Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Nosy Interview: Margaret MK Hess

Maggie reads in a Sky Panorama over Lake Salda, © Tunç Tenzel
Maggie was another reason that working for Seattle Arts & Lectures was so much fun. You can get in on the good times by reading her piece for the Funny Women column on the Rumpus, and by visiting Dear Mr. Postman, where Maggie writes open letters to everyone.
What do you smell like?
I think I most likely smell of curl cream. At least, whenever someone sniffs me, and compliments me on the results, and tries to identify the source, their nose generally gravitates towards my hair rather than my feet or my armpits or my teeth or knees.

My curl creme smells like (according to the ingredients label) Parfum, or "fragrance" as it is known among scientific circles.

What do you like to smell?
I have such clear memories of the smell of my first dog, the radiator in my first room, the first boy I ever kissed, and the damp mud of a Pacific northwest spring (a little bit of dog poop mixed in with the dirt on my childhood soccer cleats). Now-now I've had years of sinus infections and allergies, and I'll smell almost anything that reaches my nose, confirmation of its (the nose's) existence in the world. I can smell cinnamon and garlic, onions, dumpsters. Cigarette smoke. I can smell pine trees and rotting bananas and hot tar.

On the no-smell list: airplanes and their recycled, stale air fill me with dread. It's amazing the shift of scent along that threshold.

I have trouble smelling people-- their scents, usually, are subtle, require a certain proximity, and for me, that involves burying my nose in your skin and leaving it there (turns out there are few I am interested in engaging in this exercise, and few who wish to participate, and the intersection point is small...I'm still waiting for Matt Damon to return my call).

Salt. I can smell salt when I return to Hawaii, where my father grew up, and plumerias if I put my face right up into the branches of a tree.  And I can smell the clear, clean slate of the mountains, the Rockies, where my mother was raised-really, a smell of no smell at all, a lack of smell, an absence that is particularly noticeable when you first open a car door upon arriving at a lookout point, some place of significant elevation that makes you catch your breath-for lack of oxygen, for dizzying altitude, for shock of recognition.


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