Thursday, February 6, 2014

Day 25: Enough Camel Cash to purchase a turkish Harem (finale)...


I bought my first pack of cigarettes the summer of 1994, about a month before my 17th birthday at Hunt’s Restaurant at the bottom of Farmington road hill, near Bradley park. They had a dim-lit room off to the side that had a fountain and twin arcade games plus a cigarette machine. I (nonchalantly) pretended to be playing Street Fighter Two while surreptitiously sliding quarters into the cigarette machine, turning the other way, whistling Dixie whenever anyone walked passed. I purchased a box of Camels and box of Marlboro Reds. The first two packs took forever to get though. I bought them in June and due to my spohomoric puffs lasted at least until Halloween (patehtic) keeping them burrowed in the desk in my bedroom overlooking the corner of Sherman and Cedar in West Peoria.

         I was starting my Junior year of high school. I was captain of the cross-country team, yet failed to accumulate any speed. I was stuck.  I began to get interminably depressed.  I started dealing with some sexual abuse shit that I realized went on a few years earlier and I lost it. I  ensconced myself in my room for days on, listening to The Smiths non-stop.  One night when I was bored I carved the word POET in vertical lashes down the albino center of my chest. My parents took me to an array of counselors, none of which did any good. I imlpored them to let me transfer schools but my dad, in all his humilty, wouldn't allow it.

So I smoked.

I listened to the Smiths.

I carverd up my body and then, when I was done, bled sonnets into the frost bite of the page.


And all the while I was defiant. I was a bad-ass. I was a smoker, even though, I honestly didn't enjoy it. Even though I yakked up phlegm. Even though it took me an abbreviated football season to get through a pack of smokes. Even though I often walked all the way over to Madison Golf course to fire one up because I was afraid Adults would see me and ruin my covert ploy.  
I was a smoker.
I was (pardon the noisome pun) Kool.
It was sometime mid-junior year when we abandoned the hemp-riddled scent of One World and started literally living inside LUMS family restaurant on Western Avenue. It wasn’t uncommon for us to smash tables together tables lingering in the smoking section for seven or eight hours at a time, all the while smoking, all the while lost in a sea of bitchy banter and wilted wit, me cadre of bohemians, screenwriters, poets, and dreamers, and (oh yes) nearly all of us smokers, our staccato of chirping badinage transpiring beneath a chandelier of smoke We smoked maybe Marlboro reds and lights. David Hale was almost always smoking a damn cigar, which would later, along with pipes, be my choice of tobacco ambrosia. When I arrived home from Germany I brought back a carton of Dunhills and a carton of Sobranie's Black Russians (along with two pairs of Doc Martens). We started driving out to the old Paul's Pipe shop on University where the lady owner had a moustache and would sell import cigarettes to anyone. All the while I was all growing completely disilluioned with high school. The more District 150 treated us like a statistic, insinuating that we had no future the more read outside of class, the more we wrote, penning  an atlas for the trajectory of our youth that was never handed to us. Our careers not only students but as viable human beings with something to say already, from the outset, seemed up in smoke.

We smoked more.

When people would gripe that smoking was a disgusting and that it caused cancer I retorted by saying that it was "convivial" since it brought people together, if only to bum a light. When someone would tell me they were going to endeavor to quit smoking I would chide, "What are you going to do after sex? Talk about your feelings???"

There was smoking across the street from Manual on Griswold with Dave Strickler and later getting tattled on by Gary Bybee, the tenacious track coach Coach Winkler calling us into his office for remedial interrogation, where of course, we both lied our asses off. Later Strickler would abandon the team and I would too, claiming, I just couldn’t do it any more, my dream of being an Olympic athlete transitioning into dust, or rather, flecks of ash tapered off from the stem of a smoke consumed in snorkeling gasps between classes.

Senior year I worked at Jumer’s castle Lodge as a busboy and, while you were technically only permitted to smoke in the outside prow above the kitchen known as the Smokers deck we smoked in the banquet rooms after hours. There was a working-class menial pay asperity that I felt smokers shared. We smoked in service elevators. We smoked in the stock room and while trying to dickey into the liquor cabinet to filch a bottle of jack daniels.  While my peers were out partying Friday nights, cruising  around the mall idling outside various liquor stores with hopes of scoring a six pack I would smoke cigarettes between bussing tables, quoting poems, continuing to dream. Midway senior year I first read ON THE ROAD.  Even though you could smoke inisde I would still stand outside LUMS, my poetry notebook tucked under my arm, a cigarette alighted, waiting to enter the womb of adolescent scribblings with a smoke in paw. 
When it was reported a year later that David Foster Wallace was a chain smoker I pretty much was sold, I would sell my soul Mephistopheles to Marlboro man style, if it meant I would be a writer. 
There was times I cease smoking for months on end. If I was dating a non-smoker I would almost always go on abeyance.  Soemhow I fell in love with going on long aimless drives to nowhere in particluar and chain-smoking. I'll never forget Christmas of '99 when I felt like I had failed in the relationshiop with the creature I wanted to marry so I got in my car and drove for sixteen hours, chain-smoking like a motherfucker, listening to the caterwaul of the Counting Crows, finding myself three states over crying on the hood of my car, lost in the dripping illumination of cosmic braille overhead.  

For a long time I smoked two packs (plus) per day, pelting sentences out on an old moribund diesel-engined Smith-Corona that intermittently binged coercing one to shove the platen to the right in  off-tempoed slaps every fifteen seconds if you were pounding away.  I lived in a boarding house on Columbia Ter. close to the Columbus statue in Bradley park and twice (note Twice)  I had to go to the emergency room because I developed stys from chain smoking while looking down into the river of vowels and synaptic glyphs in the keyboard below. 

As in Billy Collins' poem, there are more that I remember--inhaling Winston’s while Amber Steel “like her heart” lounged on my lap and I raked my fingers across her straw-flavored bangs, again, the burgeoning wordsmith, unsure what to do. There was the time my car broke down in Danville, Il and I bought a couple of packs of camels and  went on a ten mile jaunt, ending up in a park, a homeless man, telling me that he would give me a blowjob if I gave him a smoke.

I lied and told him I was down to my last squre.

There was giving everything up for a woman who lived in Appleton, Wisconsin, flying to see her, buying her a pack of Marlboro lights. Sitting on a certain emerald park abutting the shore lines of lake Michigan while the dark haired creature performed lithe acrobatic on the nest of my denim lap, and later, holding her close in a hookah lounge later that night.   Before the final sentence of Succulent Sobriety two is stamped across the forehead of Blogger I'll compose an entry about my affinity towards cigars since, those who see me know that I normally smoke around 40 little cigars a week. My assignation with cigarettes ended sometime around 2002, when I got sick and every time I inhaled their was fluid my mouth and I literally couldn't smoke anything for four years. I bought a back in 2007 when I was walking around Chicago and couldn't find a cigar ship and was bored. The last pack of cigarettes I bought was November 2011. It was three in the morning and I decided to grab a few beers and inexplicably walk from my apt in the West Bluff to my mom's house in Bartonville and the gas station I stopped at en route only sold cigarettes. I thought how I used to smoke two packs a day and how I feel that I've graduated or evolved to a higher caliber of tobacco since those sty-riddled nights when the tips of my fingers would form alphabetical octaves on the farrow rows if keys below and how, bent over my smith-corona, I felt like a piston, an imperialistic sparkplug agitating my thoughts into the furled page below, smoke skirting in balletic swirls as if punctuating progress from hours monopolized on the pasture of the page.

But there's ardor towards smoking continues to ameliorate in new found pungent huffs of bliss.

You'll just have to keep on reading to find out more. 


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