May you always have a gun near to hand, and may you never need it.
Amen to that. We woke up on Tuesday, and I was on a quest to find tobacco. I failed to get an ample supply to make it through this trip. The cigarettes I smoke are Nat Sherman natural cigarettes. These are the highest-quality all-natural cigarettes available. They are made in New York, and are a little more expensive than the big brands, but I find that I smoke far less of them, and they don’t make me stink as Phillip Morris or RJ Reynolds products tend to. They don’t usually carry these at the corner store, but almost always carry them at a dedicated tobacco store – usually pipe and cigar stores, etc.
On Tuesday morning, we thought that we might make it out to the beach in Galveston, and we didn’t know where we would or would not be permitted to carry, and we didn’t want to have to leave our guns in the car unattended, so we decided to leave them locked up in the house that we are staying for the week. Through the course of the day, we felt underdressed at the Galleria – which is kind of nice actually. When you go into the Armani or Versace store WEARING Armani or Versace, they get pushy. When you walk in slumming it, they just watch you to make sure you don’t steal anything. Fine. Watch and make sure I don’t steal anything, but leave me alone for the sake of all that is good and right and hand-crafted in Italy! Frankly, I am not going to spend that on a piece of clothing. That’s why I buy all of my stuff second-hand. When I have the opportunity, I like to go in to see the current styles, nothing more. If I’m going to make an exception and spend the money on off the rack product, I will do it at Mr. Ooley’s in Oklahoma City. I have bugged those guys so many times that they deserve my business, unlike the employees of a mall store that will see me for twenty minutes in their lifetime, thank you very much.
We had lunch at O’Cajcen’s Kitchen, before we drove up and down I45, looking for a smoke shop. The fried crawfish tails were wonderful, and the service was great. We saw the first evidence of Hurricane Dolly while dining, as her torrent came down in fury for about ten minutes prior to the sun coming back out to make the humidity come up to about 682%.
On I45, I saw a billboard-sized sign that read something to the effect of “*something-or-other* Smoke Shop” and thought that sounded like the ticket to find my Nat Shermans. We pulled off the hightway and slowly navigated our way into the indicated shopping center. We pulled past empty storefronts, and one with painted windows labeled “Liquid” in neon. I don’t know whether it was a strip club or a dance club, and I don’t really care. The entire place was seedy, and I wanted to take care of my business and get out. The 4:30 position on my back was screaming that it did not have it’s gun, even though I’m not usually conciously aware of it when I’m carrying anymore. I hate to make judgements on people by their looks, but the people that I saw in the vast parking lot did not inspire trust from me.
We arrived at the storefront of the “smoke shop” and I pulled the car into a parking space by the door next to big-wheeled cars. We walked inside to seek tobacco – as one might when entering a smoke shop. Inside we found t-shirts, CD’s, and glass water bongs. There was rap music playing, and I was not completely aware that I was the only white person in the house, but everyone else was. This store is run by Victor and his brother. They didn’t tell me that they were brothers, but it was quite obvious as they looked more alike than my brother and I do. Victor introduced himself, shook my hand and asked if he could help me find anything. He was very courteous, and tried to hide the glaring fact that he thought I was lost. Ignoring the fact that all eyes in the house were on me, I reciprocated the introduction as I shook his hand and told Victor that I wanted to have a look around. He said that he would be available if I needed any help.
As we made our way around the store, I noted how it’s a shame that the Bush administration has come down so hard on drug paraphernalia, as glass water bongs are quite beautiful from an artistic standpoint. So many art glass shops have either shut down or resorted to making sex toys due to the abrupt prosecution of head shops. The selection of mouth-blown bongs, pipes, and pinch-hitters was quite impressive – as was the selection of metal varieties and lighters. I personally do not use any illegal drugs, but I was not born yesterday and knew that none of these objects were for tobacco use, regardless of what any disclaimer signs say in the shop. In fact, I did not see one cigarette, cigar, tobacco pipe, or even an ounce of pipe tobacco. That’s when we started making our way to the front of the shop to leave.
Victor stopped us on our way out and asked if we needed help finding anything. I turned to him and said, “You don’t sell any tobacco here do you?” Upon his affirmation that they did not, I said with what I imagine was a sly smile, “Oh, so it’s not THAT kind of smoke shop, huh?” A woman in the corner guffawed at my comment.
“Nah,” he replied, “We did, but we weren’t making any money at it, so he stopped carrying the cigarettes and stuff.”
“That sounds like the smart thing to do,” I said, “You’ve got to follow where the market leads, afterall.”
“Yeh. I guess maybe we should change the name of the shop, but he hasn’t gotten around to doing that,” Victor explained.
I sincerely thanked Victor for his help (and hospitality), and we returned to our car which was rattling from the bass of the car that had just pulled next to ours. The driver eyed me suspiciously as he deliberately set off the alarm of the car on the opposite side of ours with his gigantic speakers. I carefully watched Jenni get into the car and pretended not to watch all around me as I slipped into my side of the car. Jenni hit the lock button before I could get to it on my door.
Long story short, I didn’t find the exact variety that I was looking for but ultimately did find Nat Sherman cigarettes that will tide me over until next week. Standing Wolf’s words haunted me in that I would not have used my gun in the situation as it was, but it sure would have been nice to have it at my side. I hope I never find myself in a situation where I’m forced to resort to such violence, but I never intend to be without the means again. You just never know where you will end up, and you can never predict who you will run into or what their story will be.