One of the most often quoted lines referencing cigars but what in fact is a “Smoke”. That my brothers is the magic of a cigar. A “Smoke” is not just that hazy cloud that comes from our cigar tips, our mouths and trickles out of our noses. A “Smoke” is a proscenium arch into a different world. A world of shared experience, appreciation, history, and brotherhood. A play in which we are both actors and audience.
My introduction to a “Smoke” began in my teens. I felt changed with a cigar in my hand that I knew next to nothing about and didn’t have the years to appreciate its majesty. This was not trying to be tough like the kids by the railroad tracks it was trying to be a tycoon like the railroad barons. I was reaching back into history.
I was fortunate that I did not waste much time on the cheap machine-made flavored cigars. I was unbeknownst to my father educated and initiated to the club by his example and his humidor. I began with cigars with names like Excalibur, Punch, & Fuente, magical, mythical names. Object d’art that exuded craftsmanship and quality. The moist rich earthy smell of my father’s humidor tantalized and teased with mystery and excitement. Later in life, that smell would allow me to be with him while we lived thousands of miles apart. I was participating in that shared experience even if it was surreptitious.
As I grew older and was able to share a “Smoke” with my father I also was able to share his wisdom and experience. He taught me the ceremony of a “Smoke”. We talked about the balance of appreciation without becoming ostentatious. He explained that even as a shared experience it is simultaneously a private experience. “We don’t smoke for show” he would say. I realized that this was a serious endeavor not to be wasted on fools.
I began to share these teachings with a few good friends. Many an hour was spent sharing a “Smoke” and the comradery that comes with that process. We became the best of friends because of the time and attention we spent with each other because a “Smoke” requires attention and respect. We shared weddings, births, graduations, and funerals and tied them together with a series of “Smokes”. Because a “Smoke” is a process and a place. A place where you can be away and together, where you can step back from the massive events of your life and reflect and appreciate their magnitude.
When I am on the Golf course and pull out a cigar with non-smokers they are often curious and appreciative but it is like words from a foreign language with no translation. Between shots, I am closer to my brother smokers than I am with my playing partners. Each draw tends to remind me of another “Smoke” at another place at another time with other brothers even ones I have never met.
I often wonder when I clip a vitola who else had smoked that same size and brand. What did they think of it and what did they think about when the smoked it? Was it smoked for an occasion or just for lunch? Then the train of thought would pull away for an hour on a random journey. Perhaps the only hour of the day spent relaxing without the weight of the world.
What is a “Smoke” then? It is a community, a brotherhood. It is a shared history, appreciation and experience. It is mythology with a pantheon of Heroes both of cigars and cigar makers. It is a proscenium, a doorway, into many spaces that transcends the ordinary and unites us across space and time.
Then I am reminded of another oft-quoted statement about cigars: Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. -Sigmund Freud.