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If maintaining redneck status were as simple as listening to country stations, I suppose we would all be rednecks. And though, in a sense, we are - considering that we all have our privately provincial moments in whatever cultures we happen to belong to - there are degrees. It's one thing to spend time in the French countryside. It's another thing to live there, walk home dead drunk, and sleep it off while the dog barks and the wife yells. There are - clearly - cultural invariants which I still find fascinating and beautiful, even if there are minus signs where some folks just don't like 'em.

I'll be honest. Of late, I've been sprayed with fancy French colognes a whole lot more than I've been sprayed by popping bullhead swim bladders. The smell of Saks Fifth Avenue comes to mind as easily as the smell of my tackle box. Maybe easier. The shooting iron gets rustier, the aim gets weaker, and the thought of letting critters eat the crops instead of servin' 'em with the crops Good God - it's enough to make my rusty old SUV dump my ass in the gallery district and drive off without me. Semi-annual outings with "the boys" provide some therapeutic relief, but barely. Microbrews and overly wired tech products diminish even those efforts to reconnect. The loss of roots makes even my buddies' belches more meaningful than anything I've got to say.

I tell you - I was about to pack it up and call it quits as a redneck. Change my username to something like Scarfneck Poorfoocitiboi. Thoughts of committing hara-kiri with my filleting knife crossed my mind. Well, that all changed when the wife dragged my sorry butt into the Warm Glow Candle Outlet, open daily 9 AM-7 PM, conveniently located right off I-70 at Exit 145 right outside of Centerville, Indiana. WORLD'S LARGEST CANDLE. That's right - it's not the World's Biggest Ball of String. It's not the World's Tallest Radio Tower. This place has the WORLD'S LARGEST CANDLE. Now, I have to admit that I'm sort of taking their word on that, but it sure as hell looks big. But that's just the start. It's what's inside that brought me back to my roots and saved my furniture-edge-beer-bottle-opening soul.


Needing some relief from a long drive, we headed straight for the café in the back. Because I was traveling undercover, with my city-boy camera and bloggin' laptop securely hidden in my backpack, I didn't take any pictures, which would have spooked the help and diminished the friendly atmosphere. Instead, we got a big order of vittles, and relied on this-here stolen picture:

Stone Hearth Café - Home of Jo Jo Martin's Famous BBQ

What you can't see in my stolen picture which I didn't take with either my camera or my cell phone but sure as I sit here stole off the web was the dee-licious homemade or damn good imitation thereof cole slaw. Nor can you see Jo Jo Martin's Famous Barbeque - meaning succulent barbequed pork, shaved in tender slices, and served with a barbeque sauce that is - unlike so many of them - perfectly balanced for the light but amazing smokiness at the edges of the pork. And which I guarantee is so damn good one day after it's no longer being served, that it must taste like heaven when it's actually supposed to be on the menu. Nor can you see the excellent personal pan pizza suitable for people like city-bred teens who never baited a hook and somehow still appreciate good barbeque but would rather opt for a CPK-ish pizza with a shocking lack of red meat and even other white meats but perhaps some interesting stuff like feta cheese. Nor can you see the wonderful cream pies with cream that stands up like Ronald Reagan's hair but goes down like teflon-coated weapon systems. Or somethin' like that.

But it wasn't just chowin' down on all this good stuff that still meant I had some redneck blood cells left. Nor was it the way my foot was a-tappin' and my head a-bobbin' to the country music a-playin' in the background, but which was occasionally interrupted by easy listening-type music on account of diversity, seeing that I-70 is kind of a public place where people like semi-quasi-but-not-quite-ex-rednecks who might have voted in strange ways that they wouldn't have 10 years ago might just happen to wander in.

Nope. It's on account of the sudden realization that fragrance can be kinda redneck, too. Mostly, this was because after lunch, we got down to the serious business of sniffing candles and whatnot. And whatnot includes the perusing of things like typical country décor, but in vast quantities. And whatnot also includes things like silk flowers and faux foliage and other girlie stuff, which works just as well for inclusion in ikebana as it does in redneckebana. And whatnot includes a profusion of bath and kitchen products with nice odors and foofy almost-French names like Mandarin Basil but apparently Guerlain-free. And while whatnot was interesting, this old boy was a lot more interested in stuff other than whatnot.

After all, what can you say about candles and potpourri oils with scents like PB&J, Smores, and Grandma's Brownies? Other than the fact that they smell exactly as advertised, and that if that's what brings back those scent memories, then you ain't gettin' any argument from me. 'Cause when it comes right down to it, it sorta seems as if hyper-realistic memory-evoking environmental scents are precisely where Second-American native fragrance art is at, and who the heck am I to argue with any kind of native art?

But if that was all there was, then I probably wouldn't have been very pleased with what I was smelling. At least, not enough for a keeper. Fortunately, there was quite a bit more in the way of selection, and selection is what it takes to find a fragrance you love, even if that fragrance may be something approaching Hot Cowgirl With PBR* or Honky-Tonk Pinball Machine Ashtray* (*fragrances only available as scent memories). For example, there was some kind of sage scent that almost took the green out of my wallet. Yes - the discerning nose registered something a bit more synthetic than my memories of real sage. And I'll admit that we ain't talking The Different Company, whose unnatural sage scent makes me want to move to whatever mythical mountain it grows on. But it was still rather nice. And there was a mandarin tea scent which - amazingly - came within rifle-range of wearability. Really nice. I had high hopes of finding something to love at that point. Holding those possibilities in reserve, I started taking it all in.

There were gourmands. And I mean real gourmands. Butter Rum. Black Forest Torte. Carrot Cake, for crying out loud. I think I like my gourmands just a bit more abstract, actually. But there were some of those as well. There was a whole series of "Stardust" scents that added a rather Angelic dimension to the realist works. Bayberry Stardust. Lemon Stardust. Vanilla Stardust. And while we're talking Angel, there was a coffee flanker called Evening Mocha that gave me some momentary interest, although it was not in the league of Thierry Mugler's Pure Coffee. Looking further toward the abstract - while avoiding some straggling reality scents such as Hot Buttered Popcorn and White Cherry Cheesecake (the latter is a veritable powerhouse), I checked out some "concept" scents: Jack Frost and Jeweled Isle. Unfortunately, those didn't quite work for me. I found minor interest in Melon Splash, but not enough to make the critical 3rd sniff.

But in the end, I found my favorite. I really loved it. So traditional. So old school. So conservative. Showing some of the classic constant notes of Second American home-spun fragrance, mixed with the primary note in a rather subtle but pleasing fragrance. Not quite wearable, but close enough for my purposes.

Because if you had the chance to try something radical in a truck fragrance - something like Vanilla Stardust or Jeweled Isle - but you walked out with plain old Sandalwood, ya know what?

You might still be a redneck.