New York, NY May 20th – Manhattan Sideways
For thirty-nine years, this family-owned shop has been hand-rolling Dominican and Nicaraguan tobacco into Ecuadorian and Brazilian wraps. The Nicaraguan tobacco, the clerk assured us, is arguably the best in the world. “People fall in love with Cuban cigars because we want what we can’t have.” This could be true – psychology 101 in a tobacco leaf.
For our crew, the cigars themselves, while fit for one’s greatest victories, are not the most amazing part of the shop. Rather, it is the experience of being there. In a small space at the back of the store, the rollers pull tubes of tobacco from stacks of wooden blocks and expertly shape dried leaves from giant bundles into just-so shapes to do their enveloping duty. When we asked the clerk if he could roll, he replied, “No, man, it’s like a language. You have to start when you’re little.” The sentiment is borne out in the mesmerizing motions of the rollers.
Up front, a group of regulars gather around blowing puffs of smoke from their cigars while chatting. The air reeks of yet-to-be-smoked cigars mingling with smoking ones of all sizes. Everyone gets along. Long-time friends mingle with new ones, brought together by a shared languorous pastime. And then there is the added treat of stopping by on a Saturday afternoon when people gather to play a serious game of dominoes.