I remember the short, black marks that covered the surface of the night table next to my father’s side of the bed. They were cigarette burns from when he fell asleep, a lit butt dropping softly out of the ashtray onto the table where it scarred the wood before burning out. My dad smoked Pall Malls—and for period of time, More, those long, thin, dark brown cigarettes that were advertised to women. He smoked a couple of packs a day for decades. His aunts and uncles had smoked more than that, and for those of us of a certain generation, our childhood was filled with cigarette smoke (you’ll find ashtrays on living room tables and backyard decks in our family photo albums). I recall the haze of the smoking car on commuter trains, and it wasn’t uncommon to see someone brazen enough to smoke in a subway car, never mind airplanes, movie theaters, and sports arenas.
I wasn't especially interested in smoking myself—a first attempt in second grade convinced me there wasn't anything so special about it—but when I saw my svelte uncle from Belgium roll his own, I was fascinated with the ceremony of cigarettes. There was something about the whole affair that made you more of a grown up.
Almost every cartoon character I doodled had a cigarette dangling from his or her lips—like Lucky Luke, one of Belgium's most popular comics of the time. Once I got a little older, the idea of cigarette case—even if you kept gum in there like Michael Keaton did in Johnny Dangerously—proved an irresistible affectation.