Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Nosy Interview: Maria Parrott-Ryan

  Maria and her fish friend somehow manage to breathe in the Monsters of IC 1396, © Geert Barensten & Jorick Vink 

Maria and I met during a study abroad semester in London, and have gone on to smell one another in more time zones than most married couples. Things occur to her from time to time at The Mepper.
What do you smell like?
It depends on the season. In the cold months my skin gets really dry, so I probably smell like whatever lotion I'm slathering on at all hours of the day. I don't like to buy the really heavily-scented ones, so my smell is (god I hope) pleasant, but subdued. Really, I think the primary ingredient of most lotions I use is water, so maybe I smell like water, which I maintain (and yes, I have had arguments about this) doesn't actually have a smell at all, but takes on the smell of many other things, like salt or chlorine or rusty pipes or musty wells or duck butt. 

When it's hot I still wear lotion, but the heat usually manages to render it powerless against my own natural body smells. The result is what I imagine one would smell like after receiving a gentle, full-body pat-down by a large man working one of the cheese curd stalls at the Madison Farmer's Market on a hot, humid day—a cheesy-palm-sweat smell, if you will.

What do you like to smell?
I love to cook risotto mostly for the moment after you dump the cup of white wine over the oil, onions, garlic, and rice that are simmering away. The great thing about risotto is that you have to stir pretty frequently, so you have a good excuse to stand over the pot and just inhale the warm, boozy smell for a while.

I love any rare smell that can take me back to a specific place. I like to smell that whiff of manure I get when driving past the farms on the way to my parent's place in Iowa. The smell of film developing fluid takes me to the back room of the newspaper office in my tiny Iowa hometown. My grandpa was the editor-in-chief, and my dad worked there, too. Sometimes I would visit them both at work, and I'd hang out drinking bottles of Cokes in the break room, which was right next to the dark room. That smell permeated the place so much that the Coke tasted like it was laced with developer. I felt pretty good at those moments, being allowed to hang out with the adults while they did their adult things. That's a smell I'll probably only smell a couple more times in my life, if at all, now that dark rooms are on the way out. Maybe I should see if Kodak is trying to unload any old bottles of film--I'd hoard them in my basement and occasionally pop open a bottle for a quick sniff, just to make sure I don't forget about the back room of the newspaper office.

By far my favorite smell is autumn, which luckily I get to smell every year in the Midwest. Those rotting leaves do something to me. That smell always makes me think something is about to happen. If I were to ever find a secret door to a magical realm, I would almost certainly find it in autumn. If by some cosmic mistake I happened upon one in summer or winter, you know what? I don't know if I'd walk through.


Preets said...

"Musty wells or duck butt." A great title, and I feel like I can smell duck butt right now: anal, wormy river water.

And the last paragraph! I'm intrigued by the idea that in different places, different weathers/seasons (and the smells of different seasons) hold that promise of something big about to happen. There was a great essay by Sadie Jones on Powell's.com about how a long, hot summer is the main source of background tension in so many English novels, and I think in tropical places the feeling of imminent rain has the same effect on the psyche as rotting leaves have on Maria's. I wonder why autumn and its smells affect some people that way -- is it because the September beginning of the school year and all its attendant possibilities are hardwired into American brains?

Sara Gustafson said...

love this...miss you both.

nosy girl said...

Sara, I miss you too! Are you still wearing Angel now and then these days? Or are you mostly smelling that sweet Audra?

Preeta--you make a nice connection. Despite having spent minimal time in tropical places when rain was imminent, I can still imagine just what you mean. I wonder if, anywhere on earth, a clear spring day gives the sense that a door to some otherworldly realm might open up.

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