Saturday, March 29, 2008

"Toss me a cigarette..."

That's Paul Simon talking, or I should say singing from a song called America.  It's a pretty tune where Paul and "Kathy" are off in search of America and seem to get as far as Michigan or Pittsburgh on the strength of a pack of smokes and a couple of fruit pies before heading home to NYC. on a bus. They are smoking on the bus.
Now if you have ever seen Paul Simon playing himself on Saturday Night Live or playing someone like himself in a Woody Allen movie, you know that he would be the first person to bust someone for smoking out loud, once it became The Thing to do.
That's why I think it's funny that he is singing it forever .  Just goes to show you that smoking is cool.  Now you may have lost a friend or relative to tobacco related illness or know someone who is sick from cigarettes and won't stop smoking.  If you are in this fix, then you may not think smoking is so sharp, but it is.  I never smoked until I was in the service.  I did because there was something extremely satisfying about firing up a Lucky Strike after some action.  The taste brought back memories of hot coffee and breakfast and the old days camping at the lake.  The fact that I never drank coffee, ate breakfast or camped at a lake in my life didn't matter.
It was some magic cigarette mojo that eased your mind.  I'm not sure why cigarettes took a notion to start killing people.  Maybe they started putting too much weird stuff in them.  I don't know if you have ever smoked cured tobacco from NC, but it's pretty tasty and doesn't have a cigarette odor to it.   Looking back, it doesn't seem that smoking became a killer until cigarettes got to be such a huge business with about a million brands fighting for the smokers dollar and with that many in the fray it was only a matter a time before the inference was made that smoking might in fact be bad for you, so all kinds of new filters and 'Lite' brands came flying out.  "Are you smoking more, but enjoying it less?" we were asked.  Well I don't know about that Jack, but people sure started to get sick more than they had in the past and the disease was traced to smoking.  Was this some kind of reverse placebo?  Tell people something will make them ill, so they feel bad?  Hard to say.  I certainly have seem some gross over reaction to smoking back when it was legal in certain parts of a bar.  I always figured if you were close enough to people smoking pot to get high yourself, that would be the definition of bothersome  secondhand cigarette smoke; meaning there are lots worse pollutants out and about on a daily basis.  People take to the strangest notions.  I got heart disease 8 years ago and stopped smoking. For my part, I haven't looked back, but I don't scamper away when someone lights up.  Back to Paul Simon.  He didn't get his cigarette because "... we smoked the last one an hour ago."  Just something about little Paul smoking on a bus in a rather nonsensical song written with a very high hand got me thinking about how quickly things can flop around from good to bad.  Then of a sudden, I realize that in counting the years between the notion behind Simon's words and where things lie today, I'm running down more than half a life time.   Gosh,
it really does seem like yesterday that people smoked every place and no one noticed.  I guess when you can stuff a whole era into your mind and then examine it from every angle, you better start watching your step for you may have lived long enough. (Wonder if it would change anything if Garfunkle wrote that song?)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

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