Smoke and Paper

Everyone knows about the effect smoke can have on…well, nearly everything.  Smoke damage can be responsible for the loss of furniture, art, clothes and so many other objects.  Cigarette smoke is truly an evil presence.  Before the smoking ban in pubs of NYC, I would come home stinking of the left-over Marlboros.  It was disgusting to me then and it’s retchingly disgusting to me now.

“Lips that touch tobacco shall not touch mine”.

But let’s consider the other side of smoke.  Wood smoke is so important in many recipes.  Who can live without smoked salmon from Norway?  Not me.

And woodsmoke gives an extra something to Irish Whiskey and such fine things as whitefish.  Woodsmoke on someones clothes does not recall a visit to a bar, no, it evokes a certain freshness.  It speaks to the camaraderie of a camp fire, the stories, the tall tales and the thoughtful silence of staring into the flames.

I’m sitting near our fire pit.  It’s the first fire we’ve had this year.  The temperature is in the 40’s.  I’m reading a book titled The Five.  It’s about the untold lives of the victims of Jack the Ripper.  I love history and I love Ripper lore.  There is smoke from the fire circling around me and my wine and my book.  The smoke wafts over my book.  It stings my eyes.  Will the book absorb the smoke?  Will I open the book one evening in the future, re-reading the part of Annie Chapman…and smell the smoke?  Perhaps when we leave this lakeside cottage for an apartment in NYC, will I open the book and begin to remember the May evening when I sat and sipped white wine and read about the tragic lives of five victims?

Smoke induces memories.

For me, most of them are fond and worth keeping in my heart.  I’m recalling campfires from my childhood days of Adirondack camping, hiking in the High Peaks as a teenager, canoe camping with my wife and my late brother, Chris.





Waiting For All Hallow’s Eve X: “Those Wild and Crazy Victorians”

Just when I thought I knew nearly everything about the Victorians, something falls into the lap of my experience that amazes and astonishes even my jaded mind.  The great Age of Victoria (who ruled England from 1840 to 1900) gave us such interesting societal practices that continue to delight us…and frighten us.  The era gave us Jack the Ripper and Downton Abbey.  I mean, what more do we really need to know about life back then?  Foggy London and high-born people of the Manor House…that’s about it.

As far as the so-called “Victorian” attitude toward sexual mores, well, ahem, don’t we all know what really happened?  Somebody was making babies, somewhere in England in the late 19th century.  After all, they needed a fresh crop of young men and women to send into the fields of Flanders to be blown into small bits by the Kaiser’s army.  (It’s interesting to note that most of the ruling families that fought against each other in WWI, were related!).

But I digress.

The Victorians did have a rather fascinating view of death.  The incidents of premature burial (before ‘clinical death’ was clearly defined) was common enough that many people were terrified of being buried alive.  I don’t think I’d care much for the idea, myself.  Something like that happening can ruin your whole day.  A number of wealthy oldsters, when planning their own funerals and tombs, would have a bell system installed.  That way, if they woke up in a casket, all they had to do was pull a string and a bell would ring in the caretakers office. Imagine the poor cemetery worker, sitting by a tiny fire in a little cottage inside the walls of the graveyard, hearing the bell go off.  (Now, there’s a blog!!!).

It was also the fashion among some families to pose the deceased in such a way to deny the finality of death.

Here is a photo that I took from somewhere on the Internet…probably Pinterest.  This image is not a fake.

Look closely at the picture.  The women are sisters.

The blonde woman is dead.

What do you think?  Comments anyone?