chemical smoke came raging past.
Fiery hot with toxins and poison gases,
it shot through every corridor,
searing everything in its path ---
a wispy trail of death snaking its way
through the nooks and crannies and craggies
of the once pink and pristine landscape.
Yeah, you could call it that.
I suppose it more accurately constitutes
a sort-of internal self-immolation.
Whatever the case, I exhaled.
I forced the ciggy smoke through
my nose as my man Al Lewis might
have done in a haywire dungeon
experiment on any given Munsters episode.
Genneseo sippy in
the old dadly easy chair,
another deep, deep drag of the nail,
sending my hapless alveoli
into another spasmodic oxygen-deprivation
much like the one I've just described.
God, I could use a smoke
right about now, couldn't
Oh, don't give me that PC squeal
about the bad-bad-baddies of
secondary smoke, and,
"boo, hoo, HOO, my clothes
all smell like Parliaments!"
WHATEVER you do, DON'T show me
of some Cajun-blackened coal
intended to give
your old diddly dad such a shocker
nasty-wasty fright, that I
unconditionally surrender my Marlboros
and make a beeline for
the Birkenstock bunch outdoing one
another on the Stairmasters of
the strip mall gym ---
the reformed glow of a Moonie
from my contented, smoke-free brow.
you little creeps ought to know
your old dad just
a little better than all of that.
For I am
admitting right here
and right now in front of all
--- on the very screen
through which you and your mousie scroll,
that I, too, joined the puling ranks
of the non-huffing
weenies when I laid down
my cigs at the start of this godless
And I still don't like
Maybe I should do the 90's thing,
and stand before you beating my
re-pinked breast, extolling my
newfound vim and vigor and vim
(not a typo --- just a
small synaptic tic)
as I cradle my jelly belly in
inhaling and exhaling fresh
(monoxide) air in great greedy gulps
For me, it was a rocky start ---
but I was hellbent on addiction,
Having just turned teen, with no funds
and certainly no cojones to
death machine for a box-o-butts,
I was forced to
nurture my burgeoning
habit by smoking half-huffed
ciggies my mom had snuffed.
indeed, assuming you
meticulously covered the
floral graphic encircling the filter ---
the one for which you
a certain pummeling at the local Rec Center
jocko droogie boys caught a glimpse.
smoked, and smoked and smoked.
I'd light one off another,
grind ashes into the thigh of my jeans if
no ashtray was
in sight, and
when I heard some Beatles doc
Ringo admitted to smoking
"....60 ciggies a day, ya know,"
I finally had a realistic goal.
would smoke more than the
very chimbleys of LTV Steel, I would ---
and within a few short months,
and a few brand changes
from a menthol
to a light to a hardcore and back
on to a
flavorful low-tar Merit, I
was there, man. Ringo had
NUTHIN' on me.
I'd smoke him and Maureen AND Zak,
by God, right outta Abbey Road and
where Beatle Paul
(from the preponderance of
I swore I'd quit
when I got into high school.
I swore I'd quit before senior year.
I swore I'd snuff 'em come college.
But the monkey jones escalated.
It was the
Dean of the College himself
who unwittingly gave yer old dad the
impetus to cleanse the old lunggers.
Sgt. Pepper ----"D.O.A." ---
for those requiring historical
context --- was
just out and banned from airplay
everywhere in the civilized world).
happened at one of those heinous
suck-up college mixers where
dormitory student advisors
bring the flotsam and
on their floor to a soiree where
has to gussy-up in their
Sunday-duds (I assure you, they were
and actually, factually SOCIALIZE with
faculty and administrative droids.
you might well imagine, it was a scene
that might even send
(perhaps even John Waters, though
have its limits)
off screaming into the night,
pre-med suckups working the
Chemistry faculty, the pre-law geeks
working the left-wing longhair poly-sci pundits,
solipsist legacies being waited upon
by the administration who
(a.k.a. their pension
would be coming from,
and, of course, the goober
(including None Other
who stood unblinking and unmoving
at the appetizer
snarfing the fingie sangies
the fizzy sherbet punch.
I smoked artfully and
the requisite authority; careful to snuff
only in plastic cups already ringed with
ashen, punchy residue,
my leather elbow patches bearing testament
store-bought intellectual erudition.
way is the punch table?"
one of the philosophy profs who
specialized in Kierkegaard queried.
course....right over THERE...."
I posited, pointing to my
the whole of my arm in a
burning ciggie in hand.
I felt the
distinctly NON-Newtonian feeling
of my cig coming in contact
something interrupting the
arc of my helpful arm
One of my eyes shut in a squinchy facial grimace.
Slowly, I turned
(now STOP that, you Niagra Falls people),
my head toward the terminus of the
cig --- slowly --- teeth
brow in full furl, only to see
the business end
of the Benson & Hedges
stuck in the upper arm of
college's esteemed Dean,
a deluge of smoky sparks raining down the
of his custom-tailored suit coat,
a fiery hole,
the size of a dime now,
growing like a miniature sun where
the cig found its quarry.
the fast-approaching end of
my grant-supported flirtation with
the liberal arts, and not yet being a
with the useful
I did the
only thing any hillbilly kid with
his eyes on the college prize
on the Dean.
I thrashed him, I did.
I pounded on
his fiery arm like
beach-blanket bongos as the
Academe gazed on, brows raised,
their sherbet-punch mustachioed
paralyzed in an erudite
"Oh, Dean! Oh,
I'd snuffed the fire,
Just a wisp of smoke emanated from
pin-striped Gucci now.
He glared at me over the upper part of
his silver bifocals,
yet strangely, seemed altogether
Something was very, very
Instead of the sickly smell of singed
the air was filling with a distinctly
aroma, like the
kind of smell you get when
you blow up
your plastic model cars
with an M-80 and they flame-out
all wickedly cool on the driveway.
I looked down at the hand,
and there it was, my friends.
House of Wax.
All Vincent Pricey.
Michael Caine-ish, even.
I stopped beating on it,
it with a polite little knock.
(courtesy of Corregidor as
I later learned).
I gave 'em up that very day,
No Nicorette --- no patch --- no hypnosis
no voodoo mumbo-jumbo.
For that very dadly day,
my dadly brain grew two sizes
conferred a diploma upon me
almost four years later himself,
right there on the dais, amidst the
baleful strains of
"Pomp and Circumstance."
After a brief and fretful hand jive,
I finally shook his birth hand.
He squeezed down pretty
good on my paw,
clenched his dentures, and spat
ventriloquist-like through his bonded ivories,
"...I think you know we're all so
PROUD OF YOU, Mr. D_____!"
Avenged, he sent me off, $15,000 in debt,
uncertain world that ultimately
made clear its
disdain for any of
the expertise I could lend it ---
world tolerant of my very presence only
because I had acceded to
viperous PC demand that I cease the
lungs the Good Lord
himself gave me to destroy if I so
So that is my story.
clean, and I still don't like it.
my day is coming.
I keep hearkening to a video
I squirreled away from my days
I don't think anyone has it anymore, except me.
I'll share it with you now, because you are
kind enough to keep
The tape starts with slurry
over bars and tone, and when the
snaps on, it is
baseball lengend Mickey Mantle,
sometime in the early 80s,
clad in plaid and poolside.
He is slurring on and on, quite visibly tanked,
when the insipid
local sports reporter
butts in with a highly original
interview question ---
one I'm certain Mr. Mantle had never,
"...how would you do it all
over again if you had it to do differently?"
Mantle stopped and looked
confused for a millisecond,
then stared right down the barrel,
and unaware the whole
would be forever scrapped on the edit
room floor, spoke directly to you
and me in TV-land.
"If I'd had it to do all over again,
a'taken it easy, kids!
and don't smoke,
"And then when you turn
"THEN you can have some fffun.
"I'd a --- c-cooled it ---
"If I had it to do all over again."