My father turned fifty-seven on December 7, 1981.
He’d smoked cigars all his life, but no more than 20 a day, according to standard recommendations. He’d never smoked more than four or five a day. As a child he got two cigars a year for Christmas. He liked them, but he wasn’t addicted.
Now he was working as a mailman, driving a truck for the post office that was equipped with a refrigerator. He’d bought a new, bigger refrigerator, and he and my mother decided that they should invite friends over and fill it up with cigars.
The refrigerator was my father’s most prized possession. He’d modified it so that it ran on propane, like his barbecue grill, and filled it with all kinds of food. He had frozen fruit, shrimp, and fish. He had rolls of bacon and fried chicken. He’d bought ice cream. (I don’t remember him ever having ice cream.) He had soft drinks. He’d bought beer and wine. He’d bought bags of potato chips. He’d bought bags of M&M’s.
He had two brands of cigars, and he bought a different kind for each occasion. He liked La Gloria Cubana No. 9’s for parties. He liked Arturo Fuente’s for casual moments. He liked H. Upmann’s and Montecristo’s for times when he was reading.
He smoked his cigars in cigar bars, and he liked those bars. He liked Train Car Cigar Bar, which was in Big Spring, Texas. He wasn’t as crazy about it as he was about the old cigar
This bar was a favorite haunt of Kiddie, who frequented it with his buddies, and where he usually ended up introducing his friends to more of his friends. When I arrived at the Train Car around 7 pm, the place was packed. There were lots of kids, but all the adults were men. There was a big jukebox, and all around it were rows of beer bottles, each tagged with a different brand of beer. The bartender was a woman, and she looked surprised to see me. I asked for a beer, and she looked at me like I was crazy.