Uncle Manny's Montecristo:
My mother's brother Manny was a great connoisseur of cigars. My childhood memories of him arriving at our door for Christmas with an armful of presents or for my mother's birthday, dressed in a slick new suit, are all filled in with the smoky aura he carried with him from a perpetually lit Montecristo wedged in a corner of his mouth.
I loved watching him finish one cigar and casually take another from an inside pocket of his suit jacket while finishing a story or nearing the punch line of a joke, pausing to light up and taking pleasure, it seemed, in leaving his audience hanging for a moment while he puffed into ignition the new cigar. I wanted to be like Manny, and even practiced in secret his art of storytelling, of making them wait while you light up.
So when Uncle Manny left behind a cigar one Christmas, I was asking to smoke it before the sound of his Chrysler died down as it roared up our street. My mother refused, naturally. No sane woman lets her ten-year-old smoke cigars. But I persisted until finally she gave in-under one condition: I smoke the whole thing. Manny himself would do no less, after all. No problem, I said. It only took two inhalations before I puked all over the floor. The requirement of finishing it was kindly lifted, and from then on I figured I'd let Manny be Manny. One of him seemed to be plenty enough.