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Jack Bettridge

How The Nanny State Is Destroying My Brain

Posted: May 25, 2009 11:08am ET

Before the legislatures of New York (where I work) and Connecticut (where I live) decided without consulting me that it was a good idea to limit the public venues in which I could smoke to almost none, I brought cigars everywhere. I would no sooner have left the house for a get-together without a handful of smokes than I would watch “Deal or No Deal” on TV without being strapped to a chair with my head propped up and my eyes pinned open.

In the pre-prohibition, good-old days of the cigar boom, I worked under the assumption that if there were a gathering of two or more people at least one of them might want a smoke. Furthermore, I saw it as my duty to provide said smokes as far as I could and to keep the world safe from lousy cigars. I thought of myself as a cigar knight, if you will.

Then, about six years ago, the city and state of New York as well as my home state (where ironically some of the most expensive wrapper tobacco in the world in grown) began to strip me of my purpose. I could no longer play the savior by showing up at a bar stuffed to the gills with burners.

Which is why what happened to me yesterday happened.

My buddy Dave Palombo was having his annual pre-Memorial-Day Trader Vic’s party in the garden of his home. I remembered to pack some bottles of white rum I had left over from a tasting I just did for a Drinks item in the Good Life Guide of the July/August Cigar Aficionado (check it out!). I also brought some Grand Marnier because the bartender that Palombo had hired to run the Tiki bar (part of the party’s theme) was making Suffering Bastards as the signature drink and didn’t have any triple sec or orange Curaçao. I even remembered to stash a selection of bitters (as the drink also calls for that) in the pockets of my safari jacket (also in keeping with the party’s theme).

If wasn’t, however, until I pulled up to Palombo’s house 20 minutes later that it dawned on me that I’d forgotten cigars. Now Palombo is an avid cigar smoker and the party was going to be outdoors so no one except for the most insensitive lout imaginable (and Palombo wouldn’t have invited that sociopath to his house anyway) was likely to complain. But here I was with cavernous pockets but nary a smoke. I simply hadn’t put two and two together that this was one of the few times when cigars would have been welcomed. In short, my brain had gone limp from too much prohibition.

I was standing there nursing a Rum Fizz in one hand, staring at the other (empty) one and considering if I should drive all the way back home, when I smelled something gorgeous coming from behind me. I turned around and who should be sitting on a lawn chair but Brian Shapiro. Besides being a pal of Palombo’s, Brian and his father, Ron run Discount Cigars and the International Cigar Factory Outlet in South Norwalk, Connecticut. As its name suggests it is a rather sizable (3,800 square feet) store with stacks of cigar boxes everywhere in the space, which is all humidified. There is even room for a cigar club with leather chairs and a plasma-screen television and space for members to store stogies. They also host many a cigar star (e.g. Jorge Padrón) who come to the Outlet for special presentations.

Anyway, Brian’s brain, unlike mine, has not melted, and on the table before him was a box of Oliva Serie V cigars. I said my hellos to Brian and his wife, while nervously eying the cigar box. Brian quickly picked up on the obvious and shameless ploy and asked, “Would you like a cigar, Jack?”

“Oh, please!!” I stammered out.

I grabbed the heater, quickly cut it with my nail (of course, I’d left my appurtenances at home, too) and bummed a light. Everything was fine with my world, but I still made a mental note to visit a neurologist. Can’t have my brain going all batty like that again.

Comments   1 comment(s)

Jorge Armenteros — Princeton, NJ —  May 26, 2009 2:41pm ET

Jack, while tobacco de-normalization may be frying your brain, the neurologist may blame the tobacco... remind him/her that nicotine is good for the brain... maybe you will get a prescription which allows you to smoke in prohibited spaces.



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