Last week a nasty bug had me in bed for days with severe congestion in my lungs and sinuses, but mostly my brain. My body clock went cuckoo. So I spent most of my waking hours - the wee hours for normal folks - watching Comedy Central and the Hallmark Channel. Nothing like irreverent comedy and old sitcoms to further muddle the mind.
Good thing I had "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" to keep me in the now, a foothold on reality, braced against the enticing Hallmark time machine. Every night after midnight, I wallowed in the '80s with the gang at "Cheers" and friends of "Frasier." A couple of hours later, I was seduced into delicious black and white, politically incorrect but oh so innocent domestic hilarity with "I Love Lucy" - comfort food for my inner child. And every morning the sun came up with "The Golden Girls."
I haven't watched that much TV since I was a kid. My old sitcom friends remain unchanged, but the ads have come a long way, baby. Mixed into the barrage of infomercials for weight loss systems and, uh, male enhancement aids, a couple of commercials caught my attention, mainly because they fit right in with my nightly time travels.
When I heard an obviously Caucasian man proclaiming the virtues of Salonpas, I thought I was dreaming. I hadn't thought about Salonpas in decades; didn't know they still made it. But when I heard that word, the familiar menthol aroma drifted into my foggy head. Salonpas, for the uninitiated (which must include the commercial announcer, because he pronounced it with a short "o" as in the French salon, rather than a long Japanese "oh"), is an over-the-counter pain relief patch, manufactured in Japan since 1934. The product I saw on TV looked different from the Salonpas I remember from the '60s, but it's produced by the same company, Hisamitsu. I wonder if it still smells the same.
When I was a little girl, every family had a box of Salonpas in the bathroom medicine cabinet or on a bedside stand. My grandfather always had a couple of the aromatic white patches on his shoulder and back, as did all of my friends' grandparents. I found the smell intriguing - not exactly pleasant, yet calming, soothing, even. It's a scent I associated with Japanese elders but it smelled best of all on my Oji-chan.
My grandmother, on the other hand, smelled like Pond's cold cream. Even her bedroom carried the delicate fragrance of roses and ice cream. I remember sneaking in there once, dipping a finger into the big white jar and smearing a dollop of the cool, velvety stuff all over my cheeks. And clothes. I did manage to escape without leaving any telltale splotches.
The other commercial that captured my attention was for a brand-new product: DreamLook instant eye lifts. Apparently, DreamLook lifts are skinny little adhesive strips you affix to your upper eyelids for a more wide-eyed look. Scotch-tape eyes, basically. Like the local Japanese girls used to do back in high school. Only we - I mean, they - did it not for droopy lids, but to make "double-eye." The Asian "single-eye" (no crease in the upper lid) is caused by the epicanthal fold. Nowadays, single-eye ladies can make double-eye through surgery. In fact, it's one of the most common cosmetic surgical procedures performed on Asians. We didn't know any of that back then; all we knew was that double-eyes were prettier than single-eyes. So some girls would cut little crescents of clear tape and stick them just above the lashes to form a crease. OK, I admit, I did it too, but just once. The tape made my eyelids itchy, so I went back to drawing the crease on with eyeliner.
I bet those DreamLook eye-openers would work great for double-eye-making. The commercial says they're made with medical-grade adhesive, so they probably don't itch. But despite their incessant hawking, I'm not going to order a set. Even though they promise to send me an entire second set absolutely free if I order right now. Because I've come to terms with my single-eyes. I stopped drawing those silly creases many years ago. I like my Asian eyes the way they are . . . now that I've gotten eyelash extensions. But that's another column.
Now that I'm back to my normal schedule, I kind of miss my late-night sentimental journeys. I think I'll stop at Longs and pick up a box of Salonpas and a jar of Pond's. I may never use either for their intended purposes, but I'll get my money's worth with just one whiff of those comfortably familiar fragrances. Local-style aromatherapy. Come to think of it, I should get some Vicks VapoRub too.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.