Thursday, December 8, 2011

Blowin' Smoke

The weather outside is frightful. Time for the nicotine addicted to brace themselves.

I always feel compassion for the forlorn clusters of coffee break smokers who huddle outside the entrances of commercial buildings, heedless as mailmen or hard core golfers of rain, sleet and snow, one arm wrapped tight around midriff and the other hand free to administer the soothing dosage.

Cigar smokers like me can't indulge ourselves for five minutes and then duck back inside. It takes nearly an hour to finish one of my robustos, and that would mean hypothermia if I tried to do it on the sidewalk. Ordinarily I smoke on our terrace at home and read, but that's over for the season.

Fortunately, there are two havens within walking distance of home, smoke shops that maintain lounge space for consumption of cigars purchased on the premises. Unfortunately, neither is entirely satisfactory.

The closest, a few blocks south of us on Lexington, is close to a JP Morgan Chase office. The smoking lounge is small, and most days it's packed with investment bankers. I'm sure they are nice people underneath it all, but what's on display as they puff their stogies is loud, opinionated, egocentric and self-assured. It's like being in a roomfull of talking dogs.

My other choice is a couple of blocks east on 2nd Avenue. The lounge there is a lot bigger, and it even includes a gaslight era barber's chair where for months I got my hair cut. It was cheaper than my previous hair place by enough to pay for my cigar, with the incredible bonus that I could smoke it while I was getting clipped! I asked once for a hot towel to be wrapped around my face with the cigar sticking out like in those old gangster cartoons, but it wasn't as much fun as it looked like.

Then the young woman who did the barbering went home to Michigan, and no replacement has been found. She claimed she actually enjoyed second-hand cigar smoke. There can't be many like her.

So I was thrown back into the general population. The rest of the lounge was a sort of sports bar, where etiquette called for buying at least one drink. The conversation all revolved around favored team performance, recent vacations, and drinking escapades. Not that any of those topics is so terrible, and smoking really is a sociable habit. I think even the coffee break types outside are enjoying themselves together, as pitiful and miserable as they look. But I've lost the knack and prefer my book.

Consequently, here's how my winter will play out, just like it does every year. I will go to Mexico for the holidays and have a cigar wherever and whenever I want in the Pacific breeze without bothering anyone. Then I will come back in January and see if I can stand smoking with the Masters of the Universe. It won't work, so I'll move back to the sports bar. That won't work either, and I'll begin thinking that maybe it's time to give up the habit like I know I should.

Then the weather will start to turn a bit warmer. At about the same time, the spring catalogue will arrive from J&R Cigars, because they know me so well. Cigars look so enticing in glossy four-color photographs.

You know the rest.


  1. As a longtime customer of J&R, I can relate to this.

  2. Loving your blog, Dave. Hope you can maintain it for longer than I did. I'm embarrassed even to go back to it at this point (it's been several moons at least). Anyway, regarding your outing to the dog show last month, I had samoyeds for many years, and played hell with their constant shedding, which was worst in summer, when they lose their "under fur." Ran through several vacuum cleaners in the process. But (and this is an emphatic "but") they are so damn cute and smart and lovable (at least when they aren't terrorizing neighbors' pet rabbits--but that another story) that we didn't change breeds (to Border Collies) until the last of the samoyeds went to dog heaven.

  3. Thanks for the comment, much valued, and for rounding out my knowledge of samoyed ownership and the mixed blessings of their miraculous fur! Ever take your collies to one of those farms where you and your dog can practice herding sheep?

  4. Absolutely...we even ran the collies in competitive trials...and won a few ribbons, to boot. But don't let anyone tell you that it is easy. It takes not only a good dog, but a dedicated trainer and daily practice to refine the dog's instinct and get it to obey on command (slow down, speed up, turn the flock left or right, etc.). All of which can be frustrating as hell when the dog thinks it knows better how to deal with sheep than the handler. See you soon!