Cigarettes remind me a lot of several times in my childhood where key moments were filled with that that heady stink. All good memories, mind you, whether it was going to the bank for the first time see go check a safe deposit box with my dad, waiting for the laundry to get done at the laundromat, the last trans-Atlantic flights which had smoking sections, or visiting friends and enduring hours of those billowing clouds while my parents partied or my friends and I played Super Mario until the wee hours of the morning.  Having not lived with parents that smoked I was always intrigued. That cool Marlboro man always beckoned to me as did all those moments in the movies. Hang loose, enjoy some chitchat and take a few good drags.

My first cigarette was at a culvert in the rural fields of then Czechoslovakia. It was some Russian brand as my grandpa implicitly denied us access to his recent gifts of Camel from America. I coughed, choked, and hated it but damn were we cool. I didn’t do that again until I moved out and lived on my own during a contract gig editing a fishing gear catalog when I became fond of those Wide sticks puffing away keeping buzzed on nicotine and coffee.

Thankfully, my wife disapproved. Back then the nasty smells erupting from my lungs after a few cigarettes were hard to hide. Half drags, mints, brushing teeth; I’d end up coughing out a lung the next morning and would feel terrible until that first morning hit. I wasn’t a long term smoker though. All in all I think I went through  a carton my whole smoking career. I got lucky and didn’t get hooked. Having gained 90 pounds after my stint at college mixing my overweight status with the tarring of my respiratory system was likely a road to self destruction. I knew better. My parents quit smoking the day they found out they were going to have me and I only saw them smoke a couple times as a kid. After that the last time my dad smoked was the couple he had when he found out his younger brother had died tragically. I respected him for that as I did my mom – they stayed off them since having kids and I’d do the same.

Fast forward a decade and I started my career in programming and I was once again around chain smokers yet I successfully stand away from cigarettes. I did however become acquainted with pipe tobacco and cigarillos. Mild in flavor, without the inhalation, and more of an occasional smoke they seemed like the refined gentleman’s pastime. And so I embarked to learn and adopt this weekend pastime.

The occasional pipe filled with a nice cavendish or some other golden or mixed Virginian tobacco was delightful accompanied with a small glass of cognac or the like. Into the wee hours a friend and I would sit and chat while we sat back and allowed the living room to stew in a fine haze of sweet chocolate tones.

Even more recently I have been exploring cigars which each also have their own tones and flavors mildly accompanying my moments of relaxation after a long week of whatever it is that I stress over during my journey through engineering management. At first it was a cost consideration. Casa de Garcia at a mere $2 a stogie was a fantastic deal but as my tastes refined and I tried other it became clear that the discount bin was no longer worthy of my increasingly refined desires.

Once in a while I will visit my favorite site and order myself a shipment of various selections. Romeo y Juliet, Cohiba, Punch, Macanudo – these are now the contemporaries which I am happy to share when anyone inclined for a good, meaningful conversation over a stiff drink, crackle of a starlit fire, or watching the barbecue sizzle for hours on end.

I like cigars and while I definitely don’t want to smoke incessantly a cigar here and there is just what relaxation calls for. It’s always better with good company but there are some days when its something to look forward to while letting my mind wonder and decouple from the stresses of life.

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