Thursday, August 10, 2017

So much depends upon an orange lighter.

In 1991 Camel cigarettes still advertised. You could smoke in bars and if you went to clubs in Chicago there were girls paid by the company handing out cigarettes. Camel branded everything. They had a cartoon camel. It was still okay to smoke.

It's not, anymore, and probably never was - though I still do. I had a few zippos at the time. I still do. It's a better option than disposable plastic lighters. I may be a nasty smoker, but I'm somewhat sane and responsible about the world and all. I had one in particular.

I dated a woman when I was 21 who was a couple of years older than me. Not by a lot, but enough. I had something of a motif going with women older than I was. The theme was that I would date them and at the same time resent them for being more experienced or well travelled than I was. In my younger days I had a lot of sicknesses that I'm too tired to maintain anymore. Let's call this young lady Liz. Liz was 25 or so and had brutalized me by having dated before she met me and by having enjoyed a life without me. I wrecked it. That relationship,I mean. Wrecked it. Cheated. Fucked up. Didn't keep a promise or show respect.  Even though I've always been convinced my wife would have loved Liz. She was a pretty great person, had amazing taste in music, was funny, cute, Sharp, confident. She drew a straight, simple line through life and if I had been able to do the same or follow that line my life would be super different now. Not better, but different. I really did love her, though I had no idea how to at the time.

In those dark days before she knew I existed she once went to Mardi Gras with a guy she was dating. At some point on an evening I can now imagine would have been a pretty fantastic the guy she was with stole a lighter. I wasn't hurt by that. I wasn't even hurt that she kept it. It was a fabulous, worn, orange, Camel zippo. The lighter was brass, but painted a neon orange, so where the paint had worn through the bras showed on the edges and corners and suff. Somehting about it was beautiful. The only piece of the story I remember is that this guy had lifted it from an old hooker in NOLA. I lifted it from her when she left me.

Those were simpler times and I once forgot it on the bar of a Hooters in Downer's Grove. When it was there the next day I decided it was imbued with more than some sort of abstract, undefinable mojo, but also decanted luck from object to bearer. It was a variety of contact magic I never believed in but practiced, nonetheless. When Matt had a first terrible break up he was bouncing between Florida and Illinois and I gave him the lighter because I thought he needed it more than me. He gave it back when I got sick. I gave it back when his second break up got ugly. I hope he still has it.

There's no narrative in this. This isn't a story. But in my head the lighter was something more than a totem or familiar and it has more than passive contact magic. It has something to do with Five Year Jacket and I don't know what what.

Still, it belongs on this page.


  1. I'm no authority, but to this day Aristotle still ranks among one of my favorite songs ever, with some of the most delightful lyrics I've heard. I realize it has nothing overtly to do with an orange lighter, but it is a comment long overdue.


  2. Having a drink tonight in the South Pacific. Acousticky music is ebbing from the stage as the lone musician plays. Small stage, small crowd.
    It's not a cover; it's recognizable, though. It brings me back decades to a small bar in Plano. I hear Five Year Jacket's Aristotle echo in my head and wonder. What has happened to the crew? The music? Are they still out there, maybe on the Interwebs?
    They are, there's a blog I can read as I nurse this beer, and now I miss smoking - not for the nicotine... for the Zippos.

  3. I love not knowing who is saying what, but that something is being said. I was pretty sure this would be a pile of bones only me and Matt and Jay would find. Happy that's not the case. Love and well wishes to y'all.