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by Jeff Wilkin

Type A To Z

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Features reporter Jeff Wilkin on pop culture

Smoking Aces

Last week, I wrote about my ongoing disagreements with the insect world.

The stealthy and sneaky mosquito is number one of my hit list. She is persona non grata in my Albany neighborhood, but still shows up every summer, whining for sustenance. With brown bats in decline, mosquitoes have received free passes to slice into people and sip a few drops of blood.

We used to spray on the OFF! And I’ve used those foul-smelling mosquito coils that are designed to scatter skeeters. I’m kind of down on both methods, because the fewer chemicals I put on my skin and in my lungs, the better I feel. Beer does not count here.

This past weekend, I had visitors from Rochester. Tom Wedow, Pete Geremia and Chris Durbin are racing fans, and visited for a couple cards at Saratoga Race Course. These boys like to gamble; they also like to booze a little. And smoke.

Among the rules at my house — besides mandatory sweltering for all summer visitors inside the joint — is no smoking cigarettes inside. People may catch fire as they sleep in guest rooms that are not air conditioned, and that type of smoking is permitted. But people who crack open decks of Lucky Strikes, Viceroys and Chesterfields are lighting up outside. Young Mr. Wedow — we called him “Weeds” in the days of old — has made so many smoke stops on the steps outside my front door that neighbors must think I hire a butler once in a while.

Anyway, we adjourned to the backyard of my Albany stronghold for cordials on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. And I was thinking that while I do not particularly enjoy the scent of cigarette smoke, I’ll bet mosquitoes enjoy it a lot less. Tommy smoked a few Mavericks, Pete had his Marlboros lit and Chris supplied plumes from Parliament.

I don’t think a mosquito landed in my yard the whole night. Any blood-seeker crazy enough to challenge columns of wispy smoke certainly lost her way or lost her life as she aimed for an arm or a leg. Yeah, all the biters are female. They need blood to fertilize their eggs.

Weeds has had plenty of experience smoking out bugs. I hate to say it, but the Beatles were still together when Tom fired up his first Winston. I’m sure he’ll quit some day. But this past weekend, he had no problem ensuring cigarette smoke was hazardous to mosquito health. I hope the hapless bugs were thinking something like “Gad, what fresh hell is this!” as they spiraled to their dooms, hacking and coughing at the final curtain.

In the photo here someplace, Pete is on the left, Weeds is in the center and Chris is on the right. The mosquitoes are all dead or dying, choking to death in the grass.

These guys ought to rent themselves out for backyard parties during the summer. For $50 — and free beer, food and smokes — they’ll make sure gatherings are bug free. The fellers are more personable than bug zappers and, in a pinch, could also work as security guys. All three have the look of the assassin!

Some people might say, “Bah, you guys had so much beer and rum in you that you never even felt the mosquitoes! They bit you all night, you just never noticed.” If that is the case — and I doubt it — I’ll bet those bugs got plenty sick once they got home. “Gad, this is the worst tasting blood I’ve ever had,” they might have retched. “Tastes more like cheap beer and even cheaper rum.”

As it was, we all had good laughs about the mayhem caused for the poor, helpless mosquitoes. Smoke get in your eyes, girls? Too bad. Like that Kool menthol taste, Ms. Skito? Rather bite than switch, kid? Fly a mile for a Camel?

With any luck, word will reach mosquito headquarters that my property is full of smoke and represents instant death for all bugs. It will become a no-fly zone, and mosquitoes will give my slice of green wide berth.

Either that, or I’m going to start smoking cherry Tiparillos again.

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