Thursday, November 20, 2008
Unfiltered: JT Dockery's Smokeout
In honor of the Great American Smokeout, I wanted to speak upon a subject that wafted through my head the other day as I was brushing my teeth. Not to sound like the scene in both the novel and film, Barry Gifford/David Lynch's Wild at Heart, in which Sailor and Lula discuss their brands and past of smoking...well, okay, I guess I will sound like that, we're going to talk personal smoking history today, children.
Unlike JSH, I am a cigarette smoker. While for a good stretch I smoked filtered cigarettes, I actually started with unfiltered Pall Malls (the old school motto, "Wherever Particular People Congregate" hit me where I lived). I ended up going back to unfiltered cigarettes after a few years.
That in turn quickly led to me hand rolling my cigarettes, at first, Bali Shag's "Golden Shag." As my pal Dave, who inspired this transition for me, once said about Bali Shag, "I figured that if I was going to do something that's bad for me, I might as well smoke the best quality tobacco available." And Bali Shag tobacco does taste good, like a cigarette should.
Fast forward a few more years, and I decided to make the shift to buying pouches of American Spirit organic tobacco. It's the most expensive roll your own cigarette out there, but it's still cheaper than buying "factory" cigarettes by the pack. And this ain't just "natural," whatever that means, it's certified organic, eliminating from top to bottom anything in the product other than tobacco.
Sometimes observers balk when I smoke. As if smoking a cigarette without a filter is just plain nuts. Living on the edge. Going into battle without a rifle. Humping a hooker sans condom. I take another perspective. Smoking with a filter is crazy. Without even getting into the argument that filters are actually bad for you, if you're smoking something that you think requires a filter, WHY ARE YOU SMOKING IT? "This tobacco tastes so bad I need a filter." That's just not a viable point of view, as far as I am concerned.
Imagine a hop-head saying, "Wowee zowee, this weed is so good, if I only I had a filter for this joint, it would taste perfect." No, you can't. It's only that we've been indoctrinated, whether you are a smoker or not, to think that tobacco cigarettes require filters. It's magic, people. Sleight of hand. Cigarettes that require filters are not good smokes to begin with. The idea of a filter for the taste of my roll your own American Spirits just seems beyond silly to me.
The one time I've been to the dentist since my switch to roll your own organic, the assistant actually asked me if I had quit smoking, that my teeth didn't have the stains she associated with cigarette smokers. Imagine, quite simply, if organic tobacco makes that much of a difference with the teeth, what the differences are to the system otherwise. Frankly, I don't care. I smoke, for better or worse, the choice has been made. But with the dangers, like my aforementioned pal Dave, I'm making the decision to at least smoke the top shelf stuff.
Fortunately or unfortunately, I am of a tradition, typified by figures from Herman Melville to Mark Twain, that equates tobacco use with higher levels of thought, the good life even. And I, for one, am a guilt-free happy camper. At least when it comes to tobacco. I'm working on the rest.