Saturday, April 29, 2006

A Modest Proposal

The trouble with these weekly Cancer Society and World Health jeremiads you get almost every week, about smoking and drinking killing you dead, is that most people don't enjoy these things the way you do. And they're probably less healthy and downright boring. Dare I eat a peanut?

Now we old-fashioned "degenerate" writers know for sure that it's not necessarily the play but the life that is the thing, the great Hemingwayesque drinking bouts, constructing huge sprawling novels in the smoky pubroom air, lying our asses off, bragging, shouting wild promises to the wind, all that sound and fury meaning nothing, but sound and fury all the same. The unaddicted life is not worth living.

Drinking and smoking lend an element to life that is ordinarily missing, magic and it is for magic that we drink and smoke. Who cares about the dull minutia of paychecks, insurance adjustments, having the Joneses over and all those horrors? Drinking can give everything a nice amber patina. The Joneses, non smokers all, and really dull and horrid, can become fascinating, unique people and you yourself may even become more interesting and magical after a few drinks.

In other words, drinking is great...and what is the point of having a drink if you don't have a cigarette to go with it?

The facts and statistics are there for us. We have heard of the horrors of cirrhosis, of lung cancer, emphysema or worse. It's all there on our cigarette packages.

And yet 33 per cent of us seem to drink and smoke no matter what the statistics, and yet everyday poor women of 34 die of lung and breast cancers, abstainers all, while we blithely puff away and imbibe, most of us reaching at least the good old threescore and ten.

Yes, yes, it's trendy today to be on the forefront of anti-drinking and anti-smoking campaigns, certainly politically correct, but face it, these things have been around for a long time and we pay through the nose for our habits, filling federal and provincial coffers, feeding the cirrhosis and cancer crowd, with our taxes and our excesses. And after all is said and done, most of the money goes to tell us not to drink or smoke, a vicious circle that is mostly propaganda and very little research. Ask Wendy Mesley of the CBC. She has done some hard footslogging on this, herself battling cancer and the cancer societies seem to be doing something else, like telling us not to drink or smoke. And spending big bucks, our bucks, on this.

Straight, tee-totaling non-smokers, smug on their prescription drugs, have no idea of how relaxing it is to have a drink. Yes, yes, there are the runners and the joggers. This author has done these things. He has found out that you can yoga-booty and run all day and still feel tense and unsatisfied immediately afterwards. Nothing is as pleasurable as a smoke and a drink, for in an age of aimless longing, you can at least satisfy your desire for a drink and a cigarette.

Yet all this being said, we bad guys do tend to overdo it. That's when the WHO and Cancer crowd gets close to being right.

Do all these things, but not all the time, not to the point of pathology. All things in moderation, the ancient Greeks used to say (while frankly being the most immoderate of people, especially in their sexual habits).

The trick then, is not to quit drinking and smoking, but to cut down, cut down on all these habits, which, quite frankly, if too much indulged, can, as the Jeremiahs say, lead to the insane asylum and the grave, or worse, like having to quit altogether, which, of course, is anathema. Face it, if we were told tomorrow that we did not have cancer after all, the first thing we would do is light a cigarette and feel relieved. Sure you would. Like any other sane person.

So from someone who has gone the whole nine yards, some advice.

To begin with, don't drink in the afternoon any more. It leads, after the first initial high of the lunch to biliousness and drowsiness, quarrels with one's fellows, job dissatisfaction and all these things we think there are real causes for. Drink in the evening, and then only with meals. It is the late evening that you can a cool Bacardi cocktail to bed with you, perhaps even one or two jiggers more if you drink between eleven and one in the morning. It you've got a good buzz-on at one a.m. chances are you won’t wake up at three in the morning and have your entire day ruined by withdrawal and insomnia. Drink is an aid to sleep, but you have to manage it. Self-medicate?

The same is true for smoking: manage it.

Have no cigarettes at all before breakfast and then smoke your brains out over coffee so as to start your day with some feel-good planning; you are in a comfort zone and you're not panicking over everything all the time as you ordinarily would if you didn't drink or smoke at all. Yeah. Slow it down. Even God had to take a day off, though there is no immediate evidence of human vices, of course.

The trick, again, if you can't quit smoking or drinking (who really wants to after they're hooked onto something in life that that hints to the first edge of the Promised Land) is to cut down. Cut down quite a bit.

Use your drinking and smoking as a reward. After a hard day, have three Scotches in your warm bed, but no more, for then there's trouble, arguments with your spouse and hangovers the next day that scream to God. Scotch is not diet pop. It's not. Oh lord, it's not.

With the smoking, always think of the cigarette as the reward. This one for the Newmarket hockey team, this one for having done a good hour's work, this one for our boys in Afghanistan, this one for, well, because I wanna.

To recapitulate, the WHO and Cancer folk are probably right. It's better, probably, not to drink and smoke at all. But you are hooked. You have trouble feeling like you did at fifteen at fifty. Well, even old Gar Mahood, on my taxpayer's dime (get a job, Gar!), will admit that what we have here are addictions. So drink and smoke. But don't drink and smoke so much.

If you cut down, you are as sensible in managing our habits (addictions?) as you usually are in managing the people around you (at least when you're not hung-over). You will live and prosper and hardly suffer any side effects at all.

But if you persist in your overindulgences, you may have to give up these habits altogether, which, in the mind of this writer at least, is utterly inconceivable.


Erik Ivan James said...

Ahh, Ivan, such wisdom and truth for those that have the personal constitutional strength to follow your advice.
To the normal people of this blissful world; I say, listen to the man. Yes, good advice.

I can't listen to you, though. I'm too weak of character. It's all or none for this addictive personality. Just one or two is never enough; I am the enemy of moderation. If I follow your advice, I'm dead in a small few years, never to see that "threescore and ten". If I stay away, maybe I'll not be dead so soon, maybe.

ivan said...

Oh I get into it pretty good myself.
So bad that this morning, at the library, I ordered a book and forgot, actually forgot my own phone number.
Ah these little slips that warn us to slow down.
"Death is nature's way...?"
It's probably an echo of all those emotional deaths, the fading auras of past lovers.
Or did I have the hots for the librarian and had a temporary loss of cool?
Whatever it is, there is a slippage. They say eat oily fish and bananas.
But that just seems to wake you up at three-thirty a.m. bolt upright and you violate hell out of the sofa.
I think I need a woman.

ivan said... reading your blog on addictions and harmful habits/substances, I noticed that you didn't mention bacon and eggs...I love bacon and eggs with the occasional cigar...tightly managed, mind you...Keep writing,'s looking good.

ace z

ivan said...

That should be ace z said.

(Will I ever learn copy and past without screwing it up?).

Anonymous said...

The unaddicted life is not worth living.
Love that Ivan. You may be right, but I'm not going to start smoking again. The booze is addiction enough.
Da Editor

Anonymous said...

> Am left positively parched after reading your latest installment. Just
> 11:43 by this clock, but by god, your instructions for living a long
> and rewarding life (the rewards being by and large ample dollops of
> booze) have created a mental image of a frosty mug of Export, just
> pulled from the tap by a smiling barmaid and sat, glistening and
> perspiring, on the bar.
> I have given this business of drinking no small amount of thought,
> usually in the midst of libation. My Dear Dad struggled with booze but
> was taken out by cigarettes, dead of a heart attack at 45; yikes. Early
> on in life I too swam down the Whisky River, never thinking to turn and
> thrash against the current. The result, for years, was cruel sick
> mornings, black eyes, broken bones, shattered hearts ... the inevitable
> fall-out of too damned much. Drastic measures were considered. In the
> midst of one paralytic Sunday morning hangover years ago I gave away
> the last of my booze (couldn't bring myself to pour it out), spent the
> rest of the day achingly, excruciatingly sober, and the next evening, a
> Monday, crept into a church hall in Keswick for a meeting of the
> Alcoholics Anonymous crew. Nice enough people, sincere and earnest and
> caring. Their desire to leave behind the bottle and its ravages was
> admirable. But all of their good intentions and words of bravery were
> drowned out by a silent wailing that wafted through the church, like a
> breeze that cannot be heard but is felt, moaning through an old house
> on a cold afternoon: It was their desperate yearning. For a drink. A
> drink. Oh, Jesus Christ, just one sweet, delicious drink. Fine whisky,
> emanating warmth and succor. Cold beer, slaking thirst and quieting the
> racket in one's mind. The elegance and beauty of red wine.
> No more of that. That was the theme of the meeting and I guess the
> general conference in which these poor bastards took part two, tree
> times a week. Oh, it was grim. Listening to a pretty young girl talk
> about tiring of waking up sick, all I could think of was how good she
> would look perched on a bar stool beside me as the afternoon grew long
> and the din within the pub began to rise. I felt like I was being
> condemned to a long and arid sentence to be served in this dank church
> basement, among the useless pews and discarded hymnals and these poor,
> reformed drunks.
> There followed 11 more days of utter abstinence. I did not suffer any
> howling withdrawal or anything like that. More than anything I was
> bored. How the hell to fill those long afternoon hours between work and
> dinner? How to wash down a steak -- milk? What accompanies a good ball
> game better than beer?
> On the 14th day I walked into a pub in Jackson's Point and downed a
> pint. Then another. And then another. It was the best thing I have
> ever tasted. And it occurred to me that, yes, a curdled brain and
> festering liver are bad, but not nearly as bad as abstinence. A stone
> sober life works as an ideal for some, but not for me. I possess
> neither the zeal nor the dread -- both necessary ingredients, you'd
> think, to adhere to those 12 Steps they reference -- to accomplish such
> a thing. So instead I drink and plan to for a long time. Never will
> you see me stagger or fall away cold unconscious. Like Albert Collins
> said: I ain't drunk, I'm just drinkin'.
> So Cheers. Salud. Prosit. Here's Mud In Your Eye.
> A drink for the living, a toast to the dead.
> Damn, where's that bottle opener?
> JM

ivan said...

Omigod, what a writer! No wonder you do it for a living, along with the great Ed.
Looks like your office has a Mac
and you need Firefox to properly access this comments page.
No matter. You are in. And how in!

Aaron said...

This is your life, and it's ending one minute at a time.

Do with it what you dare.

Fine post, old codger.

ivan said...

Thanks Aaron.
Was thinking of going out Edmonton way, but this old coffin dodger has got to be careful.
Oh what the hell. I'm dying in Newmarket anyway. Dying for a drink. Pabst Blue Ribbon?

R.J. Baker said...

PBR. Right up my alley.

You negleted womanizing as an addiction of the greats.


Too much of anything will kill you.

and to those who clean up and fly right...Stevie Rae Vaughn, killed in a helicopter crash after his recovery...go figure.

ivan said...

Thanks R. J.
Go figure indeed.
Ketith Richards takes every lethal recreationlal drug known to man-- and lives to about my age.
Then he decides to climb a friggin' palm tree and danm near kills himself.

Jaye Wells said...

Smoking has bcome integral to my writing. I think better with a cigarette in hand.

I recall an article about a woman who was reputedly the oldest person in the world--French, I believe. She said she smoke and drank every day of her 107(ish) years. Perhaps that only works for the French, though.

ivan said...

Thanks for stopping by, Jaye.

Yep. There's always the story of the l00-year-old smoker.
Some say smoking is like driving. Same risks.
Days I echo the Network Man when it comes to all those anti-smoking zealots: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!"

Jaye Wells said...

It will be interesting to see how science impacts these movements to eradicate personal choice. It seems logical that there is a genetic component to the fact that some people can smoke or drink and live past 100, while for others it's a one-way ticket to an early grave.

But I agree with you, moderation in all things.

ivan said...


R.J. Baker said...

Moderation in all things, except for have to take as much as you can get, when it's available and offered.

ivan said...

I've been trying to tune this site into making it even more R. J. friendly, but my techies have left me for the weekend and I am reduced to my own poor tech abilities.
Was trying to throw in a few sex scenes, but I may have turned some of my team off. Can't do that. I cant blog from scratch; too dumb to do it by myself.

Re untrammelled sex:
Hey, I just surf, I don't click on.

Ginger said...

Back in my bartending days one of my clients (who always tried to tip me in pot...I didn't smoke it, but to avoid embarassment I took it, and enabled my soon-to-be-ex-husband's habit) told me about his grandmother, who didn't smoke, but kept a carafe of Jack Daniel's by her bed, and downed a shot each morning before her feet hit the floor. She lived to be 101, and remained sharp...

He had gotten his membership to the club I worked at because she left it to him in her will (it was that kind of private club)...he and I were both quite aware that on his own he never would have gotten "in". But in a club where day traders had no compunction about making their money by 11 a.m., getting a private room, and answering their door naked and aloft...well, it was nice to have a down-to-earth-pot-smoking-guy hanging at the bar with me.

The smoking? I always think of my aunt, who has quit, but vowed to start smoking again when she turns 80, because at that point she'll be close enough to death that it won't matter anyway.

If I only had the self control to follow the same path. But to quit smoking I'd have to quit drinking, and that I will not do!

ivan said...

I am a lot older than you, but I fear, no wiser.
Oh how our paths seem to cross.
The printing business is full of early risers, salesmen all.
And grass high as an elephant's eye.

General Jack Ripper said...

Stick with pure-grain alcohol and rainwater, Ivan, or the commies will sap and impurify your precious bodily fluids.

Love the blog. Keep your pecker up.

ivan said...

Oh if I could write something fine.
Like J.P. Donleavy's The Ginger Man.

Smoke said...

Drugs are just bad, you should try to use Herbal Alternatives as a temporary replacement to loose the dependance!

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