Flavour Country

Flavour Country

Outgrowing (?) the need to be seen as a disaffected youth in black, shoulders hunched puffing away on an American Spirit (Parliament?) talking about philosophy and the Velvet Underground behind the 8 Ball (?).

I smoked Marlboros. Marlboro Medium 100s. They changed the name to some fool thing…Marlboro Red Label 100s when they passed that law about cigarette descriptions. Pfft. Red Label. Like fucking three quarters of them don’t have red labels.

I smoked Marlboro Red Label 100s, which people often mistook for Marlboro Reds, and they’d always say “cowboy killers” like I was a badass, lighting up their own American Spirit Yellows or Parliaments, or looking around now for someone else to bum off of.

It 100% made me feel like a badass, unquestionably. I could grow a huge fucking beard and for some reason people were afraid of my cigarettes.

First pack of cigarettes I ever bought? Basic Full Flavor 100s. Bbbbbb. Was going to smoke hookah in the sukkah, and had never smoked anything in my life. Basic Full Flavor 100s. Wanted to practice. Isn’t that nuts?

Switched quickly to Marlboros. Bbbbbb. I mean, if I was going to be a smoker. Right? Be a smoker. No not inhaling, no Parliaments. Go big and I guess put on too much cologne before you go home.

No one would want to see the montage of all the cigarettes they’ve smoked in the alley outside the 8 Ball. There would be crying, there would be weaving. There would laughing and shouting and lots of leaning on the brick, some weaving back by the dumpster with somebody you wanted to blow, or climbing up on the tracks to…well, you get it. I’d want to see the highlights reel, but the canonical montage would be grim.

How many nights feeling empty and defeated, but at least you could be drunk. The Christmas lights bringing unity and warmth to your vision, the smell varying sharply either pre- or post-smoking-ban.

I got interviewed by NPR on the night before the smoking ban went into effect. I remember telling some slender feminine shadow I interpreted to be a reporter that the ban would never affect my smoking habit, I’d just go outside. Riveting.

There was a time there when I rolled Bugler, which was also acceptably badass. This was back when a pouch was less than half the price of a pack of cigarettes, but I went right back to cigarettes when they jacked up the taxes.

A beautiful man taught me to roll cigarettes, of course he did. Weak, effete, sort of Russian-speaking. Decidedly heterosexual, and mostly asexual at that. Beautiful. Morose.


He took me seriously as an interlocutor, which meant a tremendous lot to me. Rolling cigarettes for hours on end at Cafe Rendezvous, we could talk around the mirrored flip sides of arcane nonsense only the other also valued, and I would try not to wonder what he tasted like.

Got so I could roll a cigarette one-handed in a windstorm. Sounds like a line, and it was, until one windstorm walk with my Polish professor. God, he was one of the sporting ones. A soccer dad who didn’t wear deodorant. Ohhh.

I think in part I kept on smoking because I wanted to be like the Italian department. God, they looked like they were having so much fun, standing around in a circle and laughing and ciao’ing, looking like a bizarre-o world ad for academia. I went up one day and asked one of the sexy ones (which were all of them) for a light, and I leaned in because I thought he was going to do it, and then I was too close when he tried to hand me the lighter. There ought to be a moment of silence for how fucking awkward that was.

All in all, though, I’d concur I was an admirable smoker. Never without cigarettes and only in the worst of circumstances without a light, I was dependable, and never a fence-rider. I did not bum, except from one friend a little, and could be reliably but restrainedly generous with what I had.

I did not give cigarettes to non-smokers. If needs were such, I would ask if you inhale. Cigarettes ought not be bummed to people who don’t inhale. They are dilettantes who don’t need them, and don’t understand anything anyway.

No, you can’t have more than one. No you can’t ask me again in ten minutes. No you can’t have one for your friend, too, you literal monster.

Fuck it: I do not get people who don’t plan. So now there’s three of you who need cigarettes and you had enough money to get incapacitatedly drunk but between the three of you no money for one pack of cigarettes? You are horrible people. Why don’t you stop using your trust fund to buy ironic Hummel figurines and pay for your own damn drugs?

(Yes, I do feel a little bit better now, thank you.)

Accidentally taught both my best friends to inhale. Just couldn’t stand to see them treating good cigarettes like that. Probably not even good cigarettes. In all likelihood, very bad cigarettes.

Cigarettes in diners. Cigarettes in good bars and bad bars. Cigarettes in karaoke bars and country karaoke bars. Cigarettes in my living room, in the bedroom, in your living room, in the attic, on the fire escape. (“Getting complaints from the other tenants, you need to not smoke on the fire escape anymore.” That just came flooding back to me, reading Augusten Burroughs on the fire escape and smoking and feeling all up in the trees. Living with termites and bats, eating hummus with my penknife. The summer I fell a hundred times, and chipped your tooth while we were frotting.)

Proudest moment as a smoker: having a staunch nonsmoker ask me mid-fuck for a cigarette, honest to God.

Out onto another fire escape. Same one he went down when he broke up with me. Probably smoked a cigarette right after that. Probably lit up while he was talking then texted Liuba pteranodon, which meant meet me at the back kitchen door for a smoke.

One time at the 8 Ball that beautiful morose boy who taught me to smoke told me I had always just split with someone every time he saw me. Seems about right. Probably seemed sadder to me then than it does now. When it happens every one is a -1 instead of another in a funny line.

Before I ever started smoking I wrote a story with an overconfident first-person narrator who smoked. My mom found it on my bed and took that part literally. It bothered me she couldn’t tell the narrator’s self-concept was not my own. It was nice maybe though that someone would think I was confident.

Don’t know if I was ever confident, but I did smoke Marlboros. Corporate, in a bold choice kind of way. ’Least that’s the branding.

I was a faggot, but a faggot who smoked Marlboros. A faggot who smoked Marlboros and studied Russian. With a big fat beard and more lays than you.

It’s hard to get close to a straight guy, and I don’t mean his junk. But he’s always scared that’s what you want, even if you just wanna smoke and talk about Chekhov.

Smoking Marlboros or rolling my own helped, though. Made ‘em see the intellectual on the other side of the dicksucking. Made ‘em less surprised I knew about punk music and philosophy.

And now that I don’t smoke, I don’t give a fuck. Seems so funny now, my old place in this hierarchy. This economy of slow-motion suicide with a wry twist of bullshit and fatalistic self-importance.

I accidentally got one thing right: the Marlboro Medium was a damn fine cigarette.

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