Rum and Cigars

“You look like you could use a cigar” the bartender says.

I probably DO look like I could use a cigar.

The sun is setting at Grand Cayman’s Karoo,  casting pink and gold reflections on the window panes. I’m sitting at the bar, but have been eyeing a handsome man sitting outside at a small table.  To his right is a glass of rum, beaded with condensation from the sticky air and to his left, a growing pile of hand rolled cigars.  He looks well into his fifties, possibly cousins with the Dos Equis man. He’s bent over in concentration as his fingers work ceaselessly. A crowd is now gathering around the table.  Passerby’s come and go, while the interested parties would stick around. Often attempting to strike up conversation, or simply staring googly-eyed,  wishing they were that cool. By cool, I mean the kind of classic, rough, and untainted charm that comes from Cuba and hand rolled cigars. Now I don’t claim to be an expert on cigars by any means, and I admit I am awestruck by this master who works the ingredients with such finesse and dedication. It’s similar to watching a sushi master, or a painter at work. Everything must be exact. Perfect.

“What would you like?” the bartender asks me. He has that look on his face, and I know it well. It’s the look a bartender gets when he sees a group of girls walking up to the bar, and know’s they’re going to be (delicately put) total pains in the…
I stare at the cocktail menu, featuring a line up of sweet, fruity, vodka based drinks with names like “Island Paradise.” I know he expects me to pick one of them, and he’s probably pre-muddeling the fruit in his head. My gaze shifts to the top shelf behind him, and I spot what I’ve been looking for. It’s Rum Week in Grand Cayman. Ah…yes.

“I think I’m going to do some rum.”
“Oh really? (Eyebrows raised.) What do you have in mind? ”
“I’ll take the Ron Zacapa. XO. Rocks.”
“Excellent choice. Really…that’s what I would have ”

He watches me for a second, then smiles and leans in.

“Actually, I really think  you could use a cigar. I’ll take care of it. I know someone.”

And there you have it.

* * * * *

When was the first time I had a cigar? I’m glad you asked. Maria Felix was a Mexican movie star from the 1930’s. Her statuesque figure and commanding presence was equally matched with her classic Maria Felixbeauty that is forever bound to the silver screen. Her real life matched her screen life. I’m talking about one sexy, fierce, Mexican chicana.
I had the immense pleasure of embodying her for my college main stage production of “Orchids in the Moonlight.” The task proved to be encompassing at times. Yet I thrived on the energy I created with her. Maria Felix was often sad,  yet always elegant…and she smoked cigars. Therefore, I smoked cigars starting from day 2 of rehearsal. Granted, I would not advise this to EVERY actor wanting to get into character, but there’s something to be said about strutting about onstage holding a smoking beauty between your lips. Few girls could master it, and I admit it took many failed attempts before I was able to look like I knew what to do with the dang thing. Before long, I became confident, and forgot my cigar was a foreign object. It became another limb.

* * * * *

I’ve found a good cigar to always be accompanied with good memories ( mostly with the guys. )Whether it’s staring at a fire while snow lightly falls under a full moon, or swinging back and forth on a rocking chair as it creaks on an old country porch, or shivering atop a breezy rooftop that while overlooking Brooklyn and the glistening lights of Manhattan; there are moments that become embedded in one’s memory forever, moments that gently remind us what a beauty it is to be alive. Now I find myself drinking a fine rum while the wind blows through my hair on a Caribbean Island. My ears are filled with the sounds of Flamenco music, and I know this moment will be fleeting…actually it may last awhile as this cigar will take FOREVER to finish.