Eau Dear: Sniffing Out the Big Apple's Smelliest Spots:
from Washington Post's David Segal
"Over here," says Laurice Rahme, a perfume maker with an elegant French accent. "Stand right here. It's incredible."
We inhale together, then nod in unison. A hell-borne stench wafts over the corner of Baxter and Canal streets, a hectic intersection in Chinatown.
There is a fish market nearby with an assortment of scallops and lobsters cooling on ice, but those odors have been overwhelmed by something else, something vile and pitiless. Hints of rotten mustard, a soupcon of ammonia, undertones of armpit. The scent evolves in your nostrils like an argument that escalates -- it starts off testy, then insults your mother.
"I think it's the kitchen," Rahme says, walking down the street and toward the rear of a restaurant called Sun Say Kai. Embedded in the sidewalk is a trapdoor leading to the basement, where men are sweating and cooking. They gaze up, startled.
Rahme takes some tentative whiffs. "Old fried oil, heated and reheated," she guesses. "And organs, like the kidneys and liver."
We are on the hunt for stupefying aromas -- a stink safari, if you will -- and this is exactly the sort of gruesome emanation we knew we'd find. For every passion of the senses there is a nirvana: Wine lovers have the vineyards of Bordeaux, fans of John Singer Sargent have the Tate Museum in London. For connoisseurs of the rank, New York in the summer is a destination without peer, a wonderland of the noxious.
It smells so bad that we've brought along two olfactory experts for this tour. Along with Rahme, the parfumeur , there is Andrew Macchio, a retired veteran of the New York City Sanitation Department. He speaks with a robust Bronx accent, and when he isn't speaking, he sings. His specialty is '40s and '50s standards, and his signature tune, he says proudly, is "Mack the Knife." At social gatherings, when friends goad him into singing -- one imagines it wouldn't take much goading -- he saves that number for last.
"I make 'em wait," he says. "They yell for it and I make 'em wait."
But some corners stink far worse than others, and our team one recent morning has identified five of them. We plot our itinerary at Bond No. 9, the flagship store of Rahme's perfume line, which she launched in 2003. Bond No. 9 sells 26 scents, each named after a neighborhood of New York: Eau de Noho, Madison Soiree, New Harlem, Gramercy Park and so on. The goal, obviously, is to bottle the spirit of the place, not the actual fumes.
"We capture the soul," Lahme says.
This, of course, makes Lahme the ideal guide today, because anyone who can cork the essence of a street can surely describe its funk. Plus, she has a cool limo, which will be our reconnaissance vehicle. It's a vintage British cab, painted white and festooned with the Bond No. 9 logo. Our chauffeur, Gerard, appears to have been ordered out of a chauffeur catalogue. He has a handlebar mustache and wears a captain's hat.
"The meatpacking district, Gerard," Lahme trills from the back seat.
There are five of us, not including the driver: a photographer and Lahme's assistant Claire have come along. Lahme gives a quick version of her career, which began with her selling furniture in Paris and segued into a stint with a niche perfume maker based in France. Macchio is silent for a minute, which requires an effort that is almost visible.
Read the rest of the article at the washingtonpost.com!
Huge thanks to Sara for finding it!!!!
photos: washingtonpost, gettyimages and photo of Gerald by annieytown
Labels: Bond 9 Fragrances