Thursday, April 17, 2008

smoke and fire


Except, perhaps, for a beret and a bagette, it's hard to think of anything more stereotypically French than sitting at a café table, drinking espresso or red wine, and smoking cigarette after cigarette. However, in January of this year, a new law went into effect, prohibiting smoking in all restaurants, bars, and, yes, cafés.

Of course, the French found a way around it. Since the law still allowed smoking at outdoor tables, cafés invested in industrial-strength overhead heaters, making it possible to sit at a table next to the sidewalk even when the chilly spring weather requires a coat, high black boots and a chic little scarf. The other day, three girls and a boy, clearly on their way home from school, sat down at the table next to us. I asked if it would bother them if I took pictures of them and the girls said "go ahead," smoothing back their hair. They took out their notebooks, ordered "coca," and passed a pack of cigarettes around. Taking photos as fast as I could, I managed to catch the prettiest girl, just as she was holding a match to her friend's cigarette.

Do you or have you or anyone in your house ever smoked? Did you ever try to quit?

34 comments:

daisies said...

what an incredible photo ... wow ...

i smoked from the time i was 16 and tried to quit a hundred or so times unsuccessfully until i was 35 when i quit for good. in a month, i'll have quit for four years and that feels so good, oh yes it does.

Maggie said...

My dad smoked for the majority of my childhood and quit when I was in high school. I have never smoked and that trait in others makes me crazy. Most of the bars and restaurants around here are now smoke free, and while I understand that is an inconvenience to some, I couldn't personally be happier about it.

And I love that photo - what a great shot!

LAS said...

My parents both smoke and have all my life. Consequently - I have never smoked once, ever. No pot either and not even one cigarette. I couldn't date anyone that smokes and I too am glad that you can't smoke in restaurants and bars anymore around here.

k@lakly said...

I picked up smoking in college, after years of coping with chronic asthma (not sure what I was thinking...stupid youth)I continued smoking for years, a pack a day, thru college and then law school. Then one night I came home from a night of drinking and bar hopping and decided I was done smoking so I quit. Just like that. I never even planned on it, just did it.
In recent months I have seriously reconsidered...if it weren't so damn bad for you and smelly too, cuz it sure beats eating to minimize stress. And it's so deliciously sedating...my arse it ain't addicting.

cinnamon gurl said...

Yes, I smoked, and I've quit three times. It's been three years now (almost exactly, actually) but I still feel nostalgic for smoking at outdoor cafes (not in Paris though - I've never been there).

Magpie said...

I've never smoked. Ever.

But my mother did for years and years and years, and quit a month before she was diagnosed with metastasized lung cancer.

Tash said...

Like LAS and Magpie, I have never, ever smoked, not once, not even an experiment (although I was present for two friends' first experiments). (I've also been present when pot was at hand, and never did that either. Nerd.) My father has smoked my whole life, and my whole life has been spent trying to get him to quit. I think it's disgusting, and what I really don't get about the french, is how they can enjoy a lovely meal and then jam one of those things in their mouths. Bleh. My mother is fond of saying, "I quit smoking when I was pregnant with your [younger] brother." Which kinda begs the question, doesn't it.

luna said...

I was wondering how they were going to get around that rule...

my brother is a smoker and expat living in Europe. when he comes to california to visit he gets so annoyed that you can't even smoke outside at a restaurant. his big joke is, 'what are they going to do next, ban mayonnaise?'

Furrow said...

Picked it up in college. Never was very serious about it. 1 or 2 a day, at my height. Last year, before getting pregnant, I would have 1 or 2 a month when B's bands would play. Haven't had one in over a year, and have no desire to start back or be around a lot of smoke. But if I were in the right setting (perhaps an outdoor cafe in Paris?), at the right time (over a glass of wine?), I might be tempted, for old times' sake.

K @ ourboxofrain said...

I smoked for five years or so. For three of those years, I quit during Lent with the intention of never going back to it, but always caved when exams rolled around. I quit, largely for good, my junior year in college. I quit completely for good (i.e. no more drunken evenings once a year where I let myself have a cigarette or six) a couple of years ago.

m said...

I smoked for years, and quit when we started ivf. In the years since then I've smoked occasionally, mainly at times of great distress or much alcohol - but seem to one of the 'fortunate' ones that can smoke 2 or 3 cigarettes and then not crave for any more.

Funny kind of fortunate, no?

Jennifer said...

smoked from age 14 til 21.

Road Blocks and Roller Coasters said...

I was a social smoker from the time I was a teen. By the time I hit my very early 20s I started dating G and he was not fond of my little smoking habit. So I quit. Cold turkey. And oddly, I never looked back.

Though I occasionally still have smoking dreams...

Topcat said...

Hi Niobe. I'm officially delurking. You have the most wonderful blog, I'm close to jealous!

That's a fantastic photo ... I started smoking at 17, to annoy my mother but she couldn't have cared less. I have quit now for over four years. It's funny - I have also given up liquor and hard drugs, but smoking was almost the hardest. Gets in your bones.

My Reality said...

I smoked for 12 years and then quit. But I will still have the occasional smoke. There have been periods during this trying to have a kid journey where I have gone back to it for a few weeks and then get my ass in gear and put them down for a while. Today is the first really spring day we have had, and I would have killed to have had a smoke.

thirtysomething said...

Nope. Don't smoke. Did try it once, WAY back when cig machines were still in restaurant lobbies..you know the kind. I thought I was being 'all cool' and went in nonchalantly, put the change in and pulled the lever. It was Virginia Slims -- sat in my car and lit up. Then nearly puked. Ahh...the good ol' days!

Great pic by the way. Very french.

Lori said...

Never ever smoked. Bleeech!

My Dad apparently smoked a bit as a young man, before my Mom and he were even married. However, the doctors say that even those few years of smoking were very likely the seed for the bladder cancer that killed him at 62. It really is a deadly habit.

Antigone said...

I did and it was a bear to quit. Even as a smoker I found it shocking when say I was at a German train station and saw two 9 year old boys smoking.

susan said...

Never even tried it (although Politica smoked on and off for a while in college and grad school, and was furtively smoking on campus after we started dating and she was afraid I'd notice it and not be interested in dating further, which I find amusing in retrospect--although she's right, I would have found it hugely problematic).

painted maypole said...

how brave of you to ask if you could take their picture. i can't imagine doing that (but I'm so glad that you do)

i've never smoked, other than the occasional one at a party when I was younger, and the times I have had to smoke on stage

lifecanbeashit said...

I smoked years ago but when i first met my husband he said to me ' you should really give those up'. I never had another one. lol I must have known we were going to get married.

The other day we were sitting at a set of lights and there was a lady about 8 months pg standing outside her office with a smoke in her mouth. I wish she had thought to give up. :)

Hugs
xxx

Monica H said...

She may be a pretty girl, but the smoking isn't.

I have never smoked- yuck! My grandmother had been a smoker for 50 years! Can you believe that? This will be the year that she quits. She has to take an anti-estrogen pill since she had cancer and she can't smoke and take the pill at the same time. It will be a long difficult road for her, but she can do it- I believe in her.

Ruby said...

Great picture. I did but kicked the habit many moons ago.

Emily said...

I smoked a cigar with my husband once, on our patio while we watched a thunder storm roll in. It was dead romantic...except for the unspeakable breath in the morning.

JamieD said...

I have a very vivid memory (one of my earliest) of hiding behind a recliner in our living room and watching my mom cry because she wanted to quit smoking and couldn't. I remember a feeling of confusion - how could it be so hard and why did it make her cry so bad? It left a big impression and I never touched a cigarette.

niobe said...

Just to add my own story: My mother smoked (including during her pregnancies with me and my brother) until I was about five. My father smoked, first cigarettes, then a pipe, until I was in high school.

At a party in college, when lots of other people were doing much wilder things, I smoked a clove cigarette. i liked it, but not enough to ever do it again.

Topcat Thanks for delurking! And, of course, for saying such nice things about my blog. (blushing)

Amelie said...

I never did, and smoking is one of the things I'm quite intolerant towards. Here, though it would usually be warm enough to sit outside, cafes and restaurants can apply for "licenses" so that you can also smoke inside. Thus, the net effect of banning smoking is quite close to zero. So I sort of admire the French solution. And your wonderful picture.

Caro said...

My dad smoked a pipe all the way threw my childhood and my mu smoked occasionally when younger but gave up before having us.

I was a social smoker, ie if out drinking with other smokers I smoked. Haven't wanted to for ages and certainly haven't since before I was pregnant. Since smoking has now also been banned in bars in Denmark I'm hoping I won't be tempted again.

leanne said...

Never smoked a cigarette ever. My mom was (still is) a smoker. Probably because of her, I never had the desire to try.

Becky said...

I smoke, have quit twice and have gone back twice. Normally, I'd prattle on and explain precisely WHY I went back, but it's so unimportant and sounds like I'm justifying it to myself.

I heart you, Niobe. I just do.

Hannah said...

Both my parents smoke, as does my stepmother. My stepfather used to smoke cigars. I also smoke. I started the summer I got remarkably depressed, what with it being the last legal way to kill yourself. I think about quitting on occasion, and then decide not to.

Rhea said...

I started smoking "full-time" at 17 and now, at 26, I have stopped for 11 weeks. This is the longest I have stopped and I have not used any aids so I'm pretty proud of myself! My fiance still smokes and has for 26 years - I don't think he'll ever stop... His Dad was diagnosed with emphysema 4 weeks ago (and still smokes).

Christine said...

yep, smoked for about 4 years in my college/grad school days. quiting wasn't too hard and i can have a smoke now without wanting more.

funny thing is that when i mention that i smoked to people they are often utterly shocked. i have a young, innocent type look, i think.

Deshaine said...

I was going to post this even before I saw your anecdotal comment: I long for the days when I no longer should feel guilty for smoking a clove and have the fortitude to light one. Djarum's are my cloves of choice. Specifically: vanilla. Although, in a former life, I have been known to purchase the Bali Hai's, Splash, Menthol AND Vanilla at once to have a variety on hand. I love them...and think of them often.