I have seen the future, and it smells.
It comes not on little cat feet (although who knows, if you've got the money they could probably put it on little cat feet) but on black discs, like 45 rpms, which you put into a special machine (about $20) that looks like the Viewfinder you played with as a kid. It has no movable parts. It makes no sound. It just smells. Coming this fall, the Aroma Disc.
You've heard of Muzak; this is Nozak. Vapor wisps rising into the air and filling the room with smells that, as they say in the Fantasy And Imagery Biz, put you in the mood. (I know the Aroma Disc is a new product, but do you think they manufacture these smells in an ol'factory?) The good people at Charles of the Ritz Group Ltd. call it "The Next Frontier in Home Entertainment," and say, "You play them when you want something to happen."
Like what, you ask.
Here are some of the titles. You tell me what.
Secluded Beach, Passion, Seduction, Holding Hands, Caribbean Holiday, Create The Mood, Candlelight Dinner, Aphrodisiac, Fireplace, Moonlight.
To be fair, there are also Movie Time (smells like buttered popcorn), The Party's Over (black coffee), Christmas Time (pine wreaths), Pin a Colada, After Dinner Mints, Ocean Breeze, Foliage, After The Rain, Creamsicle. A most intriguing smell is Neutral; it has absolutely no smell at all. (Why you should have to pay for that is beyond me, but I'm sure it will be a big hit with the Perrier crowd.) There are 40 different smells ranging from the sublime (A Dozen Roses) to the ridiculous (Shipwrecked). They'll retail for $1.50 per (good for up to 30 roomfuls of smell) to $5 (up to 150 roomfuls). To clean the nasal passages between smells you presumably inhale some sherbet.
If people can get used to the concept of "playing a fragrance," Aroma Discs could become the next big trend of the '80s. And wouldn't that beget interesting family feuds? Consider the conflict between parents wanting to play A Time For Love and children holding out for Creamsicle. Think of the terror parents would feel if their teen-age daughter brings her boyfriend home and asks to borrow the Passion. And one can easily imagine mothers admonishing their youngsters not to smell Movie Time before dinner because it will spoil their appetites.
But before we get carried away here, let's remember that the initial Aroma Disc run is only 40 different sniffs, and as terrif as those whiffs may be, it takes more than 40 scents to clog your vents, it takes more than 40 smells to ring your bells, it takes more than 40 inhales to fill your sails, it takes more than 40 snorts to, well, you get the idea.
They missed some.
And so, in the spirit of that deaf, dumb and blind kid, Tommy, who should have said, "See me, feel me, touch me, smell me," we dedicate the following catalogue of evocative smells to those who really want to put on airs: IRS Audit. (The scent of fear and loathing). Swamp. (For military historians an additional scent, Swamp Fox). Mother-in-law. (Fear and loathing redux). What? Spam Again! (And the complementary scent, Over My Dead Body). Mare's Sweat. (Endorsed by the Euro-American Lounge Lizard And Stallion Society). Times Beach, Mo. (Alternate selections--Rahway at Dusk; Savannah, My Heart Sings). Apres Jai-Alai (Originally titled, Avant-Bowling). Wet Dog in July. (For cat lovers, Long Weekend Litter Box). I-95 Rest Stop. (People will stand in line for this one). Long Island Expressway at 5 P.M. (More fume, less zoom). Marathon. (Pungent sneakers after 26 miles, 385 yards). '57 Chevvy--Back Seat. (Third-rate romance, low-rent rendezvous). Grandma's Lap. (Dentures, hair spray, cleaning fluid). Napalm in the Morning. (From the Robert Duvall "Apocalypse Now" collection). Nostalgia. (Choice of essence of lava lamps, blue suede shoes or CB radios dipped in wine and cheese). Boots and Saddles. (Can be simulcast with Steve Miller albums). Thrill of Victory. (Matched set with Agony of the Feet). Deep Pockets. (Subtle hint of lint). Refrig-Aroma. (Green mold on tuna, side order of three-month beans). Barnyard Epithet. (Nebraska at dawn; heifers on parade). E'au de Hippie. (Equal parts Boone's Farm Apple Wine, stems, seeds, oil of patchouli, hash brownies and cat urine). Boss. (Bruce Springsteen's T-shirt). Moody Blue. (Breathe deep the gathering gloom). Drive-In. (Musk, must and lust). Success. (Cocaine-flavored hundred-dollar bills). 57th and Seventh. (Corned beef and pastrami, no lettuce, no mayo). Tar Beach. (When this old world starts getting you down, and people are just too much for you to face). Bimbo. (Not quite Chanel No. 5, but it's late and who's counting). Osmond Time. (Milk, cookies, no caffeine and Pat Boone's white bucks). Dorfman. (A rare scent inspired by the Pulaski Skyway, but grungy).
Why send a salami to your boy in the army, when you can send him something much more intimate? Can you doubt that soon you will be able to give your love the ultimate in personal reference points, your own smell, to play on an Aroma Disc player? And as everybody knows, you're never really alone when you can plug in a pheromone. Technology is already in place which will allow you--with the proper hard, medium and software--to sit in your house and be engulfed by sight, sound and now smell as you watch a video casette of a movie. Imagine smelling Bo Derek as she runs along the beach in "10," or John Travolta as he bops down the street in "Saturday Night Fever," or, for the less conventionally inclined, The Blob as it, well, blobs, in the movie of the same name. All these smells, and more, are on the horizon. (For that matter the smell of the horizon is on the horizon; it smells vaguely like Chicken McNuggets.)
All this talk of smells, of course, raises the ultimate question: If you're stuck on a desert island, what smell would you want there with you? (Okay, it's not the ultimate question, but it's a lot closer than "Can John Glenn win the Iowa caucuses?")
What's the best smell on Earth?
A recent random sampling came up with mostly food and nature smells (one notable exception was a perverse woman who named Vitalis): Lilac; Garlic saute'ing in butter; Red roses; Fresh-brewed coffee; Wind blowing through the pines after the rain at dawn; Gardenia; Summer air when it turns balmy in the early evening; New-mown grass (urban division); new-mown hay (rural division); Roy Rogers, when the chicken is frying; Ocean spray; Coconut oil; Honeysuckle.
And these are all honorable choices, even if they are all wrong--which they are. Because the best smell on earth was driving on the 59th Street Bridge from Manhattan to Queens at 3 a.m., when the smell from the Silvercup bakery rose into the night air on its way to heaven.
And when they put that on an Aroma Disc is when I'll buy it.