Hand_rolledby Brian Clarey

I took the death of journalist David Carr pretty hard last week.

He was a hero of mine who hustled his way onto the staff of the Twin City Reader in Minnesota with nothing but a solid story lead and a good stream of BS, later becoming editor of the paper and then the Washington City Paper, landing that gig after his first stint in rehab for heroin, alcohol and cocaine addiction.

That he ascended to the staff of the New York Times is a thing that gives alt-weekly guys like me hope.

Carr dropped dead in the Times newsroom due to untreated lung cancer, an autopsy revealed. And though I have more than a few things in common with Carr, I don’t want that to be one of them.

Smoking cigarettes is one of the few stupid things I did as a kid that I’m still doing, and it’s inevitable that I will one day quit. But for now, I’m cutting down through the roll-your-own method.

I picked up a pouch of organic tobacco — healthy! — and now every time I want a smoke, I have to twist one up. It makes my smoking a more deliberate thing, effectively halving my intake — no more chain-smoking in the car unless I’ve pre-rolled a few — and giving me more control of dosage. I can’t finish a whole cigarette in this freezing weather anyway.

It cuts down on my litter, because I’m not constantly dropping filtered butts on the ground or throwing out a carton’s worth of empty cardboard packs every week. And it’s significantly cheaper, too.

The downside: Hand-rolled smokes tend to make my fingertips sort of orange. And when I fire one up in the car at a stoplight, sometimes people think I’m smoking a joint. Also, you know, lung cancer.

And that’s the thing. Carr the editor was a legendary lion in every newsroom in which he worked, including the one he died in. But Carr the man, who survived addiction, relapse and a previous bout with cancer, was felled by tobacco. Hopefully I can learn one last thing from his life.

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