In a world of posts, pics, updates, likes, and follows image can become more important than preference. The ‘gram, the ‘book, and the twit’ may not have created posturing but they sure as hell have turned it into a martial art of sorts. There are many individuals out there that feel having classy things will make them classy people. Mark Twain addresses posturing, price, and pretentiousness in “Concerning Tobacco.”
Twain begins his essay by establishing a couple common superstitions. These superstitions concern an individual’s preferences and standards concerning tobacco. Twain states that many of his friends will only smoke expensive cigars and take great pride in showing off the labels of their cigars whenever they smoke. These friends also berate Twain for his choice of cheap cigars and state they could not bear to smoke such sub-standard tobacco. In an act of subterfuge Twain places the labels of his cheap cigars on some expensive cigars he secretly took from a friend. His friends, self-proclaimed experts with high standards, could not tell the difference and thought they were smoking cheap cigars. Twain ends the essay by returning to the superstitions he establishes at the beginning. He states that the only real standard concerning tobacco is an individual’s preference, but it may be a preference to brand and not necessarily flavor.
Twain wrote “Concerning Tobacco” in 1917. If the ‘gram, the ‘book’ and the twit’ were around a hundred years ago I would wager his friends would have posts, pics, updates, and likes about their expensive cigars. They would be posturing and bragging about the price of their stogie selections. Mark Twain wouldn’t be so pretentious. He wouldn’t use a brand to make himself look better, to end up being a billboard for that brand. Take Twain’s advice and embrace your preferences, even if they are on the less expensive side. Better to be you than a billboard.
“Concerning Tobacco” by Mark Twain from Drinking, Smoking, andScrewing (1994) edited by Sara Nickles.
“Let us toast to animal pleasures, to escapism, to rain on the roof and instant coffee, to unemployment insurance and library cards, to absinthe and good-hearted landlords, to music and warm bodies and contraceptives…and to the ‘good life,’ whatever it is and wherever it happens to be.”
In a spirit of full disclosure you should know I’m writing this while enjoying my afternoon iced coffee and a cigar (I moved beyond cigarettes a while back). I don’t encourage you to use (imbibe, ingest, or whatever word your prefer) caffeine or tobacco, but I won’t criticize anybody either. There are Dunkin’s and Starbucks on almost every corner, and every self-respecting strip mall has a tobacco and/or vape shop. Coffee and cigarettes are part of our daily lives.
I’m fascinated with a person’s history with coffee/caffeine and cigarettes/tobacco. When you learn when, where, why, and how somebody started drinking coffee and/or smoking cigarettes you get a bit of backstory that usually makes that person a little more interesting. When somebody shares his/her relationship (for good, bad, or other) with coffee and/or cigarettes it makes him/her just a little more human.
Coffee and cigarettes are vices to some, guilty pleasures to others, and a fuel that is necessary to make it through the day for most of us who drink coffee or smoke cigarettes. This month let’s take a look at the sometimes love, sometimes hate, and often required relationship people have with coffee and cigarettes.
Another month is in the books. May was about doors and doorways, the literal and the symbolic. We all encounter doors throughout life. We pass through some and we are denied passage through others. It feels as if the past few months have had more than their fair share of doors. I’m going to end the month with an odd instance concerning my relationship with doors.
I have a fear of knocking on doors. I’m afraid of ringing doorbells too. Why, you ask? I don’t have clue. I don’t have any bad experiences or weird memories (my only explanation is that I’m an odd duck of sorts). I just don’t like knocking on doors, and here is on such experience to give you context.
I’m at my best friend’s house. I’m standing at the back door. The back door is open so there is only the screen door, the kind where the top half of the door can be either screen or glass depending on what season it is. It’s summer so the screen is in the door. My friend and his wife are expecting me. I’m standing there looking through the screen into their house (that’s a creepy kind of sentence). I can hear the TV in the basement. And me? I don’t ring the bell. I knock so quietly I know the sound won’t be heard over the TV. I keep doing this, knocking quietly. My friend’s wife comes walking through the kitchen and sees me. I act as if I just walked up and quickly ring the bell. She says, “Wow, perfect timing.” I agree because telling her I’ve been outside knocking for over a minute would put me in the running for the mayor of Crazy Town.
What’s the moral of the story (beyond now knowing that I’m a bit odd)? It’s not the fear as much as it is how I deal with it that I want to share. The fear of knocking on doors has never left, but I deal with it by texting people when I arrive. No more knocking on doors when all I need to do is send a text. So, what’s the moral? If you can’t through a door then try a window (or maybe a text).
Have you ever noticed the wide variety of euphemisms that are used in relationships? Has anyone ever “stepped out” on you or maybe “let you down easy?” If you can answer yes then there is a blues song somewhere out there for you (maybe a couple or few). There is one song from the “Blues at Your Door Mix Tape” post from a couple weeks back that holds an ignominious place in my relationship history.
ZZ Top is one of those bands that you either get or you don’t. I don’t mean that in any sort of critical analysis and deeper meaning sense. I mean you either get where that little old band from Texas is coming from or you don’t. I’ve given up trying to explain it to people so I can only ask that if you haven’t listened to ZZ Top then give their first album, conveniently titled ZZTop’sFirstAlbum, a listen (if you are familiar with it then you probably know where I’m going with this). The last song on the album is “Backdoor Love Affair.” The backdoor man motif, a man having an affair with a married woman, is common to many blues songs. ZZ Top takes this idea and adds their own twist to it (no spoilers), but I will say I’ve experienced what the narrator of the song experiences, and I’m none too proud of it.
We tend to use euphemisms in an attempt to minimize the damage of failed relationships. These euphemisms are common in many blues songs, which may be one of the reasons why blues music is timeless. As long as people “step out” and “let you down easy” there will be material for blues musicians. ZZ Top’s song “Backdoor Love Affair” is one such song, a song that this writer has lived through. But knowing there is a song about it gives me comfort that others have lived through it too.
Ever bust your ass to get to a door only to find it locked? Ever find out that the key you thought would open a door isn’t the right one? I’m speaking about doors as metaphors, but some doors just can’t be opened.
We hustle and grind only to find doors locked because of who we are or what we’ve done. Keys to these doors are given to a select few. If you aren’t the right kind of person with the correct opinions no keys will be given to you. The requirements for being the right kind of person and the list of correct opinions are conveniently listed on the inside of the door. There are also doors that don’t open with the keys we’ve struggled so hard to earn. Those who guard the doors can change the requirements for the right kind of person and the list of correct opinions one must have at will by changing the locks. This leaves us with useless keys.
Life presents us with numerous doors. We can pass through most of them with hard work. But some doors remain locked no matter how hard we work because we aren’t the right kind of person or we have incorrect opinions according those who guard the doors. So what’s a person to do? I’ve found it’s useless to try to be the right kind of person or to change opinions (unfortunately I found this out after spending way too much time trying to be the right kind of person and changing my opinions). I suggest that we kook for the doors that open for the odd, the outcasts, the rounders, and the ramblers.