Warning: Buster's method to stop
smoking can be dangerous

If there were a clothing store called The Complete Nerd, that’s where I would shop . . . because my retirement wardrobe consists of short-sleeved shirts (often called golf shirts, though I don’t play the game), khaki pants, white gym socks and sneakers. This wardrobe is simple, often sloppy (though I prefer the word “casual”).

Here in Bluffton, SC, you don’t need anything else, though many folks wear shorts instead of pants, a practice I abandoned because the sight of my shapely legs was too much for the six zillion stinging insects who reside in my yard. They all wanted a piece of me. Repellents do not repel them; their bites are itchy, sometimes painful. To insects, my blood is like fine wine.

Lately I noticed my shirts share an annoying weakness. My wife thinks our washer may be to blame, but we’re not about to get a new one just because my shirts wimp out in the spin cycle. After a few washings, these shirts are left with two small holes, one at each corner of the stitching at the bottom of the neckline area that holds two or three buttons and the button holes.

As a retired old fart, I’m entitled to be disheveled. Actually, it’s expected in Bluffton, which is on the mainland side of the bridge to Hilton Head Island. If we had chosen to live on the island, I might get away with the same wardrobe, but would be expected to wear only designer versions, maintaining them in perfect condition and buying new ones every few months. I’d also have to take up golf. Worst of all, I’d have to become a conservative Republican.

So while I may still be a Northerner at heart, I’m grateful to be where I can wear the same clothes year 'round. I’m not even upset about my shirts because they are an amusing reminder of my late father, Buster Major.

DAD WAS a smoker. Chesterfields was his brand. It was his most annoying habit, though I swear cigarette smoke didn’t smell so bad 60 years ago as it does today. Memories are often unreliable, but my recollection is that sitting in Syracuse’s MacArthur Stadium in 1949, surrounded by smokers, was not an unpleasant experience. Unhealthy, perhaps, but not unpleasant. Today, however, the acrid smoke from one cigarette is reason for a mass evacuation.

But that’s neither here nor there. The point of this piece is that my father was addicted to cigarettes and eventually found a rather bizarre way of kicking the habit.

It began in the 1960s with a significant increase in the price of cigarettes. Ever the good Democrat, my father blamed New York’s Republican Governor, Nelson Rockefeller, who championed the increase in the state tax on cigarettes. My father decided to boycott his beloved Chesterfields. But he didn’t stop smoking.

INSTEAD he started buying Zig Zag cigarette paper and cans of Union Leader tobacco so that he could roll his own. Apparently Zig Zag was more often used to roll marijuana, so some looked at my father in a new light. Had the former mayor of Solvay become a pot head? No, he had entered the first stage of what became The Buster Major Method to kick the smoking habit, though it’s a wonder his plan didn’t kill him. That’s why I don’t recommend The Buster Major Method.

It began as a money-saving idea. That is, he rolled his cigarettes loosely, using less tobacco than was recommended. He stretched his tobacco, all right, but when he smoked his cigarettes he looked like a strange magician whose trick required him to wrap his mouth around a sparkler and puff on it while sparks burst forth and showered his shirts. Why he never went up in flames I’ll never know.

As months went by. his cigarettes became looser . . . and looser. He could have been the opening act at a fireworks display.

It took a few years, but his deliberately inferior cigarettes eventually had the desired effect. My father couldn’t take them anymore. Or maybe my mother threatened to call the fire department. In any event, he quit smoking and like most former nicotine addicts became an often obnoxious crusader against cigarettes.

SINCE HE was not a clothes shopper, he lived out his life wearing the same outfits he had worn for many years. Each shirt front had dozens of tiny burn holes, souvenirs of The Buster Major Method.

He saved his Union Leader cans, using them to store keys, nails, drill bits, nuts, bolts and a variety of other things. After he died, those cans were passed on to family members. I gave mine to my children as mementos of this unusual chapter in their grandfather’s life. I don’t need them because inadvertently I now my own collection of mementos: a closet full of holey shirts.