By Andrew Cohen

I hate air. I hate the very idea of air. I hate how everyone is so dependent on air. I hate that everybody acts so goddamn grateful for air. And, God, how I hate those people who prattle on about planting trees and protecting the rain forests because they produce so much air for us to breathe.

Let me say it proud and out loud: screw air. Got a Gripe? Air can go to hell for all I care. Kiss my ass, Mr. Atmosphere.

And I'm not just talking about dirty, polluted L.A./Cairo/Mexico City-type air—the stuff that makes you cough and choke. Uh-uh, baby, I hate all air. Hate it with a passion. I hate mountain-fresh, hiking-in-the-Rockies air, I hate salty, strolling-on-the-beach air. I don't care what kind of air you got, I hate it, loathe it, despise it, condemn it, reject it, abhor it, detest it, inveigh against it mightily. Air is bad.

You ask: Why hate air? How could anyone dislike sweet-smelling, life-giving, balloon-filling, tire-expanding, lung-satisfying air? It's not like air killed my brother in 'Nam or anything. It's more subtle than that.

I'll explain, but first ask yourself: What is air? Do you even really know? In grade school, I learned that air is 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen, with the rest consisting of a lot of other stuff—mainly crap that's bad for you. But that's my point. Air is all leftovers. When the Earth was created billions of years ago, everything solid, substantial, and weighty coalesced into Terra Firma; everything wispy, hazy, misty, and foggy became "air."

Mind you, the composition of the planet's atmosphere has changed somewhat over the ageless corridors of time, but the final verdict remains the same: it's all leftover crap!

Imagine this: You enter a restaurant and order filet mignon (pretend someone else is buying, or that you're not a vegetarian, okay?). But the restaurant only serves pig snouts and goat entrails. Yum-yum. Bet you can hardly wait to go back.

So why would anyone choose to breathe musty leftovers? When paramedics pull you out of the crumpled wreck that used to be a bitchin' Trans-Am, they don't say, "C'mon, pal, breathe some regular air." No, they give you the good stuff: pure oxygen, the Big O, the Mask, Oxy Gox, Atomic Element No. 8, Goony Gas, Fog Vodka, White Cloud, Hospital Haze—and they serve it up straight and hard.

Why do we put up with it? They want us to think we have no choice. Pure oxygen is expensive, highly flammable and too much can send your brain on a permanent vacation. But the danger is part of the thrill, say I. If breathing can't be fun, why even bother?</end>

Andrew Cohen huffs and puffs in Hoboken, New Jersey.