The title of this post is, indeed, a Ghostbusters reference.
My new Epson Small-In-One (see what they did there?) XP-960 5000 Millenium Forty G Thirty Plus Platinum Extreme Print Ultra Ink Edition 400 Now With 50% More You Wantness!** arrived today. Which is a great end to a day that began with the distinct smell of rotten foot.
I thought I had traced the smell to an area just in front of a houseplant in the dining room (It's completely possible, at our house, for Things to take on the smells of other Things. I swear the couch farts sometimes.). This also happens to be the area in which I create my art., and I momentarily considered the possibility that it was a Very Special Message.
Turns out the husband-type-person had eaten some cheese earlier. Yes. let that sink in.
I've been thinking about this all day because: number one, How can something so small and, apparently, edible, have so many and such powerful smell units? How did the smell coagulate into a self-contained entity and migrate as that entity to that particular quadrant of the dining room? leaving cheese ghosts here and there in its wake?
Why did it leave the kitchen, and how did it leave it so completely? Is it possible it was attempting to escape its own stench? Did it know that dirt is thought to ground out negative energies and knowingly choose the houseplant as a safe harbor? Is it a sentient being I should befriend and help move toward The Light?
Is the cheese host to an evil spirit, now awakened to its destructive capacity and wanting to destroy itself to save humanity?
And then it got me thinking about the sense of smell and how, at least for me, it seems much more richly and intimately connected to memory than any of the other senses. Gladly, I have no memories attached to this particular scent of cheese, although, in writing this, I may be permanently entangling fond childhood memories with the smell of fermenting dog farts.
Take, for example, the smell of brewed coffee. They serve Peet's Coffee for staff, where I work (thanks for the donation, Peet's!). Only - because the people who brew it are using old, industrial coffee-makers and using water that's most likely waaaay too hot, it doesn't smell like Peet's, it smells like whatever it was my dad used to scald on Saturday mornings when I was a kid. (My father was a Folger's man, and it was the 80's.) Sorry, Peet's.
So I smell it, and suddenly my field of vision is the walls of my childhood home and my feet on our brown carpet on the way downstairs to watch cartoons, the sun shining through our curiously large front window, and a glimpse of blue from the pool outside. And all sorts of other tangential memories and questions and pathways. Incidentally, I blame the 70's for both the brown carpet and the window.
There's also combination smell of cleansing fluid, natural gas, and toast that haunts the stairwell to the cafeteria here that puts me at age, oh, 6? or so, in my grandmother's kitchen on the ranch in Mexico, and I can hear the insectoid buzz of her old, really poorly grounded refrigerator, and I can feel the shock run through my arm as I grab the handle.
And all of those things happen in just the first split second and bleed into and out of and simultaneously before and after and in all of the other memories I discover also originate from that smell.
Because after the carpet and the cartoons, I'm in my parents' brown Audi, on my way to swimming lessons. Dad's cigarette smoke, the sound of children, my first high dive. The inappropriate touching (by my swim coach) incident, subsequent hyperventilation (during a swim meet) incident and the you don't really have diarrhea you just don't want to go to your lesson (really, mom?) incident are close behind. For the record, I actually had diarrhea and didn't want to go to my lesson because of said diarrhea.
And then I'm at the bus station in Santa Cruz, early 20's, waiting to be taken to campus, slightly high because I took a bite of my housemate's cookie, drinking a perfect pour-over from the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company - soymilk and honey hug the back of my tongue, and my backpack weighs heavy on my shoulders.
And after the shock of my grandmother's refrigerator handle I remember a praying mantis in her bougainvillea. I taste fresh eggs, just outta the chicken's hoo-ha. I simultaneously see, hear, feel and long for booming thunderstorms and fantastic lightning shows and fireflies.. I'm lying in a bed with my cousins as grape-sized hail stones fall through the roof, and we're laughing because we're kids and it's not serious.
I see the ubiquitous cannisters of Nescafe, Choco Milk (pronounced "chocomeel") and Tang, I taste my favorite fruits - tunas, mangos, guayabas - and my body remembers how my whole being melts as soon as I get off the plane pretty much anywhere in Mexico, and then I'm back at my childhood home, falling asleep in the wee hours of one of my parents' parties, lulled by the strum of the guitarron through the ceiling. (Mariachi songs = instant tears. My grandmother used to sing this one all the time: )
Smells cause digressions. They let loose cascades of intertwined memories long (thought to be) out of reach. Smells are time capsules, photographs, collages of moments. Journeys. For better or for worse, they're part of the identity glue that makes our experience human.
Unlike that otherworldly cheese. Holy crap wtf??
Anyway, I'm really happy about my new printer, and you will have read the word "diarrhea" four times.
**It's really just called the Epson Small-In-One XP960