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Cotton candy and my sweet memories

About as random of a post as you’re likely to get from me, but I’m a sucker for a memory.

I should clarify that. At 42, my short-term memory is terrible. Ask me what I had for breakfast? Ok, that’s easy, because it was coffee. But ask me what I had for dinner last night and I’m all “uhhhhhh … Thai?” My long-term memory, however, is pretty amazing. I screw up every now and then on a detail or two, but in general I’m amazed at the things I remember.

Like when I wrote about my grandfather and I getting doughnuts on the boardwalk in Coney Island when I was 4 years old. (You can read more about that here) https://scottkleinberg.com/doughnuts/ — Or specific memories from high school of being on the phone with a certain friend listening to Kasey Kasem count down the weekly top 40 and staying quiet for that certain friend when she said “Shhhhhh, that’s my jam!”

Yesterday when I left the Chicago Tribune and stepped outside onto busy Michigan Avenue, everything was the same except something was different. The smell. There are all kinds of smells here and some are much more pleasant than others. I’m happy to say that this smell was extremely pleasant.

cotton-candyCotton candy.

But the memory it stirred wasn’t just any cotton candy, it was cotton candy at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J., at the center court by the entrance/exits. I’ve never been to Six Flags Great America just north of Chicago, so I’m not sure if this is a thing or not, but when I was a kid and teenager, the smell of cotton candy at that particular location in the park was magical. It’s very hard to describe in words, but for some reason cotton candy there smelled totally different than cotton candy at any other stand. It was cloyingly sweet and mixed well with the smell of funnel cake. As someone who grew up at the shore (Coney Island and then New Jersey) I have many memories of many wonderful smells from doughnuts to French Fries to salt water taffy to hot dogs.

But this cotton candy was unique.

… and other sweet smells

Going on a tangent here, but memory of this smell reminds me of another memory where my parents would bring home these things called marshmallow cherry bars from Alexander’s, an old department store chain from New York City. It was like any Macy’s or JcPenney’s, but they had a candy department in the front with homemade candy and they always brought home this bar. It was cloaked in dark chocolate, had a layer of marshmallow and a layer of this cherry gelatin stuff that was so good. After that chain went out of business, I was never able to find anything like it again. But I do remember being at Alexander’s with my mother at like age 8 and walking to the car in the parking lot and being stung in the palm of my hand by a bee – that was my first and only bee sting. (knock on wood, knock on wood).

Ok, back to Six Flags … It wasn’t like I had to eat this cotton candy all the time. I just always wanted to take a deep breath and suck in as much sugar air as my lungs would allow.

Six Flags lost a lot of love with me later on after working there for a few years during high school. Let’s just say that aside from a few good memories, it was no longer my favorite place. But the memory of that cotton candy smell clearly never left because when I walked out onto Michigan Avenue and noticed it, I basically just stood in the middle of the sidewalk and took one of those giant deep breaths to suck in as much sugar air as my now-adult lungs would allow. I did pretty well.

I didn’t track it down any further, because the smell is really all the mattered. But there’s a candy store next door to Tribune Tower that had to be source. That or someone was wearing super strong cotton candy perfume and I really hope it wasn’t that. Because that would just be weird. You know, weirder than some guy standing in the middle of one of the most crowded streets in the world taking a deep breath with his eyes closed.

See? Memories. I love talking about them. And apparently smelling them.

What about you? Do you have memories like that? Better yet, do you have any idea where I could get some of those marshmallow cherry bars? Because if you do, I’ll hug you.

Otherwise, share your memories – smelly ones or otherwise – in the comments. Or on Twitter. Or on Facebook.

About Scott Kleinberg

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  1. Was the cotton candy smell from that candy store, Candyality, in the ol’ WGN space?