Tuesday, December 05, 2006
On a less serious note- Cigars
Time to relax. I've been too tense lately; too uptight.
So, allow me to walk the path of my friend Jose at emergentmiami.com (soon to be emergentberkely.com), who gave us a list of the 25 best beers in America.
I love cigars. I have the privilege of living in a city where many fine cigar manufacturers roll their wares - Miami. One of my favorite cigar masters is El Titan de Bronze.
This is Don Carlos (pictured on the left), owner of this cigar factory. He is a very soft-spoken man; all business. The first time I came upon his small store in Little Havana, he greeted me with a smile. Pride was written all over his face. Pride in his cigar making; in being Cuban. He showed me his selection. I told him I liked a shorter smoke, so he introduced me to his Hemingway; shorties with a kick. Of all the cigars I have smoked, these are still my favorite.
That was about 2 years ago. But Don Carlos has been doing this a long time; he told me he and his father before him were cigar rollers in Cuba. His shop is across the street from one of the greats of the cigar world, El Credito. Despite El Credito's hardwood floors, leather accents, and endless rows of rollers, El Titan stands strong with it's faded picture of Giuliani enjoying one of their cigars, and usually 2-3 rollers busily working while listening to WQBA or Alvarez Guedes on Clasica 92.
You can visit their website at eltitandebronze.com. But to get the full sensory experience, pay a visit to Don Carlos at his shop on Calle Ocho.
Sometimes people ask me why I like cigars so much. I don't smoke them as much as you would think. I don't particularly like the after taste, and I have health concerns over cigar smoking. I usually smoke about 1 to 2 cigars per month. But when I smoke a cigar, I feel Cuban. I become Cuban, born and raised, if only for a few moments. Every puff of smoke carries an image of a Royal Palm swaying majestically in the breeze, or a wise smile on the leathery face of a Guajiro. Benny More sings Como Fue, and Rolando Laserie sings El Guapachoso (while wearing his Cuban flag berret of course). It's one of the few times I can experience Cuba as my parents remembered it. Castro, Che; they don't matter, unless they are the subject of some good jokes.
My dad watched me smoking a cigar one time. Looking at me he said, "Your grandfather would be so proud to see you right now." That moment was one of the proudest moments of my life as I sat there with my dad and my brothers. It's times like that when I realize why herencia is such an important word to Cubans, like Don Carlos.
Heritage. There is something sacred about that word. You experience it with a good cigar, in good company.