An Enjoyable Vice

The glass door is opened and I step into the small room. The atmosphere is moist and the temperature is warm. Just right. It’s a tight space and I’m happy to have it all to my self. Another visitor would make things too difficult to properly scan the boxes. It’s been a while since I’ve done this and it takes a few moments before I start to feel comfortable enough to begin making a decision.

“I remember these. Hmmm. Did I like them?
I read the tiny labels carefully.
“Ah, HA! Perfect!”

A box of Griffins cigars.

I am not a smoker. Well, not of any measurable quantity at any rate and never a consumer of cigarettes. A good cigar though? That’s a different story entirely.

I shall refrain here from discussing all the issues and health risks involved with smoking since they are very well known and called into question only by those making money through tobacco sales or by folks so hooked that they feel the need to delude themselves into thinking that breath after breath of burning leaves does no damage. I admit, I am happy when ever I see the smoking areas disappear from eating establishments. It means that I can enjoy my meal and actually taste it as well. I reserve my smoking habits to one type of tobacco product and the out doors. Even then, It’s only about six to seven times a year. For me, it’s a treat, and one that is best enjoyed with good friends.

Growing up, smoking in my house only happened when I was very young. Too young, actually, for the memory to take root. My Father smoked, as did most folk’s dads, it seemed. He was a company man and cigarettes and gin and tonics were part of the corporate dress code. He had smoked for years, though not heavily. As the story was related to me, one day after work, my Father came home, went into the bed room and started to switch into work clothes. His three piece suit was hung up and the pockets emptied out onto the bed, their contents to be set aside for tomorrow. While he was in the closet rummaging for a hanger, his two year old son quietly meandered into the room, spotted his father as well as the items on the bed.

“Look, daddy!”

My father turned around an saw his only child, his toddler, standing there smiling at him, with a Marlborough sticking out from between his lips. He carefully removed the cigarette, smiled at his son and as soon as he was out of sight, crushed the little white cylinder, the rest of the pack and threw it in the garbage. He never bought another pack again. He told me that quitting was one of the hardest things he ever did, but he was a non-smoker from then on. I never started, until one day at college.

I never liked the smell of cigarettes so avoiding the habit wasn’t hard. I’m also pretty much immune to peer pressure since I like to do what I want to do. If pressured, (C’mon! We’re all trying it! You should too!) my contrarian nature tends to raise it’s head and I just dig in my heals that much harder. I have an odd habit of making my mind up using logic and personal preference and letting the rest of the world do what it pleases.

So, away we went to college. For the first time, kids who had found it necessary to furtively smoke behind the maintenance shed had the chance to smoke openly, and with gusto. There is nothing like an eighteen year old who has decided that they are a smoker. Their discolored fingers were like badges of adulthood. I still had no interest in the little white sticks and left them to it.

Final exams. They were over at last! As an art major, that meant that the long hours spent burning the three AM oil finishing piece after piece, the mating and framing followed by the instructors critique the next morning, was finally over. We had finished our art work for the semester and it was time to celebrate. Too young to legally buy booze we trooped down to the smoke shop to purchase something new and different. Victory cigars!

I knew nothing of what to buy. Actually, none of us did. As we crowed into the small humidor someone made a ground rule. “Nothing under two bucks!” This seemed like a good idea. We might not know what were were looking at, but keeping the price at this level solved many problems. This way, no one could cheep out and buy something that smelled like a immolated raccoon, we had a better shot of picking something that was actually good and most importantly, being poor college students, we were assured that we wouldn’t be able to afford this as a habit. With our purchases tucked in tiny bags or shirt pockets, we went home to try them out. We had mixed success.

Some were good, some were awful, others smelled a bit… raccooney. Over the next four years, I found my favorite, Griffins. I have tried many, many others over time. When spending time outside the U.S. and its deranged trade embargo, there are a few Cuban varieties which I enjoy very much. I own a pipe as well, though it hasn’t been lit in years, the tobacco drying out after only one or two dips into the bag. I just don’t smoke it often enough to warrant the expense, and that’s fine. Good, probably.

With my college friends long since moved away and my rarely seen brother-in-law being the only other guy I know who will seek out a good cigar, I just didn’t buy them anymore. That is, until the day that seemed to demand it. It was a cool March morning and I was sitting on the steps of the hospital making phone calls. My son was two hours old and you couldn’t have wiped the smile off my face with a floor polisher. Then it hit me. Cigars! I need cigars!

A quick walk down the street brought me into the local smoke shop. I found the humidor, walked in and after a moment of feeling overwhelmed, found my old favorite. I had never bought an entire box before and the cost made me pause. Did I really need to spend that much? I hesitated. Yes! When else was this going to happen? Purchase in hand, I strode out and back to the hospital. My prize Griffins were handed out over the next few days.

Naturally, I did the same thing for Lulu Belle when her day of arrival came along and though empty now, I have saved the neat little wooden boxes and written their birthdays on the bottom. I’ll give them to my kids later on to keep what ever they please in them. It took over two years to get through the remainders of the two boxes. I hadn’t handed them all out at the time of my children’s births and still others were politely refused. It was nice to have a good cigar handy when going to the shooting range or on the front lawn with friends while playing boule. I enjoyed how they enhanced the experience of these moments.

The last two were memorably smoked. At his request, my Father and I waked down to the sea shore, sat on some rocks and enjoyed them as we talked and solved the world’s problems. Before he lit the cigar, he informed me that this was his first time for him since the day he threw that pack away so long ago. It was rather odd to see him puffing away, my ex-smoking Dad, but then again, it must have been doubly strange to watch his son do the same.

I never bought them very often and now, even less, but sometimes it seems like the moment just calls for it. I doubt I’ll ever buy another box but I’ll pick up the odd single here and there. Who knows, some day, that might be me, sitting with my son or daughter, sharing a thoughtful moment and a good cigar as we watch the waves roll slowly to shore. I hope they have the taste to get something devoid of “Parfum de Raccoon.”

Be careful. Baby’s are catching.

A few very short and sleepless nights ago, Lulu Belle entered the world. Action Girl and I have been waiting anxiously for some time for this event and thank goodness, all has gone well. Both Mom and Lulu are in great shape and there were no worrying or unexpected events. The three of us were tired, happy and relaxing in the recovery room the evening after the happy event.

As it happens, a truly improbable number of our couple-friends are expecting babies of their own in the very near future. In total, we know four other couples who will be getting family additions of their own either in the next week or so or some time this summer. One of these friends is almost tied with action girl in respect to due dates. In fact, they were only one day apart. Because Action Girl had a C-section scheduled and since they set those up before your actual due date, she was going to beat our friend by about a week. It would have been fun to be all in the hospital at once, but hey, what were the chances that they would be so close in the first place? It was nice for Action Girl and our friend to be there to commiserate and shop with over the last few months, though.

The night after Lulu was born, our round and expecting friend came in to visit, bringing flowers and a small gift for our new baby. She got to hold Lulu and Action Girl got to tell her all about the experience and generally catch up and be buddies. I mainly sat in the background and nodded a lot. This was girl talk, after all. Our friend’s husband was supposed to come by as well but had begged off at the last moment after he came to the realization that he still had a ton of things to do before their own baby came into the world some time next week or so and he wanted to try to get through as much of it as he could that evening. Though robbed of “guy talk” that evening, I doubt I could have held a coherent conversation any way.

The reason for my more than normal dopiness was that the night before we were due to go to the hospital, Short Stack pulled an epic night of no sleep. After three nights in a row of sleeping right through, he managed to come down with a runny nose and stuffy head. What that meant was that he didn’t really get much sleep. What THAT meant was that I got less. Action Girl was in no condition to leap out of bed and help him, so that in conjunction with just being keyed up in general left me with something like three hours of real, good, deep sleep. Then, we went in the next morning and had a new baby girl by early afternoon which, though I was there mostly for moral support, took it out of me none the less. I was holding up alright but the visit that we were expecting from our very pregnant friend did run longer than I hoped. When the visiting hours expired at eight, the ladies were still yammering away while I was having trouble keeping from elegantly sliding off the chair and on to the inviting floor.

Finally, by twenty past, our friend was putting on her coat and giving out the good bye hugs. The last thing Action Girl said to our friend was that she should go home and just go into labor so they could be at the birthplace together. Our friends words were, (and I quote) “I’ll do my best”.

We turned in for the night and the three of us dropped off fairly quickly. For me, a folding cot, a pillow made from foam and a gauze thin blanket never felt so good. Lulu did have a few moments during the night. She needed a change of diaper once or twice and a new “urp-up” free shirt and pillow case, but nothing too bad. These were taken care of by me since Action Girl was down for the count after major abdominal surgery. Two AM rolls around and to my amazement, Action Girl’s bed starts moving up and down. It elevates, it goes down, changes shape, pauses and then starts squirming like an android caterpillar.

At first I thought she must be leaning against the controls in her sleep. No. She was playing. Then to my added horror, the light over the bed goes on and Action Girl starts asking me if the baby is keeping me up. What I quickly start to realize as she tries to drag me into conversation, is that all the pain killers that she’s on have her WIRED! She’s wide awake, hyper and bored. After about ten minutes of assuring her that Lulu isn’t keeping me up and that “no”, I’m perfectly comfortable, I finally inform her that the major impediment on my way to Sleepyville is in fact, Lulu’s mom. Through the haze of the percocet she slowly and sheepishly turns off the light tries to fiddle with the bed less an not ask me questions about… anything. Somewhere between nurse’s visits, Lulu whining and a woman giving birth in the next room, I manage to pull down… at least another two to three hours. WOOO!

The next morning I go to fill up the largest bowl shaped object I can find with what ever passes for coffee in the waiting room. On my way to scout caffeine possibilities I see a face I didn’t expect. It’s a buddy of mine and you guessed it, the husband of our very pregnant friend from the night before. He looks ALMOST as shell shocked as I do. Apparently, at 1:30 that night, her water broke and off to the Hospital they went. After a long labor, they have their own little boy and are moved into the room next door to ours. More mutual friends of our have come to visit since our happy family additions, one of whom is pregnant as well. We all cautioned her to touch nothing and stay away from the water, lest she join us.

It’s going to be interesting once we get home. No more nurses. No more coffee ready and waiting for me in the lounge. No more free laundry service with an unlimited supply of infant bedding. It’s going to be tough. But that’s okay. Once we’re home, I know that I don’t have to worry about our bed coming to life as Action Girl gets bored at two AM. And Lulu wouldn’t wake me up, right? Right?

Heh. It could happen.

T minus one (day) and counting!

A short post this morning due to time constraints. I’m feverishly trying to get loose ends tied up, i’s dotted and t’s crossed before I have to set down my work life for a week or so. I’m shutting down my business for that time and need to get everything ready. I’ll probably miss a few things but hey, that’s inevitable. I’ll just do what I can.

Short Stack’s bag is packed and today my folks will be coming up to stay for a while. They’ll come and pick up our little guy and take care of him while Action Girl and I are gone. Tomorrow, the two of us will leave in the morning and before the noon hour is passed, we shall be three. I can’t wait!

What we know is that the baby is a girl and that everything looks good so far. The birth will be a cesarean section due to a number of factors but that’s okay because it means that we get to side step the whole “running around in a panic” thing. I won’t miss that!

So, please excuse me if I leave the funny travel stories genre for a few days. I’ll no doubt have stuff to relate here, but it will be more of the schmaltzy variety, most likely. Lulu Belle is on her way and the three of us become four. I can’t wait to hold her and tell her how much I love her. Long ago, I knew I was going to love being a Dad. I was just unprepared for how much I would.

Now, off to finish things up. I’m about to double my work load and I can’t wait!


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