04/11/2010 at 8:55 pm (Senses, Telegraph Ave.)

One of those scents that hook directly into my memory circuits and take me straight back to my childhood in Berkeley: the potent herb.  Take a whiff alongside me:


The smell is unmistakable, no matter what location I find myself: indoors, outdoors, at a house party or walking down Telegraph Ave. late at night.  Skunkweed, marijuana on fire in a wrapped cigarette, its smoke sucked into some stoner or hippie’s throat, then exhaled into the air with most of its pollutants intact.  Into the air with the stench of the smoker toker, the remnants of their own human spray blended with homegrown pestilence and filth, the atmosphere chokes and wheezes, reels and expires.

The vapors that swirl and twirl on the end of the thin paper’s burning edge emit the impotentcy of its mother crop.  Harvested before its time, or past its prime, the crusty green flakes that may have once been leaves or even a tasty bud mix with dead seeds to fill a baggie of ineffectual purpose.  The smell, once enflamed in joint-form or stoked in bong water, is its immediate giveaway.  Bitter, acrid, full of weight and pressure, the smell consumes me, encircles and penetrates my nasal cavities.  If I plug my nose with the tips of my fingers, the traveling vapors parade into the corners of my mouth, and I taste ostrich dung mixed with pepper gum.  If I force my mouth closed, the invisible strands of skunk smoke spray my eyes, coat my retina with liquid sludge and hazardous waste.

There is no escape from this smell that assaults my clean body, my fortified fortress that has smoked the killer weed but has not embraced it as a companion.  The burn is excruciating, but that sensation is reserved to the actual partaking of it firsthand.  It is the second-hand smoke that is the worst: unexpected, utterly familiar, uninvited and unwelcome as guest or acquaintance.  Poisonous and insistent, the scent spreads out in all directions in order to attack and conquer.  My nostrils flare in aggravation, my eyes crinkle with identification and anticipation, and my mouth readies to retch as bile coats my throat and roils in my esophagus.



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