15. Smoking

Back then everyone smoked–even around the dining room table, out in the yard–in the kitchen for God’s sake.  Mom let them at that time but after we moved to our new house that all stopped.  Actually, they all stopped, eventually.  A couple uncles got emphysema, a few others heart disease, at least one lung cancer. The younger ones quit earlier and seem to be doing fine.  This was my extended family.  No booze but lots of smoke.

I remember when I saw my brother, two years older, smoking with some friends.  Made me feel sick to my stomach.  Smoking was okay for Uncle Don, but not for kids, like us.

There used to be a guy at the Reading Phillies baseball games (Double AA baseball, we had season tickets).  He was a very large man who would smoke these humungous cigars during the whole game.  I kind of liked the smell but as the evening wore on–long about the 7th inning–I always felt a bit sick.

I remember the last night they allowed cigarette advertisements on TV.  Sometime in the late 60s, I am going to say.  We stayed up late watching a movie and every commercial was for cigarettes.  I went to bed at 11:00 (it was a special treat to stay up that late).  My older brother stayed up until midnight when the test pattern came on.  He said after I went to bed it was one solid hour of cigarette ads.

The TV shows and most movies when I was a kid featured smoking.

The only time I really smoked in a semi-serious way was when I was doing my research in the Mauritanian desert.  It was exhausting work and all my research team members smoked and they convinced me that smoking would give me energy.  It did give me a buzz and a couple of times I threw up.  But… I did stay up later and get my field notes sorted out.

We knew way back that these things can kill you and I always wondered who invented this.  My dad said Indians did–they had peace pipes. But that still never explained how THEY got started.  Who thinks about inhaling smoke deeply into the lungs using a pipe or other means as a delivery system?

I used to think that people with cigarettes looked suave–successful marketing?

When we first moved to CA I remember billboards saying “Welcome to America’s Non-Smoking Section.”  Now it seems more people smoke everywhere.  They banned it at UC Davis, so people cross the street and stub out their butts on city sidewalks (Thanks UCD!)

Richie Allen once lit up a cigarette in the Philadelphia Phillies dugout.  I saw that and felt ashamed.  I knew Bob Gibson would never do that.  Athletes were supposed to be clean.

A propos to which, my mom always said that smoking was a dirty habit.

I have never bought a pack of cigarettes (though I purchased a “beedi” in India once for about a penny).  Yup, every cigarette I have ever smoked (about 50 I would say) was bummed off someone else.  I am not proud of that.

I can’t believe cigarettes are still around after all these years and everything we know. After the warnings on packs, the death of the Marlboro Man, and those awful ads showing very sick people telling us they wished they had never started.  I guess smoking will be around for the duration…

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