It has been said that our strongest connection to memories is our sense of smell. A smell that hasn't changed in at least 34 years is that of a K-Mart store. Anyone born in the 80's and even early 90's will have at the very least a vague recollection of K-Mart stores, Blue Light Specials, Joe Boxer, and an almost dizzying amount of promotional signage. Today I visited K-Mart store #9808 in Hamilton, Montana.
As I pulled in to the parking lot the store offered a glimpse of what used to be, cracked asphalt leading up to the traditional big red K and little blue m-a-r-t, sandwiched between two beautiful green ridged awnings. To the left of the entrance was an off-putting "Boso" the Clown coin-operated ride behind a wall of seasonal foliage. To the right of the entrance were brightly colored kayaks and kelly green turtle kiddie pools, complete with shell covers.
Upon entering this K-Mart I was brought back to the one from my hometown (which sadly no longer exists) and it hit me with that all familiar K-Mart smell as if they had bottled and sold it in the health and beauty section. The faint sounds of muzak were pumped through the PA system as though they were being played live in a stadium miles away, but if you focused on their sounds you could hear them as if you were in the front row.
Walking through the store I was filled with such a rush of nostalgia that I didn't pick up on any of the music until I had almost reached the back of the store, and that is when I heard it; the Neutron Dance by the Pointer Sisters. Made famous by the Beverly Hills Cop Soundtrack, which in-turn was made famous by Harold Faltermeyer's lead synthesizer score track, this song had me humming the lyrics and feeling outside of myself as I aimlessly shopped and tapped my foot to the beat.
The back of the store is where I ended up ,and more importantly wanted to be; the toys section. I expected to find a large portion of them to be toys that I've never heard of or maybe a few nostalgic cash grabs, and that's exactly what I found. After perusing the section and finding some interesting things, such as a comically large sticky hand, and some randomized Rugrats and Ren & Stimpy figures, I saw what I never knew I had to have; MadBalls. MadBalls was a toy released in the mid-80's that was a ball consisting of rubber and/or foam. Each ball was a face of a different "gross" character. I don't recall any exact MadBalls characters from that time period, but I knew I had to have one.
I was not leaving this unicorn K-Mart in late 2018 without one. Swine Sucker seemed too offensive to pigs, Lock Lips didn't make any damn sense, and Buzz Off was an insect; gross. The one at the front of the pack was my pick, Bruise Brother. A fucked up eye, missing tooth, and dope shades, my kind of dude. Somehow these fuckers were on clearance, only $7.50 of my hard earned dollars for this beauty, I'll take it!
As I was passing what appeared to be a makeshift jewelry section I couldn't help but notice a flickering light within a glass display. It was a perfect representation of the past and present. It was at this time that I noticed Hall and Oates Out of Touch playing over the PA. The lyrics couldn't have expressed that moment any better:
And times that are broken can often be one again
We're soul alone
And soul really matters to me
Take a look around
You're out of touch
I'm out of time
As we made our way to the front of the store, Kate found a piece of nostalgia herself, a Lipsmackers Bubble Gum chapstick. The smell triggered intense memories for her and gave me vague recollections of grade school girlfriends' past.
Maybe it was K-Mart, maybe it was the video rental store that we visited just prior, or maybe it was my first viewing of Chopping Mall earlier that day, but this was a very special day, and one that I won't soon forget. Nostalgia is a mixed bag, but today it hit me in just the right way and I can't thank it enough for that.
The Pointer Sisters - Neutron Dance
Hall and Oates - Out of Touch