I had wondered when David Sedaris, who grew up mainly in the Raleigh, NC area, would get around to writing about his erstwhile hometown’s primary industry. Well, I need wonder no more. Here’s a taste from early in his piece, after he has related that when he began smoking, he learned that possessing cigarettes makes one, to paraphrase, a magnet for moochers of all stripes:
Take this guy who approached me after I left the store, this guy with a long black braid. It wasn’t the gentle, ropy kind you’d have if you played the flute but something more akin to a bullwhip: a prison braid, I told myself. A month earlier, I might have simply cowered, but now I put a cigarette in my mouth—the way you might if you were about to be executed. This man was going to rob me, then lash me with his braid and set me on fire—but no. “Give me one of those,” he said, and he pointed to the pack I was holding. I handed him a Viceroy, and when he thanked me I smiled and thanked him back.
It was, I later thought, as if I’d been carrying a bouquet and he’d asked me for a single daisy. He loved flowers, I loved flowers, and wasn’t it beautiful that our mutual appreciation could transcend our various differences, and somehow bring us together? I must have thought, too, that had the situation been reversed he would have been happy to give me a cigarette, though my theory was never tested. I may have been a Boy Scout for only two years, but the motto stuck with me forever: “Be Prepared.” This does not mean “Be Prepared to Ask People for Shit”; it means “Think Ahead and Plan Accordingly, Especially in Regard to Your Vices.”
Read the whole essay here.