Stinking to High Heaven

One of the things we pride ourselves on here at “Snide Remarks,” next to our Pulitzer Prize and our ability to tie cherry stems in knots with our tongue, is our constant vigilance on the subject of people who smell bad. We feel that aside from determining the outcome of “American Idol,” there is no issue more important to the average citizen.

Back in 2001, we talked about a man who smelled like urine who wanted the U.S. to kill every person in Afghanistan. The U.S. did not heed his wishes — we tried Iraq instead — and I believe it is because the man promoting the idea smelled like pee-pee. If he had smelled better, Afghanistan might today be a desolate wasteland devoid of all human life. Think about THAT the next time you wet your pants!

In 2002, we mentioned in passing that tow-truck drivers stink, and in a later column talked about a horrific-smelling French woman. The idea that a European person might stink was shocking to many readers, but at “Snide Remarks” we feel it is important to address such issues candidly.

We bring it up today because of a startling news story we read that sheds light on the stinkiness issue, and also because we want to make fun of homeless people. OK, just a certain subset of homeless people. Homeless people in general are liable to smell bad because, duh, they don’t have ready access to showers. We get that, and we are sympathetic. We do not mock the homeless for being malodorous.

What puzzles us, however, is why so many homeless people smell like urine. We live in Portland, Ore., which abounds in transients, bums, slackers and potheads, many of whom live on the streets. (Well, the sidewalks, technically.) Often we notice that some of these folks smell like pee. It seems to us that there is no reason for this. No matter how homeless you are, there are plenty of public restrooms available, or discreet places where you could urinate out in the open. I can envision no excuse for peeing on yourself, not even on a cold winter night. Surely everyone knows that while it makes you feel warm at first, it soon turns cold and miserable. We’ve all been there.

But back to the news story. It comes from ABC News, and it deals with a malady called trimethylaminuria, or TMAU. This ailment’s symptom? It makes you smell like dead fish.

Before you jump to any conclusions, be aware that this condition is extremely rare. So even though Ann Coulter seems like the kind of person who would smell like rotting flesh, she does not. (Those who have been near her say she smells like armpits and cheese.) ABC News profiled a TMAU sufferer, a former model and schoolteacher named Camille. The tragedy of Camille’s story is that despite being beautiful and brainy, all anyone noticed about her was that she stank like a Tijuana fishmarket.

There is no cure for TMAU, though its effects can be reduced by monitoring the patient’s diet and restricting foods that cause his or her body’s over-production of trimethylamine. We suspect the patient could also mask the odor by using a candle that smells like Jesus.

You probably think no one knows what Jesus smelled like, and that since he lived in Palestine at a time when bathing was unpopular (not like today, where everyone in Palestine is fresh as a daisy), he probably didn’t smell very good anyway. SHOWS WHAT YOU KNOW, STUPID. Bob and Karen Tosterud, a Christian couple in South Dakota, noted verse 8 of Psalm 45, which (as you know) begins: “All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia.” The “thy” in this case is the Messiah, and the smells refer to what he’ll be smelling like when he returns to reign on the earth. The Tosteruds know a good marketing ploy when they see one, so they slapped together a candle with those scents and began selling it under the name “His Essence.”

Since its release last year, His Essence candles have sold well throughout the country, so much that the Tosteruds recently added a hand lotion in the His Essence scent, in case you want your hands to smell like the Lord, too. Their Web site says hand cream and perfume are on the way as well.

Also on the site are comments from His Essence customers. They read, for example:

• “What an odd way to take advantage of Christians!”

• “I’m going to get a ‘WWJSL?’ (What Would Jesus Smell Like?) bracelet.”

• “Very creepy.”

No, we have made those comments up. The actual comments are along these lines:

• “When I smelled the candle, I knew it was something special.”

• “They’re WONDERFUL!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE THEM!!!!!!!!!”

• “I just bought 6 candles for Easter gifts and am anxious for more!! It is a scent that is almost compulsive!! Can’t get enough!!”

And our personal favorite:

• “I love it! The smell is amazing! It brought tears to my eyes!”

This is the only case we know of where a scented candle making a customer’s eyes water is viewed as a selling point rather than a cause for a refund. But such are the mysteries of the candles that smell like deity, and in closing, let us bring this back around to our initial point by observing that cleanliness is next to godliness.

I don't know why I decided to refer to myself in the first person plural throughout the column. It seemed to fit in the first paragraph, talking about "Snide Remarks" headquarters and all that, and then I had to stick with it for the remainder of the column. It was arduous. Let that be a lesson to you.

As it happens, this turned out to be the last "Snide Remarks" column written in the Subscription Era. When I relaunched the column in March 2004, it was by subscription only: People had to pay to read it, $3 a month or $30 a year. That system worked OK, but it's hard to get people to pay for ANYTHING on the Internet. Books, magazines, newspapers, sure. People will pay for those. The Internet? Forget it.

So I finally did some weighing and balancing. I could make X dollars a month and have Y readers, or I could make zero dollars a month and have potentially thousands and thousands of readers. I ultimately decided it was better in the long run to have more exposure, even if it meant making nothing from "Snide Remarks." And so on Aug. 23, two days after this column appeared, we officially liberated "Snide Remarks." It was a lot like when Paris was liberated at the end of World War II, but without the stench of Nazis everywhere.