I bought a couple of expensive wine glasses last week. I wanted them for the transgressive videos I was planning to make with Emily, which were to feature us both (and other people as well) ostentatiously smoking and drinking and talking. I’m thinking of including eating in the list of transgressive acts. Particularly eating ‘forbidden’ foods like chocolates, cream cakes, or cheeseburgers.
Anyway, I thought that drinking from a large, shapely wine glass was probably more transgressive than drinking from a simple glass or tumbler. It had me thinking that smoking cigars and pipes is more transgressively in-your-face than smoking cigarettes.
What, for example, could be more transgressive than smoking a meerschaum pipe like this?
Particularly when this particular pipe is even smoking its own little pipe. One might imagine an infinity of meerschaum pipes that are each one smoking their own meerschaum pipes, with faint plumes of smoke arising from each and every one
Cigarettes are very discreet, and almost invisible in comparison with such a huge work of art as the pipe above. Imagine lighting up that fucker in a crowded room, with a mushroom cloud of smoke ascending from its bowl with each puff.
So why was it that it was against cigarettes that the war on smoking was first launched, with cigars and pipes initially exempted from the onslaught? Shouldn’t it have been the other way round?
Cigars and pipes are slow and heavy and relatively expensive ways of smoking tobacco. Cigarettes are quick and cheap and light. The cigarette, I often think, is the military way of smoking. Cigarettes come in minimalist packs just like bullets come in clips. And both bullets and cigarettes get fired. The chain-smoker almost mimics the machine gun, with one tab following another into the firing chamber. Which suggests that true chain-smokers should keep their cigarettes in belts or bandoliers, the cigarette butts from which would be sprayed out sideways like spent bullet cases from machine guns.
Maybe cigarettes were reviled because they were quick and cheap and light, and made smoking an ubiquitous popular pastime. Much like vinyl records made music into an ubiquitous popular product, freed from the concert halls where it had classically been consumed. Hasn’t cheap pop music always been regarded as inferior to expensive classical music?
And I smoke the cheapest of cheap cigarettes: roll-ups. And I even use the cheapest of cheap filters in my cheap roll-ups: I use bits of scrunched-up paper. How cheap can you get? How low can you go?
And maybe hookers are reviled because they’re cheap women who can be bought for a few dollars on a street corner. And respectable married women are respected because they sell themselves dear with elaborate marriage contracts. And nuns are respected most highly of all, because they are priceless. Each is valued according to the price that is placed upon them, just like cigarettes and pipes and cigars. Or wine glasses. Or anything else.
And yet, if I were to arrive in some city somewhere, I wouldn’t go looking for the company of nuns. Nor that of respectable married women. I like the company of girls who smoke cigarettes, drink beer, cuss loudly and profanely, and wear lipstick and mascara and mini-skirts and high heels. In short, I prefer the company of hookers to that of nuns. And, above all, I like the company of those cheapest of cheap hookers: the ones who will give out for a couple of beers and a bag of chips and an evening of music and conversation.
One might say that the sexual revolution of the sixties was the result of a catastrophic collapse in the price of sex. And if there were no longer many hookers on the streets of London in the 1960s (I never saw any at all) as there had been in the 1940s or before, it was because they were being undercut by an army of hot mini-skirted chicks who would have sex for next to nothing.
And if, when visiting Paris in the mid-1970s, I saw lots of elegant prostitutes as I walked through Pigalle, it was because the same thing had yet to happen in Paris as it had in London.
And if migrants from Morocco and Tunisia become rapists in Paris or Brussels or Berlin, it’s perhaps because they find themselves surrounded by cheap hookers, and they can’t be bothered to pay even the lowest of prices for them, and so steal them instead. For rapists, the price of sex is zero. And if they have complete contempt for the women they rape, it’s because they value them according to their price.
All of which will most likely serve to drive up the price of sex, and cause hemlines to fall, high heels to vanish, and parents to lock up their daughters – and prostitutes to re-appear on the streets.
Which is probably exactly what the pinch-faced puritans in Lifestyle Control want to see happen, just like the pinch-faced puritans in Tobacco Control want to drive the price of tobacco through the stratosphere.