For better or worse, I am a man of many vices. But as of this past Saturday, I am a man of at least one fewer. After roughly a decade, off and on — OK, mostly on — I quit smoking. Cold turkey. And you know what? I feel … awful, actually.
I know, I know. I’m supposed to tell you how great this is. How I have so much more energy! How I’m saving a ton of money! How food tastes better, air smells cleaner and birds sing ever so much fucking sweeter! And maybe in a week or two, that will be the case. But right now, I’m a mess. Like, I would kill everyone reading this column for one sweet drag of a … ahem.
[The sound you hear is me attempting to roll an entire pack of Nicorette gum into a nicotine patch and smoke it.]
There is a reason they say it’s harder to quit smoking than it is to give up crack. No kidding, “they” actually say that. Google it. Just venturing a guess, but I’d wager part of the reason — aside from the fiendish addiction thing — is that cigarettes become such an inextricable part of a smoker’s daily routine. You have to make a special effort to smoke crack. You have to be secretive, clandestine. Savvy, even. Not so with cigarettes. You can casually enjoy them — and buy them — almost anywhere. True, that’s become less and less the case as smokers are increasingly banished to the periphery of society. Still, when you’re addicted, cigarettes pervade nearly every aspect of your life.
One of the things “they” tell you when trying to quit is to eliminate “triggers” that could cause you to relapse. Things like drinking coffee or alcohol, or other activities typically associated with smoking — you know, like, being awake. But if you really smoke — and I don’t mean you namby-pamby “social smoker” types — those activities can include virtually anything. For me, there’s the coffee and booze thing, sure. But I also strongly associate cigarettes with my job. (No, I’m not leaving 7D. Simmer down.)
Part of it is the image thing. The sneering rock critic with a cig eternally dangling from his or her lips is kind of an archetype, right? And really, there’s no better cure for writer’s block than stepping out for a quick smoke — for all of the awful things they do, cigarettes also jumpstart synapses. True story.
But more than that is the lifestyle of the rock critic, which by necessity roughly mirrors that of the rock musician — which is what I was before I became a rock critic. I smoked partly because I surrounded myself with other people who smoked. Funny enough, one reason I’m choosing to quit now is because I’ve seen many of those same folks quit recently. The thought process being, “Well, if that asshole can quit, I really have no excuse.” Peer pressure is funny.
Anyway, I bring this up to urge my remaining smoker friends and anyone else reading this who smokes to give it up. I mean, do you have any idea how bad those things are for you? Let’s have a smoke-free rock scene, guys! Here’s a Mentos instead! High-fives all around!
OK. I’m totally kidding. If there’s one thing worse than a self-righteous nonsmoker, it is a self-righteous born-again nonsmoker. I really am quitting. But I’ll never, ever be that guy. Or the weenie who passive-aggressively “coughs” when they walk past someone smoking. Suck it up, Poindexter.
The real reason I chose this week in particular to quit smoking — and to unburden myself publicly — is that we have officially entered the annual winter doldrums and there just ain’t a hell of a lot going on, music-wise. Kinda sucks for you. But it is perfect for me, as I needed a relatively quiet chunk of the calendar in order to allow myself the opportunity to go into hiding and exorcise the demons. So, if you don’t see me out and about in the next week or two, you’ll know why. And if you do see me out and about, no matter what I say, or what I promise you, or how much bodily harm I threaten to visit upon you, do not give me a smoke.
Goodwill to All
In the coming weeks, there will surely be a slew of local concerts popping up to benefit the people of Haiti as they recover from last week’s tragic earthquake. In fact, there is already one such benefit show in the works, spearheaded by Dirtminers’ Raph Worrick and tentatively scheduled for Saturday, January 30, at Higher Ground. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on that as details emerge, as well as any other Haiti benefits as they come up. In the meantime, let’s not forget about folks closer to home who need a helping hand, as well.
This Saturday, some talented local tunesmiths come together to help out the Vergennes Community Food Shelf with a benefit show called “Singing for Their Supper” at the Vergennes Congregational Church. Scheduled to appear are traveling troubadour Gary Dulabaum, incomparable local folk guru Pete Sutherland, country-rock stalwart Josh Brooks and dynamic duo Rik & Bec — aka Rik Palieri and Rebecca Padula.
Oh, and speaking of Palieri, dude is up for a Grammy. Or at least about 1/30th of one — which is still more Grammy than you or I have ever been nominated for, so there.
Palieri recently appeared on a mammoth tribute comp to late songwriter Utah Phillips entitled Singing Through the Hard Times, released on Righteous Babe Records last year. The album, which also features the likes of Pete Seeger, Emmylou Harris and, of course, label founder Ani DiFranco, was nominated in the Best Traditional Folk category. Finally, a reason to actually watch the Grammys!
Best of luck, Rik.
Yeah, yeah. The winter doldrums are here. And though area calendars are a smidgen lighter overall, there are still plenty of fun options to be had if you know where to look. For example…
Take a gander at the next generation of local punk when Vermont Commons School’s Death to DJs hit the stage at 242 Main this Friday with Guides for the Future. Who knows, maybe they’ll decapitate another Chris Martin (Coldplay) doll? If you missed the local all-star tribute to Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska at Parima last month, you can catch the same show at Montpelier’s Lamb Abbey this Friday, featuring local songwriters Aaron Flinn, Joe Adler, Eric Segalstad and Scott Mangan. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out this Saturday’s guilty-pleasure trifecta at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge with local metal chaps Amadis, Boston arena rockers Township and Queen City ska punks Husbands AKA. Gold Town aren’t the only band in the midst of a lengthy residency at Nectar’s. In case you’ve missed them, Ray Paczkowski and Russ Lawton have been funking up the joint all month. You have one more chance to catch them this Monday. Last but not least, you’ve also got one last chance to catch local folk darlings PossumHaw before they hole up for the remainder of the winter to record their third studio album. Wednesday, January 27, they’ll be at the Good Times Café in Hinesburg.