This will be interesting to write, with there generally being a shortage of good smell-adjectives. Yesterday I was having a few drinks with some friends at a pub on University of Toronto campus. It’s a small place, the bar, tucked away in the middle of sprawling, monolithic contemporary university architecture. The building which houses the pub, however, is fairly old, and looks it

In order to get inside and order drinks (we were camped on the patio) one must walk past a gymnasium door, and the hallway leading to it. Some people were playing volleyball with the door open, but the smell of an old school gymnasium tipped me off first. I vividly thought of the fine white dust I would find rimming the palms of my hands after an assembly in the early years of elementary school; decades of salt dust from Canadian winters combined with hours of sweat and percolated between the cracks of the floorboards. That with the worn tiles and the rotten eggshell-painted cinder block walls, this place spoke unequivocally of schoolness. At least until I stepped inside the bar and it was washed away by the smell of stale beer.

Walking home from a photography exercise today, several signature smells made themselves known. The musty, enclosed smell of a small video store (inventory or employees?), a butcher’s almost hospital-like tang of stainless steel with just a breath of salty blood, or… whatever that scent is from Vietnamese (not Chinese, Thai, or Japanese) restaurants – a common ingredient with a distinct odour. All of these are unique, each evoking a clear, immediate sense of the function of their sources. So much so that I wondered to what extent people could be manipulated by smell. For marketing… or maybe art? A park that smells like a butcher shop, or Vietnamese-restaurant-smelling bookstore? Nose art, here I come.

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