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Cigar Lounge

Love is an exploding cigar we willingly smoke.


─Lynda Barry, American writer and cartoonist


U.S. Forces In Iraq Enjoy a Taste of Home

By Capt. Murray Shugars, 2nd Battalion, 198th Combined Arms



The Abbas Cigar Club, an Iraqi-owned and operated cigar shop at Contingency Operating Location Q-West, Iraq, celebrated its grand opening October 14.

According to Capt. Allen Legere, officer in charge of the IBIZ retail section, with 2nd Battalion, 198th Combined Arms, Mississippi Army National Guard, out of Senatobia, Mississippi, the $40,000 cost in renovations and merchandise represents a continued Iraqi investment in this remote logistics base in Northern Iraq.

“In an effort to strengthen the local economy by supporting stability through commerce, the Iraqi-Based Industrial Zone retail section assisted Iraqi National, Ahmed Abbas, with the opening of the Abbas Cigar Club,” Legere said.



Lt. Col. William B. Smith, Jr. (left) and Col. Larry Phelps, commander of the 15th Sustainment Brigade, examine cigars during the grand opening of the Abbas Cigar Club.

Located on Eighth Street near the Troya Shopping Mall, the store sells cigars and other tobacco products, as well as accessories like hand-carved pipes, leather pipe cases, glass hookahs and lighters.

Ahmed Abbas of Mosul said he opened the store because he supports the U.S. forces in Iraq.

“We are happy that the American military is here because life is better now than before,” Abbas said through an interpreter. “We want to show our appreciation by offering quality tobacco products at reasonable prices.”

Abbas said he has worked at Q-West for seven years, first as an independent general contractor and then as a contractor for a Turkish-owned retail center.


Ahmed Abbas (left), owner of the Abbas Cigar Club, greets visitors during the store’s grand opening.

Legere, a Gulfport, Mississippi, native, said the opening of the business is also good for U.S. forces.

“Soldiers have told me that they wanted to shop at a store offering luxury tobacco products,” Legere said. “Mr. Abbas has been easy to work with and has complied with all levels of Q-West policy and procedures, which demonstrates his willingness to operate with Coalition forces here in Iraq.”

The first customer in line to purchase a cigar, Staff Sgt. Tony T. Ware, the noncommissioned-officer in charge of Q-West’s Department of Public Works and a Grenada, Mississippi, native, said he was pleased with the store.

“I was first to buy a Cuban cigar on the grand opening,” Ware said. “Next time I shop here, I might get one of these pipes. I give this store a thumbs up for the quality of their products, especially for a cigar smoker.”


Capt. Correy K. Elder (right) purchases a cigarette case.


Sgt. Richard E. Vreeland (left), a mason with the Department of Public Works and native of Lacey, Wash., and Staff Sgt. Tony T. Ware shop at the newly opened Abbas Cigar Club.

A display of pipes

One shopper was less interested in cigars than in other tobacco products and accessories.

“I bought a cigarette holder with a two-headed Byzantine eagle on the lid,” Capt. Correy K. Elder said. Elder is the officer in charge of the Department of Public Works and a Jackson, Mississippi, native. “I think it’s pretty good to give a variety of products to the soldiers, give the guys more options.”

Staff Sgt. Anthony M. Douglas said the store offers soldiers a unique way to relax. Douglas is the non-commissioned officer in charge of the mayor cell helpdesk and a native of Cockrum, Mississippi.

“I’m glad the store opened because sharing quality cigars is a great way for soldiers to kick back and relax at the end of the day,” Douglas said. “I’ve been smoking cigars for nine years, but I have never had a Cuban cigar to put in my humidor. I’m looking forward to smoking a real Cuban cigar.”

Lt. Col. William B. Smith, Jr., the Q-West mayor and a Hattiesburg, Mississippi, native, says that encouraging Iraqi commerce is an important part of the strategic effort in Iraq.

“Supporting local business is important, and it becomes more important as our mission transitions,” Smith said. “When multi-national forces return COL Q-West to the Iraqi military, we will leave them a better base than when we arrived, one with a military and economic infrastructure able to help support a sovereign, self-reliant Iraq. One way to define our level of success in Iraq is by how well we have nurtured Iraq’s developing economic capacity, for this will significantly improve the country’s long-term stability.”


Murray Shugars (photo courtesy of Jennifer Balgooyen-Asmus)

An associate professor of English at Alcorn State University in Mississippi, Murray’s poetry has appeared in Smartish Pace poetry journal, in the chapbook, Songs My Mother Never Taught Me (Dos Madres 2009), and in The Smoking Poet. An infantry officer in the Mississippi Army National Guard, currently deployed to Iraq, he lives in Vicksburg, Mississippi, with his wife, Sandra, and two daughters, Samantha and Miranda.


Only Then

By Travis Mossotti


The Hemingway Short Story

is a stubby, torpedo shaped cigar

that responds well to fire. It lasts

in the way we last: smoke

of our body becoming air,

becoming breeze, becoming

the cold front that slams its thick

skull against a tree, against a forest,

against the town, where as a boy,

I slept with a brown teddy bear

—threadbare buttons in

its grooved sockets—that bear

had seen it all come and go

and knew the familiar sting

of quarrelsome parents lighting

the hallway, had often buried

itself in the backyard under

the silver maple: a makeshift

graveyard where the sun

fell to its knees, the winsome

sun pressing a shadow against

another grave. I left flowers.

My father would light those

stubby brown cigars and lean

over the rail of the back deck

like a Buddhist shaving his head

in the dark; he would smoke and

stare past the forest and imagine

the coming winter and the next

and before long his parturient

gaze fell back upon the house,

and I could smell the rush

of spent tobacco as he brushed

past. I can smell it now. We

don’t talk about such things

in polite conversation although

I wish we could. Then I could

show you the night a tree fell

on our house, the truculent

wind escaping the forest’s lungs,

the lightning bluing our crushed

wooden deck, my mother’s ruffled

blackwatch nightgown, felled tree

snug against the roof, a hundred years

of growing towards this scene.


Travis Mossotti is enrolled in the MFA program at SIUC and has poetry in current or forthcoming issues of Another Chicago Magazine, Antioch Review, Cream City Review, Dark Horse, Fourth River, New Delta Review, New York Quarterly, North American Review, Passages North, Rattle, RHINO, Southern Humanities Review, and Subtropics. In 2009, he has been awarded the James Hearst Poetry Prize and an Academy of American Poets Prize. He was finalist for the Gulf Coast Poetry Prize, and his first book-length manuscript was a finalist for the National Poetry Series.


Playing Dead Plays Muriel Cigar

By Shelby Stephenson, author of Family Matters: Homage to July, The Slave Girl, Winner of the 2008 Bellday Poetry Prize





It was post-Lewinsky.

Hard was his winkle.

Onetwothreefour legsSphinx

Yet he could not say why don’t you pick one up and smoke it sometime!


And White Owl was out and King Edward.

Rum River Crook and El Rees So, too.

Muriel did not make him feel like turf,

Though she came to him as a woman dressed in a blouse cut low.


Let’s hear it for Muriel, PD shouted, wallowing in his cigar-fame

Fumes flaming curlicues round his snout,

Toes sporting rings from his Darling Dame!





He was a long way from Greece.

He could not be a hero and sail the seas like the wanderers of old.

He’d rather be a scavenger than an adventuring marsupial

Maybe he could hide in a peacock’s feathers for some hubris

Or crawl out on a limb of aspects growling far from the Tomb of Regret.


He took to teaching young ’uns survival tactics and was nominated for an award.

It was a sightso much hype in wallops of chalk-dust

Evaluations from student PDs about his ugly face or his rumpled skin.

He needed a bunker to keep him from such fare.


He remembered how lucky he wascounting the days

And praising the Society of Little Feet

And the Wildlife Sanctuaries touting himNorth America’s Only Native Marsupial.



5 Vegas Anomaly

Cigar Review by David Blaine


I’ve seen 5 Vegas for sale online and their sharp packaging grabbed my eye from the get go, but when I had a chance to try 20 pieces of the Petit Corona (4.5x.44) for less than 40 bucks, I jumped. Mine came in two cello wrapped 10 packs. I’ve also seen them in boxes of 20 selling in the $60 range.


The truth is that the foil band and cedar sleeve are just marketing, but these aren’t bad cigars by any means. In these post S-Chip days, a handmade cigar for two bucks is, well, an anomaly.


The Costa Rican maduro wrapper is about as black as an Onyx, and although the unlit cigar doesn’t have a very spicy aroma, lighting it will change that. There’s a copious amount of smoke with chocolately overtones and a bit of spice beneath. Construction is above average for this price range, holding a long, white ash and burning evenly. It also stayed lit for me while I went inside to top off my beverage―always a good thing.


These smoke well with a morning coffee and equally well with an afternoon tumbler of bourbon.



David Blaine lives, writes, and works with his family in rural Michigan. His latest poetry collection, Antisocial, was published this year by Outsider Writers Press.


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