Thursday, February 18, 2016


This is ambergris.

Ambergris is the honked up sputum of the sperm whale. It does not come out of its mouth, but rather its stern end. It's nasty and distasteful. And it's in Chanel No. 5. Whale poo.

Ambergris is the perfume industry's best fixative and augmenter. People have likened the scent to "old wood in a cathedral." (See also: "funk" "mushrooms" and "sweaty old gym towel, in a good way.") Casanova put ambergris in chocolate mousse.

But I like gross stuff.  Mushroom veils. I examine owl pellets with a fork from home.

I tried to convince my son, 10, that he should sign up for Neuroscience Camp because in the description it said, "we will dissect a real brain." I was like, "Be someone! Do that!" He said, "I don't like getting my hands dirty. Why don't you take Neuroscience Camp, Mom." "I'm too old," I said. "There are no camps for people like me." That's why, honey, I must live vicariously through you. 

The last time I did a dissection was in college, on a dogfish. It was fascinating, partly because I like the naming of parts. 

This is a dogfish.

I've never found ambergris. Its unlikely that I ever will.

Sperm whales are increasingly rare and they don't live where I live. To go where they go I'd have to dive to a depth of 10, 000 feet and hold my breath for more than an hour while with my jaws in the dark bite the tentacles off deep sea colossal squids.

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