Beatin’ Them Wintertime Blues.

Look, I don’t just like wintertime:  I LOVE it.  I really do.  The brisk air, the clothes that cover my fat, the snow…it’s all really awesome.  It is.  But here’s the thing:  for the last nine years I’ve lived in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and our winters can be trying.  I know, I know, there are worse places.  A friend of mine hails from Fort McMurray, Alberta.  It starts snowing there in goddam SEPTEMBER.  In my defense I’ll point out that for the three years before living in Da Fort (as it is sometimes called) I lived in New Bern, North Carolina.  Carolina ain’t Florida or Hawaii, but one story sticks with me about my time in NC.  My lovely wife Heidi and I were at the gym, using side-by-side treadmills or something, watching the television.  The local news was reporting that there was a two-hour school delay the following morning…for snow.  The thing is, and this is what caused Heidi and myself to look at each other and giggle at these poor Carolinians in raw, Midwestern condescension was that NOT A SINGLE FLAKE HAD FALLEN.  They were delaying school over a forecast…FORECAST…two inches of snow.  Possibly.  We guffawed until a friend native to the area remarked that they literally had no salt trucks in the county and probably no more than a handful of snowplows in the entire state. It made sense.  Indiana does not post hurricane evacuation routes, and I’ll bet most people in New Mexico don’t carry flood insurance, so…yeah.

My Sweet Baby.  On a boat.  In the Caribbean. I feel better now.

My Sweet Baby. On a boat. In the Caribbean. I feel better now.

The point of this whole intro is to underscore how different the snowy tundra of Northern Indiana is to the mild barely-frost-covered winters of North Carolina.  And while I was very grateful for the prospect of a White Christmas again, I’m afraid that this winter has been harder than most to bear, probably because it’s been so damn mild.  “Wait…WHAT?” you ask, all perplexed by my contradictory statement.  It’s true.  A few weeks ago it was 60 degrees in Ft. Wayne.  I’ve used my snowblower maybe twice this season.  There wasn’t any hockey for the first half.  It just hasn’t felt like winter, and the motto I like shouting at my friends and family is “shit or get off the pot,” usually yelled as I sit reading on the toilet, not actually defecating.  (Makes your legs fall asleep, so it does.)  So I’m ready for this “season” to be over.  No snow?  Fine, then.  Turn up the sunshine, baby.  Break out the shorts.  And if that ain’t happening just yet (fuck you, Punxsutawney Phil!  YOU LIED TO ME!!) then allow me to offer these tips for getting through the mid-winter hump.  They work.  Trust me.

Video Therapy

This encompasses all manner of stimuli.  The go-to, easy method is to browse Netflix for shows and movies that are set in a warmer, preferably tropical, location.  This winter the wife and I have begun watching Burn Notice, and love it.  Not just because the characters and story are fun and smart (and Bruce Campbell.  ‘Nuff said, baby) but because all the transitions/cutscenes are footage of Miami.  People on Wave Runners, beach umbrellas to the horizon, and tons of eye-candy.  I mean, they oughtta call it “Butt Notice,” amirite? And for the ladies, well…Michael Westen is often shirtless.  But I’d also recommend “Point Break” or “The Endless Summer” along with episodes of BAywatch or even that one show where Hulk Hogan had a powerboat.  But don’t stop with the TV and movies.  I have played the holy hell out of “Far Cry 3” not only because it’s fun and immersive, but let’s face it…you’re on a tropical island that could be anywhere between Hawaii and Papua New Guinea.  Gorgeous, and you can imagine you’re actually swimming in warm azure waters (while trying not to get shot.)

Hi, ladies!  Want some yogurt?

Hi, ladies! Want some yogurt?

Audio Therapy

This is easy.  Got some Bob Marley on your iPod or Pandora channel?  Crank that shit up, mon.  Now, personally, I try to avoid this when it is the absolute dead of winter with the sun going down at 4:30 in the afternoon and a foot of snow on the ground.  When I do chance it,  I hear a voice made of cold, frozen tears tell me “Your magic will not work here.”  There definitely has to be a proper setting.  Daytime, perhaps.  Or when the first snowmelt begins.  Then, the music is a catalyst.  It’s a power-up of epic proportions.  And if there’s an unusually mild and sunny day, one where you briefly consider cracking the window on your ride, and you just happen to throw on anything by Sublime or Jimmy Buffett, then no power in the ‘Verse can stop you.  Feels good, man.  Let it flow.

Of course, listening to Marley or Sublime sometimes makes me want to, uh...what were we talking about?

Of course, listening to Marley or Sublime sometimes makes me want to, uh…what were we talking about?

Aroma Therapy

Perhaps the most powerful of these methods is the one most closely connected to memory.  Scent.  Smells. Aroma.  A long time ago, I even blogged about how powerful your olfactory senses are and how a whiff of perfume can send you right back to the night you lost your virginity, or how sniffing a roll of cloth tape can transport you to the hockey locker room.  For me, the smell of a bar of surf wax is magical.  It is EVERYTHING that I love about the beach.  Likewise, when I go by the Yankee Candle display and smell their line of summer/tropical candles..holy shit. Makes me wanna cry.  Coconut?  Coconut/Lime?  Beach Walk?  Seaside Resort? Surf’s Up?  Coral Sand?  Tropical Mango?  Coconut and Lime?  GAAAAAAAHHHH!!! Even the old-school, simply named “Ocean Water” makes me swoon. And in fairness, there’s not much better during the month of December than all the spice/mint/pine/cookie/pumpkin/hearth fire scents.  But after, oh, let’s say January tenth, THAT SHIT HAS GOT TO GO!!!  SO LONG, CRANBERRY CHUTNEY!!  HELLO, BEACH PARTY!!  There’s one more bit of therapy I have for you, and it’s not really a good idea, but I’m throwing it out there anyway.  We’re all adults here, right?  So let’s just get this elephant out of the room already…
Like actual summertime, many Yankee Candles apparently smell like booze.  Awesome!

Like actual summertime, many Yankee Candles apparently smell like booze. Awesome!

Tanning Therapy

I might as well call this “cancer therapy.”  You know this, right?  You know that there’s a decent chance that not only is your skin going to dry up like a stale pork rind, but you stand a better-than-average chance of melanomas and other potentially hazardous/deadly health concerns, right?  We’re clear on this?  Okay.  Okay, I thought so.  Just wanted to make sure.  But here’s the dirty little secret: sometimes that ultraviolet light is good for you.  Or at least “not so goddam terrible for you.”  Quick story: I worked the overnight shift at 103GBF, a radio station in Evansville, Indiana for about a year or so.  It was dark when I got home around 6:30 every morning.  I wouldn’t leave the house until at least three in the afternoon, meaning that in the winter months I had maybe…maybe…two hours of sunlight.  I fought depression.  I felt like a vampire.  And then someone mentioned the “Light Therapy” that doctors have recommended for people in places like Alaska or Siberia that are affected by the appropriately-named SADs.  Seasonal Affective Disorder.  It’s a real thing, and part of the treatment is basically putting your head under an ultraviolet light, tricking your brain into believing that it’s being bathed in lovely sunshine and kicking in some seratonin or whatever and making the “blahs” go away.  Another friend in the conversation mentioned “sounds like a tanning bed for your head!” And BINGO!!  GREAT IDEA TIME!!  I booked myself a couple of sessions in the ol’ cancer closet at a local gym and…now, bear with me here…I felt 100% better after one session.  It was sort of a revelation.  I’m also willing to consider that maybe the “treatment” was all placebo:  I thought I would feel better, so I did!  Whatever.  It’s like people with colitis learning that nicotine can help keep their symptoms at bay and then have to wrestle with the idea of either smoking cigarettes or spending a fortune on (and becoming addicted to) nicotine gum.  Not an easy choice.  Another motto I love to scream out at passers-by is “Everything in moderation.”  A glass of wine a day is beneficial.  A box of Franzia is not.  I’ve read articles about how kids today are vitamin-D deficient because over-protective parents slather 100-SPF sunblock all over their kids.  As a result, NONE of the sun’s rays penetrate, resulting in deficiency.  Like Ramirez sang to Connor MacLeod, B-A-L-A-N-C-E.
But aren't seals already sort of, um...brown?

But aren’t seals already sort of, um…brown?

That being said, I think we’ve had enough of you, Winter.  Thanks for coming by.  Four months is plenty.  Buh-bye.  Good seeing you, old friend.  Don’t forget your hat. (Of course, everyone is invited back to check out my forthcoming blog entitled “Jesus, Summer…Why You SO HOT?!?” to be published sometime in July.  Balance.)

Ooo, That Smell…

Mmmmm!  Cookies!

There aren’t really any cookies, mind you.  It was a trick.  A ruse.  I wanted you to start imagining fresh-baked cookies.  Sugar cookies, chocolate chip…those peanut butter ones that mom used to kind of press down on with a fork to make the crisscross hashmarks…doesn’t matter.  Because odds are you did think of cookies and there’s a chance that you thought of specific cookies.  That’s because the sense of smell is one powerful motherfucker and we totally take it for granted.  Also, smart people claim that it’s the sense most keenly tied to memory.  That girl you fell for that one crazy spring break?  You know her smell.  And it’s not just perfume and hair conditioning cream and fabric softener…it’s the sum of all of that and more.  It works the other way, too…that bitch from accounting that thought Obsession was the greatest fragrance EVAH?!?!  ERMAHGERD!!  You know, the one who you could literally smell as she got out of her car in the goddam parking lot?!  Yeah.  Now, no matter who’s wearing that particular perfume, you somehow know upon meeting them that you hate them a little bit.

Unless they look like this. I mean, c’mon…it’s just horrible, eye-burning, nostril-scorching perfume, right?

It works for things, too.  Things like tequila. You have a bottle of it, puke your guts out, and then the next time you’re out someone offers you a shot and you respond with (all together now!) “Dude, no.  I can’t even SMELL that stuff without puking.”    See, it’s science!  Your body has conditioned itself to avoid certain harmful substances, and tequila is certainly a harmful substance.  You’ll smell it before you taste it or even see it, because your sniffer works pretty damn good despite being less important now than it was six million years ago.  Good job, nostrils!

So here, then, are some of my FAVORITE smells.  Good ones.  Happy ones.  Scents that take me immediately to a happy place.  Like the beach, for example…

Surf Wax

Specifically, Sticky Bumps original surf wax.  Sure, Sex Wax is the one everyone talks about because the 80’s.  But this is the stuff, along with the occasional Mrs. Palmer’s, that made it onto my deck all the time, especially on the longboard.  The way it bumped up (hence the name) without having to go over it again and again was, well…magic.  But the SMELL!!  Imagine a tropical drink that featured coconut, vanilla, and blueberries.  Imagine your truck being filled with that awesomeness on the way to the beach, and then on you after laying on it and rubbing against it all day.  Wow, I just turned myself on a little bit.  Awesome.  I had some friends send me a few bars of this stuff a year or so ago even though I am currently land-locked with NO chance of surf.  But when I want to take a break and hit the beach, I take a good long pull off o’ one of these babies and I’m instantly there, even if only for a moment. 

Seriously, these stickers and that ‘Oakley Thermonuclear Protection’ shit…everywhere. The 80’s kinda sucked.

On the other end of the spectrum…

Ice Rink

This is one of those “greater than the sum of its parts” deals.  Yes, the actual ice itself is amazing.  Remember Doug Dorsey smelling the ice in The Cutting Edge?  That shit is legit, yo.  But it’s more than that for me.  The mouldy foam flooring, the hockey pucks…a new roll of hockey tape…the slightly sickening burning smell of someone heating up their stick blade along with the singed smell of the glue as it pops free…beer…all of it.  Any hockey player knows how comforting it is to get to a new rink in a new town and instantly know you’re at peace as soon as you walk in.  It’s a little like heaven.

These, however, smell HORRIBLE.

Patchouli (Yes, Patchouli) and Leather

I know.  Trust me, I know.  Hippies have ruined this for sooooo many people.  That’s because hippies don’t know that you’re only supposed to put a tiny pinpoint of this stuff on each wrist then rub them together.  That’s it.  That’s plenty. Those dirty bastards ladle it on by the gallon.  When so applied, it smells much like I imagine the Devil’s asshole must.  Horrible.  However, when I was a lad, it was the general scent of the counter-culture.  You’d smell it at punk shows, at Lollapalooza, the cool alternative bookstore (COUGH! The Abyss COUGH!) and so on.  The cool thing is, we all wore the standard Ramones-issue black leather motorcycle jacket.  Now, leather smells really good, especially new black leather.  Add just a hint of that hippie-juice and marinate for a few shows and smell your jackets wrist-holes.  Holy Mary, but that shit’s good.  It also happens to be the perfect example of how two different cultures can compliment each other in the right proportions.  But seriously, fuck you, hippies.

I seriously had to scour Google images to find a stock photo of a hippie and a punk together. Now to crop out the confused sick boy…

Murray’s Pomade

Let’s just address the elephant in the room right now.  This smells like black folks.  It does.  I’ve always loved this baby-powder-meets-honey-and-vanilla scent, but until I got older and started actually using it, I was just always envious of black folks and how good most of them smelled.  (Like any of us need to be any MORE envious of the fact that our Nubian brothers and sisters will ALWAYS be cooler than white folks, Iggy Pop and Henry Rollins excluded.)  But man, I don’t care if I’m using this stuff on short hair to mess it up (like white folks do) or part or pomp it up (like white folks used to do) I love the smell.  No lie, I’ll sometimes open the orange tin (a lifetime supply!) and get a big whiff of it to carry me through the day.  There are other great-smelling hair care products…Dax Wave-n-Groom smells a bit like Murray’s, and if you add a topcoat of Tres Flores Brilliantine, you get a sublime mish-mash of powdery, waxy, wonderful-smelling awesomeness.  Good God, I want to eat my own hair now.  It’s that fucking good.  I’m waiting on a response from Jan Hella over at The Rebel Rouser to hear what his favorite pomade scent is.  If Murray’s doesn’t finish in the top-three, I’ll be sorely disappointed.

Ladies and gentlemen, something most of us will never see: the bottom of a tin of Murray’s. It’s…it’s beautiful…