That's incendiary, Mister Mayor

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Arrest me if you must, Mayor Bloomberg, I am guilty. I have been committing the same crime across the city for months now. I have been doing in it in my office almost daily and quite often in bars and clubs too. I was even bad at a Madonna concert in Madison Square Garden the other day. Now that was daring.

Arrest me if you must, Mayor Bloomberg, I am guilty. I have been committing the same crime across the city for months now. I have been doing in it in my office almost daily and quite often in bars and clubs too. I was even bad at a Madonna concert in Madison Square Garden the other day. Now that was daring.

This is your smoking ban that I've been breaking of course. Let me tell you, Mike, it's a bust. Haven't you been in the East Village after midnight recently? We are all sneaking fags under the table. Some places are putting the ashtrays out again. We are the ciggy-soldiers and we are fighting back.

Be off with your pesky pieties about cancer and second-hand smoke and quality of life. What about my life? I can't enjoy anything without a cigarette. Can't drink, can't drive, can't see Madonna without smoke in my lungs. Can't write this column either, come to that. In other words, I am a bit sad.

Alright, I admit it, I am not so proud about any of this after all. I don't know any smoker who can honestly claim to be happy about their addiction. But it's much worse since the Bloomberg ban came into effect. He has turned us into a grubby minority.

Light up even outdoors in Manhattan today and you get sideways glances of disgust. Dogs strain on their leashes to get away from you. Mothers shudder and tell their children not to look at the dirty smoker across the street. Exhale too fast and pigeons drop dead from the sky. We have become second-class citizens, a loathed class. Here's an idea. Why not round us all up and put us on Governors Island?

I don't want to be a leper. So it is time to stop. I am quitting. This is important - telling others of your intention to cut out the smoking, because of the shame if you fail. I have told my two children, who don't believe it for a second. Now, I have told you. And - most dauntingly of all - I have told Parker.

Parker is my smoking counsellor. A pack-a-day man until he gave up 23 years ago (he still remembers the exact date), he runs the anti-tobacco programme at my local hospital. My partner and I see him once a week for an hour. He has a Santa Claus beard and an unnerving ability to leave long gaps in conversation without worrying about it.

Parker gives us blank pages of paper and has us write lists. Ten reasons why we love to smoke. Easy peasy. Ten reasons why we should stop smoking right away. Easy too. Ten reasons why I am almost certain to fail. Easiest of all.

Actually, we are not doing so badly. We "gave up" on 30 June, although at this week's session we had to admit lapsing twice at recent parties. Parker is silent on hearing this news and I fear he might be furious. He has already told us that he rides Harley Davidsons at weekends. Just as I am ready to blubber "Sorry, forgive me, sorry," he smiles. "Giving up smoking is a process. It doesn't happen overnight."

Now he wants us to draw up a combined no-smoking contract. Not a back-of-the-envelope scrawl, but a document with real legal weight, signed before witnesses: "Whereas David wants to give up smoking and pursuant to his inability to climb one flight of stairs without gasping for breath, he hereby solemnly undertakes..." and so on. It should have reward and punishment clauses too. Stay off the fags for two months and we get a big present. We thought a two-person kayak. Fall off the wagon and we pay a whacking fine. Worse - Parker's idea - the money would go to the Bush-Cheney campaign.

Today has been particularly tricky, I am not sure why. I could tear off the patch I have on my arm and eat it. I would eat a whole pack of patches. So I am not a non-smoker quite yet. But I believe I soon will be. And it may be thanks partly to Mr Bloomberg. Smoking in New York is just getting to be too much of a drag.

Bush and the invisible protest

The city is in a muddle about all the protestors who want to come and make rude noises when George Bush arrives here for the Republican Convention at the end of August. It has already told one group, United for Justice & Peace, that its expected 250,000 supporters can march past Madison Square Garden, where the Republicans will be gathered - quick as you can, boys and girls - but must then hold their rally up and down the West Side Highway several blocks away. This means dispersing the marchers along a ribbon of Tarmac alongside the Hudson River that could stretch a mile or more, which would make setting up a stage everyone could see impossible. And the President probably won't even be aware any of them are in town.

You can understand the city's nervousness. But at the same time, what is the point of anyone protesting if they can't get near the event itself? You might as well give them permission to hold their anti-Bush and anti-war rallies in Brooklyn, Staten Island or New Jersey. Bermuda would be good. At least there they would be more comfortable and the ocean would be warm.

No wait, Bermuda is for all the rest of us. Only the mad and infirm will be staying in town when the convention is on. Politicians and journalists in other words. Damn, that's me.

Comments