On 19 January 2018 at 17:10 Central Daylight Time, I declared to the world (or at least to my little part of the world on twitter dot com and to my wife, the lovely Dawn (who lives in England)) that I would not be smoking another cigarette. Ever. I had just finished smoking and had five fags (calm down, bitches) left in the pack at that point. Since then I have smoked 45 cigarettes. If you are (or ever were) a smoker of cigarettes, you won’t find this surprising. I shouldn’t either, but as the one doing the quitting, I do. A little anyway. As I write at the outset of this post, it is 14:27 CDT on 28 January 2018. I last smoked a cigarette about an hour ago.
I have quit once before (at the beginning of 2009), but that was much easier in comparison because I had a specific time frame. I was on a mission, if you will. Some dude contracted by a life insurance company was scheduled to show up at my place on Monday morning to draw a blood sample to check it for, among other things, nicotine. So after about 32 years, I quit cold turkey. Had my last cigarette at midnight that Thursday evening. It takes about 72 hours for nicotine to not show up in your system via a ‘finger prick’ blood sample. I knew that was the plan, so that is what I prepped for. It worked. And after those ~84 hours, I realized I would no longer need that old friend, the nicotine ‘fix.’ And so I didn’t smoke cigarettes again. And after a few days, I settled into a routine whereby I’d sit on my porch (‘Florida room’, LOL) every afternoon and smoke one of the many fine cigars I had collected over the years.
This all went well for five months. I had become a non-smoker. Well, a former smoker, which is a different thing. I wasn’t one of those annoying scolds who complained to everyone who ever smoked a cigarette. Dawn does not smoke, so I wasn’t around it all the time anyway. I just didn’t have that little master in my pocket constantly, as it seemed I had for my whole life up until then. I wasn’t even a little bothered.
And now a brief break for Story Time with Rex (CAUTION: Graphic natural violence; a bird was harmed with extreme prejudice):
One day on that porch, I saw a small bird of prey land on a dove or some other target (which probably had an olive branch in its feet for added effect) and eat it one peck at a time. I had no reliable way to guess at the elapsed time, but I figure the predator was at the ‘table’ for maybe 15 to 20 minutes. I sat facing the Atlantic Ocean, though there was a brick wall at the bottom of the back garden to keep drunks driving down the adjacent A1A from crashing through the sparse palms and ending up in my bedroom. I kept my chair pointed at the screen door, which is how I managed to see activity on the ground from a chair in the ‘Florida room.’ These screened-in porches are characterized in part by having opaque lower panels (up to about 30” off the deck) and screen above that. The door had no such opaque panel. Oh, and my eldest child happened to call as I was smoking my Churchill that day. She lived in Orlando then, which is about an hour north as the Ford flies from where we were in Satellite Beach. So it was that my daughter had a running narrative in real time of a bird being eaten by another bird. I dared not move lest I scare the predator off its prey. I was Marlin Perkins watching Darwinian survival in my backyard and narrating it over the phone. Would that I had had a video camera on me. It was pretty cool for everyone involved (except that little dove or whatever the doomed victim was). The hawk couldn’t finish its meal, but it carried the leftovers home when it left. I had not realized birds of prey take ‘doggie bags.’
Back to the tale of the journey to liberation from my former master. By the way, if you think this ‘master/slave’ analogy is too strong or too un-PC, you have never been addicted to nicotine. Congratulations. I salute you. Honestly.
At the end of May that year, we had decided to move to Alabama and to a house in my hometown that I had purchased while I was on active duty. Without going into detail, suffice to say we wouldn’t have elected to change location from the Atlantic coast (the ‘Space Coast’) to Alabama unless there were other motivating factors. Not that there’s anything wrong with South Alabama, not at all. But that part of Florida is beautiful. We lived right on the beach, after all! We liked it there.
My brother agreed to help us move house, so we flew him down to help us pack and to drive the rental truck up to Alabama. After we had the truck, we realized it wasn’t going to be big enough and I arranged to rent a trailer to gain sufficient additional space for all of our (ok, ‘my’) crap. On the way to get the trailer, bro said ‘Buy me a pack of smokes, dude.’ Since I wasn’t paying him to help me, I certainly had no reason or right to refuse. And since I was now a former smoker, it wasn’t going to bother me. I climbed back into the cab after buying the packet of Marlboros, and he lit up. A few minutes later, I figured ‘What the hell? One can’t hurt. I’m squared away now.’ He didn’t mind, so I lit one myself. Wrong answer. That was maybe 29 May 2009. I never stopped again. Until now.
Before I started working on this (writing this, not becoming an erstwhile smoker of cigarettes), it had been maybe an hour since I’d finished my last cigarette. I suppose it seems a little early in the process to declare success, and it is. Of course it is. But I know I won’t ever smoke another cigarette. It’s been 42 hours and a bit (more by the time this posts on Misfits), which might not sound like much. And to be fair, it isn’t. But I’m not going to waste all that smoke-free time by smoking now. Besides, in a couple days I’ll be alright to have a cigar. I love cigars. I don’t imagine I will ever give those up.
When I sent that first tweet back on 19 January, I only intended to get my commitment out in public so I’d be accountable. Just another trick I tried to use to hold myself to this thing. Quitting smoking is much harder than starting smoking. And it’s even harder quitting the second time. I cannot explain this, but I can attest to it.
And then something I hadn’t expected happened: Dozens of people responded with advice, encouragement, and tales of their own experiences with quitting. I wasn’t looking for support, but I was amazed at the outpouring of it. The original tweet itself garnered over 20 replies, and there were many other interactions besides. It never occurred to me that twitter could be a source of support for such a self-help effort, but I am very grateful for all the folks who chimed in. It has truly made this easier (or at least helped ensure I stayed with it more than I might have on my own). I’m not a guy who likes to admit I can’t do a difficult thing on my own, but not many habits are as strong a mistress as nicotine. I am not overselling this: She is a bitch of the first order.
Amazing, I tell you:
My sincere and humble thanks to each and every one of you who helped me through this. It means more than you can possibly know. You lot truly rock.
And last but in no way least, I must also mention again my wonderful daughter. I haven’t told anyone close to me and with whom I interact regularly in meatspace that I am quitting. I wanted to be accountable, but not to people I couldn’t ignore. Which of course means family. As I have said, I told Dawn, and she assured me she knows I can do this. After all, she has actually observed me quit smoking once before. But I also know she is my best friend, and I knew she wouldn’t ever show any disappointment had I failed. Because she is wonderful and supports me in whatever I do. Not that she’s anyone’s fool or a patsy; she loves me and she knows this endeavor is not an easy one. But I love her and had no intention of letting her down, even knowing she would never tell me I had done so.
But back to my first born and the apple of my eye. As I said, I didn’t tell her I was quitting. But she found out. Maybe she saw it on twitter or something. In any case, she came round the other night (Thursday, in point of fact) just to have a chat. I have an old e-cig kit which I bought several years ago for reasons I can’t really define. I think I just hoped it would help me smoke fewer cigarettes, and then I thought maybe it could help me actually quit. Someday. But as I was working through this process, I actually started using it a bit as a substitute or a ‘fidget’ device. It is aging out now and has begun failing and giving me trouble. My daughter noticed this and insisted on buying me a new one. Like many retired veterans, I am not exactly wealthy. And in any case, I would have kept at it to make the old one work for me. I am a cheap bastard, even when I’m flush.
It was quite late and all the nearby ‘vape shops’ were closed. So we went to a local 24-hour convenience store and she bought me a new battery and quite a few refill cartridges (refilters?). As we were walking back to the car, this wonderful human being said to me: “You know I wouldn’t have bought you cigarettes, right? I don’t want you to die.” I should note: She was once a smoker herself.
My resolve was set in stone from that very moment. It took a couple more days, but I am there.
If you read this or even skimmed it, I thank you. Unlike most things I write, I actually hope you did read it. I write mostly for the giggles and am not too bothered if people read my stuff. I certainly don’t think much about whether people like it; it’s just bullshit anyway. But this is something I needed to get out. Thank you for your attention.
Say, anybody got a smoke?
P.S. Evelyn says ‘That sign off was not funny, grandpapa.’
P.P.S. Evelyn is my seventh grandchild. She is my boy’s first child. The eldest has six of her own, and every one of them is a piece of my old, cold heart. Truly.
I woke up this morning, made myself a cup of coffee, and then made the mistake of scrolling through Twitter. I no longer watch awards shows, because the preening and self-righteous hypocrisy on display hit peak gross-out long ago, but then I read about the Grammys and discovered that Hillary Clinton was honored and cheered for reading an excerpt from “Fire and Fury,” a book that smears Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley by accusing her of having an affair with Trump. Meanwhile, the crowd showed off their white roses in honor of the “Times Up” and “Me Too” movements. I nearly threw my cup of coffee across the room as rage swept through me.
As a woman who experienced an abusive relationship at a young age, the #MeToo movement had a profound effect on me. I was so excited to see women coming forward, shedding their guilt and shame to bravely speak out. Yes, I said guilt and shame. As any survivor of abuse can tell you - guilt and shame are a package deal with the abuse.
What a slap in the face, what a kick in the gut, to witness the continued idolatry of Hillary Clinton, a known sexual predator enabler. A woman who smeared Bill Clinton’s victims, and actively chose to protect her “faith advisor,” Burns Strider, a serial sexual harasser of women.
While many liberals regularly sicken me with their rampant hypocrisy, so do many on the right. I was heartbroken and angry that my (former!) “side” chose Donald J. “Grab ‘Em By the Pussy” Trump to lead the Republican party. They lost me forever with that. I was heartened to see many Senate Republicans publicly denounce Moore, but far too many Alabama Republicans staunchly defended him. Jim Ziegler, Alabama’s state auditor, had the gall to compare Moore with Joseph - yes, the one in the Bible.
I was a conservative almost my entire life, and I’ll always hold certain conservative ideals in my heart, but the Republican Party is a joke at this point, so I am politically homeless.
I’m really okay with that - being politically homeless, that is - politicians can all go jump in a lake as far as I’m concerned. However, here’s what I’m not okay with: when important national movements rise up, each political side quickly dives in, claims their piece of the pie, begins hurling accusations at each other, and turns it all into a parody of a WWE event. The importance of the message gets lost in the carnage.
In the case of #MeToo, it’s a disgrace to see the righteous and seriously overdue rising up of voices that have been silenced for far too long being overshadowed by politics as usual.
When it comes to sexual harassment, assault and abuse, women shouldn’t be categorized in boxes like “Republican,” “Democrat,” “Socialist,” “Libertarian,” or any other party. If there was ever a topic where a majority of people could have put differences aside, come together and push to make progress, it should have been the #MeToo conversation.
With the Grammy Awards show’s appalling decision to promote and cheer Hillary Clinton, what could have been a movement to give voices to women of all ages and races and backgrounds, has been thrown into the pigsty of politics, and trampled by partisan hacks.
Welcome back to "Ask Alex", where I answer all of your stupid questions with even dumber answers. Have a question you need answered? Tweet it, email it or submit it here and I will get to it (maybe) next week.
Only three questions for you this week...sorry, kind of a busy week work-wise, and very unexpected. On the plus side, it was also a lucrative one, so I’m not going to bitch too much about being stuck in the office until 11:00 a couple of nights this week:-).
Daryl has more Boston questions, this one cake related. Or pie, depending on how you feel about dessert terminology. Nutella Riot needs some clarification on how much texting he should be doing as a part of ruining his marriage, and January Jess is looking for a new place to live...and Alex has some pretty serious life advice on that.
Finally, we'll do a song of the week that is all about Rex!
Submitted by: Daryl
Where did Boston Cream Pie originate?
First of all, imagine if you will, living in a time when America is so devoid of promise and hope that we haven’t year conceived of different words for “cake” and “pie” and just call them the same thing as if they are one heterogeneous dessert treat. *shudders*.
Science has come a long way people…
But this is an easy one! Boston Cream Pie was first served in Boston’s Parker House Hotel in 1856. The Parker House, located on School Street, is notable for several reasons outside of it’s famous pie:
On this subject, the Boston Cream Pie is not, in fact, the best dessert created in an American Hotel kitchen. That honor belongs to Chicago’s similarly named Palmer House Hotel, whose owner wanted a dessert for ladies during the 1893 World’s Fair and asked her pastry chef to produce “a cake-like confection smaller than a piece of cake that could be included in boxed lunches”. He produced a denser-than-cake chocolate square of a size conducive to eating with one’s hands, topped with chopped walnuts (which modern science has rightfully removed because they are garbage.)
So, move over Ferris Wheel, serial killers, Pledge of Allegiance, Aunt Jemimah, Quaker Oats, Hershey’s chocolate, PBR, automatic dishwashers, zippers, fluorescent lamps, and Juicy Fruit and make way for the single greatest invention of the Chicago World’s Fair…
I mean...baked goods, Chicago and Boston all in one answer? Best question ever, Daryl.
Best question ever.
Submitted by: Nutella Riot
How many text messages per month are appropriate for me to send to my mistress?
Well...now this is a tricky one. There are just so many variables...is she married? Is she hiding this relationship? Is she high-maintenance? Is one of you part of a secret government society that is either intent on subverting the President or just a recipe-swapping quilting club? Do you have sex-emojis on your phone?
Also, I just invented sex emojis. I know we throw the word “genius” around a lot, but sometimes it is just the only thing that fits. I mean, what have you ever done for humanity?
That’s what I thought.
Back to the question: rather than pick out a number, I’ll approach this backwards and point out what certain monthly volumes of text messages say about you and your relationship.
Also, PSA, you’re a terrible person for cheating on your wife. I’m looking forward to her getting everything in the divorce! And then watching your mistress leaving you because you are now just a sad, lonely divorcee whose kids hate him and won’t visit him in his two bedroom apartment with shitty carpeting, thin walls and shared laundry facilities.
Think about what you’ve done, man...
Submitted by: January Jess
Should I move to Texas or Virginia?
Neither. You should move to Boston. You can be my Nanny...I have extra bedrooms now that we’re done with construction and all moved back in! Bonus, you get to hang out with my sister, so you can have a full social life from day 1, and you never have to drive anywhere...it’s really kinda awesome.
What’s that? You are looking to avoid seven month winters? Hmm...well, I guess that is kind of a problem…
This is going to be a personal preference based on a lot of different factors. Mostly, what are you looking for in a place to live? Where do you wanna work? Those sorts of things. Also, it is worth noting that each of these states has huge variations in the places you might live. Like...HUGE…
Northern Virginia, for example, is home to several of the richest counties in America. They are highly educated, very cosmopolitan, rapidly growing and very livable. They are also extremely expensive, very liberal and kinda crowded. I could write at length about the inherent problems with Washington DC, a city with little actual industry outside of government, being the richest place in the country, but the problems don’t change the fact that Northern Virginia is the biggest beneficiary of the Federal Tax suck.
Then you get a whole swath from basically metropolitan Richmond southeast to the coast. You are still in a pretty heavily populated urban and suburban area, but the vibe changes pretty dramatically from a “Northern” vibe to the beginnings of a “Southern” vibe. You’re going to be markedly less likely to run into non-Virginians here than in Northern Virginia. From there, you can head west and get to some very, very rural places...in fact, quite a few of them. So, if you are looking for quiet, peace and available moonshine, you can find that, too.
Texas has, well, a little bit of everything. Houston is a hot, humid coastal energy hub that has the advantage of being home to @Annealexander70 and @marcannem96. Dallas is a hot, slightly less humid, glitzy purveyor of hated football teams and prime time soap opera families. Fort Worth is TOTALLY a different place than Dallas (wink-wink). San Antonio is more influenced by Mexico than the other cities, which means better Mexican food, more NBA Championships and, one would assume, much cheaper heroin. There are also millions or acres of non-urban ranch, farm and scrubland all over the state. West Texas is a whole other beast entirely, much more rancher than oil-man, outside of the seemingly endless supply of adorable homes that Joanna Gaines has made in Waco.
At least the ones that the ATF hasn’t lit on fire yet…
Of course, there’s also Austin, the city that conservatives love to hate like it is a liberal traitor deep behind enemy red lines. It is also, in a lot of ways, the most livable and dynamic city in Texas. It’s got the fastest growing local economy in Texas (which isn’t to diminish the rapidly growing other cities) and is on the forefront of food, music and other culture in Texas. It’s home to both the state capital and the massive and influential flagship state university campus. It’s the youngest of the major cities in Texas, too. Yea, I think the traffic sucks and, by Texas standards it’s a pretty pricey place to live, but it’s got a lot going for it. And you can hang out with @jholmsted!!!
You know what, though? You should put both of these off...you’re young, mobile and adventurous and we need to leverage that. Last we talked, you were talking about moving to Europe and I think we need to work on that, first. For someone who speaks French and aspires to speak it better, I’d send you straight to Paris. Forget the nonsense you’ve seen about roving bands of African migrants overrunning the city...that’s not a reflection of reality. Get yourself over there, find an absurdly tiny apartment in the very best location you can find and immerse yourself in being French. You can nanny, or wait tables, or tend bar or try to find more of a “career” job or whatever.
OK, so maybe Paris is overwhelming and you’re worried about finding a job. How about Switzerland? Your French is as useful in, say, Geneva as it is in Paris (and your English more so!) and it is a little more foreign-job-seeker friendly...unemployment is much lower, for one. Or maybe Basel? Very strong economy, really fantastic culture and a truly unique place...across the river from both Germany and France. Even better, if you hook on with either of the massive Pharma companies (Novartis or Roche) or the World Bank, you could probably transfer back to the States without finding a new job if you ever wanted to.
See, here's the thing...you’re not going to get this chance again. Picking up and living in another country is a remarkable experience, and if you don’t do it now, you never will. And what’s the worst that can happen? You get over there, get homesick and tire of chain-smoking Euro guys in skinny pants, so you move back to Austin. Are you really worried about waking up one day when you are 50 and saying “Gee, life sure is great, I just sure wish I had moved to Texas two years earlier 25 years ago…”? No, of course not!!!
So put Texas and Virginia on hold, move to Paris and live like most people only dream they did:-)
Alex’s random old song of the week
Last week, while confessing the depths of his indefensibly horrible music taste, @boonaticrex took a shot at me for questioning the choices that functionally deaf people like he and Anne make when they pick out music to listen to. Never mind, though, I take no offense...it’s really not his fault, sometimes nature just makes people eardrums do weird things.
But, Rex is an Alabama boy, so I figured that maybe I could talk some sense into him by speaking his native language. So, this week, we visit the legendary Muscle Shoals Studios to bring you the second greatest song ever recorded in the State of Alabama (first is The Rolling Stones “Brown Sugar”, and third is Aretha’s “I Never Loved a Man (the Way That I Love You)” if you are keeping score).
I’m also going to note, as we learned from a confession-receiving priest in one of Rex’s favorite movies, The Commitments, that it was not Marvin Gaye who sang “When a Man Loves a Woman” but, in fact…
‘Twas Percy Sledge did that particular tune.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.