Friday, May 05, 2006

Cigars & Motorcycles

I've been culling short stories from my own personal slush pile, trimming their excesses and otherwise readying them for publication in a collection. I expect to include at least one story from as far back as 15 years ago. Re-reading it was a little like encountering an old lover on the street: nerve-wracking, delightful, fraught with the hope that everything in the interim had gone well with this now alien being.

As expected, this exercise has kicked up the silt in my psyche.

The other night I dreamed I was back on a motorcycle, wheeling into a neighboring town on the hunt of smokes. Cigars, actually. Schimmelpenninck Duets, to be specific: the brand Paul Auster expresses an unreserved fondness for. The tobacconist I was visiting had a drive-through option, which I queued up for. When I got to the window, the fella listened to my request, then informed me that it was too hoity-toity to be granted here, so why didn't I take it and my tenderfoot self back to the city, from whence I'd obviously come.

I felt misunderstood.

Back in the day, after two summers worth of motorcycle riding, I thought the experience highly overrated. Robert Pirsig and a host of magazine writers could wax as poetic as they wanted; the act of riding a motorcycle for long periods of time across wide swaths of landscape was in fact as onerous as sewing curtains for the church. Similarly, cigars. I've had a few dozen over the years. They coat your mouth with a variety of tar that can be not unpleasant, but in the main is unlikely to add much to your quality of life.

So why do I now want to get back on the motorcycle and smoke a cigar? My guess: perhaps I finally have the state of mind that can appreciate these experiences. My chief complaint about the motorcycle, when I was 20, was that it was too fast. I ripped through the scenery like a bee on a bullet, when what I really wanted to do was pedal through it and savor the experience. 20 years later, I don't have the time or the energy to push a bicycle to the West Coast and back. A motorcycle is a modest and manageably temperamental means of independence. It might be nice to feel the wind in my face and visit a friend in, say, Montreal or Port Elgin.

As for cigars, I dunno: seems to me a cigar is just a cigar. A Schimmelpenninck Duet is about as fine as they come, and about as much danger as I want to risk to my person when my daughters are at such a tender age. So if you do spot me with what appears to be a smoldering turd in my mouth, well ... be kind.

5 comments:

Rob said...

Well, I can't speak to the motorcycling thoughts (I don't drive. There's a story there, but I'm not telling it. Not right now.), but as to the cigars...

I honestly don't know what I would do without them. For me, a good cigar on a nice day in the front yard is just... well, it really is the cure for what ails. A welcome bringing down to earth, an antidote to stress and crap. An oasis of calm. The fact that a cigar, for me, is always accompanied by a book only adds to the effect -- you can measure how much time I spent on a book by counting the number of cigar bands tucked near the spine -- Neil Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle bristles with bands... that was a fine few weeks of reading that was.

I think part of the "problem" may be this sentiment: "A Schimmelpenninck Duet is about as fine as they come" - oh no no no... European dry-cured smokes are cigars in name only. Little resemblance to the pleasure that is a Cuban or a Dominican or a Honduran stick. No, you need to try a nice Montecristo, or a Punch Robusto in the double maduro. Or...

Well, there's always spending a June afternoon on a Toronto patio with drinks and cigars, if you're up for it.

Whisky Prajer said...

An excellent proposition - though at this point you're probably more knowledgable as to which TO patios permit smoking. Let me know where you're being put up. Between the two of us, we should be able to paint a boozey-smokey bullseye on some unsuspecting patio.

DarkoV said...

The last time my puss was crammed with a cigar, it was a Cuban. A real Cuban. It was a bunch of us, with family, at a celebration of a Master's graduation for the bunch. One of the gang had jsut come back from a trip to Britain, where she picked up the real thing at some London smoke shop. We were all parked on that summer's night, laughing and puffing when out of the corner of my eye I saw my son, just 7-8 at the time. My wife and I had been preaching the evils of smoking to him since his ears were able to tune to our frequency. The look of horror on his face and then the torrent of tears at the site of his father smoking, well actually lying and smoking was just too much. I think if a prodiguously endowed Lili LaTurne had been giving me a lapdance on that deck, he would not have been that upset.
Oh, but that Cuban was so sweet and memorable..as was the anuigh on my son's face.

Whisky Prajer said...

Those howls of laughter emanating from the Great White North are mine, Darko. Our girls have heard those self-same lectures, and though I have admitted to having smoked cigars (in my past, of course), actually witnessing me do the deed would be tantamount to the worst sort of betrayal. But, oh, I am SO not looking forward to adolescence, when they break out the klieg lights and press me for specifics....

Rob said...

Ah yes, the offspring.

My son (6) has grown up seeing me smoking cigars. It's impossible to hide, and there's little need -- there's nothing shameful about it, and it's not like I'm chain-smoking or anything. He says he loves the smell of both the cigars and of my smoky clothes when I come in from the yard (I don't expose him to second-hand smoke, perish the thought).

Cigarettes, on the other hand... I've never been a smoker, but I do smoke when I drink (or when I'm in Toronto, but that may just be an overlap with the drinking). He's never seen me with a cigarette, and it's not a conversation I'm looking forward to... Hypocrite, thy name is Dad!