I’ve had a few health-related knocks lately.
It’s inevitable, I know. Some would say that it’s not the years, it’s the mileage. And since I look 40 but feel 80, it should not have come as the surprise that it did. Surprising it was. You go dilly dallying through life, always seeing things happen to others, you know they can happen to you, yet when they do you’re all what the fuck? This can’t be happening to me? Wasn’t I supposed to be exempt from this shit?
Well, um, no. You are not exempt. It can happen to you.
I’m a dude who has garnered what limited medical knowledge he has from watching other people being hauled off in ambulances, cursory visits to emergency rooms, his sister (who is also a nurse), and a few medical shows. Speaking of that, I am kind of disappointed that none of the doctors I’ve visited are quite like Dr. House. Then again, since he’s sort of a dick with the bed side manners of a goat, and since I possess a low tolerance for dickishness even hooked up to a bunch of crap going bleep bleep like R2-D2 (tolerance lowered even more by being hooked up to a bunch of crap going bleep bleep like R2-D2), that’s probably for the best. My excitement over being treated by Dr. House would have been quickly been replaced by wanting to bust him in his smug chops, and bust him I surely would have.
I digress. Excuse me. I’m rusty at this.
What I was trying to say is that I won’t give a condensed version of what happened here with my limited understanding of medical jargon and mumbo jumbo. Lets just say that it was a very clear message for the kiddo to clean up his act. My cleancut, un-House, nice doctor even told me as much. Prior to The Incident, as I will forever refer to it in my own legend and lore, I hadn’t even a family doctor — as they call those around these parts whom folks see on a regular basis. To paraphrase a favorite writer, I have dim illusions of my own immortality.
Now I should say have had.
My first act on the road to recovery was laying down the smokes and throwing in with the electronic vaporizer crowd. My twerp of a nephew has often accused me of being a hipster. Just to prove to y’all how out-of-the-loop I am, the first time he called me that I had to look up what it meant. It occurs to me, writing this, that the kid might have a point.
I first discovered “vaping” through this little dude I work with. I say little because he’s honestly a small sort of guy but also because he’s a virtual fetus in age. When you are 40ish anybody less than 25 is a fetus in age. 26 gets you toddler status.
All my adult life I’ve had this nagging little problem with smoking (much like some junkies have this nagging little problem with heroin). My nana had this nagging little problem as well — smoking not H— several of my aunties had it, my sister had it and my mom had it. My dad once had it. One day, according to family legend, dad simply laid the pack down and never went back to it. I wish I had my father’s self-control. I’ve always had a terrible time laying anything bad for me down. That being said, I have managed to quit a slew of bad habits.
Smoking? Well, that’s a bitch. Smoking is more than a monkey on your back. Smoking is a crazy gorilla that pounds you over the head with both hands while you scream, “get your stinkin’ paws off me, you damn dirty ape!” Finally, you get tired of screaming at the damn dirty ape and light up another Camel.
I can’t remember exactly when I started smoking. The first tobacco product I ever tried was my grandfather’s chewing tobacco (“backer” we call it ‘round the parts I grew up). Dude, that shit was just gross. Luckily, that’s one bad habit I never cultivated. I will say that I’ve kicked cigs to the curb three times. Then again, that’s also about three times I’ve gone back to the well. The current toll has been smoking for about six years. My mom’s sickness was long and difficult, and by the time she passed away my nerves were shredded. I walked out of the hospital the day she died, crossed the street, and bought a pack of Camels. Bam. Zoom. Once was all it took.
Smoking is great for calming the nerves. Smoking is good for contemplation, especially those late night summer hours contemplating on the front porch. Of course, it’s also killing you while it’s calming your nerves. It sneaks up on you and kills you while you’re having all those deep thoughts. Smoking, as everyone knows, kills you in a variety of ways. If there can actually be said to be any pleasant ways to die, smoking provides none of them.
Most people who smoke are completely aware of these things. Most people still smoke in spite of knowing these things — tempting fate and all that stuff. I don’t know, friends and neighbors. Maybe I’ve gotten old enough to want to live a bit longer. Maybe I’ve gotten old enough to realize that tempting fate is a fool’s errand. Some say you’re gonna croak anyway, so why not engage in bad habits one, two, three, etc etc? Some people treat such statements like words of wisdom and not for the exhibits of base stupidity that they actually are. Sure, you’re going to step out eventually? That’s not an excuse for being a dumbass. One thing this ol’ world has is plenty of dumbasses.
Not that vaping entitles me to turn in my dumbass card. In fact, it might just be as bad as heating up the traditional coffin nails. Studies show this and studies show that. Studies here and there and everywhere. The only thing I wonder is why weren’t all these studies complete … um … before these things were made available to the public. I’ll stop now since I’m in danger of making sense. Since Donald Trump might actually be elected president, making sense is not allowed anymore. I digress again. Excuse me.
Despite the risks, it’s helping me manage cravings. The key to chucking the cigs is handling the cravings. I’m convinced that “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was written when the dude was being deprived of nicotine for some reason. Nicotine withdrawals supply you with the same kind of resolve kamikaze pilots had when they slammed their planes into an aircraft carrier or two. Only the aircraft carrier is a gas station, store, or wherever else they sell cigarettes at three in the morning. An unwritten law of kicking the smoking habit: You will have a craving at 3 in the morning, maybe later. This craving will melt you, rob you of all common sense, and sap your resolve like a sponge soaking up water. So, I choose to vape instead of giving in. It beats laying on your back on the living room rug, staring up at the ceiling, and trying to forget where you put your wallet and car keys.
It also helps me manage the mood swings. When you quit you have titanic, Norman Bates level, mood swings. Quitting effectively makes you bipolar without all the manic happy emotions. You swing from depression level to depression level and your hateful levels spike over anything. Your hateful levels spike over nothing. You glare at people who tell you hello and chew them out for being nosey when they merely ask you how your children are doing. Better to vape than jail.
So, kiddos, I haven’t had a real cigarette in over two months now. I’m over the hump. I no longer lay in the middle of the living room floor at three in the morning and stare at the ceiling (I still seem to be up at three in the morning but not because I want a cig). Lately, I seem to be up watching Sweeny Todd, of the Tim Burton kind.
I’m the type of person who fixates on a movie. Maybe I have a touch of OCD, I don’t know, but when the fix is in I watch that sucker over and over.
And over and over and over.
It can be anything that came out whenever. It can be the lowest budget camcorder fodder or the type of film in which the producers sat on the sidelines smoking rolled up bills. I can fixate at any time and in any place during my life. When I chucked the cigs, I found myself fixating on Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
What is it about the movie? I watch a great many flicks and spend time digesting them, living them, writing about them, and I really can’t answer that question. It’s probably not the best Tim Burton / Johnny Depp Film. It is certainly pretty to look at —pure eye candy. It’s sort of like a Hammer horror film with the budget of Ben-Hur. It’s not the music. I love music yet have never been a big fan of musicals. I stare at the thing through a haze of electronic smoke and tilt my head like a German Shepard Puppy. I can’t get enough of it.
There is one song that gets me every time. This song. I promise I don’t think about cigarettes when I hear it.
Okay. Maybe I think about them a little bit.