Monday, May 05, 2003

Death of the Ciggie

Having done his work for oppressed Iraqi Kurds, Christopher Hitchens is now free to turn his Bono/Messiah complex to those huddling masses that really need his help: the downtrodden smokers of New York City. Now this is the Hitch we knew. Hard drinking, hard smoking, no apologies. I remember when I went to see him at a talk here in DC. I hadn't really seen pictures of him before, and I was caugh off guard by the characteristic blood-shot eyes, the mussed hair, the slovenly dress. Like my old boss during my bartending days at the Cactus, he was one of those who probably looked and acted drunk even while sober. He gave his spiel, he took questions from the audience, and when he grew tired of the performance, he took the cigarette that had nestled behind his ear and stuck it underneath his drooping upper lip while he answered the final question and the rest of us got the point. Book signings took place outside so he could puff freely. So it's only natural that he finally steps up to bemoan the new smoking ordinances in New York City and those that will begin next year over all of Ireland. No more will we have the days of yore, as when he first visited the "Pearl Bar next to the offices of the Irish Independent" and there was
a fine competition between the leathery lungs and the heroic liver, a joust of organs in which no faintheart would dare compete.

The article isn't a tirade so much as a fond farewell to the smoking culture:
So farewell then, Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table. Farewell to the Rainbow Room atop the Rockefeller Centre. Farewell to the Stork Club and to Damon Runyon and to Guys And Dolls.

Farewell to the Apollo Theatre and the Harlem Renaissance, and to all the blues joint and speakeasies.

Farewell to Mulligan's Shamrock Lounge and to the cafes of Little Italy and indeed the back-rooms of Chinatown.

Farewell, if it comes to that, to the bars and bookstore coffeeshops and hangouts of the Village, where so many failed cultural and political revolutions were plotted.

I don't even smoke and I'm ready to light one up for the resistance.


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