I like my town with a little drop of poison.
Someone asked me recently why I started smoking cigarettes – the answer is as simple as it is embarrassingly telling – I thought they were cool.
Jim Jarmusch had an entire movie about the two things I love, Coffee and Cigarettes, with some of my idols indulging in the little nicotine inhalers.
When I started smoking cigarettes they were really romantic to me.
It was probably the year I started really listening to Tom Waits and reading Bukowski with a feeling of coming into an age of “profound” insights. I was a bit obnoxious about my literary and artistic idols at 19/20/21/22/23/24/25/26. To me they provided a road map of how true artists live their life: smoking, drinking, self-hatred and a huge dose of brilliance. I mean I had to choose the miserable artists like Plath and Bukowski to idolize. It couldn’t have been successfully, healthy writers who overcame poverty to write a wildly successful series like J.K. Rowling…
When I discovered poetry it was all over for me. I was way far removed from reality. I’d walk around campus listening to nostalgic music like The Velvet Underground or Bob Dylan, dressed in all black, carrying completely esoteric books, smoking Parliaments (Marlboro’s came later) and generally just judging everyone around me. Reality was a concept to me. I spoke in metaphors, I only drank black coffee. I pretty much thought I was the most brilliant person ever and any lack of confidence I had was because I just understood so much. Insecurity was the plague of the intellectual, I thought. It wasn’t, like, something you could work on.
I do not mean to imply that all cerebral people wear it like a fashion statement. I’m just saying that I did.
Rereading my old journals is cringe-worthy – and truthfully quite sad. And to be honest, I didn’t often get a lot of disapproval or flack for this pretension which might’ve done me some good to come back down to earth. I actually was encouraged more often than not. I did pretty well in a few classes, was very engaged in literary theory and enjoyed deconstructing everything I read, I was always, always writing, and I idolized my professors so I talked to them frequently. Academia is an interesting place and I’ll leave it at that, but I didn’t find myself enjoying the environment so when I abandoned my ideas to get a masters like I was certain I would I had to join the world and realize how actually incapable I was.
I don’t beat myself up about this now. I think it is actually pretty funny. I can just imagine this 20-year-old who, in reality, hasn’t been through shit-all in their life walking around talking to people about existence, sociolinguistics, the meaning of completely under-the-radar poems as they’re doing more practical things and being completely unaware of how unrealistically idealistic I sound.
Always quoting some strange poet, always talking about the true meaning of a meaning. Sucking down a fuckin’ cigarette like I was a goddamn walmart worker on a five min shift break. I had the audacity to compare me working during college to being as stressful as people who don’t have the option to go to college and work multiple jobs just to stay afloat.
My awkward offenses were really easily chalked up to youthful indiscretions, apparent to everyone but myself who thought everything was so apparent.
All of this to say that I have had a problem with romanticizing things. As I got older I realized that being cynical felt wise. It’s not wisdom, actually, it’s laziness. I think I stole that, in fact I sure I did, but it does not make the any less true.
The more people I get to know who AREN’T like this, the more obvious the ones that are suffering from trying to be what they aren’t is apparent. Trying to force the world to see them how they want to be seen, not how they really are.
I started drinking coffee because it seemed romantic and literary.
I started smoking cigarettes because it seemed romantic and French.
I started indulging cynics in company because it seemed romantic and cerebral. and maybe a little “The village-ish.”
I think so freaking often we have this idea that we’re supposed to be something. For me, it projected itself in coffee, cigarettes, and cynicism (and neuroticism as I do kinda love Woody Allen and the likes.) I was supposed to be an intellectual.
I want to make a point that inherently these things are not bad. They were just outlets I used as a manifestation for an ideal version of myself.
I was supposed to have it together.
Romantic thoughts are so lovely to indulge in daydreams, but to live my life uncertain if I’m keeping up appearances right is really only something southerners can handle I think. I am not a southern belle.
The thing that is interesting to me when I lived in this world of pretend and those who indulged me there is that it’s convoluted with a lot of unhappy people. Coffee, cigarettes and cynicism make for an aesthetically pleasing life, but maybe not the most whole life.
I might have been complimented a lot on my ‘good’ (subjective) taste – but Lou Reed bums you out after awhile, and sometimes Sam Hunt is just more hype to listen to.
I might have been thought of as ‘intelligent’ when I carried around some classic, but that shit gets really depressing and everyone is a sad drunk. Sometimes, reading something like Cheryl Strayed is just more uplifting.
I think it’s taken me a long time to reconcile my ideals with my ideas, to understand I am not actually a cartoon, or fit easily within a box (I’m not a religion, goddamnit.)
I am me and you are me and we are all together. I don’t think that really applies here, but that’s where my mind went for a second and I just wanted to see if anyone could find out how.)
Basically, like Witman says, “Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am Large. I contain Multitudes.”
I guess I just mean to say, that coffee, cigarettes, and cynicism are things I just enjoy now. I don’t clutch onto them like they’re going to save my life or give it meaning.
That’s about it. I kinda lost my point somewhere in here. OH! btw, coffee, cigarettes and cynicism was one really long drawn out metaphor. but I think you got that if your’e reading this otherwise you would have stopped a long time ago. so, hey mom and dad!