I remember running around in that big green back yard of the neighbors' - the yard loaded with summertime scenes of grass and dandelions and creeping charlie and a huge, hollowed-out lilac bush that my cousin Steve and I turned into a fort for our six year-old adventures. I remember the scary, crazy man who lived two doors down from the fort - the man who would stand in the alley and stare at you when you walked past...for some reason the most vivid thing I remember about him was his stubbly chin and the bags under his eyes. We always told stories about him chasing other kids with a baseball bat - fueled by the true story of my own brother being chased by the guy; the crazy old man driving his Vespa scooter, swinging the baseball bat and my brother running away from him with the Frisbee that had landed in his yard. Years later I thought about that Vespa scooter and what it might be worth today - a beautiful relic of Quadrophenia and invested with memories too strange to tell.
Thinking back to the yard I see myself in a pair of brown Garanimal trousers - was it the monkey? A brown bear? A badger? Who knows? I ran around and got into all kinds of six year-old mischief in those trousers, I am sure...grass-stains on the knees, mud on the seat, the usual. The unusual was the white lumpy stuff into which I knelt one day while Steve and I were having some imaginary adventure in the big green grassy yard.
Mrs. Vilviotchky had cleaned out her ice-box.
The smell is still with me. I think the stuff was old rice that had some sort of oil in it - well-aged butter or well-aged vegetable shortening - who knows what some freaky old Polish lady was making in her freaky old Polish kitchen? It was rancid smelling, and had a cloying property that settled in my nose and stayed there for some time. I carried it around on my trouser knee for a little while, as well, and I had it on my hand, and like a strange little six year-old kid will do I kept taking a sniff of it...I did this all the way home, distractions and all...until I was able to wash it off and as a little kid will do, I didn't change my trousers - I just wiped the crap off my knee and went back to playing. I ended up touching it again later and the smell was back on my hand again. Walk...sniff...walk...sniff...play around a little bit...sniff...throw the ball for the dog...sniff. What a little weirdo I must have been. Sniff.
Every now and again I smell something kind of like that rancid-y old greasy patch of rice from the freaky old Polish lady's freaky old kitchen that got smeared on my Garanimals. I take a whiff while walking behind the filthy little Chinese restaurant down the street. I inhale as I drive my car over the tracks near that warehouse just south of here. There it is.
I might as well be wearing brown Garanimals. Thank God there is no scary, wacked-out old man with razor stubble and baggy eyes chasing me on his Vespa scooter.