Olfactory time machine.

Spending the night in Kirkland in preparation for a day at corporate tomorrow.   It would have been nice to come over early and hang out with friends today, but I got stuck at the office (as usual).

After checking in at the front desk, I moved the truck set out to find my room.  Walking down the hall I was struck by an odd familiarity.  Odd because I’ve never been here before.  Closing my eyes for a moment, I try to isolate what this familiarity is.  All at once it hits me:  I’m sitting  in my dad’s basement reading a Garfield book.  It’s 1980-something.  I can smell the sawdust from dad’s woodworking tools mingling with the oil and exhaust of the garage.  Everything is underlined by a smell of cigarette smoke, but not overpowered by it.  I can see the pool table in front of me, and smell the wrapping paper from “Santa’s workshop.”  I can hear my evil stepsister playing her Annie record for the 500th time, and even remember playing with a GI Joe toy, which was the last thing Grandma Douglas got me before she passed (she never had the chance to give it to me.  Dad found it in her closet with my name on it).  I know that Cindy is around somewhere, probably listening to a crappy Air Supply mixtape recorded off the radio.  Later we’ll probably all go ride our bikes down to the gas station and I’ll buy some Garbage Pail Kids cards.  There follows a period of memory-hopping; Air Supply leads to a christmas in Nanimo, with Cindy playing that damn tape on a loop all night, which leads to a Christmas in Oroville that we all got up at 3am and opened all our presents, which leads to the house at Deep Bay.  All of this passes in less then a minute.

Then I walk in my hotel room and it’s gone.  No Star Wars sheets and bunk bed.  The 1980’s are replaced with the sterile, institutional-clean bleached smell that only hotel bedding seems to have.  I’m left with odd shadows of memories.  Odd because I haven’t thought about this stuff in what feels like 100 years.  Now I lay here hours later, and my mind is stuck in decades ago.

It’s like clicking through a bunch of Wikipedia links, and opening other pages on each article you read.  Going from looking up the chemical makeup of a blue highlighter to Icelandic fishing traditions to mating ritual of a tibetan monk (which is nothing like that of the Catholic priest).

Memories like these that have the power to make you feel coldly alone, yet warmly comforted and consoled.  It’s an odd form of ADD, and I imagine it’s a weak precursor to a geezer’s full blown “remember when” episode.  I could deal with that, I think.  The brain tends to erase the bad stuff, and leave you with a white-washed, user friendly version of events passed, and that’s just fine with me.

Now it’s 2010, and I can hop on iTunes & buy a couple Air Supply songs.  I can browse through extensive websites about Garbage Pail Kids & GI Joes…  Hell, I could probably even find some Star Wars sheets on eBay (ones without Jar Jar, thank you very much). But Even though you can buy all the stuff, you can’t buy back the time.  And that’s what makes the memories so valuable.