Before leaving Hangzhou my flatmate and friend gave me a little envelope of goodies as a parting gift. It was just an assortment of things useful for my time in Tokyo. Among them was a coupon for a ticket to see the Robot Show. After the preliminary rounds of ‘what the fuck is that’, he not only convinced me that I MUST go see the robot show, but that I really should not go see it alone.
Problem being that I was going alone.
He had a solution for this as well, being to reach out to the internet via a dating app and find someone to go with. Alas, he didn’t realize that I have all the attractiveness of a burlap sack and would never get a date on a dating app. Come my arrival in Tokyo I go with a secondary solution to find someone to attend this show with me: Reddit. So I put an add up and decided to meet up with literally the first person who would say yes.
I’m glad I did t. It’s the kind of leap of faith thing I need to do more often. However did it go well?
I ended up meeting up with this person just before the show. He was a young Italian man, a decade my junior. He seemed excessively reserved, and started to complain about things fairly early on. I had no idea what we were going to get with this robot show, but I took what we got with stride and enjoyed it for what it was. He began to complain because he expected food to be served.
After the show we decided to go get something to eat. We walked to a neighborhood that was full of restaurants, and I told him that I was fine with anything. It took him fifteen minutes to decide what he wanted, and he consulted his phone repeatedly. As we sat down, I learned that I was dining with one of the world’s pickiest eaters, as so a good majority of things were unacceptable to him. We had gone to a steakhouse, and I was ready to eat pretty much whatever was suggested to me. As it was, nothing had failed me yet in terms of food in Tokyo. He continued to consult his phone throughout ordering, because he wanted to be sure he was getting the absolute best thing imaginable (that met his self imposed diet, of course). The absurd culmination of this came about when he refused something free that came with his food (it was some kind of cabbage salad and it was delicious).
The kid spent the good majority of the night talking about all things he didn’t do and why he didn’t do them. It was kind of sad to behold.
After the restaurant he mentioned wanting to go to a pretty famous bar neighborhood, and I figured I would tag along. After all, the fuck was I going to do alone in Tokyo, so off we went.
The bar was nice, and while I sat there enjoying my expensive drink I decided to couple the indulgence with a vice I only permit myself to do very rarely: I had a cigarette.
I’ve quit smoking. I’ve actually quit repeatedly. But there are certain things that will make me smoke again. A holiday, a vacation, or an occasion (such as a Birthday) coinciding with the availability of Golden Virginia brand rolling tobacco. These things don’t often meet, but damn it when I can manage to find Golden Virginia, I am going to smoke it. A couple days prior to this I had, and now I wanted to thoroughly enjoy my vice.
Well wouldn’t you know it, the kid disapproved of this too. He just couldn’t understand why people smoke. He highly disapproved of it. And why would anyone do something he disapproves?
I looked at the kid and shrugged my shoulders. Then I continued to enjoy my cocktail and smoke.
Later, as I was thinking all this over, I drafted this apologia for a vice.
Apologia for a vice
Smoking is not going to exist in a few years, and I have resigned myself to this fact with a heavy heart. As heavy a heart, I should say, as the one I have regarding the fact that I cant be a smoker anymore. It’s a shame really. Kids these days don’t have any role models who smoke – not in any real way, as I don’t count those rainbow haired idiots vaping in music videos (for the record, vaping is not the same thing). Maybe the coming generations will have their own Christopher Hitchens to look up to, Scotch and cigarette in the same hand as he orates. One can hope.
But I will be sad when it’s gone, despite how horrible it is to our health. I am no denier of the health consequences of smoking, but if I were stricken down with emphysema or lung cancer tomorrow I would not blame the cigarettes as much as I would blame myself. After all, I knew about the risks when I got into the whole mess with cigarettes, and it was my doing despite my knowing where the virtues of this vice begin to creep out. In fiction, heroes are given validity through their villains because it is those villains that cause them to grow. Without the villains, no growth. Maybe it was because my parents were such complete fucking failures, but I grew a lot because of smoking. When I finally decided to quit, it was because of a cost benefit analysis, and the understanding that I needed to make a temporary cessation of immediate pleasure for an ultimate future gain. This was a great lesson cigarettes taught me. When from one day to another I quit cold Turkey, with Malcom X’s anecdote about quitting Heroin being easier than quitting cigarettes running through my head, I was taught that I could do something incredibly difficult. When my friends told me of their attempts to quit, and how they just couldn’t make it, my strength felt reinforced.
Cigarettes are a vile habit, in terms of health. But they are a pretty invaluable teacher. If an angel came down and told me that I would die in some other way, and that cigarettes would have no adverse impact on my health in any way, I would be skipping down to the store right now to buy a pack. But that’s not the world we live in. So screw you, you bloodless millennial coward. At least I have dabbled on both sides before making my choice.
Also, as a shy young man, cigarettes taught me that you could just approach strangers, and that it was ok, and that most people were pretty cool and friendly.