Wednesday, July 06, 2005

So Provincial

I spoke to an old medical school friend yesterday. He's moving on from one post to another and is excited for the change. When we went to medical school I recall many days following classes or work, having dinner at his apartment, or vice versa, complete with drinks and a few smokes to blow off some stress.

Although it's been a few years since I've had any tobacco, thinking about it now makes my fingers grope for the feel of the white burning objects that, although so light on the fingers, were so full on the lips, throat, and mind. I liked pushing the smoke out with my tongue before snapping it back in. He wouldn't let any of the smoke out, even for a moment. He'd breathe it in deeply and you could see the smoke several breaths later, especially if the setting sun backlit him.

We spoke of our families. He is a member of an ethnic minority. Even though it is not a favored ethnicity on medical school admission committees, he has always been a proud member of it. This runs counter to my own mixed and muddled sense of ethnic identity. The little sense of belonging into a specific ethnic group has faded into nothing. I am me, nothing else. On the other hand, my friend has seemingly retreated within his ethnicity. If like attracts like, his friends, his wife, his future partners, and his extended family are all cases in point. I never made much of this, other than to find it peculiar that someone so driven, so smart, and so otherwise independently minded and worldly could at the same time show such simple tribal loyalty. How could a fellow who enjoys the world's finest tobacco as a blend, see the rest of the population in crude tribal groups?

This is none of my concern, except his tribe hates some other tribes for evils committed generations ago. And he takes these, lights them up, inhales them deeply and does not breathe a relaxing stream of exhaust. How can this sophisticated city dweller not think to laugh at his silly strain of categorization?

Since meeting my friend, who keeps this aspect of his thoughts so quiet that I did not even know it was a part of him while sharing a cigarette on his porch; I have met more vitriolic examples among my doctor friends. And I have realized that this is not something that is only unattractive is carried too far. It is as ugly, and necessitates ugliness, in small quantities, as it does in large.

Under the porch were the byproducts of our smoking. When we had gotten the power out of the cigarettes and sent their fumes out in the atmosphere in lovely plumes of gray, we'd leave dead butts that were sodden and half rotten in the dirt. Now I know all to well: it's a filthy habit.

8 Comments:

Blogger marybishop said...

I like the way you wrote this post...great analogy and tone...

Even though, I smoke from time to time...

But of course, that wasn't what this post was about.

8:16 AM  
Blogger laurenbove said...

Hi Doc: Glad you quit. It's better for you and I'd prefer not to have a habit control me, if I can help it.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Doc NOS said...

Yeah, you start by controling your habit and end with your habits controling you.

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