If the pack of cigarettes shown above is any indication, when it comes to smoking, two billion red Chinese can be wrong.
As you might have read here, Chicken Wire* recently took a trip over the Lunar (nee Chinese) New Year to Shanghai. On his way back, he picked me up a carton of Double Happiness cigarettes. As far as brand names go, that earns the title of being the most dubiously ironic.
Pretending for a moment that CW is a dude, and not, in fact, a corn-fed Iowan cutie, cigarettes are, next to hard liquor, about the best duty-free gift a guy can give another guy**; so when I found out that he/she had bought me a carton of Chinese smokes, my first thought was, "How mysterious! How exotic!"
I'd smoked maybe a grand total of two, perhaps three, Chinese cigarettes in my lifetime, and like the four years I spent in the company of my first wife, I remember very little, if anything, about the experience. Sure, I seem to have repressed memories of both, and as far as I can recall neither experience was particularly pleasurable -- but I love women and I love smoking, so how bad could it have been?
The answer: nightmarish.
I rediscovered this truth -- as far as the former is concerned -- just the other day. Why did it take me so long? Much like the question of why I stayed with my ex-wife through four years of misery, there's no simple explanation, but I'll hazard a theory. I put up with Double Happiness for as long as I did because a) free cigarettes! b) I'm notoriously lazy about going to the store to buy a new pack of Dunhills when I'm unkempt, and showering and getting dressed simply to take the elevator down six floors for a pack of squares is, to me, a waste of time better spent searching YouTube for the greatest blunder in sports history, and c) I'm a fucking masochist.
When it comes to food and drink, there's a lot of snobbery, a lot of denying what's pleasurable in favor of what appears to be a high-class experience; a tendency to repress one's natural instinct in search of higher meaning; a false sense of art or artistry. To an ersatz food critic, a Spamwich might not be a good meal, even though eating one feels, to some, myself in particular (Hawaiians in general), like licking the inner thigh of Venus herself. People will try to find art in anything they can nowadays, and the bored bourgeois will try to convince you that the four-hundred dollars you just spent on that glorified Denny's brunch was worth it for the exclusiveness, the -- pardon me as I fight the urge to vomit -- high-dining experience. Similarly, snub-nosed wine aficionados and microbrew beer "experts" will claim that a bottle of Yellow Tail*** or Labatt Blue are too pedestrian for the discerning imbiber.
Which is complete and utter bullshit. Live by this rule, Constant Retard: memories of taste are fleeting and do nothing to enrich our lives, while experiences do. If I had foie gras drizzled in white chocolate-emulsified Hollandaise sauce at a three-star Michelin restaurant in Paris or a box of McDonaldland Cookies on Mars, which meal do you think I'd remember more fondly? I live by the maxim that eating or drinking something unique doesn't add up to a hill of beans in comparison to the indelible memories true art creates. If it's passed through my urethra or my sphincter a couple of hours later, it can't be that lasting.
Thankfully, there isn't a whole lot of snobbery when it comes to cigarettes. That's what cigars are for!
I'm usually not too picky about what I smoke. I prefer Dunhill Lights, but pretty much anything will do in a pinch, even *gasp!* menthols. Or so I thought.
Enter: Double Happiness, or, as they should more accurately be named, Infinite Agony. I can state in all honesty that they are, without a doubt, the worst cigarettes I have ever smoked. Actually, I don't think it's fair to call them cigarettes; that'd be like calling turpentine a beverage. Inhaling a Double Happiness "cigarette" makes your tongue sting. If you're brave or, like me, masochistic enough to finish the fell thing, your tongue will be numb, your mouth will taste as though you licked a leaky battery. Smoking Double Happiness to sate a nicotine fix is akin to an alcoholic drinking a bottle of Cool Water cologne because nothing else was around. Any so-called cigarette that makes you feel as though you just took part in experimental drug testing at a pharmaceuticals lab doesn't deserve to carry the word "happiness" in its branding. Wanna know the secret to curbing teenage smoking? Hand out free packs of Double Happiness in high schools. That'll scare 'em straight.
I've smoked four packs. But no more! No more I say! Double Happiness, I want a divorce. You'll be hearing from my lawyer.
* aka Greymeat Gorilla
** Apropos of the post, how's about a little second-hand comma smoke? It's not the syntax that'll kill ya; it's the punctuation.
*** the title of my planned Asian-fetish magazine; that is until a million-dollar lawsuit put a kibosh on my dream of becoming the Larry Flynt of the Eastern Hemisphere.