Yesterday Smelled Good

There are stories in Japanese folklore of a wise judge who would’ve given King Solomon a run for his shekels. My favorite is about the trial of a man who lives above a restaurant. One day he has a friend over and they’re eating rice. The man goes to the window and says, “I can’t afford anything to go with my rice so to give it flavor I eat it over the fumes of the fish cooking downstairs.”

The mean restaurant owner overhears this and is furious. He yells up that the aroma is for paying customers only and accuses the man of stealing from him. The two men soon argue it out before the wise judge.

The judge finds the defendant guilty of theft and orders that he produce some money. The man pulls out a few coins from his pocket, saying that’s all he has.

The judge tells him to jingle his coins. The perplexed man tosses the coins around in his hand and the judge turns to the restaurant owner and says, “Enjoy the sound of his coins. It is his payment to you for the odor of your cooking.”

The aroma thief would’ve enjoyed Georgetown yesterday afternoon. The morning rain had washed away the moldy/decaying/unsanitary odors that city dwellers know so well and the wind died, allowing more subtle fragrances to hang in the air.

One of the restaurants on 31st between the river and M Street was preparing a dish with a scent so good it almost gave me a heart attack. My guess is it was a blackened red fish in bernaise sauce. You could smell it for three blocks. I walked through it slowly, salivating heavily and appearing to passersby like I’d just had a lobotomy.

Even away from the restaurants there was plenty to feast on for scent aficionados like me (unlike vision and hearing I have yet to find a way to damage my sense of smell). The storefronts of the clothing and accessory stores on Wisconsin Avenue all radiated their own special new-leather smell and some new age-y shops were burning incense.

My sniffing tour did hit a speed bump when I passed a group of young professionals cloaked in perfumes, colognes and body sprays. I’ve never been a big fan of that stuff but luckily I was able to escape into Big Planet Comics on Dumbarton Street. All decent comic book stores smell great.

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