Fire pits. The words conjured up images of Burning Man weekends in the desert, or Jean Auel scenes from novels about prehistoric man’s travails. Sure, in concept, I could see how they might be alternatives to a fireside lounger in a wood-beamed lodge in the mountains. But as a place to enjoy a cigar? Well, I was dubious.
It was an unusually warm January night in Naples, Florida. I’d been participating in two days of editorial meetings with the Wine Spectator crew, and we had just returned to the La Playa Beach Resort after a wonderful, wine-soaked meal. Marvin Shanken and I walked into the bar at the hotel, and asked the waitress where we could sit down and have a late evening smoke. She said, “I’m sorry. You can’t smoke inside, but there’s the fire pit.”
Through the windows and the open door, you could see the flames leaping up from the ring of stones, surrounded by wooden lounge chairs. Marvin and I looked at each other, and said, "Sure, let’s go." I had brought some cigars from New York; I don’t even remember now what they were, although I do recall I had some fugitives from a just-completed Cigar Insider tasting in my leather traveling case.
We settled into the chairs, lit up and leaned back, the Florida night sky above us, and the sound of the soft Gulf of Mexico surf in the background. The waitress came and took our orders, and as the smoke drifted up, I waited on my glass of Bacardi 8 on the rocks. We chatted, but the moment was as much about being outside and relaxing after a long day as anything else. A few people came and sat around the pit too, and began talking to each other, strangers getting to know each other through those innocuous questions seeking common ground. We listened, but on another night, it was easy to imagine people coming and going, talking, laughing and smoking cigars, all in a pleasant, convivial cocoon.
If I had my own fire pit, I might do things a little differently. The chairs were a bit too canted back. They needed some cushions. I might install some outdoor speakers.
But I wouldn’t do a whole lot more. The flames of the fire and the flicker of the stars would provide about all you need to be content.
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