Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
Jack Nicholson, Summer 95
(continued from page 2)
While I knew nothing about cigars, I thought I'd try one so I slipped one into my field jacket pocket. Then I did something foolish, and yelled, "Does anyone want a cigar?" Of course the reply was positive. Crouched as low as I could get and still run, I began throwing cigars into each foxhole. Using the cover of the rear slope of the ridge I made my way back to the tank. I credit the poor marksmanship of the Chinese for my safe return.
Sitting behind the safety of the tank with bullets still pinging off the tank's armor, I unwrapped and lit my first cigar with a waterproof match. As though ordered, our guys stopped shooting. Even the Chinese in front of us stopped firing, probably wondering what we were up to. We were all lighting our El Roi Tans. For a few moments the acrid smell of cordite was lost to the sweet cigar aroma that wafted over the snow-covered ridge.
A morale boost can come in many guises. When the Chinese entered the Korean War, many of us thought we'd never leave Korea. We'd all lost friends that day. The hoopla about being home for Christmas was gone. We were not happy campers. We began shooting again. The sight of guys banging away with their M1 rifles, cigars clenched in their teeth, would have been comical if it weren't for the seriousness of the situation. There seemed to be more vigor in our shooting. The Chinese began to pull back. We held. To say it was because of the cigars might be stretching it a bit, but for the first time that day, the GIs with cigars had smiles on their faces.
On occasion, when lighting up a fine cigar after dinner the memory of that first cigar crosses my mind. Then an indescribable kind of peace comes over me.
* * *
I used to be one of the rabid smoke Nazis. I thought it was okay to trample on the rights of others to keep me in a smoke-free life. I now know that tolerance is the way to true happiness for everyone. The technology exists to remove smoke from closed areas such as restaurants, and I love working in a smoke-free building, but I don't think that I have the right to tell anyone else they can't smoke. I do have a right to ask them to move their cigarette so that the smoke doesn't come in my face. And, yes, I really do have allergies and problems breathing.
My husband is a cigar smoker. One of my women friends made nasty comments about "how could I stand to let him smoke." I told her: "He doesn't gamble, chase women, or drink to excess. He's a fabulous husband, wonderful father, has a great sense of humor, helps around the house, and buys me jewelry." He smokes outside (we are enclosing a porch for him) and in his car. I know Raul Julia's wife let him smoke in bed, but I can't go that far, though I presented my husband with a box of Punch cigars for the holiday season which has pleased him tremendously. I have told him that he can teach our daughter to smoke cigars so she will never smoke anything else.
I see how much pleasure my husband receives from smoking cigars. Life is hard, and we need all of the harmless pleasures. I will help to promote the rights of all Americans. Thank you for reminding me that tolerance is the foundation of the American Way of Life.
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