Sunday, July 31, 2011

It's got a -smell-!

Have you ever gone overseas?  It's interesting because when I was in Japan, it had a distinctive smell.  Not just where I landed but the whole region.  You can't mistake the overpowering aroma of wet, thick marijuana smoke and raw sewage with a hint of decaying fish.  It's omnipresent.  There's no escaping it night or day.  Other GIs had commented on it upon arrival.  Tokyo was fainter and smelled a bit more like car exhaust and metal.  I know it's hard to describe the smell of metal.  Try tasting your car keys for a second.  That's what metal smells like in Tokyo.  This was in 1996.  It probably smells a lot more like nuke now. 

When I moved to Denver back in 1993, I remember it smelled very fresh compared to Boston.  Brisk like the smell of snow (another hard one to explain.. like wet ozone maybe, pure oxygen out of an ionic breeze in a humid room).  I don't smell it anymore though.  Been here too long.

Other places smell differently too I hear.  Asians, when moved to Vermont said it smelled like apples everywhere, all the time.  When I got back to Boston on a few visits, the original scent now somewhat removed from my familiarity, smelled a lot like wet stone and dry leaves, which is actually quite nice, though the subways will always smell like hot urine.  There's no way to erase that.  Urine since 1880 hot and rich and pungent and in-your-face.  New Hampshire smelled sweet-ish like butterscotch and wood.

In 2003 I got to go to Michigan which smelled of rich, rich earth dirt smell, so rich it almost smelt edible.  Like crumbled chocolate cake.  Looked like it too.  I resisted a nibble.

It takes time to "unlearn" a smell from a region, and eventually you forget it's there.  You get used to it over time, maybe after a few months.  Astronauts (and, grudgingly, cosmonauts) on the International Space Station get used to that space-funk after a few weeks and then they don't notice it anymore.  Our brains turn-off the smell after a while.  Maybe it's a defence mechanism so we don't use our brains too much to over-analyze it lest it get too tired perhaps.  I never got over Japan though.  So thick smelling.  I'll never miss it.  Stuck to the back of my throat.  On Wednesdays they burn their dead country-wide.  I think on Fridays, Mothera would come sometimes and attack Gigan, though I never saw it, I bet it smelt like cherries and solar flare.

Does anyone else notice this?  What does other places smell like?  What does Mars smell like?  Are we all used to Earth smell?

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