Scents and the City ...and a prize draw
By Garry Bradshaw
My buddies Charles Lott, Sam Anther and Mr. Randa and I set about to discover the true smells of New York City. First we had to decide what is New York City?
To anyone not from New York, it is only Manhattan. Tourists very rarely venture to Staten Island for example, and with good reason. The smells of Staten Island are more North Jersey factory than pleasant Fifth Avenue olfactory. So for our purposed, scents in the city would be limited to Manhattan.
That night, Charles and Mr. Randa were downtown at a sports-themed eatery called “Jimmy Chews”. They were debating whether to starts with the smells of the Meat Packing district – where they no longer pack meat -or near massage parlors of China Town where they still do.
So the decided to start at the very bottom … Battery Park, where the East River and the Hudson Rivers meet blending into an almost seaside smell, even with suntan lotion mixed in on warmer days when sunbathers flock to the park.
The rivers themselves have distinct smells and blindfolded, I’m convinced I could tell the difference. The Hudson (which separates Manhattan from New Jersey to the west) has more toxic pollutant smell. While the East River (to the east, duh) separates Manhattan from Brooklyn and Queens. It has less dumped pollutant smell, and more dumped Mafiosi smell.
Meanwhile, Uptown, Sam Anther and I were waiting my friend, Mr. Brigg. The scintillating smells of street vendor fair wafted our way. There was the greasy meat smells of bratwurst and halal gyros. Competing for nose space was the aromatic nirvana of roasting nuts.
The alluring smells of dishwater dogs and soft pretzels competed with Philly cheese steaks and lamb on a stick.
Occasionally I’d even smell the semi-sweet, semi diesel aroma of an ice cream trucked, parked and ready to sprinkle jimmies.
Mr. Brigg was late and didn’t call as usual, so Sam Anther and I wandered.
The old smells of New York, bus fumes and taxi fumes have gradually given way to more sterile smells of rainy sidewalks and brewing coffee, thanks mostly to the growing use of electric buses, hybrid taxis and a Starbucks on every corner.
The sterilization of Manhattan started with Mayor Giulianni I think. You really have to be lucky and in the right flow of wind in Central Park even to get a whiff of marijuana these days … not like the old days of Mayor Koch when Central Park smelled like Tommy Chong’s movie set trailer.
Sam Anther went off for a little while to have sex with a random stranger so I headed to midtown. The homeless have a special smell of course, but most of them smell better than the tourists. And of course there’s quite a funk near the peep shows around Port Authority Bus Terminal.
One thing I’ve noticed is that I’d much rather be on a crowded subway with someone with body odor than with someone who’s covered their body odor with way way way too much perfume … and it’s always the cheap perfume, the kind on sale at Duane Reade or from Perfumania or the knock-off stuff from the sidewalk sales on 14th Street.
Later that night I caught up with Mr. Anda and Charles outside the Garden. We agreed that spending an evening exploring smells had left us feeling a bit too metrosexual so we decided to catch the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Champion) match and hope the smell of blood would restore our testosterone level.
Over the years, the normal arena hot dog and peanuts fair has given way to a more suit-and-tie friendly cuisine of London broil and crepes Suzette. I was amused that my cup of Chinese Noodles from the concession stand was embossed with the letters, “M-S-G”. Later I realized it stood for Madison Square Garden.
I wondered … could the smells of Manhattan really be captured or rather do the smells capture us?
Take a guess on who is "Garry Bradshow". Those who guess correctly will be entered into a giveaway of a 100ml bottle of Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Soleil.