Thursday, September 24, 2009

The undying stink of the 60's and 70's

Much of the culture wars of today are a re-hash of what happened during the administrations of J.F.K., L.B.J. and Nixon. Social conservatives hate almost everything from the era.

They hate the women's movement.

They hate environmentalism.

They hate gay pride.

They hate the opposition to the Vietnam war and any war America sees fit to fight. Social conservatives have only had doubts about a few of the stupid wars we got ourselves into over the last fifty years, and those were the ones started and ended by Bill Clinton. They didn't say a peep about the ones started by George W. Bush that he didn't have the sense to know how to end.

Some social conservatives now say they don't hate the civil rights movement, but I was there. They hated it plenty at the time.

And, of course, they hated the hippies.

I was a pre-teen in sleepy old Alameda when the Summer of Love was taking place across the bay in San Francisco. In general, my memories of hippies are fond, with one glaring exception.

I hate patchouli.

Until recently, everyone I ever met who wore patchouli perfume was a flower child or a wannabe.

If you don't know what I am talking about, consider yourself fortunate. Patchouli is the nastiest smell anyone ever put on their own body on purpose. An extract of a plant related to mint, it's like combining the sticky over-sweetness of honey with the acrid sting of paint thinner. The smell lingers in the air like skunk juice does. A professor in the Mills biology department told me that kind of unavoidable smell means the molecules do some kind of bonding with membranes in the nostrils. It's a truly miserable experience.

Yesterday, I was once again inflicted with the cloying stink of patchouli, though there wasn't a hippie in sight. I was on the BART train traveling two stops south of Lake Merritt to the Coliseum station when two middle aged women came on board at Fruitvale. Neither of them had the look of ex-hippies, but one never knows. One of them was wearing patchouli. It wasn't a crowded train, the air circulation system worked fine and the women went for seats in opposite directions of the car. Both of them got seats at least ten or fifteen feet away from me, maybe more. But I could still smell patchouli until I got off the train about four minutes later.

Gentle reader, if you are a user of patchouli, I beg you to stop. Even though the odds are good neither of us will ever smell the other, I consider the readers of this blog to be my friends, and friends don't let friends wear patchouli.

Some fads of the era, most especially patchouli, should remain in the distant past instead of chemically bonding to the olfactory systems of unsuspecting passersby.

Yay, Flags of Many Lands™! Yay, French Guiana!

Someone visited from the capital of the French colony in South America, the city of Cayenne, where I am sure the people are spicy, and hopefully not with patchouli.

I now only need a visitor from Guyana, the former U.K. colony, to complete the set of South American nations.


Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Patchouli, ick.

namastenancy said...

Patchouli, LOL! I bought some in Williamsburg back before there were hippies. I was maybe 12? 13? It was used in their recreations of perfumes used in Colonial America and it was a lot less stinky than the straight patchouli + unwashed that SF's hippies wore. But after I smelled it on one of them, I couldn't stand it any more. But if you ever are curious, find some of the websites where they give recipes for scents and pot-pourri used in the 18th century. Patchouli is a main ingredient.

dguzman said...

I remember when Madonna made that album that was "scented" (stinked? is that a verb?) with patchouli. Gross.

Fran said...

Patchouli is a scent that I do not like either, but it is so powerfully evocative that I am filled with mixed feelings when I encounter it.

It is a reminder of a whole bunch of things, not all of them good and it makes me stop - smell - feel less than good and yet I still stand there.

And yes - it has "dirty filthy hippie" written all over it, but that is not why it is a bad thing!

Ichabod said...

I like the way you started this, from wars to fragrance.

Maybe there is a connection?

Do you think that wars were started by people who took showers everyday against those who have offensive body odors and all the other accusations are just icing on the cake? :)

Matty Boy said...

Obviously, I have struck a nerve with patchouli. Probably a nerve that goes straight from the olfactory to the brain.

Nancy: I've heard that patchouli has been used as the base note in some more subtle fragrances. They must use teeny, tiny, homeopathic dosages of it, because a little goes a long, long way.