(This disquisition originally was buried in an earlier post)
I never drink or smoke. Never have. Don’t smoke dope either, just no interest whatsoever; vastly prefer my own well-meditated mind. Pre-meditative and post-meditated mind. I’ve never been drunk, or even close. I’m basically ecstatically chill already. And drink or dope or smoke would just be such a downer, anyway. They obscure clarity of mind. Make consciousness cloudy. As in murky.
Cigarette secondhand smoke makes me acutely ill these days. So toxic! But I used to be able to tolerate it, though I always found it deeply distasteful at best. But in my early years I could handle side-stream smoke fairly well, some of the time. If necessary.
So, even though I’d been inside bars only maybe twice before my mid-twenties, at that point, newly living in Chicago where I’d initially gone for more grad school after being out and about in various parts of the world for some years—Europe and Beyond, mostly on long retreats, I found that everyone went to bars in Chicago. Well, almost everyone interesting I ever met during my years there. (Until I met Lady S and later Lady K, but that’s another story for another day. They didn’t hang out in bars, either of them, but virtually everyone else did, it seemed).
There was almost literally nowhere else to go. Many of the bars served a little food, and most of the restaurants had bars along one wall or were basically just bars, also. So, it being too hot and muggy during the summerish half of the year and too freezing cold during the wintery half of the year to be outside for long, everyone just lived in bars, at night, anyway. I never hung out in such places more than once a week at most. Yucky, silly places, mostly, but it’s where people were. Especially women to meet and date.
Still, for a non-smoker and non-drinker, how to solve (partly) the problem of the stench of stale secondhand cigarette smoke (and alcohol fumes) inside any night-time venue for social interaction? Burn incense! Yep, carry some sawed-off incense sticks and a little brass incense burner—a tiny brazier, or thurible, as it were. Get your side seat in the house, along an edge wall, not up at the bar-counter itself of course. Place your incense-filled brazier next to your glass of fruit juice spritzer. Light up.
Worked wonders. (Did nothing to cut the deadly toxic ill-health effects, but upgraded the overall smell considerably.)
And this was in the early days of the clove cigarette fad. So most everyone was happy with an even more exotic smell pervading the smoke-filled pub space. Those who couldn’t stand it, or were made nervous by this exotic odor, were cleansed from my little corner of our shared smoky public temple.
When some uptight owner-management types were a little freaked, I got a small new old-fashioned burlwood smoking pipe with a little wooden prop-stand so it could sit upright on the tabletop. Started using little pieces of incense-burning charcoal-brickettes for slowly burning powdered or granular incense. Frankincense-&-myrrh, Mysore sandalwood, aged Japanese aloeswood. Sometimes used tiny cone incense or sticks (pooja dhoop sticks) crumbled into the pipe-bowl. Good to go. Managers got it—”Okay, you’re smoking some really weird stuff, but it’s not pot, and the packaging you’ve shown us looks legit, so alright, then.” And of course I didn’t puff on the pipe stem!
The luscious good natural incense smells wrapped around my head, filling my aura-space with something tolerable. Attracted the ladies, too, though I hadn’t expected that! The only ones I’d care to chat with: those who also didn’t really like cigarette smoke & who were drawn to the subtle smoke signals hinting of something “better, spiritual-istic.” Ambience-purifying temple and church incense. In neighborhood pick-up bars. In Chicago. Quality Indian, Bhutanese, Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese natural traditional rare incense goodness. Used as dispelling-agent against secondhand smoke demons. And as unsuspected chick magnet. If I was burning frankincense, it invariably reminded all the Catholic girls of childhood Christmas mass and they couldn’t resist coming over to say hi.
But after awhile I learned of the very, very few well-hidden places in the city where smoking was not allowed or simply not bothered with. I could sit there in such quiet places all day and read, write, sketch, or chat, drinking my own brew of rare tea blends. Bring my girl there for dinner dates any nights in the week. Maybe some very select good friends, too. Sworn to secrecy. Owners got to know me, took good care of me. That took care of my brief sojourn hanging out at icky deathly smoky dive bars