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Black Lamb

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Now in its 14th year of publication, this magazine was created to offer the discerning reader a stimulating selection of excellent original writing. Black Lamb Review is a literate rather than a literary publication. Regular columns by writers in a variety of geographic locations and vocations are supplemented by features, reviews, articles on books and authors, and a selection of “departments,” including an acerbic advice column and a lamb recipe.

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The hardest thing

November 1st, 2006

BY ALAN ALBRIGHT

The sun filters through those tall, coastal redwoods whose scale makes you feel as though you were a kid again, living amongst giants. Matilda and I pulled into Big Sur, found a campsite amidst the redwoods. Followed our rituals. The facilities were in good order, although out back there was a passle of young teenagers smoking up a storm. Didn’t need to hear them to know where they came from. But I asked anyway… in French.

Pollywogs yearning for froghood — but how do you explain all the young American women these days, puffing up a storm out back of where they work? Desperately so, from the looks of it.

“I know, I know…” they all say, while reaching for yet another cigarette. A way to stay slim, perhaps.

Smokes and….

“We ought to talk about this,” I said to my eleventh-grade English class, “but not here in school. Let’s meet at the Beethoven. I’ll introduce you to my brother, Ned.”

At that time, the International School of Paris was on rue Beethoven, and the school hangout was the Café Beethoven, down on the quais. Ned brought along an eighteen-year-old whom he’d met at an AA meeting at the American Church.

“Fire away!” they said. And the kids did. Long and hard. Not only my seventeen-year-olds, but many of the others who’d wandered in.

“What do you do if you know a twelve-year-old who’s into pot?” one of the kids asked.

“Nothing… unless he asks for help,” my brother answered.

These children of a privileged class, international or not, weren’t used to straightforward answers but recognized the ring of truth. The fruit of sixteen years of “bottom feeding,” as my brother put it. And a few years of AA.

Two hours and you could hear a pin drop. This was serious business. I was jealous. None of my students ever paid that kind of attention to me!

“What’s going on?” the waitress asked me quietly. (She didn’t speak English.) “I’ve never seen them like this.”

“There’s no drug problem here,” the school’s headmaster had said. But there were terrible problems, and no one to turn to.

One might say that drinking and smoking were the least of it.

“Oh, no!” my brother commented. “The hardest thing for me — by far — was to quit smoking.” •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Albright, All Smoking & Drinking Issue | Link to this Entry

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