Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nosy Interview: Gallo Fall

Gallo in Wisps of the Veil Nebula, © Joaquin Ferreiros

Gallo and I met through a dear mutual friend. Others occasionally refer to me as "Nosy Girl" in their interviews, but I think Gallo may be the only one to call me this in person as well, and I always liked how it sounded in his Senegalese accent, "Hello, Nosy Girl. How is Nosy Girl?"  

What do you smell like?  
Yay, it is Nosy time. Well, I smell like Soapwalla Deodorant Cream. I started using it since I moved in with my girlfriend. As my girlfriend has an allergic reaction to any perfumes, I want to save her from sneezing. 

I have been very aware of her fragrance-free world and am using a natural smell neutralizer that works even after a 5k jog. I smell like Soapwalla, kind of lavender-ish and peppermint since this is the only deodorant that am using.  

What do you like to smell? 
Great question! Well, Nosy Girl, I miss the smell of my family’s house in Senegal. Growing up, the scent of thiouraye (pronounced “choo-rye”) was the most prominent smell in our household. The smell was very distinct, heavenly good and magical.  

Thiouraye is made from diguidja (pronounced “dee- gui-jah) which is bits of wood and seeds soaked in a mixture of perfumes such as musk or other types of oil and spices and usually kept sealed in an old jar for a period of time. The way my mother makes it is very different from others as there isn’t any particular formula. After the thiouraye is fermented, my mother would sniff it to ensure it passed the smell test— her quality assurance, so to speak. The incense is burned on an “ande” (pronounced “ah-nde”), which is a handmade clay bowl filled with ashes. Then burning charcoal is buried under the ashes. Once sprinkled on the ande-thiouraye, the scent of thiouraye wafts through corridors and fills the house.

Occasionally, I pass by someone on the street and can recognize them as a fellow Senegalese—their clothes, hair, and belongings are all infused with thiouraye.

Monday, November 26, 2012

smellgiving & thanksmelling

I baked (& ate) this for you.

Are you still eating Thanksgiving leftovers? I have leftover thanks to give, too, that I meant to offer last week. Thank you for reading! I'm so grateful to you, and to the nosy interviewees, who have indulged my curiosity over so many weeks, and who make me think about smell in sharper, better, weirder ways with each passing day. Thank you for reading, for lurking, for sharing, for commenting, for sending me smelly links, and for supporting me as I use this space to think out loud about smell in my sustained and scattered way. I go through the days more attuned to my sense of smell than ever before--more appreciative of pecans caramelizing in bourbon and brown sugar, more alert to the way that smells poke out like loud noises or beautiful faces, and still more fascinated by what we say about how we smell--and I have all of you, in no small part, to thank for that. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Nosy Interview: Letha Myers

Letha in NGC 6357: Cathedral to Massive Stars, © NASA, ESA, & Jesús Maíz Apellániz (IAA, Spain

Letha and I met when we both lived in the Biltmore, a former hotel with The Shining-esque hallways and a primo location in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. Get a glimpse of the world through Letha's beauty-hungry eyes by peeking at her Instagram feed, visiting her Etsy shop, or perusing the archives of her blog

What do you smell like? 
I think I primarily smell of baking soda and apple cider vinegar because that’s what I wash my (hippie, sustainable, cheap ass) hair with. I probably also smell like the ‘Yes to…’ brand of products. I like and use their cucumber body butter a lot (it smells better than the straight up lotion of the same cucumber persuasion.) Also Tokyo Milk’s ‘Sencha Bleu’ solid perfume. According to their web site ‘Sencha’ smells like “Hyacinth, Iris, Citrus Zest and Crisp Greens.”

What do you like to smell? 
Fresh ginger, avocados, tomatoes from the farmers market, pickles, cheese,  bread, olives….oh, olives! Spices; dill weed, rosemary, peppercorns before they're ground, cardamom. Gin, a super hoppy beer (Pliny the Younger!), just-pressed and poured coffee. Tea before it’s brewed, how promising it is, how potent. Mexican hot chocolate. Olive oil in a hot pan before anything joins it. The dusty smell of uncooked rice. And again, cheese. (Always cheese.) Also: antique/thrift stores, memories wafting out of inanimate objects from all directions. Such a smelly clamor. Cracking open a book and inhaling the headiness of paper with ink on it-- escapism before I even get to the story. Slowly becoming a bona fide bicycler and finding lots of neat byproducts about commuting via two wheels…one being that there are lots of smells involved. And each day’s ride smells radically different. The first day of public school here in Seattle (I kid you not) smelled like fruit loops. Other times it's apricots or cashews or just grass and growing things. Often this summer I’ve smelled lavender so hard I choke. Particular spots, late at night as I roll by, smell like whiskey just poured into a glass. Today it smelled as if someone had dumped fresh wood chips over everything in creation and then stirred in some velvety moss. Heaven. Pressing my cheek against my twin niece and nephew’s 6 month-old faces and breathing in new life. How a just-made bed smells of both cleanliness and of dust (dusty smells, a running theme with my nose it seems). The way the person I love to curl up with often smells--ever so faintly-- of the smoking he’s constantly trying to reign in, but doesn’t, not really. The few times a year I catch a whiff of the odor of really hot sand in summer. The complex, deep smell of wet earth after rain. Earth smells are far and away my favorite. Dust. Pines. Decaying leaves. Clay. Earth smells tell me that--despite the chaotic rhythm of we and the planet--“this has all happened before, will all happen again.”

Monday, November 19, 2012

snowcake season

My neighborhood is not messing around, sunset-wise.

The week before last, Boston got a foot of snow. It all melted, and I was in Atlanta at the time, but the chill is still here, even as some fire-colored fall leaves keep hanging on, too. It seems I'm constantly talking about how fall is my favorite season, so it will surprise no one that I'm in no rush for winter to arrive. There are, though, a few winter-is-coming olfactory pleasures that help assuage any anticipatory angst: the smell of our ancient free-standing radiators when they clang into action after a long rest is so beautiful, and still surprises me most mornings; the smell of cold weather clinging to people's clothes, that almost-visible mix of static electricity and thin fresh air that makes those come-in, come-in hugs all the more essential; and the smell of Snowcake, my favorite Lush soap (described in last year's gift guide as the sudsy equivalent of a comforting embrace), which is back in season, and back in my regular shower rotation (used in conjunction with Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Liquid Soap, it's as Chrismassy as tinsel and twinkly lights). Stay gold forever, fall; I miss you even when you're around.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

fired up

[photo via And I Am Not Lying]

My friend Funlayo spotted incense like the Barack Obama Type (pictured above) in the Harvard Square T-stop and I knew I had to smell it (and maybe pick some up to burn today for luck). But incense-man has been out of the office every time I've popped into the station, and I suppose I'll have to wait until after President Obama is re-elected (knock on all the wood) to burn this in celebration rather than to mask the smells of full-court stress. American readers, don't forget to sniff your fellow progressive citizens at the polls today & VOTE!

Friday, November 2, 2012

nosy's smelloween

My friend Lauren in her jellyfish getup, with one of my fragrant petals creeping into the frame.

This year I was a BOOquet for Halloween (glamour-shot below). I weighed down a flimsy green dress with a dozen hot glue sticks worth of fake flowers, tied a florist's bow around a cellophane skirt, and topped it off with a flower headband so gigantic I'll need a royal wedding-invite to have occasion to wear it again. In the interest of verisimilitude, I coated myself with Rossy de Palma Eau de Protection. Though my costume didn't feature any roses, the scent matched the bright green and iridescent gloss of the dress, and seemed tough enough, somehow, to stand up to the chaos of Halloween. Maybe it's the bloody knife note that Chandler Burr describes in an article about The Art of Scent: 1889-2012, his upcoming show at the Museum of Arts and Design:  
The fragrance is called Eau de protection, Burr explains, and it is “one of the most fascinating works ever created, in any art form.” It was designed as “a portrait of a woman who is so beautiful that rose runs in her blood. And a man comes with a metal knife, and plunges it into her heart. And it is the smell of her blood, running down the blade.”
It was interesting to wear so much perfume (the dress hangs like a giant sachet on the closet door, scenting my whole bedroom even days later), especially since I'm usually a pretty restrained sprayer, perhaps in part due to my love of big ol' overpowering fragrances. But I went bananas spraying this costume, and this meant a lot more reaction to my smell than I typically get, ranging from the positive: "I just want to keep hugging you to breathe you in!" to the not-so-hot: "You smell like that one women's deodorant, you know, the famous one." Okay! 

Boo! Highly-filtered selfies are the Glamour Shots of our time. 

Another guest at the Halloween party, lanky and in all black, was dubbed Vanilla Bean due to her lack of costume and the serious waft of lovely vanilla she was projecting. She told me it was Jo Malone's Vanilla & Anise, a perfume I'd never sniffed before, but will definitely try when I next have the chance, even though I think part of its appeal might have been the ease with which she wore it, and the way its homey tonka bean comforts contrasted slightly with her sharp wit, luminous North London accent, and "nihilist's wardrobe." I'm on a serious "non-yicky vanilla" (term courtesy of Katie Puckrik) kick at the moment, though, having fallen in love recently with the smokey, soulful vanilla in the gorgeous CB I Hate Perfume's 7 Billion Hearts (so like me to fall for priciest car on the lot) and the woody beauty of Le Labo's Vanille 44. Maybe my nose knows that winter is coming and wants the warmth of rich, real vanilla, worn by humans huddled together around a fire.