Enter the premises and the immediate waft of Cuba wraps a warm blanket around your cold stiff shoulders, the Cuba of another generation when the taste of sweet spiced rum dripped from your lips and the uplifting sounds of merengue music slithered around colorful casas directly into your soul.
The scent of aged cedar ramparting through the nostrils sends signals to the brain to slow down and relax, as my rigid body softens and becomes one with the third generation leather sofa I forget about the outside world and its constant electronic demands, I can no longer hear the parade of vehicles or the drumbeat of stamping feet. I have peace with a side of quiet.
Ramon Carbajal has survived 2 wars and has the scars to prove it, his features are as aged as the leather in his cigar store, his visage is at the same time both cold and warm, it is this humidor that keeps him breathing, this humidor is his heart and his soul. No words were spoken or even necessary when I entered the humidor, Ramon lifted his head from behind the counter and nodded.
I am presented with a ceramic serving tray adorned with the flags of America and Cuba, on the ceramic tray is an velvet lined cigar box with a selection of cigars that would make the most cold hearted dictator smile from ear to ear like a boy on his birthday. Still no words have been uttered between Ramon and myself, just an automatic obligatory head nod and the wheels of communication between two men of different cultures are linked.
Ramon's humidor is a time portal back to yesteryear when men made decisions on politics and war and women brought trays sticky with clear glasses of golden liquid merrily to their aid. Children dodged large metal cars on cobbled steamy streets with open air markets and rich tourists wasted their money on straw hats and cheap jewelry. The aroma of Ropa Vieja cooking on an open grill surrounded by lush gardens and the merengue music constantly in the background to remind even the most downtrodden that music and dance were still free and belonged to the masses. I wish I knew Ramon back then.
My cigar is finished and my time on the leather has come to an end. I peel myself from the sofa like a patient from a therapists office and make my way to the door, I try to absorb every emotion as I open the door to the outside world - the cedar and the leather, the music and Ramon at his counter. I nod, he nods.
Sunlight, noise, voices, vehicles.....fuck. I contemplate going back inside for more therapy but decide that would dilute the grandeur of the next experience.
I walk away.
I walk away.
Ramon Carbajal 1930 - 2012Rest In Peace Mi Amigo...