No, cigars aren’t “good” for you in many respects, but they can provide a type of therapeutic meditation if you use them correctly. Here’s one story of Mark Smith doing just that.
It’s a Friday night, the first of August. The wife is asleep; the baby nestled peacefully by her side. I make my escape. To the back deck I sojourn for some solitude and reflection. This is my time. This is my peace.
I break the seal on a new bottle of that sweet-with a touch of fire-caramel colored elixir, which is hand crafted small batch bourbon. The aroma is intoxicating, my palette readied to be satisfied. I walk out to the deck, whiskey stones clinking in my low ball crystal glass. The air is thick. The air is heavy. The night is still.
All is quiet with one exception, the frogs…
Here in the adjacent wetland a symphony of randy amphibians desperately trying to seal the deal before dawn’s light muffles all other sounds of the night. I prep my cigar. Bourbon this good must be accompanied by a proper smoke.
To the southeast I watch a distant storm over the ocean. It’s like gazing on an electrostatic disco, or perhaps this is reminiscent of seeing the bombing of Berlin from nearby Potsdam.
Next, the third leg of the sacred trinity of porch night, music. First up, “Shine on Your Crazy Diamond (parts I-V)” Pink Floyd, now the night begins. I light my cigar. Smoke cascades from the tip against the still, heavy night air lingering, floating. It dances though it had a pulse. The plumes of smoke slowly rise and disperse like hints into the night. How appropriate, the name of the stogie is a Gurkha “Ghost.”
To my right, Sister Moon wrestles her way through a curtain of condensation leftover from a morning deluge and a mantle of haze from the stifling afternoon sun. She’s showing just enough to tease.
A natural seductress her slender feminine crescent form finally breaks free after a half hour struggle. She is boisterous and self indulgent lighting up the night but only for a few brief minutes before being veiled by the lone tall loblolly pine a quarter mile into the wetland.
I raise my glass to applaud her effort and pay tribute to her appearance tonight.
My glass runs low. I should pour another. I do. The music has changed so has the mood. I said I was alone but I am not. Herbie and Miles have come to the party. “Watermelon Man” followed by “Green Haze” these are jazz standards these are jazz legends. I am honored these two share the space with me.
Lightning flashes again in the distance. What a spectacle. Thunderstorms have always captivated me, even when I was a child. Most kids are afraid of storms but I have always been drawn to Thor’s echo. There goes Mr. Davis on the trumpet again; he is inventing notes at this point.
A true master, I can’t tell which carries further into the night, the smoke bellowing from my cigar or the melodic dialogue of Miles’ trumpet? Damn, this is a good smoke.
It’s more than just hand rolled tobacco cured and made by the delicate tar stained hands of an artisan. No, no, it is much more. Herbie Hancock’s rendition of the perpetually covered and well known anthem, “Summertime” by the brilliant George Gershwin comes on.
Reflections in Smoke
Jazz is special. I am at my core a bluesman but thanks to the direction and cultural guidance of a dearest friend I have come to love jazz. The unforgettable line, “fish are jumping, and the cotton is high” comes through the speaker, like diving into a wormhole I am transported to my youth.
I am in the bow of my father’s canoe, on skinny Piedmont water. It is the peak of the dog days. Hot, humid, perfect. I am throwing a Rebel Pop-R, the lure of my choice for the day. Even as a wee lad, I am the marionette. No one works a popper as well as me. I cast to a rock in an eddy. Glub-clorsh-sploosh. KAAAA-BANG! A strike! A bass. This is what we are after.
This is a typical weekend during my childhood and adolescence; bass fishing a backwater river from a canoe on a day that has a heat and ozone advisory. I have been perfecting my craft since toddlerhood.
I am in my element.
He fights a good fight. Tugging and diving, jumping and fleeing, he is no match for my finesse of the invisible 10lbs mono. I land him he is a good bass four to five pounds. He won’t win any prize but I don’t care, I caught him. He could not say no to the dance of my popper. He is Odysseus my popper the Sirens, a song no man or bass can resist.
Bzzzzzzzzzzzz-mmmmmmm. Shit, the neighbor’s AC unit cuts on and the hum of modernity shatters my tranquil memoir. I draw on my stogie and look up as the smoke leaves my mouth. A hound barks at the night. Nothing in particular, he is a hound. He has the hunt in him. ‘Tis a welcomed change in tone from my amphibious amphitheater. The hellhound loses interest and settles. Sister moon is long gone. She went from behind the clouds, to glowing, to behind the pine, to beneath the horizon.
I ash my cigar, rolling the ash to show respect to the artist who crafted such a fine smoke and I take a sip. Damn, this is good bourbon. I take a long almost regal draw of my smoke. I feel like Churchill on this particular draw. I notice my cigar is at the halfway point.
What’s a Smoke?
Time to change company, now I am joined by four lovely ladies, my favorites: Billie, Bessie, Ma, and Ida (Holiday, Smith, Rainey, and Cox) the first ladies of the Blues. Now I am truly in my happiest of happy places. When these ladies sing it is transcendent. Truly the triumvirate of the porch is in session; a top shelf bourbon, a fancy cigar, and the Blues.
I take another drag, the Empress sings “Louisiana Blues.” Fuck, this is a good smoke! Lightning once more flashes over the tree line. The frogs continue their chorus. My eyelids grow weary and my head heavy. My glass is empty; the stogie a nub. I drift off to my memories and tranquility for a final limitless moment before calling it a night.
What’s a Smoke?
This is a good smoke.
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