Weird Candle Fragrances

For the past few years, candles have been all the rage. Yankee Candle is perhaps the most recognizable brand, while others have gradually emerged – many of them sold from the homes of candle party consultants (click HERE for some thoughts on those gatherings).

Perhaps it’s the competition they face by other aggressive candle companies, or maybe their marketers are bored with developing such commonplace aromas as cinnamon stick and floral bouquet, but some of Yankee Candle latest candle scents are downright … strange.

Take their newest fragrance, Whiskers on Kittens. Yes, you read that right. Yankee Candle is basically selling a candle that smells like cat whiskers. Unless, of course, they are haphazardly assigning names in the candle factory with no regard to what the candle really smells like. Maybe Whiskers on Kittens doesn’t smell anything like its name, and really smells like vanilla. Or, perhaps it does smell like its title … which would be, what? Tuna? Cat dander? Litter box?

Whiskers on Kittens

It took me several moments to realize what Yankee Candle was trying to do when I read the name for another candle (that was listed directly under Whiskers on Kittens). Picture Julie Andrews in her nightgown surrounded by a brood of singing children. The candle names are taken from the Sound of Music song “My Favorite Things.” This one was called Warm Woolen Mittens. Your guess is as good as mine. Musty wool? Dusty yarn? Smoke?

Bright Copper Kettles was next in the Yankee Candle catalog. Hmmm. Other than some antiquated plumbing in my basement, I don’t have any copper in my home, so I can’t attest to what a bright copper kettle smells like. The closest thing I have is my tea kettle, which isn’t copper but it used to be bright and is a kettle. I have to be honest here, the inside of my tea kettle doesn’t smell too impressive. What could the fragrance of this Bright Copper Kettle be? A metallic aroma?

Yankee Candle has also developed a line called Man Candles, which supposedly cater to men (because we all know men are secretly envious of women dominating the candle world). While my husband and I think they should have been called “Mandles”, Man Candle scents are equally perplexing. Take the first fragrance: Movie Night. A buttery popcorn smell? Or maybe the smell of beer and nachos?

Man Candles went downhill fast after Movie Night. The next candle for men was called Mmm, Bacon! The idea of burning a candle that has the aroma of bacon could be equated to Chinese torture. Wouldn’t that scent leave you in a state of perpetual hunger? I can think of nothing worse than smelling bacon and not being able to eat it.

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After Mmm, Bacon! was a candle called Man Town. I’m not really sure what a “man town” is, so I would have to guess this candle smells like sweat. And farts. Wait! The Yankee Candle catalog has a scratch and sniff sticker for this candle. It smells like … that popular cologne from the 1990s: Drakkar Noir. (Ironically, “Man Town” smells just like their scent “Over The River”, which leads me to believe Yankee Candle is recycling fragrances.)

First Down was another Man Candle. The picture on this candle jar is a football and turf. Unfortunately, (or perhaps for my sake – fortunately)  First Down did not have a scratch and sniff sticker like Man Town. Therefore, I assume it smells like rubber, or a locker room. Or maybe spilled beer.

The last Man Candle was called Riding Mower. I’m guessing fresh cut grass with a tinge of gasoline? Though, Riding Mower may not smell anything like a riding mower (because, truly, what does a riding mower smell like?). Yankee Candle may have been liberal in their name for this scent, so Riding Mower could smell like pumpkin spice or fresh pine needles.

I commend Yankee Candle in their attempt to remain competitive and use creativity in their fragrances. However, when their products have names fashioned after lawn equipment or the anatomy of a cat, then perhaps staying with traditional scents is best.

The Last Dance

She was a Prima Ballerina during the 1950s – captivating audiences with her grace, precision and artistry. Now, some 50 years later, she walks stiffly on arthritic feet. Her knees are rigid from decades of dancing on stage. Even though ballet was brutal on her joints, her love for the dance is no less. She continues to give ballet lessons out of her home despite her age and diminished mobility.

Her ballet studio is in her family’s 1800 era mansion that was once the height of elegance. Now it shows signs of disrepair and neglect. The cost of maintaining the mansion is too much for an elderly woman on a fixed income. A sign reading “Hillard School of Dance” is leaning to the side, shrouded by overgrown hedges. Decades ago the street was known for its mansions, but now it is known for crime that occurs when night arrives.

There are no fancy recitals at Mrs. Hillard’s School Of Dance. Instead, Mrs. Hillard invites the parents to watch their children perform.  A cassette and record player provide music for the students. We wait patiently for Mrs. Hillard to rewind and fast forward the tapes. Flash photography is strictly prohibited, as are unruly younger siblings.

Class is about to start when Mrs. Hillard turns the front parlor lamp on. Five little girls clad in pink leotards step over the trash littering the sidewalk, and scurry up the front steps of the mansion. Their parents follow closely behind, more concerned with being late than the menacing looking thug approaching. We know Mrs. Hillard demands punctuality and, truth be told, we are all a little intimidated by her. In the winter, we know to close the front door quickly behind us lest warm air escapes. When it is raining out, we mustn’t step off the rugs because our wet shoes could make puddles.

Mrs. Hillard enters the studio and smiles at her ballet students. Her white hair is pulled back into a bun – a pink bow fastened above it. She wears a pink or light blue sweater with black pants. On her feet are ballet flats. Because of her stiff joints, Mrs. Hillard is unable to demonstrate the ballet steps for her students. To compensate, she has two older students show the girls the foot positions and how to pirouette and plie. After class, each little girl curtsies, says, “Thank you teacher,” and Mrs. Hillard hands them a dum dum lollipop. This excites my daughter the most.

“Mommy,” my daughter says on the way home from ballet one Saturday morning, “Ballet is getting boring. It’s not challenging enough. We never learn anything new.”

“I know it’s not very exciting,” I reasoned, “But Mrs. Hillard was a famous ballerina! She is teaching you very important steps.”

My daughter is silent, and I feel a pang of guilt. I would find the ballet class boring too, yet I don’t want her to take lessons anywhere else.

The usual response I hear when people learn we use Mrs. Hillard is, “She’s still alive? How old is she? I took ballet lessons from her when I was a kid and I’m approaching sixty!” I feel an obligation towards Mrs. Hillard. Leaving her class would feel disloyal – like we don’t acknowledge the talented lady she is. Secretly, I wish Mrs. Hillard would retire, releasing us without our having to stop lessons on our own.

After three years of ballet, my daughter qualifies for a level of gymnastics that will involve several hours a week of practice. This is our out from ballet. My daughter does not flinch when I tell her we are no longer continuing ballet lessons.  She seems relieved.

I delay calling Mrs. Hillard, mentally practicing how I will tell her we are leaving. Finally, I pick up the phone, take a deep breath, and dial her number.

“But she’s so talented!” Mrs. Hillard says after I explain my daughter won’t be returning in September.

I apologize profusely. I can hear Mrs. Hillard’s voice waiver ever so slightly.

“I just don’t know what I am going to do,” she continues, “Everyone is leaving. Now I only have four girls left.”

It suddenly dawns on me. Mrs. Hillard doesn’t realize why her classes have not only failed to grow, but are declining. Her love for ballet, her skills in teaching, have not aged. But her body has. Most parents want a younger teacher – one who can still dance herself. Understandably, they want an instructor who teaches more ballet moves than the handful our daughter’s class has learned the past three years. But Mrs. Hillard still sees herself as a New York City Ballet Prima Ballerina.

“I tell everyone about you,” I say.

This is true, and people’s response is never one of interest. It’s not only Mrs. Hillard’s age that is a deterrent, it’s also the location of her studio. People would rather avoid the area altogether.

I apologize more and Mrs. Hillard tells me how my daughter is built for ballet and to please reconsider. I feel torn, but my daughter isn’t interested in ballet anymore. I find I am more concerned about Mrs. Hillard’s feelings than my daughter’s and – as much as I admire and appreciate Mrs. Hillard’s dedication to ballet – I know I can not send my daughter out of guilt. We end the conversation, and I join the rest who have left Mrs. Hillard’s School of Dance.

The Fur Ball

I knew we ‘d arrived at our destination based on the bumper stickers in the parking lot:  My Cat is My Best Friend, Who Rescued Who?, Don’t Buy and Don’t Breed – Adopt a Homeless Pet in Need!

My husband, friend, and I were attending a fundraiser for an animal rights organization. We liked animals, cared about their welfare, and (to be honest) the event was being held in a boutiquey hotel we were curious to visit.

As soon as we entered the lobby, I felt simultaneously overdressed and underdressed. There was a woman wearing a glittery evening gown with pendant diamond earnings swinging from her lobes – her hair was swept into a French twist. Next to her stood a woman in a cable knit sweater, jeans, and Birkenstock sandals.

My husband, friend and I moseyed around the ballroom, surveying the items on display for silent auction while munching on organic crackers and cruelty-free cheese. It was clear meat of any form was not going to be consumed at this gathering.

“Hey look!” I said, nudging my friend so that her wine sloshed in her glass, “You should bid on the massage.”

“Um … that isn’t a massage for a person.  It’s a massage for your dog.”

“Oh.”

We sat at our designated table and proceeded to introduce ourselves to the others already seated.

“I’m Dina,” a woman with red hair said, “I’m a cat whisperer. And I’m gluten free.”

“How interesting!” my husband – always the socially gracious one – said.  Dina beamed.

A dinner of vegan lasagna was served.  (After demanding proof that her lasagna was not only vegan but also gluten free – Dina accepted her plate.) Board members from the organization began their presentation. The organization was desperate for money, and there were simply too many abused and homeless animals for them to help.

Whether it was the slideshow of the abused animals or the cardboard-like consistency of the vegan lasagna – I was having difficulty swallowing.  When a disturbing picture of a malnourished Doberman was flashed on the screen, the speaker paused and began to cry. Several people jumped out of their seats and surrounded her.

“Vera has a very special connection to Dobermans,” one man said, leaning into the microphone so that his voice was muffled.

Vera was led off the stage. Another board member took over for Vera (who was weeping in the corner of the room). As more unsettling images were flashed on the screen, a man sitting at the table behind us shot out of his chair.

“And what about the chickens? And cows?” he yelled, “When you-all buy milk? And eggs? Do you ever give thought to how those animals are treated?”

There was the briefest moment of silence before a round of applause erupted. Apparently, public disturbances are accepted in animal rights organization fundraisers.

The auction began. The first item, a beautifully framed watercolor painting signed by the artist, received no bids and was eventually tossed to the side.

“Next, you have the opportunity for your cat to be on the cover of our organization’s national brochure.  Do we have any bidders?”

Chaos erupted.

“Three hundred dollars!”

“Four hundred dollars!”

“FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS!”

“ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS!”

There was screaming, shouting and tears. Two people began to argue.  At last, a man won the bid for $2,500. He collapsed into his chair, exhausted but smugly triumphant.

After peace was restored, the auctioneer continued.

“How about a weekend away in the mountains? A delightful little cabin. Starting bid at $25.”

Silence. The auctioneer peered around the room before shrugging and picking up the next item, which resembled a miniature lounge chair.

“We have,” the auctioneer boomed into the microphone, “What appears to be a settee for your beloved pet.”

Around us people sprang out of their chairs, hollering and waving their arms over their heads in a frantic attempt to win.

When at last the auction ended, one of the board of directors took the podium as dessert (sandy tasting vegan cupcakes with vegetable shortening icing) was served.

“And now, the moment we have all been waiting for,” he said, “Our special guest: Tiki, the rehabilitated dog! Tiki lived in a shelter where he was rehabilitated and eventually adopted.”

We turned to see a black, Standard Poodle enter the room. Several people slid off their chairs and crawled toward Tiki, reaching out to touch his curly coat. It reminded me of the scene in the Bible where the Lepers reach out to Jesus Christ for healing. People were whistling, coaxing Tiki to come their way.  Tiki seemed more interested in sniffing the dinner tables, but then gave a disgusted snort of disappointment. Apparently, Tiki didn’t care for vegan food either.

“Give Tiki some room!” the president said, “We don’t want to frighten him!”

As if admonished, the people crept back to their chairs – except for one woman who curled into the fetal position at Tiki’s feet. She held her palm up to Tiki in offering. Tiki gave her a bored glance before moving on to the next table.

“Can we go now?” I whispered.

Before the words were out of my mouth, my husband and friend grabbed their jackets and we rushed out of the room. The cold night air felt refreshing and familiar.

“Ya know,” I said as we climbed into my husband’s car, “I’m still really hungry.”

“How about some steak?” my friend suggested.

And we pulled onto the street in search of some cow.

Life’s Unanswered (Little) Questions

Will there ever be a cure for cancer? ___ and ___, why can’t you just get along? How can we stop climate change?

I could toss and turn all night trying to find the answers to these complex problems. But I don’t (mainly because I would never sleep). Instead, I focus on other – albeit, not as important – situations that drive me equally batty, but at least allow me to get some shuteye.

Why do some men spit while in public? Could someone – anyone –  please explain this gross phenomenon. Does a certain percentage of the male population produce more saliva than others? Are they delusional, and think they’re at the dentist? (Suddenly, they hear a voice say, “Rinse!” forcing them to cough up some phlegm and spew it on the sidewalk.)

Another baffling situation is how children are inconsistently cautious. My son and daughter pick through their meals as though they were health inspectors.

“Ewwww! What is that black spot?”

“Pepper. Now eat your dinner.”

“That’s not pepper! It looks like mold.”

“I don’t serve moldy food. It’s pepper. Eat your dinner.”

“Well, if you say so … wait. What’s this? This red dot?”

Yet they will gladly touch anything and everything in a public restroom. When outside, they poke their fingers into suspicious objects without so much of a hesitation. My son has shoved leaves in his mouth quicker than anything given to him for dinner. But food placed in front of them? Bring out the magnifying glass and Petri dishes, please.

What about this whole LOL business? Are people really Laughing Out Loud? If so, I would think everyone would be chuckling and jolly and smiling all of the time. Yet, all one has to do is spend 10.5 seconds in public to see this is certainly not the case. Why can’t there be a more truthful acronym? Such as SAL (Smiling A Little)?

The last issue I ponder is elderly drivers. I know this seems rather cut and dry: they are old and slow, thus they drive slowly. Yet, these slow driving septuagenarians and octogenarians will make the quickest, most reckless turns into oncoming traffic. Are they attempting to make up for lost time since it took them 30 minutes to drive half a mile? “Good heavens! Look at the time! I should hurry!” and she floors the gas pedal, twisting the steering wheel violently to the left.  Oncoming  cars slam on their breaks, blaring their horns as Edna inches painfully into a parking space.

I struggle to find answers to these conundrums as I prepare dinner for my children to dissect. I mull over them, jumping aside as a man spits out of the corner of his mouth, his saliva landing dangerously close to my feet. And I drum my fingers on my steering wheel, pondering these unanswered little questions, while I inch along behind an elderly man who is en route to his internist.

Our Town’s Landmark: A Strip Club

The name of the strip club is Smiles. This is not an establishment where the likes of Elliot Spitzer or Charlie Sheen would visit.  No. Customers of Smiles include men who have names like Billy Bob and Jimmy Lee. Battered, old pickup trucks litter Smiles’ parking lot. The female entertainers (I use this term loosely) are rumored to be missing teeth. In the realm of strip clubs, Smiles could be considered third world; the Calcutta of strip clubs.

Yet, Smiles is a landmark in our town.

“Where exactly is that used bookstore?”

“Know where Smiles is?”

“Well, sure.”

“Okay, the used bookstore is right across the street.”

“Ohhhh. Great. Thanks.”

Several years ago, the plaza where Smiles abides changed ownership. The new landlord renovated the buildings, and several new businesses rented space. While not evicted, Smiles was made less obvious. It is now nestled between a barber shop and nail salon. While the other businesses have their names displayed on stylish signs, Smiles’ rooftop, however, remains bare. A dingy, yellow smiley face plastered on Smile’s storefront window notifies people of its presence. Smiles is akin to the elephant in the room: everyone walks by it and tries to pretend it’s not there.

One afternoon I was driving with my daughter and her friend. We passed the plaza where my husband gets his hair cut, which is the same plaza where Smiles is located.

“See that?” my daughter said, pressing her finger to the window.

“Yeah,” her friend answered.

“My dad goes there a lot.”

I panicked. What if the little girl went home and told her parents that my husband went to Smiles a lot? What would they think of us?

  “The barber shop!” I yelled, “He goes to the barber shop a lot. Every four weeks for a haircut!”

My daughter and her friend exchanged glances before looking at me.

“Well of course he does, Mommy,” my daughter said, clearly puzzled by my outburst. “Why else would he go there?”

I looked in the rearview mirror at the two little girls, their heart shaped faces framed by blonde hair, their little bodies buckled into booster seats. I was overreacting. Of course they wouldn’t know about Smiles. How could they? They were children for heaven’s sake.

But give them a few years and they would know – just like everyone else. I flashed forward 10 years and pictured my daughter on the phone, giving out directions.

“Like, you know where Smiles is? I know! Totally gross, right? My mom says its been around for like for-ever. Yeah, well, like, you drive past that and the used bookstore is on your right …”