Monday, June 28, 2010


I don't smell like anything since Clairol stopped manufacturing that Herbal Essence shampoo several years ago, a glorious product that was allowed to fall by the wayside. It was green and smelled like a pine tree. That was my scent. I walked around for years in an imaginary pine forest of my own creation (with a little help from the folks at Clairol). When they discontinued the product, I ordered the remaining cases from the warehouse, but not long ago, used the last bottle. So now, I'm lost, a man without a scent. Dogs don't even find me interesting, and you know they like to smell everything. I tried carrying pine cones around in my pockets, but the shear bulk was uncomfortable and, really, the look was not very becoming and gave people, like the wise-cracking Carolyn Plank, a chance to say, right in the center check-out aisle of Happy Foods where everyone could hear, "Well, well, looks like you're happy to see everybody!"

I need to smell like something and not that kiwi-bowl-of-fruit stuff they sell now. That's not a good scent for a fellow to have. I tried some of it, and my nickname at The Kildare Bird Club quickly became "Kiwi." It was not meant to be flattering, despite the member's fondness for all things avian, and was perpetuated by Leonard Wurmser, the club's most troublesome birder who has a secret, mocking agenda to unseat me as president. It's taken several months of irregular bathing and uncharacteristic referential swearing to shake the moniker Leonard bestowed upon me.

In my quest for a new smell, I've been taking sniff-samples while out shopping. It's a pretty scrubbed crowd at Happy Foods and the aisles are narrow, making the tests easier and more nonchalant. My technique is simple: very subtly, so no one notices and I don't get brought up on charges, I give a casual sniff of a person's hair while they're reaching for something from the shelves. If the smell seems promising, I'll even offer to help the person reach for the item. So far, I've sampled a wide range of smells, none of which suit me. Here's just a few, and you can see why they are not something acceptable:

-Assorted fruit
-Bubble gum
-Alphabet soup
-All purpose varnish
-Doctor's office
-Caramel corn
-Cologne that was applied with a soup ladle.
-Perfume that left me gasping for air.
-Wet dog
-Bees (this came close, but when I asked the person about their smell, they quickly scurried away without answering).

As a result of my sampling, there appears to be an odor gap in the shampoo arena. So I began a correspondence with Clairol, asking them to put their pine-scented Herbal Essence shampoo back on the market, pointing out that it was not only my smell, but a fragrance that inspired a generation to seek answers, question authority, stop a war, and believe in everything Twiggy. It was the smell-track of our lives. And I generously offered my time to visit their production facilities in order to ensure the smell remained true to its inception. I was honestly making an effort to be helpful and was indeed surprised when their final letter arrived stating that I'm prohibited from getting within 500 feet of any Clairol corporate office or manufacturing facility. And to boot, they're holding all my correspondence as evidence in case of what, I don't know. In my mind, that's no way to conduct public relations, and I told them as much in another letter, again, addressed to Clairol's Feckless Corporate Bigwigs, which should add to my already voluminous file.

In the spirit of all those who have used Herbal Essence as their fragrance of rebellion and who-the-heck-cares fun, my run-in with corporate America has taken a darker turn. A line has been drawn and I've taken this thing to the streets. Not only, just like Cesar Chavez employed with California grapes, do I boycott all Clairol products, but whenever I'm in Walgreens, I turn all the Clairol bottles around so their labels face the back of the shelves. My work is just beginning, as there are many pharmacies on my daily route of recalcitrance, and as I've said to onlookers, while finishing my product-spinning civil disobedience, "That's a pine cone in my pocket, and until this thing is settled, tell Carolyn Plank it speaks for the people." This is not over by a long-shot. The seed of a revolution has been planted.