Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Nosy Interview: Raymond McDaniel

Ray in Abell 2744: Pandora's Cluster of Galaxies, ©NASA

I met Ray on the mean streets of Ann Arbor, and though he was without the "Jesus-grade hair" he mentions below, he had the definite aura of a guru. Purchase Ray's latest book of poems, Saltwater Empire, and read his poetry reviews on the Constant Critic.  

What do you smell like?
Since I can no better determine my own scent than know what I look like when I'm not looking at myself, I had to consult others. There are conflicting reports.  

Some say I smell like summer: Queen Helene's Cocoa Butter and salt. Some insist I smell like cashmere: cream and cardamom. Yet others suggest I smell like suede and book dust. One claims I smell like a weak solution of Halloween, payday and lust. You can take from the variety of these answers one of two things: you can imagine I smell like eating a vanilla cupcake on the beach while reading a used copy of Ficciones, or you can simply imagine that I smell Good, whatever Good smells like. 

What do you like to smell?
Sadly, my sense of smell has deteriorated over the years. I blame this on living in Michigan, where for vast, icy stretches of the year I cannot smell at all, because my nose is clotted with frozen snot. That said, I still have fond recollections of many scents, as per Proust's famous madeleine. I love the smell of things in transition, of matter as it changes form - how a tangerine aerosolizes when you peel it apart, how cedar turns in fire, how rain activates soil by turning it into mud. I know it's merely chemical, but what is more magical than science? There's something about the way scent seems to hide until some action reveals or releases it that has always struck me as essentially erotic. My favorite example of this is the unbinding of hair. Once, many years ago, unbelievably, I had long, thick, Jesus-grade hair, and at the end of the day, when I took it down and shook it loose, there would issue an olfactory cascade of whatever product I had a washed and conditioned it with (usually Aveda, bless its botanical heart). Nose-thrilling! Nose-enthralling! Even now, when on those rare occasions I find myself in a grocery store, I will loiter in the shampoo aisle and surreptitiously sniff from the array of products, each of which might as well be bottled nostalgia, stamped with years and memories otherwise inaccessible. Smells are the external hard drive of experience, the horcruxes of days past. I wasn't drinking when I wrote this, but now I'm drunk. How did that happen, Nosy Girl?

16 comments:

Preets said...

Ray, have you read _Possession_ by A.S. Byatt? It contains the greatest hair-unbinding scene of all time.

Britta said...

This may as well be in a bottle: Ray, your essence! So excellent.

starrykick said...

Ann & I were once asked to leave a CVS because we were smelling the shampoos too aggressively. Whatever, CVS.

nosy girl said...

I would really like to see what smelling shampoos too aggressively looks like. Dramatic reenactment one of these days in a Boston-area CVS, please.

Anonymous said...

sheesh!

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