Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I have a really, really sensitive nose, at least when my sense of smell happens to be working. Most of the time it isn't. (Weirdly, this effects my memory.) When it is, I rival a pedigreed trufflehound. I can tell if something I'm cooking has been salted or not. I can tell where any given cloakroom is by the smell of all that concentrated detergent and hairspray and smoke and aftershave. I can smell peoples' individual scents before they enter a room. And that's creepy. I don't like it a bit, particularly after discovering the fact that smell is particulate. Bad enough I can identify you in complete darkness, but to know that I'm huffing actual matter shed by God only knows what...regions... No.

Still, its a cross I bear. Without warning. This makes it worse, like a sneak attack. One minute I'll be wandering around in an absentminded fog and breathing will be the involuntary, unconscious activity that it's meant to be....another moment and suddenly I WILL KNOW what brand of douche the woman on the escalator ahead of me uses. Or if she...does. Yeah.
No really, it's honestly that bad. Ignorance really is bliss, kids.

If I'm in a public place and my nose suddenly decides to work I instinctively switch to breathing through my mouth, which is always attractive. I don't know why this makes it any better; I'm still sucking in funk chunks. I guess not being instantly aware of their probable source is a comfort. Huffing ass frag is one thing... KNOWING it's ass frag is another thing entirely.
An assy thing.

Assy things were plentiful in the hospitality trade, as you might imagine. I dreaded Monday mornings for just this reason. I would walk in to a recently vacated room, a room that had been closed tight for at least two solid days while the guests drank, smoked and performed carnal acts of slappity squittiness on each other. Sometimes it was all I could do not to give notice. Motel rooms are typically tiny and stuffy to begin with. That compounded with the rank, porklike human smell of skin and hair and sweat, the body-temperature humidity, knowing you were inhaling other peoples' exhale, stirring up their buttflakes and dick particles when you stripped the bed, shuffling up clouds of foot frag as you was not propriate. Or beautiful. At all. You tried not to think about it.
Particularly because you still had the bathroom left to do.

I used to do a lot of amyl nitrate during vocational training class. Me and my buddy would roll in already baked, and then run back to the darkroom and take a couple rips just to get into a 'graphic arts' frame of mind. We'd sneet a few more for the road during break. Beside giving you an excellent sweeping headrush, amyl, and the combination of various noxious darkroom chemicals, would effectively kill your sense of smell for about 15-30 minutes. Once we discovered that our intake doubled, since we used it pre-emptively for those times when we knew we'd have to deal with Meg, our instructor.

I have no idea what kind of medical condition this woman had, but her breath smelled like boiling cat urine. The most ammoniac, venomous piss stench imaginable, like a bus shelter full of winos. The fact that it was definitely her breath made it even more disturbing. It made you wonder what she....ate.

Her office was a small glassed - in cubicle and it had absorbed that pee-breath smell deep into its very subatomic structure. Opening the door was like taking the lid off a diaper hamper. That held true whether she was in there or not.

During class she'd come around and appraise everyone's work on the light table. The atmosphere back in that area was already pretty thick; light tables, adhesives and teenagers give off a lot of heat. Every time she'd lean in to speak to me, my eyes would literally begin to water and sting. It was beyond belief! You could taste it! You could practically see it shimmering like paint thinner fumes, scorching your sinuses, bleaching all the color out of your eyebrows. It was just horrifying.

Me and my buddy went through an entire 8 gram perfume bottle of amyl during that quarter. That in combination with the chemical darkroom stew we were already breathing probably destroyed a whole lot of vital brain cells, which may go a long way toward explaining why I am the way I am now. Or not.


  1. Can you smell this giant wheel of cheese that I am about to roll across the border onto your lawn?

    Do you smell it coming?


  2. MJ: luckily we have inbred yokels armed with semiautomatic weapons parked and waiting along our nations rural borders to guard america from cheezers and their death dealing dairy products. so HA HA on you.

  3. "slappity suittiness" and "buttflakes"... even reading that makes me want to retch. Reimnds me of when my mam was a chambermaid at one of the only hotels in the godforsaken country we lived in, and she used to come home in tears after the rugby teams had stayed there. My mother remains wont to recount unpleasant experiences in graphic, rancid detail now she is a theatre nurse, and did when she was in A&E treating folks who did things like "slipping and falling" on greased, and it turns out somewhat fragile, light bulbs. I know all sortsa things.

    The post also brought to mind Patrick Suskind's 'Perfume', a book whose use of the term 'anal sweat' always returns, unbidden, to me along with the real meaning of the process of diffusion when I am pressed against the great unwashed on the underground.

  4. She had kidney failure - her breath was uremic - I smell that all the time in my line of work.... which just happens to be... kidney failure!

    It would knock a horse over... the brimstone flumes that flow forth from some people's maws. I can't imagine living with that stench day in and day out... and what the hell would it taste like??? *shudders to even think it*

  5. Anonymous4:50 PM

    Want a Limburger sandwich?

  6. Your poor olfactory nerves, phew!

    Personally I know of nothing more pungent than a rendering factory, used to be one just south of Petaluma and boy could that tear up your sinuses.

    Firsty, I think you may be part alien, and on that other planet your nose would have stood you well. "mutters, 'there has to be a good story in there SOMEwhere" and stomps off in search of a book"

    I love your nom de plume!!!

  7. OMG Nations, the dude who owns the joint that I work at has nasty, acrid breath like that. Literally makes my eyes water and my throat slam shut as a self defense mechanism.

    Ponita hit the nail on the head as to the cause. Owner dude frequently suffers from gout which is a kidney related thang.

    It's a bitch having a hyper sensitive olfactory.

  8. oh god, stop. just STOP.


  9. Seriously, your descriptions alone are enough to turn anyone into a germ-phobic, OCD headcase, Monk-stylee.

    *leaves to wash hands*

  10. that is disgusting, but I amused my mom was hopped up on poppers like a sparkly queen of the castro, all greasy and glittery and leather-donning and stuff. I think your inner child does not exist, it's more like an inner leather queen who occasionally does it up like RuPaul.

    IT IS MY HUSBANDS BIRTHDAY HE IS OLD now come help me finish cooking. And don't forget the tequila.

  11. First of all, and once again, I love your goddamn writing. you, my lovely, are A Writer. Like Stephen King. thewordsmith. Love. It.

    Secondly, when I was pregnant (the first time - five months and she bailed on me) I had this orfactory thing too. It was horrible. I could be in my bed and smelling the roses in the front yard like they were stuffed up my nose and into my fucking brain. I love roses, but jeez. It was unbelieveable. I would die if I had to have that bloodhound sense of smell forever and always.

    And thirdly, every once and a while, that scent thing kicks in out of no where and I can smell... Things. Things I would rather not smell. Lordy lordy. I would rather have a cold.

  12. What a pity this post didnt come with a scrath'n'sniff card for full olfactory enjoyment.
    ***scratches block of cheddar to get the full MJ ambience***
    Wonderful if slightly wiffy post
    ***fashions face mask from odoreater***

  13. Funnily, I have the exact opposite reaction to unpleasant odours: I will keep my mouth tight shut and breath through my nose until I am certain that I am out of the zone. Anything which goes up my nose, I knows gets caught and filtered by the hairs and mucus, and later on will come back out as an intriguing little snot-ball. But if it gets in my mouth then I start to digest it with saliva, and might even swallow it, and that I cannot abide.

    C'est le difference, je crois. Men and women have different standards as to which each is prepared to smell or swallow.

  14. violet: YOU ARE BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!! yay, great comment, all that, but YOU'RE BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU'VE BEEN MISSED, CHICKIE!!!


    ponita: well there you go! kidney failure, huh? I guess that makes sense. the poor woman was a good instructor too, is the sad part. nobody could take her seriously though because of the breath issues.

    mago: i see you that limburger and raise you a slice of lutefisk and a durian, franconia-man.

    retro: I think my nose is from another planet, is what the problem is. like that one woody allen movie where the president is just a nose. or something. *pulls bag over head* I dunno.

    xul: you have my complete sympathy. thats just the most horrible thing ever, isn't it? and they always want to speak confidentially too. yikes.

    Mrs. Chaucer of the high seas: hey, the truth isn't always pretty, like your husband. sometimes it is scary and smelly, like Opies butt. fact.

    bitchy: RuPaul should look this good. hey, it was the 70's, it was around, whaddya gonna do. sheesh.

    joy: I had the same thing happen when I was pregnant. and it was constant. GAAAAAAAH.

    beast: when the wind blows in from the bay at low tide, close your eyes and think of Canada. that should give you some impression of what its like to live downwind of THE ARCH CHEEZER.

    sopwith: that only applies up to a certain point, camel o'mine.

  15. Anonymous3:02 PM

    Lutefisk is for the weak. It only looks like a drowned fisherman, but is not too smelly. And the Zibet-fruit takes some days to start the stink, eaten in the first 24 hours it tastes a little like Vanille-Pudding.

    You need a real good Surströmming! - You are not pregnant? And don't try to bring the cans aboard a plane. Just sayin' ... and a nice crate of Aquavit is recommended. Start heavy drinking one hour before can opening.

  16. mago: "You need a real good Surströmming!"
    man, if i had a nickel for every time someones said that to me....

  17. Anonymous12:43 PM

    Then you'd be awfully rich! And did you ever encounter that "speciality"?
    Made me vomit.

  18. thats the stuff that comes in the swollen can, isn't it? its some kind of fish and its supposed to spoil like that. am I right?

  19. Anonymous5:22 PM

    It is Rotten Fish in a Can ... when a normal can of canned foot boils you throw it away, because it intends that what is inside is rotten and not for human intake or usage.
    These crazy Swedes Wait until the fucking cans boil out and than eat it. It is "fermented" fish as they say. The other thing, lutefisk, is a dryed fish that gets watered (often!) - a little like pemikan. It looks buärg, but you can eat it.
    Surströming IS nothing of that - it is plain rotten fish. It stinks like this and it tastes like this - as I was told. I could not touch it. It is true, I vomited, when the can(s) were opened.

    I have smelled some rally bad things in my life. Dead humans included. Pretty nasty chinese food. The stench in some areas where people habitated together with some dogs, you get the picture. No, I am not in welfare work or something, I just came around a bit.
    Anyway, the point is the eating. There are things of an animal I would not eat even when I had to die. Eyes, brain, some parts of the intesticals. I know that Chinese eat anything, and I mean anything litterally. I saw it, I stood aside in the kitchen.

    But the Swedes with their god-awful rotten fish ... Believe me, I can NOT be too drunk (or otherwise high) to use that. It's like eating shit. Not friendly cow or horse dung, but mean dirty swine shite.
    I hope you never ever have to encounter this specialty with working nostrils - it can kill you.

    Maiglöckchen. Zimt. Orangen oder Zitrone. I can "call" these aromata, sometimes ... was smoking too long. "Duft" - scent - it is so important, pherhormone mostly ... ach

  20. Reading this makes me glad I have asthma. Any nasty stench and the old lungbags tighten up and won't let much in anymore. Of course then I can't breathe well either, but I"ll take it...