I missed it for a good while. Longer than I thought I would. And less intensely.

Smoking…Cigarettes.

Oh, I’ve been quite for years. And years.

I rarely think about it now, unless I’m thinking about how glad I am that I quite. Or unless I’m at the doctor’s office filling out paper work.

Excuse me. Kiosk work.

It’s been so long that I debate, whether or not, to check it off.

Former smoker โˆš

How many? Pack a day.

But for those first…ten?…yeah, ten years, I really missed that after dinner cigarette.

And that talking on the phone cigarette.

And that first cigarette of the morning. That was probably the best one.

It’s a nasty habit. It makes your breath stink. And your clothes. And your hair.

We smoked everywhere. All of us. My friends. Everybody. In the hospital waiting room. At school. On the stage during rehearsal. Sometimes we would stamp it out right there.

On the stage…In college. Mr. Mars, my high school theatre director, would have never gone for that.

We thought we looked cool smoking, like Ava Gardner did. The way she would tap her cigarette on the lighter before she lit it…But we didn’t. We looked stupid.

My friends didn’t even know who Ava Gardner was.

Philip Marlowe, portrayed by Elliot Gould, in Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1973) smokes. A lot. Even while he’s chewing gum.

He smoked a lot in Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep (1946) too, when he was portrayed by Humphrey Bogart. And like Ava Gardner, he looked cool doing it. Weary, yes. But cool.

But in Theย Long Goodbye, Marlowe looks gross. And not just when he’s smoking either.

His clothes. They look like he’s slept in them–and he has. He even sleeps in his shoes. And he strikes kitchen matches on the wall behind his bed, leaving long black arching lines.

Then there’s way he walks. He lumbers. He’s gangly. He needs a haircut. And his facial expressions; he distorts his face in slow motion. It’s weird.

Plus he mumbles his inner dialogue. Out loud. Redundantly. He’s disjointed. He drives a Lincoln Continental. It’s super old.

Despite all of this, he has glamorous friends and a cool apartment. He lives in Los Angeles. And he likes cats. But not dogs.

One of his friends, a dreamboat actor of sorts, is accused of beating his wife to death. Marlowe sees the crime scene photos. It’s bad.

It’s worse than that. It’s horrible.

The cops say it’s an open and shut case. But Marlowe knows better. He drives his friend across the border so the poor guy can get his ducks in a row, which pisses the cops off.

Now, not only is he burdened by perpetual disconnect, he’s addled with legal problems. He needs a cash infusion. Fast. That comes to him fortuitously, by way of a missing persons case. He’s a private detective, you know.

And thus begins Marlowe’s labyrinth journey into the land of misfit characters where he should be king, but is pawn instead.

Let’s see, there’s the mucho macho writer (a never better Sterling Hayden) as long on wind, pomposity and alcohol as he is tall. And there’s the writer’s elegant, put-upon wife (Nina van Pallandt) and his scurrying detox guru (Henry Gibson)…

There’s the loan shark that Marlowe’s dreamboat actor friend owes money to and his gang of muscle-bound, bikini brief wearing henchmen, one of which is Arnold Schwarzenegger…

There’s the two corrupt Mexican officials (one of them wears that khaki uniform that Mexican officials always wear) who take bribes for the betterment of their downtrodden village–and so they can accessorize their work-in-progress Cadillac/police car. (They like their caffe` with lots of sugar.)

And there are dogs…Fornicating dogs.

Those who know Robert Altman’s work know he likes this kind of thing. Remodeling. Demolition. Deconstruction.

With McCabe & Mrs. Miller he did a rehab job. He tore down some walls, ripped up the musty old carpet and sanded the mahogany hardwoods, but he kept the basic structure intact.

Sure he was subversive. He trespassed on the property of John Wayne and John Houston; he invaded the space of Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood. But he cleaned up before he left.

With The Long Goodbye Altman deconstructs with a chainsaw. We are left gaping at the ruins–some of us with a rueful smile–while Philip Marlowe walks away with a cigarette between his lips and his conscience tarnished, but intact.