Cigarettes: Those hooks run deep

Cigarettes: Those hooks run deep
The last cigarette I smoked was an all-natural, additive free American Spirit. I spent nearly four hours at my desk fighting the urge to vomit. A bitter taste moved in to my mouth and an unpleasant film covered my teeth. I didn’t open my eyes.
That was 18 months ago. Why am I craving a cigarette today?
The short answer is I’m depressed and sucking on burning hydrogen cyanide has a certain twisted appeal.
The longer answer is those cigarettes get their hooks in you deep. There have been days recently when I’ve almost searched my abdomen for the holes where the hooks once were – bloody, pus-filled holes.
But they aren’t there. It’s all in my mind. If I had a time machine, the one thing I’d tell my 15-year-old self:
“Dude, it’s 40-year-old you. Do yourself a favor and don’t even start. Put that cigarette down.”
“Whatever. It’s my body.”
“Little asshole.”
“Bite me.”
I guess you never really quit, and when you are down, there’s always three minutes alone with a smoke. A cigarette doesn’t ask you for anything. I can just stare at that little burning ember and nothing else matters. The universe ceased to exist. But you hack up that greenish, black sludge in the morning and realize that the universe never left and in fact thinks you are a douche bag.
I’ve held out so far. The truth is I know that if I lit one up, I’ll hate myself because it’s never as good as you think it will be. And the smell. I hate the smell. Whenever coworkers who haven’t quit come near me, I want to shoot them with a firehose.
Also: I work in Boulder where you receive a warmer welcome if you do naked yoga on an elementary school playground at high noon or hand out free veal samples on the Pearl Street Mall. You can also wrap yourself in a Confederate Flag, proclaim your allegiance to ISIS and sing “Cherokee Nation” off tune and –
“Sir, we respect your individuality but if you don’t put out that cigarette, we, the good people of Boulder, are going to kill you.”
My stepfather died in October from emphysema. He smoked a pack a day for 40 years. He was a strong man and worked with his hands. At the end, he was 80 pounds and choking to death on his own fluids, immobile on a hospital gurney, adrift in a deep sea of morphine. The last time I saw him I thought, “You don’t want to die like that, man.”
Confession: I would like to live long enough to die from something that entitles me to an ocean of morphine. That part didn’t seem so bad. As it stands, I’ve ruined my teeth. I’d like to keep my lungs.
I’m sad and beat down these past few weeks. There’s always an American Spirit waiting for me in the parking lot. But you aren’t going to win, nicotine. I won’t let you.

Bear with me: The first arsonist

Bear with me: The first arsonist

ROCKMONT— Cave police are searching for a caveman they say has lit a string of fires across the city, including one that damaged numerous paintings at the Cave Art Museum of Rockmont.

“This is really disappointing,” said Cave Police Chief Ork in a news conference. “We as a human race literally discovered fire last week. It seems like it will have a lot of applications as we move forward. I mean, we were in the dark and now there’s light. At night! Of course someone had to go and start lighting fires.”

Asked if police have a suspect, Ork declined to comment but then added “Carl.”

“We all know it was Carl,” Ork said. “It’s always Carl.”

Carl was arrested two moons ago on obscenity charges after he began to draw pornographic cave drawings a mere 15 minutes after cave artist Rok invented the concept of art. When reporter Bear called Carl to ask for comment on his prurient new skill, the Neanderthal invented the concept of attacking the cave media.

“Why you only write about bad things,” Carl said at the time. “Why you no write about positive stories? Somebody should sue you. Ha ha. You suck.”

Carl could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but police say he is so far suspected of lighting 17 fires at numerous locations, including five saber-toothed tiger lairs, a bag of wooly mammoth droppings in a sack left on Chief Ork’s front porch and a series of hunting paintings by Rok currently on display at the Rockmont Cave Art Museum.

“This is simply outrageous,” Rok said. “I invented art several moons ago as a way to make a statement on male cave man hegemonic tyranny in the age of hunting and gathering, and then Carl comes along and sets it on fire.”

Rok, who goes by one name only (in spite of everyone only having one name, anyway) said he plans on going to graduate school to study artisan bead making and isn’t sure when, if ever, he will take up cave painting again.

“I’m very upset right now,” he said. “I can barely walk upright. Rok mad! Rok smash!”

Fire, being hailed as a landmark innovation for humans, comes from the angry yellow ball that lives in the sky and dies every night but comes back to life in the morning, according to Dr. Arf of the Grunt Institute.

Arf was part of the team that discovered fire last week at the Sandia Man Labs. He said it’s not totally clear how the fire got loose from the angry yellow ball or whether the angry yellow ball will come seeking vengeance.

He added that the newly discovered substance has applications in warming and illuminating caves, food preparation and curing small children of evil spirit possession. It also has a nice, earthy aroma, he said.

“Of course, Carl showed us all that it’s also good for setting dumpsters on fire,” Arf said. “And the poop on the chief’s porch is just childish, really. What’s the matter with this guy?”

Hazy recollections of too many job interviews

Hazy recollections of too many job interviews

My editor, Kevin Kaufman, died last weekend. He was a big fan of my column but a scary editor during a job interview. The last time I applied for an internal job promotion, the interview felt like enhanced interrogation.

He will be missed.

His passing reminded me of my journey to Colorado.

I was working at a small paper in a big town in southern New Mexico.

I needed a change of scenery, and Loveland, Colo., seemed a million lovely miles away. The Reporter-Herald, that city’s local paper, needed a breaking news reporter. It was one of 16 or so papers I applied to work at and the only one that called.

My first interview went fairly well except for the following question: If you had to write a story on property crime and couldn’t talk to any government officials about it, who would you talk to?

I’ve never been good at hypotheticals. I said that I would go around and talk to people on the street. It was a lame answer, but all I had.

The editor gave me better responses. The ravages of time have wiped them from my memory. It was this, that and the other. He assured me that he tanked the answer the first time around.

He called a week later and said he was thinking of giving me the job, but another paper, the Longmont Times-Call, about 15 minutes down the road, needed reporters more than he did. Would I mind doing an interview with the editor there?


A week later, and I was on the phone, playing up my skills as a breaking news reporter. The editor asked the same question. I thought about saying I’d already been asked, but why let the truth get in the way of a good job interview?

“I’d talk to this, that and the other,” I answered.

“That’s pretty good,” the editor said. “But what about who, what and when?”

Things were looking pretty good. I might escape southern New Mexico yet.

The Longmont editor called and said two editors at the Boulder Daily Camera wanted to follow up with me. I now knew that Colorado had at least three towns in it aside from Denver.

It was the first time I spoke to Kaufman, and the phone call immediately took on a level of intensity I was not used to.

And there was the question again: If you had to write a story on property crime and couldn’t talk to any government officials about it, who would you talk to?

“I’d say I’d speak to this, that, the other, who, what and when but also whoever and why not?”

“Wow, you really listed a lot of people there,” Kaufman said.

“That’s because I’ve heard the question three times.”

(Rats, I wasn’t supposed to say that.)

“Those sons of bitches stole my question,” Kaufman barked.

I’m not a religious man, but I’ll tell you this — Kaufman is at the pearly gates right now, and he’s asking the questions.


John Bear: Reporter, officer of the law

John Bear: Reporter, officer of the law

I used pinwheels and a pair of LA Lights sneakers to fashion a crude light bar in my four-cylinder pickup and parked just out of sight along the busy street outside the newsroom.

My first customer of the day was a gentleman of about 50 driving a white Subaru wagon. I didn’t have a radar gun, but I could tell he was speeding. “Eyeballing it” is the proper term. After pulling up behind him, I activated my lights then stuck my head out of the driver’s side window and made siren noises.

He pulled over. Oh my god! He actually pulled over!

I exited my truck, put on my mirrored aviator sunglasses and approached the Subaru. It was the first traffic stop of my new career. The adrenaline began to well up inside me. It was exciting and terrifying all at once. My teeth chattered ever so slightly. I walked up to his window and tapped on it until he rolled down his window.

“Can I help you?” he asked, his left eyebrow cocked a little too high for my liking.

“Sir,” I began, trying to speak with authority but remain approachable. “Do you know why I stopped you?”

He looked confused for a beat.

“You’re not a police officer.”

“Well, not exactly, sir,” I replied. “I’m a hybrid police officer and journalist.”

“What the hell is that?”

“I was confused myself,” I said. “It turns out that our local police have launched an app that allows them to report the news directly to the citizens. I assumed that if they are becoming journalists, I can become a police officer.”

“Oh my god. They didn’t actually do that? Hubris is what I’d call that.”

“I’m afraid so, sir. I’m going to need to see your license, registration and proof of insurance. I’m pretty sure you were speeding.”

“But you’re not a cop.”

“I had the same thought, sir, but I figure since the police think they can do my job, their job can’t be all that hard. So here I am. To be totally honest, my editor is super pissed because I owe her three stories and I’ve been out here most of the morning.”

“You don’t even have a gun.”

“That is true, sir. I have a strict no-gun policy. I have a really bad temper, and I’m prone to fits of depression. So no guns for me. Really, it’s better for the drywall in my apartment.”

“And your badge is just tinfoil you shaped into a crude star. Is that a Nestle Crunch wrapper?”

“Well, it’s my first try at a badge. Crafts have never been my forte.”

“Look, I can see you are having a bit of fun and I appreciate how frustrating it must be to constantly have everyone act like journalism is remedial work for second-graders, but I think you should go finish your stories. I’ve got to go now.”

“I’m going to let you go with a warning today, sir. But remember, the speed limit is there for your safety. And it’s the law.”

Highlights of a more sandwich-oriented religion

Highlights of a more sandwich-oriented religion
In the beginning, God (who is a chick, by the way, and totally got screwed over, but more on that later) created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form and void and there were no sandwiches; and darkness was upon the face of the the deep where there were no condiments. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters famished.
And God said Let there be light and sandwiches: and there was light. And sandwiches and mustard. And God created the French so there would also be mayo.
And God saw the light and … We get it, there was light and darkness and yada yada. We want to hear about the sandwiches. …
Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for garnish.
Thou shalt not call a burrito a wrap for a wrap is a burrito. A torta, however, is definitely different from a sandwich but also delicious. Let thyself enjoy both in equal standing.
And unleavened bread, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers smeared with oil. You shall make them of fine wheat flour. And they shall be called tortillas and from them ye shall form tacos for tacos are also kind of a sandwich. And lo so is the quesadilla.
For I was an hungered and ye gave me a sandwich: I was thirsty and ye provided iced tea: I was a stranger and ye took me in and even had that fancy mustard and totally weren’t a jerk about me having some
Verily, I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have given a sandwich unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done also given me a sandwich.
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field and ground into a fine powder or more coarsely and unto which made many find condiments.
And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into planchas, and their spears into griddles: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more, only how to properly grill a Cubano or prepare the perfect Reuben.
This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. And it can be multigrain or not and it can be on occasion marbled.
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need of a sandwich, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth and in free sandwiches.
He that deny the poor a sandwich reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor and feed them free sandwiches and chips.

Exercise is torture part 2: ADHD boy goes to the gym

Exercise is torture part 2: ADHD boy goes to the gym
This hooded sweatshirt really feels weird against my skin. I should have worn a t-shirt under it. Will my hair will stay back if I pull the hood over? I should really get a haircut.
I forgot to wear my glasses. I wonder if my eyes are going to get worse. You don’t really need them to walk on a treadmill. It’s fine.
Try not to hit your head on that storm drain again. That was embarrassing. Dude, no one saw that. But yeah, you should really watch your head.
Oh my god, there are other people in here. Like a lot. Don’t worry about it, they aren’t looking at you. Just don’t pay any attention. There’s still an open treadmill. OK, it’s fine. But it’s not the one I usually use. That’s fine. Just use that one. I could come back later. No, don’t come back later.
Hey! They have TV on this treadmill! It’s infomercials. Press start, hook that heart attack clip on your hoody so the treadmill doesn’t rub your face off when you fall.
I wonder who watches these infomercials, let alone buys anything off of them. I would never wear anything like that watch. Who even wears watches anymore? That’s what cell phones are for. I always get fidgety when I have stuff on my wrist or hands. Hopefully, my girlfriend doesn’t insist on a ring when we get married. That would suck. I wonder if I could just get her name tattooed on my chest, something like “Susan 4 Eva!”
Wow, I wonder how long this guy next to me has been on the treadmill. I’ll have to do it as long as he does. I don’t want to look stupid. Dude, no one is looking at you. Seriously, I can’t do this right now. Do what? This endless, neurotic inner dialogue thing. Just exercise and shut up.
The tv news is coming on. I thought it would be soap operas. It’s a little disappointing. There’s no sound on. It’s weird watching the news with no sound. It’s like reading a newspaper in the dark. Wow, they misspelled parade. Look, they did it again. What the hell is a Marade? Oh, I wonder if that’s a Martin Luther King Day thing. I bet it is. It probably is.
Damn, when’s this guy next to me going to get off the treadmill. In fact no one has quit since I got in here. I don’t want to look dumb. Shut up, John.
I wish they’d open the pool. That would be wild if some dude was just face down in there. I’d totally save him. Maybe he’d be drunk and take a swing at me. I’d get a free ass kicking card. The cops probably wouldn’t believe me though. I’d go to jail.
Damn, I wish this guy would quit so I can. I’m about to faint. Come on, man.
Come on. Dude, please just go.
I just remembered: I have taco stuff in the fridge.
Damn it. I just wrote another exercise column

Bear with me: Exercise is torture

Bear with me: Exercise is torture

Exercise sucks.

I’ve come to realize this after making a New Years resolution to start working out as a way to manage my intractable depression and general state of fatness.

I have to say I’m not a fan. Not at all.

I announced my plan via Twitter: I started exercising because I want to be less of a fat bastard and more of a regular bastard. It’s awful. I have coworkers who talk about it like it’s a wonderful hobby. The hell is wrong with them? Don’t get me wrong. They are good people. Except the ones who murder. #HelpMe

I was immediately bombarded with words of support from exercise fans who follow me on Twitter.

Thanks, guys. Really.

For the record, my exercise resolution is the only one I’ve kept. The others, which I won’t go into, lasted promptly five minutes after midnight on Jan. 1.

Also for the record, I’m pretty sure some of my coworkers murder. That wasn’t a joke. Some days it’s hard to do good work with this knowledge. I myself refrain from murder. Property crime has always been my wheelhouse.

Anyway, exercise is awful.

I’ve spent 39 years abusing my body with fast food, booze, drugs and cigarettes along with a lifestyle so sedentary, rocks swing by my house to take notes.

It’s been 15 years since my last drink, but I refuse to discuss my drug use prior to 9 o’clock this morning. I’m a year clean off of cigarettes, wonderful, smelly cigarettes. I have allowed myself, if absolutely necessary, to suck the nicotine off of coworkers’ fingernails.

Fortunately, it hasn’t come to that.

During the past two weeks, I’ve taken to walking at a brisk pace on a treadmill inside the free gym at my apartment, about 25 to 30 minute at a time or until I faint. The exercise/torture machine allows you to watch videos of Mediterranean beaches, Central Park, etc. The makers of these videos should produce one where you are running for your life from zombies or angry cattle. The Running of the Bulls would be cool. It would add a sense of urgency.

Another good idea: A video where I’m being chased by an overly amorous Scarlett Johansson, Ashley Judd or Penelope Cruz. I’d also accept Zac Efron. I find him uncomfortably handsome. …

Moving right along.  The poison from cigarettes that I smoked in 1997 are being released back into my blood. I’m pretty sure booze was also trapped in my body somewhere, because after hitting the treadmill, I usually cry and call my mom in the middle of the night

I’ve learned that I have two things in common the Unabomber. We both live in Colorado, and we both wear a hooded sweatshirt well. The other people working out in the gym usually leave as soon as I show up. I promise you: I’m not here to take down industrial society. I just want to lose the love handles. I …

Oh my god. Did I just write an exercise column! I’m going home.