I kicked off cigar season tonight. Filthy habit, I know. Not good for me, I know. But there’s something about a good smoke that knocks the nasty edges off my attitude.
I don’t smoke in the house. Wife wouldn’t have it, for one thing, but that’s not really fair to say, because I don’t think I would have it either, left to my own devices. I like a good smoke while I’m smoking, but I wouldn’t want to live with the smell when I’m not.
So cigar season – spring through fall, maybe a couple times a week, when I can take the dog and a stogie and walk through the night, the way I always have. And I took up the habit relatively late in life, so I like to think the cumulative biological ramifications aren’t likely to hit critical mass and stop my clock until my clock is winding down anyway.
The night-time walks, time was they summoned up as many demons as they put to bed. The nicotine buzz would hit maybe twenty minutes out, my thoughts would start their usual inward spiral and I’d turn the simple peace of my chemically aided postprandial excursions into an avaricious exercise – start tugging on the loose ends of the threads of thought, trying to unravel the fabric of space-time and come to some kind of conclusion, some deeper meaning, like I was Descartes or something.
Thing is, I’m not.
Splurged a little for the first smoke of the year – a very nice Davidson Triple Maduro Churchill, big ring size. Quite a punch packed in that puppy, and it turned out to be a two-hour smoke, a two-hour walk, still early enough in the year that the weather cools down nicely at night, the stars not yet skimmed over with that yellow haze of carbon scum that scabs up the summer sky.
Two hours is enough to walk through my whole life – from the big house we moved into when my employment fortunes took an uptick seven years back to the more modest house we lived in most of our married life, to the apartment we lived in before that, past all three of the houses I lived in as a child, through Lincoln Park, where I played as a kid, around my grammar school, and back home, a ghost in the night haunting my own life.
Cigar or no, at night I walk. My dog and I circulate through my past daily, the blood of my memory reoxygenating it delicate tissues, preventing decay, allowing a kind of perverse evolution through which my past experiences are continually filtered through my present state of mind until now my past is a chronological mutant — both remarkably accurate in detail and completely devoid of an honest context. My memories are not of what was, but are instead a present moment repotting of old growth, almost like our night-time view of the million-years-old light of now-dead stars that has just drizzled to earth.
And it took me until tonight, until 50, to learn this – that the pleasure of those moments, the peace of those walks, is all the meaning they hold. And it is enough.
All over the world tonight, there are people who wouldn’t dare walk through the night alone for fear of war or hatred or crime. There are others who would consider the expense of energy a ridiculous luxury after another day of back-breaking labor for low or no wages and another day of not enough food. And here am I, sated, unafraid, rich beyond dreaming compared to most, a good dog, the latest in a long line of good dogs, means enough to support my family and indulge many of my whims.
And still I cultivate my worries. And still I horde the imagined slings and arrows of outrageous fortune as if there were something special about my concerns.
Fuck that shit. I had a nice walk on a pleasant evening and for once I left that alone and enjoyed it for what it was. And now a good book, a hot bath, maybe a little whiskey. The accidents of history and fortune have conspired to put me in this life in this place at this time. I’m going to try, going forward, not to waste any more time trying to figure out how or why.