Friday, June 4, 2010

Uptown Cigar - Friday, June 4th

Gather, one and all. Pull up a comfy chair, grab a healthy pour of your favorite beverage, and light up a cigar. Especially light up a cigar. If a pipe is more your thing, go for that. Hell, any tobacco; light it up. Folks, here's a story about Uptown Cigar.

I first started smoking cigars a month after my 18th birthday. I discuss what I had when I first smoked in my "About Me" section but I never discuss HOW I got it. My first cigar, an Arturo Fuente Hemingway Signature, came from a smoke shop in Rhinebeck, NY (now under new ownership, thankfully). It was a cold December day and I decided to pick up a cigar to celebrate getting into Cornell. If you've been paying attention to my constant complaints about my college, you know that I was...slightly wrong in assuming that I'd get in early decision to Cornell. But it was a big deal for me. I went into the cigar store at about 6:30 pm. It was empty save for the staff: a early to mid-40s woman (that clearly knew nothing about cigars and didn't care to learn) and a 6 year old, dutifully watching the security camera in the humidor. Yeah, stellar management. I enter the humidor and I begin looking. I had picked out the Hemingway Signature online and had hoped they'd have it. Being a budding engineer, I researched heavily beforehand, checking cigar forums and websites for a good cigar. I wasn't gonna screw it up on the first go with some gas station dog turd. I was throwing all the chips on the table. I find the Signature and I realize how much it is. It's pretty expensive, so I begin to dig through my pockets to see how much exactly I brought with me. Then it happened.

The way the store is set up, the back of the humidor actually makes up the fourth wall in a small room in the back of the store where the security camera and office is kept. As I'm rifling through my pockets, I hear the little girl exclaim to the older woman "He's stealing something!" My face blanched. I hear the woman get up, her two-inch heels clacking on the worn wooden floor. She bursts into the room and begins yelling at me, saying I'm a damn dirty thief. I quickly stammer out that I was just checking my pockets for my cash. She tells me, not kindly, to turn my pockets inside out. I comply. Barely satisfied, she tells me I should pay and then get out. I buy the cigar and the cutter, and leave.

What a bitch.

It was because of this that I was gunshy to buy another cigar. Were they all grumpy, middle-aged, trussed up trollops running a store they couldn't give a shit about? Or did it get worse? I smoked that cigar and fell in love. Shortly thereafter, I realized that, somehow, I'd have to buy another cigar.

Enter Uptown Cigar. I found it online (by their website almost 6 years ago. I went into the store expecting the worst. I came out knowing the best. As soon as the door opened, I was greeted warmly. I was like a long-lost friend. They asked for my ID before I went into the humidor but they were polite. They knew it was as much of a hassle for them as for me. Most places demand you indignantly to hand it over like you're perpetually trying to put one over on 'em. They let me into the humidor which was spacious...and PACKED. I kinda wandered around lost until one of the clerks came in. They asked if I needed help. I nodded. They proceeded to ask me specific questions about my tastes, what I liked, what I didn't like. My next cigar was another Fuente, a Cuban Corona. I went to the counter and paid. They asked if I'd like matches or if I wanted it cut. They invited me to stay and smoke. Perhaps a cup of coffee? Feel free to sit anywhere. The TV's on; football season is pretty exciting this year. It was fuckin' magical. They cared. To them, tobacco wasn't just a business. At the end of the day, it wasn't profit margins. It wasn't selling cigars, it was making sure the customer left with a smile on their face. Ever since, I've gone nowhere else. That's how enamored I am.

I've seen people come and go from Uptown. I've seen price changes (more on this later). But I never, ever thought that I'd see them close. It hurts me to say that I have to watch Uptown sell everything inside, dim the lights, and lock the door forever. My second home, my oasis of good conversation and a fine cigar, has gone up in proverbial smoke. But why, you may be asking?

At this point in time I'd like to extend a personal thanks to Governor David Paterson. Without him, hard working, regular Joes would have jobs and, in turn, would be supporting the local economy. Without his astute observations and brilliant political maneuvers, Uptown Cigar would be able to remain in New York and everyone knows how wrong it is for a 14 year old business to remain open where it first started. 14 years is clearly too long for a business to run. It's prestige and years of experience are preventing new businesses (for him to tax) from entering into the market. It's so blatantly monopolistic that I feel Governor David Paterson should perhaps start a monopoly case against Uptown Cigar. He would be heralded as a genius and probably be given the title "King of the World". 

I'm glad to see NY really putting their noses to the grindstone to patch up our huge deficit. With brilliant ideas such as cutting school aid, cutting Medicare, and granting a "penalty amnesty" against monetary penalties for large tax liabilities, he's sure on the right track. I'm also glad to see that Gov. Paterson clearly has read his history. Tobacco was the cash crop that saved the early Jamestown settlement from starvation and poverty. Good to see that he's still relying on it as a cash crop, only in this instance he's selling it back to the people of Jamestown and charging 146% of market price (or, soon enough, 190%). Someone get this man a Nobel Prize.

So, in conclusion, I'd just like to thank Governor Paterson for shattering my world and the worlds of many others that frequent and converge at Uptown Cigar. Because, let's be honest:

Paterson doesn't give a shit if Denise, Dennis, Zoe, Isy, and Michelle have jobs in NY. He just loves rolling around in money and destroying an industry for an entire state. Thanks, chief.

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