She Put That $#*% on Everything


To quote the legendary Jim Anchower: “Hola, Amigos. I know it’s been a long time since I wrapped at ya.” But I had a few changes since last I dropped in on this space over five months ago.

I’ve grown a beard and shaved it off. I got a new laser printer. Cara and I moved to Bay Ridge from Park Slope. We miss the Slope and the commute. And we’re still renting. But now instead of a 700-square foot (if that) two bedroom, we’re in a four-bedroom house, which means we can throw stuff all over the floors and have it take a little while before things look really messy.

Oh, and it’s no coincidence I quit blogging right around the same time I became editor of Advertising Age. Turns out that even after working there for over 15 years and being managing editor — which involved a lot of backseat driving and Monday-morning quarterbacking — the job has been a challenge. Hell, it might be the first time I’ve found a job challenging since my first gig as a reporter at Suffolk Life Newspapers back in 95 or whenever that was. But back then I was 22 years old and too cocky and stupid to realize I was being challenged.

Challenged, of course, does not mean bad. It just means different and, thankfully, not boring. (And they also pay more for the challenging part, so that’s nice.)

I was going to write an entire post about limited time and limited mental bandwidth, how between the commute and the job and the this and the that, I hadn’t been writing here or working on my most recent novel (especially frustrating since I finishing an entire rough draft). But then I realized it sounded like so much whining, the ultimate in first-world problems and something that, if I took a step back, would sound like humble bragging of the worst sort. “Oh, I got a promotion and my beautiful wife and I moved into a much bigger place, but the commute is annoying and I don’t have time to blog for my 16 followers or work on my precious fourth novel.”

Yeah, that dude needs to rub some dirt on it and keep moving.

Or better yet, some Campho-Phenique. I’m not quite sure what prompted this blast from the past, but it’s been on my mind recently. Perhaps the smell of Biofreeze or Tiger Balm dislodged a memory about the wonder drug Campho-Phenique.

Yes. You’ll see on its home page that it’s for cold sores and bug bites.

But for a certain demographic in certain regions of America (poor and Southern among them), Campho-Phenique was a wonder drug that was used to treat the following: cuts, scratches, scrapes, bruises, bites (mosquito, ant, spider, squirrel, dog and cousin), burns, burning grass nettles, stings, gashes, bashes, lashes, hurt feelings, puncture wounds, chicken attacks, pink eye, ring worm, tractor rash, rabies, tetanus, and broken and severed limbs up to and including decapitation.

It might not always work, but it was going to be applied. Campho-Phenique was Neosporin for a tougher generation.

Seriously, when we were at Mawmaw’s house and one of us went down in action, we knew the funny-smelling stuff in the green bottle with the yellow label was going to be called into play. In fact, it often made us hesitate to run into the house crying (we weren’t allowed in the house during daylight hours unless there was a hurricane or something). Because Campho-Phenique, much like rubbing alcohol, burned — especially on open wounds and, well, burns.

Hell, I had an entire blog post in my head about Campho-Phenique, too. But it turns out that everyone from Jeff Foxworthy to this blogger, who’s even got a photo of the classic bottle sitting right next to — what else — a jar of Vicks VapoRub. Which is funny because aside from consistency, they are pretty much the EXACT. SAME. THING. Camphor and eucalyptus oil. (Though the Phenique in Campho-Phenique means it’s got carbolic acid as well, something they used to advertise right on the bottle. Because if it’s got acid you know it will just burn away the germs and infection.)

Jeff Foxworthy literally said, “You might be a redneck if you think Campho-Phenique is a miracle drug.” In another of his bits, he says “I remember when I was a kid, there were two medicines: aspirin and Campho-Phenique, that was it.” (And that’s sort of funny because Campho-Phenique is owned by Bayer.)

Now, technically, Mawmaw wasn’t a redneck. We were Cajuns. But that’s mostly a difference of accent and religion. And even in matters of faith, both groups apparently put a lot of stock in good ol’ Campho-Phenique.

So, to sum up, I was going to sit down and write a post completely consisting of whining, and then I thought about doing a bit about Campho-Phenique, but found it had already been done numerous times. I still managed a few hundred words. Because that’s how talented I am. (Or that’s how intent I am on procrastinating about diving into this damn novel.)

But if you have young children today, you should totally invest in Campho-Phenique. Does it work? Who knows? Does it burn? Hell yes. But it will provide your children with a clear olfactory memory that will anchor their childhood and bond them to you.

Also, Phenique would make a great stripper name.

3 thoughts on “She Put That $#*% on Everything

  1. Cure-alls currently in my medicine cabinet in NOLA: Campho-phenique (in gel form), Mentholatum (far superior to Vick’s…My Momma packed her nose with it to clean out the deep freeze after Katrina), Dr. Tichenor’s (currently sold as mouthwash but really a Civil War era antiseptic) and, of course, witch hazel.

  2. Oh my… this dislodged a memory of my own… about my own dear mother applying Campho-Phenique to pretty much every square inch of my body, at some point, during my childhood! Love it!! You, sir, are a master wordsmith!! Love your blathering!! 😉

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