Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Vonnegut: 84 and still smokin'

Kurt Vonnegut, the writer, is 84 years old and still chain smokes Pall Malls.

He's not particularly proud of it.

As a guest on Imus in the Morning today, he said he didn't particularly want to talk about it, as it might encourage young people to smoke.

Imus, of course, wanted to talk about it, cause he likes talking about addictions since he's a recovering alkie and smoker.

I can understand Vonnegut's reticence to talk about his habit. When you're a smoker, you latch onto fellows like him when one of those uncomfortable "why do you still smoke" conversations come up. You can say, "Hell, look at Vonnegut. He's 84 and smokes like a chimney!!"

I'd usually cite my mother, a smoker since she was a teen-ager, who lived to 83, and her mother, who lived til the ripe old age of 87.

But the thing about longtime smokers is, you rarely meet one who would encourage someone else, say, a young person, to take up the habit. Cause it's expensive, it's a pain in the ass to find a place to smoke these days, and it's definitely a health danger. Non-smokers find it offensive, it makes your clothes smell, and when you run outta cigs and are down to your last few coins, it's quite an unpleasant feeling, knowing you're not gonna feel "well" until you can score a pack. Sorta like being a heroin addict, I suppose.

Anyway, Vonnegut sounded genuinely surprised he was still alive and kicking. He lamented (facetiously, I guess) that cures for so many diseases had been discovered that so many older folks like himself were still around except for the one illness that gives people such as himself a graceful exit from this mortal coil -- namely, pneumonia, in which you basically go to sleep and don't wake up.

Now, after watching my mother die, I'm not sure pneumonia's such a great way to go. She was on a ventilator a couple weeks until they finally were able to take her off it. During the course of that treatment she had a major stroke, which is what eventually killed her.

She smoked up til that last few weeks of her life, so, like Vonnegut, she had a fairly long life for someone who smoked incessantly. 'Course, there are lots of smokers who weren't as fortunate. Which is I guess is why I'm doing this (quitting) again, as I figure I'd like to hang around as long as possible, if for no other reason than to see what happens down the road.

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