Now “smoke-easies” are nothing new. When my former hometown of Columbus, OH, banned smoking last year, my favorite bars generally didn’t pay heed. One of my favorite neighborhood watering holes got rid of their tell-tale signs of being a smoking establishment, ashtrays, and replaced them with altoid tins. It was a marvelous system. If you were “in the know,” and you wanted to smoke, you went up to the bar and asked for an altoid tin. I think it was all somehow operating under the dubious theory that if that powers-that-be entered the bar, everybody could quickly put out their cigarettes and close up the tins and the authorities would simply think the place was a mysteriously smoky pub full of altoid fiends.
I don’t think anyone seriously thought this would work, but it lent the whole thing an air of being a member of some sort of secret hipster smokers club with its own secret symbols, which everyone generally seemed to appreciate. Then, one day, the local alternative weekly, The Other Paper, published a big, front-page feature on the “smoke-easies” showcasing a large altoid tin on the cover. Upon first glancing at the cover, my friends and I were outraged. Our favorite bar had been outed! How could an alt-paper betray us all like that?
As it turns out, our special-secret-altoid-tin-using bar wasn’t even mentioned in the story, nor did it even fall in the top-ten smoking-ban offenders. Apparently, altoid tins as ashtrays was pretty common throughout the cities bars, not some special province of our bar down the street. It was very disappointing, in that same blow to hipster-hubris way as hearing “I Think I Need a New Heart” being used in that dog-food commercial.
The above story has nothing to do with anything, in fact. Sorry. I just got caught up in a moment of Columbus nostalgia.
What I wanted to point out was the greatness of the opening lines to the philly article:
I’M SIPPING A Blue Moon ale in a Philadelphia bar, Janis Joplin is wailing about Bobby McGee and I’m thinking a smoke would go great about now.
I take out one of Baby Cakes’ Parliament Lights and fire it up.
I’m smoking in a bar in Philadelphia and nobody says, “Boo!”
It’s one of those leads that makes you go, man, I know it’s only 10:17 in the morning, but why aren’t I sitting in a bar in Philadelphia sipping a blue moon and listening to Janis Joplin right now? because, my god, that sounds fabulous…. (then the writer mentions beer pennants and the NCAA, and the aura is blown, alas!).