“Kate. Hey, Kate.”
“Wha-huh? Yeah?” I said, popping my earbuds out, looking about. My manager was leaning in the door, hissing at me.
“Are you, um, doing laundry?”
“Oh, shit, yeah. Need me to move it?” I said, shutting off the hose. Bits of fish and slime swirled on the concrete.
“I mean, nah. It’s not done. But, the whole hall smells like weed, dude. I sprayed some smelly stuff, but, like, it’s so bad…”
The hose dripped.
Okay, let me back up a second. I spend a lot of time in relatively odd places, working relatively odd gigs. The fish bits and slime? Part of the oddities. The weed that—yes, I admit—was stinking up the whole bunk house? Shrapnel from a past odd job. At the time of the laundry debacle, I was living on an island in way north Alaska. A remote little snatch of land with a few people and a ton of fish. And no weed, legally speaking. Sure, it was legal in Alaska by then. Sure, I had a pound or two sent up—maybe. (Who is reading this?) Sure, I donated it to everyone that wanted to donate to me equitable sums of cash, my manager included. Still, officially speaking, legally speaking, a weedless rock.
Back on the island for only a week after a stint down south in California, I was working on a harvest. It was my buddies farm, and though he had the permits to grow, we all got a wide berth in the local grocery store. Our smell preceded us down the cereal aisle, just as the dryer on the island heated each little bit of green still trapped in my clothes, filling the living quarters with a lovely, albeit slightly sudsy sweet scent.
This was not the first time I’ve been caught in the throes of blind stench. After one particularly grueling harvest and trim camp, I had snuck off to town, cruising out of the California foothills into the valley where the air smelled like the stale belch of the surrounding cities. Lovely.
I wandered through clothing stores, piling clean—a big deal to a person fresh off the grimy, greasy farm—clothes on my arm, conscious of the dirt clods my boots left like dung piles under the fluorescent lights. It took a minute for the muttering to catch up.
“Someone in here?” Eyes flighty, brows knit.“Who?”
Whispered, hissing words passed over the radio behind hands. In a department store, I became dimly aware—then vigorously so—of the blonde bobs of big-toothed retail ladies following me about the place. I blushed furiously, tried nothing on, and bought everything I had over my arm. The whole time I stood waiting to be rung up, I clenched all my pores, willing the weed stench to stay put. They looked at me like I was wearing a Pro-Abortion shirt at a baby shower. They glared and they glowered, turning up their shapely noses at me. There’s nothing like a nice, funky stink to really get a crowd going.
But then, rolling back up into the foothills, the sun hanging low and gold, dust erupting up and catching all the twilight sun, I rolled down the windows and let that dirty funk flow right in. Breath deep: there’s rhubarb, sage, mint, and sometimes pine. The sweet notes of Tangee, the sharp tang of Blue Cheese. The sap of a plant so pretty you’ll want to smoke it. Oh, wait. Buyers came and went at the farm, sniffing, snorting and huffing all the goodness we had grown right out of the turkey bags. They knew, or pretended to know, what it all meant.
So, who are you? What do terpenes and trichomes mean to you? Do you shiver and scowl when a kid walks by, stinking of last night’s joint? Or do you take a second whiff, then a third, trying to remember the last time you found some sparkling flower?
We have this odd animal relationship with our noses. The reactions are visceral, and also learned. Maybe you think the pretty plant is the stuff of Satan? Then sure, that stink is gonna sting your brain like you’re the law sniffing moonshine in prohibition teacups. Maybe you don’t even know why you hate the stuff, or why you love it? Your nose will tell you what you feel. Catch a whiff, a suggestion more than anything—a shadow, a hint of a cherry glowing in a pipe, and your loyal nostrils will tell you to love or loathe.
Do you pass joints with strangers on ski lifts? Have you spent nights happy and stoned with a lover, listening to rain storms rattling tent flaps? Does music make you cry, and force your heart to bang a bit faster when you sit down on a Sunday and flick a lighter? Do you have fond memories of passing a bong about with buddies on sunny afternoons? Yeah? Okay, then I bet you’re gonna be the guy sniffing the kid twice. I know I am.