by RIP RENSE
was typing, if not perhaps writing, in the back of a wonderful
Japanese tea place in West L.A., when he came in.
I knew he had entered,
and I knew much about his life, without looking up. For instance, I knew
where he lived and what he did for a living, and could make a fair guess at
his state of mind and state of finances. I gleaned something about his
background, even---at least the degree of success and happiness it
contained. All of this Holmes-ian stuff without seeing him. You can
tell so much about a person by his or her. . .
If this guy walked into a
slaughterhouse, no one would notice. Andy Gump would hang a sign on him.
Rats would merely fall about and worship. If he’s smart, he’ll never take a
nap in a funeral parlor. Osama could use him. This is a WGD (weapon of gas destruction.)
Think: rotting corpse
odor---the rotting corpse of, say, a wild animal. Or a dozen. It’s difficult
to describe, really. You had to be there! Imagine unwashed socks worn for a
couple weeks running.
About fifty thousand of 'em.
I don’t know why the
place didn’t empty out on the spot.
Well, wait a moment,
yes, I do. Here’s why: the odor of this man had homed in on me. It had
sought me out, as if ordered to do so by Satan, or God, or Rupert Murdoch.
There’s Rense! Get ‘im!
As I was in a narrow
passageway in the rear of the café, and the front door was open, I was
downwind. And it was a dead-end downwind, where the wind had nothing to do
except die. Which is essentially what any self-respecting wind would have
done, burdened with the smell of this poor wretch. I was in a cul-de-stench.
The downwind had me down.
|I am shocked and embarrassed that my country,
state, county, city do not do something to help these people out. I
think they stink---the people in government, I mean, especially the
lying fat-cat “compassionate conservatives.” I’d like to mail this
guy directly to George Bush.
And I was a
poor wretch, too, for having to inhale this sour, fetid eau d’ a
year’s worth of dead skin. Extra sharp cheddar human. I’ve smelled homeless
people before, not that it’s a hobby or anything, but folks, this guy was
superhuman. Odorman! Who came to earth with powers and scents far beyond
those of mortal homeless men. Odorman! Who can change the course of mighty
rivers, bend steel with his bare reek. . .
To my amazement, Odorman
had enough money to order tea. Guess you can’t always tell a book by its odor
(Danielle Steele excepted.) Hell, maybe he was a lawyer. The smells are
comparable. As he sat down at one of several small tables in the joint, I
was further amazed to see that the table did not sprout legs and run for its
life. And there he remained, taking a sip of his tea. . .
About once every five
Odorman was clothed
head to foot in some sort of tragic apparel that might have been brown,
might have been gray, and he sat with his matted dreadlocked head down.
Except for the intervals where he slowly, oh-so-slowly raised it, picked up
his cup, took a sip, set it down, then bowed his head again. Oh-so-slowly.
I wondered if perhaps he
was emulating the Japanese tea ceremony, in which each aspect of preparing
and ingesting the drink is fetishized into solemn, tense, slow-motion ritual, but
then, I figured he probably wasn’t. The ladies who conduct these ceremonies
don’t usually smell like the ape cage at the zoo in a heat wave, and I think
he would have picked up on that subtlety.
I tried gamely (so to
speak) to continue writing, but it was like trying to see through smoke.
Trying to talk over Joan Rivers. Trying to get Larry King across a room full
of buxom blondes. One
of the nice employees in the joint brought me an aerosol container of
carcinogenic spray, “Spring Rain,” which I liberally blasted all around.
This merely imbued the scent with a swampy quality, a rotting jungle tropicality, King Kong with athlete’s foot. I noted that more and more
customers were buying their tea to-go. Odorman’s influence was spreading,
after all. One employee walking past me suddenly reeled, as if she had hit a
“Oh my!” she exclaimed,
covering her nose. “That’s not an odor. That’s what my mother calls an ‘oh,
I gave up and went
outside, in order to clear my lungs with some nice, fresh bus exhaust and
second-hand smoke. Odorman was still deeply immersed in the mysterious aesthetics of his
private tea ceremony, with the one sip every five minutes, and the bowed
Look, I am profoundly
sorry for the homeless, as distinguished from hustlers and bums. Many of
them are mentally ill, and were essentially sent wandering during the
beneficent reign of the hallowed Ronald Reagan. I am shocked and embarrassed
that my country, state, county, city do not do something to help these
people out. I think they stink---the people in government, I mean,
especially the lying fat-cat “compassionate conservatives.” I’d like to mail
this guy directly to George Bush. And I have always been a soft touch for spare
change, even when I needed it as much as a homeless person (and it does my
conscience no good at all.) What's more, I am thrilled that L.A. Times columnist Steve
Lopez is campaigning to help out the thousands in Skid Row. Give him a
But I really had enough
of Smell Boy.
“Excuse me, sir?” I said,
His face slowly, oh-so-slowly
raised until I was staring into great, hollow, depressed brown eyes. I figured him
for anywhere between 30 and 50, which, coincidentally, was the same number
of years since his last bar of soap.
“Do ya. . .have a place
“Yes, sir, I DO,” he
replied, voice strong, commanding.
Well, maybe he did have a
place to live. I wondered if the post office delivers to port-a-potties.
“Uhh. . .good. Does it
have a uh. . .shower?”
“Yes, sir, it DOES.”
Dumpsters have showers?
“Well, ya really ought to
try and use it,” I smiled. “The smell in here is. . .uh. . .really bothering
There was a long
pause, during which time he glared at me as if he, well, smelled
something bad. Then. . .
“If you are
implying that I am responsible,” he said with utterly marvelous
disdain, “You are MISTAKEN.”
What could I say? I was
impressed not only by his olfactory clout, but by his oratory. Maybe he
really was a lawyer. And hell, maybe he did have a shower. Maybe he just
didn’t want to spoil it.
What else could I say? I
had debated him, and he had come out smelling like a rose. So I waited him
out. It was another ten minutes or so.
When Odorman sadly
shuffled along, another casualty of the mostly curdled milk of human
kindness, an employee promptly disinfected the table and chair where he had
It won’t do any good,
though. The land itself must be doused with gasoline, burned, purified by
witch doctors, sanctified by Druids.
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