A few years ago (6, to be exact) I ventured to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens to view the most phenomenal flora ever: the Corpse Blossom (or for you nemophiles, Amorphophallus titanium – I specify, because apparently there is quite a variety of such blooms). The appeal of this flower is that when it first opens, it supposedly emits an odor resembling rotting flesh – hence the name. At least, that was the appeal for me.
Alas, the opening had occurred in the middle of the night while the gardens were closed, so only the earliest to arrive and those lucky to work there were honored by the stench. Nevertheless, I rushed to view it – and it was quite spectacular. Just look:
As a complete digression, the only thing probably crazier than the fact that I sprinted to go see something that smells like death is the fact that, in searching for a video of the thing online, I came across the above. And in viewing that video I realized that the strange blonde in black towards the end (to the back left) holding some odd object in her arms like a baby is ME. That’s right. That’s me. When I was blonde. And having pipe dreams about a MySpace page called “My Alien Baby,” which I won’t get into. Because… that’s a whole other slice of crazy pie.
Annnnnnyway, I missed my opportunity to smell rotting flesh. But I’ve still always wondered.
A quick google search reveals quite a lot.
Apparently a chemical in rotting flesh prevents seizures in tadpoles. Who knew?
The more formal terms for referring to this odor are putrizine and cadaverine. (Now I have at least three crossword puzzles I think I can finish!)
In Japanese mythology there is a spirit named Nuppeppo. He is an animated lump of flesh. He is passive and unaggressive and said to smell like rotting flesh. He looks like this:
There is a rumor that states that those who eat the flesh of a Nuppeppō shall have eternal youth. He tastes good with some fava beans and a nice chianti.
Ok. I made that last part up.
Also, this inexplicably shows up in an image search:
All good stuff. But not really what I was looking for.
To cut to the chase, I recently had the good fortune to actually find out. And not just the general smell – the smell of one’s own flesh. I’m not going into why. So don’t ask. But I thought I might do the internet a service and try to describe it.
It is indeed horrifying (that’s how this plays into the theme of this blog). It is truly the most horrifying, sickening smell one could possibly encounter. I actually find I can’t really get it out of my olfactory memory and find myself constantly smelling my skin to make sure it has gone away. (It has).
To describe it more specifically, there is an acridity to it, much like a month-old orange, and a mustiness to it, resembling very stale vase water that had formerly been holding an array of fall mums. From these two images one might assume that your own body dying has a faint fragrance.
It does not. These are more the top notes to a heart note of… well… bile. And the base note? Ah… that is what truly makes the bouquet.
|She thawt she wuz peeplz.|
I once had the pleasure of renting a
waste factory flat in
Williamsburg which was rather dilapidated. I managed to make the best of it with a little puppy who had
absolutely no desire to go to the bathroom outdoors; so, I made the mistake of
trying to paper train her. I say
mistake because I erred in my preparedness to take out the garbage every time
she did her business. Instead, I
would just cram the newspaper into the bin and wait for a new bag to be
needed. I did this for all of two
days. Because the stench that
started to fill the already shitty apartment was so foul, so vile, that I woke
up gagging that second morning.
That would be the odor that rounds out your own death.
Now, to take my mind off this smell, I like to think of zombies. Or rather, what it’s like to become a zombie. That really must be awful.