Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"Notes on a Midwestern Vacation - Skeeters and Cigars"

Listed in the “Police Report” printed in the Michigan City News-Dispatch, August 1, 2010 edition, Page 2:

“Three Boys were arrested in La Porte for destroying toilets with explosives.”

I’ll bet that was fun.
Returning from the Outlet Mall, we stopped at this little house that sells cigars. What can I tell you? It’s a cigar store that’s a house. I don’t know if anyone lives in it. It may just house cigars.

Smoking a cigar was a milestone in my recovery from heart surgery. It had been almost exactly a year since I’d smoked my last one. I had bought it during our last year’s Indiana vacation. At that very cigar house. I recall having had an extended conversation with the proprietor, and his being extremely helpful with my selection.

It wasn’t like “Doctor’s orders” or anything, but since my surgery, I’d steered clear of cigars. Now, nine months and change after the robotic visit to my chestal cavity, I felt it was time. Also, since my family had massively outsplurged me at the Outlet Mall, I experienced this selfish need to balance the books.

A milestone celebration. Some “I can throw away money too” pettiness. It was the right thing to do.

I went into the cigar house. I asked the proprietor, “Do you remember what I bought here last year?” I received the look I deserved in return. The man hails from a “no-nonsense” state, and I’d just uttered some first class nonsense. I believe they’re allowed to shoot people for that back there. Trying to recover, I wasted as little time possible selecting my purchase, requested a box of wooden matches, paid and slunk apologetically out the door.

We return to the cabin. We unload our Outlet Mall chazerai (assorted crap you don’t need) from the car, carrying numerous logo-branded shopping bags inside. Our chores now completed, I am ready to smoke my celebratory cigar. But not in the cabin. It’s very small, and with the lack of any breeze whatsoever, the cigar stench would just hang there in the air until we left. My celebration would have to be outdoors.

Unfortunately, recent heavy rains had spawned an enormous, bordering on plague-level mosquito infestation.

All of it outdoors.

Our family had come prepared. It was now time to put those preparations into action. After pulling on long pants – over my shorts, I was that gung-ho to get out there – I went out on our screened-in sleeping porch, and started the step-by-step procedure for going outside, like an astronaut readying for a space walk.

I slathered my exposed areas with Off, soliciting help for the back on my neck and behind my ears. I then knotted a bandana specially treated to repel mosquitoes around my neck. We were assured at the travel store in Santa Monica that sold it to us that it would work. Even if it didn’t, it gave me an excuse to wear a bandana.

We had also purchased some mosquito repelling socks. I pulled off my regular socks, replacing them with “The Protectors.” Just one last precaution and I was ready to go out and light up.

The local drugstore had sold these inch-wide, blue plastic discs. You clip them to your belt, and when you switch them on, you feel this fan-like breeze coming from it that’s also supposed to repel mosquitoes. I don’t know if it was just ordinary air or some chemically treated breeze, I just clipped the thing on and hoped for the best. Where I was going – outside – I needed all the protection I could get.

I was now ready. I was sprayed, sporting a mosquito repellent bandana and socks, and I had the blue drugstore disc clipped to my belt. Wait. I put on a hat. Now I was ready.

There was only one problem:

I couldn’t find the cigar.

We looked everywhere. The cabin, the car, the shorts I was wearing under my long pants, the shopping bags filled with Outlet Mall chazerai. Nothing.

My celebratory cigar had completely disappeared.
Three days later, we located the cigar, in the back of the car, behind the driver’s seat. We had no idea how it got there.

That day, after Dr. M left to drive Anna to the Chicago airport – Anna had joined us for the first portion of the trip – I decided to take a walk and smoke my cigar. Once again, I prepared myself appropriately before going outside.

My plan was to proceed to a halfway point in my walk, and then light up and smoke my pleasurefully way back to the cabin. The halfway point was a pizza restaurant. When I got there, I extracted my cigar from the clear, plastic tube that it came in, and took out the box of wooden matches that I’d purchased at the cigar house. I was ready to go.

I took out a wooden match, slid the box closed, and scratched the match against the rough edge on the side. The match immediately snapped in half.

I slid open the box, and took out another match, then closed the box, and scratched the match. This time, the red sulphur match tip scraped right off. It did not ignite. It just powdered harmlessly to the ground.

I tried three more matches, discovering that besides the wooden matches’ flimsiness, and the fact that the sulphur tip scraped off without igniting, the rough edge on the side of the matchbox was proving to be not particularly rough. I was unable to light any of the matches.

It appeared that somebody didn’t want me to smoke that cigar. Maybe God. Maybe Fate. Maybe the cigar house proprietor who had deliberately sold me substandard matches as payback for my having asked him a ridiculous question. In any case, I completed the return portion of my sojourn to cigar free.

And oh yeah. Despite my precautions, I got bit up pretty bad.
I finally got to smoke the cigar, lighting it with the flame from the thing that you use to light barbecues. I smoked it on the sleeping porch. Anna was now gone, and we had relocated out sleeping quarters to the bedroom.

How was the cigar when I finally got to smoke it?

It was okay.

I’m sorry about that. An eleven hundred-word build-up for “okay.” That’s got to be a lowdown. It was sure a letdown for me. But what are you going to do? That’s the difference between art and reality. Sometimes reality sticks you with a boring ending.

I could make up a better one. But that would be cheating.


Kathryn Hartog said...

It's called a barbecue lighter. As in, a lighter for a barbecue.

Gary said...

I thought that was one of the advantages to blogging, it's yours to do with whatever you choose, cheating included. But, you've always been relentlessly honestl; it probably isn't possible for you to cheat now.

Like you, I had a couple of heart incidents uh, 13 months ago. That ended my smoking habit of umpteen-hundred years. Nevertheless, I still want one. I want a cup of coffee (another former habit) and a Winston. That's all. Probably wouldn't hurt me at all to have ONE. But, we know what that one leads to...more and more cigarettes, maybe to marijuana and then harder drugs... Plavix.

joe said...

Pity as a proper cigar will prevent much mosquito-ness upon your person.