279 - February 23, 2012
“Across the Counter” isn’t always just about advice and selling
A few weeks ago a customer directed me to the following article – well worth sharing with you.
The very finest cigar I never had
Robert Fulghum, UH-OH
You might as well know now. A cigar is the centerpiece of what follows. And you might as well also know that I have been known to smoke one of those things from time to time, despite what I know about all the good reasons not to. I'm just assuming that you sometimes do something of your own that you shouldn't do, either, and will understand. Moreover, I only had one puff from this cigar. Yet it was the cigar I will never forget.
One fine fall morning in San Francisco. I had taken a cable car from Union Square to thefoot of Columbus Street, intending to walk back through the old Italian quarter of North Beach. In a great mood. A week of hard work had gone well, and now I had a couple of days off to myself. So I had gone into Dunhill's and bought the finest cigar in the shop to smoke on an equally fine walk.
If you happen to appreciate cigars, this was a Macanudo, maduro, as big around as my thumb and six-and-a-half inches long—a very serious cigar. If you do not appreciate cigars, this one is best described as one of those cigars that would make you say, "My God, you're not going to smoke that thing in here, are you?"
After a few blocks' walk, it was cigar time. With care I removed the cellophane, squeezed the cigar to check for freshness, and held it to my nose to make sure it wasn't sour. Perfect.
Leaning against a tree, I cut the end off the cigar with my pocketknife and carefully lit up. One puff, and I said aloud to myself: "Now that, THAT, is some cigar!"
It so happened that I had been standing in front of a coffeehouse. A cup of fine espresso would add the final right ingredient to a recipe for a memorable morning. Placing the lit cigar carefully on the wide brick window ledge of the coffeehouse, I went inside to order. While waiting at the counter, I glanced out the window to check on my cigar. Gone. My cigar was gone.
Abandoning my coffee, I rushed to the door. And stopped short. There on the other side of the glass was an old man examining my cigar with the skill of an aficionado. He held the cigar with respect under his nose and smelled it with eyes closed. He smiled. He squeezed the cigar to check for freshness. He smiled. Looking carefully up and down the street, he took a puff. And smiled again. With a heavenward salute with the cigar, he set off down the street. SMOKING MY CIGAR. I followed, not knowing quite what to do. I really wanted that cigar back.
The old man. Salt-and-pepper hair, with grand mustache and eyebrows to match—jaunty black longshoreman's cap, white long-sleeved shirt, black suspenders, and dark brown pants and shoes. Short, plump, wrinkled, walking with a slight limp, the old man ambled on into the morning, unaware of me lurking furtively a few yards behind.
Italian. First-generation immigrant probably. As were the friends he visited to report the good news of the cigar that fate had prepared for him that fine day. I got a tour of the old Italian quarter of North Beach I had not anticipated—the real thing. A pasta shop, a fruit stand, a hardware store, a bakery, and the local priest. At each stop, in passionate terms, he exalted the cigar, his good fortune, and this lovely day. Each friend was offered a sample puff. The fruit vendor squeezed the cigar and approved its ripeness. The baker puffed twice and pronounced the cigar "Primo, primo." The priest gave the cigar a mock blessing.
In time the old man turned toward the bocce ball courts north of Ghirardelli Square, and when he arrived, he repeated for his compatriots his ritual celebration of the cigar and his good luck. The cigar burned down to a short stub. As it came his turn to play, the old man meditated upon the end of the cigar with dear regret. He did not toss it to the ground and grind it underfoot as I might have. No. Solemnly, he walked over to a flower bed, scooped a small hole beneath a rosebush, laid the cigar butt to rest, covered it with dirt, and patted the small grave smooth with his hand. Pausing, he raised his cap in respect, smiled, and returned to play the game.
The old man may have smoked it, but I've not enjoyed a cigar more. If having a lovely memory is the best possession, then that cigar is still mine, is it not? It remains the very finest cigar I never had.
The article is printed with kind permission of the author and BrightSight Group
Robert Fulghum has published eight best-selling books of non-fiction.
More than 17 million copies of his books are in print, in 31 languages,
in 103 countries.
He is an extremely interesting man, and has lived an extremely
Visit his website– I’m sure you’ll enjoy him and his writing as much as I am.
For our USA readers, Robert Fulghum is available for speaking on a limited basis and is represented by the BrightSight Group.
For our South African readers, each Wesley’s has some fine non-Cuban cigars but with the current laws we can’t offer you a “special” on a Macanudo!
However here is some advice from “Across the Counter”:
Robert Fulghum used his pocketknife to cut the end off his cigar – very appropriate for a cigar of that size!
However, I’m noticing more customers asking us to use a Cigar Punch to cut their cigars when they buy singles from the shop humidor.
The Punch has its place in cigar cutting:
• For thinner cigars it is easier than trying to open the head without removing the whole cap;
• Some cigars have a very flat head – again it can be difficult to cut off less than the whole cap;
• And the surgical steel on a cigar punch gives an exceptionally neat hole – no ragged edges.
If you have experienced one of these problems, then you may find that the Punch is the answer for you – at least for some of your cigars. (It is not appropriate for a torpedo – maybe not for a thick, domed-head cigar.)
No.279 February 23 – March 7, 2012
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