One of my favorite songs --- don't ask me why --- is "Mr. Jones", a strangely poetic piece by Adam Duritz of the group Counting Crows. The verses:
Gray is my favorite color
I felt so symbolic yesterday
If I knew Picasso
I would buy myself a gray guitar and play ...
... come suddenly to mind when --- don't ask me why --- I find myself with some traveling companions in a Habanos cigar bar in a fancy hotel. A beer costs $10, an astronomical figure relative to my limited terrestrial experience. Food is similarly expensive.
One of my colleagues, slightly intoxicated by the smoky ambience of the establishment, orders himself a "Punch" brand Cuban cigar --- don't ask me why. The waitress, a petite Asian lady, takes it from the humidor and brings it to him along with a shot glass of aromatic cognac. At his request she performs a ritual lightyears beyond my ken, a ceremony both exotic and arcane. (It had better be, at the price he is paying!)
She takes a tiny guillotine and nips a centimeter off one end of the tightly twisted tobacco cylinder. She removes the band and dips the fresh-clipped head of the cigar into the cognac, rotating it so that the leaves are saturated with brandy. She sets the cigar aside and pours most of the remaining liquor into her cupped palm. Then she rubs her hands together, picks up the cigar, and rolls it back-and-forth between her palms until the pungent liquid has moistened its full length. She next strikes a pair of long-stick matches, waits for the flare of the phosphorus heads to die away, and carefully moves the flame up and down the sides of the cigar to dry its surface. Only then does she use a new match to light the cigar for my comrade. She smiles, bows slightly, and leaves our table.
Is this fascinating rite merely a utilitarian way to prepare a pleasant smoke? Or --- don't ask me why --- is it perhaps far more symbolic of something deeply Freudian? I can only observe in wonderment.
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar ...