“Aficionado: A person who is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about an activity, subject, or pastime.”

My Uncle Bill wanted me to become a gentleman salesman; he was disappointed when I became a Teacher in Chicago.  Yet in a way, I was that salesman in the classroom, selling English grammar, composition, and literature.  That satisfied him somewhat.

He smoked: Pall Mall cigarettes and White Owl cigars.  He was determined to teach me the ways of a “gentleman” ((he was an executive for US Steel): cigars and scotch.  I was smoking Camel cigarettes. [https://memoriesofatime.blog/2013/08/05/pack-of-camels-please/]

So on occasion, usually after a family gathering, he would offer me a good cigar (perhaps a Garcia Vega), and a glass of scotch. I’m not sure now whether single malt, or the age.  It was scotch.Then we moved away, and I moved away from cigars and scotch until later in my life.  I smoked until 1972; I was 31.  I had been smoking for 12 years, then suffered from severe bronchitis.  “You should stop smoking,” I heard the examining doctor say.  “That’s not very forceful,” I countered.  “Stop smoking!”  I did, then, at that point.  (“Cold turkey,” whatever that means.)  I got better, and was better at scotch (and vodka).  Too much.  Until six years ago.  (“Cold turkey…”)

Now retirement has brought some new drinking delights: Arnold Palmer iced tea and Diet Dr Pepper, with cigars.

Cigars?  My two sons have become my Uncle Bill: introducing me to A. J. Fernandez, Rocky Patel, Ramon Bueso, and other tobacco-leaf friends of theirs.  I have my humidor, cigar samples, lighters, catalogs, and conversations with them as I learn and enjoy.

I smoke outside, behind our cozy 860 square-foot condo.  My lawn chair faces the two-lane busy street, busy with cars, beer trucks for the tavern across the street, public transportation buses (I can see the bus stop not far from my resting place), and trucks laden with wares of all kinds for the large grocery store, its parking lot always filled.  Even not far away is a fire department house, with two engines.  Sirens and lights.  Excitement.  And ambulances for the hospital a few miles away.  Ah, retirement.

Using Mayo Clinic’s Guidelines for Tobacco Use (“How many cigars can I smoke a week?”  “NONE!”), I limit myself to no more than two a week.

Enjoyment and relaxation.  So much better than a cigarette.  Oh, I used to light up a cig after a meal; that was really good.  Or have a smoke while sitting on a bench relaxing; that was good, too.  Cigarettes, however, are pressure pleasures.  (“Gotta have a smoke!”  “Gotta extra smoke?”)  (“How much?” “A pack a day.”)  Cigars are relaxing pleasures.

One or two puffs, maybe three, a minute, rolling the cigar between the thumb and fingers, not coughing, not inhaling.  Just relaxing.  Puff.  Smoke.  Make as much smoke, look at, watch, the smoke.I sit under the trees, the clouds.  I see the Chinese Restaurant Take Out customers across the street.  Then the setting-sun light, the parking lot lights switch on full blare.  Maybe it’s quiet.  In the quiet I’m lost–and soon the cigar, I realize, has burned down to the label, or I am so relaxed, or it has become dark.

Or the mosquitoes…

Time to go inside.  Time passed so quickly, either alone or in conversation with others.  But that cigar. . .

A cigar is as good as memories that you have when you smoked it. —Raul Julia

One of the joys of cigar smoking is it allows us to delve into interesting thoughts and observations.

[It is said that Freud smoked 20 cigars a day…]

 © James F O’Neil 2020


  1. gail likness said:

    It is so ironic in that I do not remember us ever talking about smoking, but I also smoked for 12 years. It got to be 2 pks of pall mall’s and about 8 of those tip-a-rillos(I think that’s what they were) per day. At the time I was thinking about it as to much; I decided to read all the bad things I could find on the evils of smoking and like you bought myself a Christmas gift by quitting “cold turkey” on Christmas Eve. Have not touched one since. I am now 84 and was recently diagnosed with a touch of COPD. I asked my Dr. if it was from smoking and he said, ” he did not think so, as at my age genetics plays such an important role; however, he went on to say, “if I had not stopped, I would have been dead a long time ago.”

    • Hooray for you! Otherwise we would have missed all that history together!😊

  2. brinkstl@aol.com said:

    Nice story!Spent yesterday with Tom Michel at Innsbrook, couldn’t take the boat out, weather did not cooperate !I used to enjoy a cigar with a scotch on the rocks!Hope you have a great weekend. don

  3. Judith Driscoll said:

    James, I wanted to touch base and hopefully some of you memories. My name is Judy Driscoll and I am an Byrne building alumni, 5504 South Halsted Street. I am older than you, 78, but I’m sure our paths have crossed. My parents move there in 1943 when I was a year and a half old along with my sister, Arlene, and my brother Jerry. we went to Visitation grammar school and my sister and I went to the high school . We moved away when I was tweve years old. I worked for five years at Tinley Park Mental Health Center, ten years at Will County Mental Health Centers, and then ten years as a school psychologist in Chicago. I have been living in the Phoenix area enjoying retirement until covid 19. I found your blog when I decided to use the Byrne building for the setting of my third novel. The first book is a psychological thriller available on Amazon. It has done well and has a five star rating. The sequel is in the final editing stage and should be published in a few months. My stories are good, but I envy your command of the English language. I would love to send you a copy of the book “Shocked Silent”. If you would prefer the ebook version its on Amazon. I would appreciate going over the idea for the Byrne Building book (another fictional crime story) with someone who also had that life experience. Thank you, Judy Driscoll.

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Yes, of course! You’ll see/read my many allusions to the building in my blogs.

      You can get my email address from Word Press site.

      PM me. I’m 79…, Lived in Vis from 1955-1959…

    • Janice Ann Mical said:

      Judith, you will never regret talking to my brother Jim O’Neil about the Byrnes Building. He has a fantastic memory, and it is amazing that two siblings can be so far apart in remembering. I lived with our family there along with him, and he has to tell me all the things that happened and I only say “Really, I dont remember that!”. Enjoy him!

    • Byrne Building
      I’m sitting here recovering from ennui, invasions, and prostate surgery.
      I’m reading WP comments that I didn’t know existed.
      Write me back please.

  4. And a woman is only a woman, but a good Cigar is a Smoke…..

  5. John Geary said:

    This hit home, as I have recently returned to an occasional cigar In my comfortable chair on our back patio once the calendar moves into the warmer weather months. Like you, I keep it to a top of 2-3 per week. I prefer the Connecticut, by any of those brands you noted…shorter in length, as I can’t do the long-boys anymore. And, while you enjoyed your Camels back then, I had my Pall Malls. Those were pretty gross…

    How are you and Sue faring in The Time of Quarantine? Watching all the various government over-lords (Federal, state and local) issue a steady stream of inconsistent edicts on managing this mess is both distressing and sometimes humorous. But, then, I’ve never been one to put much stock in our ‘leaders’…too much of a skeptic and cynic, I guess. In any case, I hope both of you are well!


    On Tue, May 19, 2020 at 10:56 AM Memories of a Time wrote:

    > JAMES F. O’NEIL posted: “BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL “Aficionado: A person who is > very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about an activity, subject, or > pastime.” My Uncle Bill wanted me to become a gentleman salesman; he was > disappointed when I became a Teacher in Chicago. Yet in a way, ” >

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