Sunday, January 9, 2011

currently reading

"When I entered the cold terra-cotta-tiled room where we were to fill out our customs declaration forms, I encountered an old friend: the smell of Russia. How do they do it? Here on the edge of the Bering Strait, five thousand miles from Moscow, almost within wafting distance of the U.S.A., the Russia-smell is exactly the same! I breathed it deeply. Yes, it was all there—the tea bags, the cucumber peels, the wet cement, the chilly air, the currant jam. About the only point of similarity between this smell and the one I'd just left in Nome was the overtone of diesel exhaust. But, still fresh from America, I understood that America's essential smell is nothing at all like Russia's. America smells like gift shop candles, fried food, new cars. America's is the smell of commerce. The smell of Alaska that stays with me the strongest is that of the Cinnabon sweet rolls shop in the Anchorage airport; I'm sure the scent of Cinnabon is set adrift everywhere in that space intentionally, in order to ensnare passersby. The smell of America says, 'Come in and buy.' The smell of Russia says, 'Ladies and gentlemen: Russia!'"

- Ian Frazier, Travels in Siberia


Penne Bioletti said...

Is that really you, or a stunt double in a purple wrap?


Leigh Stein said...

That's me.

Eric Ziegenhagen said...

Frazier's Great Plains is one of my all-time favorites.