Wednesday, March 29, 2006

SCENTED MEMORY: #6, Kerosene

I'm staying at a friend's house this week, and here in North Osaka, it's still cold enough to warrant the use of heaters. Tricia used to have kerosene heaters and the scent still lingers ever-so-faintly in her home, but because of my past associations with kerosene, I've decided that it's not entirely a bad smell...in fact it's a scented memory that I kinda like.

When I first came to Japan, I lived in a traditional Japanese home that had been built at the turn of the century. Now, to many of you this may conjure romantic images of sliding paper doors, manicured gardens, wooden-beams, old rice mats, and largely, you'd be correct. Before I continue, I should also tell you that this house was owned by a gay man. I figured "old house" plus "gay man" equals "fabulous"...and good lord was I ever wrong.

To learn more about my experiences in what a friend un-lovingly named "ghost house", you'll have to read my novel, but for now, it's enough to continue with the story of how I came to not entirely hate the aroma of kerosene.

Moving on. There was no central heating. Why have that installed when instead your home can smell as if someone's just pumped a tank of gas while you live in fear that at any minute you could explode? To be honest, I was often afraid to light incense or burn candles to mask the aroma, feeling that this open flame or spark could somehow tempt fate. But as it's an inexpensive alternative to electric heating, it's still popular. In fact there's even a kerosene truck that comes around the neighborhood a few times a day blasting an unbelievably annoying yet somehow surprisingly catchy little tune sung by 6 year-olds that sounds like something Mao might have had written expressly for a communist children's parade.

Moving on...yet again. I've found that not only does my disgraceful ex-landlord (disgraceful because I believe a vow for eternal home improvement is now part of the yearly contract we homosexuals sign when renewing our gay cards) use kerosene, but a majority of my friends, both Japanese and foreign, still use it as well. Kerosene accompanied my first Thanksgiving turkey dinner in Japan when a friend lovingly presented me with a frozen $50, 2-pound turkey 45 minutes before dinnertime; it accompanied my nightly Japanese lessons, drunken dinners of dried squid and octopus balls, and learning how to play Hana Fuda (a game I later learned that is popular with Japanese mafia...I know, still, it's nice to have skills); in short, it accompanied some of my favorite moments in Japan.

So, in short, the smell of kerosene on a chilled winter day is now a scented memory of not just the Ghost House, but dear Japan as well. Yes, the pungent fumes are a warm and fond association of my time spent in the Land of the Rising Sun.

What not entirely pleasant scent that reminds you of a special place do YOU love ?

9 comments:

Flora said...

This may be even weirder than kerosene, but I have fond memories of the smell of skunk. I grew up in the country, and sometimes at night it would be wafting on the air when we were out driving in the car. When it was up close it was very pungent, an oily, heavy smell, but in dilution, from a distance, it had a definite attraction. Now, of course, I know that perfume components like civet are just as bad as skunk (or worse) in their original form, but when diluted they add lasting quality to fragrances. I wonder if anyone has ever tried to use skunk essence as a perfume fixative.

I also love the smell of fresh raw gasoline - when I was a kid I used to stick my head out of the car window and breathe it in as the tank was being filled. Maybe that explains a lot about the way I am today. Still waiting for that magic bottle of Tubereuse Criminelle to come my way - if the opening really does smell like gasoline, I say bring it ON!

Rue said...

I have fond memories of "the appartment where our love growed". It was a 2 bedroom second floor flat located in a four-plex 10 minutes west of downtown Toronto and it was absolutely charming except for the aroma of the nearby solid waste treatment plant that permeated the whole neighbourhood depending on which way the wind was blowing.

It was weeks before I learned about the treatment plant. Prior to that I just thought it was the neighbours and their gastro-intestinal problems.

We moved out of that flat when we purchased our first home, a little further west and near the shore of Lake Ontario. Our cute post-war starter bungalow... so many memories. We adopted our puppy that summer. Our daughters were born there, and although we lived across the street from an Italian restaurant, when the wind blew we smelled the stench of pollution and dead fish from the lake.

marlen said...

flora - if you haven't yet, you simply must try SMN Nostalgia! The perfect gasoline opening!

marlen said...

rue - that's a really shitty story!

lol

...sorry...

iMav said...

Hey Marlen!

Let's just leave it to "Tako" and "Ika"...add a Natto side dish and Takuan pickles and I'll be needing another case of Sapporo beer!

Not a culture shock living here in the melting pot of Hawaii, but I've known poor souls reeling from the smell of "Ogo" alone! Glad you're one of those able to live to tell!

Rue said...

marls, your 'gas' triggered the memories.

:D

Rue said...

(disgraceful because I believe a vow for eternal home improvement is now part of the yearly contract we homosexuals sign when renewing our gay cards)

I agree and refuse to accept anything less. No I don't care that it is a stereotypes because stereotypes are basic truths.

unbelievably annoying yet somehow surprisingly catchy little tune sung by 6 year-olds that sounds like something Mao might have had written expressly for a communist children's parade.

ROFLMAO! I actually pictured it and heard it in my mind.

Flora said...

Marlen I have not heard of SMN Nostalgia, but now I am intrigued! Thank you. I will look that up, for sure.

Flora said...

Well, I just went to Basenotes and read your review of Nostalgia along with the other opinions - wow! There really IS a perfume that smells like cars! I was just joking about that the other day - that someone should do a fragrance that smells like new cars and doughnuts if they really want to attract a man. Well, Nostalgia has vanilla in it, which takes care of the baked goods, and as for the rest of it - I can hardly wait to try this! I learn something new every day on this blog. :-)