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Superman Caped Pint Glass from Warner Bros.

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This 16 ounce Superman pint glass comes with a removable cape! Although the glass is dishwasher safe, hand washing is ...

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$140.00
Is anything more fun and striking than leopard? Our beautiful take on the classic is printed on stretch cotton jersey ...

Guest Columnist: Ian O’Malley

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[Editor’s note: This website was just an idea when high school friend Ian O’Malley announced his intention to kick cigarettes — cold turkey, once and for all. Despite his belief that Styx at the Beacon Theatre is not the greatest rock and roll event of all time, the offer was extended for Ian to tell his tale when the site was ready. Celebrating 6 months smoke-free this week, please share this with anyone trying to quit.]

Meet the guy who though not saved my life, certainly added a few years to it

BY IAN O’MALLEY

I’ve always prided myself on being cognizant of my strengths and weaknesses. By being aware of both, I strive to avoid “going to into a gunfight with a knife” as it pertains to the zillion different situations life throws at you.

Now when it comes to weakness, my A#1 since I was 14 years old was … Cigarettes. Quite possibly the most vile, evil, addictive, destructive, and disgusting habit on earth. Forever, I had a Taylor/Burton-size love-hate affair with Marlboros. I LOVED the habit of smoking, where it’s almost like a heroin addict getting their fix, with all the routines and timetables involved. I HATED knowing that I was no more than a slave to my addiction, and the realization of what the end result would eventually be … all because of my weakness. Like any cigarette junkie, I tried countless times to quit, aided by every gimmick and gizmo available. Although on a few occasions I went nicotine-free for a couple of months, I always returned to the warm embrace of my mistress Marlboro, who was like the Black Widow that invited me back to her web and would eventually feel no remorse in killing me.

Fast forward to early May of this year. For the 3,546th time, I’m considering giving the old college try to quitting the cowboy killers. Being a newlywed to a fantastic woman, a new homeowner and other assorted stuff, I was more serious about it than ever. And although I meant it, I was doing fuck all about it. Typical junkie stuff …


So I find myself doing the radio show on Sunday, May 9th, and am juggling chainsaws because we’re giving away tickets to the just-announced Roger Waters 30th anniversary concerts that will be happening in the fall. Keep in mind, this is not (with all due respect) like giving away Styx tickets at the Beacon, but Roger Waters and “The Wall,” which is much more an event than a concert. Nearly every single listener would not only kill to go to the show, but knows full well that tickets will be a bitch to purchase and will not come cheaply. Needless to say, when I go on the air and state “Call now to win FREE Roger Waters tickets for this fall,” it’s just pure bedlam. People who would never even dream of calling in for a radio contest do; that combined with folks who routinely say “What the hell, I’ll give it a shot” when it comes to giveaways, makes for pure insanity and overloaded/crashing phone lines.

Then, towards the end of my air shift, I get a very simple email. It’s from one Stephen McGirr from Warwick, NY, and it more or less says …

with John Mayer, 7/21/10

“Ian, is there any other way I can win Waters tickets besides having to call in?”

I respond … “I’m pretty sure you can go to Q1043.com and enter for a chance there. What gives? Are you just fed up with busy signals and the futility of trying to win? Keep trying, someone has to win ’em’!”

To which Stephen replies … “No, the problem is that if I actually got through, you might think it’s someone joking around given what I would sound like, since I’ve have lost my natural voice due to cancer. Thank you very much, Marlboros.”

I write back that I’ve battled the cigs forever, am sorry to hear about his predicament, and if he or someone on his behalf calls for the next giveaway I wish him the best of luck and to keep trying.

Then Stephen says maybe he should tell me his story …

Now first things first. No smoker in the history of smoking will quit purely because of scare tactics via advertising or from a loved one. We know where smoking is going to get us, sooner than non-puffers … and that is dead. But I think I can speak on behalf of all folks that have any history with being addicted to nicotine that when someone says “You’re going to die a horrible death by suffocation!” that it does squat in making us give up the habit, regardless of the good intentions. You know what that sort of communication does? It makes us want to SMOKE because it’s stressful info. Unless you’ve smoked, I know this sounds absurd because, well, it is. But it’s the truth.

Let me give you a perfect example of the strength and insanity of being a cigarette addict. In 2003, I had a very close friend of mine (and one of life’s all time great guys) named Steve Hoffman die of lung cancer (although he never smoked). Steve worked at the time in management for Van Halen, and also for the long-time management of Rush. At a benefit celebration of his life, I was standing outside taking a break from the party and having a chat with Neil Peart from Rush. And we were both smoking. Here we are taking part in a habit that, though not directly responsible for the death of our friend, is directly responsible for causing the disease that killed him and hundreds of thousands of others. And we weren’t the only ones outside at that moment puffing away that night in Toronto. There were probably 20-30 partygoers doing so. It’s embarrassing when I think about it and I’m sure my buddy Steve Hoffman was looking down from heaven above just exasperated at all of our weakness to what is essentially a poisonous weed.

… so back to the present. I receive Stephen’s next email and it’s his story of what he went through with his cancer. Being a former smoker, he didn’t use scare tactics because he knew who/what he was dealing with. Not that he sugarcoated what he went through. You could sense a very calm, measured, no bullshit tonality, which I’ve always responded to. Screaming and yelling never gets my attention, nor does it make me fearful at all. Think about it. Someone yells at you: “I’m going to fucking kill you!” Unless they have a gun in their hand, you’ll probably roll your eyes or more likely start laughing like I do. Now reverse that. In the exact same tone you use to ask your spouse to pass the mashed potatoes at the dinner table, look at someone and say: “I’m. Going. To. Fucking. Kill. You.” Big difference.

So Stephen matter-of-factly goes through all the things he went through with his cancer treatment. And I’ll give (with Stephen’s approval) the CliffsNotes version of it here. Gets diagnosed, has his left vocal chord removed. Hooked up to hoses, massive doses of chemotherapy and radiation treatments (when all is said and done, he’d have 39 total). Had to relearn how to swallow, talk, drink and eat solid food. Had a feeding tube for four years. Survives, goes home and, almost a year to the day later, cancer returns and attacks his right vocal chord. Repeat all of the above. Now he has no voice and is informed that to speak, he’ll eventually be given a vibrating gizmo to be pressed on his throat. He also has to have dentures put in because of the chemo, which results in him having all his teeth pulled and his jaw broken every week until his gums were level for the dentures. He said the pain over the course of all this was pretty much indescribable and trying to give an example wouldn’t merit what it was like. He still said that the pain it caused his family was considerably worse and when he cried, it was mostly for that.

with wife Debbie

Again, while I was reading this, although it was of such a serious nature and your heart went out to him, there wasn’t one ounce of scare tactic or self pity on his part. It essentially was a story of what he went through, how he took full responsibility for the results of what was basically a selfish act (smoking) and how it all could have been avoided. There was one key thing though that it contained — a simple a three-word sentence in between each end-story timeframe and beginning of the next example of what he went through. And it was this …

“Ian please quit.”

There must have been 20 or so different segments/paragraphs of experiences he had to deal with on his road to recovery. And in between each one, there it was. “Ian please quit.”

This gets back to me talking about how the calm tonal delivery of a statement can hit like a sledgehammer. So I wrote back to Steven, thanked him for the inspiration and told him I was going to quit smoking then and there. He said he was thrilled, would offer his support and, keeping his sense of humor intact, said that if I ever felt I was going to start again, to please call him and he would sing to me to allow me to reconsider falling off the wagon. Classic.

He also mentioned that if a pair of Roger Waters tickets ever fell from the sky near me, to let him know, since he’d love to go to the show and bring his wife Carol. I told him to keep things completely honest, due to the difficulty and remote possibility of obtaining them, that it would be highly unlikely but one never knows, so I’d keep him in mind.

Fast forward to Tuesday, October 5th. I finally meet one Stephen McGirr in person. From the time I opened his first email and vowed to quit on the spot, I’d get a weekly email from him asking how I was doing, encouraging me to keep going if I indeed was still smoke-free, and stating that it only got easier the longer I went. Then he’d usually chat about his different variations of BBQ (of which he has a countywide rep as being the best around) that he’d be firing up for family and neighbors. My Sunday show became clockwork: get coffee, walk into studio, turn on computer and see email from Steve.

Tuesday, Oct 5th was also opening night for Roger Waters at MSG. After playing in and helping MC/host a charity golf tournament for the Rockland County Police widows and orphans fund (one of my favorite causes and outings) during that day, what was left of me after partying and playing golf with that wrecking crew was theoretically going to make its way to MSG to see Waters with my wife Debbie, who was equally excited that I actually got tickets.

Two days before the concert, it was my usual Sunday radio show and there was Stephen’s weekly email. I got to thinking that the guy who was instrumental in getting me to seriously get after quitting smoking was far more deserving of going to see Roger Waters than me. Between my wife and the nature of the entertainment/media business that I’ve so long been associated, I’ll admit, though I am wildly appreciative and grateful, I’m also spoiled rotten. Maybe Stephen didn’t actually save my life, but he sure as shit added a few years to it. I called up Deb, ran my idea by her, she readily agreed and encouraged it (reason #4,576 why I married her), then I dropped Stephen an email. I told him he was going to Roger Waters on Tuesday night using my tickets and it was non-negotiable, so not to argue. We’d meet about the halfway point between our respective houses (his in NY and mine in CT) the morning of my charity golf outing for the Rockland Cops. The show would be that night so timing would be perfect.

with Stephen McGirr, 10/5/10

So we sat in the cafe area of Patriot Hills Golf Club in Stony Point, NY, drinking coffee and shooting the breeze like a couple of old pals. We talked about how funny it was how we got to this point, touched a bit more on Stephen’s battle with cancer, his latest BBQ creation, how our Irish luck shows in the women we married, etc. Too soon it was time to spool things up as the tourney would be starting and he had to get things done before the concert that night. When I mentioned upon us walking out that I was thinking of writing about how we met, he said he thought it a great idea and we both agreed if it got one person who never thought they’d be able to quit smoking (like me) to do so, we would have done some good. Personally, I went cold turkey (which has the highest success rate) and I remind myself that the term “giving up” smoking is definitely one of the stupidest in human history. You don’t give up one thing when you quit smoking, only gain a world of positives.

The morning after the show I got an incredibly nice thank you note from Stephen saying the concert was truly spectacular and he and Carol had an amazing time. And this coming Sunday, when I celebrate 5 months to the day of unloading a habit that was sure to kill me, I will walk into the radio studio with my coffee and turn on my computer. There will be an email right on top, who’s first sentence will surely read …

“So you made it another week. Good for you. Never let your guard down with cigarettes Ian. Now let me tell you about this apple cured BBQ that I’m working on, you and Deb really gotta come up for this one …”

Ian O’Malley is a disc jockey at New York City’s WAXQ “Q104.3” classic rock radio station — on air Sundays 10am- 3pm and every other Saturday 10am-2pm. His blog can be found at: http://www.q1043.com/pages/onair/ianomalley.html. Sign up for his Facebook page at “Ian O’Malley Q1043: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/pages/Ian-OMalley-Q1043/149465035091999

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