2024-07-18 4:25 PM

The Little City Weed


Focus on the smell. Great cities find their essence in times of stress and political turmoil.




Focus on the smell. Great cities find their essence in times of stress and political turmoil.

Defining the scent of a community is inexpensive, distracting, and is an, albeit meager, sustenance for kingmakers with unresolved edifice complexes. So, for now, as a dark new political age descends on our community, put aside progressive notions of renaissance and focus instead on building the defining scent of Falls Church City.

Paris in the spring has the lovely scent of lilacs, a planting adopted by Parisians in less orderly times to help disguise the stench of overwhelmed sewer systems. On humid nights in New Orleans, the fragrance of the poisonous oleander groves saturate the city and induce spooky memes of above-ground cemeteries, cholera epidemics, brackish water and funeral music. The happier gardenia flowers compete for olfactory prominence in suburbs and tourist spots. At the apex of 1970s music, just before California fell into the tax reform ocean and our country plunged into disco, the Eagles forever linked Southern California with the warm smell of calitas rising up through the air.

Sometimes the scent of a city is a product of its local commerce. Seattle smells like fish and wet lumber. Baltimore has the sharp odor of the spice factories which surround it. Bergen County New Jersey has the oddly out of place smell of the maple syrup processed in the area. Springfield reportedly smells like processed cheese and pineapples – from the nearby Kraft and the 3M adhesive plants. Los Angeles used to smell like orange and lemon tree blossoms. New York City, depending on where you are and which way the wind is blowing, is a patchwork of different signature scents. Yes, including cat pee.

Today Falls Church City has an odor of petroleum; no doubt from the gazillion cars which pass through, our numerous older flat rubber roofs, and the gas stations which line our big scar highway. It also smells like leaf mold; which I blame on tree enthusiast who love to plant city trees and hate to take care of them. In the spring we reek of free mulch. Sometimes, depending on the wind and whether or not their tax situation has allowed our much larger neighbors to the west and east to take care of themselves, we smell like the Fairfax County dump or the dog parks of Arlington.

We can do better.

The city is entering a political dark age. The era will be dominated by risk paralysis, reactionary reversals, the slightly off pitch drone of over-management working past their capabilities, and a landscape of denied services, dead on arrival initiatives and exclusion.

What we can do is change the way we smell. Have a citywide stink charrette. Maybe hire a consultant. Get the citizenry fired up. Maybe have a public referendum. The city arborist should be involved. We will need a VPIS sponsor. We could get schools kids and the Mahjong Mafia to buy in.

Hey, do blueweeds have a scent? Because that would be really cool.


Michael Gardner is a quixotic citizen and founder of the Blueweeds community blog.






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