Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Cigarette Lighter

CIGARETTE LIGHTER, (written by Jack Pendarvis), is the subject of a book in the Bloomsbury's series called Object Lessons. If all of them are as clever as this one, I must read them. I am a bit doubtful "waste" or "dust" or "golf ball" can hold my interest as completely as this one did, but who knows. I am curious as to whether the publisher has rounded up all the best comic writers to write these little treatises. Perhaps most of them are serious  and disappointment awaits me because cigarette lighters speak to romance as you will see from the book's examples. 

Jack Pendarvis' book is as charming, comprehensive, and as comical as his stories (Your Body is Changing). Not only do we get a lot of useful information about cigarette lighters, we get a tour through their place in cinema and culture, a match-up (ha!) between the match and the cigarette lighter as masculine/feminine symbols, a discussion of lighters as collectible items, their place in history,  and the associated role of tobacco.

                                    Lighters are Jerry Bruckheimer. Matches are David Lynch
                                    A lighter is a threat. A match is a promise.

A few of my own cigarette lighter stories:

As Jack mentioned men that did not smoke during World War 2 were looked on as odd. My father did not smoke but adopted the habit of carrying a nifty lighter anyway. He could light my mother's cigarette and perhaps other women's as well. His was the smallest lighter I have ever seen because it had to jockey for room in his pocket with his enormous set of keys that fastened to a belt loop via a long gold chain. 

I was seventeen and staying at an older friend's apartment. Another friend and I were smoking long past the hour the owner has gone to bed. My friend, let's call her Merrie, had the only lighter. It was a chartreuse one I admired. But it was a bic, and as bics or Bics, were known to do, it ran out of fluid. For the rest of the nigh,t until dawn, in fact,, we lit our cigarettes from each other's. It was a night of intimacy never repeated. When dawn came, it suddenly became ridiculous and we put out a last cigarette and fell asleep. Could we have been so desperate about lighting up that this makes sense?

Both the ashtrays and the cigarette lighters in our house were gorgeous. We had a huge lighter on the coffee table and it occupied a pride of place. The task of filling it went to my father despite his being a non-smoker. It was almost ceremonial. I wonder if at the moment cigarettes were proven to be deadly, people threw such things away. They also seem to be gone or in the hands of collectors.

I chose one of my first boyfriends, Rick O'Brien because he could light a cigarette so beautifully. His Zippo never failed him. He even whipped it out of his pocket with panache. He worked in a service station, having dropped out of high school, and I liked to stand across the street at night and watch him light up.  When he picked me up at school in his souped up convertible, the first thing I did was put a cigarette in my mouth for him to light.We were in Grease before Grease.

Enough of my wayward youth.

 I highly recommend the book. Even if you never smoked (and I hope you didn't) it will bring back many movie memories and lots of great information. Terrific stuff.


Jennifer Croissant said...

There are three men in a boat with four cigarettes but no matches, how do they smoke ?, easy, they throw one cigarette over the side and make the boat a cigarette lighter!.

Al Tucher said...

Go wait in the car, Jennifer.


I wish lighters were good for something other than lighting tobacco, because I love them.

Charles Gramlich said...

Never really smoked much but I have carried lighters at times, particularly whenever I was going camping. Very handy.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

One of the main attractions of smoking for me was carrying a lighter. I can remember having to add lighter fluid to it. I always wanted a Zippo but never did get one.

I love the mental image of you in Grease.

Other books in that series that sound interesting to me : Bookshelf and Hotel.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

One of the main attractions of smoking for me was carrying a lighter. I can remember having to add lighter fluid to it. I always wanted a Zippo but never did get one.

I love the mental image of you in Grease.

Other books in that series that sound interesting to me : Bookshelf and Hotel.

James Reasoner said...

I carried a lighter every day from junior high on through college, even though I never smoked, on the theory that you never knew when you might need one. Same reason I carried a knife. It really was a different era, wasn't it?

pattinase (abbott) said...

Your pockets must have been heavy, James. It was a different era. When people see Grease they think it's a fantasy of the era but it was fairly realistic to my experience of a few years later. I belonged to a girls gang, that spent most of their time picking out a pin to wear. Lots of stupid but fun stuff. Of course, the smoking should not have happened. But who knew in 1964?
Hood sort of fascinates me. A hood on a stove, a jacket, a hoodlum. Which is it if any.
Lighters are good for collecting, Al. But as a frequenter of flea markets I hardly ever see any good ones.

Mean Johnny One-Note said...

Smoking does make you look incredibly cool especially if you`re using a flash and expensive lighter to light them (or even if you`re using a cheap 85 cent Bic one!), i think all this nonsense about smoking being bad for you is a load of old cobblers, yet another lame conspiracy conjured up by the corrupt authorities to stop people from enjoying their lives, like so many other lame conspiracys of a similar nature!.

Dominique Rocheteau said...

Jennifers joke was from the old Batman show from the 1960`s, i remembered it from when i was a kid.

TracyK said...

I will have to re-watch Grease and see how much it seems like my experience of the time. I was in high school in 1964, but I was pretty tame as a teenager.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think it depends where you went to school, Tracy. It mirror my years in Philly public schools more than my years in suburban private schools.

Cap'n Bob said...

I read Jennifer's joke in Boys' Life in the fifties. As for lighters, I bought a Zippo two years before I started smoking at age 15. I liked doing tricks with it like snapping the top open and dragging it across my pant's leg to light it. I believe I paid 98 cents for it and it disappeared about ten years later, although I used disposables occasionally during my mid-teens. I quit smoking about 36 years ago but still keep a Bic around for emergencies or lighting fires in the fireplace.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I quit about 30 years ago. I hope it was soon enough.