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On Doctor's Orders

A Cigar is a Valuable Way to Release the Stress of a Busy Day
Charles Carluccio
From the Print Edition:
Fidel Castro, Summer 94

Sigmund Freud was wrong. A good cigar is not just a cigar.

A student once chided Dr. Freud about his smoking 20 or more cigars a day, relating it to the symbolic difficulty of weaning from the breast. Freud said, "Yes, my son, that may be true, but sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

Now, Siggy, you should have known that a cigar is always more than just a cigar--just as a woman is more than a woman. Another thing you should have noted about cigars is that they are marvelous tranquilizers.

I am a psychiatrist. There are days when my patients' problems almost overwhelm me. They become enormously complicated, apparently unsolvable mixtures of damaging environments, harmful experiences, faulty genes and just plain self-destructive, bad judgment.

Then the last patient leaves, the phone calls are made, and I put my feet up on the desk and carefully light my favorite cigar (currently a La Gloria Cubana Wavell) with a long, wooden match.

Time stops, phones no longer ring, tension melts like an ice cube in a hot cup of coffee and I preside over the gentle, elegant lighting ritual. The silent ghosts of smoke drift off the end of the slim, white ash. What soothing to the body and soul!

As director of a center for the diagnosis and treatment of stress-related disorders, I am aware of the benefits of various methods of relaxation from biofeedback to yoga. Whereas all have their benefits, smoking a cigar, for me, has advantages no other method has. The good cigar experience is most sensual; the beauty of the well-made cigar appeals to the eye, the firm construction to the touch and the fragrance (one of the most masculine of aromas) to the sense of smell. And a good cigar can appeal to taste as much as a vintage wine.

But there is more. A cigar often evokes a sense of nostalgia that allows you to rerun in your mind your own cigar history.

I wager every good cigar smoker (i.e., one who smokes the best cigar he can afford) remembers the milestones--his first cigar, how he evolved and progressed through the years to his present cigar status--and some of his favorite cigar experiences. It's almost like replaying old romances in your mind.

I remember while on convoy duty during the Second World War, seeing photos of Maj. Joe Foss, the Marine ace, with a characteristic thick cigar in his mouth.


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