Thank You For Not Smoking
A report from the trenches of nicotine withdrawal
Edited by David Swanson
I’m trying once again to quit smoking, after over a decade of shoving Marlboros into my face. The last time I tried, I got in a public scrap with a podcaster, felt like ants were crawling just under the surface of my skin, and made it eight days before returning to tobacco with absolute abandon, like it was ambrosia, or salvation. It’s been awhile and this time I am trying with the aid of Varenicline, the generic form of a medication called Chantix. It’s supposed to block cigarettes from releasing dopamine, and I’ve had a week to ramp up to two milligrams a day. As I am truly addicted, subverting the internal mechanism for addiction seems like the way to go; I am fully on board with attempting to bamboozle my brain and body. They deserve trickery anyhow; I hold them in nothing but contempt.
The two most common side effects of Chantix are nausea and vivid dreams, and I have spent the last week alternating between barfing and sleeping so heavily that awakening feels like swimming up from the deep-sea realm where fish have lights on their heads and jaws out of horror movies. I keep having dreams about Nazis and I woke up with ABBA’s “Super Troupers” fully stuck in my head on a loop. I also have begun to sleep twelve to fifteen hours at a time, usually during the day.
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Ordinarily I’d just stop a medication fucking with me to this extent, but I would really, really like to quit smoking. Two packs a day in my mid-thirties is just not possible anymore, so I am accepting a week or two more of absolute malfunctioning as a distinct possibility. My full quit date for cigarettes is February 1st, and I have vowed not to be on a single podcast for that entire month.
All this, at any rate, is why I’m not giving you a proper post today—“Super Troupers” keeps running around my head and I feel absolutely stuck on empty and every time I try to write something real I just see the flashing white teeth of ABBA and their feathered hair in a blinding montage—but just a few scattered notes:
⬩This weekend, in an attempt to distract myself from all of the above, I watched a bunch of old movies featuring beautiful men: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Le Cercle Rouge, The Sting. Besides the absolute sexiness of the films—the scene where Robert Redford has a woman strip at gunpoint only to reveal that it’s his girlfriend, she’s into it, the gun was never loaded, and she’s generally ecstatic about the whole thing provided an ample deposit into my spank bank—there’s a certain je ne sais quoi that’s missing from the contemporary Marvel-ized cinema landscape. I’ve watched some good and interesting contemporary movies this year—Emily the Criminal, Triangle of Sadness, Everything Everywhere All At Once—but still, it is hard to beat those beautiful, beautiful faces on Paul Newman and Robert Redford and Alain Delon. (Alain Delon!!!)
No one ever expected those guys to dehydrate themselves and roid up for abs, and they look like they actually fuck, rather than exhibiting their prominent iliac crests for show. It’s a pity that people other than white guys are finally foregrounded in cinema just as films becomes a sexless wasteland in my opinion. If all this sounds like a very horny opinion of cinema that is because it’s precisely what it is. But if you ever want an instructive afternoon exploring the absolute degradation and genericization of film, watch the Magnificent Seven and its 2016 remake; revolting. Le Cercle Rouge was my favorite, so supremely, unselfconsciously broody, and Gian Maria Volonte as Vogel is electrically sexy.
What’s the sexiest movie you’ve ever seen and why?
⬩I’m rereading Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings series yet again. There is something very comforting about returning again and again to the same books, and these in particular are pretty masterful and sweeping—although the author’s inclination to absolutely torment her hero Fitz is amazingly sadistic. Still, a big hot button for me is the idea that magic is a way of connecting to the world at large, getting out of your own brain and tapping into some broader animistic consciousness. (As opposed to just yelling out a word in pseudo-Latin like some transphobic wizarding magnates would have it.) As far as I believe in anything supernatural it is a kind of animistic idea of God, the idea of a web of creation all interconnected in some subtle vibrational way, and I love the idea of exploring that narratively through magic.
What’s your favorite kind of magic?
⬩ That MLK sculpture just unveiled in Boston looks remarkably obscene from most angles. What’s up with that? Coretta Scott King’s cousin said it looks like a “beefy penis” and she’s not wrong although other members of the public have pointed out that it can also look like cunnilingus from the right angle. Versatile! If not entirely appropriate to its subject matter!
What’s the worst piece of art you’ve ever seen?
Hit me up in the comments with answers to these questions, and we’ll be off and running. In the meantime, I hope I dream about Paul Newman instead of faceless Nazi executioners, and that the music of ABBA doesn’t factor into it at all. And wish me luck stopping smoking, please. Do not recommend Allen Carr in the comments: I read his book three times and continued smoking profusely.
A very messed-up Talia
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Good luck quitting smoking. If everyone who smoked (everyone over 18 when I was born) in my family could quit, so can you. My mom was a two pack a day smoker when she quit in the early 70s, because 5 year old me was exposed to anti smoking in kindergarten, and I was distraught that mommy was going to get lung cancer and die.
Good luck quitting smoking!
"What’s your favorite kind of magic?"
The kind in the Incomplete Enchanter series by Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague deCamp-- A system parallel to physics, with laws like the Rules of Similarity or Contagion.