Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sometimes a cigar isn't just a cigar.....

     Relax.  If you think I'm going to go all anti-Freud on you and make the case that cigars are really phallic symbols, well you are wrong.  I like them too much to go there, this blog is on why I enjoy them.....

     My first cigar was likely at a stag party or somewhere like that.   I remember a lot of these testosterone laden events in my 20's and cigars seemed to be at most of them.  I never purchased them, I just smoked what was offered, some good and some bad, and then developed a taste for them over time.  My cigar smoking became an actual habit, albeit a small one, when I started playing poker a few years later with a group in
In a Philly cigar room
Canandaigua.  Some of the others smoked and if I was going to come home smelling like I did it anyway, I might as well smoke too, I thought.  So I did.  I really enjoyed playing poker with this group and our games would last for about 4 hours, so I eventually purchased longer and thicker cigars that would last for a good portion of the game.  Once I connected this type of cigar to the camaraderie I enjoyed with this group each week, the habit was born and I never really went back to the smaller cigars. In my mind, ingrained forever after, a cigar has to last for a couple of hours, and good conversation is a great accompaniment to one.  What do I mean?

     I liked the poker group, not for the gambling, but for the shared evenings of conversation and interaction with such a diverse group.  We had a couple of real estate agents, a car mechanic, a heating and plumbing entrepreneur, a mailman, a town supervisor, a trucker, a tool and die guy, and an insulating guy known for his
Now, that's a good hand.
quirkiness, vegetarianism, and his liberal slant.  You can imagine the discussions that we had over the 12 or so years that this group met.  Sometimes, mid-hand, a discussion would get so interesting that slowly people would lay down their cards and engage the others, and then resume the hand 10-15 minutes later.  That's what I loved about the group, and I rarely participated without having a lit cigar in hand.  It just seemed fitting.  Over that period I can't tell you how many great talks we had, but I can say I still keep in touch with most of the group even though I stopped playing about 10 years ago.  My travel schedule got in the way first, then the popularity of Texas Hold' em changed the nature of the game (we were dealer's choice), the money got bigger and for me the final straw came when one of the newer members remarked on not getting in enough hands one night.  I wasn't playing to play a certain number of hands, but certainly didn't want to impede the game if that's what the group wanted, so I stopped going.  The game broke up for good within a year or so after.  Like, with a lot of things, it never was as good as those early simple years and every great night, came with a cigar in hand. 

     Until I built my Garaj-Mahal, my cigar smoking was limited to the non-winter months for the next few years, and it seemed like a natural fit when I started taking them onto the golf course.  There is a lot of down
Wenches with cigars, in one of the early years.
time in that sport while you are waiting for the others, so I found it relaxing to have a cigar while golfing.  My friend Dan started sponsoring free cigars for our annual tournament around then and did it for several years that he had his own business.  When he left it, my wife and I took over the sponsorship of free cigars for the tournament, it just didn't seem the same without them.  Speaking of my wife, once in a blue moon I can talk her into having one with me. She tends to prefer smaller cigars (don't go there), and vanilla flavored ones.  My girlfriend (see My Girlfriend Stretch) and I have even been known to relax with a cigar now and again.  She tells me I'm the only one that can corrupt her, but I'll bet regular readers aren't surprised by that at all.  I actually find it pretty sexy when I see a woman smoking a cigar (see the pictures attached, don't you agree?).  I'm sure that some are thinking right now "Sure, cancer, stale smoke, bad breath, that's sexy", so I'll re-but the point just a little.  The
cancer rates for light cigar smokers are non-existent if they don't inhale (which you generally don't with cigars), and the smell and bad breath can be cured with mouthwash and perfume, so I'll still take the woman who likes to indulge occasionally over the abstainers.  I've wrestled with whether I am setting a bad example for my kids too, but at the end of the day, we raised critical thinkers and we have to trust them to choose their own vices.  Admittedly I've had a cigar now with both of my adult children and I'd consider it a good way to find some alone time with them. I'm sure that you have your special bonding things that you do with your kids, I'd like just to be able to keep doing mine.  This summer on Thursday nights when I get home from traveling, I've been able to join my 19 year old son Dan on our deck for a cigar or pipe (he prefers the pipe I think).  We sit for hours out there and our conversations are fantastic and immediately take me back to my old poker group.  I hope we are able to keep doing this for a while. 

     I'll close with some quick reminiscing on some cigars and times that I've had in the past.  My last company once rented me a humidor in Boston's North End on Hanover Street.  I got free appetizers and desserts for
Nate at Mahogany on Walnut in Philly
my group when I entertained there, but the alcohol we had to buy.  It was a underground place near Mike's Pastry but I really couldn't justify the expense after the second year rental came due. Several notable people also had humidors there and believe it or not, Danny DeVito had one that was place higher than mine.   I've smoked cigars with a bunch of my nephews and even nieces, and the picture here is of my nephew Nate when we met up for a cigar in Philly once. I really have enjoyed those times getting to know those relatives and a lot of their friends, a good cigar will give you time enough to connect.  I haven't mentioned my favorite cigar, but it is an Ashton Churchill which is 7 1/2 inches long and a 52 ring gauge. It's made with Dominican tobacco and a Connecticut Shade Leaf wrapper.  I purchase these when my budget can afford them, but most times, I'll go for a JR Cigar knock-off.  Since I get the leftovers from the tournament, this is what I smoke most of the summer and fall.  Speaking of the fall, I like to take a few with me to my sister's pig roast, but I'll generally smoke them when I stay up cooking the pig, since she has a lot of kids in attendance.  So to close, it seems odd that something arguably smoky and smelly might be able to bring you closer to someone, but that's what I've found out with cigars.   Don't believe it?  See you some Thursday on the back deck.  
Papa Frank, the first cigar smoker that I knew



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cdyarger said...

Ah, a good cigar is worth a thousand words!

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