There was a funky smell on the MAX train this morning. Funky enough for the evening post later . . .
14 hours later . . .
It does, all of it, make a funky kind of sense. There is a beauty, a certain symmetry, a pattern, and abundant evidence of design, but it has a delightfully funky feel. I do like it a lot, a lot. And the mystery of it all is by definition beyond me, and I love it. That is why I flew past Ray’s Farm this morning to deliver an express package further down the road, and then returned there around Noon because Ray had mail, and then I ended there when my truck was empty of anything with postage on it (except, of course, for all of the outgoing), signaling to me that my work was complete. So, I stopped there to pray and then drove on around toward the barn . . .
But first, those other scents:
I got on the MAX at 6:39 a.m. and immediately was aware of this force that was repelling me. It seemed to register with my brain before it hit my nostrils, but when it took hold nasally, well, I just wanted to call in sick or maybe hitchhike to work. But, I thought it would go away, this funky smell, when someone got off. So, I got on and sat down. It was quiet, and I noticed that the girl next to me was holding a floral-patterned silk scarf over her nose. Across from me was another woman, and her demeanor and carriage and dress were such that I thought she might be the source of this, ugh, this horrid smell. I later learned that she was not the source and I was sorta convicted in my prejudice, my pre-judging based upon externals. It was the smell, it had to be, affecting my kind nature:)
The MAX is moving now and across from me is a guy whom I have seen around. He has intelligent eyes with a twist of reptilian light in them. He has large biceps but otherwise is average. I believe that there is an occasional cohort of people who are either coming out of a shelter for the homeless, or perhaps are in recovery from addictions, or doing community service for misdeeds of the past. This guy is one of them, but he was traveling alone today. Next to him was a younger guy who seemed, possibly, to be going to the same place—but for the first time—-as he was asking the reptile where to get off the train. Rodent-like, this guy, like a rat but a cartoon rat in an animated motion picture, a rat with a good heart who has screwed up and is making amends.
After a couple of minutes, someone addressed the elephant in the room. And God, how I wish it had been an elephant. Then we would have known what the smell was, and as I have smelled an elephant before, I might have found it full of wonder.
I was trying to keep mostly to myself until reptile made a quip that maybe the smell was “the postman”. I don’t get called postman very often. Usually, it’s “mailman” and is the cry of all ages of children, “Here comes the mailman!”, and is uttered with eager expectation. Once, I was called a “post-officer” by a guy who wants to talk when I pull up to his box. I think he is a drinker, but his speech was clear that day when we discussed whether I was or was not a post-officer. But, when reptile said “postman”, and maybe that smell was mine, I laughed and the ice was broken. By an elephant, I suppose, it was broken, because the crack that developed was wide enough for all of us to share our stories of famous smells we’d encountered in our travels. It reminded me of the scene in Jaws when Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfus are comparing scars.
Reptile said that he could identify our current scent because he had smelled it in jail a few times, but his worst olfactory memory was dead clams that had rotted in an ice chest once, forcing him to toss the container overboard. Rat just listened and grinned a newboy grin, happy to be going somewhere, anywhere, and grateful for the company of guys talking about rotting clams. Silk scarf just shuttered at all of it, and then got off. The woman who was not guilty laughed at the clams and said something, I forget, that convinced me that it was not her. Then I shared my story of the stench nut.
It is 1977, Christmas break, and my buddy Mike and I are at his house eating mixed nuts from a large bowl. We are plopped on his bed and this bowl is between us, and it contains holiday nuts in large quantity. We are no doubt talking about music and we are young and thin and always ravenous, so we are eating nuts like nobody’s business. Pecans and Stravinsky. Almonds and ooh, I hope it was Rachmaninoff. Some peanuts and it is Holst. A walnut and it is Ravel. Maybe Mussorgsky. I reach into the bowl and grab a large nut, a Brazil nut, and look at it only briefly while thinking about Adolf Herseth playing the promenade theme in Pictures at an Exhibition, and then I raise that nut to my lips.
The nut gets to within seven centimeters of my lips which is around nine centimeters from my nose, when it flies across the room, Mike’s room, and hits the wall, rebounding off the wall back onto the bed near Mike’s left hand. I hear a shriek of horror as the nut is flying, and I realize that it is my own voice shrieking and my own hand that did fling that nut.
Oh, oh, the horror of the smell! It was utterly repulsive and evoked such a physical reaction in me that my hand fled my nose and released all that it held, which in this case was one nut. A rotten Brazil nut. “What, what?” I hear Mike saying. The nut, the nut! That was the limit of my vocabulary, and music was no longer even a thing to me. Just that odor, that smell, that scent, that stench.
Mike picks it up, of course, and sniffs it. Again, the nut flies across the room, this time over my head, landing on the floor. “Can you believe that smell?” we are both asking ourselves and each other. We have encountered something rotten to the core. And we can not leave it alone. I climb off the bed, retrieve the nut, and try to smell it again. It has become mysterium tremendum et fascinans to us. We are repelled by it, yet we cannot stop raising it, elevating it, attempting to know of its depths.
Finally, after, we have endured it to our limits, I get some aluminum foil from Mike’s kitchen and carefully wrap the nut, lest its evil escape into the world.
[I saved that nut for a couple of years, and whenever anyone would come into my room, I’d toss them the foil package, and say, “Here. Smell this.”]
We laughed about the funky smell, and then Reptile, Rat, and Guiltless got off the MAX and walked away into the fresh air. I got off at the next stop, went to work, worked all day, basked in glorious Music and ended up at Ray’s Farm. I prayed pure gratutide, smiling. As I pulled around to the barn, I saw Ray’s dog peering out from behind the tractor. I knew Ray would be there, and he was, standing with his walker. He actually called to me, “Hello, Timothy!” I got out and as we talked Ray told me the name of his dog. I scratched her back, pulling free the loose fur and releasing it into the breeze that is always blowing gently at the Farm.
Her name is “Misty” . . .