“It’s new to me.”
“It’s out of my price range.”
“I want what I’m familiar with.”
I used to think those excuses to pick up a boutique cigar were lame. But I must confess. Oh, and this is heart wrenching for me to admit. I used them myself today! I fell into the slimy bucket of reality. I used to chastise those who spewed out such vapid garbage. And now, I am just one among the masses. Aaaah! I am totally ashamed. Allow me to explain:
I had been driving the Southside of Chicago and its surrounding suburbs for most of the morning. And I had only a donut for breakfast. I was hungry and by now my blood sugar was so low I was unable to distinguish red from green. It was time for lunch.
I had already passed a variety of options, including Culver’s, Taco Bell, and a Southside staple – Beggar’s Pizza. But nothing looked good from my vantage point – been there, eaten that. So I turn the corner at Pulaski and Western to head on over to visit Beverly Cigar. Each time I travel to this area, I notice that it’s being built up way beyond my imagination.
So I’m looking through the cloudy haze caused by the low blood sugar and behold! I notice a huge, vinyl sign flapping in the wind advertising Buona Beef! Suddenly the restaurant is upon me and I’m in no position to stop lest I get rear-ended by the car behind me.
I decide to head to Beverly Cigar despite my condition. I park the car on Western, right in front of the shop. I figure if I pass out in the store, Margaret will know what to do. Little Company of Mary Hospital is not far away.
“Hello Margaret!” I cheerily say as I walk at an angle into the store. “You have got to cry this thigar!” Margaret walks to the counter. She’s looking at me. I pull my bag up from the floor and take out the cigar. She’s interested. I can tell. “Mind if I pass one to the gentleman in the lounge?” No problem. I do. He’s grateful. I return to Margaret. The visits are always short at Beverly. The owners have to try any new cigars. I leave a few samples and the price sheet and head out the door.
By now I’m famished and dizzy. I decide to head back to Buona Beef. I turn the car around. I’m excited. A new taste! I know the franchise has been around awhile, but I have yet to eat there. I park – crooked in the lot, and weave toward the door.
Hmm. The place looks immaculate. People are everywhere. I get my bearings and head for the spot where there is a menu. My eyes bug out. “Holy shit!” This is not going to be cheap! I quickly add up a grand total in my head. Forget it. I give the menu one last look and head out the door and back to my car.
I end up at Portillo’s at Pulaski and 95th. For those of you who don’t know, Portillo’s is a well-respected hot dog eatery started by Dick Portillo years ago in Elmwood Park. I know the food. It’s affordable. It’s predictable. So as I’m eating my juicy burger, I realize what I have just done.
Cigars! My God! I’ve done the same thing I’ve been bitching about for years! I feel so low. I try to hide my thoughts from the people sitting next to me, but I’m afraid the shame has been smeared all across my forehead the same way the blue streak from the medicine man was placed upon Lorraine Bracco’s in the movie “Medicine Man.”
As I finished the burger, a sick feeling overwhelmed me and I took my root beer and exited the building. I was feeling better physically and I can’t say I didn’t need sustenance, but it was an epiphany for me. I began to analyze the recent events.
Will I ever eat at Buona Beef? Yes. Was I influenced by the prices? Yes. Did I head on over to Portillo’s because I was used to eating there at a reasonable price? Yes. Yes. Yes! Oh, the humanity of our decisions!
I won’t bitch and moan anymore. I promise CigarFather. I will take this experience and learn from it. I will walk in the shoes of other cigar smokers. I will be understanding, compassionate, and accepting.
But not until I stop at DQ for dessert. I know what to expect there, too.