The older black man in the hat with the cane looks at me from his perch on the bench outside of our building and asks me, one more time, for a cigarette.
As always, I apologize to him for not smoking, patting my jacket pocket to make sure that my sleep-self hadn't last night wandered the nightscape, breaking my resolve.
The man reminds me of my father, who smoked Raleigh Filters for nearly a half-century—a brand popular in the ‘50s. As an American classic, I once smoked Marlboro Lights, whereas my hipster girlfriend smoked cloves or American Spirits. Your basic college kid today, or "MIDWESTERN TRANSPLANT SCUM," smokes Camels or Camel Lights, sometimes imitating the native here by mixing loose tobacco with low-grade marijuana to form a "blunt."
To each, his own.
After a blackout one night, I arise to find myself covered in dog hair, strange because I neither own a dog nor recall meeting one—the slight scratch in my throat hopefully caused by second-hand smoke in a crowded Virginia bar. As the gateway to Tobacco Country, the Commonwealth’s addiction dates to the early 17th century, when the London Virginia Company finances the first permanent settlement of Englishmen, in Jamestown.
Yet, in a building adorned with images of tobacco leaves, Virginia’s House and Senate pass legislation by margins of nearly 2 to 1 and 3 to 1, for the governor’s signature—a significant common-sense victory for the people.
Hackles raised, Libertarians and lobbyists cite free will in the debate, asserting that plebeians may choose freely to work or not work in the state’s bars and restaurants. More sensible people, however, listen to the philosophers and scientists today, who increasingly tell us that free will exists only in our imaginations, that we are the products of not only our genes but of their inextricable link to our environment—that we are more like the plant growing in the field than we would like to think.
Moreover, the idea of choice here must be weighted to consider that many in the working class would sensibly choose to risk health for shorter-term imperatives such as rent, food and the car payment—concerns aside from the discovery of something called “third-hand smoke,” by which chemical residue from tobacco smoke permeates by stealth the indoor environment as a surprise and latent carcinogen.
At long last, the Washington, D.C., area joins the greater agglomeration that begins but does not end with New York City, with respectable alcoholics no longer fearing the reaper.
Posted by M@ at 3:11 PM