butt it out

I’ve spent a regrettably huge portion of my life swathed—albeit most of it furtively—in a cloud of smoke. I’m what you call a master closet smoker, dabbling in the dueling black arts of denial and deceit, nicotine and Dentyne, for well over two-thirds of my life.

front and center, Napoli

I smoked my first fag with a neighbor’s older sister Doreen when I was…eleven? Twelve? Besides Doreen, I also have my father to thank for this thankless habit, who, in his obsessive compulsiveness, stockpiled packs of Trues in his sock drawer and glove compartment, lest the impending apocalypse destroyed every last convenience store in our vicinity.

cigar bar, NYC

My dad started to smoke at the ripe old age of nine, when he would pick up unfiltered butts out of the cracks in the sidewalk. Yum! In those days–the 1950s–everybody smoked. Family legend: my grandmother Angelina  used to give dad pocket money to buy his own, so he wouldn’t mooch from her pack.

Even when I’m in periods of my life when I don’t smoke cigarettes (hopefully this latest period is it, forever), I dream about buying a pack (yellow American Spirits!) and then suddenly I’m smoking again–although I freak out at myself during my dream-state, chiding myself to cease and desist at once…after just one more puff.

When I wake up, I feel relieved that I didn’t actually stray–it was just a dream after all. Whew!

I often joke that I’ll pick up smoking ciggies again when I get to a really old age–“old age” is a relative concept, but I’m thinking something in the 80-90 year range. When you basically don’t give a shit anymore.

In the future, smokers will be even more ostracized than they are now–if that’s humanly possible. Or maybe by then the geniuses at Phillip-Morris will have invented a guilt-free cigarette. One without carcinogenic second-hand smoke. One with an edible butt so when you’re done smoking you won’t litter. A smoke that’s free of all those pesky smelly and cancerous side effects. And maybe even one with a little something in it to make you smile.

waiting to exhale