her.

1:44 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

It makes me wonder: by any chance did your mother look like one of the girls in the video? You know, black mini, black hair, and red, red lipstick?

1:55 PM  
Blogger LL said...

5 or 6? Holy schnike!


5:24 PM  
Blogger Claire said...

Schprock, Hope you don't mind but I took the idea and ran with it...the latest post on my blog is what songs you have a hard time listening to because of personal associations.

8:05 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

Mr. Schprock - What a great post this is. Almost all music from my past brings me back, as if my life were actually defined by it. Cover of the Rolling Stone - East Fishkill New York at the La Fonda Del Sol, Friends in Low Places, singing with my buddies at a company Luncheon, Blue Bayou sitting in an empty apartment but for the few things of my own that my step-mother left behind, If I Could Change The World, sitting beside my mother in her last moments, Don't You Forget About Me, Washington State University, When Doves Cry, singing with my little sister in a two-tone green International. Believe me, I could go on.

3:38 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"Schprock, Hope you don't mind but I took the idea and ran with it...the latest post on my blog is what songs you have a hard time listening to because of personal associations."

I'm flattered, Claire. I heading your way now.

Hey, Scott, enjoyed your comment, especially the reference to "East Fishkill New York at the La Fonda Del Sol." That sounds so cool.

7:40 AM  
Blogger Farrago said...

Schprock, I guess I commented to your post on Claire's blog. I wouldn't want to write all that out again, and it would be cheese if I copied and pasted it to yours.

Your in laziness,


2:32 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

No problem — I'll check it out on Claire's.

2:38 PM  

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