Apropos of Nothing: Cigar Smoking
An Editorial by Jamie Beckett
Sigmund Freud, the great pioneer of psychoanalysis, once famously said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Everyone knows that. Except, there isn’t any actual evidence Freud really said, or wrote, or thought that line — brilliantly conceived as it may be.
Freud was Austrian, of course, which is like being German, but in a more upscale, gated community. So what Siggy actually didn’t say is something more like, “Manchmal ist eine Zigarre nur eine Zigarre.” But why split hairs over it?
Austrian misquotes aside, perhaps there is something to the lowly cigar that deserves consideration. In their defense, they’re a natural yield of agricultural pursuits. These gluten-free, zero calorie, artisanal products of the land have been given a bad name in recent years — mostly from prudish folks with an aversion to the aroma of excellence.
Yes, I said it. Excellence. Cigar smokers run the gamut from the scum of the earth to the movers and shakers who make modern life great. And while the simple act of firing up a Cohiba won’t make you any less homeless or unemployed, it may make those with the weight of the world on their shoulders feel a bit more calm and in control. Heaven knows we could stand to ease the tensions in this world just a bit.
Maybe cigars are the answer to all our problems. The big ones, anyway.
Consider this; Winston Churchill led Britain to victory over the Hun with a Romeo y Julieta clamped between his teeth. George Burns made generations of Americans laugh at the silliest things, holding an El Producto all the while. Uncle Miltie launched the power of television in our general direction while waving an H. Upmann cheroot in our faces. Red Auerbach led the Boston Celtics to victory time and time again, taking a break to light up a Hoyo de Monterrey as the clock ticked down to zero. Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to championship after championship, celebrating those wins with a Montecristo. And you can add to that list of cigar fans — Whoopi Goldberg, Jennifer Lopez, Ciara, Raquel Welch, and Carmen Electra.
Yep, the ladies have been lighting up for years, too.
Jack Nicholson had been known to fire up a Montecristo at courtside — until the California legislature made it a crime to enjoy conflagrant tobacco products in public buildings.
New York is currently contemplating a law that would make it illegal to smoke outside, too.
Have we gone insane? Yes, I think we have.
Imagine the travesty of a recent visit to the Hartford, Connecticut home of America’s literary sweetheart, Mark Twain. Twain was a dedicated cigar smoker known for his affection for even the lowest quality stogies. It’s been said he disposed of as many as two dozen cigars a day, yet his former home is disturbingly free of the scent.
Worse, the tour guide who led my small group around the house repeatedly remarked about how horrible it must have been back in the day to be confronted with such an unpleasantly pervasive aroma. However, he was condescending and gracious enough to excuse Twain’s affection for cigars by including in his commentary, “They didn’t know any better back then.”
Twain lived into his mid-70s. Quite an achievement for his day. Freud was 83 when his light went out. Churchill died at 90. Milton Berle made it to 93. George Burns hit the century mark.
Longevity doesn’t seem to be much of a problem for these smokers. It seems the aroma of their chosen habit has become an issue. Not the coal smoke, wood smoke, or oil smoke that permeated their lives. Nope, just the cigar smoke. The thing that brought them pleasure. That’s what modern busybodies have to stamp out. Because…. well, just because, that’s why.
My maternal grandfather, Bion Ebenezer Smith, smoked cigars for more than 70 years. His house and his clothes smelled of burnt tobacco. Much like Twain’s must have, and Berle’s, and Burns’, and Churchill’s and Freud’s. So in their honor I’ll light up a cigar today, a Nicaraguan beauty with a Connecticut shade tobacco wrapper. I’ll enjoy it with a dram of fine Scotch whisky as the sun sets and the soft Florida evening fades into night.
I’ll be out on the back porch, of course. I don’t want the neighbors to know, and my wife would kill me if I lit up in the house.
I’m rebellious, but I’m not crazy.