A Pack A Day • 20 May 2008

Thinks are so weird here.

I am looking for a vice. Something about a little oral-fixative input seems to help me, and this is no time for undoing the primal reasons for that.

Up for consideration:

  1. Gum
  2. Decaf

Gum: Pros: fresh breath, totally enjoyable, nobody will see me in my office, I’m probably clenching anyway. Cons: low class and immature, jaw tension, sugar or aspartame (and creates a taste for extreme sweetness), I can’t eat just one piece (or just three, for that matter: I’m a pack-a-day gum chewer).

Decaf: Pros: it actually settles my stomach, approval from professors who see me sharing their addiction, non-verbal in-group bonding with fellow afflictees in line at the café, easier for me to kick than gum because I don’t truly like it. Cons: Rotgut. Drugs. Coffee breath.

Leaning toward Vice Number One. But taking suggestions.

Back to the regularly-scheduled physical turn the next time I check in here. I would like to revise what I said about EPB before the body knows it too well for the mind to say why.


  • Posted 20 May 2008 at 7:24 pm | #

    How about chewing on a toothpick? No one messes with a toothpick chewer!

  • Posted 20 May 2008 at 7:30 pm | #

    That is an excellent idea.

    I remember when I was in junior high we would get cinnamon-flavored toothpicks at the skating rink in town on Friday nights. Have not seen such things in years…

    Going to the student union right now…

  • Posted 20 May 2008 at 8:15 pm | #

    Celery. Whip out a stalk of celery now and then and munch it down. A drawback is that if you munch too many stalks of celery, your belly will be kinda full of celery. It’s largely water though.

    Also, I found that raw spinach gives my mouth a fresher feeling than does chewing gum. Pull a few spinach leaves out of your bag now and then and roll them carefully, as one would roll a cigarette, then munch them thoughtfully and you’d score MASS eccentricity points. I get the impression this latter point is very important in your line of work.

  • V
    Posted 20 May 2008 at 8:18 pm | #

    Unsalted sunflower seeds. The whole process of cracking them open with your teeth and extracting the seed out of the shell without using both hands is incredibly entertaining.

  • Posted 20 May 2008 at 8:44 pm | #

    That would be excellent for my reputation, Carl. Currently, the much that I lack in eccentricity I make up for in excitability. I could drop my social skills… or start rolling spinach (which is never far away since I have a little fridge here in my office).

    I will get some unsalted seeds. Talk about a habit to keep hidden. 🙂 All the farm kids could do it when I was young, but I never got the trick of it and preferred to chew horsetail grass.

    No tongue-dexterity humor now… but V, can you knot maraschino cherry stems?

    Also: I just found this. I don’t really like owning things, but I like owning things that carry things. Am big on bags and cases, especially of quasi-industrial materials like vinyl and stainless steel. And the zippo reference here is funny.

  • Posted 20 May 2008 at 8:51 pm | #

    Oh no, but this one has a pocket clip. Product features (advert copy):

    * Food Grade Stainless Steel Pocket Toothpick Holder with Pocket Clip

    * Sleek Design! Great Executive Gift

    * Can Be Engraved for the Personal Touch

    * Great for the Person who has Everything!

    * Will Last a Lifetime!

  • V
    Posted 20 May 2008 at 9:01 pm | #

    LOL, I never tried! Would make me feel very Sherilyn Fenn in Twin Peaks, though. I need more glamour in my life right now.

  • Posted 20 May 2008 at 10:34 pm | #

    Oh man! That toothpick holder is so MONEY! I wonder if there’s a model available to flips open with a ‘zip-ching’ sound just like a Zippo.

  • Posted 20 May 2008 at 10:41 pm | #

    Isn’t it great?

    A Zippo model would be best. Maybe you could repurpose one? Wonder if you could get it past security.

    Though toothpicks that have been sitting next to butane might not be so great. And there’s the whole spark/kindling/fuel thing with that idea.

  • Posted 20 May 2008 at 10:44 pm | #

    I was trying to recall the source of that image—of course it is the lovely Audrey Horne.

    If only sunflower seeds could be that cool. Or, “eccentric.”

  • Posted 21 May 2008 at 2:37 am | #

    Hi (0v0)
    I tried the gum routine. Boy, when I do something, I really do it. I had to get out of that routine. Aspartame is potentially carcinogenic. Some people are sensitive to sugar alcohols (anything that ends in “itol” is one – maltitol, xylotol, etc.) If you don’t have a problem with that (I do) then that would be better than anything with sugar, which is as much a drug as real coffee.

    I think all the suggestions so far as good – celery won’t make you gain weight, nor spinach. That seems like a good idea Carl came up with. Vanessa’s sunflower seeds could be a good idea, if you don’t eat too many. The problem I have with them is that my sister was morbidly obese before her gastric bypass and she used to eat these non stop, so I associate “eating like a bird” with eating all day long = gain weight.
    Cody’s toothpick idea is great. I like Denteks. Would it be rude to use them in public? Probably. But sleek toothpicks are probably cool.


  • Posted 21 May 2008 at 4:03 pm | #

    Australian Tea Tree Chewing Sticks?!? Now THAT’S eccentric!

  • R
    Posted 21 May 2008 at 5:06 pm | #

    remember how Jenny Douglass used to chew on licorice root?

    (“Liquorice is popular in Italy [particularly in the South] and Spain in its natural form. The root of the plant is simply dug up, washed and chewed as mouth-freshener.” -Wikipedia)

  • Posted 21 May 2008 at 5:44 pm | #

    Hi, OVO! Just go for both! Decaf will interrupt your gum chewing and the gum will alleviate your coffee breath. Why do you need a vice anyway? I have so much trouble of getting rid of mine (sunflower seeds – they will kill me, I am telling ya). 🙂

  • Posted 21 May 2008 at 5:51 pm | #

    Oh, and don’t forget about pipes! You wouldn’t have to smoke your pipe, just clench it between your teeth. Think Fred MacMurray.

  • flint
    Posted 21 May 2008 at 8:36 pm | #

    Please don’t start with the gum again.

    Other options:
    -Bourgie Tea
    -Marijuana Cigarettes
    -Bourgie Tea
    -Yes, the tea tree chewing sticks
    -Wearing lipstick
    -Carrots, anything phallic
    -Other waterproof things

    That toothpick holder looks really wrong in a good way.

  • Posted 21 May 2008 at 9:43 pm | #

    Why do I need a vice. You’re right. Alfia, I’m guessing your seeds vice came about while you were writing your dissertation, and were actually a useful crutch to get through that. My body is looking for distractions because writing is stressful. I’m woefully reminded of how deeply western writers are associated with drunkenness and smoking (or at least tons of coffee): even now, a lot of the best western writers have horrible drinking problems. The bottle of scotch in the bottom drawer—the cliche of the American newspaper man—was actually the case when I was a journalist.

    Given the yoga, I should be able to keep my body quiet through the creative writing process. But these days, as I compose, my mouth wants to move. Badly. I could drink water constantly, but then I’d have to go all the way down the hall to pee every 20 minutes. Not efficient.

    But bourgie tea, if it were sufficiently pungent and bitter (no green tea after noon, though), that would slow me down. Hrm.

    I am afraid I’ll make a mess with “chewing sticks” but am going to try it because the toothpick holder is awesome.

    Waterproof things… straws?

    Also, digging up some licorice root sounds interesting. I wonder if fennel would get caught in my teeth. Or if licorice or fennel breath would qualify as eccentric.

  • Posted 21 May 2008 at 9:45 pm | #

    It’s true I’ve had a gum problem in the past.

  • Posted 21 May 2008 at 11:40 pm | #

    It’s been my impression that writers become drunks because of not writing. Are you implying that you risk whiling away your days, slumped in your desk chair and staring blankly at your monitor, with a sea of foil gum wrappers strewn about the floor at your feet? Don’t worry, I think you’ll be okay.

    Alfia is absolutely right: Not having vices makes the most sense.

    Indian groceries have fennel seeds with bright, multi-colored sugar coatings. They look like tiny Chicklets and they’re SUPER cheap. Maybe a snuff container full of fennel seeds would be fun. I can’t imagine wanting to munch enough of them that they could be considered a vice.

  • Guest
    Posted 21 May 2008 at 11:50 pm | #

    What I do is just lick my forearm. Tastes good, it’s low-cost, and people of the opposite sex get turned on, baby.

  • Posted 22 May 2008 at 12:01 am | #

    Oh Guest (laughing), whoever you might be… please tell me this is not a reference to my prep for UKKC?

    Are you saying I need to generate enough sweat to hit it without the quick tongue-to-outer-wrist? I didn’t think anyone saw that. It is pretty gross, honestly.

  • Posted 22 May 2008 at 5:26 pm | #

    It is hard to write and eat seeds. I managed, though. 😀 You are right, vices accumulate during the stressfull times.
    I had a very hard time writing because: 1) I am a bordeline ADD/narcoleptic, 2) English is hard for me 3) I am not a writer even in Russian and 4) I am lazy. It was easier for me to talk than to write, so I was talking into my cassete recorder and then transcribed it all. It might seem like a double work, but in fact it consederable speeded up things for me and I was also commended on the “simplicity of my writing”. When I was trascribing my ramblings, I could actually watch TV at the same time, which pacified my ADD.
    I am sure you do not need to go to these lenghts. Gum and decaf – good vices! 🙂

  • Posted 22 May 2008 at 5:28 pm | #

    I can’t imagine wanting to munch enough of them that they could be considered a vice.

    We will see about this, Carl. I have a new jar of fennel seed, rooibos tea, and non-flavored toothpicks here today.

    You seem to think that obsessive or addictive behavior is unlikely just because it’s objectively stupid and irrational. I have my shit together in relationships, finances, politics, profession, but there’s this total element of irrationality in my relationship to my work. I have stupid obsessions and tics, and they increase with productivity. (If I am not as engaged in work, I find it much easier to be sane, still, and in control—more a witness of my experience than an immediate creator of it.)

    I feel like I accept this element of irrationality and non-control because working creatively has to be a bit existentially unsettling and eerie. You are not following a set path but playing with the edges of thoughts and arguments that do not yet exist. If I were more methodical—like MOST social scientists now (academic work is increasingly billed as a technocratic pursuit)—I would be less weird. I’d also be more engaged in “normal science,” less capable of creativity, and BORED OUT OF MY MIND.

  • Posted 22 May 2008 at 5:35 pm | #

    Alfia, have you actually been diagnosed ADD?

    I joke that I’m ADD, but think I really would be without the yoga. One of my mentors says the best academics are simultaneously ADD and OCD. Kind of awful! But it’s a recognition that a little mental affliction, if painful and annoying, fosters new lines of intellectual play.

  • Posted 22 May 2008 at 5:55 pm | #

    No, I haven’t been oficially diagnosed. I always was a successful student, so nobody even bothered trying to look for the problems. I noticed, though, that I am different from others pretty early. My attention span is miniscule, I need to alternate activities often and I fall asleep if I am immobile during the lectures, no matter how interesting the lectures are. I study with my tv on, my audiobook on and ironing laundry, all at the same time. You have to admit, this is not quite normal, no?

  • Posted 22 May 2008 at 10:53 pm | #

    since you’re going for the longer chewing sessions I withdrawal my suggestion of toothpick and submit cocktail straw/mixer instead. better for chewing, it is.

  • Posted 23 May 2008 at 3:03 am | #

    Hi (0v0)
    Hmm. Alfia, hope you’re back reading, well no matter, I can write to you offblog. Falling asleep during lectures could be a hypoglycemic manifestation and not a result of ADD. I’m not medically trained, but at least it’s my, what do you call it? anectdotal experience. I used to have those spasms where I would fall asleep for a few seconds but I don’t since consuming fiber puddings. They stabilize the blood sugar. OK, maybe I’ll just copy paste that and email it to you.

    (0v0), yoga is central to my being centered, otherwise, I’d either socialize at work or be totally distracted all the time.

  • V
    Posted 23 May 2008 at 2:02 pm | #

    “I have my shit together in relationships, finances, politics, profession, but there’s this total element of irrationality in my relationship to my work”

    I think everyone has a couple of blind spots. At least I do. Have my shit very together in quite a few aspects of my life, and then there is the odd one where all my friends wonder where’s my common sense gone. Go figure.

  • Posted 24 May 2008 at 5:12 pm | #

    what’s wrong with vices, as long as they don’t hurt you? celery seem like a good suggestion! i was thinking of cinnamon sticks in small pieces? i like that cinnamon gum, except it only tastes good for a few minutes and is pretty hard on the jaws…

  • Posted 25 May 2008 at 8:13 pm | #

    The cafe on campus gives out free cinnamon sticks. I tend to make a mess of them… they get chewy after a while.

    It’s a really good thing I never got in to smoking.

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