Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Should it Really Come to That? Ever?

I have reacquainted myself with a daily habit which I was previously proud of eradicating. The dreadful mid-workday-smoke. I label it dreadful because of the company one usually keeps when taking a smoke break at work. Typically, the cast of characters who huddle together once an hour while working usually do so because they take deep issue with their job, and in many cases, life as a whole. They’re usually pissed off about so-and-so, about how smart they are in comparison, and about how they really deserve more from their position (as a crap metaphor for their feelings on their forlorn life).

After a couple of weeks on the job, I decided that this crew was pure poison for me. I already have a shady attitude toward corporate slave labor, and I didn’t need their seething to fortify my already-impressive dismissal of the work week as a brilliant waste of my time. I needed the health insurance, the regularly scheduled paycheck, and some hardened structure to apply to my daily life. I needed those things too badly to allow that disenchanted group of nay-saying tobacco hounds the opportunity to feed my pre-subscription of being wholly against working for ‘the man’. So I decided to skip out on the day-shift smoking ritual altogether.

Every now and again, when under specific and heavy (personal/work) stress, I would wander out to a secluded patio area somewhere for a quick smoke. Maybe once every two months, and only on days with particularly good weather. I would use that time to walk around, make calls on my cell, or get something out of my truck. Those moments were rare, and they were always spur-of-the-moment. I never scheduled those breaks, and I don’t remember any of them occurring on consecutive days.

But today, and yesterday, I have gone out for a post-lunch cig. No particular reason. Just because. It isn’t like I have no work to do. Quite the opposite. I’m busier than that one-armed drummer for Def Leopard. I’m workin’ it like I care and shit.

It got me to thinking. My entire life has been all about LIVING. That is to say, I have always been completely immersed in what it means to be ALIVE. Which, I still believe, is the proper way to spend my time while here. I have good reason to have spent so much effort on the subject. I was born dead, saved by whatever modern medicine was available to the miracle workers in that Houston hospital of the 70’s. Which makes my time here an abomination of Darwinian principles. Which is totally cool by me. On top of that, I spent four years of my life, convinced that I would not survive to see my 21st birthday. Those who know me will probably remember my almost neurotic fixation on that. I still hold that my belief was well-founded in enough misfires and narrow escapes.

I have felt fortunate to be around ever since. My (mis)adventures, (mis)ventures, and efforts have always had a ‘fuck it’ sort of bend, and that I can attribute to my feelings about being allowed to live. My ‘gulp-it’ attitude toward experiences and my tendency to be a bit manic in my consumption.

All of that is fine and good for now, but is there a point where the tables turn? Is there a point where a rational person ceases to consider how they are going to LIVE, and feels compelled to turn their thoughts to how they are going to DIE? Not that I am anywhere near that point in my life. But the question did beg itself to me, as I sat outside in the brilliant noon-ish sunlight, puffing on my Parliament. Is there such a moment? Did my grandfather, one day just start questioning his daily activities NOT based on whether or not he was enjoying them, but rather whether or not those activities would kill him in the near future? Is there a point where a regular bungee jumper stops looking at their pastime as a means of fun, and instead as more of a risk for quick death? My knee-jerk is ‘yes, a rational mind would have to eventually ask itself such questions. After all, the candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long (thank you Tyrell Corp.)’. And I really want to follow my knee-jerk on that one.

But then again, isn’t the overall consideration of one’s life in terms of potential death… pretty much spell out: ‘dead anyway’? I mean, to consider every act as a potential slippery slope toward ultimate dismissal seems so… lifeless.

Apologies for the repeated ellipses. I love them so.

So I turned my thoughts back to life. Tonight is me and my lady. After work is a Car Bombed happy hour with darts. This afternoon is this writing. Right now is this cigarette.

Right now is this cigarette. I’ll deal with death when it is in my face, fire-lit and smoking like a black-lung teepee.

Damn you Blade Runner!


Sean said...

afraid of death = afraid of life

Truecraig said...

I agree completely. Which is part of why I was so bothered by the thought poking its way into my mind. It just felt wrong. Misplaced. As if someone else had dropped it there by mistake.


Sara said...

For me personally, the tables turned when I had kids. Not that I was a really wreckless person to begin with compared to many people, but when my kids were born I started thinking differently. Maybe it's my neurotic control-freak nature that believes that nobody else can take care of my kids as good as me so I have to stick around. Plus I don't want to miss anything.
My grandmother always told me she felt this way and I thought it was silly until I was in those shoes.
Of course, I still smoke and I still do other stupid things on occasion (drink and drive) that I know can kill me eventually. So I guess somewhere there must still be a feeling of denial-based invincibility. But I do think about stopping these things more than I used to.

dungsta said...

im one of those surley bastards that attempt to drag folk like you down with me...especially at work when im sluffing off. People say, hey man if you don't like it get another job..truth is i hate work all together. if they renamed music "work" id probably sell my guitar. I get so damned pissed at work its ridiculous. But i know its a question is how do you so easily caste the negativity away?? how do i not sound/look like im in hell if that is truely where my heart tells me i am?? what if i told you id like not to be the quite guy in the corner that everyone is secretly scared of cause "he'll cut you"???

i don't want to be that person, but this is how i feel. How do you change that???(ill cut you if you don't have an answer)

Truecraig said...

Very true Sara. I can see how kidlets would change things up a bit, if not completely. No more benders or experimentation with sexual identity in Laos. All that would have to go. I guess.

Well, maybe a Cambodian jaunt every now and again wouldn’t hurt. Right?

Dungmeister, you never fail to ask the pertinent questions. My mindset is pretty much the same as yours. The trick to not looking like you’re in hell while at work is to never let any of get to you. Do your job, but don’t give two shits about the quality, or whether or not anyone is truly impressed with you. That way, you’ve invested NOTHING into something which you obviously believe has no countable return. "Office Space" style.

Or, do lots of drugs. I hear that works like a charm too.

Truecraig said...

Put the knife down. Thank you.

Devil in a red dress named liz said...

That was great! I love reading your stuff.

So much to think about and respond to. I'll give you my stream of consciousness response:

Cigarettes are the worst. Stop it. Take chances with the good stuff like sex or sky diving or something. People who smoke are idiots. You're too smart for that.

When you're young you don't think about dying, you do crazy things. Unless, that is, you were a fucked up kid like me who would have panic attacks about death. As a teenager I snapped out of it and started to do sane, self-destructive things. As a parent I started worrying about death again. Not my own but of those close to me like my parents and my kids. Now I'm becoming reckless again thinking, "shit, if i'm going to die, i better start living life to the fullest and start taking some chances. Why sit around and complain? I want to experience everything I can.

I read an interesting piece about obituaries yesterday, how some people start thinking about what will be written about them after they die and start trying to pad their life resume. He gave tips about what you should do to get a good obit--befriend famous eccentrics like Salinger, write a novel, do something someone hasn't done before or get in the Guiness Book of World Records. I recently went to a woman who called herself a human resource strategist. She had me write something about what i'd like someone to say about me when i reach my 85th birthday. Got me thinking about what I haven't done and what I'd like to do before I kick the bucket.

I have more thoughts on this but don't want to bore you. Maybe I'll blog about it too. Thanks for getting me to think.

Truecraig said...

Liz – oooohhhh, that obituary idea is golden! GOLDEN! Seriously. It puts the onus on ourselves to impress ourselves. I like that. I like it a-lot. What a kick-ass way to look at your own life, before it has even finished unfolding! Like writing your own script! That is rather dope. And by ‘dope’, I mean kicks-much-ass. Kudos to her, or whoever she got that idea from.

But I’m not so sure about her “Human Resource Strategist” title. Sounds like snake oil to me. I am ‘he’ with little faith. That little title sends up all kinds of red flags for me.

I really want to let the whole smokers=idiots thing go, because, after all, I do smoke. And even though there is a high probability that I am indeed of lesser intelligence (as evidenced by the stories in this blog), I’d prefer to never have to confront that potential reality. We’ve all made wonderful mistakes, ridiculously dense decisions, and taken some really obvious wrong turns in life. Labeling us smokers as idiots might be a gross oversimplification of our plight. Then again, you did qualify your comment as a 'stream', and you are certainly entitled to an opinion. Perhaps the statement was simply unhewn. A little rough around the edges maybe? Just a thought.

Devil in a red dress named liz said...

I'm not concerned about offending anyone with my smoking comment cause I think tobacco companies are the scum of the earth. People are stupid for starting, I'll put it that way cause once you do you're hooked. It's more addicting than heroin. I have my reasons for being hyper-opinionated about it. I'll email you if you want to hear the long and short of it. You can drink alcohol and smoke pot and tattoo your entire body and pierce your penis. I'm fine with that. That makes hella more sense to me. But smoking is really the worst think you can do and it's the dumbest thing too. Just my 2 cents.

Truecraig said...

Feel free to email me! My curiosity is piqued. Craig2blog(at)

I agree with you on the heroin thing. But to feel shame, regret, fear, or any other negative feeling over my dance with tobacco would be pointless. When the motivation to move on gets strong enough, I will. Until then, it is what it is. As for the tobacco companies themselves? Well, they’re just as crooked as energy providers, IRA consultants, waste disposal companies, your bank, the company your father works for, or your local Salvation Army. If there’s cash to be made, someone will be more than willing to bend you over to get it. Period. That’s the nature of a consume-to-live – live-to-consume society. We’re all wrong like that.

Anyone who believes otherwise is either a sucker, hopeless dreamer, or a Hollywood construct. Can you believe that I get labeled an ‘existentialist’? I mean, what the fuck?

Devil in a red dress named liz said...

Ha! Wait, you've been poisoned by "THE CREW"! Craig? Where is that existentialist I knew and really liked? As for me...I am definitely a dreamer, a sucker and Hollywood construct (not sure what that is exactly; does that mean I don't really exist?)

I'll e-mail you as soon as I can get my head out of my ass.

Truecraig said...

The world NEEDS dreamers Liz! Seriously. It does. There are enough skeptics such as myself out there. Dreamers provide the healthy balance.

Hollywood Constructs are characters in movies, not real people, so unless you were 'invented' by a screenwriter, you are safe from that label. Word up.

Devil in a red dress named liz said...

Did you ever see the movie "The Dreamers" by Bertolucci? Great film:

If I were a Hollywood Construct I'd be that girl.

Debbie said...

You should quit smoking. I bet you really want to hear that.

My dad died when he was 51, his brother died when he was 57, his sister died at 60. His father, my grandfather, also died relatively young. They had either aneurysms or something like that. Also, he, his mother and his brother all died within 8 months of each other. Of those three, my dad was the last to die. It was a week before I turned 21 - a formative year and week. My dad and I had made plans to go to lunch for my b-day just a few days prior.

Since then, I have harboured this fear that I will die in my 50's.

The one coin of hope in my pocket is that his mother dies when she was 96, and my mother's mom is still alive at 90.

It's probably best not to think too much about these things. It's a spiral.

Although, I try to eat less salt, I don't drink all that much, I try to keep my temper in check, and I NEVER smoke.

Sean said...

Dreams are like rainbows.

Only idiots chase them.

Truecraig said...

Well. Smoking is something of a hot button issue. I feel the beginnings of an impasse in fruitful dialog. Such is life.

Liz - I've heard of "The Dreamers" but I haven't caught it yet. I just might have to move it up on my "to see" list.

Deb – I completely understand why you want to be very careful with your health. I respect anyone else’s desire NOT to smoke. In fact, I promote it. And I am trying to get better about taking other people’s tendency to: bash smokers with fascinating regularity yet accept an overwhelming number of other atrocities against health (salt intake, lack of proper exercise, allowance for polluting industries, emotional abuse/neglect, cholesterol control, processed sugar consumption, network television, blah-blah-blah). I am trying to view that as simple human nature, and not an effort to slap me personally. A minor flaw in the operations of the human mind, which as a smoker, I have the option to ignore.

But in reality, no one likes to have a finger waved in their face. Especially if they’ve been honest about themselves, and their flaws. Know what I’m sayin’? Bygones!

Sean - You always use such few words to say so much. You've never been much for sugar-coating. How does it go again?: "better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and prove it"...? I see that you still live by that.

Devil in a red dress named liz said...

I'm gonna play devil's advocate here.

Sometimes people need to hear things. I have no right to tell you what to do. But it can make a difference. Of course it depends on how it's said. Calling people idiots is probably not the best tactic. My bad. But one shouldn't be afraid to speak up and tell people what they may not want to hear. If more people spoke up about what is wrong and not good more people might be moved to make a positive change and get a conscience about things. As for you smoking that definitely is your choice. But smoking effects others in a big way. Even if you don't care about what it's doing to you it can make others sick and kill them.

The only answer is for you to get pregnant. That's what's done it for the most die hard smokers I know.

Debbie said...

True, I didn't mean for you to read that story as evidence that you shoudn't smoke. And while my dad's death could be a text book anti-smoking story (He was relatively healthy - in fact he had the aneurysm during his mourning jog) there were other factors at play, like a brain tumour. The smoking was VERY bad for that. He ate too much salt. So it wasn't just his smoking.

Also, while I love that you can not smoke anywhere in doors in my city (Toronto - it is GREAT to go to a bar and not come home stinking), I think it is more than convienent that as smog pollution gets worse I am supposed to point my finger at smokers rather than the guy driving his SUV into the city with no one else in the car. Perhaps I will do that rather than pay attention to the Province's coal buring plants.

And you are totally right, You could go on a rant against smoking while eating lunch that consists only of fried food and higyh sugar pop. People would back you up, but they wouldn't be able to say "Hey, you shouldn't eat that." And, I live with socalized medicine. My tax dollars will pay for your triple bypass (as it should - I'd fight for socalized medicine tooth and nail).

Debbie said...

Unfortunately, I lost the comment I wrote for this. I'll sum up.

True: I didn't mean for you to take my dad's story as an anti-smoking story. There was more going on than cigarettes, like a brain tumour.

Also, I think that the anti-smoking hysteria is rediculous. In my city you can't smoke anywhere inside AND there is a campiagn asking smokers not to smoke near any doorways or in high traffic areas (I live in Toronto and love that you can't smoke in bars. the law is almost nation wide and it may make the French go CRAZY).

I also think you are totally right. You could lecture someone on the evils of smoking while you chow down on a grease filled fried food extravaganza. No one could say "Hey, you shouldn't eat that." Even though I live with socalised medicine and my tax dollars will pay for your tripple bypass (as they should - I would fight for socalized medicine tooth and nail)

Truecraig said...

I actually enjoy these types of discussions. My job rarely requires philosophical thought, so I find it stimulating.

Deb – I like the idea of socialized medicine. Up until the question of medical specialists. They typically go where the money is, and the money is rarely in socialized medicine. That’s just an empirical note.

Liz – thank you, seriously, for your opinion. My mother, girlfriend, and many of my really close friends agree with you completely. But they know me well enough to not harp on it, because they are well aware that it will only result in an impasse.

And here we are, at the impasse. Everyone, at their core, agrees. But the representations of those agreeing views appear to be at odds. But not really. I will finish this comment as my next post.