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Tobacco Takes Series Against Me, 2-0

In a lifetime filled with exciting adventures and thrilling escapades, only two have involved nicotine.

Both these tobacco-related encounters were also thrilling and exciting, but with an added component of nauseating. And most memorably by my first experience. 

Sixty two years ago my older brother, at that point in his career employed as batboy for the Cleveland Indians, came home from work late one afternoon with half a pouch of Beechnut chewing tobacco, just like the big leaguers use. 

You betcha I tried it, eagerly! And I enjoyed every single second of that experience, which lasted about 10. (Seconds.) 

The long version is that I wound up swallowing a pint or so of saliva-infused tobacco juice most of which I deposited in, or at least near, the bathroom toilet. Short version: Hella sick the rest of that afternoon and well beyond the dinner hour, which I happily skipped. The euphemism “hella sick” does little to describe my robust, nonstop vomiting, and for a surprisingly long time. 

My stomach turned upside-down and popped out my ears. I was throwing up from my toenails to my teeth, and went from weeping to praying to promising never to swallow raw tobacco forever and ever. (And, honestly, it was a promise that was easy to keep. In fact I’ve wondered about people who say it’s so verry harrrd to stop smoking; I think it’s the easiest thing I’ve ever done.) 

But that was six decades ago, and my fat plug of chewing tobacco gave me a lifetime vaccine against nicotine. I’m immune to tobacco’s seductive advertising and I’m comfy in smoke-filled bars. Most of my roommates, many of my girlfriends and all of my wives have been smokers, and so what? Some wore plaid underwear, and who cares? 

And yet I wonder. Why are so many people determined to smoke cigarettes despite the health warnings, the ever-increasing price of a pack, and the public shunning of all who inhale dried vegetable fumes? What’s so great about nicotine? 

My sister says if the world was scheduled to end in a week the first thing she’d do is buy a carton of cigarettes. A friend who lives in Mendocino has tried every drug (and it’s a long long list) known to earthlings says her favorite, by far, is tobacco. 

So nicotine seems intriguing and mysterious. Have you heard about the hottest craze since Cap’n Crunch cereal? It’s ZYN, a new, sneaky nicotine delivery system hoping to cash in before Democrats A) outlaw it, then B) find out what it is. Chuck Schumer has already promised to make it illegal but still tax it; A.O.C. and Tucker Carlson are enthusiastic ZYNsters. 

ZYN arrives from Sweden in white plastic Skoal-like containers in flavors like peppermint, cocoa bubblegum and lots of others that appeal to kids. I’m waiting for new tastes like applesauce, whirled peas and strained banana to be released and labeled with the Gerber Seal of Approval. 

Mindful of my earlier tobacco pukefest I decided to tip a timid toe into the world of ZYN. I bought a disc of the stuff at a gas station (where else?) choosing what I hoped would be a tolerable wintergreen with subtle notes of oak, vanilla and fentanyl. And I picked the mildest dosage, 3 mg, which is FDA-recommended for toddlers through preschool. 

Each teeny pillow-like pellet gets inserted betwixt upper gum and lip, to remain in place one hour. I stuck the little white wad in place, checked the time (1:46 p.m.). And Awaay We Go! 

And that, truly, was about as far as we got. A few minutes later, feeling vaguely sickish and a tad nauseous, I spit the warm, saliva-soaked pellet into my hand and tossed it. I checked a wrist, home to my Timex, and saw I’d gone four minutes before succumbing to my nicotinie-wienie hypochondria. 

Four measly minutes. What a loser. It was my paranoia from an experience back when JFK was President that had me rattled. 

I had half-expected to be writing about my heart wildly tap dancing on my ribs, hallucinations looking forward to 28 days in rehab. But it just wasn’t so. My earlier encounter with Big Tobacco sapped my will, drained my courage and made me sad myself “Why the hell am I doing this, anyway?” 

It was mildly inconvenient. Reporting much beyond that might get Tucker Carlson and A.O.C. mad at me. 

I’ve got an extra 29 pellets and may dip into a few, one at a time, to see what happens. If you hear nothing more it means ZYN killed me. Tell Chuck Schumer. 

Dog, wife and me drove over to the Atlantic coast to spend a few days walking the beaches, eating boiled seagull sandwiches and worrying ourselves sick over the fate of the Palace Hotel. TWK got car sick once about 60 years ago and begged to stay home.

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