I never wanted a cigarette as bad as I did when I got thrown into a “lockup” after getting kicked out of the courtroom by a judge whose ire I had raised by raising my own voice at him.
There I stood in an 8-by-10 foot cellroom with a metal bench and a thick glass in which I could see someone enter in a cramped walkway outside to speak with me. No one appeared as I looked out into empty space, asking myself if it was worth it. Why did I raise my voice at the judge? I got kicked out of another courtroom for the same outrage, but survived a contempt of court sanction when my office switched me from one judge to this other one for following the same procedure against a loudmouth like yours truly.
What I wouldn’t give for a smoke, I thought. No, it was more of a feeling, a longing, a desperate yearning for that satisfying first and second puff that could assure me that I’d get through yet another fine mess I got myself into.
I had quit smoking some seven years earlier. Went cold turkey. It occurred when I was trapped in a dentist chair and I wanted a cigarette to get me through the procedure and I knew I couldn’t light up. I applied what I believe was “mind over matter,” and it got me through the procedure. I might have actually meditated without knowing it, as I curbed my thoughts of such an agonizing discomfort. All I did was breathe slowly and not think of anything while the dentist moved his hands and instruments from one tooth to another inside my big mouth.
I emptied my mind of the desire for all desire to smoke.
And it worked. The next time I wanted to catch a smoke, I put “mind over matter” again. It wasn’t easy. Ask any anyone who ever quit. It was worse when I’d find myself in situations where I’d normally shake out one of my Marlboro Lights and light it up. Like the first cup of coffee in the morning. (With no breakfast, mind you!)
Or after having sex and lighting up before falling asleep on my back. Smoking was great after a really good meal, and I’d also have a good smoke while singing with my Doo Wop street corner singing group in Brewerytown, a section of North Philadelphia.
But there I was, dying for a smoke, if you know what I mean. Smoking was ingrained in me as a youngster. Both parents smoked; my dad liked Chesterfield and my mom Pall Mall (Neither had filters.) I took up the habit at the tender age of twelve and didn’t stop for some 30 years.
When I finally did, I’d have dreams of cigarettes. They were sensual in nature and I’d wake up in a cold sweat after ‘em.
I could have cared less for sex then, for the only thing that could have satisfied me was a couple of drags from a smoke, be it a Camel or even a Lucky Strike. All would be well with the world again.
My craving ended when a lawyer from the Defender Association appeared before the judge, plead my “temporary insanity,” and chalked it up to my being overly zealous, something the judge himself knew all too well, and he imposed no further penalty. (See: Philadelphia Justice: Judge James Lineberger.)
At that time, all I wanted was a good stiff drink to celebrate my freedom. And I would have given my life for it at that moment, if you know what I mean.