Thailand and The Great Gatsby: where smoking is cool

“He made it to the ocean, had a smoke in a tree
The wind rose up, set him down on his knee.” – Vedder/McCready

Sometimes I wish I smoked.  The Peace Corps is giving me a lot of time to savor.  There are many moments where I don’t want to do anything but think about what I’m experiencing.  Sitting on my covered porch during a storm, absorbing the heat from the sun after sitting in air conditioning all morning or listening to Blood on the Tracks: all of these moments call for something to smoke.  After speaking Thai, reading and writing all day, sometimes I don’t want to do anything, but I don’t want to do nothing.

There are a few of other contributing factors to my craving to smoke.

Thai tobacco
Many Thai smokers roll their own cigarettes and they smell wonderful.  Walking through the second-hand smoke of a rolled cigarette is the odor equivalent the gust of aroma that fills a bakery after the ovens with fresh-baked bread are opened.  It’s easy not to start smoking in America: cigarettes are expensive and smell as bad as a diaper-eating basset hound.

Subliminal advertising
In the same way ignorant parents blamed Marilyn Manson for the massacre at Columbine High School; I could attempt to ban certain literature from my eyes.  I’ve been reading a lot of material from the time when cigarette smoking was not only not frowned upon, but pretty cool.  F. Scott Fitzgerald, Albert Camus, Ernest Hemingway, John Updike: all of these authors write of protagonists who are constantly smoking.

Thankfully, I am a mature man who has plenty of will power to abstain from such a poor habit.  When I return home from the office and sit on my porch for a few moments of calm, I eat fruit to keep my hands busy.

In the states, I was known to smoke the occasional cigar in the summer.  Sitting on my back porch on a cool evening with the faint sounds of Tom Waits on my stereo in the living room, a Rolling Rock sitting in the drink holder of my Coleman lawn chair, my cat in the window and a cigar in my hand … what was my point?  Yes, I enjoy the occasional cigar, but I have yet to find any in Thailand. I hope to do some searching on my next trip to Surin and/or Bangkok.

To answer your next question …
No, Mother, I’m not going to start smoking.

Back porch, summer 2009.


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