Monday, July 02, 2007

The Big Stinky Flower/The Anti-Romance

The Big Stinky Flower is in bloom again, this time in Washington DC. No, this isn't a metaphor, it's about the big stinky flower that smells like dead meat. Botanists say it smells that way to attract dung beetles that fertilize it. It's five feet tall (and that's mostly stamen, folks!)

I went to see it a few years ago when it was blooming in Pasadena.

I stood in line two hours to see that flower. It was hot, and the sun was bright, and I didn't know going in that it would take two hours to get to the flower; it was one of those cases where you just start throwing good time after bad in an effort to keep the investment from being completely fruitless. A fellow next to me in line struck up a little half-hearted flirtatious chat as we waited to experience the rare visage and stench of this magnificent prehistoric flower in bloom.

Got there. Had to hurry past the thing because of the size of the waiting crowd. Let me tell you now about this flower: it doesn't smell like BO or rotting meat or anything spectacular enough to wait two hours to smell. It stinks like it does along the 405 as you pass through Torrance at night.

The meager flirt was an architect. I was a writer on a day off. The stamen of the flower reached upward five feet, the deep aubergine petal lay open like a bedsheet. Potent to be sure, but the Big Stinky Flower is not beautiful. Nature made it to impress not man, not woman, not bird, bee or butterfly. Nature made the Big Stinky Flower to impress the dung beetle.

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