Thursday, November 28, 2013

The smoking room

Pretty much everybody I know that smokes or used to smoke has started the same way.
As a kid 12,13 years old, they stole cigarettes from their Father’s pack.

My Pop smoked cigars, 5 cent White Owls, they even had a hole in them so you didn’t have to bite the end off…I would have preferred to have been able to bite the ends off. Seemed more cigar-like.

We had a luncheonette in Coney Island, since we sold cigars and cigarettes it was no big deal to steal a couple of cigars when I wanted to smoke. It never entered my mind to steal cigarettes, Pop smoked cigars so that is what I would smoke.

I have no idea if Pop knew. He never said anything. I suspect Moma knew, but she probably thought Pop was smoking more.

I would go the beach with a couple of friends to smoke, usually at night so we would not be seen.

We would climb up on to the abandoned lifeguard’s chair to smoke and look at the ocean…if we were lucky we had a full moon.

It seems like the epitome of the luxurious cigar smoking experience, view of the sea, two good friends sharing the experience.

Throwing up after the first few puffs at the beginning didn’t seem to take too much away from the experience. Eventually we were able to finish the cigars and did not even get nauseous or turn green.

The view, the friendship, the slight guilt, the danger of being caught, seemed to make smoking attractive.
I became a cigar smoker, preferred them to cigarettes. The real attraction, memories and friendship, was related to 5 cent White Owl cigars.

I eventually progressed to better cigars. Cubans.

I gave my Father a Cuban cigar once thinking he would love it, not a chance, he immediately started a White Owl and offered me one saying “Here is a real cigar. Pare ena alithino puro, vre.”

I could never smoke in front of my Mother or Father. No matter how old I was or even if my parents lived longer, it would have been impossible to smoke in front of them. It must have been a bizarre kind of respect or maybe even a bit of fear.

Of my entire cigar smoking experiences, great cigars after a great meal in exotic places… not one of them, lived up to smoking a cheap crappy cigar with some friends, up a lifeguard chair on the beach at night in Coney Island, watching the sea, even though I threw up after.


  1. Frank Verdi's comment could not be posted directly by him, so here it is:

    "I remember those days but I don't know if I ever sat on the lifeguard's with you. but I remember climbing up there a lot. I remember gagging on one of your White Owls though. I started to smoke at 18, when this girl who shall remain nameless used to take me under the boardwalk and stick her hands in my pants. Discretion keeps me from continuing, but after we went home she would leave her cigarettes with me so her mother didn;t find them. Eventually I tried 1 and then 2 and eventually became hooked. After a while, 15 yrs or so, I stopped ( a woman made me do it). I then went back to cigars and gagged again so thinking I was sophisticated (ha) I switched to a pipe before giving up tobacco altogether. Women and tobacco seem to be intertwined in my life." I love this blog Greg. It brings back a flood of memories. I also love my comment so see if you can get on your blog and facebook."

  2. I love this story Greg. I loved it when you told it to me all those years ago...something tender in the telling of it ..a bond with your friend and a silent bond with your Dad...