So I just went to the cigar shop near to my temporary office here in Portland, Oregon. (The temporary office being the Portland Coffee House). It wasn't your ordinary cigar shop though, or at least I wouldn't imagine it was. I don't frequent such establishments so it very well may have been a garden variety cigar shop. But somehow I imagine cigar shops to be small, dimly lit, and owned by a man who could be related in some distant way to Santa Claus.
This particular cigar shop doubles as a high brow magazine store full of publications that make you feel like you've joined a secret society. You might be able to find a copy of Sports Illustrated here, but it would probably be hidden away behind the latest Malt Whisky Monthly or some french magazine with page after page of out of focus black and white pictures of lonely looking doorways and girls bottoms.
Behind the counter stood a man with a full head of rusty red hair and a bushy red beard to match. He was a young man but he wore clothes that gave him years time had yet to afford him. A deliberate style choice no doubt rebuffing what I imagine he would see as the insipid nature of today's pop culture.
As he polished the glass top of a cabinet in which a selection of wickedly expensive cigars lie bathed in bright medical white light, I was already thinking that the question I was about to ask was poorly placed in this exclusive little Portland store. However, the point of no return was behind me when he asked "And what can I help you with today sir?"
With only a limited knowledge of black and white photography and French girls bottoms I had no choice but to ask the question I had gone there to ask. "Do you have any menthol cigars?"
The look I got was the same as those I used to get from snobby independent record store clerks in Liverpool as they would sneeringly read aloud the titles of whatever musical purchase I had just made as they placed it into the bag and passed it to me as if handling some kind a chemical waste.
"Menthol cigars?" He said in a superior way that forewarned me that I was about to get ripped apart by cigar shop snobbery.
"Yes, I bought some in the summer and I liked them." I explained.
"You didn't buy them here though did you now."
"Well no, but.."
"See that's because we don't sell cigars for pussy's." He said laughing with his coworkers at my expense. It was all in good humor and I can take a joke, so I respond.
"Well I don't really smoke but.."
"What you eat them?" More in laughter among the coworkers
"No I smoke them but I actually don't smoke."
"Well what the hell are you doing smoking pussy cigars then?"
"It was nice." A feeble response, but I couldn't think of anything else to say.
"It was a menthol cigar!" He exclaimed. "Would you drink a menthol beer?" More coworker laughter.
"Well no, but sometimes I like to smoke a cigar, you know, when there it's a cigar moment."
"Uh huh. A menthol cigar moment no less." He said nodding his head and scratching his beard.
As I stood there I realised that asking the question in this shop really was only ever going to bring this kind of response. A few of the co-workers interjected with their own witty comments.
"Well, clearly you don't sell them, do you know anywhere that does?"
And then a voice from a back room shouts "Try a gay bar!" to which the entire shop collapses in laughter, which I will admit was quite funny, even though the joke was at my expense.