Tuesday, October 30, 2012

storm smells

(last night, in my neighborhood)
Nosy readers, I hope you are safe, dry, and warm. Last night my quiet Cambridge neighborhood smelled of burning leaves on every block, the burning-leaf smell carried even on wet leaves in the strong winds, so much like late-autumn backyard bonfires that it was a genuine surprise to have the smoking chimneys pointed out to me, of course no maniacs were burning their yard waste during a weather event, rather, they had their fireplaces going for maybe the first time this year. My friend Carla remarked on Facebook at how beautiful the storm smells were from where she stood: "The stormy air in Boston smells fantastic. Scent mixture of ocean, autumn leaves, and damp earth." (Scientists have names for some of those beautiful storm smells: ozone, petrichor, and geosmin.) Even here, where my own stroll around the neighborhood was decidedly low-risk, I wrestled with the urge to tell anyone I saw to Get inside! and had a stronger version of this reaction to the live photo-tours of New York I was privy to via Instagram and Twitter. But I also understand the need to go outside and see, to feel in the whip of high winds just how vulnerable we all are, always, to breathe that in and call it beautiful, knowing how lucky we are for the chance.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Nosy Interview: Kathleen Rooney

Kathleen sits in Zodiacal Light and Milky Way, © Babak Tafreshi (TWAN)

Kathleen Rooney is a nosy nomination courtesy of Elisa, her frequent collaborator. Kathleen is an inspiringly prolific poet and essayist; a founding editor of Rose Metal Press; and, so I've heard, a consistent wearer of dazzling frocks. Her latest book, the novel in poems Robinson Alone, comes out this very day! 

What do you smell like?
I wish I could be sure. But just as it’s almost impossible to tickle yourself, it’s almost impossible to smell yourself. Or at least it’s almost impossible for me. At the moment, I smell like Tendre Madeleine, which is what I’m wearing today because it’s a good fall smell. But I just emailed my husband, Martin Seay (who happens to be one of the best-smelling people I know) to see what he thinks I smell like and he said, “I think you smell like dryland herbs being lightly crushed under the hooves of a juvenile bighorn sheep.” Then he added, “To be clear, you smell like the herbs, not the sheep. I just added the sheep because the herbs needed to be crushed by something.” I’ve had other people tell me I smell “clean” and like “cut grass” or “green plants,” so he seems to be onto something. Also, typically, green scents don’t work well on me, so maybe that’s partly because I’m already “green.”

What do you like to smell?
Skunks, cool damp basements in the summertime, and birthday candles that have just been blown out
(which I always associate with the smell of ghosts). When I was little, I thought that gray hair smelled like smoke. I also love—and have always loved—to smell my sister Beth, who is three years younger and my best friend. We used to share a room, and when we were small and traveling as a family we’d usually share a bed, and I always felt comforted by having her near and specifically by smelling her. She’d usually fall asleep before me and I would feel reassured by being able to lean over and smell her hair, her scalp. She still is one of the best smelling people in the world to me. Funny smell story: when Beth was pregnant with her first baby, Rose, before she and her husband had told anyone, I knew by smelling her. She had me and Martin and her in-laws all over to our parents’ house in the Chicago suburbs for dinner (without telling us why, and it wasn’t unusual because we get together often). When I came upstairs into the kitchen to hug her, I could somehow smell that she was pregnant and knew that she was going to announce it. We made eye contact and she looked at me all, “Don’t spoil the surprise,” and of course I didn’t, but it was an amazing feeling to be able to know something so major without being told in words. Now, not surprisingly, I love to smell my niece, who is 14 months old and smells quite a bit like Beth.

Monday, October 22, 2012

nosy recommends engine

images via elana's pantry & Origins 

If you like chopping kale, try Origins Vitazing™ SPF 15 Energy-boosting Moisturizer. If you know me IRL (as the kidz say), you are aware of my deep and abiding love for kale. I especially love the bright, earthy smell that comes when chopping Lacinato kale, a scent that so matches the rich, deep green of those beautiful leaves. So I was delighted to find that this moisturizer sample I've been using starts with a little zing (no ™)  of fresh-cut kale, a smell I love so much I guess I do want to spread it all over my face. The kale scent is short-lived, but enjoyable enough that I'm thinking of buying a full bottle of this stuff.

If you liked the Gap Scents '90s fragrance dreamteam (Grass, Dream, Heaven, Earth, & Om), try Old Spice Pure Sport High Endurance. It reminds me especially of what I'm pretty sure was Gap Dream, but it's been so long since I smelled those fragrances (& I had the entire lineup, in those little brushed aluminum bottles). From the stick, the Pure Sport (is that name supposed to suggest the fragrance? imply a best practice for use?) doesn't smell so different from countless other manly-man-on-a-boat-scented deodorants, but when my main squeeze puts it on, something alchemizes and I get this  dreamy blast from the Gap-scented past.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Nosy Interview: Carissa Halston

Carissa in a rotated Galaxies, Stars, and Dust, © Ignacio de la Cueva Torregrosa (Capturandoeluniverso, A.A.E.)

Carissa and I met at a going-away gathering for Elisa (miss you, girl!), and since that time I've had the pleasure of watching Carissa completely command a big, rowdy audience as she read from her novella The Mere Weight of Words. In addition to writing books, Carissa runs a small press and a reading series, and still somehow finds time to tweet

What do you smell like?
I like to think that I smell like the things I wear/do every day. Each day, I wear two white gold bands (one on each hand). My right hand has the advantage of tiny sapphires and diamonds. I walk and I read and I write every day, so add sweat to the mix (two parts cerebral, one part physical). As a writer, I'm fond of em dashes and as an editor, I'm fond of compression (delete, delete, delete), so I also smell of punctuation and absence. According to my best friend, I smell "warm," which I find comforting because it's sentimental and pleasantly surprising because I'd never describe myself that way.

What do you like to smell? 
I like to smell books, though it's very rare that I find a great book smell. Often, they smell like spaces (obvious ones: libraries, used book stores, dusty shelves, boxes). Though occasionally, they smell like books, which is a pulpy, inky, old (or sometimes new) smell. It's the faint scent of glue and cloth. Some books have very non-book odors. Health textbooks have a distinctly skunky scent. The very first book I remember smelling was my health book in second grade. It smelled foul, but I couldn't keep my face out of it. Its stench was compelling in its strangeness.

I love smelling freshly cut lime. I also love to smell nutmeg. And hyacinths. And hot pavement after a dramatic pour. Summer days by the ocean (for the salt water), autumnal days in the city (for the leaves). The smell of winter right before it snows. The smell of spring right before the thaw. Cloves, which make me think first of ham and second of cigarettes and the boy I used to know who smoked them. Sandalwood, which my best friend wears. Cedar, which my father's shoe-
trees were made of. For nostalgic purposes, rubber cement--it reminds me of fifth grade and a friend I haven't seen in years who was my very first smart friend (i.e., he was the first person I ever met who I knew I could be smart with). Juniper. Anise. Earl grey.

Friday, October 12, 2012

nosy recommends: burt's bees baby bee multipurpose ointment

This smells so sweet! Not sweet like frosting, sweet like darling. Burt's Bees Baby Bee Multipurpose Ointment just smells adorable. It's light streaming in the open windows in the farmhouse bedroom where your white sheets were just air-dried the day before and the host, one of your oldest friends, left a little mason jar full of gummy bears on your bedside table (just the orange, yellow, and adhesive-colored ones). This tub's pudding is cuddly but not cloying, and comforting with a chewiness I associate with that tantalizing pull to bite the brand-new nub of pink eraser on a fresh yellow No. 2 pencil (it doesn't smell like that eraser, but like the feeling you imagine it will have between your molars). Even though I've learned that petitgrain is a bitter orange note, there's a homier smell I associate with the word petitgrain that comes to mind when I sniff this ointment. I would like to smell coumarin (one of the ingredients listed, along with shea butter, almond oil, beeswax, and coconut oil) and see whether the compound accounts for the dollop of countryside I'm getting, since its Wikipedia entry says coumarin is "readily recognized as the scent of new-mown hay," and is found in plants like tonka bean, vanilla grass, sweet woodruff, sweet grass, cassia cinnamon, Deers Tongue and sweet clover.

You can use this ointment, intended for babies' bums, however you might use Vaseline, and it's especially nice on rough heels (sandal season is officially over here in Cambridge) and dry elbows (the season for which is fast approaching). I mainly use it at night, but it's subtle enough that it doesn't interfere with perfume.

 "Mr. Autumn Man, enjoying a seasonal stroll." --The Onion 

Other things I recommend right now, from past Nosy Interviewees and from the planet: 
  • Elisa has been doing some great perfume writing on her blog lately, on her new favorite leather, lilies, and underwear perfumes. I loved this line: "From a distance, the impression is not unlike my vintage Shalimar – a powdery floriental with a smoker's cough." Elisa and I disagree about Agent Provocateur, which she thinks goes from uptight to dirty, and I believe to be so raunchy in its opening that I leave a small grace period before leaving the house with it on. 
  • Rebecca has a wonderful poem, "Self-Portrait at San Carlito," up at Verse Daily (and a book coming out in 2013!!!).
  • Natalie wrote an excellent review of Zadie Smith's NW for Fiction Writers Review, and highlighted one of the book's best lines: "Overnight everyone has grown up. While she was becoming, everyone grew up and became."  
  • FALL! I am definitely a shameless version of Ms. Autumn Woman, and if you encountered me on the street yesterday, you would have been subjected to a six-minute (minimum) reverie on how incredible fall smells and feels and looks. I like to celebrate its arrival with an annual reading of Colin Nissan's brilliant "It's Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers," and suggest you do the same, whatever the weather where you are.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

your breath smells in the news

In last week's issue of New York magazine, Jason Feifer tests the Topland Etiquette Checker, a personal breath-stank analyzer that uses a smiley face system to rank your mouth on a scale from "infinitely kissable maw" to "dead animal baking in the summer sun." Feifer "soiled his mouth with garlicky onion dip and coffee," used a series of "masking agents" including gum, mints, mouthwashes, strips, natural remedies, and whiskey, and subjected first the Etiquette Checker, then his wife, to the waft. You can check out a chart detailing the results, and the verdict (a the machine deviated 43% from Feifer's wife!) here. I'm so curious about this project. How many days did it take? Did Feifer use these masking agents in the order listed? How many did his wife smell in one sitting?
Screencaps via Jezebel and Huffington Post

In other smell-your-loved-ones'-breath news, Honey Boo Boo Child (aka Alana Thompson) & family recently participated in what Tracie Egan Morrissey delightfully described as "an interesting parlor game" called Guess Whose Breath. You can watch the clip here (scroll down to the second, smaller video screen) and if you're in the mood for more but need a little nudge, let Rachel Shukert convince you that "your mind is [not] too beautiful to sully with the Victorian freak show that is modern American television" in her compelling essay on how the fascinating Thompson family provides "a reflection of the classic immigrant experience."

In still timelier breath news, when I went looking for the Neil deGrasse Tyson tweet screencapped above, the first thing I saw in my twitter feed was an assertion that "Romney breath smell like canned yams and taco meat," as speculated by @seanverde and re-tweeted by Heems of Das Racist (@HIMANSHU), who is, at the time of this writing, on a real Romney smells tear, RT-ing lots of poop & bullshit-themed tweets, but also speculation that Romney might smell like crayons, gravy, mildew, or Cheetos. And there are so many post-debate tweets about Romney's smell and breath to choose from (balloon air, baking soda, old bath water, Lay's Dill Pickles + Spicy Ketchup--these all come from real tweets)! As @silvyysilv says,"ppl are going ham on Romney breath."

Monday, October 1, 2012

the first thing you put forward

This wonderful talk from fellow nose-aficionado Masha Turchinsky is well-worth your next four minutes. Watch at this link for more information on the art Turchinsky discusses.

Thanks to Andrea Sparacio for sharing this link with me, and thanks to those Nosy Interviewees who have, over e-mail and in conversation, remarked on their varied relationships with their own noses, be those noses prominent, "imperious, weak, playful," beloved, or begrudgingly accepted. Your noses will always celebrated here on Nosy Girl.