Thursday, May 29, 2008

Reflections in a Tobacco-Stained Eye

I wrote this a few years back, when I was still somewhat of a regular smoker. I now smoke maybe six cigarettes a month, give or take a couple. That said, I stand by everything I said in this, and whenever I find out that someone smokes, I smile.

The first time I had a cigarette was at my friend's urging. Since then he's told me how proud he was that he got me addicted to cigarettes, but I would like to give myself more credit than that. We were at the beach, sitting in his car in the parking lot. The first smoke I ever had was a Marlboro red, and it made me lightheaded. I told him I liked that feeling and he told me it wouldn't always be like that. When he told me this I wondered what the point of smoking was. It wasn't until later that I "got" it.

Because we were underage, my friend and I used to hit up bums to buy us smokes, with the promise that we'd let them bum one (note: I just checked this, and let me assure you...this pun was completely unintentional). When I mentioned this to a coworker recently he called me "horrible" and said he couldn't imagine anyone else doing this. I always figured that this was a commonplace thing, and that most young smokers do this. The little prick probably just wanted to give me a guilt trip for exploiting the homeless.

Even though I'm no longer 15 years old, I still flip over the first cigarette in a new pack and save it for last as my "lucky" smoke. At one point I did two, as my friend suggested that it was "double the luck." After doing that for a year and still being a virgin, I decided that it would be best to go back to one and at least not look like such an ass.

My brand of choice is Gauloises Blondes (Note: as of this writing I have discovered that the last Gauloises factory has shut down. This is indeed a sad day). The story behind this is that, while I was on my Paris trip, I kept bumming Marlboro lights off my roommate, and when we went out for a walk for the very first time I decided to hit up a tabac to buy my own pack of smokes. I wanted French cigarettes, but I didn't know what brands were available. When I reached the counter the man asked me what I wanted, and like a typical dipshit tourist I said "je voudrais..." and just pointed at random at the cigarettes. He didn't know which ones I was talking about and the first one he pulled out was Gauloises Blondes. I said "ouais" and that's been my brand ever since.

I don't do this anymore, but when my friend taught me how to blow smoke rings, this was his advice; "pretend you're sucking a dick and just pop out the smoke." This was an incredibly bizarre way of putting it, coming as it did from the biggest homophobe I knew. Years later another friend, a lady this time, taught me how to French Inhale. This stands as the only time that a smoking demonstration has ever come close to giving me an erection.

Sexy Debi: When I was a teen, I wanted to fuck her throat.

Club Par Avion was officially the first place that I became what is known as a "poly user," meaning someone who uses two or more stimulants at the same time. While in the past I would drink and also happen to smoke, it was there that I discovered that smoking greatly enhances your "buzz" when you've been drinking. Ever since I found that out I would down a drink or two and try to get to a smoking area as quickly as possible, to quicken the effects. I always tried to do this early, so that by the time I got back inside I no longer cared about looking like an ass.

I have noticed that while smoking is incredibly frowned upon, most of my friends smoke either regularly or occasionally. Whenever I find out that someone I know smokes, it's always a bit of a surprise to me, because it's not really something you see all that often anymore when walking down the street. It seems to be becoming a "dirty little secret," which is pretty funny considering that smoking is completely legal. It would appear that us cigarette smokers are a dying breed (pun intended this time). Speaking of which...another interesting thing that I've found is that a lot of nonsmokers that I talk to smoke pot, and then spout out this holier-than-thou shit about it. That seems to be pretty common, especially coming from some protest-kids that I know. I guess weed is supposed to be more "natural" and tobacco is some factory-produced capitalist monster hobby. Call it what you like, it doesn't change the fact that it's SMOKE being sucked into your lungs, and I place far more trust in The Man than I do in some twitching sore-ridden druggie handing over a bag of shit from god knows where.

I love California with all my heart, but every year seems like a step closer to a total ban on smoking. There are already commercials that have this message, showing babies and puppies and flowers and bubbles and all that. I defy anyone to tell me that this isn't propaganda, considering that it's ad space on TV being used up not to sell a product, but to deny the sale of one. What also doesn't get talked about is that the tobacco-ban bullshit is an attack on the bottom-middle class and poor, since they are the groups that smoke the most and are hit the hardest by increased taxes. Now people have a perfectly acceptable excuse to sneer at and insult these people without thinking that they're doing anything wrong. Florence King described the U.S. as a country of "friendly misanthropes," meaning that over here, we hate people but need to come up with excuses to justify our hatred, and the excuse of nonsmokers is the myth of "secondhand smoke." This makes every single nonsmoker susceptible to "passive smoke," meaning that once again, people in this country can claim to be a victim of something. Personal responsibility is out of the question, and if any kind of "wound" is inflicted, be it real or imaginary, they can collect. Take for example all the ex-smokers who are now suing the tobacco industry because they were too stupid to read the warning labels. This is why I can no-longer call myself a liberal. Getting older, you see just how quick both sides are to shut down something they don't like, and when I watch political debates or listen to friends talk politics, it becomes strikingly clear that I am not represented by either side, but this is a discussion for another time.

I'm going to end this by saying that I don't know how much longer I'm going to smoke. If I ever decide to quit my reasons are entirely my own, but the thought has crossed my mind. The reason for typing this up was that cigarettes have been with me since puberty and I wanted to write something of an "ode" to them. I have had a lot of good memories with cigarettes involved, so I could never hate them. It would be nice, though, if other people would respect that, even if they don't smoke.


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