So, it seems I’m on that path again. It doesn’t always go to addiction, cancer, and death, but can lead to pleasure and camaraderie. How I got here is a long story, but let’s start at the beginning. Now I’d classify myself as a lifetime non-smoker, but that’s not entirely correct, especially if you include non-tobacco products. The summer after I graduated high school, knowing my fate as a future University of Michigan student, I decided to prepare myself for the insults my lungs would face once on campus. Cannabis had not yet permeated Vicksburg, so I started buying Pall Malls (unfiltered) and sucking those back. The experiment worked, as once in the dorms I held my own at every dope fest, coughing only sporadically. I left the Pall Malls aside and didn’t pick up legal cigarettes again till midway through my senior year. I don’t know why I started, but I pissed off my music major roommate at Zapata House, eventually laying them aside after a month or two when I began to recognize cravings. I married a smoker, although she’d been ex for a couple years when I met her after she’d chain-smoked her way through College of Wooster swimming and playing basketball, field hockey, lacrosse, and softball, lettering X 14 plus All-America in backstroke.
Tobacco continued to have an allure, and when I travelled, I’d always pick up some Cubans in the duty free. I’d fire one up from time to time but began to realize all they did was nauseate me and make me spit a lot. I finally gave them all to the very appreciative husband of a nurse friend.
Which brings us to the near present. The building housing the AirBnB in the Loop where we stayed during our Christmas jaunt housed on its second floor Iwan Rees & Company (1), the oldest tobacconist in America. The pleasant aroma of that shop greeted us whenever we entered or left the building. I do like the smell of tobacco, so long as somebody isn’t blowing it in my face. We finally took the venture up to explore, and oh my. All that paraphernalia made me want to take up smoking again. I bought a couple tins of little cigars. All with a purpose. Whenever we go to northern California, I make it a point to attend the “Safety Meetings” my friend Dave holds with his like-minded buddies in the back room of Maselli’s hardware store in Petaluma, which one of them owns. The typical male shots of booze, dope, and, yes, cigars are trotted out. Given my previous experience with cigars, I’ve been a less than enthusiastic participant in that component of the ritual. During my time out here on the Gulf beach, I booked an April trip to California that would include these guys. Recalling my Pall Mall experiment, I wondered what a gradual reintroduction to cigars might do.
Into my Florida packings went, or so I thought, those two little tins of cigars. For sure, I thought, I could fire one up while sitting on the porch watching the waves come in. If an old man can’t sit in his rocker on his porch in a free state and smoke a cigar overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, what was all that fighting 1775-1783 about? But when the time came and I went rounging for those tins, I couldn’t find them anywhere. Kathy denied hiding them. But plan B was easy. All those Cuban refugees made sure the area was well populated with cigar stores. Yelp told me there was one nearby, Mad Beach Cigar and Smoke Shop. Alas, it was not where Yelp put it and had gone out of business at the location the guy at the nearby Daquiri Shack told me it had moved. But a cigar bar had opened right next to Lucky Lizard, where Kathy and I had a beer during our explorations. Goombahs Cigar Lounge was clearly a serious place, with a big humidor room full of their selections. I picked 4 of his smallest, an “A Fuente Gran Reserva”, and reading about it later I understand better why they cost so much (2). I bought a Bic lighter at Winn-Dixie and was ready.
As the clouds that would shape the sunset began to gather, I took my position at the other end of the porch. The breeze wouldn’t let the Bic do its job, so I moved inside for the fire up. The tokes were pleasantly familiar, and the nicotine quickly took hold. Now nicotine is a wonderful drug, and I can see why its wildly addictive. It both calms and concentrates the mind. Oh, how I’d like to reach into that while writing. With each pleasant puff the feeling spread, and soon my legs and torso were tingling. Finally, as I got down to the butt, it was all over, and I had to drag myself off to bed in hopes it would all pass in time for me to make dinner. The sun hadn’t set by then, but the cloud accumulation made it clear it wasn’t going to be a Kodak moment when it did. About 2 hours later, I woke up thinking it might be the next morning, foul taste in my mouth and coughing profusely. Indeed, the clock said 7:22, but Kathy was saying “where’s dinner?”. I was able to set myself to the task and execute it competently. But I had no desire for a second cigar.
Which is not to say I won’t tomorrow. My brother John is coming over, and he’s a big-time cigar aficionado. Yes, it’s a huge male bonding thing, and what man doesn’t look bolder with a cigar jutting out of his mouth? As cigar aficionados, I think my brother and me are in pretty good company.
I’m sure you want to hear that tune (3). And I’m sure there’s probably almost as many smoking songs as there are drinking songs, but you can’t beat this one, sung here by the ol’ Commander, complete with his own videography (4).
1, Iwan Rees & Co. https://www.iwanries.com/
2. Arturo Fuente. The Arturo Fuente Gran Reserva®. https://arturofuente.com/our-cigars/gran2/
3. Tobacco Road-The Nashville Teens-1964. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGuZY6NVXqU
4. Smoke Smoke Smoke (That Cigarette) by Commander Cody. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyYLrVNKE68