Monday, November 26, 2012

A Tale of Four Smells

Boarding the plane I was greeted by an old retired Canadian couple who had spent the last 34 days cruising around our vast continent. Paul and Nancy are a wonderful couple of people however there were two things I have to whinge about.

Number one is the first two of the four smells mentioned in the title. Within moments of sitting down and striking up a conversation with the lovely couple beside me, a horrible odour worked its way inside my nostrils and slid deep inside my throat. A smell so thick I could taste it. Old age and death had attached itself to my two travelling companions. It wasn’t their fault, age and/or death will catch will catch up with us all and they were obviously doing their best to hide themselves from these two malingering beasts however being stuck on the window aisle, inside this odour, for an entire 14 hour flight, was a little uncomfortable. The hatred of the smell was due in large part to the fact I have long suspected both of these beasts of stalking me, trying to age me to make me their own. Death even tried to add me on Facebook once.

Well to you, good sir, I say ‘Rage! Rage! Against the dying of the light’. Author’s note - Please imagine me shaking my fist up to almighty heaven whilst yelling that at the top of my lungs on an abandoned beach. I feel it evokes a much more powerful image than a man sitting inside his hostel at 10.30pm on a Sunday night, in another country, as he is still tired from his flight over and fighting jet lag and wants to be fresh for his Bruce Springsteen concert tomorrow night…………

Ok, perhaps old age is making more inroads than I would care to admit.

My second grievance about these two was that they seem to have been born with iron clad bladders. They went to the toilet once in the entire journey. Once! Being on the window seat meant I had to ask these two frail individuals to move every time I wanted to make an evacuation or even get up to stretch my legs. Being the kind soul I am, much to the disappointment of my bowels and kidneys, I ended up holding on for the final few hours not wanting to disturb them and unsure if Paul was sleeping or if Death had finally made its casting call.

Besides that the flight was fine with one of the in-flight meals I have had the pleasure of devouring.

This brings me to smell three of this sordid saga. Despite not having all the required paperwork with me I breezed through customs. When the customs agent asked me for a copy of my heath insurance a couple of brief rummages through my bag came up empty. After some profuse sweating and silent cursing I looked back over the desk and managed to eek out that I didn’t seem to have it. ‘No problems’ she said as she stapled my VISA into my passport. Phew.

So off I went, through the exit doors of Vancouver airport and into a whole new world. I was greeted with a rising sun, casually dipping its head through some huge, what I believe to be, Conifer trees, from which it’s rays stretched out to welcome me to the second largest country in the world. Moments later I was hit with a crisp, cool breeze which contained a sweet smell that reverberated through every fibre of my being. It was as though God had just brushed his teeth and picked that very moment to blow off any residual stench of death from my person (he did however decide to leave some of the old age hanging on). It was an awesome feeling. A lot of the doubts started to melt away and off I swaggered off with my sunnies on, beanie firmly ensconced to my bald head and coolness factor at an all-time high. If I only I smoked the coolness gauge would have been hitting ‘James Dean’.

I caught the skytrain to my hostel , managed to get lost in the three blocks between the station and where I was staying and had to hail down a taxi to get me there anyway. It was during this three blocks (which turned into something more like eight) which I first encountered the fourth and final smell of my journey thus far.

The fourth smell, I have since learned, appears to be the lifeblood of the Vancouver and ‘Bee-See’ way of life.

I was walking past a church. A nice church, it was rather old and very gothic. As I struggled with my luggage past the doors I caught a smell which took me back to the fields of Coachella, the lands of the Big Day Out and a smell which most definitely reminded me of Otto’s jacket. It smelt of adolescence saturated in teen spirit with angst and rebellion mixed in for good luck. I could also detect faint traces of the sixties and seventies working its way finely through my first whiff of ‘Bee-See Bud’.

 I’m not sure where the smell originated from, whether it was inside the church as someone had been sentenced by the father to five hail Mary’s and three joints after confession or if it was from someone sneaking a quick one in down the side but the smell was working its way out into the fair city.

From this point I noticed Bee-See Bud everywhere. It was on the breath of the taxi driver taking me to my hostel, it lingered quietly in the foyer of my hostel, it was even being cut up in my room by my new roommate when I entered.  I ventured downstairs later on that evening to grab a beer and some dinner and the first person I met as I was ordering my drink enquired as to whether I would care to share a joint with her outside. She didn’t even know my name but she had some ‘Bee-See bud maaaaaan!’.

Smells, they say, invoke the strongest memories. Just a hint of a perfume can take you back to a long lost love, the salty sea air always reminds me of Wanda beach and my childhood and it takes the slightest whiff of Dencorub and I am back in the dressing sheds getting ready for a game of football.

I’ve now got four delicious new smells to add to my memory banks. As I get older and settle back into my life I know I have a magic key that will take me all the way back to Canada and BC in an instant. The memories are all we will have at the end of the day and it’s nice to know that all I will have to do to take that trip is walk past a high school, stick my head in the toilets and breathe in deeply.