By Tommy Zarzecki
You guys have heard of the Good Life, the High Life, and It’s a Wonderful Life, well I am officially here to introduce you to the Cigar Life, my new monthly column here at CigarChronicles.com (please note that the Cigar Life is indeed good, high, and wonderful.). For those of you who know me, well, thanks a ton for following my Polish dupa to this very happening new site. For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve been around the cigar biz for a while, now; a feature writer for Cigar Magazine, creator and writer of JR Cigar Blog with the Zman, co-host of JR Cigar Tube with Nathan & the Zman, along with a myriad of other stogie related happiness.
Web publisher extraordinaire, Kevin Godbee, the brainchild behind this here site, called me out of the blue not too long ago (I thought for sure I owed him money or something.) Actually, Kevin and I have known each other for quite some time, working on a lot of past projects together, and I was honored that he asked me to grace this very cool new portal of his.
I admit that I was kind of surprised, seeing the list of hoity-toity experts on the roster, and let it be known that I warned Kev that he definitely ratcheted things down a level having me aboard. But the guy seems to have a warm place in his Floridian heart for me, and I figured he needed to counter-balance Angye Fox’s incredible looks, somehow. After seeing the amazing success of his PipesMagazine.com site, I knew he had a real winner on his hands, here, and it was pretty hard for me to say no. (Actually, I was just glad I didn’t owe him any money.)
I love the title of this column because I really do live the ‘Cigar Life.’ My love affair with the leaf is going on around 17 years, and I can still remember my very first premium puff – a Partagas #10 at a family wedding. I’d almost be afraid to know how many sticks I’ve actually smoked since then, but I’m sure there’s a landfill somewhere here in Jersey dedicated solely to my smoking pleasures. There’s also a good a chance that Jimmy Hoffa may be hanging out in there as well.
A difficult dilemma that I’m plagued with is that my wife of 23 years hates cigars. No, actually she deplores them, and bitches about my manly scent when I walk into the house after enjoying one of the hand-rolled fruits of Latin America. What’s so brutally ironic is that the cigar industry has been responsible for putting food on my table for a number of years, but you know that when a woman gets something in her head, the score will always be Wife 1, Dumbass 0. And no, I cannot smoke in the house, either, (something I’m actually okay with, as a single cigar can most definitely take over one’s olfactory senses.) While I get a lot of crap from guys, calling me a wuss for being the faux-king of my castle, there are those of you who suffer from the same affliction, and you know that the plight ain’t worth the fight! But I’ll have you know that none of this stops me from enjoying my nightly smoke, (or afternoon and morning, but let’s keep that between us, huh?) and I have learned to co-exist with my supposed better half for many a tasty figurado.
When I partook in that very first smoke some 17 years ago, I never thought I’d be a part of this industry, filled with tradition, passion, and a lot of amazingly talented people. I’m incredibly fortunate to have met, hung out with, interviewed, and smoked cigars side by side with some of the most dedicated, passionate, and good-hearted people I have ever known – people like Christian Eiroa, Benji Menendez, the Newman brothers, Steve Saka, George Sosa, Jesus Martinez, and Rocky Patel. There are two men that I will never forget, that have passed on recently, Frank Llaneza and Sal Fontana of Camacho. These guys lived and breathed the love of tobacco, and will be sorely missed for a very long time. Truer gentlemen I have never had the pleasure of meeting.
One man who made a tremendous impact on me was former General Cigar CEO, Mr. Daniel Núñez. I was invited by JR and General to visit the factories in Honduras and the Dominican Republic for five days in 2008, and I witnessed every step of the cigar making process. I walked the fields and through the curing barns, the box making facilities, and of course, got the full tour of the factory operations. I was by Daniel’s side for much of the week and I can honestly say I have never met a more humble, gracious, and knowledgeable man in all of my life. He treated me like I was the most important person in the world the entire time I was there, displaying a genuine kindness and humility, something that the Hispanic people in this industry seem to exude. It’s a culture I fell in love with, and my time spent with Mr. Núñez really changed the way I felt about an industry that I ‘thought’ I knew so much about.
Finally, there’s one man, who if I didn’t pay homage to, I’d be doing myself, and all of you an injustice. The great Lew Rothman, longtime owner and CEO of JR Cigars took a liking to my fat Polish ass for some reason, and he’s the guy who believed in me enough to have me write for his company. Lew might be one of funniest, down to earth moguls anyone has ever known, the head of an empire, who often came to work in a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. His stories in the famed JR Catalog are legendary, making cigar lovers split their sides for many a year. Certainly one of the great minds, and pioneers of the cigar world, he is brilliant, quick-witted, and by far one of the greatest ball-breakers you will ever meet. One time after I had dropped a load of pounds, and seeing him for the first time in several months, he looked at me and said completely deadpan, "Wow, you lost a ton of weight… I mean you used to look f@#cking horrible, but now you’re just kind of fat!" You can’t make that stuff up, people, and Mr. Rothman is one of a kind if there ever was one. I owe a lot to Lew, and I wouldn’t be in this business if it wasn’t for his faith in me.
I’m sure if you’re reading this, you are already aware that the Cigar Life is just about the greatest life there is, one filled with camaraderie, good times, fond memories, and delicious premium aged tobacco. To me, the best cigar in the world is the one you’re smoking at that very moment. I really do enjoy my smokes, and I hope you visit this column each month so we can yak about the passion we all love.
Until next time, my bruthas and sistas of the leaf,
|Tommy Zman. is truly an obsessive enjoyer of life. Growing up in the bowels of northern New Jersey, parented by an eccentric Polish father and a neurotic Italian mother, what else could this man possibly be other than a humorist? Zman’s a "real" guy – someone who considers himself a throwback to a time when men were kings of the castle, and smoking a cigar in public didn’t label you an outcast and a pariah. He’s totally old-school, a down to earth guy with traditional values. Visit Zman’s Blog: Rants From a Social Cromag, and see his work @ www.tommyzman.com Wanna reach the Zman? —> email@example.com Find Tommy Zman on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.|