By Ian Gabriel, Editorial Director
Every time I exit through the back door of my building I am immediately confronted with the Downtown Stench, an odor so foul (especially when it has been sitting in stagnant air) that it causes the nostrils to recoil like a skittish cat after a door slam.
That smell, ever-present in the alleyway onto which my building's back door opens, is the olfactory byproduct of the chemical relationship between publicly excreted human and canine urine and feces, noxious particulate matter spewed into the atmosphere by an onslaught of private and public transit vehicles, and fetid bags of garbage left in the hot sun and picked over like carcasses by desperate urban vultures.
I've become accustomed to the Downtown Stench in my time here, such that a nasal standoff with the Stench does not alarm me as it used to. But even though I have now come to expect to encounter the Stench when roaming the streets of Downtown, its unique pervasiveness and acridity still completely and utterly hijacks my sensory capacities in the first second of contact. Nothing short of anosmia could prevent the barrage of foulness that attacks the nose in a Stench zone.
There are residents here - and others who have a financial interest in making this neighborhood "nice" - who would gladly have the Stench eradicated from the streets as if it were a cousin of the Smallpox virus. But killing the Stench would be nearly impossible without the inhumane displacement of thousands of unhoused individuals and a deep cultural shift in this city towards car independence. I do not subscribe to society’s belief that body odor must be masked, and my approach to the Downtown Stench is no different. The Stench is the beautiful yet foul–smelling result of the steaming orgy of people, cars, dogs, bicycles, rats, buildings and cockroaches that makes Downtown the only place I want to live in Los Angeles. If the Stench goes, so do I. •