Funny How Stuff Like That Works


I could feel the warmth upon waking, even smell it, although I suppose it’s not actually the temperature I smelled, but the catalyzed reactions to it: The awakening of the barnyard odors of shit and hay and bovine flesh, the oily-sweetness of the tarpaper stapled to the exterior of the house, one of those nostalgic smells to me, recalling construction crews and in particular, the summer I spent roofing on Martha’s Vineyard for a hard-charging lunatic named Ken. He smoked pot from dawn to dusk, screamed at me with impunity, and made me work sock-footed, so as not to damage the sun-softened asphalt shingles we installed. At 16, I was living a six-hour drive and a ferry ride away from my parents and making $15/hr under the table. I shared a one-bedroom apartment with three friends. I had a motorcycle I’d bought literally out of the weeds that had grown up around it after the previous owner had dumped it and decided not to push his luck. It leaked oil like crazy, but had four cylinders and 750cc and would do 100mph in third gear. I think I gave $500 for it. I had a wealthy girlfriend who was at least as crazyily stoned as my boss and who let me drive the brand new sports car her father had bought her. On Friday afternoons, me and my underage roommates would call for a home delivery of Rolling Rock cases from the local package store; then we’d leave a check taped to the door and hide in the woods so we didn’t get carded. Thinking back, I can’t believe this scheme worked, but it did, over and over and over again.

I hadn’t thought of any of this in years until I smelled that tarpaper this morning. Funny how stuff like that works.






13 thoughts on “Funny How Stuff Like That Works”

  1. oh my, the things we do as teenagers. Myself included. Sometimes i wonder how managed to make it to 25 with my life intact.

  2. Often neglected, our sense of smell can evoke powerful emotions and memories. (WHAT a transformation from the teenage to the 21st-century “Ben!”)

  3. I’ve been reading your words for 5 or so years now and love how I always learn something new. Thanks for sharing your memories. Brings back a few of mine I probably should not mention (to protect the innocent.) 🙂

  4. It was great to read your post this morning. It is so true, and the smell of cut wood and tar from tar paper and shingles (working for my uncle’s carpentry business as a teen) and even cow or pig manure reminds me of my childhood. I didn’t grow up on a farm but I grew up in a rural community in Iowa. It’s amazing and it’s such a great thing how smells trigger happy memories.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s