Tuesday, July 31, 2007

75 Years of Getting the Girls

I didn't know it until making another round of my daily internet stops this evening, but it's the 75th anniversary of the Zippo lighter. (Hat tip to Ace). It's amazing when you think about it--the design has remained virtually unchanged since the very beginning.

I like to brag that I've never smoked a cigarette in my entire life, and it's true, I haven't, but I've owned the same Zippo lighter since 1997.

One night, I was sitting out in my 'Arizona room' attached to the back of the house, playing my acoustic guitar and just chillin' out late in the evening when there was a knock at the door. I had no idea who would be showing up after 10 o'clock, but I was surprised to see Reverend Dave standing there with a duffel bag full of clothes asking if he could crash.

Seems that he finally wised up and left that ridiculous pain in the ass of a first wife (who, oh by the way, the entire family tried to warn him off of...). Anyhow, he finally had his moment of clarity, bailed out, and needed a place to live.

Of course I invited him in, happy that he'd finally seen the light the rest of us had known for four years or so. Being in a celebratory mood, and the fact that neither of us had to go to work the next day, we decided to raise a toast and embrace the fact that bachelor life was a decent alternative to a crappy marriage.

The first thing we did was hit the liquor store for a big bottle of Scotch. Johnnie Walker Red, to be exact. Why Scotch? Well, neither one of us had ever even had a sip of Scotch before, but growing up, our favorite tv show was Black Sheep Squadron, and Pappy Boyington was always trading cases of Scotch to bribe his way into adventures and out of trouble, so being rational adult males, we chose Scotch as our particular poison.

We also decided that we needed cigars, but it was fairly late at night, so our options were pretty much limited to Walgreens for a pack of Dutch Masters and another of Swisher Sweets. Incidentally, neither one of us had ever smoked cigars before, either, or else we'd have likely gone without instead of puffing on what basically amounts to rolled-up dogshit.

While at Walgreens purchasing our bachelor-stash, we realized that neither of us owned a lighter, so we settled on a five-pack of multicolored disposable Bics, too.

We got back to the house tried to choke down the Scotch, trying both 'on the rocks' or just 'and water', and smoked our cigars, toasting Reverend Dave's new-found freedom. We liked the idea of cigars, well, tobacco in general, but the Scotch just didn't take at all. (We ended up giving the rest of the bottle to our alcoholic roommate, who liked it just fine when mixed with cranberry and vodka).

While sitting out there in the Arizona room that night, bathed in halos of blue smoke, we also decided that maybe we should try pipe tobacco, too. Our grandfather smoked a pipe for as long as I can remember, and I'll never forget the smell of his favorite Captain Black tobacco.

So the next day, it was back for more shopping, this time to a local smoke shop that sold Meerschaum pipes. We picked up a couple, along with a can of Captain Black. While browsing, I stepped into a walk-in humidor for the first time, and that was a life-altering experience for me, although at the time, we were all about the mission at hand, which was to shop for pipes.

There was also a huge display of Zippo lighters in the store, and we decided right then that we both *had* to have one.

I remembered one of my best friends in college never smoked, but he always carried a Zippo around with him. I asked him why, and he gave me a piece of very valuable advice. He said that he made it a point to always have a nice lighter on hand whenever he went out because it made is so much easier to meet chicks. Every time he was at a bar or a party and saw a girl get a cigarette out, he was Johnny-on-the-spot with his lighter, and it was an easy ice-breaker. Sometimes he could close the deal, sometimes not, but having that lighter on hand gave him an edge--and one doesn't forget stories like that.

Anyhow, we sprang for a couple of new lighters that day--Reverend Dave got a flat-black Marine Corps model, complete with the eagle, globe, and anchor, and I went with a Naval Aviation model (which I have since replaced with a basic bronze case, but the lighter itself is original. I believe Dave still has his Marine Corps model and uses it every day).

Every night for the next week, we sat outside, immersing ourselves in the pipe-smoking rituals remembered all those childhood visits with the grandparents, and did our damnedest to enjoy our new pastime. But we soon realized that smoking a pipe, while aesthetically pleasing, was a lot of hard work. That moist tobacco just didn't want to stay lit. However, we both really dug to coolness factor of the Zippo lighter, and I played with mine incessantly, clicking it open and closed in my pocket all the time, almost to the point of being a nervous habit.

We gave up on pipes a few weeks later, and revisited that walk-in humidor.

Since then, our tastes have matured quite a bit. I still don't really care for Scotch all that much, regardless of how many expensive single-malts I've tried, and I also gave up on crappy machine-made cigars almost as soon as I started on them. After years of trial-and-error, I prefer not to smoke anything except premium hand-rolled cigars from the Dominican Republic, or Cuba if I can get my hands on them. And rum is my liquor of choice.

But ten years later, I still carry around my Zippo, and I'm still using it to pick up chicks.


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