Whenever I would go abroad, I would usually try to get my hands on some contraband in the form of Cuban cigars. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t smoke cigars. I never developed a taste for them. Although having been a former cigarette smoker, circa 1970’s, I did appreciate why people used tobacco. Having read articles from time to time over the years from “The Cigar Aficionado”, I was convinced there was something special about Cuban cigars. Unfortunately, when I partook of them while overseas, they were as awful as anything I could easily acquire in America. Perhaps the whole “cigar lifestyle” was just a sham with people pretending to enjoy them for reasons that elude the rest of us.
So, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to try again, to see if there was something to the merit accorded Cuban cigars. Ross and Christopher on occasion go to a bar right across the street from EF, that evidently specializes in Cubans. So, in the spirit of conviviality and adventure, I joined in. The obvious question in Beijing about Cuban cigars is, how do we know if we’re puffing on the genuine article? After all, phoney booze seems to be SOP in many bars to the point where the only way to insure you’re drinking alcohol is to buy a bottle of beer. Even then, counterfeit bottled beer isn’t uncommon.
In fact, all of those Cuban cigars I’ve bought in the past could easily have been fake. How difficult is it to put a Cuban cigar band on a dungheap stick? Well, let me tell you; the Cuban I bought at this bar was without question, the real Mccoy! It was the most remarkable cigar I’ve ever had. That informed me that not only was I smoking a genuine Cuban cigar, but all those previous encounters were, in fact, with fakes. It was smooth, tasted very interesting and was not in the least bit harsh. I was amazed! After all of these years, I was finally, at long last tasting and understanding what all of the hullaballu about Cuban cigars is. Tobacco nirvana, in this case, doesn’t come cheap. It was 150 RMB- about ten dollars. That could end up being an expensive habit.
Fortunately, this won’t be the case. Although I now had “got” cigar smoking, it in turn got me and not in a good way. While enjoying my new found discovery while drinking Panda beer, along with the fine company of my young friends, I completely forgot some basic body chemistry. To wit: nicotine is absorbed orally; no inhaling required. By the time I had almost finished the cigar, and it wasn’t one of the big stogies, I started to feel dizzy. This soon turned into nausea; a bad case. A really bad case. To the point that I was eyeing the wall in the dark shadows near our outside table as my “plan B” if I was unable to get to the bar’s bathroom in time. Apparenly that dark corner of the parking lot is often used for just such occasions, according to Ross, and he would certainly know. I hate that sick feeling and I hate throwing up. No one likes to vomit. So for remainder of the evening, I simply put my head between my knees and waited for the waves of nausea to subside, which eventually happened although I still was queasy and unsteady on my feet as I staggered home which was mercifully only about a 15 minute walk.
The next day I looked up on the web to see that a full length stogie packs a nicotine punch equal to 20 cigarettes. So, I figured, in the space of thirty minutes, I smoked a half a pack. I’m sure I could “train” my body through slow inculcation of nicotine, so I could join the ranks of other cigar aficionados. Boy, now there’s a good idea. Right up there with restarting the poisonous habit I discarded thirty-six years ago.