Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Very interesting Obama piece linked from Lileks.

Obama is a smoker. Who knew? I like the way this story raises the issue – they’re concerned about the effect on his voice if he stops smoking, don’t you see. Hah! I’m waiting for the candid shot of Obama having a smoke – if he’s in a good suit, giving off that Rat Pack vibe, it’ll set the anti-smoking cause back ten years. It's he's wearing a fedora, which would add a jazzman / forties twist, I see a fifty-state sweep. Or maybe not. Given how cigarette smoking has become a moral issue, it’ll be interesting to see how this gets played. A humanizing frailty? A surprising character flaw? DID HE SMOKE AROUND CHILDREN? Doesn't matter; the more I look at this fellow, the more I see a fifty state sweep.

For some reason I feel some sympathy for smokers. Perhaps it’s because I don’t know any real smokers today, so all my smokers come live in my childhood memories. I recall helping clean out ashtrays after family gatherings at our house. When did people (non-smokers) stop keeping a supply of ashtrays around their house? Many relatives (Mom’s side) smoked as did many family friends. On my Dad’s side smoking was a SIN. I always thought it funny how we served beer and put out ashtrays when entertaining guests on the Nordeen side, while on the Gisselquist side, hot apple cider was as wild as it got.

Then of course there was my Dad, the secret smoker. I don’t recall how young I was when I realized he smoked. He kept an old pipe in his dresser drawer – but we all knew he had given that up years ago. He would be seen smoking the occasional celebratory cigar when some relative had a baby. But of course the big secret was that he smoked cigarettes. Why he kept that a secret I can only guess. I suspect he didn’t want to set a bad example for us kids. Most likely he was scared of his family’s reaction to such a mortal sin.

Whatever the reason, we all knew that he would take frequent walks – probably to get a little exercise and blow off some stress – but also to smoke.

He kept his cigarettes – Kool 100s – hidden in a sport-coat pocket in his closet. No great surprise that I stole the occasional cigarette. I recall smoking one the night before track meet. The next day, I ran a 4:40 mile – not bad for a 10th grader. At the time I thought I was on to something – perhaps I should smoke before every track meet. But I never did again.

Lucky for me that coffee provides my "oral" fix - I'm always sipping coffee at work. Probably a good thing I never started smoking - I'd be a 3-pack a day guy.


John G. G. said…
I always wondered why your dad didn't like to stay long for visits.

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