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Out of the Humidor

CA Readers
From the Print Edition:
Greg Raymer, Sept/Oct 2004

(continued from page 1)

I started smoking cigars about 10 years ago with a handful of buddies with whom I go camping. As a result, cigars for me have always been about quiet pleasures and good company.

So when the cruise ship we were on pulled into George Town in the Cayman Islands, I made a mental note to treat myself to a couple of fine Cuban cigars. My wife and I planned to see the town anyway, so it wouldn't be that difficult to find a cigar shop. Obviously, I wasn't the only person to have this thought. As soon as we got off the boat, I was confronted by a line of tourists who were all in the process of lighting up Cuban cigars. Seems that the locals knew what people wanted and an enterprising soul had set up a tiny kiosk at the end of the dock to meet the demand.

Now, it was a hot day with not a cloud in the sky. The dock didn't have anyplace to sit and barely any shade of which to speak. But all these guys were too busy puffing on their forbidden pleasures to even care. They stood around sweating and smoking and looking remarkably happy with themselves because of it. But that wasn't for me. Much as I craved a cigar, I knew my wife didn't want to stand around in the sun waiting for me to finish my smoke and I knew that wasn't how I wanted to enjoy it. So I passed up the opportunity in favor of a little sanity.

George Town is a great place filled with bright, sunny shops and warm, friendly people. We wandered around for hours, taking in the sights, talking with the merchants, buying a few souvenirs and generally enjoying the day. As often happens in the Caribbean after a long, hot morning, a sudden thunderstorm appeared just as we were entering a secluded little courtyard filled with small boutiques. The courtyard also had one real-life cigar shop. The dark clouds had rolled in with amazing speed and lightning now flashed across the sky. The thunderclaps were so loud that they echoed off the buildings and sent people running for cover.

My wife, who had noted my restraint so far, took one look around and said: "Why don't we go into the cigar shop and wait it out. You can get your Cubans." I knew there was a reason why I married that woman. So we ducked into the open doorway of the store. The shop was just a tiny one-room establishment with shelves and shelves of cigar boxes. Like some ancient bookstore, the boxes were stacked in any manner that would accommodate them and the aroma of finely aged tobacco hung in the air, both rich and inviting. The owner welcomed us in with a broad smile but then excused himself, saying that he had to go out and get his birds. Without another word he ran out the back door of the shop. Needless to say, my wife and I followed him.

With the rain falling in heavy sheets, the owner of the shop stood in the center of the courtyard yelling at two blue and gold macaws that were sitting on a perch. Despite the fact that it was pouring, the birds did not seem to want to come in. My wife and I had to stifle a laugh as the poor man, shirt and pants now soaked by the rain, commanded his pets to come to him. The two birds, however, oblivious to their owner's threats and pleas, only spread their wings in order to bathe in the warm rain. Pure malicious pleasure was written all over their faces. It was a scene we both remember to this day.

Later that evening I went up on deck. With stars sparkling overhead and the distant lights of the island fading behind us, I lit up my Cuban Montecristo and enjoyed my own forbidden pleasure. I thought of those poor souls who could not wait to have their cigars, smoking frantically in the hot midday sun. To me they seemed to have missed the point of smoking a fine cigar. It's not being able to say that you've done it. It's being able to enjoy the moment. That's why I smoke cigars, and after spending the day in port, I was glad that I stayed true to my reasons.

Arthur Sanchez Peekskill, New York


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