Smells

Everybody knows that everybody else's house smells different in some form or another. JC's smelled of the dusty downstairs where the TV and the Nintendo were. Simon's smelled of the museum conditions under which he lived. And mine, well, our own homes never have a smell, do they? Everybody else's homes always also have that smell of cooked food mixed in; food, I should add, that always smells better than in my own. All the smells mean something to me. Some smells bring back memories where there aren't even sights or sounds to go along with them. There is only one smell that brings me back the most to the beginning of where the big change began, and it is that of the inside of Glen Hammer's townhouse. It is the smell which means rebellion to me, inside and out. I met Glen at the RecCentre when I was in Grade 7. Simon was there too, and we were all having water fights with this shrimpy freckle-face kid (whom I later discovered was named Todd Curry and was really in Grade 8). The kid was kinda an asshole, but not so much that you could actually hate him; instead, we play fought in the water, dunking each other's heads and splashing each other with lots and lots of water. I even remember jumping off of the big divider above the pool straight onto him. I was still concerned for his health, however. The guy that he was with was named Glen, and I mistook him for a Grade 7, as well. In fact, he was only a couple of months younger than my older brother. But, God, they were little, those two.

Still, Glen was pretty cool, and I knew that he got into much more trouble than I did. In hindsight (which is what all of this is), Glen was my bad influence as Ron Sewell was Greg's. So, I went to Glen's alot in Grade 7, and his place always smelled the same. A combination of faint bathroom freshener, townhouse staleness, and Norwegian cooking (I guess). But who cares about the rest of the place, his room was cool. It was an utter mess, but not with clothing or garbage. It was chock full of the stuff which guys like me loved: old radio bits, video game system parts, electronic shit, records, RC cars, TVs, VCRs, cables, wires, games, Walkie-talkies, k'know, all that. Glen even had a Beta VCR on which we would watch his dad's pornos. He had tons of cool shit with which I would goof around for hours.

So, we'd get into trouble alot (not get into trouble, but make trouble), as he would steal stuff from different places. Surprisingly enough, I never once stole anything with him. With equipment, we'd make tapes of just us doing shit, just our ordinary stuff, dead air lots of times, but the tapes are still cool to listen to. He had a weird way of talking, with strange inflections like "Nih!" "Shah!" "Pu aah uune!" "For Granny!" Don't ask what they mean; they were just fun to say. I became a rebellious little shit in the seventh grade, and it was some of the best fun I've ever had in my life.

Of course, Mom went frantic about Glen, insisting that I never, ever, ever, have him over here, and that I shouldn't hang out with him at all. She said that he was a bad influence on me, and I knew, I was convinced that she was dead wrong. See, mothers and their sons have different definitions, as a matter of course, of what a good or bad influence is. I knew that Glen wasn't ever going to be a bad influence on me. The crazy thing about the generation gap is that parents and their children both know exactly what the kid will be getting into, be it drugs, shoplifting, pyro stuff; the difference is that the kids don't worry about it while the parents do. My mom knew just as well as I what trouble we'd pull off, it's just that she'd call it Glen's bad influence, whereas I called it my own free will.

See, I don't buy any of that "sly juvenile enticing innocent victim" crap, the trap that parents fall into. It all has to do with their stupid blind pride in their jobs as parents. "Oh, my son wouldn't do that kind of trouble; it must be that nasty Hammer boy who was raised, but just barely, by his janitor parents." (Actually, only his dad was a janitor; his mom was a housewife, but let's colour our stories to be the most negatively connotative while we're at it, why don't we?) To think that an eleven year-old boy's mind is devoid of all darkness, all those impulses to do nasty things to animal, vegetable, or mineral, is just blind faith in divine creation. Stupid faith, by any stretch of the imagination. If I were a parent whose son or daughter never committed crimes, never acted in prejudice, never reacted violently to anger, then I would congratulate myself for instilling a value system into my child that successfully deals with the oily black impulses that hits his or her brain in frighteningly rapid succession every single day of their thinking lives. Instead of reeling from the stench of her kid's thought oil, my mom should have been delighted that I'm here today, thinking about such intangible pleasures as the way another friend's house smells.

--Summer 1996


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