Saturday, November 15, 2014


One of the fixtures of every neighborhood used to be a place where you could buy tobacco. No, not a corner liquor store with sixpacks of nasty American beer or cheap whiskey for your alcoholic uncle, but an actual tobacconist. It was often a wondrous place with colourful and strange graphic elements -- pictures of leaves and colourful natives, sailing ships, Conestoga wagons, and distant volcanic mountains -- suffused with a most marvelous odour. Visits by children were not encouraged, except if they were buying cartons of Kent Filter Kings (with the famous micronite filter!) for their moms, or their dad's Camels and Crotchstabbers.

Crotchstabbers was an affectionate nickname for St. Michel cigarettes.
The image below shows why.


Of course, the neighborhood smokeshop was a favourite destination of children, because it always smelled so good. I'm rather appalled at today's fastidious brats who act like cretins around tobacco.

Coffee, tea, cocoa, and tobacco are the colonial products that fuelled the development of the modern world. It is unlikely that they would have lives nearly as comfortable and secure without that development.

I bought a pouch of dark Dutch shag at one such place when I was nine years old. It was another five years before I purchased more tobacco for myself. By that time I had acquired a pipe, and, having grown tired of looking at it but not smelling it, I decided to rectify the situation.
Something horrible by Niemeyer seemed the ticket.

That particular smoking product no longer exists, and is probably not fondly lamented. Within two years I was lighting up sooty mixtures with Latakia to enjoy while swilling cup after cup of hot Ceylon tea. It was comfortable then, twiddling around between bookstores and tobacconists, but now there are very few "real" places left.

Books, pens and inks, hot tea, and a favourite tobacco.

People don't read or smoke anymore.


Tobacco stores have long been disappearing, along with good stationers, bookstores, and places where you can purchase a half-pound of loose tea without whiny asshats in the background complaining that there is not enough soy-milk in their hazelnut pistachio grande.
"I need more low-faaaat!"

You know, if you add enough low-fat crap to your beverages, eventually you too will be low-fat. Like a mystic third-worlder. Honest!

Starbucks; hot muck for Dick and Jane.

Dick and Jane suck.

If you wonder why I hang out in Chinatown a lot, that's why. It hasn't been taken over by vegetarians with imagined allergies, very real cellular devices, and chain coffee joints. Uncles and granddads still smoke there, tea is sold in bulk, there are places where ink and paper can be bought, and no one cares how entitled or politically correct you are.

Your fantasy food intolerance is not relevant.
Neither is your unique spiritualism.

I know of only a few restaurants in Chinatown that are strictly vegetarian. They look like sad little places that cater to washed-out white people, and one of them is run by a neurotic cult.

You can no longer find St. Michel cigarettes in the United States, or Roth-Händle, Reval, Khedive, Kyriazi Frères Finas, nor most of the other lovely and enticing packs, tins, and boxes. Woodbines, Three Castles, Craven "A", Kings Cross, 555 non-filter, or Black Cat? Forget it!
It's all very regulated now, we've become civilized!
But you can have tofu and wheatgrass stuffed down your throat by serious-minded white people almost anywhere.
There's no limit on that.

If one day you find me hunkered down behind the recycling bins in a deserted alley, with a hot cup of milk-tea, a favourite pipe and tobacco, and a book, don't you dare disturb me.
I shall bite you if you do.

And turn off your cellphone.

Thank you.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You sound like you are in voluntary exile. But not because of idealism.

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