After nine splendid years of headaches, sore throats and money thrown toward my own demise, I've decided to Stop Smoking. Period. I spent the entire day on campus wearing a nicotine patch and it has been considerably less harsh than I thought it would be. I've “quit” twice before. The first time was a January several years back; it was a month-long group challenge of resolve, inspired by needing a month of recuperation from a December spent in the guise of Hedonismbot. The second time was just a few months ago when I stopped smoking for a week due to being more sick than I had ever been sick before. I was fine, honestly, until I had to actually leave the house and go to school, where I found myself surrounded by the vice. I gave in before the withdrawal tics turned me into a someone's Modern Dance thesis project.
...and now I'm done. Fin. Kaput. I swear that I will not turn into an evangelist and will still be as fervently pro-smoker's rights as I have ever been. I leave you with a small excerpt from David Sedaris' quitting essay “Letting Go” and one of the more bizarre Disney shorts I found while researching for this post on MetaFilter.
It’s one thing to give up smoking, and another to become a former smoker. That’s what I would be the moment I left the bar, and so I lingered awhile, looking at my garish disposable lighter and the crudded-up aluminum ashtray. When I eventually got up to leave, Hugh pointed out that I had five cigarettes left in my pack.
“Are you just going to leave them there on the table?”
I answered with a line I’d got years ago from a German woman. Her name was Tini Haffmans, and though she often apologized for the state of her English, I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any better. When it came to verb conjugation, she was beyond reproach, but every so often she’d get a word wrong. The effect was not a loss of meaning but a heightening of it. I once asked if her neighbor smoked, and she thought for a moment before saying, “Karl has . . . finished with his smoking.”
She meant, of course, that he had quit, but I much preferred her mistaken version. “Finished” made it sound as if he’d been allotted a certain number of cigarettes, three hundred thousand, say, delivered at the time of his birth. If he’d started a year later or smoked more slowly, he might still be at it, but, as it stood, he had worked his way to the last one, and then moved on with his life. This, I thought, was how I would look at it. Yes, there were five more Kool Milds in that particular pack, and twenty-six cartons stashed away at home, but those were extra—an accounting error. In terms of my smoking, I had just finished with it.
I met Chris Onstad during his signing tour for his hardcover collection of the Achewood arc The Great Outdoor Fight (the actual book.) I’d been a fan of Achewood for years; the much-lauded webcomic having seen me through both good times and bad, and with good chunks of the dialogue and panels are now permanently burned into my brain. I have friends with whom I can carry out entire conversations with Achewood lines. Something about the humor, the mix of earnestness and obscenity studded with the offhandedly absurd (they are talking animals after all) and studded with Onstad’s utter refusal to let idols stand is a consistent fresh breath in the webcomics genre. The art – detailed black-and-white minimalism – is also a unique entry among his peers.
I showed up a little early to line up outside of Rocketship, Brooklyn’s premiere indie comic book shop. The line had already formed somewhat, populated by the exact sort of hip young things one would expect to attend a signing for a webcomic that had nothing to do with video games. I was there to meet a friend reserving a spot and in a pretty significant surprise, he was standing directly behind a former coworker of mine from the stompin’-around-all-punk-rock days. While standing a little closer to the entrance, Onstad wandered out of the shop for some air clearly enjoying both the attention and the noticeably healthy amount of liquor in his belly. This was the first time I had ever seen the man as he is/was known for a lack of identifiable photos. He wandered back inside, time passed, the signing proceeded into the store and yet he was nowhere to be seen. I had been to Rocketship a few times; it’s a small shop and even when packed with college students the back was visible. Where could he be? And why was the line vanishing into a corridor? The line continued to proceed into said corridor, cramming us shoulder-to-shoulder. There was a small merch table set up selling assorted Achewood ephemera and. Having already owned a copy of The Great Outdoor Fight - I pre-ordered it when it was but a gleam in Amazon’s eye - I purchased the Achewood Cookbook on a whim. I saw an open door into a much larger hall a little beyond me and then it made sense.
The back room of Rocketship was connected directly to the lounge next door. As we walked in, I located Onstad. He was standing at the bar, polishing off a drink and having pleasant and casual conversations with the signees. I told him how much I loved Achewood and asked him if he would be writing any more Nate Small short stories (a Hardy Boys-type series he made available on one of the paid-subscription websites.) It took him a moment to actually realize and recall what I was talking about, which gave me some considerably insight into his artistic process. He signed my book, sketching Roast Beef inside it – take a moment to consider an artist who, during a significant and free signing, draws a sketch for everyone. A photo was taken and while putting on my coat I asked him to sign the Cookbook, which I decided at that moment, was to be a gift. He looked mildly annoyed at my holding up the line, but didn’t say a word and obliged. We left immediately thereafter.