Sunday, March 04, 2007


Smoking, originally uploaded by noamgalai.

* First of all, let me say something about the photo, which was taken by the outstanding New York photographer known as Noam Galai. I'm reasonably certain that the man in the photograph (who looks like Bob Dylan to me, but is probably--or almost definitely--NOT) is smoking nothing illegal. Just wanted to make that clear.

Now for the question which inspired this post, taken from an intriguing meme on Zhoen's blog.

Have you ever smoked heroin?

1. No.

2. I probably wouldn't be announcing it on the worldwide web if I did.
(They arrest you for that kind of stuff, don't they?) Then again, I tend to be pretty naive. If I had heroin for breakfast, I'd probably be feeling the need to confess here and now.

And 3. They smoke it? Really? I thought they just "shot" it. Hmm...If I ever was going to use heroin in any form--which would probably only occur if I was terminally ill or all my loved ones were killed in a train crash--smoking it sounds more appealing than the vein-popping method.

The truth is I've never smoked much of anything. I never got the hang of inhaling noxious stuff into my lungs, and whenever I tried, I ended up embarrassing myself by choking, sputtering and hacking in front of the friends I was trying to impress with my cool.

It wasn't from lack of trying either. Growing up in a mill town, the art of cigarette dangling was practically de riguer. By the time I was thirteen, everyone I knew was packing Marlboros in their jacket pocket. I tried to cave in to peer pressure; really I did!

Unfortunately, like the much-ridiculed ex-President, I never inhaled. I did do a hell of a good imitation though (and I'm willing to bet that Bill did, too).

The good news is that faking it is not addictive, and I never got hooked. The bad news--if there is any bad news in NOT developing a deadly habit--is that my friends quickly tired of lending me their butts.

In other words, it was a short-lived phase.

When a joint was passed in college dorm rooms an at concerts , I quickly learned that pretending was even more necessary to my image than it had been when I snuck a feigned smoke outside the middle school. Fortunately, the light was provided by a candle or otherwise dimmed--or maybe everyone else was so high they didn't notice.

A few times, despite my ability to really inhale the stuff, I actually thought I was high, too. I giggled, I got the munchies--the whole routine. Now I'm left wondering if it was more a testament to the power of imagination than the trace narcotic I got from puffing.

I'll never know. But I do know how you tell a real smoker from a faker: We may puff, but we never purchase--particularly not when cash is scarce and the objects of my real addiction--chocolate chip cookies (!)--were available at the all-night snack bar.

Interestingly enough, most of my characters are mad smokers. But then, living in one of my books, has got to be pretty stressful. They are, after all, suspense novels.

The good news: my characters are among the most resilient and determined people I know, and every one of them is trying to quit...Maybe by the time I reach book #5 or 6, it will be a smoke-free world.


Alex S said...

I am SO glad that I never had to deal with drug addiction because it really must be hell and so, so hard. I did try smoking in junior high school on a Friday night with some friends in the alley beside a restaurant but found it extremely gross and fortunately didn't cave to peer pressure. I think mostly I was able to avoid it in high school because I spent most of my time in my room sitting on my windowsill pretending to be somewhere else while eating Its-It's!

Patry Francis said...

alexandra: Even nicotine addiction is hard. My husband recently quit, and he is always telling me that non-smokers have no idea how difficult it is--which is true, I'm sure. However, I think in a lot of ways I do understand. Addictive behavior of one kind or another is in all of us--though the physical craving of drug addiction adds another, hugely powerful element.

p.s. Now I have to find out what Its-Its are!

Zhoen said...

Smoking alters brain 'like drugs'

Oh, yeah, well I may have smoked a few funny cigaretts, long long ago. Got very sick on it one time, and have not touched it since.

rdl said...

I got caught smoking when i was 13 in 7th or 8th grade. I had a "pack" of marlboros, which were actually just an assortment of various cigarettes, my older borther marlboros and my best friends menthol newports (ugh)and any others that i could grub, but i also didn't inhale. now weed well that was another story.

Anonymous said...

My brothers both smoke cigarettes, and it is incredibly difficult to quit. They try often. The addiction is so strong, it rules them in so many ways. It's interesting that your characters are smokers — a lot of conflict just in that.

I pretended to smoke clove cigarettes for two months when I was 16. It was the cool thing, but the smoke hurt my lungs. I can still remember that deep burning from when I first inhaled. But the papers the cigs were wrapped in tasted sweet from the cloves, and that was enough for me.

I think all my friends knew I was pretending, and still they hung out with me! ;)

Patry Francis said...

zhoen: Thanks for a fascinating link, as well as for inspiring this post.

r: Oh, I think I tried the menthol Newports, too. Those actually appealed more to my unsophisticated tastes.

kg: I used to work with someone who smoked clove cigarettes. They smelled so good I was highly tempted...I was also tempted to smoke later in life when I was waitressing. The smokers always got more breaks, and enjoyed great comraderie out in the fresh air while the non-smokers stayed inside and worked.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

I have done very few drugs in my life because the adults in my life did them all for me. And I do mean all. I will say that someone very close to me did indeed smoke heroin, and is one of the ridiculously low percentage of people who do heroin who actually got clean and sober, and has been for over 12 years.

I do not handle being out of my sober consciousness well. I went through a pot phase from 15-16 and that was about it. Did ecstasy once in college. It was okay. Boring, huh?

Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

OH my've not ever had an Its-it??????????????

We're eating them when you come out here.


Patry Francis said...

jordan: I'm the same way. Like the happy feeling of a glass of wine or two, but that's about it. There's enough chaos in life as it is, I don't like to add to it.

* Now I have yet another reason to look forward to being in California: I must disover Its-its! Though I still have no clue what they are, I'm hoping there's chocolate involved.

Patry Francis said...

My midnight dilemma here: should I google Its-its, or should I wait and be surprised?

I think I'll wait...

Anonymous said...

I must say that I never expected to come here and see THAT post title. ;) I have never smoked it (or done it in any other form)...but I once sat on a barstool next to a dear friend in a dive bar in San Francisco's Tenderloin and listened to him tell me about the joys of snorting it. (Another dear friend had regaled me years before with--for him--the joys of shooting it.) And in that moment...when it sounded like A GOOD IDEA...I had what they call in 12-step rooms my first 'moment of clarity.'

Sky said...

interesting post.

i was way too scared to try anything but the munchie makers. loved the relaxation - but happily that didn't last too long. now cigarettes - i did love those things! started in college but fortunately gave them up 13 years ago - cold turkey. it was hard but worth it, and i've never smoked another one since. now i even hate the smell of them; even when people are smoking outside the odor is harsh and offensive to me!

robin andrea said...

I was a smoker in my late teens and early 20s. Quit for ten years and then started up again briefly when my first husband and I split up. I managed to quit the second time for good. I was a pot-smoker in my teen years. Never much of an experimenter with anything other than pot and hash. I met people in California in the 70s who smoked heroin. By then, I was not interested in drugs to expand my consciousness or dull my pain. So I wasn't tempted in the least to give it a try.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Of course an its-it involves chocolate...and so much more. It's technically not a good winter food, but this is California winter :)


ORION said...

Aloha Patry,
I tried to smoke in the military...really I did. I failed miserably as I could never remember to buy cigarettes and then I never could find my matches. I SO wanted to be cool.
Never got the habit -- but like your characters -- mine smoke like chimneys!
It's either that or they have to sigh, huff or toss their heads!

Patry Francis said...

jordan: We'll just have to celebrate spring a little early!

Pat: We'll have together someday--you and me, and our respective characters. They can act out our tensions and suck on their cigarettes for dear life while we take notes in the background.

herhimnbryn said...

One puff of a joint when I was 19. One huge throw up in the garden afterwards. Never again!

Fred Garber said...

A guy use to come over to my apartment. This was in 1969. Iowa City. He use to shoot up smack. I told him not to do that in my place. The smack did not bother me. I was afraid of the needle. Now he is an engineer with some big company.

By the way Patry, I started your novel last night. Like it so far.

Patry Francis said...

herhimnbryin: You should have tried my faking method. I never threw up once!

fred: Oh yes, needles have always scared me. I can imagine that scene in Iowa City, 1969, and everyone acting pretty blase about it...Glad to hear you're enjoying the novel.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

Luckily, never did any hard drugs unless you include cigarettes and alcohol which in themselves are just that.
If I had it I woulda loved it, I'm sure.
rdl lol

Lorna said...

couldn't smoke because I was afraid of fire---was afraid of fire because my nightgown went up in flames; learned to get people to light my joint by not wearing any nighties.

Patry Francis said...

Mary: You are a wise woman.

lorna: I'm trying to envision all that...

Anonymous said...

I definately inhaled but not in a long time. As far as cigarettes go, I think it's even harder to quit these days. I think they pack them with more addictives, at least recently they got caught doing that. My dad spend years using a plastic cigarette to fill that oral fixation.

The title here sure got my attention and the line about if you had heroin for breakfast you'd probably be feeling the need to confess it made me laugh and sounds like a writer.

Patry Francis said...

colleen: Maybe the need to confess is from my Catholic girlhood when I sat in the confessional in my mantilla wearing a flip just like yours.

I think you're right about the additives in cigarettes. Diabolical little buggers, aren't they?

floots said...

i am pure in all things
(nowadays just inhaling air is hard work) :)
keep those characters smoking (in all senses) :)
ps - now finished reading
greatly enjoyed - but i'm still an ali at heart
thank you

Patry Francis said...

floots: Your comment was the first thing I read today--which has to be a good omen. So happy to hear that Ali is loved in Scotland.

steve on the slow train said...

I never got into drugs, including nicotine. Oppositional defiance, I suppose. If peers were pressuring, it was probably a dumb thing to do. But Fred Garber's comment brings back a memory. In 1971-72 Iowa City, I took a class with a guy who was seriously strung out on drugs. I figured he'd end up in an institution. A few years later I ran into him in a travel agency in Moline, IL. He was arranging a first-class trip to Europe. Probably not the same guy as Fred mentions, though.

Anonymous said...

I started a bunch of those habits really early. Basically I smoked and experimented with hard drugs since I was 17 till now, 25. I'm only addicted to smoking, so I've done pretty well. Sometimes It was never peer pressure, I was always alone. But i do enjoy the smoker convos that we've got. I guess alone it's a reflective thing. It takes a lot of determination to get addicted to smoking though, don't ever let someone tell you smokers are week. Look at Bob Dylan

Micheal Clark said...
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