Friday, July 30, 2010

Belly up to the bar for a sensory cocktail

Most of us, at least theoretically, would consider ourselves human beings.

And as such, on average, we possess five sensory capabilities—sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. Notice I said, "on average." If my wife were asked which senses I still have a handle on, she would probably reply, "He doesn't hear the voices of family members and he cannot see marinara-encrusted stove tops. But I suppose at his age, sixty percent is decent."

She might also explain that she maintains an above-average sensory arsenal. My wife can triangulate her lie detector GPS at either of our kids with such surgical precision, they actually confess prior to fibbing.

When we speak of the conventional senses—the "fab five" if you will—I'm going to hone them further down into the two which conjure up my most visceral memory and emotion: sound and smell.

For example, even the faintest whiff of grape Bubble Yum instantly transforms me into an angst-filled fourteen-year-old, sitting with friends at Friday night high school football game. When combined with the sound of "How Deep is Your Love," by the Bee Gees, an emotional cocktail is brewed, stirring up the biting agony of rejected love. We'd only been dating for six days, but she stamped on my heart while chomping on that artificially-flavored dental rot.

Okay, I had to take a short break. I'm okay. She didn't deserve me, anyway.

My mind is filled with these emotive combinations:

The smell of fried chicken and "A Boy Named Sue" by Johnny Cash equates to a chubby five-year-old's favorite Sunday dinner at Grandma's.

The blare of a school bus horn, combined with the odors of diesel exhaust and frozen asphalt snaps me back to February 27, 1982, the day my life nearly ended.

A baby who has awoken from a nap coos and babbles as she lies in her crib, chatting with herself or someone only she can see. As I enter her room and approach her, I'm overcome with that irresistible baby smell. It's not any singular aroma of soap or powder or lotion, but another intoxicating memory which is so wonderful, I yearn to again immerse myself in that tiny loaf of goodness.

Some might say that our senses are merely tools we share with all other forms of life, part of our evolutionary armament. To the contrary, I believe they affirm our humanity, which can use a little primer from time to time.

Whether beautiful or horrific, I revel in these sensory snapshots of life.

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