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A Smell is Worth a Thousand Words

Updated on January 28, 2018
PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

Justin W. Price, AKA PDXKaraokeGuy, is a freelance writer, blogger, and award-nominated author based out of Juneau, Alaska.

I don't look quite as elegant as my grandfather

It's funny how a smell can bring a memory swarming back.

My grandfather Nelson was ninety one years old when he passed away in September of 2009. An enduring memory that i have of him is of him, sitting in his favorite brown leather recliner in his house in Imperial Beach, California, the most western city in the contiguous United States. After dinner, he would sit and read the newspaper, usually with a running commentary on the state of affairs, smoke from his pearl white pipe and crack open a walnut. Even though I was just a boy, I enjoyed the sweet aroma of pipe tobacco emanating from that pipe. I would sit next to him and he would smile and tell me stories of his exploits Pacific Theatre exploits while pale plumes escaped from his lips.

it's such an enduring memory and sweet reminder of him that, upon his passing, I decided to give up on cigarettes and focus all my tobacco efforts on pipes. I went out and bought a pipe--and have since developed quite a collection of tobacco flavors: Mocha, Whiskey, Vanilla Cavendish, Rum Cured, and Champagne.

A quick tangent: While no tobacco consumption is good for you, if you do desire to smoke, use a pipe. not only do you look much cooler, but you get the same nicotine buzz as a cigarette- and better flavor- without all the gunk build up in your lungs.

Midnight Express

But I had been unable to find the flavor that my grandfather smoked- truth be told, I wasn't sure what I was looking for. That is, until a year or so after his passing.

One day, I was standing on my back deck when I smelled a smell I had not smelled in years- and didn't even know I was missing. My roommate was smoking from his corn cob pipe and I smelled my grandfather. The aroma being emitted from my roommates' pipe was the very same aroma my grandfather used to have when he smoked his pipe.

I was immediately taken back to Imperial Beach, California, two decades ago, watching television as my grandpa puffed away on his guilty pleasure, watching him reach into the gigantic wooden bowl of walnuts and, using a silver nutcracker, to crack them open and eat them between puffs from the pipe.

I asked my roommate what he was smoking. He told me it was a blend called Midnight Express.

I found out that the blend was from a tobacco shop in Portland called Rich's Tobacco. I dropped everything, hopped into my car and my way to Rich's, and then hit up the local grocery store and purchased a bag of walnuts. I went home, sat down in my favorite chair, lit the pipe and cracked open a walnut. For a moment, my grandfather was with me again, on that brown leather recliner, reading the paper and smiling.

Thanks for Reading.

All the content that is published on this site under my profile PDXKaraokeGuy is my property and is protected by all applicable Copyright Laws. No part of my work may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission from me, the publisher/author. For citations, please credit Justin W. Price.

© 2010 Justin W Price


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    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile imageAUTHOR

      Justin W Price 

      7 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Thank you Marwan. I appreciate the comment.

    • marwan asmar profile image

      Marwan Asmar 

      7 years ago from Amman, Jordan

      You are right Justin, associations is constant, you seen one thing, and as you say smell it then it reminds you of something else--alls sets of experiences coming back.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      8 years ago from South Carolina

      Ah yes, smells are definitely entwined in our memory and can so easily transport us back to a specific person, time or place.

      Sorry about your grandfather's passing, but I'm glad you finally found out the name of the pipe tobacco that he used.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, beautiful and interesting.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      8 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Hi Justin, interesting Hub! You are correct about the association of memory and smell. 'Turns out, the area of the brain associated with smell is smack up against the area in charge of long-term memory. Smells will remind us of memories of long ago. Very sweetly written article!

    • breakfastpop profile image


      8 years ago

      Every time I smell a certain perfume that I can't remember, I think of my sixth grade teacher who traumatized all the students!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      8 years ago from California

      Came back for another peek Justin! I am still the Old Spice gal--

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile imageAUTHOR

      Justin W Price 

      8 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      You're welcome, Natash. Thanks for reading!

    • Natashalh profile image


      8 years ago from Hawaii

      Wow, yep! Definitely similar. I think it's really cool you also have a strong smell associstion with your grandfather. Thanks for leading me to your page.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile imageAUTHOR

      Justin W Price 

      9 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Ped, Thanks for reading and commenting. It's nice to be able to have smells to take us back to people and places that we used to know and/or love.

      Kris, cigars are certainly fairly masculine and quite pungent. Pipe tobacco is quite gentle by comparison. Maybe you'd enjoy Hookah, just don't smoke too much :-)

      Fiddleman, I agree. The taste is fantastic and fortunately, my wife likes the smell!

      Kelly, shampoo does that for me as well. I love nostalgia and I love when a smell can provide that!

    • KellyPittman profile image

      Kelly Pittman 

      9 years ago from South Louisiana

      I bought a shampoo that's Rosemary and Mint and the first time I used it, the smell of it was so familiar I was transported back in time to when I was seven years old. Our neighbor had a magnificent garden in her backyard and I would come over and play with her grandkids. To us it was a jungle. An adventure. Amazing how a simple smell of a shampoo (or pipe smoke) can trigger memories like that. Great Hub!!! Voted Up

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I smoked a pipe for a while. It was the smell of the tobacco but the taste did not measure up to the aroma.

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 

      9 years ago from Indiana

      Great trip down memory lane! For me it was my grandfather smoking cigars. After he passed away, my hubby and I visited my grandmother and we all smoked a cigar in his memory (my one an only time at trying one - LOL), loved the smell but not quite the taste:)

    • pedrn44 profile image


      9 years ago from Greenfield, Wisconsin

      Smell is very powerful. I have a few Christmas decorations from my Grandmother's collection that I chose after she died 24 years ago. One is a Santa with a "used to be" white beard. After all this time when I sniff under his beard I can still smell my Grandma's house. Thanks for sharing the memory of your Grandfather:)

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile imageAUTHOR

      Justin W Price 

      9 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Tara, thanks for enjoying creativity! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

    • tarajeyaram profile image


      9 years ago from Wonderland

      My grandfather was a pipe smoker. Your hub is beautiful. "A smell is worth a thousand words" - I agree. Thank you for bringing creativity to HP.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile imageAUTHOR

      Justin W Price 

      9 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Susan, thanks for commenting. Smell is a terribly effective inducer of memory. Nice to see you!

    • sholland10 profile image

      Susan Holland 

      9 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      You are so right - smells do bring back wonderful memories. One of the greatest compliments I got was when my sister came over and told me my house smelled like our grandma's house (flowers and wonderful cooking). I completely understand the connection you have with tobacco to your grandfather. :-)

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile imageAUTHOR

      Justin W Price 

      9 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      mordor, thanks for stopping by. it's hard to argue against the pleasant aroma of the tobacco pipe. have you read my poem "Leaves Black"?

    • m0rd0r profile image

      Stoill Barzakov 

      9 years ago from Sofia, Bulgaria

      I don't smoke anymore (10+ years of temperance) but I still love the smell of a good pipe. Voted up.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile imageAUTHOR

      Justin W Price 

      9 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Till, I have heard that about pipe oil as well. Interesting. I could use a new pipe and Christmas is just around the corner... ;-)

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      9 years ago from New York

      You truly hit nostalgia for so many of us. My Dad was a pipe smoker, cherry tobacco. Every Father's Day, birthday, whatever, I would buy him a pipe.He used to polish his pipes on the side of his nose -- he said the oil from his skin was just enough to keep the pipe shining. Thanks for the memories from a well written hub. Voted up.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile imageAUTHOR

      Justin W Price 

      9 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Cyndi, thanks for stopping by. never heard of peach chewing tobacco. Sounds terrible, but thank you for sharing and I'm glad you were able to relate. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      You made me think of my great aunt, long passed away, and her peach chewing tobacco. I guess it was a common habit for women of her age. Whenever she opened her purse, I would smell the peach chewing tobacco mixed with the aroma of spearmint gum. Quite pleasant. I've never smelled it since her time and I miss it. Thanks for sharing your memory.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile imageAUTHOR

      Justin W Price 

      9 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Lucky Cats, thanks you for the very kind hubs and for the reads. I don't like stuff that's overly wordy (I HATE SHAKESPEARE) so I like to say things in as few words as possible. it forces me to choose the right ones. Thanks for noticing and for saying so. I wrote another HUB about my grandfather called "Happy Birthday Grandpa" if you're interested in checking it out.

      Smell is certainly powerful. Amazingly so, actually. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment on this HUB! It's very appreciated!

    • Lucky Cats profile image


      9 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California have such a wonderful gift of telling sweetly deep stories in a very few words. The images and memories you're sharing with us are so vivid. And, through your description and telling of your feelings; reading your hubs is like being right there with you. If I were a amoker, I would, certainly, join you in your relaxing and memory filled exercise.

      How wonderful it is that your roommate found, my accident, Midnight Express.

      You honor your grandfather with this beautiful hub.

      I'm sure you are aware; the sense of smell is the greatest route to memory, recollection, stiring of feelings and emotions and that 'instantly magical moment' of "ahhhhhhhh."

      Up beautiful Awesome and Interesting.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile imageAUTHOR

      Justin W Price 

      9 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Dah, there aren't too many, especially not in my age group, but it's the "safest" form of smoking, I suppose.

      Audrey- old spice? Interesting. For me, it's the unpleasant odor of moth balls.

      Thank you both for stopping by!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      9 years ago from California

      It is amazing how we can be immediately drawn back into memory by smells---it happened to me the other day--Old Spice ----

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      When I started smoking I started with a pipe.I got an abscessed tooth where I held the pipe and I got away from pipe smoking.I started smoking cigarettes which was not a good thing. I had to quit smoking entirely about 30 years ago.I don't see that many pipe smokers around anymore though.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile imageAUTHOR

      Justin W Price 

      9 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      rab, jha and akune. Thanks for the lovely comments and the reads. Smell, to me, is the most powerful of all the senses. I don't know a lot of the science (read: any) behind it, but I do know scent creates nostalgia more then any other sense. IN fact, Stephen King, after finishing his first drafts, goes back through and adds smell words to his stories because he knows how important it is and how easy it is to ignore. Thanks again for sharing.

      Jha, would u mind linking me to that book?

    • akune profile image


      9 years ago from Surrey, England, United Kingdom

      You spoke for so many people in this hub. The past for me is often stored in smells. I hold the smells along with the images and events they provoke in my memory. A similar smell opens the vault so quickly and I am back there again, in that place. With those dear ones.

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 

      9 years ago from Reno NV

      There is an excellent book about smell called "Jacobson's Organ" which is an attempt to rediscover a part of our anatomy that is mostly ignored.

    • raburcke profile image


      9 years ago from Fuengirola, Málaga, Spain

      Memories of yesteryear of things that we hold dear. Beautiful hub!

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile imageAUTHOR

      Justin W Price 

      9 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      oh, i do my best. Thanks again!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      9 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Enjoy and appreciate your folks while you are able to and as often as possible:)

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile imageAUTHOR

      Justin W Price 

      9 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      fortunatley, both my parents are living. I wonder what will remind me of them when they pass. I think I know, but sometimes life (and death) surprizes you.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      9 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I agree! Every time I smell a cigar I think of my dad! Flowers of any kind remind me of my mom! Thanks for the memory! :))

    • profile image

      jami l. pereira 

      9 years ago

      AWESOMELY BEAUTIFUL Voted as such , thanks for the read:)

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile imageAUTHOR

      Justin W Price 

      10 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      it's a local blend called Midnight Express made by Rich's Tobacco Shop in Portland, Oregon

    • profile image

      amir from malaysia 

      10 years ago

      bro, do you mind sharing with me the tobacco brand?

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      U made me nostalgic for my own grandfather as well, who was also fond of his pipe. such an angel, that grumpy little old irishman was:)

      nice of you to honor yours in this way and keep his memory alive


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