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]@lJDITw@ GOT A LIGHT . v TEXT : MITCHELL SCOTT SMOKIN' YOUR WAY INTO ARGENTINE AMICABILITY So I'm in South America, right. Way down there, near the bottom of the world, traveling far away from my place of birth, alone. I had been there for a few months and seemed to have no problem meeting people. You know, local people. I studied Spanish and was proficient, although my conver­ sations were rudimentary. I couldn't talk about the ecological intricacies of farm feed but I could answer and ask basic "Get to know ya " ques­ tions. Stuff like: "De donde eres?" "Que tiempo hace en Canada ?" "Son guapas las chicas?" I was a definite gringo, a six-foot-three blond guy in purple polypropylene shirts carrying a massive dust­ cracked pack. But when I crossed from Chile into Argentina on the wind-scourged southerly island of Tierra del Fuego, things became uncharacteristically lonely. No one talked to me. I think I just became more normal. You see, in Chile and Bol ivia, most people had black hair and dark skin-charac­ cs passed on by the mixing of native and Spanish genes. In a, which has been heavily influenced by the migration of cen­ and eastern European peoples, there are blond and fair-skinned people. In addition, many students from Buenos Aires travel throughout deep-southern townships of their homeland for a taste of adven­ ture. Many of them look like me. These students were numerous, and seemed to be having a grand time traveling in packs. But none of them would talk to me. I tried approaching a few but they were somewhat rude and indignant. Then I noticed something. It happened in a small, dusty Patagonian town. In a restaurant my waiter had a smoke dangling out of his mouth, a stack of ashes threatening to drop right in my cup of java. His eyes looked heavy and bagged with the incessant induction of nicotine-laden free radicals. I looked around the cafe with probing concentration. Everyone, I mean every single person at that moment, was smoking a dart. Now, I'm a non-smoker. I've had like six and half smokes in my rtii�=I���':I�'�; :.; years since inception. I worked my smoking buddies to quit. Smoking me was bad. How could a whole society smoke? Everywhere I went everyone In bank li nes, the bathroom, everywhere. So I tried an experiment. To immerse myself in local culture, in this seemingly transcendent tradition, I spent US$.50 on a pack of Marlboros. I sat down with my journal and hacked through a couple, waited out dizzying head rushes and before I knew it I was smokin'. Here's the nutty part. Barely into my second pack a young Argentine fellow asked me for a light. "Fuego") " he inquired. "No Problema, mi amigo." It seems that in accordance with Argentine culture you have to smoke a while with the person who lights your smoke. So, Heber and I smoked and talked. When he learned I was from Canada, he had to go grab his friends so we could meet. The next thing I know I'm hooked up with a pack of five fervently feverish butt hackers from Buenos Aires who inundated me with storie " S��ked me\?W (�ry thrSUg� � mon f?{ 8r fr ave lin Argenti n a. d P O tu e a d f t I gave out packs of smokes, got asked for "fuego" all the time and inhaled copious carcinogens through many interesting conversations. I lit up wherever I wanted: in buses, phone booths, taxis, banks, restaurants. I began to love the ritual, o U) smoking while writing in my journal, or taking in the beautiful mountain scenery that thrusts out of the remote C-E CO Patagonian landscape. I tried Lucky Strikes, Marlboros and Camels. I smoked the harshest grades-up to a pack a day at _ my peak-and people seemed to accept me more. We shared a common bond. I perfected asking for a light and saying cig­ ....... :;:- arette in Spanish, which sounds somewhat romantic in Argentinean dialect. Smoking opened doors for me that I'm con­ ClI � :::J inside track. o C) c o U) . �u vinced would have remained closed if I stayed true to my non-smoker beliefs. It was my ticket, the bus pass to the But I promised myself that I would quit once I returned to Chile, which I did. I hacked back my last smoke at the border and have not smoked since. To this day, two years later, I look upon smoking a little bit differently. I know it's bad, but I am cognizant of its draw. It can be a catalyst for conversation. Smokes are a prying tool, a way to meet. And while I hate second-hand smoke and know that I never want to be a smoker, I won't chastise the act of smoking. A surreal expe­ rience in a Marlboro-addicted land 15,000 kilometers away has taught me otherwise. • s k ;:: <.? z '" Z I o -,

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