Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Sometimes a cigar is more than a cigar.
by Riccardo Berra (c) 2011 Love on the Edge, all rights reserved
Ricc Berra. My pleasure.  Glad to meet you too.

What do I do? For lack of a better term, I guess you could call me a lifestyle photojournalist. I work for that famous cigar mag you see on the newsstands and know by its thick glossy cover stock and glam shots of celebrities sucking on fat stogies. You do? Always great to meet a fellow enthusiast. Yup, that's it—last month's issue. There's little LiLo going down on a Cohiba. Yessir, I did. That's my cover and I can tell you stuff about her and that photo shoot that even the tabloids don't know. Exactly, what's the point? Poor little girl has enough crap on her plate without me piling it on.

Anyway, you're probably thinking, stop, you lucky bastard, you're killing me, you're, what did you say, a divisional shipping manager? You also write in your spare time? Two kids in Michigan State. Okay, yeah, shit, I know it costs a bundle. Mine starts Cornell this year. So you save like Scrooge, maybe you score four or five premium smokes a year. I won't deny I get the best, pretty much all the time, perks of the job.

I didn't always have it so good; so yes, I agree I am a bit jaded. Most of the time with factory seconds you're lucky to get a good five in a bundle. Champagne tastes and beer budget? Yeah, I feel you.

Point is the last thing I want to do is sit here and run my mouth to some guy I just met, so we can talk about anything you want except politics. Sure. Let me see your pictures. Handsome, your boys. You must be proud. Here's mine. You kidding? I don't mind.

Oh you like those shots. That's a celebrity golf outing. Yeah, that is Jack Nicholson, the Jackster.  To say I'm a lucky bastard because of all this isn't even the half of it.  Look, since you were decent enough to buy me this second drink and we're both got too much time to kill while they de-ice the wings, I'm going to tell you a piece of the other half.

I'm just back from northeastern Brazil, a charming, ancient colonial town in the Bay of Bahia called Cachoeira. One of Brazil's largest cigar makers set up shop in Cachoeira the late 1800's when its Portuguese founder left Lisbon find fame and fortune in the New World's tobacco fields. The company, Luz da Luna, was named after Dona Maria Luz de Luna, infamous widow consort to the deposed Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro II.

Brazilian leaf is enjoying an uptick of popularity due to some risqué ads that feature shots of a former Miss Brazil provocatively non-attired in the title role. You've seen them? You are a dedicated reader. Save that issue, it could be a collector's item. The ads were pulled next issue. Anyway, Brazilian Mata Fina leaf is a sort of Rodney Dangerfield of the tobaccos. But I've always found it rich, sweet and spicy—very much like the country and its people.

The publisher of the mag knows I like it. I gave a Luz da Luna cigar a great review so the president of the company asked for me. Now, I admit, other than enjoying a good smoke and having a way with words, I have no special credentials to do this job; I don't even speak Portuguese. So when I got down there, the first thing the company's press liaison did was to set me up with an interpreter, a whip-smart, funny little character named Joacy Campos-Leão, who spent most of his time regaling me with tales of his latest trip to "Novo York-ae." The parts he left out, I'll save for later.

Anyway, I do my thing with the president of the company, we tour the fields, we spend time in the curing sheds. That was day one. Then the next morning, we go their horticulture labs. It is, it's a very sophisticated operation.

So I'm just taking notes, you know, doing my thing and it's lunchtime, but the president is called away to a board meeting and his sons treat me to a nice long traditional Bahian lunch with many bottles of decent Portuguese Caves Velhas red, followed by some truly excellent smokes and it's mid-afternoon and I've basically gotten everything I need for my piece. So I bid the brothers bom dia and  I page Joacy to take me back to the hotel.

I thought I'd crank the AC and maybe get a little shuteye. Though we're icebound up here, down there in March it's blistering hot and I'm sweating like a pig. Joacy turns to me in the car and says you have two choices Señor Berra. We can go on the site seeing tour (to which I mop my brow and grimace at the prospect) or … we can go for a swim. Swim it is he says and he says he knows a spot on the Rio Paraguaçu, less than a mile from my hotel. We drop the camera gear at the hotel and I change out of my seersucker suit and put on swim trunks, a Panama hat and my loudest Hawaiian shirt. Business traveler's tip, though executives do tend to dress conservatively, there's no such thing as a "too-loud" Hawaiian shirt in Bahia.

It turns out Joacy's swimming hole is more like three miles away, but I mind the roads carefully, just in case something happens and I end up hoofing it back. Well we park a bit off the road and walk down a dirt path. Before I see it, I hear the river. We come to an elbow shaped gorge, where the Rio Paraguaçu splits like a snakes tongue and half spills down a 25 foot drop, the other part cuts its way down a tumble of boulders and there are hoards of Blocos below enjoying the water.

Don't take offense, but I gotta ask you if you are really a retail shipping manager and not in law enforcement, because how much of the next part of my tale I tell depends on your answer. Scouts honor? Super.

You enjoy the smoke? Joacy asks as he eyes me carefully and I answer well yeah, we work for the same magazine. No, Señor Berra, the other smoke he replies and pinches fingers to lips in the universal sign of "the other smoke" and I tell him I'm known to imbibe. Well then, he says with evident delight, we have somebody to meet, you'll really like him and we take a detour off the main path to the river. As we round a clearing I hear samba music blasting and I see an open flatbed pickup that is the source of the music.

Sitting on a folding chair behind the open flatbed at about 400 pounds is the second largest man I've ever seen, chugging out of a two liter Guarna bottle. Behind him, the largest man I've ever seen is pointing a 357 magnum straight at us and I freeze dead in my tracks, but Joacy just laughs and waves, calls out and pulls me along. The large man stands down. As we approach the seated man stands with some difficulty due in part to his girth but more to the fact that he only has one good leg, the other amputated above the knee. He leans on a crutch, pulls a jolly little pipe out of his mouth, adjusts the pointed red cap on his head and beams at Joacy. The two kiss—extremely affectionately I thought, which initially seemed little odd, but I always take whatever for what it's worth.

Señor Berra, meet Señor Saci Pererê. A very special friend Joacy beams and I can tell by the affectionate way the big man looks at the little driver man that these two are very special friends indeed. Whatever. I stick out my hand, say Bom Dia with maybe a bit too mucho gusto and big Saci scowls, but then clasps my little baby's mitt in his big, giant ham of a hand. As he does, I notice the Walther PPK strapped under the fleshy fold between his manbreast and treetrunk arm. Saci noticing me noticing quips, 'Bond, James Bond' in a thick accent. Laughing uproariously.

I laugh too; a little sickly squeak and little Joacy and big Magnum begin dialoguing in rapid Portuguese. Saci eases his frame back into his extrawide chair as Joacy turns to me and asks if I brought cigarette papers. I whisper back I hadn't exactly thought I'd need them and Joacy brushes it off. He asks me for 50 real which is less than 30 bucks and I give it to him and he gives it Magnum who produces what my eye judges as a half ounce of tightly packed buds. Hot damn indeed!

Magnum puts fingers to lips and whistles and from out of the pickup's cab tumble, wait for it, two stunning Brazilian brown beauties, twins, maybe all of 20, topless matching 34C's in banana yellow microkinis. How I'd not noticed them with all the male bonding and firearms and the illicit drug transacting, God knows, but there they were.

I agree, my friend, women are God's gift to the planet and Brazilian women, well can we both agree, their reputation entirely deserved.  That's a great observation, how did you say it, that beauty is proof that God intended the races to mix.  In Bahia, you have the gorgeous confluence of three races, the Indian, the African and the European.

The result with their raven hair, coffee and cream skin, most not so big in the breast department as the two sisters, but all with the generous bundas Brazilian men prefer. Saci's gang excepted of course because other than myself, I was by then certain all the boys on that bus hit the home team bundas.

Yeah, exactly, whatever.

Look, I don't know if it’s the Scotch talking but I'm not getting any sense of shocking or offending you, so I'm going to continue.

You … want me to stop? Oh! Crissakes man, by all means don't hold it. Look at that board, we ain't going nowhere fast. Yes, I'll be here when you get back. Take your piss. I'm glad you're enjoying it. Go. Go.

Everything came out alright? Sorry lame one. Sure I'll take another if you're buying. So where was I? Yeah, the girls. Well one lifts up a tarp in the back of the pickup there's this stack of dark chocolate brown Mata Fina leaves, very thin, perfectly dried and cured and she selects an almost transparent leaf the size of an invitation envelope and she sits on the tailgate. Magnum hands the bag to the other girl, then reluctantly it seemed produced another folding chair for me to sit in.

Girl One whose name I later found out is Iara cups the leaf on her bare brown thigh while girl two whose name is Ina, crumbles fat buds into the little depression Iara made and with one deft motion, Iara spun the leaf on her thigh into a perfect torpedo without spilling so much as a grain of pot. My jaw dropped. When she slid the entire thing into her mouth to moisten and seal it I knew I was in the presence of master torceador.

Yup, cigar rollers and though I'd never had this kind of cigar, you know with this particular kind of filler, I knew I was in for a righteous treat. Ina took it which if you had to put a ring size to it was maybe a 26 like a Carolina or Loquito, well she put a long match to it, took a deep drag, then stood, strutted over to me, bent over me, dangling those gorgeous chocolate-tipped brown betties a heartbreaking inch above my own chest and shot-gunned the smoke into my open mouth. She grinned shyly, handed me the torpedo, then went back to sit on the tailgate next to her sister.

It was peppery and eucalyptus, cinnamon and sweet and round and round it went around the circle, and by the fifth time or so, I tell you the day had visibly brightened, birds were singing sweeter, I'd forgotten the heat, the music slid and coiled into my brain like a viral infection and hell they probably could have harvested my organs and I'd not have given so much as a damn. Joacy, I'd forgotten about Joacy, was perched on Saci's lap and Saci looked my way through the haze and said something to Joacy. Joacy gave me this odd little look and told me that Saci wanted to know what I did for a living. Now if there was a cue of some sort in that look, it was lost to this smoke-fogged gringo brain, so I just blurted, "photo-journalist" which evidently needed no translation for it caused both the Walther and the Magnum to be directed at my head. I screamed, Jesus Christ Joacy, tell him I write about fucking cigars, I'm not a narc or CIA or whatever the fuck. Tell them I don’t fucking want to die and I'll prove what I say is true!

"How?" says Saci in perfectly uninflected king's fucking Oxford English.

"Oh now you speak the English." I say. "Good. I write and take photos for "Cigar Man" and the best way to prove that to you is ... I'm going to reach in my pocket and what I'm gonna pull out, you gotta trust me on this, is going to prove it."

"You do that amigo, but slowly, slowly and we are bom, bom, bom."

I produced my business card, the one with the magazine's logo and handed it to Saci. His eyes narrowed when he read it.

"Shit man, anybody can make a stupid card."

"I'm going in my pocket again."

This time I took out my finger cigar tube and slowly opened it so all could see and produced a dark little beauty about six inches long and a 45 gauge and handed it reluctantly to Saci.

"All the narcs smoke here man."

"Not this," I said, "Look at the ring."

"It's a Montecristo. So fucking what? All it proves is you like the best."

"No man, look closer, see that little F below the seal. It's Fidel's special blend. Straight from his humidor. Thirty years old. My last one in the world. Enjoy it in good health."

Saci turned the little beauty around delicately in his giant paw. I'd been saving it for after my swim. He stuck it under his broad flat nose and gave it an appreciative sniff. "Muitos agradecimentos meu amigo," he said as he clipped the cap. "I will."

"Satisfied?" I asked.

"More than." He replied. "Look, friend, my little Joacy told me you came to swim. And I think you should.  You want to smoke again or swim?"

"I think I'd enjoy a dip. If somebody would show me the way down." Magnum double-sealed my remaining weed and I tucked it in the button pocket of my shorts.

Saci clapped his hands and the girls jumped off the truck and took me in arms. I was still a bit jittery, but even a cigar man finds himself in tight spots once in a blue one, so I allowed myself to be taken, figuring when in Cachoeira do as the Cachoeirans do as they trotted me down the path, my arms pressed to the silk of their brown sugar breasts. The path, I noticed, wound down the hill but instead of turning the girls tucked my arms even tighter and broke into a straight run off the edge of the bluff, and powerless to resist I found my legs churning empty air, simultaneously hyperaware of the following, two sounds—the uproarious laughter of men on the ridge I'd just left, the sound of me screaming like a little bitch and the sight of the water fall's rainbow spray behind four of God's most perfect tits in freefall and me thinking hell if I was going to die, this wasn't the very worst way to do so. Before I hit the blue-green water I had the sense to point my toes and I cut the water like a knife, shot down in a foamy spray maybe all of 20 feet, my toes touching soft muddy bottom, before I sprung to the surface gasping and spluttering.

"Very fucking funny man," I barked up to Saci who'd already lit my cigar and waved it enthusiastically at me thirty feet above my head.

His laugh echoed off the rocks overhead while he took a satisfied puff. "Have a nice dip. Enjoy!"

"Oh hell," I thought to myself as the girls and their breasts bobbed on either side of me. "I will indeed enjoy myself." The water felt about ten degrees below body temperature and the air was well above that and it felt like I was floating in cool air.

Iara, she of already demonstrated rolling skills swam up to me and kissed my wet lips, while her hand slid under the water, those skilled fingers, finding and rolling my man cigar. Ina lifted that wondrous bunda in the air, dove under the surface and in a trace, had slid my swim trunks off. She came up with them in her hand, waved them dramatically over her head shouting "Woo woo!" and tossed them on top of a giant boulder on the opposite bank. The girls then began to circle me like sleek brown sharks, first Iara diving under while I treaded water and the next thing I saw and felt was her mouth closing predatorily on my cock and she sucked for 10 seconds and as she came up for air, Ina went down, literally, and took me in her mouth for about 20 second and by the third lap, the girls were taking 30 second turns each, not that I was timing mind you for within a very few minutes I was throbbing uncontrollably and with a sharp gasp, I shot into Iara's mouth and Ina finished me off, both girl's surfacing and exchanging a very unsisterly kiss with my white ejaculate and clear river water dribbling down onto their chests.

My Hawaiian shirt was floating and bunched annoyingly at my armpits at the water line and I felt ridiculous with it on, after all I was naked below the water line. I peeled it off and tossed it on the big rock with my trunks. We paddled about a bit, playing a multilingual, adult game of tag. I love swimming in rivers, for unlike oceans, the dissolved minerals in river water soften the skin and hair and leave you feeling all smoothed out and relaxed. I paddled over to one girl, then the other, kissing her all over, fondling her breasts, playing hide and seek with her raisin nipples and both were eager and receptive to my attentions.

At first I thought Iara and Ina had tired of me, for they swam ashore and climbed onto the boulder where my clothes lay in a heap. They were chatting gaily as they peeled off their bikini bottoms. Giggling they both crooked fingers at me in the universal semaphore of "come and get it" so I stroked with all due diligence to join them. The girls disappeared down off and behind the boulder and as I made my way to them, I discovered a discrete, semi-private patch of grass and scrub where they'd made themselves comfortable. They were stretched out on their stomachs up on their elbows, chattering like any two sisters to each other in Portuguese. It was neither the first nor the last time I regretted not knowing the language, but they indicated their awareness of my arrival and intentions by stretching their arms behind them and spreading their cheeks.

I have always been a poor artist and have tried many times to sketch women's bodies.  Other than with my camera, I've never been able to do them any justice. Truthfully, I could've been Picasso and not captured the full visual impact of their glorious hemispheres revealed in unison, the two coffee-tinted puckered holes and identical black wiry nests with their bright beckoning coral slits. They had my instant and undivided attention. I told myself that I'd give them my all or die in the attempt. From Iara to Ina and back again I hopped, grabbing fistfuls of generous Brazilian bunda to ease my way in, brushing stray hairs off their faces, kissing their shoulders, sliding as easily into one as the other, pumping up a samba rhythm, then pulling out and repeating with the other.

When most of your journalistic career is spent covering other people's pleasure, some of it is bound to rub off. I flit from galas to socials to charity smokeouts and I admit I've almost always found women in those situations eager to celebrate something privately after the party. Sometimes it’s a new or impending divorce, sometimes a passage from young to full womanhood, or a release from the ennui of an over-entitled life, and sometimes it's just the joy of peeling out of a tight, restrictive dress after a few too many cocktails. I've had many memorable moments. But never, to this moment, two at once and never twins and never two of such youth and breathtaking perfection as these two, and best yet, without a single one of those breaths wasted in speech.

I worked away and Ina growled and puffed. I worked away and Iara laughed and trilled and when I slightly changed my pitch, she crooned "Ayieee, G spot" which I guess is also universal. She began to push back at me with increasing intensity, me figuring hell, I'm hitting it, so keep hitting it, why mess up a good thing? But Ina was feeling left out and said so to me and her sister—presumably something like 'sharing the wealth bitch.' I didn't understand the words; but the intent was clear. So I'm hopping off Iara, back to Ina to make up for lost time and this is when I discovered the one discernible difference between them. Ina had a dark little mole halfway between twist and twain and Iara had none. I'd discovered her secret. For in no other way were they different, not in the size and shape of their bodies, not in the way they felt inside, not in the ways they moved or spoke. Whilst churning to the hilt, I started to lose it and I pulled quickly from Ina, splashing a snail's trail across her left cheek and crossing Iara's right cheek as I leapt back into just in time to finish as they say, with a bang.

Catching my breath, I crouched and shivered on my haunches between the girls, who kissed and stroked my chest and back with such affection that I felt just a bit humbled to have two such creatures lavishing such attentions on me. They pushed me down between them and I wriggled in savoring the close feel and smell of their sun and exertion warmed bodies.

You're right my friend. Dark women do have a darker smell. Molasses, brown sugar, white sugar. Sugar. Sugar. I closed my eyes for a few minutes while they continued to chatter and stroke me as if I was a cute, friendly puppy they'd just found.

I'd find it hard to say goodbye to them. If they "belonged" in any way to Saci, it wasn't in the way that I needed to worry about. Lost for awhile in the buzz of the smoke, the swim and my afterglow, I became aware of the sun moving gradually off my face, so I opened my eyes, sat up and made signs and intentions to the girls that I wanted to go back up the hill. At first they acted like they didn't understand and then they were disappointed. Why should I want to leave? Why indeed.  They pouted a bit longer, but pulled on their bottoms and trudged up after me.

My only real concern was that we should make plenty of noise so that whatever the Bahia Vice boys were doing on that bluff, that our reappearance wouldn't surprise or embarrass them in any way. I made lots of noise and encouraged the sisters to do so too which they found very amusing for some reason. As I climbed, I called out, even chucked a rock or two over my head to announce our imminent arrival. My efforts were pointless for as soon as my head cleared the ledge, I spied no guns pointed at me; in fact the entire clearing where the pickup had been parked was entirely deserted. Even my Panama hat and sunglasses were gone.

Shit is right.

I guess I was a pretty silly sight, my unbuttoned shirt flapping in the breeze like some tropical flag, my hands parked dejectedly on my hips. But the girls were anything but disappointed or surprised for that matter. Instead they broke into a new barrage of rapidfire Portuguese (vindo a nosso repouso, vindo a nosso repouso) and indicated by pulling my arms that they wanted me to follow them.

I considered shrugging them off and making my way back to town and the hotel. What if their intent might be less than honorable and a brother, father or cousin with a large cane machete was waiting to separate me from my stalk the minute I entrusted myself to them?

Right. I .. I really don't mean to be an ugly American. It's just a reasonable concern. Thing is, in all this had been my third trip to Brazil and even in the din of Carnival, I'd never encountered so much as a pickpocket.  I know it sounds incredibly naïve and lucky and yes, I do know about the kid gangs in Rio, but how can I explain, there in Bahia, things are different.

So like looking in a dressing room mirror these two beauties, one tugging my left arm, the other the right, each identical (except for the mole) and again I'm figuring, what the hell?  Truly, what the hell?  Why should this adventure end?

Alas, there's no way to communicate any of this to the sisters and the idea of walking the three miles or so back into town by myself seemed utterly depressing in comparison. So I held out my arms and made know with words they didn't understand to 'lead on.' Arm in arm, we made our way back along the main road, where we stopped. I pointed at Cachoeira and they shook their heads and pulled me the other way, away from town.

We walked for close to an hour west on BA-132, following the Rio Paraguaçu and when I next checked my watch it was near seven. We'd come to a roadside vegetable stand and variety store where a dour moustachioed grandmother was packing up her unsold wares for the evening. She seemed to know the two sisters and I couldn't tell if she liked their lack of modesty that much. Ina stood beside a bucket of flowers and with her most beguiling smile, gave me to understand she and her sister wanted a bunch, so I grabbed the two freshest ones remaining and presented the girls with them. Iara pulled out a third bouquet and indicated that I should pay for it too. I did.

Such a small price for the favors of these lovely young women and they seemed to take such delight in their bouquets that I then grabbed a woven basket and began to fill it with fruits and vegetables and a handmade cheese that still looked decent.

The proprietress had an open carton of Brazilian cigarettes, which are nasty. But thanks to Saci, I'd had nothing to smoke since lunch and sex and cigarettes have always gone together for me in ways that sex and cigars do not. At least as far as the ladies go. But as soon as I picked up a pack, both girls started chattering most disapprovingly at me until I put the cigarettes down. I shrugged my shoulders and paid up. We crossed the main road on a dirt trail heading north and soon came upon a small village clearing nestled in a valley. Iara waved her hands about grandly and said "Gamaleira" and repeated it until I did, correcting my pronunciation, beaming with pleasure when I correctly pronounced the name of her home. The houses we passed were various combinations of mud, tin, concrete and stucco, a bit of cheap vinyl here and there, not attractive by our jaded American standards, but cleanswept and brightly painted. From each open window, the sounds of domesticity; from each pipe chimney, a cheery trail of cooking smoke filled the evening air and tickled my nose with unimaginably savory smells. Our stop at the garden shack had stirred my appetite somewhat, but it wasn't until we walked past those houses that my mouth literally began to water and I realized that with the pot, our previous exertions and the time of evening that I hadn't eaten for five hours and was in fact ravenous again.

As we walked I tried to imagine how the girls lived here in modest Gamaleira; I thought they might be orphaned and I pitied them, for perhaps this was the reason that Saci kept them around. I was spinning this line of thought out to its logical end when we came to the last house, up a hill and set back a bit from the rest of the village and unlike the others, it was solidly constructed of wood and newly painted. Everything they say about deforestation in the Amazon is true, right, good building wood is very scarce and expensive, so the sisters, at least by the standards of their village, lived well. And from the stovepipe of this residence issued the same blue gray smoke of cooking, so I immediately braced myself for whoever or whatever I'd encounter inside.

The girls stepped ahead of me and as they opened the door, a dark arm like their own shot out and pulled, one, then the other girl inside. The door slammed in my face and I heard the shrill sounds of female scolding and younger female protests inside.

Exactly!  What had I gotten myself into? At least the scolding sounds weren't male and as no burly relative shot out the door to hack my head off, I knocked timidly. The door opened slowly and well, in an instant, I saw from whom the girls had inherited all their unearthly beauty, for standing in the doorway was a gorgeous creature, identical to them, except for maybe 20 years and I knew at once that I was getting a somewhat unpleasant up and down from none but their mother. She thrust out her hand and said with unBahian curtness "Evaki Salamanca" and I said "Riccardo Berra" and that did no good. She just stared at me in a way that made me squirm, so I handed her the small basket of produce and for the second time this day, produced my business card, this one, with the magazine's imprint.

This time, it paid off handsomely, for she brightened instantly and chirped "Ah Cigar Man!" with evident pleasure and respect. She stood away from the door and enthusiastically bid me to enter. Behind her were her dark-eyed daughters, still clutching their slightly faded bouquets, but pouting and now far more modestly attired in bright matching, peasant blouses. The third bouquet was on a small folding table set in the middle of the kitchen.  Three chairs stood against the back wall.

Evaki bustled me to the table and directed me to sit as she and her daughters prepared their dinner. And what a dinner it was. When Evaki lifted the lid of a cast iron Dutch oven that had been bubbling on top of their cookstove, I recognized it by smell alone, the feijoada, a Brazilian stew made of black beans. carne seca which is salted cured beef and sweet sausage. Ina filled a large bowl to the brim as her mother put the flowers in a vase.

Iara gave me a large spoon and all I wanted to do was to tear into the steaming black mass of goodness, but I held myself until all three of the women noticed with consternation that I wasn't eating. I spread my arms before me, indicating they should all sit, but they protested that I should start without them. Still I refrained until they each sat with their bowls and spoons and Evaki said a quick Bahian version of grace, after which she looked up at me and I indicated my satisfaction and we all began to eat. The table was small and several times, the silky knees of one girl and then the other rubbed up against my bare thighs.

Many times I have eaten feijoada—from favela dives to New York's and Rio's ritziest restaurants and nothing compares to that meal. Again, maybe it was the buzz munchies, or the afternoon's activities, or the culinary skills of the mãe da casa, but God in heaven it was good. Creamy and salty and smoky rich, every bite I gobbled down felt like I was ingesting pure love. Evaki barked at Iara and the young girl scrambled up, went to a small pantry and came back with a bottle of Bohemia Escura, which to my palate is the very best dark beer in Brazil. Brazilians consume a lot of beer, very little of it worth drinking. The Bohemia is an notable exception. It's smooth and very malty, a perfect accompaniment to the spicy feijoada.

I tried to fend off a second helping, but the lady of the house was absolutely not having it, so I tucked in for the sake of international goodwill and cultural relations. As I was eating, I felt a hand in my lap, then from the other side of the table, another hand and before I knew it they'd pried my legs apart and the first hand had snaked inside my trunks and had begun to rub my crotch in a manner no way consistent with uninterrupted consumption of feijoada. I coughed, glanced up at Evaki, mortified, but she just laughed, spoke sharply to her daughters and just as quickly, the hands withdrew and allowed me to finish unmolested.

When I was done, the women quickly cleared the table and if I'd had had belted trousers on; I'd have had to loosen them, for my stomach pressed groaningly against the elastic waistband. I leaned back and rubbed my belly contentedly, which brought exclamations of approval from all three women. The fading light of dusk filled the small western facing window. The women chatted animatedly and some sort of decision was reached, for Ina left the house and came back some minutes later with a large stack of perfectly dried Mata Fina leaves.

What happened next defies belief, but I ask you to bear with me, for now, I need to take a piss. Don't go anywhere.

You hear anything about the flight while I was gone? Uh huh. Okay. Just as well, I'd hate to think we've come this far and that you'd miss the best part. You sure you want hear this?

Yes, I'm teasing. So okay, as I said, the girl comes back with a large wad of tobacco leaves and places it on the table. Iara and mamma Evaki take their three chairs from the dinner table and place them back against the wall. One girl filled a wash basin with water from the sink and placed it in front of the chairs. Evaki then took a dusty bottle from atop the pantry and poured me a finger of its clear liquid into a fresh glass and bid me to drink. It was Brazilian sugarcane rum, raw, undiluted and undistilled. I knocked it back. It went down like simple syrup and kicked like napalm. The mother poured me another shot and began to rapidly shuffle through the leaves as a cardsharp shuffles a deck and with an expert eye had made three large stacks of filler leaves and a smaller stack of finishing leaves.

With barely a look my way and without another word, Evaki dropped her skirt and blouse. As did the girls. Each in turn stepped astride the water basin and cupping a handful of water, splashed it liberally on her dark-nested female flower. Each took a large wad of tobacco leaves and sat splay legged on a chair facing me and rolled the wad against her thigh into a neat, tight torpedo. Each then took a perfect finishing leaf from the table and spun it about the tobacco filler, slid the entire cigar into her mouth to moisten it, then lifting her legs, inserted the a torpedo full into her vagina. Each woman pinched her eyes shut, delivering to each cigar, a most intimate squeeze. They then exchanged cigars, repeating the process with finishing leaves, until in less than a minute, they'd produced three flawless "tres vueltas," or in Portuguese, três vezes.

The best English translation is "triple wrapped" but you now see how there are times when your mother tongue does not do justice to an experience. I was breathing quite heavily at that point and desperately needed another shot of rum to steady myself. As my shaky hand poured the glass, Evaki presented me with the first perfectly formed seven inch cigar, which if I had to put a ring size to would be about a 50-52 gauge. While I ran it under my nose to sample its aroma, she took the shot glass from my hand and polished off the contents with a jaunty toss of her coal-fired eyes and black, curly hair. Sitting astride my lap, she trimmed both ends of the cigar and popped it into my gaping yap. She lit it with a long match and as I puffed away and drew the fragrant smoke into my mouth, I understood why the girls had so disapproved of my attempt to purchase cigarettes. Even bringing such machine-manufactured crap into this house would have been a considerable and unforgivable insult.

The torceadors of Brazil are well known and respected throughout the global aficionado community. I'd heard whispers of such private rituals conducted in the bawdy houses of Havana, Rio and Salvador for men of great wealth and power, but until this moment, frankly, I'd assumed they were just tall tales macho men told each other over stiff drinks. I've even seen girls in Thailand that smoke cigars and cigarettes with their lady parts, but never, ever have I seen skill of this magnitude.

And of the cigar itself, whatever I say, won't do it justice. I let a delicate wisp of smoke curl over my tongue and its sweet, peppery musk produced a delirium of sensations. It put me briefly in mind of another premium smoke made in the Dominican Republic. It's called "Ocean Breeze" and its sweet and salty tang is something I've prized and enjoyed quite often, but I'm afraid that the masterpieces Evaki, Iara and Ina Salamanca created for me have forever spoiled me for anything less.

In short order my three charming hostesses had made me three more torpedoes and when Evaki brought them to the table, she stood over me again, took the cigar from my mouth, handed it to Ina and with a businesslike tug, pulled my shorts down below my knees. While my mouth was sealed to the original version of the coffee-brown nipples I'd tasted earlier today, she slowly lowered herself on to my lap. Balancing herself on her toes like a ballerina and with her palms pressed against my shoulders, she swiveled her hips up and down until she established a rhythm that pleased her. Ina stood placidly by and puffed nonchalantly on the stogie, watching as her mother's juicy lap mambo intensified.

This rhythm and the powerful internal contractions she brought to bear as she came down sure pleased me and I felt certain that I'd lose it that instant, but Evaki shrieked "Ah no!" and standing, pinched my cock in a grip of iron. Ina then took her place and gave her mother the cigar. Evaki took a long satisfied puff on it as Ina lowered herself onto me and began her own dancing rhythm. Iara took the cigar from her mother and took several long drags to produce a cheery glowing inch-long ash on its tip. My hands, with nothing better to do, latched onto Ina's rounded bunda and slipping betwixt and between, one finger found the little mole amidst all the juice-slicked flesh and I pressed it and called out "Oh Ina" to which she melted and responded "Ohhh Ricci." She had barely established her own rhythm when Iara thrust her nipples pointedly in my face and handed the cigar to her sister and demanded her turn.

This complex choreography repeated for as one of the three made busy on my lap, the other two were busy rolling and finishing cigars. I counted fifteen on the table when I felt the rockets go off in my head and it was Iara, I think, that took my load and all I can tell you is that the last three cigars the Salamanca women produced had a pronounced slick, viscous sheen on their wrappers.

The cigar I'd been smoking had gone out so Evaki relit it and passed it to me with another thimble of rum. As she sat at the table and folded her naked legs primly under her, the girls stood on either side of me, stroking my head and shoulders until I truly felt like the lost puppy they'd taken home and decided to give all their love to. The cigar's taste grew in sweetness and complexity as I smoked it to the nub. Iara opened the door and a rush of heavy but fresh air swept in tossing the premium tobacco smoke and woman-scents back in my tear-stained face. We struggled awhile then gave up trying to communicate in words. I tried hard to express what this evening meant to me and the three women and judging from the kisses and what happened next, I think I communicated my feelings.

Evaki stood, a bit unsteadily, a cute and bashful smile and indicated her intent to lie down in the large bed in the opposite corner of this handsome but modest one-room house. In truth, I hadn't even noticed the bed or the rest of the house. She curled up on it and beckoned me over with the sweetest words I didn't understand. Again, I regret having neither camera nor drawing pad to visually express the image of this brown flower of a woman on the white bed who'd opened her home and body to me. When I was curled up against her, she called the daughters over, both of whom seemed reluctant to come to bed in the way of all young people. But they listened to their mother and curled in alongside us, four to a bed, very packed, but very sweet. Many sweet things happened that night in that bed until I'm sure I nodded off for a bit, though I'd certainly not wanted to.

Maybe an hour, maybe a bit more passed when a tug on my arm awakened me. Then a tug on my other arm and before I knew it, the girls were lifting me from the bed and the sleep-warmed place where my face had been pressed into their mother's bosom. I'm certain I'd been drooling on her. As I was slipped from her embrace she turned in the bed with a sleep-groan and settled peaceably. My original suspicions were confirmed. The girls, being girls, were not at all ready for sleep. One of them, I'd like to say Iara, but it was too dark to know for certain, tossed me my trunks and I began to put them on and the other girl, Ina? hissed no and put her fingers over her lips in the universal sign of "the other smoke" and I mouthed okay and fished the baggy from the pocket and left the shorts behind.

The girls bustled me out the door and around the back of the house and slightly uphill, I could just make out a treeswing for three. There were whippoorwills and crickets and some calls and cries in the air I have no words for, only sounds. And I'm not going to make them here. The night had cooled off, nowhere near enough to produce a chill, but, I mean how else can I describe it other than perfect. This was all perfect. Had I died and gone to heaven?. I handed the girl on my right the bag. Either one of them could roll better in her sleep than I ever could in my life.  Rocking in the swing, watching the moon play hide and seek in the clouds, we passed a long but thin needle of tobacco-wrapped weed. After which, the girls played some very naughty games with me in the swing. I know pot is supposed to cause low male energy, but honestly, I've never had that problem, it's more the reverse that's true. I may have passed out on the swing though. I don't remember making my way back to the house and Evaki's bed.

Just waking up.

Waking up to the smell of strong, excellent coffee and another cigar. I know, who needs breakfast? I could tell by the conversation that there was some disagreement about who was going to take me back to town. My watch said it was eight and I had a one pm flight out. I needed to get back to the hotel. The girls assumed they'd do it. The mother was clearly disagreeing. The girls stormed over to me to claim me for themselves and mom barked at them and in short order the sullen maidens had kerchiefs tied about their heads and brooms and mops and cleaning implements in their hands. They were not happy. But I was and so was Evaki who slipped on a sun dress whose bold color and pattern made a mockery of my ridiculous store-bought Hawaiian shirt. .The second to the last thing she did was clip a little carnation from the bouquet and stick it in her hair. The last thing she did was scoop up the cigars and put them in an ancient box she'd kept her scissors in. The girls were crying and waving as I left the house. I kinda felt like crying myself.

Behind and up the hill, past the tree-swing, stood a shed and Evaki pulled me along the trail toward it. I'd missed it last night, though my eyesight could be forgiven. In the shed a Vespa scooter, not too old, stood chained and Evaki turned to me with a bit of sadness in her unfathomable eyes, kissed me, then produced the key from the décolletage of her dress. I saddled up behind her, wrapped my arms around her tight waist and just enjoying the smell of her in the air as we drove down the hill and straight through the center of town.. I was back at my hotel in less than a half hour. Before she drove off, Evaki said something important to me, but I want to come back to that. By that point, there was no language barrier between us.

The manager let me into my room and the first thing I saw was that my Panama hat and sunglasses were atop my perfectly packed suitcase next to the camera bag and my laptop all lined up on the hastily made bed. There was a note in the laptop's sleeve, in English, from Joacy, apologizing if there was any misunderstanding about leaving without me the previous afternoon.

When I got to the lobby, I asked the manager for an envelope and placed the rest of my real in it and addressed it to Joacy Campos-Leão.

Freud said sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and Clinton got impeached over where he put his and Bill Cosby says he keeps his in a basement because cigars are vegetables, but short or long, thin or thick, Maduro, Mata Fino or Connecticut shade, cigars are the way they are for a reason. The torceadors of Brazil understand this and the pleasure their art bring to those of us who know their secrets. It isn't that mysterious. Hey, listen there.

I can't believe it. Finally, they're finally calling our flight. Back to the old homestead in a couple hours, eh? Yeah, I have business there. Yet another charity ball. Tell you something, my heart's not in it. Then I fly back to New York the day after. Hold on. Don't leave just yet. You know, you've been such a sport listening to me go on about my shenanigans. You've bought me, what four drinks?

Really, that many?

Makes sense, 'cause buddy, I'm feeling noooo pain. Let me show you something. I had to stash it in my camera gear. No, God, no, not the pot. Ina and Iari have it. You think I really want to spend 30 years in a Brazilian prison playing "Midnight Express" with some sour-smelling, barrel-chested guardía. No this is much much better. Check it out. You're right, without the stamp, they ain't exactly legal and the last thing I want is some TSA fuck confiscating these babies. Smell it. See.

Now you know I'm telling truth. You have a tube. Good. Give it up. This, my friend, is for you. Sealed up, tight as drum. Of course I mean it. Store it well. Save it for a special occasion or just enjoy it in good health. No, I'm totally serious. The morons at the office can have at the boxes I bought duty free and the samples they from Luz da Luna.

I'd have been miserable without somebody to talk to. See, these last two days I've been thinking of getting off the circuit so to speak, settling down somewhere. No, I'm dead serious. Yeah, the last thing she said to me, Dona Salamanca, was você tem sempre um repouso. Before you got here, I was translating it. It means you always have a home.

So you want a job?  Well, I'm only half kidding. I suspect there's more to you than meets the eye.

My pleasure. Yeah. You too. Have a good flight. Just do me a solid. Here's my personal email. When you do smoke it, I don't care if it's tomorrow or 10 years from now, drop me a line. You tell me a story and we'll see.

Bom dia, my friend, bom dia.

(RBB (c) all rights reserved, no reprints or links without my express permission)


  1. Ricci,

    I just love this piece! Reminds me of our trip to Brazil together! I do hope we can travel there again one day!

    On a more serious note, this piece has such a wide appeal to cigar aficionados and of course those of both sexes who enjoy well-written and lyrical erotic literature!

    Ci vediamo pronto!