Monthly Archives: July 2013

What’s That Smell?

About a week ago I was standing on my back deck when I smelled something truly terrible. It was a sweetish odor, and rotten, like a potato that is so old, it has collapsed in on itself. I searched the area around the deck, but a wind wafted the scent away and I forgot about it.

The next day the odor came back. It was even stronger and I became filled with a terrible dread. The longer I stayed outside, my nose in the air like a hunting dog following the scent of a fox, the more I became convinced that one of my neighbors had passed away and was lying undiscovered in his home. I shared this worry with my daughter, Hilary, who looked a little skeptical. After a while, though, she too became concerned about the source of the odor, though not to the same extent as I.

 I was filled with an immediate sense of guilt for not noticing the comings and goings of all the neighbors closest to me. Though blessed with a strong nose, I have no memory for faces. It takes me years to remember people who live only a few doors down. It can be embarrassing when I meet them down town and don’t have a clue who they are, especially when they ask after my family. I’m sure there is a name  for this type of syndrome. If there is, please don’t tell me.

This guilt was intensified by my Catholic upbringing, which I’m deeply grateful for because it grounds me, preventing a sense of over confidence that overtakes people absent minded enough to forget all the bad things that can happen in life. It can be a cross to bear, though, no pun intended. Anyway, back to the dead neighbor.

I probably wouldn’t have been so concerned except that a couple of the neighbors live alone and the smell was just so intense, death undiscovered seemed the only possible answer. What could I do? I didn’t want to walk to the front doors of the potentially deceased, bang on them and then say, ‘Oh, thank God. I thought you were dead.’ Even for me, that’s a bit much. A possible solution came in the form of my next door neighbor. Let’s call him Ralph.

Ralph is widely considered to be an asset to the neighborhood, at least to the members of my household. He is the first, and sometimes only one to check for possible burglars lurking in the back alley, for bears rattling around the garbage cans and for lending a hand with moving things, which is the height of neighborliness. He is also wonderful at reminding absent minded people like me not to forget the pot on the stove, the unwatered plants or the visiting toddler that may be wandering too close to the road. In other words, he is reliable, someone to turn to in a pinch. And this was pinching!

“Ralph!,” I cried. “I smell something terrible and I think one of the neighbors is dead!” Let me pause in the story to add another positive attribute of this helpful man. He is also a writer and, though grounded in reality, has a good imagination and appreciates a melodramatic moment from time to time. He admitted that his sense of smell was not as strong as mine, but began immediately sniffing the air anyway, willing to help me figure it out. We both stood there, he in his yard, me on my deck, our noses in the air, sniffing like a pair of disapproving republicans. He looked a little undecided but in the end, we agreed that  a ‘wait and see’ policy would be best to adopt.

This was a good thing, because later that afternoon I discovered some old meat clinging to the grill of my barbeque, which is situated under a black cover on the hottest part of my deck. If the  odor on the deck was disgusting, it was nothing to the smell that drifted  through the air once I lifted the lid. But what a relief.

Was I embarrassed at having jumped to conclusions? Not at all. Though Ralph had a good laugh at my expense, we both appreciated the opportunity that was almost afforded the both of us at coming to the aid of one in need, even if that one was already dead.

I’m going to use this little lesson, not to reason differently, or perhaps less imaginatively, but as a new impetus for watching my neighbors. I’ll see if I can remember what they look like, and I’ll try to be more like Ralph, to lend a helping hand, or nose, and be there when the people on my street really need me.

Fifty Shades of Cheese

I have a guilty secret that I desperately need to share. When I was twenty-two years old, newly married and living in Carmen, Manitoba, I developed a peculiar addiction. Like most people with a secret life, I was finally found out by none other than my husband. I tried to draw him into my utterly compelling fantasy world, but he wasn’t having any part of it. He said that he had better things to do on a Saturday night than THAT.

Sure, I felt a little humiliated by his words and attitude, but mostly, it was his barely hidden contempt for my secret passion. Still, I couldn’t give it up. The Lawrence Welk Show (LWS)  would continue to be part of my Saturday evening.

Let me explain my fascination with it, dear reader. Because I can picture you right now, a wrinkle in your forehead drawing your eyes closer together as you frown in disbelief. Not Judy, you’re thinking, or possibly gasping aloud. She’s a little eccentric, but not crazy! I’ll plead my case and see if I can win you over.

In the middle seventies, young men still wore  their hair longish, and women too. Perms were coming back into fashion, as were longer skirts. But nothing happening in the current world could explain the 50’s hairstyles or clothing of the men and women on the LWS. They sang folk songs and dumbed down pop music (and that’s saying something) and occasionally introduced a little latin number or two. They had a young black performer who, it appeared, was only allowed to tap dance. There was a Puerto Rican couple who sang together, and a guy who played the accordion every week. The Lennon sisters would harmonize beautifully and Lawrence Welk himself, Mr. Champagne music, would lead the orchestra while lovely ladies and gentlemen in pastel colours waltzed gracefully around the dance floor.

It took me a few weeks to realize that Saturday Night Live did not have an early show on PBS that they used solely for mocking old people.  And still I was charmed. Yes, Dear reader, I am a Lawrence Welk addict. And proud of it.

It’s  the very definition of cheese, possibly the velveeta type. But I’m comfortable with that. I like a wide variety of music, and over the years I’ve sung “This Diamond Ring” with Gerry Lewis, cried to Bobby Goldsboro’s “Honey,” (possibly the sappiest song ever written) and had my thirteen year old heart shredded by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap singing ‘Young Girl.’ Or, as my children like to call it, “The  Perv Song.” They purposefully misunderstand the innocent lyrics.

“Young girl, get out of my mind, my love for you is way out of line, better run girl, your much too young, girl.”

It’s not about THAT, I  said, but they refused to believe me. Help me, Gary Puckett. Because I’m still a big fan of yours, too.

We all have our dark little secrets. Music that we love, but never admit to owning, or television shows that we won’t confess to viewing. I, for instance, wouldn’t be caught dead watching Jersey Shore, because it just makes me sad. But if it floats your boat, go with it. There are many shades and types of cheese out there, and that’s a good thing. Feel free to share your favorite flavour with me.