Smells Like Home

As a child, I had this toy slime called “Gak” (80s and 90s, baby). It came in different colors, but my favorite was the white one. It had a certain scent to it… earthy and artificial. Whenever I think of the slime, I remember my room with the stereo system next to the window, equipped with empty cassette tapes ready to record my favorite songs off the radio, boy band posters on the wall and a sense of shame in the back of my head when I ran to the ice cream van at age 12 once the bell chimed in our small town gossipy German street. I watched My Girl several times that summer. Eating ice cream.

The scent of fog also does something with me… Artificial fog. It’s weird and I will try to understand it myself and then explain. In 2012, I visited Universal Studios Hollywood for the first time, and Halloween Horror Nights became my ultimate go-to. It takes place on select nights September through November and employs artificial fog (for dramatic effects in certain areas, obviously). I could stand in the fog for hours and be a happy camper. I believe it’s the sensation of being in a different world, with a (great) hint of danger, but knowing nobody can hurt you. The smell of dampness combined with the sweetness of cotton candy and the distant cloud of grilled burgers is right where you walk from Super Silly Fun Land and Minion Mayhem through little France or the streets of London toward Universal Plaza (yeah, I know the layout in my sleep). The fog is the strongest in those streets… and on the Studio Tour when you’re chased (on foot) through the backlot. Jurassic Park has the same special fog effects, which makes it one of my favorite attractions. Again, being emerged in a world where you get a sense of danger, but with a security that nothing will happen to you, is the ultimate olfactory thrill.

Yankee Candles, Bath and Body Works and all things fall: Once my favorite season rolls around, I’m unstoppable. Home Sweet Home, Autumn wreath, Spiced pumpkin, Cinnamon stick, Marshmallow Pumpkin latte, Salted Caramel Pumpkin, my hairs stand on end, my pupils enlarge, my hands grab a tote and I push old ladies aside with my coupons. I have no control over myself come fall. Basically anything cinnamon, perhaps a hint of vanilla (and sometimes coconut), but cinnamon is always my go-to. If I must analyze this notion, I would say it’s my teenage years and American culture personified. The best Halloween I had was at a sleepover with some of my girl friends in High School, watching scary movies and eating the candy we had just harvested trick-or-treating (although you’re technically not supposed to past the age of what? 10?11?).

For me, everything stands and falls with a smell… attraction in a partner, comfort at a work place, restaurants, cars, my home most of all… and yeah, me. I have no idea what I smell like. That’s for others to judge, but with all the pumpkin and marshmallow and cinnamon and vanilla, I’d say I smell like fall. And adventure… Kidding… Just fall. American fall. At a country home. In October. At night. In the fog. Yeah.


Day 25: Your favorite smell


Why Cinnamon?

The other day, I’ve had it once again. I was going to find a better paid-job, a funny, great, handsome man, and everything would change. I don’t have time to date and a job change was not looking too good either, so I hopped over to the next 7/11 and filled out a lottery ticket. It’s what you do, right?!

I believe everyone needs a 7/11 ritual even with the aforementioned job or person in sight. My ritual contains getting a lottery ticket and a cinnamon coffee with French vanilla creamer (2 shots). This evening, I was particularly upset since they had their whole selection – hazelnut coffee, Colombian coffee, blueberry coffee, decaf (yeah right)- nicely lined up… just no cinnamon. The Latina lady with the store’s iconic visor and T-shirt asked me if she could help me. I seriously doubted it, but gave it a try “Yeah, I’m looking for cinnamon”, “no cinnamon. Only morning”, she responded astutely. Ok. Figures. The guy next to her, a fellow customer, smirked at me, as if I had been upset that a dog had just peed on my Rolls Royce and he witnessed it. “Why cinnamon? That’s something I would never put together… coffee and cinnamon” he added while shaking his head. I’m sure he didn’t even want to strike up a conversation- he was visibly in his own world, stressed out after a long day, maybe he was a driver and had to deal with insubordinate customers all day long. Yet it’s still no reason to mock the cinnamon coffee.

I got to love cinnamon coffee when a friend of mine picked me up from a networking event one night in Culver City. He’s a driver and needs to stay awake in the wee hours sometimes, hence the caffeine. While I watched him as he poured cinnamon coffee into our cups at 7/11 and added vanilla creamer, it felt like a ritual. Rituals make me feel safe – like everything will be alright. With my cinnamon coffee in hand that night, I got into the car, happy that the networking was over (it really isn’t my cup of tea; yes, pun!), and I was comforted.

Today, I decided to let it go and opted for the second option with some kind of flavor (Hazelnut). It wasn’t the same.


I paid for my coffee and my lottery ticket, and made my way over to my loyal little bike that I had just fastened to the meter outside the store. The sun would set in exactly 5 minutes, which is how long it takes me to walk the bike and the coffee safely over to Ocean Blvd. to watch the sun dip into the Pacific.

It was a busy evening on Wilshire Blvd. The homeless were pushing their carts to safety; the druggies just smiled at the world, the normal people drove cars. I didn’t, as you may have noticed from the bike description earlier. I can, but… you know, the job situation.

Then I noticed a man sitting on a fire hydrant. He was holding up a sign made of cardboard that said “coffee”. Not “will work for food” or “ I just want money for booze”, simply“coffee”. I took my headphones out and asked “Really?”, noticing that I had just used the same tone of voice that the 7/11 guy had used on me while he shook his head at my request for cinnamon. Without awaiting the hydrant guy’s answer, I passed him my coffee cup, and walked on over toward the beach.


This is something that the 7/11 guy probably wouldn’t have done. Sometimes, you’re so lost in your own thoughts that other people’s preferences just throw you off. It’s nice to be pulled out of that loop every once in a while, stop for a second, give someone your coffee and call it a day.

That’s why cinnamon!