I quit SMOKE ing today / Possibly

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Rory in Makati, PI. At present, Rory is a non- smoker.  Rory also lives in the PI.  Rory is a mellow dude, originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

When I was 20 years old, a student a UC Berkeley in 1988, I attended this one class for a few weeks before dropping it.

The class was in the Rhetoric Dept. and it was a NON-FICTION writing class.  I didn’t know what that meant exactly.  I remember, at the time, I was a heavy reader of almost exclusively FICTION: novels, stories.  I’d only been a serious reader for 3 years, so I didn’t know much about the various genres of literature. 

                                 
Rory in Makati, PI. At present, Rory is a non- smoker.  Rory also lives in the PI.  Rory is a mellow dude, originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

When I was 20 years old, a student a UC Berkeley in 1988, I attended this one class for a few weeks before dropping it.

The class was in the Rhetoric Dept. and it was a NON-FICTION writing class.  I didn’t know what that meant exactly.  I remember, at the time, I was a heavy reader of almost exclusively FICTION: novels, stories.  I’d only been a serious reader for 3 years, so I didn’t know much about the various genres of literature. 

I remember, in this short-lived Rhetoric class, a Korean-American girl, a certifiable Kyopo, she read her essay about her summer job and the way people looked at her in the office, judging her as a Woman, as a Student, as an Asian.  It was a good essay, and I thought (I dropped the class, so it didn’t matter)…

If  I ever wrote an essay for that class, a non-fiction essaY — what would I write about?  I can’t make stuff up, right?  It’s gotta be real.  It can’t be FICTION.  At that time, age 20 at the end of the 80’s, all I wrote was FICTION.  All I read was FICTION.  I dropped the class and never thought of it again, until years later.  I thought of it again.

In 1996, 8 years after attending only 2 meetings of that Rhetoric class, I arrived in Taegu, SKorea to teach English. 

I started writing in high school, and it’s something I often do, so it was natural that often in Taegu, I would find myself at my computer writing, usually at night with soju and cigarettes.  One night in Taegu, 1996, I decided to write a NON-FICTION essay best I could.  I was thinking about that Rhetoric class, actually — trying to fully COMPREHEND the meaning of NON-FICTION, that is versus FICTION.  I could see the PROSE vs POETRY, but even they seem to blur with modern poets like Bukowski.  That was the impetus — my search for TRUTH, more commonly known as DISTINCTION — that’s what drove me to write write SMOKE that night, and over subsequent nights spanning months of editing and revising, which IS, by far, the most time consuming portion of writing — good writing at least, just ask Robert Frost.  Oh, you can’t.  He’s dead.  Frost would spend months on one line.  That’s why he’s THAT good!

The best writing ALWAYS has an impetus.  In addition, to seeking truth, I was also trying to quit smoking at the time.  I was 28 years young.  That was a long time ago. 

Luckily, I still have that essay.  I just found it, on a CD that I had saved old writings onto, back in 2001.  

This essay is relevant NOW cuz I’m a professional writer now and I write exclusively NON-FICTION now.  That’s not true entirely true.

On that same CD, which luckily turned up in my mom’s closet, I also found some of my old FICTION stories.  I may have originally penned them a decade ago, but it’s the REVISION and the EDITING and FORMATTING that is the real time-consuming portion of the process.  I’ve recently been revamping TWO stories I wrote in Seoul in 2000/2001, and will they probably be blogged soon — or maybe even published for real!  They’re not even about Korea!   Both stories take place in Los Angeles and involved fictional characters  — LA YOUTH.  We’ll see how that pans out.

It’s particularly relevant that I re-read and post this story entitled SMOKE after not seeing it for almost a decade.  Cuz after I finish this last cigarette, I’m quitting. 

After 25 years of being a smoker, it’s time to move on.  We’ll see how that pans out. 

HERE ‘TIS 

S M O K E

Right now I want a cigarette so bad I’d murder a man just for a drag off his butt. Taking drugs, which includes smoking cigarettes, may be the only activity known to man where quitters really do prosper. Then again, maybe I’m wrong. 

I have been known to be wrong.

If I had a nicotine patch, or a stick of Nicarette brand gum right now, my incessant craving could be appeased by the languid chewing of that now available over-the-counter nicotine juice secreting gum. Or by osmosis. 

But science is limited when it comes to pleasure. That is to say, no mere stick of gum, or patch stuck to my epidermis, even one laced with a dose of nicotine, could equal the pleasure and satisfaction I get from smoking a cigarette. Two fundamental motivations present themselves in regards to smoking cigarettes: addiction and pure pleasure.

More to the point, does cigarette pleasure rest solely in the appeasement of one’s addiction, or does there exist, an intrinsic pleasure inherent in filling one’s lungs with burnt tobacco? 

On an individual, case by case basis, a strong case can be argued for either side of this controversial issue. For instance, let us examine a smoker’s first cigarette of the day — following morning’s shower, he lights up while drinking a cup of coffee and reading the paper. Ask any smoker and he will insist that those seven a.m. puffs capture the essence of pleasure. Wholly unnecessary, unhealthy, yet oh so tasty and fulfilling, this act of foul yet sweet inhalation can be viewed in the same light as rich icing on a cake. And what is a cake without frosting, but mere sweet bread. Let the smoker eat his cake. 

No one can deny the pleasure of a devil’s food chocolate cake except Richard Simmons. Smoking that first cigarette in the morning is no different. It feels good, tastes good. It helps keep you regular, and that coffee just wouldn’t taste the same without a puff between sips. Such a petty event, but it’s the little things in life that make living worthwhile. Yes indeed, there does exist, true pleasure in tobacco smoking.  

On the other hand, ask any smoker to recall his first puff. Most will tell you they coughed. Some vomited. No one can deny that smoking is an acquired taste. One definitely needs weaning. Smokers begin their habit not out of pleasure or addiction.   They usually begin out of experimentation, or imitation of a certain role model: be they parent, debonair actor or a cool looking upperclassman. Many start as a consequence of social stress, merely wanting to appear older or more acceptable. Before long, the person gets hooked. At the same time, somewhere along the line, either before or after they are addicted, young smokers are truly enjoying the act of smoking. 

So, is there a true element of pleasure and satisfaction to be found in an activity that yellows the teeth and blackens the lungs?  

A smoker with a daily habit waking up in the morning has gone a whole night, possibly 7 or 8 hours, without a single puff of a cigarette. One could say that even in sleep, addiction looms like a thief in the night, dormant and hidden by shadows yet waiting to strike like a match when their victim least expects it. That night’s sleep IS equivalent to an entire work day or a 370 mile drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Couldn’t it be simply that the reason a smoker’s morning cigarette tastes so good is that his or her body is responding favorably to the end of a stretch of deprivation?  

It could very well be that this morning pleasure is derived from nothing more than the appeasement of addiction. And if that is the case, then smokers throughout the world have been fooled into paying homage to a false idol. 

If appeasing one’s addiction is the ONLY true pleasure to be found in smoking, then cigarette smokers have made themselves targets of the tobacco industry’s greedy ploy, imprisoning themselves within the claws of a harmful habit while others get rich. 

Smokers believe that the smoke they inhale daily is a friend; when in actuality, it is a deadly foe. Cigarette smokers are being played like pawns, who shoot themselves in the foot. Pawns are not really people. They are expendable, disposable toy soldiers who die in the name of King Tobacco. 

Who wins the argument, the pleasure side or the addiction side? It is uncertain, since each side can present a resonable defense. One can say with certainty only that the real winner is the tobacco industry and that the real loser is the smoker. 

It is said, “That which does not kill you will only make you stronger.” Denying addiction hurts both physically and mentally, but the pain does not last forever. No pain, no gain. And this pain can set you free since addiction is a form of slavery. The pain will certainly not kill you; therefore, it can only make you stronger. And who does not want to be stronger? Cigarette smoking can kill you, and even if it doesn’t, it can only make you weaker. Don’t believe the hype.  Quit smoking cigarettes today. 

I did. It’s been 10 minutes.  I miss them already.  (I just added that last line)

Taegu S.Korea 1996



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