I don't know about you, but I definitely smell a lot.
Uh..that is, well what I mean to say is, I use my nose to smell a lot.
New Orleans has always been a sensory playground--sights, sounds and tastes getting the most notoriety. But there's a lot to touch and smell here, too, and some of it is good.
When I returned to New Orleans right after Hurricane Rita came by in late September, there were all manner of new smells in the city. None of them were good.
As Katrina refugees became New Orleans returnees, the first thing a lot of us did was push our disgusting refrigerators to the curb--only a few very brave souls attempted to clean their refrigerators.
Because inside every one of those boxy billboards was a mass of smelly, rotting food. Sure, they were duct taped shut and secured to keep toddlers out and toxicity in, but the funk found its way out anyway.
My real home, near the London Canal breach on the north side of the city, sits in a neighborhood totally decimated by flooding. Driving to my house up Wisner Boulevard along Bayou St. John, no unusual or distracting smells are noticed. But as soon as I turn onto Filmore and cross the lazy bayou, the sight of empty brown houses is immediately joined with the smell of decay.
Rows of neat, brick houses and charming weatherboard homes have their windows open and doors removed to allow them to dry out. Back in September, the smell was generated by the decay of household goods and the grown of fungus. Every drowned lawn and garden contributed its composting odor to the air.
In recent weeks, the smell has changed from one of active decay to passive decay. The best way to describe it is that it smells like an old blanket left out on the porch for several months. Although dry, it has a dank, pungent smell that speaks of decay. It is an unclean odor that I know will be around for many, many more months.
My office is located by the mighty river where there's almost always a breeze. Back in September and for several months after, the morning walk to my office was highlighted by the smell of a thousand piles of anaerobicly decomposing organic mass--stinky, rotting food.
For those who haven't had the pleasure, most of the city smelled like the dumpster in the alley behind a restaurant, or a city dump on a hot, sunny day.
Air quality improved significantly as the debris was removed, and this neighborhood in the "Sliver by the River" has returned to its pre-Katrina quaintness. I write about this now because this morning the breeze brought the fresh smell of construction to my nose. Sawn lumber and drywall, smells that remind me of projects I undertook at my house once upon a time, and projects that I helped my Dad with as a young lad.
As Martha would say, "It's a good thing."
As Colonel Kilgore would say, "Smells like... VICTORY."
We are certainly a long way from declaring "Mission accomplished," but at least in some parts of the city, I smell progress.