No (more) smoking

I just had my last cigarette on my roof a few minutes ago, just before midnight.

That may come as a surprise to a lot of people who know me. Not because they think it might be a battle to quit smoking, but because most people probably didn’t know I smoked.

I really had my first cigarette in Paris last summer. I mean that’s what you do in Paris. You smoke. At cafés. At dinner. You just smoke in Paris. And so I did.


No Smoking

When I came back home to Chicago, I would smoke the occasional cigarette just to show off my new smoking skills. But my friend Heather really helped me perfect my method. How to hold it in my mouth. How to hold it in my hand, so I wouldn’t look like the rookie that I was.

Then I advanced to more sophisticated mannerisms such as the pause for dramatic effect.

“So we walked into the club, past the velvet ropes, sat down at a VIP table and before I know it…. (take a long drag… and as I begin to exhale, continue) …we were making out in front of everyone.”

Very effective storytelling tool.

As a photographer, I hang out with lots of models. And it seems that most models smoke. And I think that’s really when I started smoking in earnest this year, in January. When I was shooting one model friend of mine, Lynn, after we would get done with a set we’d pause for a minute to figure out what we were going to do next and she came up with the phrase, “Do you wanna smoke about it?” And so we’d have a few cigarettes and talk about the next idea.

So it continued on. I started to buy cartons of cigarettes in Indiana while visiting my parents because in Chicago, a pack can be as much as $8.50, but in Indiana you can get a carton of ten packs for $35.

Well I was starting to be pretty much a major smoker. I began smoking alone while walking around the city. I knew that was a big concession, because up until then I would only smoke with other smokers. Now I was doing it because I wanted to.

Sometimes I would smoke four on my two mile walk from my studio to downtown. If I was out at a bar or club, I could smoke a pack in a day.

It was interesting to see smoking from the other side. I mean I went 40 years without smoking and here I was taking it up like it was my job.

I used to be very anti smoking. I remember in college getting in huge fights with my smoker friends because their cigarettes actually gave me a headache.

But as with most things in life, you kind of chill out with a little life experience and it really stopped bothering me.

So after going from zero my whole life to a pack a day in four months, what made me stop? Well I knew it was all pretty much an experiment. I knew I wasn’t really a smoker. I care too much about my health. I could feel my body start to feel worse the days after a smoked a lot.

But I think the one thing that pushed me to really pick a day to stop was a conversation with another of my model friends called Stella. She is the rare model who never smoked and she never really approved of my starting. She would glare at me every time she saw me light up and I would look at her and smile and say something like, “Well I like to try new things and I’ve never tried smoking before.”

And she replied, “Well you know something else you haven’t tried? Quitting smoking!”

I had to laugh. She was right. So in honor of her, I decided to stop smoking the day of our next shoot. Which is tomorrow.

I think I started for the same reasons anyone starts smoking. My friends did. It was something to do during the day when I wanted to get away from my computer and head outside to take a break. Smoking is a very social thing.

And it was sort of like sitting in the back of the bus. When I work downtown, I work in an office building on Michigan Avenue and there is a button in the elevator that takes you to the lower level of the building, the back door below Michigan Avenue. The button is marked LL for lower level or lower lobby or something like that.

So me and the other smokers began calling our little gang, Club LL. And it became something I really looked forward to every day. I’d meet friends out there. People I worked with.

Club LL

Club LL

I really get why people smoke. I liked to do it myself. It was fun. But like I said. It was an experiment and I’m glad I stopped before I got hooked. Not good for me. I have too much to do and endangering my health wasn’t part of my plan.

Before I started smoking, I always carried a zippo lighter with me so I could light my friends’ smokes for them even though I didn’t. I’ll probably still carry around the lighter, because I always enjoyed participating in smoking that way, and that’s what I’ll do again.

You can’t bum a cigarette off me any more, but you can have a light.

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