Sunday, October 24, 2010

Smoking/No Smoking

I see where the Spanish Government is outlawing smoking in restaurants and bars. This is a big blow to the smoking populace there, which is about everyone, at least it was back in the l950's. I can still smell the fresh buffalo chip odors of the clientele of the small hotel lobby and bar that I lived in for a couple of years as they lit up their Bisontes and puffed away. And all the other smoke-filled bars and restaurants I frequented every day of the week. By the odds, I should have died a long time ago from second-hand smoke or first-hand alcohol poisoning.

There were more than a couple establishments where the smoke was so thick you could cut it with the over-used knife. I never acquired the habit or understood the pull of cigarettes, no matter the language. Not that I didn't try a Camel or a Lucky Strike once or twice, and I would puff on a cigar once in awhile just to make everyone around me mad, and of course the pipe, which I tried out off and on over the years, maybe using three or four packages of tobacco total. 

A few times, back in the 1930's, my brother and I sneaked into the local beer tavern and pool hall to see what was going on, and the smoke was just as bad there as anywhere in Spain, although store-bought cigarettes was not the ciggy of choice due to the cost - it was Bull Durham. I used to stare in wonder at an older brother as he pulled the little white bag of tobacco out of his shirt pocket and pick out a paper from the tiny package, pour some of the baccy onto it, lick the edge of it, and roll it into a nice little cigarette with one end twisted and wet to keep the tobacco from falling out. The older brother would make a fine art of this procedure and light the end of the cigarette, tip his head back and blow smoke rings toward the ceiling, and give me that look of perfect satisfaction.
Watching this for most of my young years, I should've been converted or recruited to the practice, but I never liked the smell or the fact you had to carry all that trash around with you with no convenient place to stick 'em.

The saloons and dance halls of the Old West were just as bad or maybe even worse with all the smoke and spittoons on the floors. Spittoons were still around in the local taverns when I was growing up. In my estimation they were more destructive than the second-hand smoke and spread TB and other diseases, at least I think they did from the signs that used to be posted around San Francisco and some military bases, e.g. "Don't expectorate if you expect to rate around here".

Next up: Desert Heat


  1. I'm guessing the smell of stale beer (from spilled beer soaked into the floor) was pretty strong in old west saloons.

  2. If it was anything like the tavern in my home town, it was.

  3. Interesting tale, Oscar. Loved that little slogan at the end.

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