16 December 2008

Confessions of a Wannabe Smoker

I've never smoked. My parents and siblings never smoked. My wife doesn't smoke. I'm not then, and never have been, I guess, a smoker.

In college, I was in a play or two that required my smoking a cigar or cigarette -- which I then played with outside the theater since it offered me a good prop (or, at the very least, gave me that affected look that only a late-teenage boy from the Cincinnati suburbs might think even remotely attractive).

But there's a part of me that's always wanted to be a smoker.

(Of course, now I wish I were a smoker because my subsequent quitting apparently could add years to my life. Free years to your life after years of cool-looking, and vaguely debauched, enjoyment; how sweet is that?)

I've always liked the smell of cigarette smoke (smoke, like love, is "lovelier the second time around," I guess), and I've always loved the accoutrement of smoking: the cigarette holders, the lighters, the cigar cutters, the ashtrays -- the things that a gentleman in an earlier age would receive (monogrammed) at his retirement after forty years with the company.

THAT'S the beauty of smoking: the ritualistic activities that surround it -- the lighting of a lady's cigarette, the offering of a smoke (from your gold cigarette case!) to a friend or colleague, the careful clipping of the end of a fine (or not-so-fine) cigar, the careful positioning of attractive, yet functional, ashtrays around the room, ...even the cigarette advertisements.

How can we ever really replace Sinatra's "This is FS for L(ucky)S(trike)" or the frighteningly naive ad from his 1946 Old Gold Show:

"The nicest thing anyone has ever said to us is 'If I want throat care, I consult an MD. If I want smoking pleasure, I consult an OG'...That's right, friends, anytime you want a treat instead of a treatment, don't call for an MD, call on an OG." One couldn't make that up.

I was reminded of my wannabe smokerism last Wednesday when, about 7 PM, I was taking my garbage to the curb and, as soon as I walked out into the brisk night air, smelled the cigar of my neighbor down the street. Nightly he walks his dog while smoking a cigar. I was utterly taken by the civilized nature of it all, deliberate puffs during a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood... a man and his dog.

Indeed it's the closest I've ever been to actually wanting a dog. I've thought the better of that, however, so I decided I'd just envy him his smoking.

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