LARRY PENKAVA COLUMN: The sweet smell of money

Published 12:48 pm Sunday, July 22, 2018

Does anyone give men’s cologne as gifts anymore?
How about ties and the associated tie clips? Or men’s socks — you never have enough socks.

Larry Penkava

I really don’t know what people give as gifts these days. The reason is that my family has shifted from giving things for birthdays and other holidays in favor of slipping Federal Reserve notes of varying denominations into greeting cards.
The implication of a twenty-dollar bill inside a card is, “Go buy what you want.”
That idea is particularly popular with my grandchildren, who would just as soon go out and purchase the video game of their choice rather than tear off wrapping paper to reveal fresh underwear — “Oh wow, just what I was wishing for.”
Today’s birthday parties, after the blowing of candles and slicing of cake, have now become the brief scanning of specialty cards followed by the more intense exercise in adding up the mounting stack of bills — “That makes $120 for the pair of Nike Air Max 270s I’ve been wanting.”
At least there’s not all the packages and wrapping paper to clean up afterwards.
I’m not knocking the practice of giving legal tender rather than actual gifts that the thoughtful giver may have spent time pondering over. Who doesn’t want cash, after all?
But you do lose the fascination in wondering, “What’s in that big box?” Or, “Could that long, slim present be the Daisy Red Ryder pump-action air rifle I’ve been dreaming of?”
For someone my age, it would more likely be a walking stick. But I digress.
I bring up this subject after recalling that a number of years ago I wrote a column saying that I never had to buy cologne because I had received so many bottles as gifts. Apparently, family members reading that column got the hint and stopped giving me musk.
The fact is, I long ago used my last slap of aftershave.
Not that it matters. I had just as soon not announce my entrance into a room by the wafting of eau de toilette that surrounds me like a sickly-sweet haze.
And I sure don’t want to palm off the hint of my scent by shaking hands with some unsuspecting soul who may suffer allergies induced by the olfactory.
But those concerns are well behind me. Unless, of course, gift-giving practices revert back to yesteryear:
“What should we get for the old man’s birthday?”
“Ah, just get him a cheap bottle of smelly. His schnoz ain’t what it used to be so he’ll never know the difference.”
Not that I was ever a connoisseur of fragrance. But I do have the scents of the past.
English Leather and Jade East were the masculine rage when I was in high school. They both had distinctive essences that evoked a Pied Piper effect on the girls. Or, so the ads proclaimed.
Someone once gifted me a bottle of English Leather. It’s the one with the large wooden cap and the smell of a saddle leather softening cream.
It was just one of several bottles of cologne that I had received as gifts over a period of years. I’m sure there was at least one Avon aftershave, sense my mother was an Avon sales lady for 43 years. I remember the bottles, shaped like cars and other such male-related objects, were collector’s items.
At some point, someone gave me a cologne based on the outdoors and had the well-defined smell of conifers. Think Pine-sol.
I regifted that bottle.
I’m not writing this as a notice to my family that I need aftershave. Au contraire, please don’t buy me anything whose objective is to tease the nostrils.
If there’s any teasing to do with my nasal organ, let it emanate from a grill.
Otherwise, you can place my gift into a fat envelope. Card is optional.

Larry Penkava, who has written Now and Then since 1994, can’t remember his last gift tie.