“Is that where you’re most at peace?” I ask. “ Out in the bay?”
“Nah, I don’t know—you’re asking me a very short time after I quit smoking.” He laughs.
“You miss it, don’t you.” I say.
“ I miss this.” He mimes a long luxurious inhale. “You know, look at me—I’m chewing on ice! But I’m comfortable, I think. I’m basically not tortured right now.”

He shakes his head. “But I think sleep is a big waste of time.” He laughs. “It’s like school. I mean, when I’m not, like, building something—whether that’s writing, or with my kids, teaching them how to do something, or making a movie, or whatever—when I’m not building something, and I’m not driving, and I’m not fucking”—another laugh—“what am I doing? Unless I’m just hungover as a son of a bitch, then I can lay in a bed pretty good and do nothing, you know? Cigarettes were great for that. That’s what they’re for.

Taken verbatim from an interview of Sean Penn by James Kaplan in the December 2000 issue of Details Magazine.

I will pity my parents six months from now, when I’ll likely move in with them and not quit smoking until I pull in the drive. They will have to tolerate my nagging, obnoxious, and infuriating ass as I go through the initial stages of withdrawl, before the calm comes. And it has always come. I wouldn’t smoke so much if I didn’t think so much or write so much. I would smoke less if I lived more outside of my own head, my own apartment. I would smoke less if I were in love, maybe. That’s worked for short stints before. And it doesn’t help that I agree with old Sean, who quit smoking on his 40th birthday this year, 26 days before the above interview.

Smoking’s what you do when the finer points of a day have passed, when you burn at your fingers what smolders in your head, after some argument where you were caught almost crying. If you’re like me, it’s what you do when you write, and when you write as much as I do, or sit at a screen thinking of what to write, that’s a lot of cigarettes. Right now, I’m fending off the caffeine rush I foolishly gave myself when I went out for coffee earlier tonight with a friend. I am getting to the age where I simply can’t have coffee after 6pm. I’m jittering from my liquid meal of a beer to get me sleepy, chain smoking like a son of a bitch. Why? Because, well, that’s what they’re there for.

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