Monday, May 12, 2008


the scent of a man (sorta)

Senior year of high school I went on a school-sponsored trip to Italy...Tans and I were travel buddies and spent the whole time checking out museums, checking out stores, and checking out boys. Our group of 20 girls or so stayed in hotels that were rated 3 and 4 stars, which pretty much translated to "crap" in American standards.

One of our hotels (possibly the last one on the trip? I can't remember) was called The Albatross. Being a school full of clever girls, we all laughed at the ominous name, and accompanied it by screeching caws. The rooms were awful: the three twin beds were 2 centimeters apart, the bathroom converted into a shower, and the operator didn't know how to patch through a call from my older brother.

Anyhow, as is the custom in Italy (at least in crappy hotels), breakfast consisted of a roll, butter (possibly some jam, if we were lucky!), and water. The dinner was only marginally better. However...the highlight of every meal was our waiter. I can't remember his name, though I do remember his cute little face quite clearly, since we captured it on film one morning as he served us our meals. He made us look forward to our meals, flirting with all of us. He redeemed The Albatross.

He was cute and all...but what made me and Tans obsessed was how he smelled. He wore this cologne that just SMELLED SO GOOD. It was intoxicating. I don't know if it was a special formula, or the fact that we were on the back-end of the all-girls' high school experience, but we thought it was amazing. On the last day we managed to vault both the language and awkwardness barriers and asked him what he was wearing. He named something that we had never heard of and we wrote the name down diligently.

Tans and I discussed it, and we decided that we'd spend $40 on this cologne, if necessary. We had to have it. We went around to as many parfumeries as possible, asking if they carried it. At a few of them we got wrinkled noses and snooty looks, and were told to check out the Italian equivalent of CVS. We were very surprised. How could something that spelled so good cost so little?

Fast forward to a year later. I was watching TV and a commercial came on for the same cologne/body spray that the waiter wore. The brand had finally, finally made it to the United States. The name? Axe.

I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that we were so obsessed by Axe. You might laugh, but those commercials are no joke, people. It had an effect.

Someone I used to know wore some body wash/cologne that I loved, and when I asked, he wouldn't tell me what it was, calling it his "natural odor." Not really caring what it was, I didn't press, but of course I wondered. Not telling me something makes me want to know it more, you know? So I filed it away.

Today on the Metro I sat next to this older guy who's in town for National Police Week, I think. He was with a few similarly muscular tough-looking old dudes. As I settled in the seat next to him, I smelled a familiar odor. I resisted the strong and almost overwhelming urge to tell him that he smelled like an ex, knowing that I only had one stop before he got off. I only needed to hold off embarrassing myself for one stop. I inwardly debated the merits of keeping my dignity vs. getting down to the bottom of a mystery.

At his stop he stood up and walked closer to his friends. As he passed one who was still sitting down, waiting for the door to open, the guy shouted out, "Hey man, you went a little heavy on the Axe today, huh!" Then all of his friends left.

I guess the shitty stuff still sorta does it for's to the waiter who started it all!

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