Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Smokin'

I’m sick of all the pious bullshit I have to take everyday from almost everyone because I smoke. I’m sick of the righteous, zealous indignation of non-smokers who know I’m addicted to a dangerous legal substance (that was pushed on me from every corner of my society since birth to fifty) yet still expect me to STOP! because they think I should. Why not the same kind of fascistic attack on the civil rights of drinkers? No drinking in public places. No drinking in the presence of children. No drinking in your own apartment! Thank God I own a house. I hate cell phone users who talk on the phone non-stop when they are out to lunch with a friend or sweetheart. Should we prohibit this noxious behavior because it offends me?

I was born in 1944. My dad was fighting in France when I was born in Paris, Texas in the hospital on the Army Base there. I’ll bet the doctor who delivered me was smoking while he whacked me on the bottom. My mother was smoking in her hospital room while she fed me from a bottle while her perfect breasts pained her no end as her milk began to dry up. It was the thing to do in 1944.

We moved to Salt Lake City before I was three and the years went on. I survived in our turbulent family, and just before it split into it’s sad little parts, my mother taught me to smoke. I was remarkably good at it. Granted, smoke is always better fresh than second hand. I learned to French inhale in short order and was amazing her friends at cocktail parties. I could do plenty in the smoking department. It’s the only thing I was ever praised for. Well, at least the most normal thing I was praised for.

I was five when our family flew into it’s individual pieces. I got sent to Sherman, Texas to live with my mother’s brother and his wife. They were childless and happy to have me, so made no objections to my smoking. Everybody smoked everywhere, anyway. And it was kind of cute. I was well cared for at my aunt and uncles. Taught things, too. Like, how to shampoo my own hair, roll a pin curl, scrub my ankles with soap and water. My mother never showed me anything except how to smoke and she groused about all the work I was for her. When she came to visit me on my birthday, she called me a prissy little thing. Said I looked like a poodle. Then when she whirled me around playing airplane with me, my sweaty hands slipped out of hers and I went flying into the backyard table and broke two ribs. We smoked a cigarette together and then she left.

Six months later, just before Christmas she came and got me and we rode the train to Salt Lake smoking all the way. There was even a special car on the train called the smoking car. That didn’t mean you couldn’t smoke everywhere else. We smoked in the dinning car. We smoked in the toilet, we smoked everywhere. Everyone did.

She married into a well-to-do family, and everybody in that family smoked. My new grandfather was one of Salt Lake City’s most prominent physicians. Chief of Staff at St. Marks and Holy Cross Hospitals. He was a general practitioner and surgeon. He smoked. Everywhere, all the time. While he was examining you in the office a smoke dangled from his fleshy lips. He probably smoked in the operating room.

In every car we rode in everyone smoked summer and winter. Every time we ate, someone had a cigarette going at the table. We smoked at the movies.

Now I’m 63 and remarkably healthy. I have high blood pressure. Everyone In my family did. No one died of cancer. All the men died of heart attack and all the women in my mother’s family died of vascular dementia. I took care of my mother once she couldn’t care for herself anymore. She was incontinent, didn’t recognize anyone, not even herself. She quit smoking in her fifties. She died in her early eighties when her brain stopped sending the signal to her mouth to chew or swallow. She died on Christmas morning, two days after her birthday.

My doctor, who sees me seldom (because of my relative good health), never fails to lecture me about the dangers of smoking. He listens to my lungs and shakes his head, unable to look anything but disappointed that they are clear. No, cancer doesn’t scare me.

34 comments:

TomCat said...

Utah, I think we're going to get along quite nicely, because I share your foul habit for most of the same reasons. A liberal anti-smoking fanatic can be every bit as forceful as the most rabid TV preacher. Now, I'm considerate. I will not smoke in the car or home of a non-smoker. When I non-smoker visits me, I go outside my own home, if the smoke bothers them. When I am smoking outside, I position myself downwind of non-smokers. I respect their desire to avoid second hand smoke. I have tried to quit on multiple occasions without success. And I can fully understand why you get sick of being treated like a feminist in a male chauvinist pig convention.

MadMike said...

I will have to speak to the smoking thing. As a 40 year smoker (I started as a baby) I can testify to the hold it has on its users and abusers. I quit about 2 years ago and it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I love cigarettes and I hate cigarettes. I miss them when I drink, and when I am stressed. I loved a cigarette with morning coffee or a Diet Coke. I never smoked after meals or after sex, well, maybe after sex:-) I never smoked without a liquid in my hand, and I never smoked first thing in the morning. I could go for a week without a kill stick, but I always went back to them.

Unfortunately the only way I could quit was to make myself hate them. I convinced myself that cigarettes were the Nicodemon, a monster that was devouring me slowly. As a result I have become one of those "anti-smoking" assholes. This doesn't mean I preach to smokers nor do I criticize them. I just try not to socialize with them. It is not so much because they smell of the evil weed as it is the fact that I am afraid of falling once again into the abyss and becoming fond fare for the Nicodemon; escaping the beast was just too damned hard.

So, smoke if you got 'em, if not bum one off your squad leader (old army term) but keep them away from me. Thanks to all who took the time to read my diatribe and if you have never smoked don't start. For those of you who do don't beat yourself up. There are plenty of folk who will do that for you.

P.S. For you never-smoked-a-day in my-life-and-don't-know-why-anyone ever-would-people....try to understand it is a high, a rush, a sedative and amphetamine all rolled (no pun intended) into one neat little package. So there!

Stella said...

I have to out myself. My Trophy Hubby and I used to smoke a lot and my husband and were both like you, tomcat. (Damn, great avatar...) We were both extremely considerate of other smokers and voted for every anti-smoking law because we believed that their rights superseded ours.

Smoking is a horribly difficult habit to quit. I just couldn't quit, no matter how often I tried.

Then, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Utah, you're stronger than me: getting cancer terrified me.

Without going through the entire story, I was fortunate to have surgery and be forced not to smoke for six days. I'm sure the post-surgery drugs were my lifesaver. After a month, I was done.

And, tomcat, I will admit that I'm one of those liberal anti-smoking fanatic can be every bit as forceful as the most rabid TV preacher. Might as well come clean. When I smell cigarette smoke, my stomach literally feels like it's still on chemo, even after several years. It's particularly rough when I'm in an elevator.

I'm not doing the holier than thou dance. Cancer literally stopped me from smoking.

Cell phones in public annoy me, too. I often start talking to people in public while they're on their phone. (Phone user: "OMG YOU'RE KIDDING!!!" Me: "No, I'm absolutely serious, you didn't know?") It's kind of a fun way to annoy people, as George Carlin would say.

There's a huge difference smoking in public places than drinking. Smoking affects others than yourself. Drinkers do, also, but it's like comparing apples and oranges.

Your post about your childhood amazed me. Ever consider an autobiography?

I'm not criticizing either of you, but everytime I smell smokers on elevators or smoke on the streets, I can't take it. I do believe that smoking should be prohibited everywhere but a person's home or car.

God, I hope we're all still friends.

Utah Savage said...

Thank you tomcat. Finally someone gets it.

madmike, thank you for the understanding it, getting it. I live alone and only some in my house and my yard. If I am walking for a long time with a friend who is tolerant, I ask permission and if it's given I light up. Never in another's car, but my twenty two year old car is the dog mobile. So I roll down the window and smoke away, but never with a non smoker with me. However no one but a dog ever rides with me. I'm pretty reclusive. Actually, except for a small circle of very close friends, I rarely leave home, and this is my real life.

Stella. Thank you for your honesty. I have a close friend who never was a smoker but gets physically sick at the smell of cigarette smoke. Odd to me that the smell of the other thing I smoke delights her.

And yes, the autobiography is written the first four hundred or so pages obsessively edited, the last half written in a frenzy, and only looked at once. It needs a little tinkering. As you must notice, I do need an editor. But yes, I have a book and would happily share it with anyone willing to read it. If you have contacts in the publishing world I would be ever so happy to send it to you. One of the things I hate about emailing real writing to anyone, especially poetry is that the formatting gets fucked up.

How is it that you grow so close to the people you get to know through this medium? There is an intimacy we have, but none of you has to look at me or smell me or my house. I can fart and belch and forget to brush my teeth and you still think I'm just fine and dandy. It's the best of all worlds.

Utah Savage said...

Mad man, see what I mean about needing an editor? Can you figure it out? Why the hell can't I learn to reread my comments?

MadMike said...

You don't need an editor Utah. You are doing just fine. We all make silly mistakes. You should be proud of your skills as a writer. It is rare, rare indeed that I spend so much time posting to one blog. Vigil and friends can testify to that with no insult to them. We bloggers have become quite close.

Now, as to your not being afraid of cancer Utah....I am only afraid of cancer if someone tells me I have it. I am not afraid of dying unless someone tells me it is going to happen soon. Stella: Bless your heart. I love you and always have.

As to smoking, Utah, with "only" your dog in the car [sigh] did you really mean that? Tell me you didn't really mean that:-)

Still interested in the BJ thing:-)

Utah Savage said...
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MadMike said...

Ohhhh...I understand now what with the suicides, bi-polar disease, depression and all of that....Anyway.....

You write:

"Second hand smoking is the price my creatures pay for all the love and tender attention they get. I've never had one complain..."

I didn't know there was a price my animals had to pay for my love and tender attention. At least I hope there is not. I try to construct a safe environment for them; one that is "priceless." A smoking environment would not be priceless it would be dangerous. Finally, how do your creatures complain when they suck down your second hand smoke? Do they cough vigorously? Do their eyes water? Do their little hearts race? I am most curious.

Utah Savage said...
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Utah Savage said...

And just what is it you understand with all the aforementioned? Do you think you can dismiss me now? Am I too damned damaged to take seriously?

MadMike said...

I am so happy for the General:-)

Utah Savage said...

You did not answer the question.

Utah Savage said...

"Anyway?"

Utah Savage said...
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Stella said...

I have to admit, the smoking picture is so glamorous. (~sigh~) Is that you? That picture makes you look like Dorothy Parker.

Don't worry about the editing, oh brilliant writer. It's far harder to create than edit. Like this: How is it that you grow so close to the people you get to know through this medium? There is an intimacy we have, but none of you has to look at me or smell me or my house. I can fart and belch and forget to brush my teeth and you still think I'm just fine and dandy. It's the best of all worlds.

I feel the same way and wonder if we all do. Madmike, you are a great person. I love you, too, especially when I saw how much you love animals.

Utah Savage said...
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Vigilante said...

I will admit to not cutting any slack to smokers. The only exception is to those in their 20's who feel cancer will never kill them. (They have plenty of time to stop.) One or two really gifted people I know smoke, but that's not many. No one in my family smokes. My dad quit cold turkey before I was born. My mother quit 500,000 times. She died a recluse: no one could stand to be in her home or even in her presence, the stench was so bad. I smoked cigars and pipes into my 30's. After repeated warnings, my dentist finally prescribed an oral biopsy which terrified me. It proved to be negative but the scare was enough to get me to quit. Afterwards, I had nightmares of people holding me down and forcing me to smoke. (Picture waterboarding, only it was smoke-boarding.) I hate it when I smell smoke on the clothes of smokers. I have an innate prejudice about smokers, just as I have a prejudice against anyone under forty who is grossly overweight. It's low class. All kinds of people will make all kinds of excuses. To me it sends a message: the smoker is engaging in a practice that amounts to progressive suicide; the smoker is sending a message that he or she does not respect his self or her self. Either message evokes a question in my mind: why should I care? Why should I respect them if they don't respect themselves?

Utah Savage said...

Vigil, you get the prize today for intolerance and bigotry.

"I have an innate prejudice about smokers, just as I have a prejudice against anyone under forty who is grossly overweight. It's low class."

Well folks, I have just been called low class on my own site. Could you try to be just a little holier than thou?

I would say, go fuck yourself, but I like you too much.

K McKiernan said...

Funny thing is, Vigil, you said you are often thin skinned and find things offensive on this site... do you not really hear YOURSELF here?

I detest smoking, cannot stand the smell, but I comprehend that it is an addiction. I feel for people who try to stop and can't... I don't judge them as low class.

I just don't get how name calling or making people feel bad is suppose to motivate them to stop.

And what is magical about 40? Gosh, a few more years and I can get as fat as I want... whew... good to know.

Vigilante said...

40 is a round number, Mac. When I was in my forties, I would say things like,

"What do I care? I'm fat & forty. I'm entitled to say I don't give a fuck."

Now that age would probably be 50. But I'm considerably older and fatter now. Now I lool in the mirror as ask myself 'Who is the fat old coot wearing my clothes'.

As a recovering Häagen-Dazs addict (I have been clean and sober for 6 days), I struggle daily against my weight. I regard it as a life and death issue.

And I guess, I truly, truly, truly, I don't understand why any smoker wouldn't feel the same about their issue.

If that be bigotry, Utah, make the most of it.

MadMike said...

Well said Vigil and good luck with that Ice Cream thing:-)

Utah Savage said...
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DB Cooper said...

The real issue may be the social and economic cost of smoking-related disease. That's lung cancer and emphysema. What is a drag on medical costs is prolonged hospital care at the end of life. what does it matter to the USA if smokers die younger than non-smokers? Actuarially-speaking, they'll run up expenses against our premiums just the same. They'll just do it sooner than later? What's the difference?

Utah Savage said...

Drunk drivers bring the medical costs of all of us up enormously. Alcholics cost us plenty, what with rehab, jail time, and liver transplants. Did you not read the part where I say, even my doctor is disappointed that I have clear lungs and no colds, bronchitis, even flu? All my friends who have quit smoking are sick all the god dammed time. If I get emphasyma or lung cancer, I'll be the first to kill myself and be happy to go. Dear readers, you are not sitting in my smoke filled room with me. Didn't I say something right at the outset that I am sick of hearing all the pious bullshit..... turns out most of what I'm hearing is pious bullshit from mostly ex-smokers, who now feel great about giving me shit. Unless it's Vigil, pure as the driven snow, who, if I'm not mistaken called me LOW ClASS! At least I'm not FAT, you old fuckhead. Does not the cost of obesity weigh heavily on our collective pocketbooks? And who seemed mighty smug about this, his one and only prejudice.

TomCat said...

I sure do, Utah, and my doctor gave me the business for 15 minutes today. :-(

Stella said...

OK, kids, let's just agree to disagree. You rock, Utah, but I'm with Vig when he wrote I hate it when I smell smoke on the clothes of smokers.

I have to agree that the smoker is engaging in a practice that amounts to progressive suicide Some people can smoke for years and not get cancer; however, I heard on the new this morning the genetic reason for this anomaly. If one has a genetic predisposition to lung cancer, their risk increases 80% over those with the gene who never smoke.

K, 40 is a magical age. I don't know why. For me, life suddenly made far more sense and didn't feel the need to prove myself not did I care about all those little magpie items acquisitive women in their 20s MUST have.

After your Barbie article, Utah, I read At least I'm not FAT, you old fuckhead. Does not the cost of obesity weigh heavily on our collective pocketbooks? Well, yes and no: everything is about genetic predisposition.

If a person wants to engage in behavior that might hurt them, it's not my business. My take? Why is alcohol legal and pot illegal? Many reputable studies have proven people driving stoned are better than those who drive drunk. I will need to find those.

K McKiernan said...

I cannot wait until 40 then... I need to get to a place where I do not pine for my thin days... I want to concentrate on my gifts... not my shortcomings...

And even though I am ashamed to write it, honesty prevails... I think way way WAY too much about my physical "shortcomings."

All my friends over 50... don't care about their appearance like I do. They, instead, focus on things that really really should matter. And I envy them. I cannot wait to be like them. If you are right and it happens at 40... I only have two short years until I can focus my efforts where I know they should go.

Utah Savage said...

Stella, for me too, forty was a turning point. It was also when I was most in demand as a model--strangely Madison Avenue discovered that the really big bucks resided in the pockets of women over forty. But at forty, I no longer cared whether my opinions were wanted or not, by god, I had earned the right to express my truth, say what I really thought. I found out, once I stopped trying to please, that I was not alone with my truth. It's pretty universal for most women.

Petrosexual said...

Salvage actually is issuing a cry for help. She wants us to help her confront her demons, especially her addiction. But also with what lies just below the surface of her nicotine-caked lungs. Her deeper pathologies. Why else would she post photos of herself posing with her fags? Why else would she post such a flailing lament about smoking? She's glad we have responded. She should know that we're all here to help.

Vigilante said...

Petro, deliberate misspelling of names is not a sign of maturity.

Utah Savage said...

Well well, Petro actually speaks. I thought Petro was about twelve, and hadn't quite grasped the rudiments of written conversation. I thought Petro was just listening in now and then, hiding behind his big toy, eavesdropping and then saying something smarty pantsy and running away.

Not so, Peto. The plea is stated in the first paragraph. The plea is for all you self-righteous, pious, holier-than- thou, no-smoking zealots would look at the smoking thing from a greater distance than the end of your noses.

Utah Savage said...

And yes, Petro, I do still need an editor.

BAC said...

I never wanted to smoke, so didn't start. Both my parents died of lung cancer, and that was tough to watch. I'm sure that's why I want people I like, who smoke, to stop ... it's just not something I would wish on anyone ... well, except maybe Rush Limbaugh or George W. Bush.


BAC

Stella said...

Hmmmm, bac: good suggestion