As of January 1, no one can smoke in my local, Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap, an establishment that was labeled “smokiest bar in Chicago” in a 2005 edition of the Sun-Times.
Actually, I wouldn’t have blinked had Jimmy’s been named smokiest bar in the world. There, thick smoke hung in the air like a perpetual fog, the product of countless cigarettes burning in ashtrays the size of salad plates. The line between smokers and non-smokers was permeable. Either way, your morning after was sure to include a sore throat, dry eyes, and the oppressive reek of stale smoke.
Have you ever been stuck in the smoking car on a European train? This bar was worse than that, no lie.
So what would Jimmy’s smell like after the smoke cleared? In the months leading up to the ban, this was the source of much speculation among my friends. These days, the topic has naturally shifted to identifying the new smell. I assumed that the bar would reek of stale smoke for some weeks, but my first post-ban visit last Friday revealed that the predominant odor is something more organic—beery sweat, or maybe hobos.
Last night, I found myself arguing about it with A, who feels like the bar smells less like sweat and more like dirty hair. (Actually, at first he said that "it smells like head," which made me laugh because, you know, I'm the kind of person who finds fellatio jokes funny.) To me, this seemed like a very strange distinction to make, so I was both fascinated and appalled when I looked around and saw my friends nodding in agreement with him. WTF?
First of all, “dirty hair” is uncomfortably specific. Consider this analogy:
sweat : dirty hair :: shit : day-old diarrhea.
Imagine that you say to me, “Gee, this gas station smells like shit.” “No, that’s not quite it,” I reply. “What does it remind me of? Wait, I know! It smells like day-old diarrhea.”
The descriptions are in the same vein—both are gross and evocative—but the former seems pretty normal while the latter is weird and vaguely troubling. Something about it is just not right.
Secondly, are my friends so grubby that “dirty hair” is a readily available sense memory? I hadn’t noticed, but then it’s likely that pre-ban Jimmy’s has dulled my sense of smell. Suss out the lot of them the next time you’re in Chicago and let me know. I’m far too vain to have friends with bad hygiene.