Those of you who have been following along will remember that I had surgery back in March and after a stay in the hospital I decided to end my 20 year on and off (but mostly on) relationship with smoking. Now that I’ve been a non smoker for a full six months I’m reminded of the ridiculous reasons I started smoking in the first place.
In the summer of 1988 I was a teenage badass, in my own mind at least. At 14 I had gone full time surly, taken up smoking Newports. By all rights I should have been happier, 1987 and 1988 are referred to in my family as “The time we had food”. Those were the years that we moved, like Muswell Hillbillies, from living beneath train tracks to the living the on quiet waterfront street. I don’t know what kind of scam my mom was running but all of a sudden she was married again and we had food. There were no cars on the dirt in front of the house, people weren’t passing out on the floor, in fact the place was nearly drug free. There were new babies in the house and we were being encouraged to participate in after school activities. I found this to be very disturbing. I still went to the same school but now I lived on the south side of town, where everyone was some sort of middle class and up. I missed being my old neighborhood…so I decided that I wasn’t going to take this middle class thing lying down.
In protest I took up petty theft and smoking. Smoking because I knew it was bad and theft to support the smoking habit. Smokes were cheap then, $1.35 a pack on average but that was just your base cost. When you are 14 and smoking you don’t just buy cigarettes, you need to get gum, mints too, and one of those lighters with some kind of bikini girls on it. Smoking costs a lot at 14 but you got to rebel somehow and I did. With my Newports tucked into my pocket I’d ride my bike back under and past the train tracks to my old neighborhood and hang out on some dead end or empty lot with the kids I knew, smoking cigarettes and trying to pretend I still belonged.
There’s no moral to this, it’s just something I remember. As much as I liked being home, the other kids began to see me as an outsider, a kid from somewhere else, no longer one of them. Eventually I just stayed home after that and stayed moody. By 1989 my mom’s run had ended and we were living in some house on the side of the freeway in the worst part of another town. We were hungry and I smoked a lot.