“As Time Goes By.”

love affair

Most men wouldn’t admit that they have been having love affairs – if I can dare to call them that – with their cigars all their smoking lives.  And all those “relationships” are slowly being destroyed by the FDA and its major backer – The US Government.

Yes, there is a cigar out there that you absolutely adore and you smoke it today on a regular basis and have been since it was introduced into the market.  You fell in love with its flavors and essences, its feel and its beauty, the pleasure it gives you.

Maybe it’s a cigar that has been around before 2007, but for many, the cigars they love today were made after the arbitrary year of choice that the FDA has chosen.  And unless the cigar passes all the rigorous tests, and financial raping that has been dictated by the powers that be – your love affair with that cigar is over.

I’m walking Flo this morning.  It’s quite early and the thought calmly entered my mind of the classic 1942 film, “Casablanca” one of cinema’s greatest love stories staring Humphrey Bogart as Rick, Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa, Paul Henreid as Victor Laszlo, Claude Rains as Captain Louis Renault, Conrad Veidt as Major Strasser, and Dooley Wilson as Sam.

ilsa sam

It’s one of my favorite movies.  And I began to think of the scene in the beginning when Victor and Ilsa walk into Rick’s Place to see if they can somehow get a hold of the letters of transit that would allow the bearer(s) to travel through Nazi-occupied countries, so Victor can continue his work in the resistance.

While Victor is busy, she hears a piano.  It’s Sam who was with Rick in Paris.  “Ilsa had fallen in love with Rick in Paris, because at the time she had believed Victor was dead. When she learned her husband was still alive, she sent a note to Rick at the train station, saying she could never see him again.” (Sparknotes).

She goes over to Sam and sits down.  Sam is obviously nervous.  She tells him it’s been a long time since they’ve seen each other.  Sam played a song for Rick and Ilsa when they were in Paris and fell in love.  It was their song in those happier times.  “Play it once, for old time’s sake.”  Sam feigns memory loss but she insists.  “Play it Sam.  Play – As Time Goes By.  Sing it Sam.”

rick piano

Sam begins the song and the melodious words fill the café.  Seconds later Rick comes out of his office in what appears to be a state of disbelief and without looking up scolds Sam “Sam, I thought I told you never to play. . . “And then he sees Ilsa and one of the most dramatic scenes in film history is made as he is shocked to see Ilsa sitting there.

And that rediscovery will never occur if the FDA has its way with the cigar industry.  There is a cigar that you smoke today that you have fallen in love with.  It is readily available in humidors.  You can have it.  You can buy it.  But not if the love affair is cut off.  Only memories will remain triggered by something or someone.

Once, when you first smoked the cigar you took it in your hands and you held it, you studied it, you gazed at its construction, admired its classic beauty, lit it with a match and watched as the flame of the wooded stick joined the leaves of fine rolled tobacco and it began to give you the ultimate in smoking pleasure.  But you never gave much thought that your new found favorite would never be available, and even if you did, you’d find another.  But in your heart you knew that this was the one.

And so it happens, the FDA wins.  The cigar that you never thought would disappear becomes a memory.  Oh sure you can see it in old ads and you have the bands that you saved that you can touch and feel, but you can’t have the cigar like it once was.  And so you’re left with a gaping hole in your life that will never be filled ever again.

rick and bottl

So one day, you walk into a cigar shop, say in another state, one that isn’t familiar to you to buy a cigar for an evening smoke.  You saunter into the humidor (provided the FDA doesn’t take that away as well) and you see it.  Your heart begins to race, you feel flushed, odd – almost as if heat from a glass blower’s oven and icy air conditioning are hitting you at the same time.

You walk over slowly and there among other remnants of odd brands you recognize the band.  It’s right out in the open and you quickly grab it and as delicately as possible for a man on a mission, move the other cigars to the side to see if you can find another.

But there is only one.  And your heart begins to pound.  You savor this moment as you hold the treasured cigar in your hand as if you’ve found the Holy Grail.  You can’t believe your eyes as your mind is flooded with the good times you had with this brand:  that special party, that delicate dinner, or the nights that you spent smoking it with a friend after a hectic day.

And so you hold it in your hand and you feel no need to look around anymore and take it to the counter and purchase it.  As the transaction is made, the clerk gently puts the cigar into a plastic bag adding, “Gee, I forgot about this one – great cigar.”  You smile and take the bag and leave the store feeling as if you’ve been transported to another dimension.

parisYou return to the hotel and all you can think about is sitting back and lighting it up.  Dinner becomes unimportant, business calls can wait, the TV is dark.  The memories begin to rush into your psyche as they did for Rick as he sits alone at the small table in the café trying to drink his thoughts into oblivion but he is unable to erase them from his mind.

But you settle outside.  The weather is perfect.  A slight breeze wafts soft wind over your skin.  You are alone.  And you gently remove the cello from the cigar and you take out your lighter and touch the flame to the foot and take a smooth first draw.

Your head swoons as further recollections cascade gently through your memory.  You take another long, sensuous draw and then the flood gates open and you can feel your body relax and your limbs are like rubber.  You are once again in “Paris.”

plane

The FDA is going to take that reality away from you unless something is done and done quickly.  As you might remember the dramatic ending when Major Strasser discovers that Ilsa and Victor are on the plane with the letters of transit and he tries to stop it from taking off.  He threatens to make the call to do so.  But Rick stops him in his tracks.  The plane leaves the tarmac.  Rick slowly walks back with the Captain and says, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

We are at the airport right now.  And the cigars we love will continue to disappear unless we take part in changing the direction the FDA is headed.

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