I was talking with my young friend, Heywood, recently, when the conversation veered from professional wrestling and last week's episode of Seinfeld to global politics and matters of international trade.
"If I were president, I'd make friends with Cuba and tell China to take a hike," Heywood said seriously. "I hate Chinese food, but I'd love a good Cuban cigar."
"How much does a good Cuban cigar go for these days?" I asked.
He shrugged. "If you could get them, twenty, thirty bucks apiece."
"You'd pay thirty bucks for one cigar?"
Heywood's affirmative response involved the betting of a certain part of my anatomy, so I didn't protest when he changed the subject back to wrestling. Too bad, I didn't get a chance to tell him about the latest warning from the Surgeon General concerning cigars. The warning reads:
While cigars have not been proven to cause cancer in laboratory rats that smoke them, one thing is clear: anyone who pays more than five cents for a good cigar, Cuban or otherwise, should immediately have their head examined. Thank you and have a nice day.
I know, these days five cents wouldn't buy you the paper ring off a really lousy cigar, much less a really good one. Still, if you're willing and able to pay thirty bucks for one cigar, I want you to stop and turn an ear toward Heaven. Hear that voice? That's God talking to you. He's saying, "Hey, you make too much money! Give some to Weinstock."
For Heywood and countless other young, single, successful men AND women (Yuppies, Part Deux, I call them), cigar smoking has become the latest trendy thing to do, on par with wearing sunglasses at night, cruising around in the winter time with the top down, and eating sushi without battering and deep frying it first. Cigars are the bell bottoms of the nineties. Smoke 'em if you can afford 'em.
I can remember when cigars weren't so in vogue, when the only people smoking them were crooked politicians and gas station attendants who had names like Buck and Del sewn into their shirts. Mafia bosses smoked cigars, as did sleazy Hollywood producers and lowly fight promoters. Cigars were greasy, nasty things and only greasy, nasty men smoked them. Men like my Uncle Buddy.
Uncle Buddy was a grease monkey by trade, which is what people used to call the greasy, nasty guys who worked on their cars. Uncle Buddy was never without a burning Tampa Nugget cigar stuck in the corner of his mouth. His teeth were a lovely shade of brown. Dried spots of brown drool decorated his chin. And he was always spitting, spitting, spitting. A truly lovely man, he was. A real treat to be around. He had no idea that he was ahead of his time. Every bar he went into was a cigar bar. And when he died it took the man at the funeral parlor ten minutes to pry the cigar from his jaw. Would Uncle Buddy have paid thirty bucks for a really good cigar? Sure, if it came with a six pack of Old Milwaukee and the keys to a '63 Impala.
Cigars have changed a bit since Uncle Buddy's day. It used to be that you could toss aside a chewed nub of a cigar, then come back four or five months later and smoke the rest and still get that full-bodied taste. These days, however, cigars are delicate things that must be babied and pampered like fine wine. According to Heywood, modern-day cigars should be properly stored in something called a humidor, which is like a fancy cigar coffin, and kept at 70 degrees Fahrenheit, with 70% relative humidity. As he was telling me this, I thought of another friend who is a TV weatherman. I wonder if he's ever thought of giving nightly humidor reports. The ratings would be phenomenal!
Never having been much of a cigar smoker myself (my cigar smoking experience has been limited to the "It's a girl!" variety), I won't pretend to understand the subtle nuances that make one cigar worth a quarter and another worth thirty bucks. However, for the sake of journalistic integrity (Can you believe I typed that with a straight face?), I did a little research on the subject. I visited the website of Cigar Aficionado magazine, which bills itself as the cigar smoker's bible. While I didn't discover what makes a thirty dollar Cuban superior to a fifty-cent Swisher Sweet, I did learn a few very interesting things.
For example, have you cigar smokers ever wondered why some cigar ashes are gray and flaky while others are white and solid? According to the helpful, online Cigar Aficionado answer man, it has to do with the amount of magnesium and other nutrients found in the soil where the tobacco was grown. As a general rule, a flaky, gray ash indicates tobacco with low magnesium content, while a solid white ash indicates high nutrient content.
In laymen's terms, that means if the contents of the cigar you're puffing on was fertilized with high-quality cow poop, you can bet a certain part of your anatomy that your ash will be white. Maybe that's what makes a cigar worth thirty bucks. The tobacco grower is probably spending a fortune on One-A-Day Vitamins for his cows. Remember that the next time you get a good inch or two of white ash on the tip of your thirty dollar cigar. Take a moment to thank the cows that made the fertilizer that made that cigar taste so good.
The thing that puzzles me most of all about the cigar craze is why are so many women joining the club? Is it because cigars leave their breath so minty fresh? Is it because they can't do a decent Cosby impression without a cigar in hand? Or is it something deeper within their social psyche? Do they achieve a feeling of empowerment by having a smelly cigar clenched between their teeth (you'll notice that women never let their lips touch the cigar, probably because they'd realize what they're doing and puke their guts out)? Perhaps it's the misguided ideal that to be a man's equal a woman has to smoke a man's smoke.
If that's the case it's a good thing Uncle Buddy's no longer around.
He'd have driven the girls wild.
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Tim Knox, Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, Radio Host
Founder, The Insiders Club, Giving You The Power To Start Your Business Today
Bestselling Author of: "Everything I Know About Business I Learned From My Mama"
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