One Thousand Scents

Friday, March 17, 2006


You've probably never seen "The Oblongs", a short-lived, twisted, and very funny animated TV series, but yesterday I was reminded of a scene in which the boozy, chain-smoking mom, Pickles Oblong, gives up smoking and suddenly regains her sense of smell. Her family finds her on the living-room floor, sniffing at it, and saying, "I just discovered that everything has a smell--and I don't like it!"

Jim brought home some daffodils the other day; he'd bought a dozen or so stems as part of an office fund-raiser for the Canadian Cancer Society. What could be more beautiful or spring-like than daffodils? (Crocuses, maybe.) We put them in sugar-water and within sixteen hours they had all bloomed. I'd always thought that daffodils, like tulips, had little or no scent--certainly not the sort of lush scent you'd associate with, say, lilacs, that harbinger of summer. Nevertheless, I stuck my nose into one and took a big whiff, because I am constitutionally incapable of not doing so, and that's when I discovered why you never see daffodils listed among the notes of a fragrance: they're not pleasant at all.

They smell floral, to be sure, but laced throughout that floralcy are some harsh, horrible things: a shrill, spiky greenness and some notes that I can only describe as chemical and resinous. My living room smells--not strongly, thank god--like someone spilled cheap perfume in a plastic-wrap factory.


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