Contrary to what you see in moody TV murder mysteries set in Seattle, torrential downpours in the Pacific Northwest are rare. Sure, it rains a lot. But not like the dramatic storms in the Midwest. Here it’s light but constant: and often, just a very fine mist.

Except sometimes, like last Monday morning, when I was standing at a bus shelter in downtown Tacoma, an industrial port city 30 miles south of Seattle. The sky opened up unexpectedly and unleashed a deluge. Heavy drops hammered the street, quickly turning it into a little river.

Cars slowed. Pedestrians sprinted for cover. I groaned inwardly, knowing that my bus would be late and the ensuing commute torturous. To make matters worse, I didn’t have the proper rain gear. I was damp and cold and getting grumpier by the minute.

But suddenly, and quite mysteriously, (possibly triggered by the no-parking stripe on the curb?) the lyrics to Peter Gabriel’s Red Rain popped into my head. Full volume, full band. The rain beat harder and time seemed to stand still.

Red rain is coming down
Red rain
Red rain is pouring down
Pouring down all over me

As the rain let up, the enigmatic song in my head mingled with the sound of car tires splashing through pools of water on the road. The usual urban noise was muted and the splashes were amplified. My sense of smell was heightened, too.

Something had shifted. I felt better. Different. Happier. My bad mood had been washed away.

And the air smelled, if not fresh exactly, intriguing—like a gasoline accord in a boutique fragrance handcrafted in Brooklyn.

I inhaled deeply, trying to make out the notes: new blacktop, tobacco, earth and fruit (thanks to a nearby trash can with a half-eaten banana), all diluted with soft, industry-tinged marine. Grit city’s ‘eau de pluie’ was odd, yet beautiful, and all too fleeting.

As a fledgling perfumer I’d like to recreate the scent with a longer lasting impression. Stay tuned for my Tacoma-inspired take on rain.

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