I’ve never been to therapy, but I know what a therapist would say about me blaming myself: I shouldn’t do it. I know I was too young. I was a small child. I know it’s OK that I didn’t tell anyone. And I know I don’t have to own anyone else’s pain. Not my mother’s, certainly. I know I’m not her. I know my daughter’s not me. These maxims have leeched into the air of modern life the way hormones from birth control pills have seeped into the water, so why would I pay for them to be laid out like tarot cards?

I’ve never read a self-help book or new age tract, but I know I should be grateful. I know I should live in the present. I know I shouldn’t compare myself to others. I know that life’s not fair, that it’s not a meritocracy. I know I should work harder. I know how lucky I am, and sometimes I feel the luck deeply; it’s a luminous polished stone that fits perfectly in my palm. I gaze on it with wonder, rhythmically rub the cool smooth belly of it with my thumb. But often as it evokes gratitude this fortuitous possession inspires in me fear and guilt, which I know is not helpful. Gratitude. Practice gratitude. Also, breathing is very important. I know if I put the mortgage on autopay it’d be one less chore but frankly, I can’t always be sure there will be enough money in the account on any given day. I know we should be saving more. Five hundred dollars a month per kid for college, one chart said. Bah ha. I know the kids should be read to or reading twenty minutes or more a day. But most days works, right? And ten will do, in a pinch?

I never read health magazines, but I know I should drink eight glasses of water and that the vast majority of us actually do need eight hours of sleep and that I should get my kids in bed in time to get ten and I shouldn’t smoke a single cigarette and no way should I have that second beer when already there are only seven hours left to sleep if I can fall there fast enough. I know I shouldn’t worry about falling asleep, that’s only going to make it worse. I know sleep is aided by a cool, dark environment, that alcohol disturbs it, that there should be no technology in the bedroom. That one’s easy for me, but some sources say I shouldn’t even bring a book to bed. Just one more chapter. I know I should close it right now. I never read women’s magazines, but I know to keep the love alive I should shake things up sexually with my husband, we should take up activities that are new and exciting for both of us, we should speak in I statements when discussing our relationship, I feel, not you make me feel. I don’t know if the I-statements rule applies to sexual matters, I can see there might be some gray area there, but I know I should take responsibility for myself, be proactive, be the change I want to see in the world. I know plastic shopping bags cause damage six ways from Sunday. I should have brought those reusable shopping bags. I usually do! My husband should do it, too. Why does he always forget? I know I should run out after him with the shopping bags in hand. Or actually, I shouldn’t do that. I should let more go. I should let go more. We all should. I know, right? We need to lighten up.

I know I should have told that Walgreens checkout person to take the sunscreen and Trident out of the plastic bag. I intended to put them in my backpack, but I didn’t tell her fast enough, and Jesus, maybe in this case saving the bag is less important than not annoying her with another request. She’s had a rougher day than me. I sense it. I know I shouldn’t be afraid to ask for what I need, I know that as a woman I don’t ask for raises often enough (although it didn’t work out so great that one time; I should have read some tips first). I know most sunscreens are shit for you and that I should put some more on my kids right now because they’ve been in the water for over an hour and they’re about to fry. It’s the childhood burns that really set you up for cancer and premature aging, I know that. I know Olay ProX products are supposed to be really very good. I know it wasn’t my fault. I never said it was. I never thought it was. These issues have never bothered me much except insofar as a culture that makes the counterclaims so insistently and declaratively suggests that perhaps they should. That at least I should consider them.

I don’t watch TV or read celebrity magazines but I do look at the internet a lot and for the longest time I didn’t understand how Fergie so often found herself photographed nude. If the British Duchess was really running that far off the rails, surely I would have gleaned it from the supermarket checkout aisle, as I had her involvement with a weight loss plan. But now I know the names of the individual Black Eyed Peas and I saw them in the Superbowl halftime show, and it all makes sense. Sometimes it’s just the one missing piece that makes the whole come together. Ah-ha! That’s it! I get it! I can rest easy now.

A Vaguely Comprehensive / Chronological Timeline of Thought Processes Re: Cigarettes & I

Cigarettes are bad because major corporations produce them.

Smoking is a ‘fairly sure, fairly honorable way to commit suicide’ (via Kurt Vonnegut, I think.)

Cigarettes are tested on animals (?!)

Smoking American Spirit brand cigarettes is okay, because there are no additives in them and because a major corporation does not produce them.

The reason why I smoke cigarettes is because they serve as the only constant in a life full of perpetual movement, confusion, and sadness.

Cigarettes are no less an oppressor than any other more commonly accepted oppressor (i.e. ‘the state,’ capitalism, police, etc.). I am enslaved, via addiction, to smoking cigarettes.

Cigarettes are ‘the epitome’ of capitalism. You buy them, they burn away, you buy more, they make you feel good, you become addicted, they kill you slowly.

People who smoke menthol cigarettes are “fucking retarded.”

I started smoking cigarettes mainly because most of the people who I look up to smoke cigarettes.

Smoking cigarettes creates a very complex, multi-faceted hierarchical aspect of my daily life. / 1.) Purchasing cigarettes that are produced by major corporations perpetuates ‘big business’ and ‘the American capitalist system,’ ‘inadvertently’ harming the ‘lower / middle classes,’ ‘third world countries,’ and [other people.] / 2.) Cigarettes are tested on animals, like dogs and monkeys, and it is bad to claim dominance over other sentient beings, ‘simply’ because they are deemed ‘intellectually / emotionally inferior’ (especially for a commodity such as cigarettes.) / 3.) Cigarette butts / smoke is bad for the environment, affecting human beings in a negative way. / 4.) Cigarettes / the corporations that produce cigarettes have a large amount of control over my life, and by purchasing cigarettes I am enabling the corporations that produce cigarettes to market themselves, increase profits (or at least maintain steady monetary income), and perpetuate their control over my life and the lives of others.

“I know cigarettes are bad, but I don’t give a fuck.”

[Vague feelings / thoughts re ‘coolness’ re smoking cigarettes]

Anybody who smokes cigarettes, who doesn’t want to die, is “fucking retarded.”

Cigarettes feel like ‘an extension of my hand.’

Smoking has created structure / routine in almost all aspects of my life re “I ‘have to’ smoke when I drive,” “I ‘have to’ smoke at least two cigarettes before school,” “I ‘have to’ smoke at Mallory’s house,” etc.

‘We are all going to die anyway.’

American Spirit brand cigarettes taste really bad. (I ‘can’t believe’ R.J Reynolds owns ‘them.’)

Cigarettes ‘transfer’ ‘cancer of the spirit, soul, etc.’ to ‘cancer of the lungs, throat, etc.’ Most people die spiritually first, and physically second.  Smoking cigarettes ‘balances out’ the death of the two, so that when I die, I will not die an ‘already empty carcass,’ (or live for any period of time as an ’empty carcass’), but will die a ‘[something].’  [Something re good, something re bad].

I like menthol cigarettes.

I can control my thoughts (and therefore my emotions and behaviors), therefore I can choose to feel happy without smoking cigarettes, because the cigarettes (aside from my physiological addiction to them) are not what make me happy; it is my psychological affinity for them, my perception of how they affect my life in a positive way, which gives me the illusion of substantial happiness.

Cigarette smoking is an ultimately endless pursuit.

Abstaining from smoking cigarettes can increase my physical well being, resulting in a higher chance of a ‘more sustainable emotional happiness, in general.’ It can also allow me to think more clearly about things, because my thoughts, feelings, and actions won’t be ‘clouded’ by physiological or psychological addiction.

‘I don’t care about anything’ is a lie that I have been frequently using to ‘comfort myself with,’ in attempting to ‘justify’ smoking cigarettes. My choice to remain living shows that I have obvious self-interest and that I view life as desirable, to some degree. Therefore, I should try to act only in ways that allow life for the most sentient beings, for the most amount of time, at the highest quality possible (including myself). Smoking cigarettes is bad in the context of this thought process.

I want to be a healthy ‘role model’ re little brothers.

My life is a series of ‘phases,’ that either include or do not include smoking cigarettes. Each phase is, I guess, equally as arbitrary as every other phase, so, I guess, all that matters is that the phases seem – during the moments in which I am existing within these phases (or the moments in which these phases are existing within me) – to be ‘the best for me’ (re emotions, goals, life in general, etc.).

– When I believed that I wanted to die, what I really wanted was a major change in my life.

Smoking cigarettes habitually would negatively affect my ability to pay rent, pay for food, etc., which would result in my having to put more effort into these things than I’d like to, which would result in less time to read or write. Seems important, somehow.

I just like, don’t really want to smoke cigarettes I guess, I don’t know…

click here to read my blog post about other things involving myself and cigarettes

Bio-Baby Daddy?

By Ryan Day

Humor

I was sitting on a patio watching a lightning storm over the mountains that linger at every edge of the valley when a couple of girls walked up to my table.

“Are you having a good night?” the tall one screamed into my ear, startling me into spilling a little beer on my pants. There was an athletic grey rabbit tattooed on her neck.

“No!” I screamed in return.

“Why not?” she screamed back, disappointed.

“Cause it’s hot as hell and everyone in this town’s brains seem to have melted!”

She tilted her head sideways like a puppy in an earnest attempt to comprehend the incomprehensible. Now she spoke in a normal tone. “Do you ever just wanna dance like a hippie?”

“No!”

The two girls sat down in a chair at my table, a table at which I had been happily sitting alone watching my lightning storm, and started kissing loudly. This was not a fantasy moment. This was the way that genie’s get revenge when people rub their bottles and request fantasy moments. All the elements were there, the promise legalistically fulfilled, but wrapped in something unsavory, like a birthday cake with kelp frosting.

I sipped my beer and tried not to listen to the sound of lips smacking together. Out of the corner of a kiss the tall one squeezed, “What’s your name?”

“Ryan,” I answered honestly for some reason.

“I like your flannel.”

I was wearing a T-shirt.

“Are you having a great night?” She was screaming again. This time at a table full of men next to mine.

The men at the table shifted awkwardly into positions from which they could avoid eye contact. The girl from the upper portion of the lap-sitting arrangement took this as an invitation and moved to their table.

I was left with the shorter, spikier girl, who had as of yet not spoken.

“I love that girl,” she said. “She my baby mama.”

I nodded.

“I just can’t be with one woman though.” She looked to me for validation, which technically I could give because there was one woman I had been trying to be with for months, and I couldn’t because she wouldn’t let me. Not really a monogamy issue, but lexically I slid into the truth zone.

I nodded.

“Lots of me to go round, dig?”

I sized her up because it seemed like she was asking me to, but then I was immediately self-conscious about it and returned to nodding, which seems to be an ever effective conversation with oppressive strangers technique.

“We used to be married, but shit, you know women.” She shook her head.

I shook mine. I was unsure if I did in fact ‘know women’, but it seemed like a moment for commiseration.

I realized I was contributing too little to this conversation and that if I wasn’t going to leave I should think of something, anything, to say.

I should back up here and explain that I was on the lookout, and these two were fitting the bill. Earlier in the day I’d spoken to a good friend who works for a certain Jerry Springer and had mentioned that there was a not unsubstantial finders fee for tip-offs for good segment material. I sensed that I may be staring some ‘A’ material, as they say in the industry, right in the glow-in-the-dark nose ring. I had asked how exactly to approach people when angling to lure them to expose their not insignificant vulnerabilities to a national audience.

“Just offer them smokes. Everyone wants to be exploited and most of these Springer types smoke.” Spoken like a true prison guard.

I questioned his ‘everyone wants to be exploited’ logic, but I nonetheless forged ahead.

I opened the pack on the table and offered it towards the short spiky haired glow in the dark nose ring girl. She accepted. Hooked.

She lit the cigarette. “Plus, she’s back with Tommy. Bitch.”

I could already see them clawing at each other’s metal adorned appendages from either side of the formidable Tommy, upturned chairs surrounding them, whoever replaced Steve Wilkos sauntering slowly to the rescue.

“Tommy’s the bio-baby daddy, but he was just supposed to be the donor. Now they’re all like in love or some shit.” She pronounced that last stretch in a kindergartner’s oooo-that’s-icky voice. She took another smoke from the pack.

I was seeing a limited number of dollar signs flash in slow motion before my increasingly intoxicated eyes.

“So…” I went in gently. “…Have you ever been to New York?”

“Fuck New York.”

“Statue of liberty…” my confidence waned, voice trailed at the sight of her disgusted stare. “…Time Square, Brooklyn Dodgers…” Wait that’s not right. I’m not a baseball fan.

“Ain’t no liberty in this fascist shithole.”

I wasn’t sure if she meant America or Phoenix (the great Maricopa county sheriff Arpaio always makes for good local fascism references). I needed a new approach and I went with direct. “I got a buddy who works for Springer and I think they’d like your story. Free…”

The sound of the slap registered before the sting, which was quickly cooled by a Miller Lite applied as a projectile.

She was gone before I knew what happened.

She took the smokes.

It turns out not everybody wants to be exploited, but yes, most of these Springer types do like cigs.

There are certain hobbies that, while possessed of an inherent appeal, I would never take up because the subculture attached to them so repels me.

Take golf.I enjoy whacking the little white ball—I’m pretty good on the driving range, truth be told—but I would never go so far as to play the game for the simple reason that I don’t want to spend a whole afternoon with golfers.

I was in a gas station because I needed a pack of Kool Kings.  In line in front of me was a retarded midget.  And I mean really retarded, as in mentally disabled.  Now, I am lacking in every midget-appropriate social grace known to man.  I have no idea how to behave when a midget, or otherwise tiny person, is nearby.  I often confuse them with children and speak to them as such.   Add retarded to the mix, and I’m outright socially crippled.  Additionally, after all this time, I’m still not sure if this retarded midget was a girl or a boy, or a man or a woman.  I am just going to refer to her as “her” because it’s easier that way.  Just keep in mind that she might have been a he.

She had no hair.  Just peach fuzz on top of her head.  She appeared to have a cold, which was creating a mess of mucus on her face.  She was attempting to purchase a Pepsi, but she was 48 cents short.  I happened to be holding, in my hand, two quarters.  She was fumbling around for a few minutes, trying to locate 48 cents, and I was standing behind her holding the two quarters.

I feel sorry for retarded people.  It broke my heart, this scene.

I walked up next to her and placed my two quarters on the counter.

“Here you go,” I said, smiling at her.

The retarded midget turned her oozing face to mine.  She smiled a really super big smile at me, which allowed me to pat myself on the back for a moment for my extraordinarily altruistic character.

Then:

“Thank you.  Can I have a ride home?”

I stared at her painfully for about five seconds.  I made a decision.

“No,” I said.
“Why not?” She asked.

This is where I started to panic.  I didn’t want her to think that I was grossed out by her, and that I didn’t want her coming in physical contact with my car.  I didn’t want her to think that it made me tremendously uncomfortable to be in such close vicinity with a midget, never mind a retarded one.  I didn’t want her to think that my charitable nature was strictly limited to those actions that cost fifty cents or less.  These were the real reasons I declined to take the retarded midget home.

“I don’t have enough gas,” I lied.

“You are at a gas station.  Get gas,” she quipped.  Outsmarted by a retarded midget.

“I don’t have enough money.” I lied.

“I just live right over that way,” she said, pointing east.

“I’m going that way,” I lied, pointing west.

“Then I live right over that way.” She said, pointing west.

Now, that frightened me.  Before, there was a retarded midget who didn’t want to walk home asking me for a ride.  Now there was a retarded midget attempting to fool me into granting her access to my car, and whose motivation for this behavior was ambiguous.  Petrifying.

“No,” I repeated, sticking to my guns.

I bought my cigarettes with her standing uncouthly close to me.  Then I walked out of the gas station, with her following unnervingly near.  I tried to ignore her, but it couldn’t be done.  I could practically feel her.

And then I broke.  I began to run.  I couldn’t help myself.  I was more than apprehensive at that point; I was terrified.  I turned around while I ran.  I don’t know what I expected to see.  I guess I wanted to see her face, whether I had offended her or not.

The retarded midget was chasing me.  Stubby little legs zigzagging rapidly back and forth, mucus and saliva flying off of her face and into the air.  She was visually livid, just absolutely irate, and determined to get me.

I got to my car, and it was like a horror movie.  I fumbled with my keys.  I dropped them on the ground and wasted time trying to retrieve them from under my car.  The retarded midget was getting closer and closer.

Finally, I got my act together and opened my car door.  I managed to slip in and slam the door shut right before she came, bashing into my window.  Snot and spit smeared all over the window, and I screamed in terror.  She was smashing her fist on the glass, hollering, noise, but no intelligible words.

I turned the keys with my shaking hand and started the car.  She was still punching my window when I peeled out of the gas station to escape her dreadful attack.

This was one menacing retarded midget.

The incident ended there, but maybe the worst part of the whole thing was that no one believed me.  I grew up in a small town, you see, and no one had ever heard of or seen a retarded midget living in the area.  People tend to take notice of someone like that.  There was Purple-Face Guy, Tanner the Wheelchair Kid, and the others, but no one knew of any local midgets, let alone retarded midgets.

Months after the episode, I was driving home from a friend’s house.  I saw her again, the retarded midget.  She recognized my car, and me in it.  She raised her arm and extended her pointer finger out to me.  Kept it up, pointing at me, until I couldn’t see her in my rearview mirror anymore.

Chilled me to the bone.

My boyfriend and I were driving home from the movies the other night. Which movie is not the point, but for the sake of setting the mood, it was a comedy and we laughed and we laughed.

The point is he’s got satellite radio in his car and he was flipping around to find something decent for us to listen to.

We tend toward a channel called Deep Tracks (AKA excuse to play understandably forgotten Emerson, Lake, and Palmer tunes) or Top Tracks (AKA excuse to play “Won’t Get Fooled Again” again, but with the benefit of really crisp acoustics.)

One can also find some decent comedy from time to time. And a hardcore rap show hosted by Ludacris. He and his partner swear and everything. We never listen to indie rock on satellite. I don’t know why.

Sometimes Mark turns to Hank’s Place, a channel that usually plays fine and classic country tunes. This time around, we found ourselves in the midst of a ditty with lyrics about getting old, and likening the aging dilemma to having the value of a precious, antique violin.

For reason that are probably apparent, Mark kept hitting the satellite radio remote, scrolling through our many other options to see what else we might find.

We came upon a jazz channel called High Standards.

Tony Bennett was singing.

I’m sorry to say that the name of the song he was singing now escapes me. Whatever the song was, it was quite good and not one I was familiar with.

A factoid emerged from my brain.

 

 

Tony Bennett is known to have been a fan of the marijuana. He went so far as to document it in his autobiography. Apparently it became a problem, but I prefer to think of him as a groovy velvety-smooth-voiced, cannabis-smoking man who lit up way before it became associated with hippies and lazy people. His whole crowd probably did it. You know the jazzbos — they were cutting edge, did dark things on the down low.

Anyway, I’m listening to Tony Bennett and I start thinking about his digging grass and it suddenly hits me, “Damn, I bet it would be really cool to get high to Tony Bennett.”

I don’t get high anymore.

I have an unfortunately sensitive disposition. Afflicted with a tendency for over-thinking, and the old cliche of fear and loathing whilst under the influence of most artificial substances (though thankfully not sugar or wine), I had to stop all forms of partaking in my early-20s.



I was instantaneously saddened at the thought that, in all likelihood, I would never smoke a joint, or load a pipe — fashioned from a Coke can or otherwise — with marijuana and have the experience enhanced by the dulcet sound of Tony Bennett’s voice.

My single-minded concentration on hard rock during my most prolific and potent smoking years started to seem really short-sighted. Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin both opened and blew my mind for sure. But clearly not enough. Not enough for Tony Bennett to enter my consciousness.



I considered that if my grandmother had played a more influential role in my life during my teenagehood, perhaps then I might have had my time with Tony Bennett. Or, conversely, ridden a real bummer in the form of the soundtrack to YentyI thought about the people I know who still smoke. And how the world was still their oyster. As it applied to the possibility of hearing Tony Bennett while altered.

I thought about my dad and how he surely listed to Tony Bennett. While drinking. Which is different. If my dad had ever smoked, I imagine he would have put on The Band or Leon Redbone.

Then I wondered what my mother might put on while she was smoking.

It felt like I was onto a new smoking game. “What Would So-And-So Listen To?”

Thinking about all the fun I was most likely never going to have made me tired.



Songs with the word “tired” came into my head.

I thought of The Kinks’ “Tired of Waiting.”

And of The Beatles’ “I’m So Tired.”

Current artists didn’t seem to be writing songs about being tired. Or they didn’t seem to be writing songs that will stand the test of time about being tired. Maybe it has something to do with ecstasy and cocaine.

Getting high makes you tired.

I often have bouts of insomnia.

Getting high to Tony Bennett and then falling asleep sounded like heaven.

I wished that could be my plan.

It occurred to me that my desire to get high to Tony Bennett represented something else. A desire to be carefree. Relaxed. Spontaneous. Unafraid. All worthy aims. All goals I’ve been working on from different angles.

They say the shortest distance between two points is a straight line…

Anyway, satellite radio has some real hidden gems. I highly recommend it.