Ive been hanging out in smoky joints most of my life and have
probably inhaled enough second-hand cigarette smoke to fill a
But for many years I didnt mind. Back in my college days in Detroit a
few ultra-smoky hang-outs that come to mind included the old Aorta
Bar, Cobbs Corner, TJs, Coral Gables, the 20 Grand, West Side Six,
Silverbird, AC Lindell, Trainers, the Wagon Wheel and a couple dozen
other places that have long since disappeared in the haze of memory
and Marlboros. Those were the days, my friends, we thought theyd
never end; but now most of those dives are long gone -- and probably a
lot of the people who smoked in them too.
Ive got a similar list of usual suspects here in Northern
Michigan that have provided many an entertaining (and smoky) evening
through the years. Beyond the good times and the wet stuff, all of
those places had two things in common. One, the light was always dim
enough so that every woman looked like a Victorias Secret model along
about midnight if you were a single man and had downed a few beers.
The other common denominator has been the smoke. When friends used to
complain about some Smoky Joes Cafe sort of place, Id point out the
bright side: they didnt have to lay out $5 or more for a pack of
cigarettes -- they could just breathe in the smog and get a nicotine
high while enjoying their dinner or the band.
Yet even though I prided myself as being tough enough to take it, as
the years went by that nasty second-hand smoke started to become more
of a turnoff. Beyond your reeking clothes was the sensation that even
your skin had a greasy patina of grime exhaled from someones lungs
that had to be scrubbed off once you got home. My wife and I stopped
going to a couple of our
favorite places because they got even smokier as the years went by; as
other restaurants and bars started going cold turkey, the
anti-smoking movement drove even more smokers into our favorite
haunts, pushing us out the door.
So its been interesting to revisit some of those places during the
past few weeks since Michigans smoking ban went into effect. You
find yourself experiencing a strange sensation: you can breathe.
We went to a particularly notorious club with a low-hanging ceiling
the other night and it was a breath of fresh air to finally be able to
enjoy the place without a dense cloud of someones lung-wheeze
settling around your shoulders. Same deal at a concert a few nights
later -- it felt almost healthy hanging out at a nightclub. Then we
went to a smoky old diner in our neighborhood for the first time in 15
years because you no longer have the impulse to gag over breakfast
These days, you see crowds of people standing outside the bars
downtown now that the smoking lounge has moved out on the sidewalk.
The bar owners Ive talked to havent seen any big fall-off in
business, although one can imagine that the places that distinguished
themselves as the final holdout smoke pits may have a time of it
getting their old clientele back. Perhaps their business will even
boom as soon as it sinks in with non-smokers that its safe to go out
to dinner or a show at places that have kicked Smoky Joes habit.
Worth noting, in 1915 public health officials mounted an awareness
campaign to stamp out spitting in America in order to limit the spread
of tuberculosis. Hard to believe, but the time-honored practice of
spitting in a barroom or even on your kitchen floor was gradually
eliminated, and eventually it even got to be uncool to spit on the
sidewalk, if you can imagine. The anti-spitting movement played hell
on the spittoon industry, but thats the price of progress.
So perhaps thats the way that the time-honored practice of smoking
will go too, and it will eventually become as uncool to puff your
ciggies outside a bar or restaurant as it is to spit on the floor
inside. If nothing else, people will smell better.
Aint it a shame
The current issue of Rolling Stone is bemoaning the fact that this is
the worst summer in a decade for concert sales.
Limp Bizket, The Eagles, Christina Aguilera and the like have
cancelled shows for lack of ticket sales and, artists catering to
every type of audience are dealing with empty seats.
This is just a wild guess, but could it be because those of us who go
to these big concerts downstate are sick of getting hosed and were
not going to take it anymore?
These days its the norm for artists such as The Eagles, Madonna,
Roger Waters and the like to charge $75-$150 per ticket. Then theres
the $6 or more handling charge for each ticket, the mailing fee, the
$12 parking fee, the $6 soft drink, $8 beer, etc.
And for the privilege of spending $300 or more to catch a concert with
your sweetheart, chances are you will have to stand up the entire show
because there are always a few lamebrains in the front row who won‘t
sit down and that causes a chain reaction that runs through the entire