When I retired from the suck, I made a definite decision to make sure I smelled good. I don’t do it to try and pick up on women or to make myself somehow more pleasing as I go about my day. Fuck all that, I’m way too old and bitter to give a shit. It’s a visceral thing with me.

I certainly know what bad smells like. There’s a special kind of ripe funk that comes from humping a ruck, for days on end, through some ungodly shithole in the name of God, country, and Corps. Heat, humidity, and sweat mixed with cammie paint has its own smell. Then add in some nice hot zoo breath, which is a mixture of Copenhagen and stale beef jerky. For good measure, splash some Gold Bond Powder all over that shit and let it fester for a while. By the way, I always thought “Gold Bond Pancake” would be a great band name. That’s the kind of gut-wrenching stench I’m talking about. It’s not quite the smell of death, but damn close. I smelled like that for most of my career.

I learned all kinds of disgusting external cleansing tricks during that time too. For instance, the only way I ever got all the field dirt out from under my fingernails was to run my nails vigorously through my hair in the shower. I tried everything else and it never worked right. Getting cammie paint completely out of my ears was at least a two-day process. I was in the field so much during my first eight years in, that if you met me at any time during the 90’s, you could have probably pulled enough cammie paint out my ears to make a small candle. After my first real field op, I decided to freeball it and I kept doing that for 20 fucking years. Everybody I was around let the boys hang out. One good case of crotch-rot will make a man drop the whitey tighties for life.

Internal cleansing is gross on a whole different level but was very effective for my Chi. It was a simple process that involved purging MRE filth from my ass at a cyclic rate after returning from whatever open sore of an operation that only The Suck can put together. The people who think eating MREs is cool never had to gag down for a living. They never found themselves forced with a choice of the same shitty 12 meals for years. At some point, you never want to eat them again. When they were still issuing those dark brown MRES, I knew what was in every one of them down to the smallest detail. Those god-awful calorie-stuffed abominations had a way of clinging to my guts like time bomb, just waiting to be detonated. And, you can only eat so much store-bought beef jerky, peanuts and giant pickles shoved in a cargo pocket.

Whenever I got back to some version of civilization, I thoroughly enjoyed my self-taught internal cleansing process. I would drink hot coffee and wash it down with Hydroxycut, then crack open a Miller Light and Bingo! The brown tsunami would commence shortly afterward and continue for many hours, as I simultaneously tried to get the cammie paint out of my ears.

I lived like that for way too long. That lifestyle has a certain kind of rotting smell to it that permeates a man’s soul and oozes out of every pour. I didn’t even know I smelled like walking shit for years because everybody around me smelled the same way. I had to endure many embarrassing moments, as I got older and farther away from that life before I finally figured out that I smelled like a homeless dude, who had been crashing in the elephant cage at the local zoo. At some point, I made a very conscious decision to do everything I could to not smell like shit, if I had the power to do so. I lived in the field, in one way or another, for most of my 20 years. I didn’t have a choice. I smelled like shit because I had to, but once I dropped my papers, I began counting days until I was free. Free of many things; one of them being the freedom to not smell like shit ever again if I had anything to do with it. Now, I try to smell good every day. It’s one more little reminder that I’m finally free. I can actually make choices for myself, and it’s fucking glorious.

I was at the Corporation’s’ store the other day and they didn’t have my current choice of smell-good spray, and my wife wasn’t with me to test out the different choices. I was flying blind and then I saw the bottle of Lagerfeld. My mind instantly transported back to the 80’s; back when Lagerfeld was the shit and I had a hideous mullet, Bono boots, parachute pants, and a black jean jacket with the sleeves cut off and my band’s name painted on the back. It was a truly amazing ensemble of fashion excellence. And, all of it was dripping with Lagerfeld.

I really don’t know what happened next. I was lost a dream of happiness that involved me cruising around town in my 1972, piss-yellow Dodge Dart, with various snarky things written in crayon on the side of it. I cranked cassette tapes of REM, The Clash, and The Replacements as I drove through winding country roads. I was bathed in Lagerfeld and the wonderful naïve ignorance of youth.

Then, I was home and making my wife smell my Lagerfeld extravaganza. She crinkled her nose up and looked at me politely through winced eyes and said, “It smells…old.” I threw it away.