Downtime: Smoke Up, Johnny!

MDNG Psychiatry, December 2007, Volume 9, Issue 8

During the last decade or so, I've grown from being a casual cigar smoker (weddings and other special events) to actually knowing and appreciating the difference between a perejo and a perfecto...

“Aficionado” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a person who likes, knows about, and appreciates a usually fervently pursued interest or activity.” This would apply to many things I enjoy, but the term “cigar aficionado” just has a certain ring to it.

During the last decade or so, I’ve grown from being a casual cigar smoker (weddings and other special events) to actually knowing and appreciating the difference between a perejo and a perfecto and learning what types of binders, fillers, and wrappers I tend to enjoy the most (I’m a sucker for a Maduro or anything that has the word “Cameroon” on its band). For the last three years, I’ve been going to the “Big Smoke”, an annual event at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan hosted by Marvin Shanken and his crew over at Cigar Aficionado magazine.

One day (read: long weekend) I vow to get to the Las Vegas “Big Smoke,” but for now, the event in NYC will more than suffice. The Big Smoke is filled with cigars, humidors, cutters, lighters, top-shelf liquor, a Sopranos cast member or two, loud music, and of course, clouds of smoke (yes, you can smoke inside!). I attended again this year, on November 20, and shared a few laughs with friends, sampled fine spirits, puffed on premium cigars, restocked my humidor, and most importantly, supported The Prostate Cancer Foundation—a portion of each $200 ticket goes to benefit this

great cause.

The Big Smoke is really a “trade” event for the cigar lover… ahem, “aficionado”… with more than two dozen booths from major North American cigar manufacturers set up in the main hall. The ticket price includes one premium cigar from each of these companies, unlimited sampling of spirits/wine/beer, and a lavish buffet. The event is a whirlwind from start to finish, and it takes a couple of years to really learn how to get through the tables quickly, secure your cigars, sample the best spirits, and then beat the line at the buff et stations so you can find enough time to get back into the main hall to actually sit down and take it all in with a fi ne puro. Last year, I tipped a waiter to make me and my colleague a couple of plates so we wouldn’t have to wait on the buffet line. I was either the envy or the scorn of the room, depending on who you asked… and did it again this year.

The chance to acquire nearly 30 cigars to enjoy through the holiday season and into the New Year would be reason enough to recommend the Big Smoke to anybody who enjoys fi ne companionship, food and drink, and cigars. For me, the Big Smoke marks the threshold of my favorite time of year; despite the frigid winter air, you can still find me outside on Friday and Saturday nights, enjoying the company of my wife, a crackling fire, and the sweet waft of a double corona. I may be dressed in Gore-Tex and gloves, but I’m out there baby!

I read somewhere that the pleasure of smoking a cigar is akin to “taking a mini-vacation,” and I couldn’t agree more. We’re busier than ever in our lives, and finding an hour to sit back, relax, and get away from it all while savoring a fi ne cigar is a luxury all of us should take the time to appreciate.

To all my faithful readers (and I know there are one or two of you out there…), this will likely be my last “Downtime” column for the print magazine. However, beginning in January 2008, I will be penning an everyday blog, “The Daily Downtime,” on the ever-expanding Network. Please check it out, and again, thanks for putting up with me this whole year.

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