It’s after 3 PM and neither Kathleen nor I nor Kenyon has had a cigarette. We’ve taken our Wellbutrin and slapped on our nicotine patches; unfortunately, Kenyon had no hairless place to put a patch, but unlike humans he has no power to obtain cigarettes without our help, so he’ll just have to go cold turkey.
We quit last year from September through December but faltered on New Year’s, not from partying but from an emotional blowout with our son, the details of which I am not at liberty to share. Suffice it to say I wouldn’t buy a used car from him, although he is a handsome and lovable young man.
Further, today we were confirmed as new tenants in a spacious, light-filled one bedroom house along a whispering creek in the redwoods. If things progress as planned we’ll actually be moving in next Saturday. Having a place of our own (as you may not be able to imagine if you have not been virtually homeless for well over a year) is to us a scary prospect. We will be pinching ourselves for weeks in gratitude and disbelief, and then, like all humans, we’ll begin to take it for granted, and later aspire to a larger place. Such is our fallen nature; for now we have a chance to be grateful.
Instead of blogging for the next week, I invite you to come along on my journey of quitting smoking. There will be a poem posted in parts with each blog rather than more prose accounting of our adventures. I’m also going to change key words in the description of my blog to garner more attention, like free sex and drugs. Please ignore that ploy.
I think those who have been cigarette addicts will enjoy the poem, and those who have not may gain compassion for our minority, especially in view of the new Calabasas, California law that allows smokers to smoke in public only in their cars with the windows rolled up. To defend free speech for Nazis and the right to Internet porn is all very well, but where is the ACLU when it comes to smokers? Herein lies the ongoing Puritan hypocrisy on which our nation was founded.
As for hypocrisy, think of George Bush encouraging us to have private Social Security retirement accounts and private health care accounts while he and congress pile up a trillion dollars in debt. Yes, Americans: It is your responsibility to plan for the future while the benefits Government promised you go down the toilet. So kind of Uncle Sam to demand a virtue from the populace he cannot perform.
I have one word to prepare baby boomers for the upcoming crash of Medicare and Social Security: Sacrifice! This seems to be the one thing no one in America is prepared to do, especially our representatives. As George Harrison sang, “I, Me, Mine.”
Now for today’s installment of “The Deprivathon,” a poem I admit I did not compose spontaneously. I am revising an earlier draft from when I quit for six months in 2002. I want to thank Jim Zola for a critique of that earlier draft, my co-editor for Melic’s last issue, who (among a few others) actually had the patience to read the whole thing in its earlier form.
Happy no trails! No fuming!
C. E. Chaffin
(A diary of quitting smoking)
Nothing fills the body like tobacco gas
sating each bronchiole
until alveoli collapse
like punctured bubble wrap,
yet it is not the health risk
but the slavery I address,
the false comfort of filling
Augustine’s God-shaped vacuum.
Have mercy, God, for without smoke
my lungs are empty gloves,
my chest an abandoned altar.
“Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
This day by the grace of God
I will not smoke.
How can I wax oracular about a deadly habit? Shall I say,
"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by white voodoo missiles from the military industrial suicidal tobacco coven,
Red Man's revenge funded by oil-wealthy Oklahoma Indians,
Saw the blue smoke climb the undefended caves of their nostrils like mutated kudzu planting a Manitou deep in their unsuspecting ribs to one day metastasize and waste their brains, the Nobel Prize is a green oxygen tank and a wheelchair!
O Cancer! O Emphysema! O Stroke! O Coronary!
O insidious degenerative enzymes from secret hybrid leaves developed for mass destruction!
O refreshing Salems in a waterfall among the green ferns!
O perfect models with sweaters tied around their necks and khaki slacks sailing off Martha's Vineyard, liberated by Newports!
O Marlboro man who never talks but rides by purple mountains and orange sunsets in his fleece-lined suede jacket!
O Virginia Slims who keep that weight off for a woman who is only a clothes rack for gay designers, tennis anyone?
O be happy, go Lucky, Winston tastes good, the pause that refreshes, smooth, smooth, smooth as polished agate… hack hack….
but I'm not starving hysterical naked only addicted and I hate to smoke but hate not smoking more because
inhaled nicotine jolts the brain in seven seconds, talk about a hydrogen jukebox, instantaneous pleasure loop!
It calms, suppresses appetite, grants euphoria, helps concentration, ask any student, nicotine works long after caffeine quits.
Mornings are made worse by alcohol at night
which dulls the brain to pain of inhalation;
you wake up feeling like a crematorium,
still have to have that morning rush
or fear you won’t awaken.
I can’t ignore the pleading quality of machines—
a whir, a whine, as if a wish for petting,
as if they wanted a cigarette—
addiction is a machine.
No addict can adequately apprehend,
foresee or even imagine his actual end.
"One of three" they say will die
from cigarettes but this is only
Is easier to see the damage
in finely furrowed faces,
gray with sunken cheeks
who purse their lips to exhale
and afford increased resistance
to move their palsied bellows.
These are the "blue bloaters" of emphysema.
There are also the barrel-chested wheezing types
who hyperventilate to compensate.
These are the "pink puffers" of chronic bronchitis.
I learned these facts in medical school
where I took up smoking as a tool
to study past the point where caffeine fails
but my excuse is only a denial of death.
Yet emphysema, chronic bronchitis,
the risk of stroke and heart attack
do not terrify like the black crab of cancer,
Lung cancer patients stink.
No one wants to play with them
on the field or at the rink,
no one wants to stay with them.
Cancer is more feared because more alien
a thing inside composed of altered cells,
cells you were never born with, cells not yourself,
that mutating Manitou within
that killed Bob Marley and the Marlboro Man.