Chin Music’14: Best Summer Smells

12 Aug

Ahh, the smells of summertime.

Smells: that’s a funny word.

Phonetically, it identifies one of moviedom’s most beloved jurists,“ Judge Smails” Caddyshack (‘80): “How ‘bout a Fresca?”).

By definition, it’ll convey two quite different meanings, depending on how it’s used as a part of speech.

Spoken as a noun (‘What is that smell?’), it can act as a warning that trouble is in the air, i.e., “Danger, Will Robinson (Lost in Space ‘67)!”

But used as a verb (‘Honey, I smell something wonderful, what’s cooking?’), it can signal your olfactory sense is taking you to a special place.


Summer serves up a smorgasbord of smells, though, I wouldn’t sell the others seasons short as they too offer-up their own memorable aromas.

In autumn, the best smell (just covering good ones here) has gotta’ be burning leaves.

It’s gotten to be a rarity today with State & local clean air prohibitions that require bagging instead. Some sovereignties, however, are relaxing that rule and again permitting this time-honored tradition of leaf disposal to the enjoyment of noses nearby.

In spring there’s a myriad of buds & blossoms, greenery & grasses competing for your attention. I’d go the subtle route and tab the simple tulip. This flower exudes a very faint aroma but it’s earthy and always speaks to new beginnings.

And in winter, it’s the smell of rain finally in the Southwest desert.


In northern climes there are two smells that stand out: fresh fallen snow, if it’s not -10, wind-blown and pelting the face like 1000 pin-pricks, and then the upward smoke (if you remembered to open the flue) from that crackling fire in your home hearth.

Summers finest: comfort smells

Fresh cut grass

I could do without the by-products that come by-way of the manicure, like the noise that paralyzes the neighborhood from mowers & blowers, and the chemicals & pollutants, but the resultant smell is as American as apple pie, hot dogs and an afternoon Drumstick® from the freezer. Yuuum-ee.


Beach balm

Whether you’re at the beach or in the backyard soaking up the sun, no odor says summer fun like tanning lotion. Coconut seems the flavor of choice in today’s sunscreen where nearly all are now progressively UV protectant (SPF). What’s not progressive and sometimes harder on the glims is the beach-wear trend towards less material (strings) and, apart from the head, completely hairless. But Gillette® couldn’t be happier.

The barbecue

Some love chicken & ribs on the grill. For others it’s steak all the way. I’m partial to the tubular varieties, i.e., hot dogs, brats & kielbasa. But there’s one concoction that, once it hit’s the searing steel grates will miraculously turn into succulent food for the gods and fill the neighborhood with an aroma that even vegans can’t pan: hamburger.


Herb garden

You won’t likely see or smell this plant variety outside your grocer, but Wikipedia defines herbs as plants “used for flavoring, food, medicine or perfume.” My Mom grew herbs and I, at Dad’s urging, pulled more than a few weeds in my youth. I had little appreciation then for their purpose, but in thyme, learned to stop and smell the sage, basil & rosemary.

Burn rubber

At opposite end of the smell spectrum is the engine exhaust that billows-up at raceways around America come summertime Saturday night. Some find heaven in the inhale of an odoriferous lily, others in the switch to ignite, explosion to power, pump to piston, crank of shaft and depress of pedal that produces the roaring aroma of automotive joy.


Fragrant Fido

It’s no easy task giving Rover (or Gato) its bi-yearly bath, but it must be done, especially if fleas make an uninvited visit. Damn. And when the job is completed and Rover shakes & bakes in that summer sun (in-door bath (warm water), keep covered with towel until outside), the smell of clean & fresh will seem well worth the wet & wild experience.

Back-to-school blues?

I loved school, grades 1-8. High school, ahh, that’s where you learned about cliques. Same in professional school. One of my joys was the new gear, in cloths (Sears?) and school supplies we’d get in July in preparation. In the early grades (K – 5) we filled a cardboard box with the essentials: eraser, pencils, maybe a compass, ruler, crayons, sharpener, Elmer’s® glue. “Smells like safety (“Spanish Mike Alvarez,” Reno 911).”

County corn-a-copia

No place is as chock full o’ fragrance as your County fair. From the animal barns, to the cavalcade of concessionaries on popcorn & pretzels, funnel cakes & fajitas, cotton candy & corn-dogs, the County showcase is where your nose gets the blue ribbon workout.

Baseball bouquet

Like the County shindig, the ballpark too will saturate your sniffer with steady stream of smells. It’s the major league stadium that affords widest variety of vapors, though, even there it’s gotten near antiseptic. Like Vegas, the pros are selling a family theme. It means lots o’ flashing lights and hairy mascots w/ big feet. There’s still the old reliable aromas like infield grass, grillers, popcorn & peanuts, beer & soda and new nachos. But health & manners have sadly relegated my earliest park memory to near oblivion: cigar smoke.


Not nearly as exciting but more visceral are the ball field fragrances from your days of youth: leather glove & neatsfoot oil, chalk stripping, field clover and sweet chamomile.

Steven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credits: woman smelling rose / wc.cca / 6.3.8 / D.Sharon.Pruitt; concessions / 6.24.12 / wc.cca / Mataconis; marmot / WA / J.Pang / wc.cca / 7.6.8; sunbath / wc.cca / O.Magnus / 9.2000; Sense of Smell / wc.cca / P.Mercier / 1747; Dinky dog / Mihiri / wc.cca / ‘05; Bora dhe drunjet (wood pile) / 2.12.13 / wc.cca / A.Haliti; supplies – Clorox / 8.18.10 / wc.cca / Elizabeth – Lansing.


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