Monday, June 17, 2013

Priorities: A Sequel

I quit smoking last April. It was two whole months before I understood the error of my ways.

Lately I'm wondering if I qualify for the esteemed smoker's title of "inveterate." I've progressed from unapologetic to pathologic. When I know a friend is about to take an international flight, I ask if he'd mind picking me up a carton of duty-free Dunhills before I'll ask where he's going. That's addict-think. So is counting the cigarettes left in your pack each morning, and considering whether it will be necessary to make a thirty-minute allocation in your time budget for a trip to the tobacconist. (If you have to skip lunch, so be it.) That's why the carton is such a great thing to have. The worst thing about a pack of cigarettes (aside from the tar and carcinogens) is when it's empty, and the carton secures you the peace of mind of knowing that whenever there's an empty pack, it will be instantly replaced with a fresh and gorgeous virgin box from your closet.

I quit playing Magic: the Gathering in 1997 or '98, around the release of the Tempest set. It was the only sensible decision. The longer you're in the game, playing other people who are in in the game, the more pointed your preoccupation with Your Deck. Your deck must perform effectively and beautifully. As soon as your deck starts losing to other decks that employ new strategies utilizing new cards in a new set, it is imperative to the utmost urgency that you get to work augmenting it to thrive in the new game environment. So you buy more cards and replace your deck's underperforming elements with them. Your deck starts winning games again. Before long it comes up against another new sort of deck with another new strategy predicated on another new batch of cards, so you have to either retool the deck again or design a whole new one from scratch. Either way, you need new cards and you need more cards. You always need more cards, and this goes on forever. So yeah, as you know, I recently elected to start playing again.

Last night, during a moment of lucidity and determination, I decided I was tired of the distracted arms race paranoia of the committed Magic player and the smoker's shortness of breath, and vowed to abstain from both cigarettes and Magic until next Saturday (at the very minimum).

I approached the ladyfriend, who is a nonsmoker (and really rather athletic and health conscious) and for whom "gaming" usually refers to Bananagrams. "I've made two decisions," I told her, "and I want you to help me uphold them."

"Sure," she said.

"First: I'm promising myself I won't smoke another cigarette until at least this Saturday."

"Okay. Cool."

"So take these cigarettes and if I come asking you for them, try to dissuade me. But relent if you have to; I mean, if there's no reasoning with me, then there's no reasoning with me."

"Yeah, sure. I'll do that."

"Second: I need a break from Magic. I'm swearing off it for at least a week."

"Swampwalk Who Whisper"
by "Yellow Pigeon"

"So...yeah. I said it. That’s that."

"I'll do whatever I can to help."

"Thanks, I appreciate it."

"You have my full support and I think it’s excellent you’re doing this."

"Abstaining from smoking?"

"Um. The other one."

"...Your point is taken."

"I mean, whatever, man; do what makes you happy."


"But if you're thinking you can only do one or the other, here are your cigarettes back."


  1. kill two birds with one stone and smoke the cards

    1. Honestly, I might as well just start using most of them as tippy material. When I started playing again I went through all my old cards expecting to discover a trove of forgotten gems. 95% of what I found is just cardboard.

  2. Wonder if that exchange betrays the always worrying attitude the "normal" people have against gaming in all its forms. Either childish, dorky, time-wasteful, or whatever other remarks that society places on games and those who enjoy them, it's rather sad that people would encourage you to consume harmful substances rather than having to look down on you or get some spilled scorn for being associated with you.

    1. Maybe. But there was an awful lot of suppressed mutual laughter.

  3. Your girlyfriend is a keeper. Kicked both cigs and MtG about a year-and-a-half ago (seven years and three years, respectively), and while it damn near killed me with anxiety, respiratory infections, and a lack of shit to occupy my hands, mouth, and brain with, it was ultimately better for me, and I pretty much did it solo.

    Hang in there.

    (Sheoldred's actually the foundation of the last deck I played. W/U/B/G Birthing Pod. Eerie coincidence.)

  4. My girlfriend serves only to fuel my obsessions by telling me smoking makes me look more attractive, and fashioning me Game of Thrones character face masks out of crude inkjet prints and bits of elastic at the weekends - whilst at a glance this may seem the endearing actions of a kook, I'd take the humorous stand-off with undertones of 'no seriously - that's a nerdy obsession' any day... it would probably prolong my life and spare the inevitable spiral of alzheimers madness i'll face in later life where i'm convinced i'm a bannerman of House Lannister.