Monday, December 12th, 2011

A Friendly Reminder About Death

Lately I have been thinking a lot about death. The triggering event, appropriately, involved cigarettes; the store in which I attempted to procure a new pack only had my brand in soft pack. I mean, yes, I could have gotten 100s, but I always feel like I am done smoking 100s before the cigarette itself is finished and then there's that awkward moment where you stand there self-consciously smoking a cigarette in which you are no longer interested and the cigarette itself feels bad because it's not its fault that they made it longer than the normal cigarette and what kind of cigarette wants to be smoked by someone who is ambivalent at best about finishing it anyway? Also it knows that soon it will be thrust to the ground and stepped on to be extinguished forever. It's a nasty, brutal and short life for a cigarette, even a long one. But I digress.

So, desperate as I was to get that delicious smoke into my lungs, I said yes to the soft pack option. If you have ever done something similar, you know how it turned out. The cigarettes were difficult to retrieve from the stupid slot you make at the top, and, as the day wore on the pack took more and more of a pounding so by the time I got around to addressing the few remaining smokes they were in terrible condition: bent, frazzled and in one case actually torn to the point where I had to remove the filter entirely and smoke it the other way around, which is largely unsatisfying and makes you look like some kind of low-level thug, a particularly unattractive appearance for a man who is approaching forty with astonishing celerity.

So I was standing on the street, smoking my improvised unfiltered cigarette in a state of extreme disgruntlement, complaining to myself about the unfairness of it all. Why, I moaned internally, do they even MAKE soft packs? Why not stick with the beauty of the box, a thing in which form and function effortlessly combine? Then I recalled an explanation from decades previous, in which a friend, posing the same question to the proprietor of a local smoke shop, was informed that soft packs are preferred by those who regularly wear suits, the lines of which are apparently unable to overcome the sharp angles of the box.

Now, I am not the type of person, thank God, who needs to wear a suit—most days, my attire consists of jeans and whatever was once hot at The Gap but made its inevitable migration to the bottom floor where all the sad sale items come to live out the end of their retail careers—but I do own one. And this mental disquisition on the state of the soft pack put me in mind of my own suit, about which this terrible thought flashed through my mind: From now on this suit will see many more funerals than weddings. It is just a fact of life. More people I know will die than get married going forward. The final funeral, I thought to myself, will be my own, but then I remembered that I have left specific instructions that when I pass on my body is to be burned and the resulting dust blasted into space so there are no earthly remains with which to trouble nature by reminding it of my existence.

Death itself is not at all worrisome to me; it's the sad deaccumlation of details that lead up to the process that I find so troubling. With each funeral to which I wear that suit I am losing one more person in my life, one more friend or relative who remembered me when I was younger and more enthusiastic about things. As we age, we grow dull and fearful, resentful of the vibrance of the generations which succeed us. Having once been of the up-and-coming generation it is a terrible thing to know that your time has passed, that those younger than you now look upon you as a cautionary tale at best and a grim reminder of their own mortality at worst. They mock you for your inability to understand and appreciate the things that come as second nature to them.

Take, for example, this video of someone's grandfather listening to Skrillex. If you are like me, you have no idea what Skrillex is, and even the explanations provided by the kids today offer no succor. In days past I would have laughed at this grandpa, his angry bafflement at the sounds of the new. But now I can only weep, for I know that I am that grandpa. Maybe not yet exactly, but soon. I can only clench my fists in rage to realize that where once I would have been the young man playing the music, it is not long before I will be the old man reacting to it with distaste. The only redeeming thing I can think about it is that, no matter how young you are now, someday so will you. We are all that grandpa. It's just a question of how much time it's going to take us to get there. I suppose death, when it finally comes, will be something of a relief.

Anyway, soft packs really suck is what I was trying to say. I am not making that mistake again.

49 Comments / Post A Comment

freetzy (#7,018)

What's the weather like, though?

deepomega (#1,720)

Wait, Skrillex died????

migraineheadache (#1,866)

I think Skrillex makes me feel old the way Green Day made people who grew up on the Ramones feel old.


jolie (#16)

@Bus Driver Stu Benedict I didn't even read it, I just came straight here to say the exact same thing.

@jolie "Lately I have been enjoying the pleasures of a nice bourbon."

"Lately I have found myself amused by the hyperbolic claims of Daily Mail articles."

jolie (#16)

"Lately I have been thinking about how I have two thumbs."

jolie (#16)

"Lately I have been thinking about the weather."

@jolie "Lately I have been remarking how many of my important cultual touchstones have seen one and two decade anniversaries."

"Lately I have found the flash of a camera to be intrusive and irritating."

jolie (#16)

"Lately I have remarked on the majesty of the ursus genus."

"Lately I have seen my hostility towards an indolent rocky satellite in Earth's orbit turn to outright rage."

laurel (#4,035)

"I am that grandpa. Maybe not yet exactly, but soon"

Um, mazel tov?

Mike Riggs@facebook (#192,407)

Construction workers leave the soft pack in the plastic sleeve so that when they sweat through their shirts, their cigs don't get wet. Also, they can just tip the pack towards their lips and snag a cigarette without using their dirty worker hands.

alorsenfants (#139)

Is the feeling like the one a friend and I had last night, whereupon being through with work, we both conceded that since there was absolutely Nothing interesting to do around town, we would each return to our respective dwellings and make do with listening to Steve Winwood and Jackson Browne. Again?!

Kinda like that?

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

@alorsenfants Call (on) me*

Tulletilsynet (#333)

The horror! The horror!

alorsenfants (#139)

@Tulletilsynet Oh there's that. Instead of Stevie and Jackson, I could always watch an overrated Francis Ford Coppola movie? Maybe one by his daughter? (What was her last one called. So boring I have forgotten?)

Moxie (#81,363)

Wrong. Soft packs are the best. You can smoke them one-handed and it's kind of fun to tap them out. Cranking whimsically twisted cigarettes is just another advantage to having a pack friend customized by your keys, lighter, and anything else crashing into it in your pocket.

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

@Andy Dangerous Wait, you can't smoke box cigs one-handed? Just flip the top with your thumb (hold open with index finger if needed), slide a smoke up with same, light and enjoy.

Or do you mean that you hold them with two hands while you smoke?

Moxie (#81,363)

@SidAndFinancy I just really like tapping them out.

Mr. B (#10,093)

Every two weeks, on average, someone jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge. It is the world’s leading suicide location. In the eighties, workers at a local lumberyard formed "the Golden Gate Leapers Association"—a sports pool in which bets were placed on which day of the week someone would jump. At least twelve hundred people have been seen jumping or have been found in the water since the bridge opened, in 1937, including Roy Raymond, the founder of Victoria’s Secret, in 1993, and Duane Garrett, a Democratic fund-raiser and a friend of Al Gore’s, in 1995. The actual toll is probably considerably higher, swelled by legions of the stealthy, who sneak onto the bridge after the walkway closes at sundown and are carried to sea with the neap tide. Many jumpers wrap suicide notes in plastic and tuck them into their pockets. "Survival of the fittest. Adios—unfit," one seventy-year-old man said in his valedictory; another wrote, cryptically, "Alex Balk."

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

@Mr. B My favorite (?!) was the guy who walked up to another walkway stroller and said (paraphrasing), "Looks like this is where I get off!" and jumped.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

@Mr. B
The original note may have begun "Why not …" or concluded "… still lives."

dialogue_dub (#192,986)

@Mr. B And for a crazy documentary on just that subject:

The footage they were able to get is insane.

jfruh (#713)

Alex, please tell me that your poor suit will at least also get cremated along with you and shot into space. It deserves that much after all the mopey tears you've stained it with!

elecampane (#1,877)

Oh Alex take refuge already. You're halfway to enlightenment already, having got the impermanence thing down. To mix and match cosmologies, when you hit your Uranus Opposition, #callme.

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

I'm a feminist at heart, but let's face it: chicks can't handle the soft packs. I don't know why, but they can't. (Apparently this is true of some guys, too, I hear?)

And soft-pack smokes are a little longer. More tobacco for your precious $12.

ejcsanfran (#489)

Sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays!

I had a very similar reaction after listening to "I'm My Own Grandpa".

Loosies and the itty bitty airline bottles of vodka from groceries stores that smell like damp and bleach. Nano-cancer. Simplify your life. Addictions for your mini-house from the New York Times. (OH GOD I SAID IT. Here goes a Thursday Styles piece).

hockeymom (#143)

Oh, good God.
You people are going to force me to look up Skrillex, aren't you?
Wasn't Kreayshawn bad enough?

@hockeymom Take back what you just said about Kreayshawn. Take it back!

hockeymom (#143)

@Clarence Rosario
Nope. I will not.
Also, bukkaka. THAT one was a fantastic one to look up. I'm still trying to scrub my history of that one in case my kids or God look at my mac someday.

C_Webb (#855)

@hockeymom I refuse to look that up. Also, goatse (sp?). At 41, I'm much better at knowing what my head does not need in it.

Bittersweet (#765)

@C_Webb: You are wise. I clicked on goatse once years ago, in my internet innocence. Happily, that laptop was stolen soon after. Sadly, my memory of the incident was not.

ep (#8,509)

I always considered the increasing uselessness of culture, the freedom from culture, to be one of the real advantages of reaching middle age. I mean, it's immensely gratifying to construct an elaborate and irrefutable argument proving why so-and-so artist is more deserving of recognition than such-and-such artist, but not giving a damn is all the way better.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

Kiss-kiss. The other day was Horace's birthday. Not giving a damn is the way to be.

I'm on board with body burning but why pollute the entire cosmos by rocketing your dust into outer space(unless you're aiming for the moon).

C_Webb (#855)

@NotAndersonCooper: I'm foreseeing some sort of magnificent Gram Parsonsesque fireball disaster.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

This old earthquake's going to leave me in the poorhouse.

C_Webb (#855)

@Tulletilsynet:… and Satan is waiting his turn.

sarahpm (#13,702)

this is great

hman (#53)

Is it a double-boobied suit, Alex?

copyranter (#440)

Jesus Balk Christ, Shut. Up. FIGHT it, you pussy. Stay young! Buy Skyrim. Play it! While listening to Skrillex!

Johnnie R (#23,844)

By the way: when your cigarette breaks at the filter, you don't have to go non-filtered. Usually (trust me, I've been there), there is a ring of paper above the filter where the break occurs. Just turn the broken end toward the front (like you were doing anyway) and slightly crimp the nonbroken end so it fits the paper ring.

Or use tape. That always works.

Regina Small (#2,468)

Okay, does this mean we don't get a Christmas reflection on death? (N.B. I will also settle for an end-of-year reflection on death.)

Alex Balk (#4)

@nerdshares I'M NOT YOUR MONKEY

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