Portrait of the Artist as a Groundhog

I wasn’t going to post anything today. I was going to hammer out the latest installment of The Back Forty tomorrow, which I still will probably do. But as my new piano is downstairs, I have to walk past all the boxes of crap I put out of sight and mind until now. Plus, I recently heard a women at work talking about moving her daughter and new husband into a new house and lamenting the fact that they elected to go through all of their boxes after they were done moving the whole mess to the new place (I did the exact same thing when I put all of my stuff in storage and waited until this current house to start once again shedding things.)

One of the things I unearthed was a box of my writing. Old journals, letters I never sent, all kinds of stuff. At the bottom of all this was a collection of printed writings, all of which had “Andrew Jackson Sigler ‘94” printed at the bottom, so I assume they’re mine. Remnants from the days that my roommate (Yes, my current roommate. Now. In 2015) and I were the editors of our high school literary magazine Ink Inc. (Still love that title). Some of them aren’t half bad. Some of them, well, puerile attempts by a bourgeois high school kid trying desperately to sound worldly and wise is what they are. And some of them are … how shall I put this … flucking wHeird as a friend of mine would say.

What follows is one of these attempts at off-Broadway prose. I should mention that this was written before I ever did any drugs whatsoever. I mean, I may have gotten drunk with the same best friend turned current roommate once or twice but still, that doesn’t provide much explanation into the truly .. well … just read for yourself:

The Struggle for Acceptance in Society

Johnny was a groundhog. He lived with his mother and father and little groundhog brothers and sisters. Johnny was well-respected member of his groundhog community. He was the captain of his groundhog softball team and always went bowling with the Good Guy Groundhog Brotherhood. But Johnny had a deep dark secret. Johnny the groundhog was claustrophobic.

Johnny’s horrible condition had come as a result of a traumatizing experience as a groundhog gimp. Being the only Catholic \groundhog family in his neighborhood, Johnny’s family was always being harassed. One night, Johnny awoke to the sounds of the Nazi Groundhog Rejuvenation alliance assembling outside the hole. Johnny woke his family and they were running out the back hole as a load of explosives, Ladyfingers, was hurled into the hole. All but Johnny’s father had escaped when the hole blew. Crushing his father. Ever since, Johnny had been afraid of groundhog holes and firecrackers.

So did his best to live his life normally, but never stayed in the hole for very long. At night, he would sneak out and sleep in a nearby pasture. One day, Johnny awoke to find a small, wild Chihuahua standing over him. The dog, Olgasa by name, sat and talked with Johnny for a spell (kinda like Looney Tunes). The two soon fell in love and Johnny took Olga back to his hole to his mother. When his mother heard of Johnny’s love for Olga, she screamed (yes, this is an old, overused Pyramus and Thisbe reference) in rage. She bellowed at him never come to her hole again. Little did she know that this is exactly what Johnny wanted, for although he loved his family, he had grown tired of his secret. He also knew interspecies relationships were shunned by groundhog Catholics.

So Johnny the groundhog and Olgasa the Chihuahua eloped and started a nudist colony for furry animal couples.

The End

  • Writers/Editors note: This is exactly the way the original appears on the page, no omissions at all.

Nuts and Smokes: The Art of Quitting

“Obnoxious, self-righteous slugs aren’t they? I’d quit smoking if I didn’t think I’d become one of them.”

  • Bill Hicks

I hate ex-smokers. Not in the way you hate you worst childhood bully or Kim Jong Un. In the way that you just can’t stand being around your born again Christian friend or that guy who has a cliché for every situation. I just can’t stand them.

To be clear, I don’t mean I hate non-smokers, though a few of them I can do without too. When I was a reporter, the city council was debating a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants and there was this ass hat that milled around outside the city council meeting with this doll in a carrier and cigarette butts all around the doll. I guess as some sort of statement that smokers just weren’t getting the point that their habit was bothersome to others and was putting hapless babies at risk of asphyxiating right there on the table. I hope that guy got lung cancer from all the exhaust he inhaled on the street on the way to the meeting. Most non-smokers are pretty cool people. They put up with the smell and the ever-present haze of tan I bring with me everywhere I go. They’re cordial about the fact that they can’t stand what I do and blow off the cloud of smoke I just inadvertently coughed in their face.

No, I mean the people who smoked adamantly up until about a year or two ago and suddenly, because they have seen the light, and now feel the need to give you disapproving looks as they look in from the car next to you or give you the stink eye as they are walking into the Target or Walmart. Especially ones who park in the handicapped spot and when they get out of the car and into their scooter you realize it’s because they can’t put down the Funyuns and Krispy Kremes. Those people need to be dropped in a desert with a compass and two days’ worth of food and then told to find water.

Can you tell yet I’m trying to quit? Makes you a little edgy. Thing is, though, it’s not so much not being able to smoke that puts you on edge. It’s the looming reality of the craving that really digs into your nerves. Knowing its coming. Being absolutely certain of the impending, colossal annoyance of the nic fit. And the thing about it is, even the craving itself isn’t the worst part. It’s that lull that comes after when you calm down a little, you relax, your heart resumes a healthy beat and you feel like celebrating living out another little storm like that by … smoking. That’s the part that really, really sucks.

I’ve armed myself with a whole arsenal of assistance and aids. Nicotine gum and lozenges, butterscotches and Blow-Pops and regular gum. I even have a Blue e-cig for those long dark nights ahead (yes, I am one of those smokers who wakes up and smokes and goes back to bed. Judge me. I’ll stab you) And I think the most valuable weapon I have is American Spirit organic cigarettes. And yes, I went online and they are no safer than the Wildhorses I usually smoke or the Marlboro Lights my Da leaves for me (incidentally Da, if you are reading this, stop dropping off nearly full packs of cowboy killers at my house. I see my neurotic hatred of seeing any food go to waste spilling over into the smokes you leave for me since you “quit” 7 years ago [Incidentally, Chantix is some bullshit too] and I’ll never be able to quit in the name of conservation. Go give them to homeless people or teenagers). But the American Spirits burn slower than the Wildhorses and don’t have as many of the some 700 carcinogens or whatever the number is that are in the rest of the pack. And since they burn slower, I usually only smoke about ¼ to 1/3 before I realize that 1) I now feel weak and stupid 2) I’m now enjoying a heartrate akin to most hummingbirds and pimple-faced adolescent boys on a date and 3) it’s going to be another couple hours at least before I get to enjoy the cravings all over again, then the glorious, light-hearted feeling of more energy and self-respect that, having given up booze 2+ years ago, I can only celebrate by … you get the idea.

My cousin once told me that the best part about quitting is the freedom you feel. Having only been at this for about a week or so, I know exactly what she meant. I look forward to the freedom from the obsession, the freedom from shame and ostracization. The freedom from the poverty. Wish me luck.