Several years ago a friend of mine told me about her birthday present from her son-in-law—a cigar store adventure—a visit to the cigar store/smoking lounge where she enjoyed smoking a special cigar with her family and all the other cigar lovers in the smoking lounge.
I had never heard of stores with a lounge where you could smoke cigars. Not being a smoker I had never thought a lot about where one would buy cigars and certainly never imagined a place where people go just to smoke one.
After hearing about my friend’s experience I decided that I wanted to visit a cigar store/lounge, not to smoke a cigar, but to simply experience and photograph a new place.
I hoped to visit the cigar store where my friend’s son-in-law worked but time and life kept us both busy and we never seemed to get around to scheduling a time. I decided to plan my own outing and began researching cigar stores online and learned that there was a cigar store very near the food coop where I shop.
I wrote the store name and address down on a post-it note that I kept by my computer. But months went by and still I didn’t visit the cigar store with my camera.
I realized that my hesitation was because I was a little fearful about whether I would be welcome to visit and photograph there. Finally one morning I decided it was time to face my fear.
“What’s the worst thing that could happen?” I asked myself. “They could say no,” I thought, “Am I okay with that? — Hell yes!”
So I headed out to the cigar shop.
A sign by the parking lot entry displayed the name of the cigar shop along with the names of other shops in the small shopping area, so I knew I was in the right place. I parked my car, grabbed my camera and began looking for the shop entry. It’s door was discreetly tucked into a corner of the U-shaped building, no sign overhead to announce the shop, and the small sign on the door saying simply “Cigars.”
As soon as I stepped in the door I knew I was in the right place as the smell of cigar smoke-filled the air. I walked a few steps through a short entry hall, turned the corner and saw a small alcove with a television and sofa, one man quietly smoking a cigar, eyes glued to the screen, a large humidor filled with cigars of all kinds, and a sort of bar with jars of loose tobacco and other smoking accouterments.
It was like entering a different world, dim and dark, redolent with cigar smoke, and quiet conversations.
I introduced myself to the guy behind the counter, told him why I was there, and asked if he minded if I made some photographs of the store. He was a little perplexed by my interest in photographing the shop but cheerfully said “Yes” to my request.
I asked him if I could photograph him in the humidor in front of the plethora of cigar choices he sold. As we walked into the room he proudly announced that they sold only the finest cigars made in places like Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Brazil—no Cuban cigars because the Cuban cigar industry had “turned to crap.”
I asked what it was that made cigars unique and he went on to wax poetically about how the basis of the cigar’s unique flavor was the tobacco leaf chosen to wrap the cigar. Once the leaf was chosen, tobacco’s were mixed to blend with or highlight the leaf used to wrap the cigar.
I quickly learned that this man was as passionate about the cigars he sold as I am about photography. It felt like a meeting of kindred spirits, even though there were huge differences between us as well. I loved that he loved what he did. It makes me totally happy when I see someone doing what they love and able to make a living doing it.
Several guys sitting by the bar were chatting and smoking and they cheerfully posed for photographs. Others looked like they preferred their privacy so I left them to their solitary cigar smoking.
I spent less than 15 minutes visiting and photographing the store. Although it was a fun adventure, in that short time my clothing was permeated by the smell of cigar smoke and I felt the need to go outdoors to breath some fresh air. I decided that I would leave the adventure of actually smoking a cigar to another day.
When was the last time you did something that scared you a little bit? Is it time to push your limits?
May you walk in beauty.