It seems to me that whenever I visit a place – whether it’s a city, a park, or even the local grocery store – there is always some kind of center of gravity. There’s some spot that I seem to consistently return to, a “home base” if you will. When you’re with someone, in a city that is not “home”, such a spot can make it easy to go your own way and then find each other again without having to draw a map.
This was that “spot” in Charleston. It’s a bench in front of the Gibbes Museum of Art on Meeting St. We didn’t pick it because we’re lovers of fine art (we never entered the place) or even because it was centrally located (although it comes close). Nope. The reason was far more mundane than that.
My wife is the kindest, gentlest soul I’ve ever met. But she has one really bad habit – she smokes. She’s always smoked. Nothing I’ve ever said or done has had even the smallest impact on that awful vice. She knows the risks and she’s seen what it can do to people. Doesn’t matter. It’s an addiction I will never understand. The ironic thing is that in my gut I have this feeling that she’ll outlive me, and I’ve never smoked a day in my life. So much for statistics.
Anyway, this turned out to be the perfect spot for her to sit down, rest, and light up. It was relatively quiet, out of the way, and out of the sun. Others used it for the same reason. So I dubbed it “The Smoking Lounge”. If you look close, you can see butts on the ground around the bench. If I wanted to go explore some street or alley and she didn’t, we’d just meet back here. It was the perfect place.
Not surprisingly, cigarettes are much cheaper in the south. In South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, she could buy a carton for about half what she pays here in NY ($40 versus about $80). I don’t agree with a lot that the state of NY does, but they’re making it extremely difficult for people to smoke here – especially young people. Hell, you can buy certain illegal drugs for less than a pack of cigarettes. Of course, the tobacco industry is still strong in those southern states. They’re not about to kill the golden goose. While on the road, we stopped at a restaurant in Virginia and I was shocked when they asked, “smoking or non-smoking”? I haven’t heard that in a long time.
Needless to say, she stocked up while we were there. In a very twisted way, I guess that makes sense.