This is our final, of thirteen, prizes being given away for our First Annual Stogie Review 12 Days of Christmas. The prize is a box of Mi Barrio signed by Erik Espinosa, Orlando Espinosa, Eddie Ortega, and Don Pepin Garcia. To enter this contest, all that was required was that you send in a Christmas story which involved cigars.
This Prize Sponsored By EO Brands
I was introduced to premium hand rolled cigars in 1996 while stationed in Iwakuni, Japan. Jim Dresser is the man responsible for nudging me down what is commonly called “the slope”. That year marked the first I’d be apart from my family and I will forever remember Jim and cigars as an important factor in getting me through what might have been a depressing time of year otherwise.
Back then, smoking in the barracks was tolerated if not permitted altogether. Joining me and Jim were any of a number of other Sailors from the barracks who showed an interest in trying cigars. What I now know as a herf was a regular event in my room, usually accompanied by poker or spades and plenty of libations.
Christmas of 1996 is undoubtedly the point in my cigar smoking life that showed me just how impactful cigars and friends can be. After the Tomidachi Club’s Christmas party concluded (that was the club for junior Enlisted on base) people either headed out into town to continue partying, went to pass out in their or someone else’s room or broke up into smaller groups to continue various forms of merriment. Our group returned to my room for stogies and the newly arrived on base Sam Adams we had been promised much earlier that year. I can’t say for sure how many guys came over, but there were several people sitting on the floor for lack of seats.
For the first time, we had some new guys from other units joining us, as they had been playing darts and drinking with us at the “T-Club”. When I started handing around my small desktop humi for the new guys to ‘pick their poison’, I remember advising them “think of the cigars as beer and chose accordingly”. Thus, the Budweiser drinkers grabbed the lighter wrapped sticks while the real beer drinkers grabbed the darkest Te-Amo maduros and Onyx I had. Looking back with my now 12 year old palette, I’ll always find the noob thought of Te-Amo and Onyx as being ‘the best!’ amusing and worth a little chuckle. ?
Once we were all lit up and creating the most aromatic cloud the barracks had ever seen and everyone had a drink in hand, I offered my go-to toast, “To us and those like us. Damn few left.” The bark that followed (if you’ve never heard the Marine Corps bark of acknowledgement, think of the movie 300 and their ‘A-oo’ cheer. It’s something like that.) started an evening of story telling about Christmas memories and family traditions. The stories shared amongst us that night proved to be quite a bonding experience between a bunch of people away from their loved ones, wishing nothing more than to be opening presents with their children, significant other or in a couple cases, parents.
That was the first time I realized just what cigars can do to influence a social gathering of what might be an extremely diverse group of folks. After all, Sailors and Marines aren’t exactly known for drinking and talking about families and traditions. We’re more known for drinking and …well…you probably already know!
Instead of brooding about what I was missing at home, I was having a great time and I’d like to think that the others there that night benefited as much as I did. Cigars and friends, both new and old, made all the difference in the world to this Sailor during Christmas 1996.