Miss(ed) Manners

May 13, 2005

Miss(ed) Manners: Nosetalgia

Filed under: Column — missedmanners @ 4:04 pm

Every year around this time I start to get the itch. Not any type of itch that I ought to have checked out, I stopped sleeping with Thai sailors in college. It’s more of a metaphorical itch, so to speak. I start to feel like I need to get out of the city, go frolic in the long grass of a bird sanctuary stoned to the bejeezus on painkillers, wine coolers and German Trance. Hey, we’ve all got our vacation plans, right?

Unfortunately for me, my schedule doesn’t permit me to take a vacation until the heat settles on the northeast like the safety blanket of a thumb sucking seven year old with mommy issues. Pity, really. So I’m usually stuck here clawing at the cement walls going nuts.

It’s this time of year that initially initiated me into initiating my “Nose Vacation Program.” Fortunately for everyone, this vacation doesn’t include powders, so don’t expect me to come around your place at seven in the morning looking to get some coffee and just talk for six hours. All you need is your nose, your commute and a semi-clear mind, and you can just take off.

Let me explain in the most scientific and exact terms at my disposal:

Your nose is smart, it’s got a mind of its own. Whenever you smell something new, the little scent particles travel up your nasal cavern into your brain where little gremlins store them in a tiny little box. Your brain has millions of these little boxes, and millions of little gremlins (some people have billions and these people are ca-razy).

With this scent forever stored in your box, whenever a similar scent particle travels into your brain, via your nose, or ears, the gremlins cross reference it with your already existing scent boxes. This process is nearly instantaneous, because the gremlins are German, a very industrious race with a mind for organization. This is why you’ll never forget a smell, and also why smells are so linked to memories.

Smells can invoke everything from emotion to nausea, which can be the same thing if you’re particularly emotional about rancid vomit. But most importantly, smells conjure up memories, because they’re forever linked to the first time you experienced them. This is the keystone of the Nose Vacation. The directions are simple, just go to work and keep your nose open and actually listen to your brain when you smell something.

Here’s how mine went this morning:

Location: Outside My Door
Smell: Lighter fluid and cigarette smoke.

Memory: When I started smoking I was fifteen. I started for all the wrong, cliché reasons, peer pressure, wanting to fit in, trying to look older to score with desperate housewives three times my senior. I used to carry around a Zippo lighter because I was in it for the accessories, man. I had a cigarette case and a litany of other smoking gadgets equally as lame. The smell of Zippo fluid always takes me back to a summer night on the edge of a forest pond, soaked from head to toe after a midnight swim brought on by boxed wine and a house sitting job.

Location: Corner of my Block
Smell: Burnt Plastic

Memory: The deli on the corner of my block burned down over a year ago, it STILL smells. Every single time I walk by it, I get that familiar stench wafting up into my nose, it’s normally very horrid. Not when you’re on a Nose Vacation. On a Nose Vacation the burnt down deli reminds me of the first camping trip I ever went on. A group of six year olds sitting around a fire, and some idiot convinces me to throw all our trash into the fire. Styrofoam plates and hot dog wrappers melting and I’m stuck digging latrines all night. Way to go, dick.

Location: Subway #1
Smell: Old Man

Memory: I have a hard time remembering when I first smelled old man, probably because I was so little when it happened. But this dude on the subway smelled like stale cigarettes, brill cream and government cheese and it made me smile. I think it reminded me of my late grandfather’s car, the smell of smoke ingrained into upholstery is almost sweet.

Location: Subway #2
Smell: Green Apple Body Spritz or some shit.

Memory: I “dated” this girl when I was like 14 or 15. Her name was Rachel and she smelled like she’d been given a DDT by a bottle of green apple body wash. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice smell, but it was overkill. Shit, she used to send me stuff in the mail covered in the stink because she mistook my sarcastic comments on it for compliments. Anyway, green apple body wash always reminds me of going to her house that summer and getting drunk with her parents at a cul-de-sac party and passing out on her lawn, classy. I have no idea where she is or what she’s doing now, but I know EXACTLY what she’s smelling like.

Location: Meatpacking District
Smell: Rotting Meat!

Memory: Smelling meat in the meatpacking district is now about as common as seeing an albino Dodo. Sure, you can buy a three hundred dollar shirt, but if you want to get a side of beef to relentlessly pound in preparation for your upcoming fight with Apollo, you’re shit out of luck. Which is why I was actually happy to smell rotting meat this morning. It’s a thick kind of smell, your nose actually has a hard time taking it in.

It reminded me of Filter 14, the now closed, but legendary nightspot where so many times I’d wander out into the disgustingly humid summer air and be greeted by a wall of four week old dead cow. Somehow it made whatever dark deeds you’d been up to inside seem less bad, at least you were chopping up beef.

So that’s the Nose Vacation. It’s incredibly low rent, but trust me it works. Most of the time we’re so busy going from Point A to Point B that we may be smelling the roses, but we’re not stopping to remember the first time we did. Trust me, you’ll remember. The time taken to sort through the clutter is absolutely worth it. I’m not due for an actual vacation for about two months, but that’s alright. I’ve already travelled a couple thousand miles over twenty years today, I’m actually a little tired.

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