Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Nosy Interview: Your Nominations

Your magnificent nose in the Celestial Still Life © Leonardo Julio & Carlos Milovic
If you're reading this, I'm curious what you smell like, and what you like to smell. And I welcome your nosy nominations. Whose smell experiences are you nosy about? Whether you've been interviewed or not, if you have suggestions of people you'd like to see sniffing in outer space, please get in touch.

It's been one year since I wrote Nosy Girl's first post.  Since then, I've shared forty-four Nosy Interviews in this space! And I'd like to keep getting all up in the olfactory business of dear friends, talented writers, internet crushes, inspiring perfumers, friends of friends, artists of all kinds, renowned weirdos, relative strangers, and actual strangers for years to come. (I really would like to conduct Nosy Interviews on the bus if it didn't creep so many people out to be asked about their odor by a nosy stranger.) Thank you all for reading, smelling, and sharing.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

stinky springtime links

image via
Some fresh stinky tidbits to send you into your weekend (May it be fragrant!):
  • Hitting right in the sweet spot of Nosy Girl's Smells & Stories Venn diagram is this New York Times piece, "Your Brain on Fiction:" 
"Words like 'lavender,' 'cinnamon' and 'soap,' for example, elicit a response not only from the language-processing areas of our brains, but also those devoted to dealing with smells."
  • Also squarely in that sweet spot, a beautiful, pertinent passage from The Art of Fielding, a book I finished yesterday and highly recommend: 
    "He could smell the way Owen's life and habits--weed and gingery cleaners; bookbinding glue, stiff white soap and garlicky tang of his skin; hardly a trace of Henry except for a faint bouquet of ribbed gray sock--had imagined themselves deep in the walls and floorboards of the place."  
  • Nosy favorite D.S. & Durga gives New York magazine a peek at their studio. I love the details and the promise of those tiny bottles. Woodyamber! Beaver extract!  
 The makings of East MidEast must be on those shelves somewhere! [photo by Wendy Goodman]

  • In a column called "Politics, Odors and Soap," Nicholas Kristof mentions a study that found people "offered harsher, more moralistic views after 'fart spray' had been released in the area."  He also notes that conservatives "secrete more skin moisture when they see disgusting images, such as a person eating worms. Liberals feel disgust, too, but a bit less." Does this make for sour-smelling conservatives who grow harsher and more moralistic in the company of their sour-smelling brethren?
  • Do you read the blog Letters of Note? They recently posted a letter of advice, well worth a read, from F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter. The letter referenced Shakespeare's Sonnet 94 and this couplet burrowed into my brain: "For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds/Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds." 
  • Thanks to Britta, Beth, & my dad for these last quick links:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Nosy Interview: Zachary Watterson

Zachary in Another Tail for Comet Garradd, © Olivier Sedan

I'm fairly certain the first meal I ever shared with Zachary was at The Wildrose, but my first memory of him is imagined, stolen from my husband, who became friends with Zachary in graduate school. They made this dinner date on a city bus, to introduce their respective girlfriends to one another--Zachary disembarking the bus, L still seated--and so, when I picture the start of our friendship, I always call up this lovely pilfered image of Zachary working out dinner plans from the sidewalk, probably holding a basketball and a book, and L calling out from the window. It's romantic like a parting train, but with a happy ending because everybody at dinner got on smashingly, and many more meals were shared.  

Please visit Zachary's web site to read his fiction and essays, and find out where you can read more. 

What do you smell like? 
It depends. If I've been working at my job as a landscaper, and if it's the sort of day when I'm swinging a sledge hammer and breaking apart concrete slab, then I smell like broken stone and gravel, sand, cement and water. If at my job I've been moving, cutting and setting flagstones for a patio, then I smell like stone dust--the nonmetallic mineral scent of rock. Sometimes when I've been working particularly hard, steam rises from my head when I remove my wool cap, and the steam smells salty and pungent. Other days, when I've ripped two-by-tens for a fence, I've smelled like cedar. Knotty untreated cedar, to be sure. Still other days, tilling the earth in the backyards of residences in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle, I've smelled like the soil I've tilled and raked, which is made of sawdust, compost and mulch. If I'm driving my 1987 pickup truck, I smell faintly of gasoline, oil and grease. The man I bought the truck from, a Hungarian immigrant who moved to America only a couple of years before the Berlin wall fell, was covered in grease, and oil, from his life's work as a mechanic, and my truck has the penetrating smell of that viscous liquid derived from petroleum. I also love the fragrance of cherry blossoms opening and the almost cloying smell of honeysuckle. Honeysuckle used to grow beside one of the playgrounds where I used to shoot hoops when I was a teenager and living in New Jersey. I also love the smell of a recently waxed basketball gym floor, and the leathery smell of a basketball.

What do you like to smell?
I like the smell of pecan pie, soap and warm water, my shaving cream and my after shave lotion. I like the smell of the redwoods in northern California. I like the smell of the spruce and balsam forests in the Adirondack Mountains, where I worked for six seasons. I like the smell of a rock hitting another rock, that acrid scent of granite dust in the air. I nearly always prefer to drive with the window open or partway open, so that I can feel the air whipping in to the truck and I can smell whatever scents reach my nose from the city around me. I love the smell of green chiles roasting in the fall in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I lived for a couple of years and worked as a landscaper and as a high school teacher. I like the smell of pine needles. In the pine groves I walked through in the Adirondacks, no undergrowth lived under the giant pines and my clothes held the scent of those trees. I love the smell of roasting chestnuts in the winter in New York City. When I think of growing up in Manhattan, I remember how I could not get enough of the intoxicating smell of those chestnuts roasting on the push-carts venders parked on street corners. I love the mildly noxious smell of the subways under the city that you breathe in when you walk over a grate that gives a partial view of the trains moving underneath the sidewalk.

Monday, March 19, 2012

without winter

 [image via

This winter, I never moved my bike from the back porch to the basement. This was a huge difference from last winter in Cambridge, when the snowbanks were high enough that you couldn't tell which ones concealed cars, and the bike lane disappeared for months. As a  result of all that cold and grey, I got on a serious amber kick, culminating in the purchase of a big old brick of Annick Goutal's Ambre Fétiche, a sticky (but still somehow so dry!) syrup blanketbomb whose bottle alone felt as wrong to the touch this winter as my all-wool leggings.

During this weird nether-weather winter, I got hooked on Narciso Rodriguez for Her.  Something about NR for Her came especially alive for me, some bright cottony aspect that blooms best on sunny, chilly days, a burst of warmth that I don't usually smell until at least the third spray, and then puff, there it is (that there even is a third spray of this not-timid fragrance should reveal how hooked I am). It wears like a mood ring, knows when to scale back its musky bits and when to purr, shimmers and recedes throughout the day like a scarf that knows how to read a room's temperature in every sense of the word. NR for Her seemed even to go with the clothes that I wore all non-winter: a thick canvas jacket and fingerless gloves.

NR for Her and Lana Del Rey's "Video Games" have more in common than my inability to quit them 

I ignored NR for Her when it came out, in part because I'd heard (and agreed at first sniff) that it was "reminiscent of Miss Dior Cherie," a perfume I get too much of a cheap beer note from to enjoy wearing, though smelling it on others does take me back to my college days. (To be clear, I'm still fond of cheap beer, but these days I prefer to enjoy it in contexts other than basements coated in spilled beer, party sweat, and a cloud of competing Bath & Body Works body sprays. Sweet Pea! You were so good to me. Do college girls still wear Bath & Body Works sprays? Or is it all Victoria's Secret Extreme Sexy Dream Harbor SexyHot Angels' Mist?)

 [image via Rodarte's tumblr]

There are perfumes I love more than Narciso Rodriguez for Her, but I haven't had such a monogamous run with a single fragrance since Lolita Lempicka circa 2001. I would call it a rut if I weren't so eager to coat myself with NR for Her, even today--the day before the first day of actual spring, 73 degrees outside and everyone in Cambridge playing tennis and wearing t-shirts--when I'm tempted, but can't quite bring myself, to mark the season change with something new.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

women smell well

[image via the Guardian's What is there to celebrate around the world on international women's day?]
Maria is reading What's Going on In There: How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life, and she sent me this passage:  
"There is one caveat about the observation that newborns innately respond to the odor of a nursing mother's breast: this effect has been seen only in girls and not in boys of the same age. In fact, females of all ages are more sensitive to odors than males...Older girls outperform boys on various tests of olfactory discrimination, while women of all ages are known to be more sensitive than men to a variety of odors."
Speaking of women and smelling, if I were anywhere near the Bay Area, I would beg, borrow, or strain a credit card to attend this "dinner devoted to the haunting magic of scent," featuring an incredible lineup of talented women.

While I'm helping you spend your money, I hope you'll visit Scents of Self on March 10, when Ari's Smell Good Do Good sale begins. I rustled up a few items to sell, including a decant of Serge Lutens' Jeux de Peau and a tube of L'Artisan Parfumeur's  Thé Pour Un Été lotion. All proceeds go to benefit Refuge, a UK charity working against domestic violence.

Today, International Women's Day, would also be a great day to visit Kiva and support a woman entrepreneur in the developing world. Use this link to make your first loan free.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Nosy Interview: Tina Chang

Tina in Melotte 15 in the Heart, © Derek Santiago

The first time I saw Tina, she was passing my dorm room on the way to her own, and I distinctly remember admiring her glasses and thinking she was probably too cool for me. Luckily, she befriended me anyway, and thanks to this I passed Spanish, tried my first pineapple bun, and learned why people get all dreamy-eyed when they talk about their friends from college. 

What do you smell like? 
I'm worried I smell like my work environs. I work with juvenile offenders, in fact, the worst 3% of all juvenile offenders in Washington State. Many of these boys have not yet learned good hygiene, have
cognitive or mental health issues that preclude hygiene care, or they just don't give a rat's ass about the funk emanating from their sneakers or their sweaty parts.

My current caseload smears poop on his walls. He poops pretty much anywhere but in the toilet. He poops in his coat pocket; he poops in his portable plastic jail urinal; he poops in juice cups; and he poops in the communal mop bucket. He will even poop next to the toilet but not in the toilet. I hope this does not mean I smell like poop because, sadly, I'm around poop more than the typical person.

Paranoid that I smell like adolescent malodor and/or poop, I took the liberty to ask people I know what they think of my scent.

Friend: After a few whiffs, replies, "You smell sweet...you know, you smell like you." (Read: Not like poop!).

Coworker: Avoiding any privacy bubble awkwardness, she smells my elbow, and proclaims, "Like Target." This is a compliment; I love Target! (Also read: Not like poop!)

Mom: In Mandarin, replies, "You smell like your body's own flavor. Dad and I always thought you smelled wonderful since you were a baby." I don't know what that my own body's "flavor" means but I'm generously interpreting that as not resembling poop.

In conclusion, to answer what I smell like, I do not smell like poop, but rather a sweet, flavorful Target store. 

What do you like to smell?
The juicy spritz of orange oil when peeling an orange, coffee, Aveda stores (whose scent I have been unable to reproduce), rosemary/lavender/eucalyptus particularly in steam rooms or hot baths, Pacific NW hiking trails, campfire, fresh reams of paper, and chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven.