Harry Rag

I haven’t smoked a cigarette in nearly 20 years, but it’s easy to remember why I liked them.

If you were never a smoker it may be hard to understand how good a cigarette could be at times. Sitting on the porch with a cup of coffee, after a meal, while drinking — you’ve heard all that crap before. You’ve heard it before because it’s true.

At the end of the smoking years, my poison of choice were hand-rolled cigarettes filled with Drum tobacco. Every one required a little work and time, which seemed to make them more special than the mass-produced factory smokes. I enjoyed every one.

These days smokers are treated like dirt. Just drive through downtown Albany and look at the state workers huddled outside. They look like vagrants, furtively having a smoke under the scaffolding on State Street. The only thing missing are old oil drums to use as burn barrels for keeping them warm, like in Ironweed. So sad.

But just a few steps down, in my building, is one of the few places your can actually light up indoors, a tobacco shop called Smoker’s Paradise. And it really is a smoker’s paradise. The walls are lined with all sorts of cigarettes and loose tobacco, as well as a variety of exotic devices and paraphernalia for specialists. It’s a shabby little place, but nevertheless, a spot where one can still stop and take a deep breath — of smoke.

Now, about the title of this post. It’s borrowed from The Kinks, and what is probably the best song about smoking ever.

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9 Responses to Harry Rag

  1. This strikes a note. I started smoking a couple of years into my first Naval enlistment. I turned 21 while stationed in Saratoga. Caroline Street welcomed me with open arms and a couple of instructors gave me some smokes to go along with my gin and tonics. It was a whole new world. Once I got to my first submarine, the hours were so incredibly crappy that coffee and cigarettes were the fuel to keep me going. I stopped last June, on my last deployment. It was easy, for me. I hate to bum smokes off of people, so I never asked for one. I do have moments of weakness now and then. Usually, it’s when I know I’m going to go out for drinks. I guess you could say I’m a pack every other month type smoker.

    • You were able to smoke on the subs? That’s surprising!

      • Sailors have been smoking on subs since they were developed.We have “scrubbers and burners” that remove CO and CO2 from the atmosphere. Plus, we can make our own oxygen for those underwater secret missions. Interesting is that at the end of this year, smoking is banned on all US subs. Glad I’m out.

    • I started smoking young, but definitely refined and honed my habit while at Annapolis and at sea . . . my fond recollections are of sitting in the crash/salvage shed on the deck of an LHA, basically smoking smokes and drinking coffee continuously through our watch.

      In my current work, I have a nice office with windows on two walls, on the second floor. On nice days, I would love to open my windows . . . but I can’t, because directly below me is the smokers’ smoking spot, and on nice days, it’s fuming and roiling all day long. If it were my call, I would put the burning oil barrel out of the other side of the parking lot to draw them over there, but, alas, ’tis not my call . . .

      I’m kinda lucky temperamentally or physiologically or whatever at this point, in that I can go somewhere (like a casino), buy a pack, happily smoke it, and then not want to do so again for a year or more.

    • They actually had a cigarette machine in the basement of Fourth Wing, Bancroft Hall, when I was at Annapolis . . . $1.00 for a pack of Merits. Bingo.

  2. It’s a bit much, but that’s the price we pay for addiction. I speak from experience.

    By the way, it’s been over two years and I still get a craving for one once in a while. For all its detriments, it really is an underrated experience.

  3. Have tried several times to quit…I swore I would quit when they went over $1 a pack. Well, that didn’t work. At $10 a pack, I’m still going…granted, less than I once was but, still smoking! I hate it, it sucks, I’m looked upon as a lesser person, I’m an outcast, etc…life goes on for now.

  4. Tell Saint Peter at the Pearly Gate
    That you hate to make him wait
    But you gotta have just one more
    Cigarette

    On a similar note, I can remember being a kid and getting my mom a carton of King Size Kents for Christmas. Picture of Santa heading down the chimney, toy sack in one hand, Kent in the other. Cost all of 9 bucks.

    PS- I still proudly enjoy my cigars, but was in a local chain bookstore the other day buying a well known cigar magazine. The lady behind me looked at my purchase and said, ” Ugh- cigars..”

    I ensured her I wasn’t going to light up the magazine until I was well out of her nose range.

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