"Smell Memory" by Múm which clocks in at 9:23
Two days ago, early Tuesday morning around 1am, I lost internet service at my home. A mini-disaster for someone such as myself, without doubt. I spent the better part of the evening troubleshooting everything I could think of - trying in vain to crack the codes to the other secure networks in my apartment building and unplugging/re-plugging the power to my cable modem and AirPort thirty-two times each. I know, I counted. Come on, what else was there for me to do without the internet?? Needed internet! But, nothing. I pacified myself by digging through some old bits and pieces of things I've begun writing and never finished, my "saved for later" folder. You'll find one such example posted below. It's something I honestly never figured would see the light of day.
Anyway, I went to bed that night hungry for information, dissatisfied (and even disgusted - you'll see) with my own writing snippets, and well aware of the fact that a dreaded phone call to Time Warner and a visit to a public internet cafe awaited me whenever I awoke. I barely slept.
The following morning, after clearing many of life's miniature hurdles, I found myself in quite a quandary. There I stood outside the door to the bathroom in one particular New York City Dunkin' Donuts - doing my interneting and having asked for a medium coffee but having received (and consumed) a large - painfully needing to urinate but entirely unable to open the restroom door. It wasn't locked, but rather blocked. Blocked by that smell. THAT smell. That smell. You can probably (kind of) guess what I'm talking about here, but this was a very particular stench I'd smelled only once before. A scent wall so imposing that it brought little tearlets to the corners of my eyes and a touch of the taste of whatever had caused this smell to my tongue. Nearly cramping, considering either pissing my pants or grabbing an empty coffee cup to use as a toilet in the corner, I suddenly considered a potentially larger problem than my bladder. Impending vomit. I was a complete and utter wreck. Surrounded by the inferior aroma of donuts and brewing coffee, I did my best to conjure the one happy smell I knew that just might bring an end to my misery. Sweet chocolate chip cookies.
You might remember a mention I once made of the first time I realized the ability of olfaction to elicit memories... the short version of the story is that it happened when I was a child: I smelled fresh, baking, chocolate chip cookies and it sent me back. How far back is debatable, since I was about eight years old at the time and thus didn't have very far back to go, but I realized in that very moment that I was experiencing some manner of time travel brought about by the smell of those cookies. Often I find that pleasant memories are tied to familiar food smells and that those can bring you back to happy moments from the past, but this smell? Not happy. This Dunkin' Donuts bathroom stench that was so powerful that it could penetrate a closed door? This smell unfortunately catapulted me back to last November...
There is this shit building up inside of me. Angst? No. Shit. Shit, like shit. Like, poop. You know? Feces? Yeah that, shit. I can feel it rumbling around in the lower portion of my insides, twisting me into knots and making churning grunt and grumble sounds audible only to me. It does this because I'm holding it in. I refuse to let go of it, even as it poisons me from the inside. Disgusting, I know. You don't have to tell me, it's my shit. And though I could get up and let go at any moment, I refuse to. I'm holding it in. I've been doing so for a good two hours now. I'm holding it in because I'm on a train from Amsterdam to Brussels, but that's not truly the reason. I'm holding it in because early on this journey I surveyed the facilities and found them to be far less than desirable. By this, I mean to say that when I walked into the WC (aka "shitter" in mid-American speak) I found urine sprayed recklessly about the 2'x2' human litter box. It was all over the toilet, the wall next to the toilet, the sink, and the mirror (I'm guessing about the last two - it could've been water or some other liquid (doubtful), but the entire tiny room smelled like piss regardless). The floor was covered with no less than seven distinct piles of wet (used) pieces of toilet paper, and there was something dark and brownish smudged in the corner. I don't think an anus could've gotten close enough to that spot in the corner, so I'm guessing that the smudge was not created via the traditional catcher's squat tactic, but rather that this fecal-smear placement involved direct hand to feces to spot in the corner contact. I considered this topic as I stood there and urinated, disgusted with myself and humanity. Still, the site of disastrously discarded human waste was not the worst aspect of this miniature toilet. Truth be told, it's not the reason I instantly (and permanently) decided to hold my #2 for as long as it took, my own health be damned.
What penetrated the horror of this particular loo more than anything else, more than the wet TP and probable shit and piss all over everything, was a very particular smell. It was mellow at first but I think that's only because it was so unfathomably powerful. Otherworldly. A smell so nastily strong that I almost didn't notice it; however, within seconds of standing there it hit like lightning. It instantly could've induced vomiting if I let it, and might've caused my eyes to tear up if I didn't close them and hope against all hope for it to simply be over very quickly. Even now, safely seated on the train in the non-terrifying passenger section, I shudder at the memory of it and I fear that it will soon take over everything - the car I'm in, this whole train, and eventually the entire planet.
It's a sour, biting, broccoli and Brussel sprout infused, sulfuric-fart-strength, piss gas. Probably something along the lines of what dragon waste smells/smelled like. Do you understand what I'm saying? If this disgusts you reading this now, imagine being here. I'll never forget the sight, the smell, the TASTE - yes the taste - of that bathroom. I can smell it still in my mind, now and forever, and I think it's following me back to my seat. I decide to think of happy smells. The smell of a girl's hair when you're dancing with her, the smell of fresh apples, the smell of cookies... chocolate chip cookies! Wait, I can remember that smell. It's helping. Barely.
(an hour later) It's gotten worse and I know I can't escape it. I know I'll be smelling this piss-ass stink pot for the rest of the trip from my seat, likely from anywhere on the train, and most probably in the dark recesses of my mind for the rest of my life. I simply hope that if it (the smell), or the crippling shit-cramps in my stomach, somehow does me in... I hope that this computer survives and people are able to cull from it mankind's best hopes for survival in the battle against the dragon stench: smell memory. I've lasted for nearly three hours in the belly of the beast thanks to visions of freshly baked cookies. Hear me now people, there's hope in the smell of sweet chocolate chip cookies.
*above photo from HERE
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EAR FARM's 8+ is a weekly feature that showcases songs longer than 8 minutes. In the recent past these songs were featured on EF's 8+:
Tool - "Lateralus"
Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks - "Real Emotional Trash"
Iron Maiden - "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son"
Mandy Reid - "Tornado"
Genesis - "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight"
Metallica - "Master of Puppets"
British Sea Power - “Lately”
The Decemberists - “The Mariner's Revenge Song”
To see a full list of every song featured in EAR FARM's 8+ click HERE.
07 February 2008
"Smell Memory" by Múm which clocks in at 9:23