"A cigarette is the perfect type of perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it
leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?" Oscar Wilde
Oscar had it right about cigarettes, of course, what he didn't know is just how truly bad there are for you. I'm sure it wouldn't have dented his enthusiasm for them, probably the opposite in fact.
I have been a smoker for years and to be honest have always enjoyed them. I know in the world of social taboos it ranks pretty highly, probably around the mass murderer/lawyer rank of people most frowned upon (I have taken this as a mean position seeing as in the US it is almost a criminal act to spark up in your own apartment and in parts of Europe considered the natural follow on from mothers milk).
What's to love about these little white tubes of acrid smoke? Why even write about them on a website dedicated to food? Well, it is that time again, the time to attempt to give up. Now, I have done it before, have even been successful to the point of having given up for two years. The reason I wanted to write about smoking was, to me, it seems so tied up with the whole process of eating and drinking, something so integral to eating a meal or having a drink that it acts as a kind of grammar around those kind of activities. Punctuation marks around good meals and social gatherings in the pub. Unfortunately, it's going to kill me.
Now, I have no problem with people smoking (though I deplore it in restaurants, I mean it's bad enough having to endure other people's conversations, but their second hand smoke is not bloody on!). I view the act of smoking as an adult pleasure which has consequences. Many of the things we derive pleasure from as adults come with risks and some glamour. That's why we want to do them as kids. Drinking, driving, gambling, exotic foods, having sex, taking drugs, they are pleasures (or vices depending on your bent) that have consequences, be they for the person doing them or some third party. You take on responsibilities when you indulge in them. That's what makes them adult. That's why we don't let the self same kids do them.
So for you non-smokers, and reformed smokers, and even die-hard tobacco lovers I wanted you to share with me the most significant or most relished cigarettes I have smoked. A fond farewell to all of that before I leave them and regain the senses of taste and smell and hopefully stop smelling like an ashtray.
My Very First Cigarette
Smoked when I was around 13 years old. I remember finding the packet of smokes in my older brother's room. They had been left there by a friend of his who had spent the afternoon in the house, listening to records and smoking out of the window. They were Marlboro's. Proper Red Marlboros. The acidic smell of the unburned tobacco was something that I had always liked, sneaking a sniff from the packets that my father kept in the bar for visitors (no-one does that anymore!). I picked up the pack and smelt deeply and then it occurred to me to actually light one, they had been smoking most of the day so no-one would notice. The thrill of it was incredible, an intense surge of what I can only describe as a sexual high was my first experience of smoking. I was struck by the power of what I was doing, something taboo, something dangerous, something very very cool. And smoking is cool. I know, I know, it's isn't because it is truly evil stuff and you just make money for faceless bastards who don't give a shit if you kill yourself. However, we have been taught to see it as cool. Think of every truly cool moment in film and I bet you there's a cigarette there somewhere. All my heroes smoked.
The perfect punctuation mark to a meal. Apart from the fact you probably haven't tasted most of your meal because your taste buds are shot. No, really, this is one of the most important cigs a smoker will smoke. In non smoking restaurants you'll see the smoker in a really bad way after the desserts. They are a mass of fidgety energy, and man, they'll want that bill faster than anyone as there is nothing more depressing that a coffee with no smoke.
Let's just say it's traditional. Though I have to go out on the balcony as I'm not allowed to smoke in the house. Which kind of spoils the effect really.
First Smoke in Morning
The kill or cure smoke. I usually have mine around 11 in the morning as I'm not one of those people that can do it as soon as they wake up. I have to get cleaned up, eat breakfast, drink coffee, get all the email and hassle out of the way before I can smoke it. To be honest it's the harshest smoke of the day. A real shocker and always makes you feel a bit ill. But nothing says your awake more than a shot of espresso and a cigarette. As Lou Reed said in that movie Smoke..."Breakfast of Champions".
In the Pub
The taste of beer and tobacco. Even my girlfriend who is as ardent anti smoker likes the taste of a kiss when I've a had a brew and a smoke.
There are a hundred other moments I could share with you, but you know, I think you get the picture. Only one more entry to write. My Last Cigarette. I'll fill you in. The think this needs to be done with some ceremony.
Wish me luck.