New Hampshire and Smoking: Live Free, Die Less? Commentator Andrei Codrescu recently spent a weekend in Portsmouth, N.H. He remarks on the low crime statistics and the local customs and weather. Then, he performs poems to music at a jazz festival.
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New Hampshire and Smoking: Live Free, Die Less?

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New Hampshire and Smoking: Live Free, Die Less?

New Hampshire and Smoking: Live Free, Die Less?

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

New Hampshire is on its way to becoming the last state in New England to ban smoking in bars and restaurants. The State House of Representatives passed the bill last week and the governor is expected to sign it. Commentator Andrei Codrescu was in New Hampshire not so long ago, and the state left quite an impression him.

ANDREI CODRESCU: Barbara got us from Logan in Boston and drove us to Portsmouth, New Hampshire on historical Highway 1. Started a Dunkin Donut on both sides of the road, a burger joint with large size plastic cows in front, muffled places and so on, until we were in the live free or die state, a motto that Barbara explains means, no states sales or income taxes.

On the other hand, New Hampshire has some of the highest property taxes in the U.S. I heard the police blotter and saw that they've been three crimes the day before, all before the 11:30 a.m. At 6:45, a frisky turkey into slammed into a citizen's window. At 7:30, a man was reported depositing trash in the neighbors receptacle. And at 9:47 the police was surprised of the theft of a 17-year-olds wallet. The 13-year-old culprit was apprehended at 11:15.

Outside, the slushy rains slapped the windshield giving the wiper some workout. Does climbing Portsmouth always stop around 11:30 a.m.? I asked, thinking of New Orleans where crimes go on 24-hours just like the bars, and not just any crime but strong stuff, like murder. Portsmouth is a well-kept, New England's seaport, buffed for tourist and beloved by locals. The pristine creamy church tower rising from the cobblestones square collapsed in a powerful gale some months back crushing a pick-up truck.

The citizens were quick to restore its in found looking deeper into it, though the crushed pick-up had been severely damaged by hale less than a month before leaving a lingering doubt as to the cause of the church collapsed. Don't forget, they used to burn witches in New England. Iowa is the headline act to the Portsmouth Jazz Festival, a three-day jam by musicians and poets. The town it turns out bruised a great deal a of beer in its many watering holes, and most of the residents are either musicians or poets or both.

Performing poetry accompanied by jazz is an activity with roots in the 1950s, when a writer from the name of Jack (unintelligible) write his work out loud with people like David Hamaram(ph) providing the beat. Jack is gone to beatnik heaven but there is Hamaram - thanks to faith - is still with us. And he certainly was with me playing the piano as I recited my New Orleans storm songs. The musically seasoned air of Portsmouth and the savvy audience appreciated us.

Barbara took us to eat a lobster and then a huge storm descended on New England. Lobster flesh is sweet once you hammer yourself into the read sea bug and Portsmouth is just like that too when the slit lets up. New Hampshire is on the verge of outlawing smoking in bars. So if they combine that with poetry and jazz, the local won't just live free, they'll die less.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: Andrei Codrescu is a professor of English at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

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