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By DICK HEDRICK
In this electronic day and age, we are inundated with highly technical critiques and comparisons of various electronic gadgets, such as smart phones, iPods, iPads and other works of wizardry. My beef is that they use language with which I am largely unfamiliar. Personally, I fear some of these technology writers may be suffering from a short circuit in their brain wiring.
A few months of primitive camping, along with some intensive therapy might contribute to their recovery. Just kidding. Actually, I grudgingly admire them. Now, as a public service for those of us who are “old school,” I am offering in laymen’s terms a critical analysis of a couple of nontechnological items of long-standing usage in today’s society.
Let’s start with books. Yes, Mr. Mike Robinson, there are still people who read books in the traditional format. There’s your hardback, which is more expensive, but certainly more long wearing than your paperbacks. Having them displayed on a nice bookshelf in a prominent location surely lends an aura of erudition to any home. However, it is mandatory they be dusted frequently so houseguests will assume you are taking them down and reading them once in awhile. Dust-covered books entangled in cobwebs are a dead giveaway the owner is the furthest thing from a true bibliophile.
Paperbacks, on the other hand, can be carried in one’s coat pocket or purse. They are light and easy to manage on buses and planes. One does not feel the same need to preserve them in prime condition, thus writing in the margins and dog-earing the pages is not an uncommon practice. In addition, there’s the price to consider.
For those of us on limited budgets, a softback collection of Louis L’Amour or John Grisham novels would be a conservative investment. And if you’re prolific reader, you can’t beat the welcoming environment of a library. There’s no cost for a library card, and as long as the books are returned within a specified time frame, you can borrow them for free.
Since tobacco products are still in vogue despite years of anti-smoking education, my “vast experience” in this arena might be useful. The cigar was my early favorite.
Fifty years ago, I got a kick out of walking around the Owensboro brickyard with a Charles Denby in my mouth.
Seeing a skinny 18-year-old kid trying to imitate Groucho Marx always got a laugh, and guys working in a brickyard need a good laugh now and then. By the way, I did not inhale, and it was a rare day when I ever lit one.
As for cigarettes, they were not my personal cup of tea. They seemed a bit too effeminate. After all, lots of girls my age smoked cigarettes. I needed something bolder and more manly. Around the age of 19, I decided to try chewing tobacco. This was not one of my best moments. Incidentally, we didn’t have sissy tobacco like Skoal back then. Having been provided a rather large portion of Twist Tobacco by a highly reputable chewer and spitter, I gave it my best shot. After coughing and spitting nonstop for three days, I switched back to chewing gum. What the heck was I thinking?
During his retirement years, my Grandfather Hedrick enjoyed his “pipe of play” while listening to the radio in his favorite rocking chair. A tin carton of Prince Albert pipe tobacco and an ash tray were prominently featured within easy reach. There was a certain allure around this daily ritual, as the old gentleman for whom I had unconditional admiration deftly packed the tobacco granules into the bowl, struck the match on the sole of his shoe and applied the tiny flame to the toxic leaves.
By sucking on the stem in just the right measure, ignition invariably occurred.
I must admit, the ensuing aroma and vision of tiny rings of smoke arising from the bowl held me spellbound. However, while thoroughly enjoying those Norman Rockwell moments, I never became a convert. Although smokers themselves, my grandfather and my dad convinced me to take up healthier habits. They were from the “do as I say, not as I do” school of discipline. My sincere thanks to the both of you.
In summary, my advice is to “pick your poison” carefully. Just be mindful that smoking a pack of cigarettes a day costs the average household more than $1,700 a year. Double that amount for two packs. You might be better off using that extra money to purchase a few good books. Better yet, visit your local library. Tell Beverly I sent you.
Hedrick lives in Rockport and is a regular columnist for the Spencer County Journal-Democrat.