The Garden Key Tales by Angela Dolbear

The Garden Key Tales by Angela Dolbear
The Garden Key & Mind Over Madeleine

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Travel: New experiences—even lingering elevator odors—help authors bring their pages to life



I feel extremely blessed to be able to travel. Being an independent author doesn’t leave much of a budget for extracurricular activities such as traveling. So when my well-traveled audio professional husband has accrued enough airline miles, I tag along.

Keeping my writer’s eyes alert to the different sights and sounds of the new places makes for excellent story telling. Oh, even the various smells. 

Okay, so we have to share the world. Most of us must live around other human beings. Most of us have more than a silent volleyball with blood-smear features with whom we must share our space.
So elevators. They are small rooms that seal occupants inside as they ascend and descend to the desired floors. I am consistently amazed by the level of scent that lingers from the past occupant(s).
For example, in the space of one 24-hour period during our week long stay at the Courtyard Marriott in Midtown Manhattan, I encounter three different distinguishing odors. For seven floors. Just me and these pungent aromas. Coping with these copious aromas involves sparking the imagination as to who or what brought them into the elevator.

Number 1:  Heavy cologne and perfume. Not bad. Kind of strong and musky for my taste, but makes me think of a couple all dressed up for a night out in one of the most extraordinary cities in all of America, New York City. Possibly enjoying dinner at an elegant restaurant, or cocktails at a swanky club. I personally do not participate in either of these activities so I use my imagination. Where ever they went, they will smell good doing it and have a good time…hopefully.

Number 2:  Coffee. One of those aromas you know the instant it hits your nose. Oh the lush roasted, heady, beany and warm scent. This coffee far exceeds the standard hotel-issue bags that are stocked in the rooms. I imagine the steaming cups are of an exotic brew, possible from the deli next door to the hotel, where everything is fresh and delicious. The person who carried two cups (because the aroma was so strong) up to their room, perhaps will share this rich warming elixir with their loved one, on this chilly autumn day…hopefully.

Number 3:  Super sweaty body odor. It was Sunday afternoon, on the day of the famous New York City Marathon. I had just finished a morning of some light shopping and lunch, and decided to stow my bag from Sephora in my room, and grab my laptop for a writing session in the beautiful Rose Main Reading Room in the New York Public Library (one of my favorite places in NYC). I stepped into the elevator and was hit with this thick humid and acrid decomposing-ish odor.

My mind flashed to marathon footage I’ve seen of people who stumble and flop across the finish line like rag dolls because their bodies were giving out. While I admire the discipline and physical stamina of people who choose to run marathons, the stench their weary bodies leave behind nearly made me lose my turkey and cranberry sandwich on artisan bread.

In my effort to try to always remain positive, I imagine a victorious runner wrapped in the mylar-like blanket knotted at the neck like a metallic superhero cape, with the shiny metal draped around his/her neck, taking the elevator (what, not the stairs?) to their room to take a long, hot Silkwood-scrubbing-scene shower…hopefully.

Even in light of strange odors, new experiences in a town or region where you don’t live are invaluable. Some place or situation I have experienced somewhere is good fodder for fiction writing, and fills novels with life-like situations. And providing interesting and entertaining writing for my readers is important to me. In my latest novel in progress, the lead protagonist experienced a similar spiritual encounter I had in St. Ludwig’s Church in West Berlin, Germany.

So I find joy in all the challenges that arrive in traveling, even when confronted with the strange and sometimes sickening elevator odors.

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