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I Miss Everything About Smoking But The Smoking

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Parliaments. Of all the cigarettes out there, Parliaments were my paramour. I loved the way they burned, they way they tasted and their color scheme. And 6 ½ years ago I said goodbye. It was like saying goodbye to a passionate love affair that is exciting and rebellious and fun because it’s dangerous and I love being part of a minority subculture. But it was unhealthy, I didn’t feel good in the morning and my clothes stunk. And for me, smelling bad in anyway is the kiss of death. Absolutely mortifying. So I quit. And never went back…

A couple of months ago, I auditioned for a film that requires smoking. No problem. I’m going get a pack of those tea cigarettes that they use on Mad Men. I can smoke and not worry about it.

Let me tell you – those tea cigarettes were nothing like my delicious Parliaments. They were disgusting. They tasted like dry grass and not the fun kind. But, I began to remember all the great things that came with the act of smoking, vs the smoking itself.

First and foremost, the 6+ minutes of stepping outside and smoking is a wonderful time of meditation and reset. I get to stop my busy life and mind and simply observe my surroundings. When I was “practicing” my smoking with my tea cigarette one night I watched life in action on the corner of Melrose and Beachwood. I saw a biker zoom by, the clouds gently pass by the almost full moon. I watched 2 elderly Asian women leave a dinner party, climb into their Cadillac and systematically dump pieces of garbage from their car onto the street and drive away. I saw a timed sprinkler turn on and watch the way the street lights reflected the water on the ground – red, then green, a quick yellow and back to red…I heard the corner store security guard speak to his buddy in a foreign language until they burst out laughing. These are simple moments of life and I witnessed them because I was standing out there with an activity that had a beginning, middle, and end. I had a reason to be out there.

The question then becomes – do I need a reason to stand out there? No. But it helps to have a purpose. It’s also a great way to meet people. I brought my tea cigarettes to a roadhouse in Joshua Tree and met a couple of fabulous artists because they needed a light. We talked through a couple of cigarettes and went our merry ways. I highly doubt we would have had that conversation if I had just been standing outside for no reason like a weirdo. Simply taking a couple minutes to be reflective outside of a bar in the desert socially is awkward even if it makes sense in theory.

I also have the choice to be social or not when smoking. There’s a built in permission to leave, because you’ve finished the cigarette, or stay by lighting another one. Also, I miss the tools and ritual. I love having a lighter, I love packing the pack and flipping the lucky cigarette, and I miss my classy cigarette case. The accouterment and activity around smoking I miss. The effects and health hazards I don’t. Not to mention the profound disgust I have for tobacco companies, their employees and corporate practices. They are right up there in bed with insurance companies and their shitty behavior.

I must say this: with so much of our lives spent on the phone, I miss the “life observer” I get to be as a smoker. People everywhere, in every environment imaginable are on their damn phone all the time. And I am one of those people too sometimes. As an artist, I need to witness life happening as it happens and the times I’ve been outside smoking my rose tea “cigarettes” I get to see it and be a part of it, with a purpose, unencumbered by the trappings of my phone. And in that witnessing, I am inspired to write and incorporate the details of what I’m seeing into my work. Though it’s working for me now, I wish I didn’t need this literal smoke screen to do it.

Katie Wallack

About Katie Wallack

Katie Wallack is a professional actress and active union member. She serves on SAG-AFTRA’s Commercial Performers Committee and Commercials Contract Standing Committee, and partnered with the grass roots group Union Working. Katie began graduate school in 2017 at Claremont Lincoln University pursuing a Masters Degree in Ethical Leadership. She received numerous scholarships including the John L. Dales Scholarship from SAG-AFTRA Foundation. Her undergrad degree is in Theater and Dance from Trinity College. Katie’s recent film projects include “Mum” for Shoot ‘Em Up show, “Stillwater”, and “Wight Christmas” shot on location in her hometown – Anchorage Alaska. In addition to her theatrical credits, she has been seen in numerous commercial campaigns over the years, including McDonald’s and Ford Service.