my checkered history of vice


My home health care nurse wants me to quit smoking, but she can’t even convince her own husband to give it up.

The truth is, I think I’m too old to reform my ways. And the deeper truth is this: I just don’t care. I like smoking more than not smoking. It gives me something to fuss with while I’m thinking about the next sentence to write. I’m used to the sour taste in my mouth, and there’s really no one any more that I particularly want to kiss. It also signals to my rare visitors that almost anything goes in my environment; their comfort is of paramount importance. Plus, I don’t really smoke that much: I go through only 1.4 ounces of tobacco every two weeks. (That’s 39.6893 grams, or the equivalent of 2.83 packs, or 1.4 packs a week, about 4 cigarettes a day.)

HMP-0240The secret to this “restraint” is I use a one-hitter and consume one or two puffs at a time. For those of you who don’t know, a one-hitter is a pipe (or bat) that looks like a cigarette, and is made for the smoking of marijuana. My stoner friends say I’m the only person they know who apparently believes the signs posted in head shops everywhere: For the Consumption of Tobacco Products Only. They also say I provide good camouflage for them by using a one-hitter with impunity in front of sheriff’s deputies.

The decision to start using a one-hitter came to me in a moment of blinding insight when, as I was smoking one of my last tailor-mades (prison lingo for “manufactured cigarettes”), I realized that it is only the first one or two drags that are at all satisfying. Beyond that, it’s analogous to “cleaning your whole plate before leaving the table.” Why not restrict one’s self to what is most pleasant, and forget the rest?

I introduced Alex to the practice and paraphernalia, and hopefully he, too, is saving money and maybe his health.

Picture1Environmentalists should approve because using a one-hitter eliminates discarded cigarette butts, which are the most ubiquitous form of environmental pollution. But not one environmentalist has ever approached me and said: “Thank you for smoking with a one-hitter.”

Most people probably just think I’m smoking a regular cigarette, which is socially scorned today. So most people just try to ignore me. I don’t exactly claim to hold the moral high-ground, but I feel a little less evil than the typical schlub who grinds out his butt underfoot.

IMG_3666I didn’t always used to be this way. For twenty-five years before moving to West Texas, I had actually given up smoking the evil weed. But then I began hanging out with the pretty girls at the Marathon Coffee Shop, and—being a social conformist—took up the habit again. After all, this was Texas, where smoking in bars and restaurants had not yet gone out of favor. Once I was hooked, however, the bar owners and restaurateurs changed the rules. Oh well.

I always grew up around smoking—not just the post-WWII even-your-doctor-recommends-it—but hard-core: my dad owned a pipe and tobacco shop. In a stunning example of “do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do,” my dad promised me $200 if I waited until age 21 before trying a cigarette. But by high school the temptation proved too great and my dad busted me for smoking (get this!) a cigar in my bedroom. Talk about brain-dead. I didn’t even try to hide it!

From then on, anything was fair game. Chesterfield, Pall Mall, Marlboro, Kool, and Camel in various times and places in America. Balkan Sobranie in Washington DC. 555 in East Africa. Long Life (ha!) in Taiwan. I even smoked a pipe the first year I was married.






Holly wasn’t a smoker. I don’t know how she could stand it before I quit.

Now that I’ve taken it up again, I’m sure she doesn’t mind.



Weather Report

70° and Clear



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