By Eric Kahn
I'm sitting here smoking a nice aromatic in an old Peterson that I bought in Galway several years ago. The pipe is a sitter, but with 'the system'. I'm also sipping one of my favorite adult beverages, scotch, and thinking of some of the times that this combination has come together before. Rather frequently actually. They seem to go together, right? It puts one in a contemplative mood, unlike any other combination. Reminiscences galore. This night it's taking me back to a certain night at the Oak Room in the Copley Plaza back in 2000.
I'd been working for MEDITECH for a couple of years and done quite some traveling by that time. Cigars were still very big and you could count on spending twice the value of the cigar on average and even more if it was a 'name' cigar like Fuentes, Romeo y Juliet or Montecristo. Yeah, I know you all remember. I also had a friend who had an 'in' at the Oak Room. You have to know what the Oak Room was like. First, it was in the Copley Plaza Hotel, one of the ritziest in Boston. Come to think of it, as ritzy as the Ritz, about ten blocks east of it. Doormen, valet service, Concierge each one with their hands out. Beautiful carpeting greats you as you walk into the lobby. Then you turn right and enter the Oak Room. It lives up to its name. A long solid oak bar, rich chairs that swivel and low oak tables to rest your drinks. It was lavish. No small ashtrays. No, these things were too big to steal and too heavy, too. You understand, the Oak Room was a high class cigar bar. Drinks ran about ten a pop and a beer was six. Well, the group I was with that night had given our mutual friend $30 each that he was to feed the 'special' waiter, who would keep us from dying of thirst that night and see too it that the appetizers kept coming. One hundred and twenty bucks, to eat, drink and make merry. Seemed fair considering we each planned to drink three or four each and eat like pigs. Cognizant of where we were, we all dressed appropriately, suits or blazers were the standard, your best shirt and a good tie.
Every male eye watched as she sauntered across the room to a table. I know. I was in a position to know. I think I heard some cracking of vertebrae over the quintet as heads whipped around. She must have heard it, too, because she got even more beautiful as she walked. So where did they sit? At the table next to me. I said a silent prayer of thanks, and promised charity, as they sat down. I was facing the stage, while the girl sat next to me facing away from the stage toward her male companions. Anyone who knows me would have been surprised that night. I was surprised at me that night. I didn't even turn my head in her direction. I kept looking at the stage. I had a woman sitting next to me, less than a foot between us, one of the most exquisite and sophisticated I'd ever seen, and I didn't even turn my head. It was the most self control I ever mustered in my life. If I had that much self control now, I'd be thin. But the truth was, I didn't want her to see the drool running down the left side of my mouth. Hey, it's where the pipe was hanging, that's all. (I hear you all saying, “Yeah, riiiigghht”.)
So there she is, sitting next to me and listening to these two kids across from her. I adjusted my seat slightly further back and lit my pipe. I tried to keep my breathing steady, as my ears began to ache eavesdropping on her companions. These two were telling her about cigars. Yes, we were in a cigar bar. Yes, everyone was smoking cigars. (Except me, and that becomes an important point in my narrative.) I heard one of the males, thinking he was cool quoting Freud, say: “You know sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” (Wink, wink, nudge nudge.) “Ewwww,” I thought to myself, “Guys, this is a class joint. Come on! Even I could think of something else to say to a beautiful woman besides that. You might as well have just come out and proposition her!”
For another twenty minutes they regaled her with their collective ignorance of cigars. Wrappers, filler, sizes, where they are made, blah, blah, blather. The usual junk, but too much of it. They were happy to teach her how to smoke a cigar. (Stop it! Get your minds out of the gutter. It's too crowed here already.) Of course they bought cigars, even one for her. This being the height of the cigar boom they paid, seventeen dollars for a five inch Fuentes robusto at the time. And how could they take change from that cute cigar girl? Cheapskates! I sat there puffin' on my lady pleaser tobacco.
The music was good. It was at that moment I had a religious experience, and appreciated G-d's wisdom in giving humans good peripheral vision. Aside from the uplift of her breasts spilling ever so slightly over the top of the bodice, I noticed that as I puffed her nose kept pointing in my direction. Her eyes never left the boys, but there was something about the position of her head. I'd puff, and she'd turn her head in my direction, then back again. I had to be sure, so once more... YUP! That ol' lady pleasing tobacco was just the right bait. Even if an old reprobate like me was smoking it. That nose was mine! And a cute little nose it was
I enjoyed this little game for a while, but it was time for me to leave the Oak Room. Standing up I decided that I had to say something to these boys. Using the pretext of putting on my coat, I placed my pipe on their table, and caught the eyes of the guys with her. “Mind?” I said, placing the pipe on the table. I purposely didn't look at her because I didn't want to be perceived as challenging them. After I got the coat on, I knelt down so as not to block the view of patrons, and looking at them, I said, “Gentlemen, I have been listening to your lecture on cigars for about 40 minutes now. You seem to know quite a bit. You, know, I enjoy a good cigar now and then. I've had them from all over, including Cuba, but as nice as they are on occasion, I'll stick with the pipe for the long haul. You have about 15 flavors of cigars, based on type of tobacco, it's origin and the combination of fillers and wrapper, but pipe smokers have about three hundred thousand. You destroy the very thing that brings you pleasure, and have to throw out the best part, lest it burn your fingers. While I smoke to the bottom of the bowl and get to keep my pipe as an old friend for years to come.”
One of the GQs spoke up, “Yeah, we noticed the great aroma. How do you learn to smoke a pipe?” I give him credit for knowing one doesn't just pick up a pipe and smoke. Like most special things in life, scotch, fine wines and making love, you have to take time to learn the intricacies and nuances. But the learning experience can be wonderful. I gave them the names of Peretti, Levitt and Pierce, C.B.Perkins (Now gone from the Tremont Street location.) and David P. Ehrlich (Alas, now gone, too.). Still in a bit of a kneeling position, I started to turn away as if to leave. That's when 'she' caught my eyes. “Can a woman smoke a pipe?” she cooed. Either my heart skipped or it beat like a drum set by Buddy Rich, I can't remember. Here eyes were hazel, and looked at you as though she knew that if she snapped her fingers you'd sit up an beg. After I caught my breath. “Sure, we have a woman in our club, in fact.” Turning back to the guys, again, not to challenge them, I said, “If you're really interested, I'll give you my email, get in touch with me and I'll hook you up with information.” The men took down my email address on their Palm Pilots. I looked back at her, she simply nodded and said, “I got it.” then smiled knowingly. Hurriedly, I said, “Goodnight.”, fearing she might look past my eyes toward the floor, and joined my friends at the doorway.
I never heard from them. The guys, I mean. They never followed through.
But from the girl, yes, I heard. I got an email a couple of days later
reminding me of our meeting at the Oak Room. The subject simply said,
'We met at the Oak Room the other night.' My mouse worked its magic and
I opened the email She wrote of the two men she was with, and how it was
lovely meeting me. How, the pipe smelled so good, and how she agreed about
things that were worth waiting for. Her letter style was as sophisticated
as she was that night. She mentioned the company where I could get in
touch with her if I'd like. It was sweet the way she delicately included
the price list for her professional services (sigh). It was too good to
be true, of course, but that's what make pipe dreams.
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