Tuesday 18 March 2014

Happy Lungs are Healthy Lungs

I just started reading “The Book Thief” and so far I’m not sure what to make of it. I really haven’t gone far enough to have an opinion, but I suspect it will be a worthwhile read even though it isn’t my normal fare. One of the characters I have just come across is a smoker that likes to roll his own cigarettes. That is what interests me tonight.
When I started to smoke, I stole cigarettes from a local Steinberg’s grocery store. I was just into double digits and stole them to be with the cool kids. We would sit concealed in long grass in a sunny field, while we chain smoked until our moms called us in for lunch or dinner. Quantity not quality was the important thing in those days when it came to cigarettes. I’m pretty sure my first bout with smoking didn’t end well, I had a sore ass instead of sore lungs, but I should have heeded the warning.

I started smoking sometime in grade nine or ten I think. That would put me about 14 or 15. It couldn’t have been any earlier, because I wouldn’t have had any money for cigarettes until I could work in the summer. I quickly learned that buying “store bought” smokes was way more expensive than rolling your own cigarettes. Cigarettes were pretty cheap back then, so sometimes I would buy a pack for special occasions.
My smokes of choice were Export Plain. My buddy back then and I thought it silly to get cigarettes with filters when the whole idea of smoking was to get as much smoke as possible into our lungs. That may be the reason that Ken R. and I started to roll our own smokes. Sure they were cheaper that way, but they were also much stronger. The tobacco also didn’t burn down as quickly when you rolled your own. It has something to do with the cigarette companies adding a chemical to keep the tobacco burning in the store bought smokes.
Ken and I got pretty good at rolling our own cigarettes, but Ken did have an unfair advantage since he would roll his parents cigarettes for them at night. They had this big roller that would take 12 inch (?) papers which would roll one really long smoke or four three inchers. I owned a smaller version of this machine and although it worked very well, I would seldom use it, preferring to roll my own by hand.

It must have been an affectation I wanted to promote to say that not only am I cool enough to smoke, but I carry a pouch of tobacco, papers and roll my own cigarettes. I’m pretty sure no one cared or even thought about my smoking habits. There was the added advantage in later years of always having a pack or two of rolling papers with me.
I could roll a smoke in a strong wind, in the rain, with one hand (they were crappy at best), behind my back and under the desk, just before class ended. There was an art to cigarette rolling. The tobacco couldn’t be too tight, it wouldn’t draw, too loose and the tobacco would fall out, especially if it were dry and old. The perfect cigarette had just the right amount of tobacco, firmly rolled from a newly opened pack of tobacco. You could keep the tobacco moist by putting a small piece of apple in the pouch.

I was pretty proud of the skill I had in the fine art of cigarette rolling. One unexpected added benefit of rolling your own cigarettes was that when someone asked to borrow a smoke you could just hand them your pouch and watch them fumble around for a few minutes. Eventually they would just give up or ask you to roll it for them, either way it was generally the last time they would bum a smoke from you.

Here's a smoking song...

I miss rolling my own cigarettes sometimes and I miss smoking as well. I’m glad I quit all of those years ago, and I suspect my lungs are happy about that too. Happy lungs are healthy lungs!

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