Could you identify your city by smell?

by allthoughtswork

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People actually study this stuff. I grew up in the rural Midwest, so cow and horse aromatherapy doesn’t bother me like burnt French Fry grease and stale cigarettes do. I have friends who swear fresh cut hay makes them hack, yet they can inhale diesel fumes like they’re vaping. That’s weird.

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This is probably why I live on the west side of Portland and not the east.

The west side is newer and cleaner, with lots of green space, SUV’s, and pretension. Little natural areas are incorporated into the city plan to allow this dripping sponge of a burg to drain itself during the rainy season and the personal hygiene of everyone’s front yard is fiercely and proudly maintained, particularly if you live under the oppressive iron umbrella of a no-good, asshole homeowner’s association that counts the fucking dandelions on your lawn and fines you like a senile traffic cop with piles!


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The east side seems to be constructed entirely out of asphalt and body odor. You could swear something died somewhere but you’re not sure how many years back. If you roll your window down on a hot day, you immediate want to wash your face. The air just seems to be thick with…Well, stuff. Stuff you don’t want on your face. Yards are typically dried mud, four shrubs, and a tree, and the drunks pee behind the tree. Patio furniture outgasses cheap cigarette fumes from April to October, the rest of the year it’s slimy with mold.

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For truly sweet air, I go hiking. I look forward to it all week. But when a young couple passes me on the trail with kill levels of IKEA perfume (yes, really) and Axe Body Spray that nearly causes the hawks to drop from the sky, I don’t open my mouth when I smile hello. I keep walking until oxygen ratios normalize, then inhale deeply and mutter expletives under my breath until I can get home and wash my face.

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6 Comments to “Could you identify your city by smell?”

  1. the predominant odour permeating the air of my neighbourhood around tea time – especially in summer when folk have their windows open is curry – [one of the advantages of living in an area with a large asian population]

    I love it – always gets my juices flowing

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If that really is Eau de Manchester it would be called CANAL No5.

    Mind you, most of the l’eau dans Manchester comes straight down from above.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There were several pongs that permeated my childhood.

    One was the area of Warrington around Bank Quay Station on the banks of the River Mersey – opposite which was a huge Lever Brothers factory that churned out Persil [TM] and river pollution in equal measure. The whole area reeked of washing powder. Years later I was at the station when a couple of Geordies got off a train and announced “Man, it fooken stinks, ya knaw. It smellsa dead bodies! Even wuss than Middlesbrah, like!” Enough said.

    Another that stayed with me for years was the smell of a double decker bus crammed with soaking wet school uniforms, and whatever was wearing them at the time. This after 7 years of getting the bus from Grappenhall to Lymm every day in an assortment of the finest weather that Cheshire could offer. I don’t know what that hairy material was that school blazers were made of back then, but it had an inate ability, when wet, to store and release slowly – for a full 8 hours – the most disgraceful pong.

    Liked by 1 person

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