Leo W. Banks
    Arizona Daily Star




    By Leo W. Banks

    Puff. Puff. I want to smoke cigars when I grow up.

    I want to meet Hemingway and Fitzgerald at a café on Boulevard Montparnasse along the Seine where we will drink Pernod and smoke thin, literary cigars and wait for Zelda, who is late as usual, and we will all be happy as expatriate writers smoking cigars in the spring in Paris.

    Puff. Puff. I want to hit the beach at Normandy with the Marines and sit in a foxhole with my typewriter and file a story for Harper’s.

    My cigar will be short and fat and I will keep it unlighted in the corner of my mouth as I type. Just once I want to bite down on a cigar and duck flak and use the word leathernecks in a story.

    Puff. Puff. I want to walk into Elaine’s in New York City wearing my natty blue sport coat with the patches at the elbow to do lunch with Woody Allen.

    I will smoke a cannon of a cigar that will catch the ferns on fire if I’m not careful and we will sit in the corner to avoid the paparazzi and after lunch, over brandy, we will ink a deal for my latest screenplay.

    Puff. Puff. I want to stand on a podium in the Red Sox locker room with champagne running down my face and a cigar in my mouth, telling NBC about my home run that clenched World Series.

    The next day I’ll see my picture on the front page of the Globe, my long cigar going off the page.

    Puff. Puff. My best fantasies have cigars in them. They are expensive cigars that cost more than $1 a copy, but I can afford them and I can smoke them forever without getting sick to my stomach.

    I can blow blue, swirling billows to mark my territory and the lady at the next table never raises a fuss.

    I can bite off the end and spit it onto the sidewalk without getting wet tobacco stuck to my teeth that shows when I smile, which is not very often.

    Cigars are power. Many who smoke cigars don’t say have a nice day and they don’t drive carefully and they don’t order drinks with fruit in them and they don’t let anyone else pick up the bill and they don’t talk to plants because they don’t have any.

    And even if a cigar smoker did have a plant or two he wouldn’t have to talk to them because they wouldn’t dare not grow.

    Picture Sir Winston Churchill, Britain’s greatest prime minister, being chatty with his plants during the blitz.

    Britain endured because Churchill smoked fine cigars. Good cigars make good decisions.

    Paul Volcker, the man who handles all that Federal Reserve money, smokes 21-cent cigars. Small wonder we are broke. Give him a box of Partagas No. 1, which go for $1.90 apiece, and the deficit will vanish.

    Puff. Puff. I want to be like Jack Kennedy, who summoned press secretary Pierce Salinger to the Oval Office one afternoon in February 1962 and asked how many Petit Upmann cigars he could round up in 24 hours.

    Upmanns were Cuban-made cigars for which Kennedy had a great affection. Salinger said he would do his best.

    The next day Kennedy called Salinger again. “How many Upmanns did you find?” He asked.

    “About 1000,” Sanchez said.

    “Great,” said Kennedy and then he reached into his desk, pulled out a proclamation banning the import of Cuban cigars and signed it.

    Puff. Puff. I want to be like Joe Feigelis, an executive at a big cigar company, who was written up in Forbes magazine.

    Feigelis was smoking a Lonsdale at a posh New York restaurant when some dame asked him to put out.

    She was 30 feet away, so Feigelis told her she was being unreasonable. She said she couldn’t exactly smell the smoke, but the cigar had to go anyway.

    The woman’s husband, flushed with embarrassment, said to his wife, “Shut up, Mabel!” and that was that.

    Puff. Puff. The other day I was at a tobacco shop, checking out the cigars in the humidor in back, running them under my nose as though I knew what I was doing.

    A man named Ed Emmons, 61, came in to pick up his order of Tabacaleras, a Philippine cigar he discovered when the wife of Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos gave him a box.

    “Mrs. Marcos is as charming and lovely as these cigars are flavorful,” said Emmons, a mountainous man who flew Tiger Moths for the Canadian Air Force during the big war, went to Guam and Guadalcanal with the U.S. Marines and now is the general manager of the Papago Tribe.

    Tabacaleras are 8 inches long and cost a buck each. Emmons smokes 50 a week, beginning in the morning when he throws on his robe and poured his coffee and on through dinner, when he sometimes has a glass Courvoisier cognac with his Tabacalera.

    But this day his order is late and he is not pleased. He buys all the Tabacaleras the store has left, half a box, and instructs the man behind the counter to rush the remainder of his order.

    Emmons is working a Tabacalera there in the store. Everyone stops to watch. The scene is all his. A foggy night in Casablanca. The plane’s engines roaring. A beautiful woman’s tears on the airstrip.

    “I don’t care much for their politics, but they sure make good cigars in the Philippines,” he says in a voice that could clean an oven.

    When Emmons eases out the door, the store manager shakes his head and says, “Geez, I hate to make that guy mad.”

    Puff. Puff. I want to be like Ed Emmons.