There's a story in the Times about smokers snuffing their vile habit out of concern for the health of their pets. It made me think about cigarettes and how much I liked smoking.
I was a smoker. Kools for a long time, then Camels, then Marlboros. I always owned a Zippo made, as all Zippos are, in Bradford, Pennsylvania in the factory with the giant neon flame on the roof. Some of my lighters were engraved. The one I had in the Army, the one decorated with my unit patch, I lost somewhere in Guatemala, I think. Or maybe it was Honduras.
I loved the click of the lid, the rasp of the wheel, even the smell of the lighter fluid catching fire. In high school, I used to put a few drops of English leather, the manly scent of the day, in my lighter, hoping to make the flame more fragrant. It never did.
There was nothing I didn't like about the whole ritual of smoking cigarettes. Tamping the pack, sharing a light, tapping the ash, all of it.
Until I didn't. Then I quit. It was some time around '94 or '95, and I haven't wanted a cigarette since. I still dream about smoking and when I do I think, "Damn, now I have to quit all over again." I'm always relieved when I wake up.
Now I realize just how unpleasant cigarettes are to people who don't smoke. Because I play music in smoky bars, I've learned to live with it until I get home and find I stink like an ashtray, but the music makes it all worthwhile. This morning I walked past a guy smoking a cigarette and the smell instantly put me in a bar, drinking vodka and playing blues. I could even taste the tonic on my tongue.
Just as deisel fumes put me back in the jungle, downwind of a generator, cigarettes have become the smell of a distinct place.
As I write this 1941 novel, I have to keep in mind that everyone smoked. Everyone. Everywhere. Looking back from our proscripted times, it's amazing to think of lighting up in a movie theater or post office.
I worked on a few RJR accounts in the early 90's, back in the heyday of Joe Camel, and when you went to the RJR headquarters in Winston-Salem, you could snag a free pack in the lobby. The meetings were always held in a haze of tobacco smoke, and God help you if you were packing anything other than an RJR cigarette.
So, I don't smoke any more, although I often find myself hanging out with the smokers at a party. They're almost always more entertaining than the nonsmokers inside.
What's my point? I don't know, just rambling on a Monday morning. Maybe it's this: If you smoke, smoke downwind of your non-smoking friends. And if you don't smoke, STFU about it.