Smokin' mad

Nicotine Nation's Rosa Parks

The first time I lit the cigarette, down front at the State Theatre, two of the five members of the band onstage were smoking.

The bouncer was on me in an instant. He politely but sternly informed me that there was no smoking in the building, something I already knew; the State has been smoke-free for a few weeks now. I pointed out that some of the musicians were smoking and asked why they were allowed to do so while I wasn't.

"What do you want me to do, stop the show?" he asked, and told me again to put my cigarette out.

I did so — scraped off the ember on the hard floor in front of the barricade and stuck the half-smoked butt behind my ear.

A few songs later, when I lit it again, three members of the band onstage — The Twilight Singers, who'd been briefly augmented by another vocalist but were back down to five — were smoking.

I was Making A Point.

Neither the bouncer nor I was quite as polite during the second exchange. He told me this was my final warning. I again pointed out that more than half of the musicians were smoking and that the venue didn't serve any food and that nobody around me seemed bothered by the smoke. He told me that if he saw me smoking again, I would be ejected, and I said something to the effect that, in that case, he might as well go ahead and toss me out.

So he rolled his eyes heavenward, as if asking God why he had to deal with such assholes (God's probable answer: because you're a bouncer at a live-music venue), and he did.

He very professionally pulled my free hand — the one not holding the $8 draft beer — behind my back and hustled me back through the sparse crowd and up the aisle. At the back of the main room, he snatched the beer out of my hand and set it on one of the club's waist-high dividing walls without slowing. He beelined me through the lobby/bar area and out the front door, releasing me back into the wild.

Where I proceeded to have a shit fit.

Not a don't-you-know-who-I-am or we'll-see-who-has-the-last-laugh-buddy shit fit, mind you. It was a Righteous shit-fit. This wasn't about me or about the bouncer, with whom I had absolutely no problem; the guy was just doing his job. No, this was about The Principle Of The Thing. This was about the American Smoker. I was a spokesman for — nay, a symbol of — the entirety of an oppressed minority. I was the Rosa Parks of Nicotine Nation. I would not lie down. I would not go quietly.

At some point, Becks came out to see what the hell was going on and I waved her inside — not now, sweetie, the men are talking — with barely a glance.

When I paused in my holding forth for a moment to think of some new synonyms for "ridiculous," "outrageous" and "fucking bullshit," Mustache Dave, one of the building's owners, went inside to see if he could smooth things over. He came back just in time to get another earful of my rhetoric and to see the bouncer poke his head out the door and let us all know that if I somehow managed to find my way back into the show, I would be re-bounced with extreme prejudice.

(Definitely a good call on his part — if I did get back in, I was gonna go right down front and light another coffin nail. I was going to continue Making A Point.)

Eventually, I ran out of hot air. Becks came back out and suggested that further demonstration on my part would yield nothing but more trouble and we left.

On the ride home, I got the sense that she wasn't too happy with my performance. When I asked her why she was mad at me and not the goddamn tobacco Nazis, she basically told me I was acting like an asshole without coming out and saying I was acting like an asshole, which only incensed me further. We got home.

She went to bed.

I called Tony No Clubs, the other owner of the State Theatre, and made vague, preposterous noises about looking into the legality of arbitrarily banning smoking in entertainment venues. Tony No Clubs tried to remind me that places like the St. Pete Times Forum and USF Sun Dome are nonsmoking. I didn't want to hear that shit.

Then I sat on the couch and fumed and felt sorry for myself for a while.

It took a good, sobering full night's sleep to make me realize what I would've known all along had I not been an idiot with a snootful of Coronas and bourbon and blinding indignation:

It doesn't matter what Point you're trying to Make if you're acting like an asshole. The point becomes moot. No, actually, it's worse than the point becoming moot. The point changes entirely.

The point becomes, this guy's an asshole.

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