Of all the things we love about our cities – the skyscrapers, culture, enough vintage stores to clothe the state of Maine – its mixed bag of smells may be the one thing we’re less willing to adore. If hot garbage sprinkled with an undercurrent of fish guts was a pleasant scent, there would be a perfume called “The Bowery” by now.
Thankfully, there’s not. And when Times Square concierge Amber C. Jones thought to capture the city’s spirit through its scents, she choose the book as her medium. “New York, Phew York” is an illustrated scratch ‘n sniff children’s story that follows a young boy as he treks through the city on a family vacation. With the help of indie site Kickstarter, the first-time author raised enough dough to fund the book, after shopping it unsuccessfully to several publishers.
The book captures the sights and smells of 19 different neighborhoods. According to its website, that includes garbage, pizza, hot dogs, sewer steam, fish, churros, peanuts, horse manure, shish-kabobs, and bagels. While I don’t need a book to remind me of the time I dragged a long skirt through a pile of shit in Central Park, I can appreciate it as often overlooked feature of our otherwise celebrated streets. Good or bad, the smells are as much a part of the cityscape as an building. I’d be lying if I said the smell at the bottom of my subway stairs in the morning didn’t feel a teensy bit like an affirmation to my living here. It takes thick skin to make our way through this town. A low gag reflex helps too.
The book – set to come out in December – is kid-friendly. So if you were wondering if it will showcase the less benign fragrances – say, the B.O. of late-night commuters or the sour smell of a night gone wrong – you’ll have to wait. Jones has plans for an adult version of the book, which will include cigar smells, alleyways, bars floors and other scents for mature audiences. I can only imagine the sorts of feelings those smells will trigger. Besides the obvious, mostly a sudden urge to clean my house.