Sunday, March 01, 2009

I'll always remember: the smell of college

Ah, Corvallis! Eau d' Sheep! Parfum d' Cow!

Friday morning on my way to work, I must have passed an especially stinky farm, because I caught a sudden wiff and boy did it take me back. At dusk, the aroma of cow permeates the entire city of Corvallis; you can't go anywhere without walking through a fug of cow and sheep dung. The funny thing was, it didn't really offend me that much. Oh, it's stinky, I'm telling you. But . . . you could also smell the warm animal bodies, and that has never bothered me. I love the pungent scent of horses, the earthy smell that wafts from their bodies when you're brushing (which is literally the smell of dirt and dust mixed together with old sweat and the essence of grass). And when you went out at dusk in Corvallis--walking to the Ette! Going to the MU!--sometimes it would hit you like a ton of bricks, and sometimes it would be the barest hint, but it was always--always!--there.

There are other smells that make me remember college, but never anything as strongly as the stink of a fraternity basement. What is it about that? It's kind of gross, when you really sit and think about it: the stale must in the walls, the spilled-alcohol on the couches, the beer residue on the floor, and of course the stench of old sweat. Boys sweating out testosterone while they're dancing on girls sweating off their perfume . . . must and sweat and beer would all combine to create "the scent of a fraternity," and, oh! Nostalgia! You don't really smell it anywhere else on the planet; it doesn't waft in my nose unexpectedly (like the scent of farmland on my way to work). But I still have the memory of the smell of fraternities. It gets sparked by the sausage-y, pepperoni stick reek of cheap beer, I guess. But usually what happens is it's the sight of those blue cases of Beast Ice that takes me back and then I remember the smell of a fraternity basement.

Potayto, potahto.

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