Thursday, April 21, 2011

Evil: In the Beginning (Shout at the Devil)

Growing up in the 80’s, being a big fan of heavy metal music and playing guitar in several Boston area bands, I was always surrounded by smokers. Marlboro reds and weed were the top choices in the circles I ran in, but I didn’t smoke either. There were those extremely drunkin’ nights that I got caught up in the partying and people would find me smoking a cigarette or stumbling my way into a circle and taking a hit, but that happened very rarely. There was also the occasional cigar on New Years eve, but unlike the other stuff, I liked the cigar…everything about it, the smell, the style and even the looks (mostly bad) I got for  people when I lit one up.

It wasn’t until 1998 that I became a full blown cigar smoker. I was living in Salt Lake City for a few years, and some of my friends decided to have a big poker night. Before the game, we went to a place called Knuckleheads for some of the guys to get some papers, and some to grab some cigars. I knew I wanted a cigar, and asked the kid working there for a good suggestion. The smell of cedar and tobacco flooded my senses when we walked into the humidor room. It always amazes me how it’s like another world when you go in a walk-in humidor, like you stepped into a portal of a jungle planet. Bombarded by box after box of stogies on the wall, the kid showed me a few brands and explained the differences in quality and prices. His choice was a boutique brand called Cupido, a good smoke at a very good price. Since I really didn’t know much, getting all my previous cigars from a drugstore, I went with his suggestion.

That night we had music from the likes of Motley Crue, Slayer and Clutch on the stereo while we sat and played cards for hours. I had some beer in me and I was feeling good, with some nice wins under my belt, when I decided it was time to light up my Cupido. I laugh now remembering that I bit off the tip and got “tobacco dandruff” (a term I picked up from Stephen King’s Gunslinger) in my mouth. The end was jagged, so I got a pair of scissors to even out the cut...very lowbrow, I know, but I didn’t know any better, or realize I could have bought a cutter for about $1. I lit up and took some long deep drags and could tell that I was hooked. It was a great cigar that began my obsession with stogies and my quest for Cupido cigars.

I still have the last hand of that night burned into my memories...the pot was getting big (for us), over $200, and someone went all-in with another $200. For a cash game with a bunch of college guys, this was big money...but I knew I had him beat with a heart I stood up, pulled out my wallet, took out my ATM card, threw it on the pile of chips and yelled, “Call!”, my cigar wisping smoke out of the corner of my mouth as I yelled. Again, we were new at all this, and I of course know better now that you can’t bet money you don’t have, but he took my ATM bet, and he lost everything against my hand. So there I was, wining a nice chunk-of-change with a heart flush, a Cupido cigar in my mouth (the logo being a cupid in a red heart), heavy metal playing in the background...and it makes me wonder if I am just chasing the dragon every time I light up...

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