FIRST, IT WAS GUYS GOING INTO THE WOODS AND PLAYING 1 drums with “Iron John” or whoever that guy was who said men need to bond. Then, there were the ’’Promise keepers,” another bunch of “guys” that seemed to be caught in white-male backlash. If they needed to fee! OK about zippers, lawn mowers, hand tools and not being able to date “Barbie.” that was all fine with me.
But when the male thing starts screwing up my lifestyle, then I get reactionary…especially if it affects the only vice I have left- cigars. I’ve been a finger-stained, mustache-tinted, ash-covered, burned-shirt cigar smoker since I was 21 and needed to look older. That’s why I could see it coming: the cigar as social statement.
I knew people would finally turn a simple pleasure, like an El Ropo del Stinko, into a cultural ladder rung-a passage ritual for young men (and women) who have made their first $30,000.
So why have cigars become the latest status trend? Why are we discussing the value of the Centro Fino opposed to the lesser Libra De Pie leaves found at the bottom of the plant? Why do we get thai renegade look in our eyes when we see “Habanos S.A.Hecho En Cuba-Totalmente a mano,”’ telling us that the li’l stinker is from the Island diablo-a commie ’gar?
In their defense, I will say that cigars are very calming and give you something to do with your hands. Like smoking a pipe, one can dominate a conversation by forcing others to wait while you relight.
I couldn’t care less about the history of cigars. What I do point out about their history is that cigars have always been a symbol of the rich, and if one cannot actually be rich, then walking around with a cigar that looks expensive can make one rich in the eyes of strangers-thus, the secret of our cigar trend, overly simplified to be sure.
In answer to cigar connoisseurs, who are no doubt fuming, I will say that I am a big-time cigar smoker. I’ve smoked them from coast to coast. I’ve smoked Cubans across Russia, from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. I’ve puffed away in London’s Dunhill cigar room. I’ve sat with Dominican producers in their rolling rooms, smoking from their private stock as they display their fighting pit bulls and gamecocks.
I’ve also had my share of ridiculous $30cigars, and I’ve found great pleasure from San Antonio’s puny Travis Clubs and cheap Roi-Tans (where an entire package costs less than one of my standards). I’ve also fired up a few previously smoked butts that I found under my car seat.
So who’s behind all of the magazines, books and social “smokers”? Well, it’s probably not the 23-year-old junior exec who constantly swaps his cigar tip for his tiny cellular phone. (Cigars shaped like cellular phones! Write it down. Bert!)
I think that part of the craze, returning to my original thought, is that white boys are trying to corner a fad that allows them to hang out and bond with other guys, so they can be manly, break wind and tell sexist jokes like the good ol’ days-knowing full well that any intelligent woman will avoid the place like the proverbial plague. Of course, I think every woman has the right to a good cigar, but 1 think many don’t pick up the habit because they aren’t dumb enough to pay $6 for a $2 cigar.
When I first saw people at a local brewpub/eatery paying $5 to $6 for a cigar that I had in my pocket costing only $2, I hooted. But I quit hooting when all of my cigar brands began to disappear for months, only to resurface as $5 to $6 cigars. The final insults came when my grocery store put in a humidor filled with expensive cigars (that don’t sell) and 7-Eleven began to offer big-dollar stogies.
So, what’s the answer? Wait. The fad will smoke itself to death. What’s left after one has actually smoked a $25 contraband Cuban? What happens next Christmas? Everybody has already bought an outlandish humidor, costly leather cigar carrying case (almost as big a fad item as cigars), a solid silver cigar cutter (with the last of the species animal claw) and a framed unused cigar box label.
A young guy came up to me as I puffed on a patio: “Tell me about cigars. I want to learn all of the secrets.” Avoiding my usual tirade, I said. “Start off with a cheap cigar. Spend a little more each time until you find one that doesn’t make you puke.”
HOW TO TELL IF A PERSON IS A TRUE CIGAR SMOKER:
1. Doesn’t offer them to other people.
2. Carries a “stunt” cigar to give to others.
3. Uses a Zippo.
4. Has a shirt filled with little holes.
5. Has a tan mustache.
6. Doesn’t keep them long enough to need a humido
7. Hides a long butt in bushes before entering a theater. (Picks it up on way out.)
8. Prefers patio or front steps at parties.
9. Has car window open in O-degree weather.
10. Won’t tell you where he buys cigars.
HOW TO TELL A CIGAR NOVICE:
1. Actually talks about cigars.
2. Buys cigars from cigar girls at eateries.
3. Carries cigar protector.
4. Rolls it between fingers near ea
5. Licks entire thing before smoking.
6. Crushes it out in ashtray.
7. Gives more than one away at gatherings.
8. Won’t use anything but wooden matches.
9. Even mentions smoking a Cuban.
10. Has more than one kind in his pocket