Meet Smokin’ Joe Black

So I’m walking through the streets of Little Italy, in downtown New York, enjoying the hell out of the dark, rich, El Rey Del Mundo that I just purchased at a local favorite shop. The temperature is 30 degrees and the Manhattan air is cold and crisp, but the coffee in my other hand keeps me warm as I stroll down age-old Mulberry Street. A passer by says, “Bro, that cigar smells amazing.” I thanked the man, taking his compliment as a personal one.

3417726-Little_Italy-New_York_CityI stopped to read a menu board outside one of the many restaurants as the manager declared, “That cigar, she smells a so sweet.” Wow, I know Italians are passionate, but to give my stogie a gender was a wonderful gesture. It felt good. “I” felt good. I felt accepted and alive as notes of java and woody tobacco laced my palate. This is New York City, a place where compliments and warm wishes aren’t handed out on a silver platter. While New Yorkers are genuinely good people, you kind of have to “earn” their approval and it seemed my smoky Honduran treasure helped me to do just that.

el-rey-epoqueI walked a bit further then stopped and stared in the bakery window as the pastry chef filled the cannolis with great patience and expertise. I took a long draw on the El Rey, leaned my head back and released a fragrant waft of swirling blue smoke into the heavens. I felt like I was in a movie. It was a happy feeling – a relaxed feeling – almost one of nirvana. And then there came that horrifying sound of a phonograph needle being dragged across a vinyl record album…


“That’s disgusting,” blurted the old crow as she stood behind me on the sidewalk.

-i-had-a-good-time-on-rocky-bullwinkle-I slowly turned my head in pure Di Nero fashion. “Are you talkin’ to me?

She was a haggered old bat of woman – a gnarly old face and hunched over like she carried pianos on her back for a living. “That cigar stinks and I don’t need to smell it.”

Sometimes you fight back, but sometimes you are too stunned to strike. I was frozen like a lawn jockey, cigar in one hand and coffee in the other. All I could do was cock my head to the side and squint my eyes like I had just seen the face of Marley’s ghost in the door-knocker.

“Don’t give me that bullshit look,” she blurted in her raspy Mr. Potter voice. “The whole goddamned country is dyin’ of cansa and you gotta act like the shroud of death.”

I wish I could see the look on my own face – that classic “WTF is your major malfunction” look. Now I’ve had plenty of people give me shit about my cigars in the past, but here I am in the open air, in the middle of a street of a humongous world renowned metropolis – surrounded by enough bus, car, and furnace fumes to grow a tumor the size of the Biggest Loser – and this creature has me playing Brad Pitt in Meet Joe Black.

But really guys, what do you do? Do you make a scene? Do you yell back… argue… defend yourself?” Put yourself in that position and think about it. Am I going to yell at a very old woman as nearby smoke Nazis chime in and use me for a Polish piñata? Am I going to lose my cool and make it look like “I’m” the bad guy in this situation? My brain was misfiring as a proper response was not coming forth.

“You people should be castrated and put on your own island!” she snapped as saliva sprayed from her flapping gums.

YOU PEOPLE? Did she just call me “YOU PEOPLE?” I’ve never been called you people before and it was a bizarre feeling. The entire situation was as surreal as it gets as several people gathered to see why this rancid old crab was ranting.

You know, normally I’d give the shpeal about being outside in the open air, or it’s a big city, or there’s nowhere left to smoke any more, yada, yada, yada. But I didn’t. For some reason I just let this wretched shrew have her moment in the sun. For three whole minutes, she was the champion of justice and her verbal flogging was just and most righteous.

Then… it happened…

“Just stand there with yer cansa-stick… ya big pussy,” she said in all of her old lady bravado.

She called me a pussy. First I’m “You People” and them I’m a “pussy.” All I was doing was minding my own business, walking though lovely Little Italy, enjoying my time alone with a good cigar. But now… I was no longer stunned. I was goddamned mad. I dropped my coffee and as the java splashed the pavement, my hand curled up into a fist. This rancid sow actually then yelled out, “Whatta ya gonna do, hit an old woman?”

Meet_Joe_BlackWith my right hand, I slowly brought my cigar to my lips and drew in the largest puff of smoke I could possible muster, then cocked my head while raising my eyebrows. For a solid ten seconds, I stared dead into the eyes of the bullying bitch, as she awaited my response – and so I gave it to her. I leaned into her face, nose to nose, and let forth the thickest puff of billowing Honduran smoke this world has ever known.

In plain English, the broad lost her marbles. She stumbled, then fell backwards, ala Fred Sanford, into the brick wall of the bakery, clutching at her chest while calling out to her god. She yelled out obscenities that even only I use on rare occasions, coughing and hacking up a lung as if she had encountered Death, himself.

That very moment was a triumph for cigar smokers everywhere. And, as I looked around, a small crowd of people clapped and laughed as the Chinese dude selling scarves and gloves actually said, “Good for you, Mr… Dat bitch focking crazy!”

Yeah, she was focking crazy, all right. But for a small moment in time, I was a just little bit crazier.

Smoke ‘em if ya gottem.

Tommy Z.
JR Cigar Blog With the Zman

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