Friday, June 25, 2010
The Healthy Savannah Carrie Nations Are Coming For My Cigar
I can't picture Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson wielding an axe a la Carrie Nation, the temperance movement leader whose literal bar busting helped pave the way for Prohibition. Johnson just doesn't seem to be the type to storm into Pinky Masters or Bacchus Wine Lounge (depending upon who my wife and I feel like hanging with) so he can take an axe to the end of my Cohiba. But it sure does feel as if Mr. Johnson, along with Healthy Savannah - part of the latest incarnation of the temperance movement - are hell(th?)-bent on keeping some of us from enjoying a smoke every now and then.
It isn't easy to disagree with the Mayor. He is one of the nicest people in a city chocked full of nice people. No conversation with Mr. Johnson is uninteresting, and the story of his recovery from a heart attack and how, in his 70's, he successfully made a number of lifestyle changes is inspiring. And, like most interesting people, he wears a hat - a fedora, a real man's hat.
This also isn't easy considering that, a little over two years ago, my father had a quadruple bypass and a heart valve replacement, forcing him to quit smoking after more than 40 years of lighting up. His doctors told him he was about a month away from dying when he had the surgery. Granted, Dad probably ate enough salt over those 40 years to create another Utah, but his excessive smoking certainly didn't help. In an interview for a medical magazine published by the hospital where was treated, Dad was quoted as saying that everyone should "never start smoking." Whoops. Sorry.
Smoking to me, however, is something entirely different than smoking was to my Dad and is for many others. I don't, nor have I ever, smoked two packs a day or more. With rare exception, I don't smoke cigarettes because most of them contain a lot of ingredients other than tobacco and, frankly, many cigarettes stink to high heaven as a result. I am a cigar smoker - an occasional cigar smoker who also enjoys outdoor activities and whose family hopes to be part of the Savannah River Bridge Run this Fall. I don't need a cigar every day, and if I go months without a cigar, I don't miss it. But when I do have the privilege of enjoying a fine, hand-rolled cigar made from nothing but tobacco whose production is overseen by legendary cigar families such as the Fuentes and Padrons, most of whom seem to live well into their 80's and 90's, I enjoy the you-know-what out of it. I also do the Clinton, I don't inhale, but then again, you aren't supposed to.
Disgusting, Carrie Nation..errr, Healthy Savannah says. No, anything but. The aroma of a well-made cigar is as succulent as that of a fine wine, the flavor as rich as a blue cheese-encrusted medium-rare porterhouse. It is something you savor until the last puff, not something you choke down during a five-minute break. Cigars and pipes are an event, like taking in a work of art, a baseball game, Singing In The Rain, or a Top Gear marathon. They are things you enjoy, like just about everything else, in moderation. Yes, even I admit that smoking too much is bad for you, just like eating too much fried chicken, drinking too much water, or indulging in too much Culture Club music.
What's that? It isn't about my health you say? It's about everyone else suffering from my "second-hand smoke"? Maybe I am not out at the right time - we admittedly don't get out much except on the rare occasion when we our babysitter is available - but that's funny, as I don't recall seeing any Healthy Savannah Carrie Nations hanging out at the bars recently. Perhaps they are disguised as tables and chairs or cheesy wall art and are there for "research purposes", but if you believe so passionately that one whiff of my cigar is the equivalent of Lex Luthor's disintegration ray, why put yourself in harm's way? Last time I checked, there were plenty of smoke-free places the Carrie Nations of the world have already conquered.
Silly me. I should know by now that is not enough for the modern-day Anti Saloon League, which means the campaign to outlaw smoking in public places will, after it is successful, become the campaign to ban smoking in private homes and yards as well, which will subsequently turn into the movement to make all tobacco products illegal. They do, after all, have history on their side. Just as the 18th Amendment to the Constitution completely rid the country of alcohol, made the country healthier and wealthier, ended poverty, made the blind to see and the lame to walk, freshened all of our collective not-so-fresh feelings and, of course, ended crime as we know it, banning smoking will immediately cure all the ills the 18th Amendment didn't take care of.
When that happens, I will donate the victory cigars.