Wednesday, December 11, 2002

I remember when I used to smoke cigars, the first time I quit smoking. Back in 1995. Esther and I would hang out with Terry and Bob. I worked with Terry at the Daily Chronicle. Bob was an English major and we'd had some classes together. Bob was also my next door neighbor when I lived at the goat palace. Terry was a good looking gal, in her prime, but she let herself go to seed when she got with Bob. And when she told me she was a bisexual, I, in the throes of Rush Limbaugh conservative Republican-ness, considered her damaged goods. I think she was trying to impress me with this revelation. Instead she revolted me. But I remember one time the four of us met a whole bunch of people from the Chronicle at Box Office Brewery and I smoked a cigar. It was a big fat one with a fake Cuban sounding name. But I was really craving a cigarette because we were drinking.

When I was a smoker I really liked to smoke when I drank. Yeah, that first time I quit smoking I was always wanting a cigarette. I lasted two and a half years before I started smoking again. I smoked for another year and a half and then quit again for good. Haven't had a cigar since I was a smoker. The first time I quit smoking was because I was getting married to a non-smoker and didn't want to expose Esther to second-hand smoke or my bad breath. I wasn't doing it for myself. And that's why I struggled. The second time I quit because I tired of smoking. It was for myself. And I've not struggled with relapse. Not much. Only had a couple moments. Like the wall of cigarettes at Mountain Momma's just out of the Smokies. Just being around all that tobacco brought something back. Now I'm more than four years removed from my last cigarette, a Basics Light, and I don't remember what a cigarette tastes like or feels like as it pollutes my lungs. And although I like the smell of cigars, I'm not tempted to try one. They numb my taste buds.

I remember dumpster diving with Frankie Drabek when I was 9 or 10. We'd go out every night. The mother lodes were the mini-putt, where they had a pop machine, and the dumpster behind the auto repair shop. The mini putt had batting cages and teams came throughout the summer and worked up a goood sweat swinging in the cages. Them bastards at the auto shop drank on the job -- a lot. I'd come home smelling like a brewery, and Frankie and I would set the cans up in his driveway and crush them with a wooden mallet. We split the profits. The summer of 1982 I made probably $10 a week. That's a lot for age 9. I thought of that as I crushed cans tonight in preparation for tomorrow's recycling. I keep telling myself to scour the neighborhood alleys for cans. Dumpster diving holds a romantic allure for me, living frugally feeding off the detritus capitalism, but pride keeps me from it. What am I saying? I write this sitting in a chair recovered curbside, that has only recently given up its smell of tobacco and old person death. Esther told me about another curbside Colonial couch to replace the one my brother took away. I would rather borrow my parent's love seat in the basement that nobody sits in, and is just in the way. But I'm afraid to ask to borrow it because my father is a very possessive person, always has been, and is getting more so as he ages.

"I want to breath you in," I said to the good wife as I wrapped my arms around her from behind. Kiss one ear, then inhale the sweet perfume of her hair, move on to the other ear. A nibble and a giggle, then back away. After watching a movie, "On Golden Pond," Esther and I jammed out on a simple impromptu song tentatively called The Ai Ai Ai song. A little American Indian derivative with two chords, E-minor and A-minor. Ai Ai Ai indeed.

Children were reasonably good. One kid asked if I was in such a good mood because I was getting married. I told him I been married almost 8 years. Said maybe the good mood is because I have a good wife. Yeah, that. Also the caffeine kicking in. Had a good workout this morning. Exercise beats the winter blahs. If only I could stop eating so damn much, drinking 2-3-4 beers of an evening, maybe I'd lose weight. Well, I've been cutting back on the junk food. No fast food. Still like my cheese and butter and meat. but I'm not obese. Just following the Smith Curse mold laid out for me, keeping all my weight in the middle. Brother Ken, shorter, slighter, of more Italian frame, also more temperamental because of same genetic proclivities, picks on me because of my gut. I hope I've lost enough weight in the last year to avoid his ire. It don't matter. I'm llving healthy. And I'm married. So my physique don't matter as long as I'm healthy.

It's about beddy-bye. Still working on that 700-pager T.C. Boyle Stories, a collection of short stories. My own next short story is about a man who lives with pigs on top of a North Carolina mountain. More details soon. Ta ta.



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