Before cigar smokers were not considered one step below axe murderers, cigar events were held in public restaurant’s, hotels and bars. People would actually gather together to smoke a cigar, have a drink, grab a meal and converse about a variety of topics.
Of course, the world has changed and cigar fans need to gather in exclusive cigar bars, lounges or specially designed safe rooms.
Two events stick in my head. Living in Boston there was a cigar club called the Excelsior Cigar Club. The group met once a month for a meal, libations and social discourse. Men in suits, talking nonsense or whatever else they thought was appropriate .
I was not a member but one time was invited to attend as a guest of a member.
The event was held at the Holiday Inn in Boston which was in the theatre district, an area still a bit seedy but heading into redevelopment. I put on my blue suit, met my friend Dick Crogan, retired Marine and prison administrator . We arrived on a winter’s night, chilly but not snowy. The meeting room/dining room was off centered as I am sure the hotel did not want the guests near 50 men smoking cigars.
As we walked near the space, the obvious aroma of cigars hit which made it very easy to find the room. The smoke was settling in the ceiling area , clearly visible. Dick and I walked around the room, introduced ourselves to the crowd. Business people, politicians, police and civil service employees were puffing away.
My first chat was with a retired Fire Chief was Chelsea , Massachusetts, truly an avid cigar guy. We talked about local cigar places and I asked him how many cigars he smoked. His answer was 7 , which I thought meant a week but actually was a day’s worth of smoking.
Other conversations were going on and I mostly listened as I did not know the folks in the room. I did have an introduction to Tommy O’Neill , the son of Tip and at the time Tommy was the Lieutenant Governor of the state.
There were other state representatives at the event as cigar smoking was considered an acceptable practice if you were a politician.
We sat down finally , eating a meal, smoking one cigar after another . The master of ceremonies was an executive from Fidelity, a champion of Boston business.
He rambled on , mostly talking about the state of the state according to him. I had very little idea what he was talking about but just smoked away, nodding my head as if I understood or cared what he was saying.
He finally concluded his meandering speech and then announced we would go around the room, introduce ourself and tell a story or a joke. This got my attention.
Fortunately I was at the end of the tables and would be one of the last to report to the room.
The stories or jokes we heard were a mixed bag of funny or not, interesting or boring. In essence , mostly forgettable. After almost an hour of this mindless banter, my story was coming up in a couple of turns. I did not know what direction I should go. I turned to Dick and he said he was going to tell a Marine story which I knew he had plenty of.
I was a bit uneasy about the whole idea of telling a story and he said, just make something up , you will never see these guys again. That made absolute sense. It did not matter what I said as no one really cared.
When my turn came , I introduced myself and embellished a story which did actually happen when I worked for the city of Somerville as a youth worker. A group of neighborhood kids were giving an older gentleman a hard time at night, keeping him up and using his house to hang out in front of.
So what I told the kids that the guy they were hassling was a former professional wrestler and if they would not stop their disruption, he was going to make then very sorry. What the truth was that liked to watch wrestling and that’s about it.
So the story became the lie to the group of cigar smokers and wondered what happened to the kids and who the guy was. They never got the straight story but as Dick told me, you would never see them again and he was right.