Friday, June 23, 2006


Gar TiesA number of years ago, I somehow contrived to attend a couple of Cigar Aficionado’s Big Smoke events in New York City.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Big Smoke, this is one of those deals in which Cigar Aficionado rents a humongous hall - usually in a top-notch hotel - and all sorts of upscale restaurants, booze merchants, and other Purveyors of Luxury Goods put up booths. Prominent among said Purveyors are the Cigar Boyz. You pay a stiff admission fee, thus entitling you to wander the hall, picking up all kinds of samples and buying all sorts of Miscellaneous Merchandise.

Tickets to these affairs typically run about $175, but you can easily snag enough samples of High-End Cigars to make it worthwhile. In my case, since I had a customer who was a cigar fanatic (actually, he would smoke pretty much anything that would burn, including Kents and carpet remnants), I convinced my superiors at the Great Corporate Salt Mine that the Big Smoke was an appropriate Business Entertainment Venue, and thus was able to write off the ducats. Schweeet.

The first Big Smoke we attended was, in its own way, unforgettable.

I flew to New York and met my customer at the Marriott Marquis, where the Grand Ballroom had been taken over for the event. The room, immense as it was, was packed to the gills with over 1600 Happy Guys. Happy! For every Man-Jack there had a cigar jammed in his face, and a blissful expression on his face. The only way these guys would have been happier is if they were handing out free blow-jobs to go with the cigars.

It’s the kind of place that, if only some Fishing Action had been thrown in, would’ve made Marcus think he had died and gone to heaven.

My customer - let’s call him “Jerry” - and I wandered the hall, loading up our goody-bags with cigars and miscellaneous samples. We scored a couple of excellent neckties, and I won a raffle for a bottle of Rémy Martin Cognac. [VSOP, in case you give a crap.] Between the two of us, we nabbed over fifty high-quality cigars of almost every make and description. (No, no White Owls.)

All of the walking around got to be wearing, so we grabbed a couple of plates of food - it was from Vong, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s signature Asian fusion restaurant, so spring rolls were probably involved - and sat down at one of the tables provided for just that purpose.

And that’s when it caught my eye...the sexiest damn thing I think I have ever seen.

It was a huge Churchill-size cigar, about eight inches long and a 54 ring gauge, sitting in a glass ashtray. At one end was about 1/2 inch of fine greyish-white ash; at the other end was a perfect ring of red lipstick.

Bejus on a bus! You could get hot just looking at that thing, letting it conjure up all sorts of Prurient Imagery.

The owner of this Quintessential Phallic Symbol eventually came back to claim it, laden with a plate of food. She was one of the handful of women that were sprinkled throughout the overwhelmingly male crowd. “Jerry” and I had a pleasant, but meaningless, conversation with her, and then we went our separate ways.

Gawd only knows how long it took for the Marriott to make that hall habitable again. On returning home to Houston, it took me three trips to the dry cleaner to get the Pungent Cigar Aroma out of my suit.

But I have never gotten the image of that lipstick-ringed cigar out of my mind.

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