Culture

Opening Pandora's Cigar Box

Leslie Odom Jr., from left, Phillipa Soo, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Christopher Jackson appear at the curtain call following the opening night performance of "Hamilton" at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

I’m sure the editor will change my title, so in case he does — the original title of this post was “More Things You Didn’t Know About Ed Driscoll.”  Actually I don’t care if he changes it. I just think it’s funny to picture his face when he reads it and thinks… “Oh dear, what has that woman written this time.”

Anyway, you probably didn’t know that Ed likes a cigar every once in a while and that I usually hate the smell of cigars.  This has caused some interesting evenings.  There was our anniversary weekend a few years ago.  We were staying at the Hotel Valencia at nearby Santana Row for a short weekend “staycation.”   As is our habit, we like to indulge ourselves. We went to the spa, had whatever spa services we wanted, ate out, and Ed bought one of his once or twice a year cigars.

We went up to the large outdoor patio outside the hotel bar to enjoy a second dessert, have a drink or two and for Ed to have his cigar. Outdoors is where he can indulge and I can sit up wind.  And so he lit up.  As the fates would have it, the damn cigar stank to high heaven AND the wind kept shifting so there was no up wind. There was only “smoke gets in my eyes.” Not being shy, I blurted out “My God, I can just smell the cancer.”

What can I say, Ed is the polite one of us.

Needless to say that ruined the experience for Ed, and he didn’t even bother having another cigar for a year or two.  But recently we stopped by the cigar shop near our summer Saturday night date-night dinner-out favorite restaurant and Ed asked for a mild cigar.  Well, what do you know, I could actually walk around next to him without yelling “You can smell the cancer.”  It helps that when we walk around he’s exhaling up where 6’2″ people exhale while I’m breathing the air down here with the 5’2″ people are.

All of which brings us to the fact that we’ve now found that not all cigars stink, which has led Ed to buy more than one cigar at a time, which led to the need for a small humidor, which leads to this review of the XiKar 15 Cigar Travel Humidor.  Please, dear readers, remember this is being written by a non-cigar person.  But I did my research so there’s some value here.

Expensive humidors have built in thingies (I believe that’s the technical term) where you can put little gel thingies to which you add water and then the water evaporates from the little gel thingies thus providing enough humidity to keep cigars from drying out, but not so much that they start to look like lettuce that was left in the crisper a month too long.  Expensive humidors also have hydrometers to measure the humidity so you can spend hours adjusting how many gel thingies you need to keep your cigars at exactly 70% humidity which is apparently the exact level of humidity to balance freshness and lack of green fuzzy mold.

The XiKar is not an expensive humidor (it runs about $25) and therefore it neither dispenses nor monitors humidity.  What it does do is provide a good secure environment where you can put some humidity providing material, a hygrometer and a few cigars and have a chance that the cigars will still be fresh when you go to smoke them in a few weeks.  A cigar shaped thingie, pre-filled with with that humidity expelling gel stuff (another technical term I’ve learned) costs about $1.49, so when I bought Ed the XiKar I sprang for the humidity thingie. We’ll just have to figure out if we’ve reached optimal humidity by seeing if the cigars dry out or rot out first.

The XiKar is also not a lovely accent piece to be left out on the coffee table, as some expensive humidors are.  It looks more like a small ammunition case.  But again, we’re talking $25, not $250.

However, on the plus side, the XiKar appears to seal really well. In fact it seals so well that when shipped via plane, it can’t be opened again unless you either leave it in a very warm car for a day or two, or pull the hinge out a few notches and slip a screw driver in the hinge side, and work it around until you can get some pressure equalization.  Apparently we are not the first people to have this problem on receiving our XiKar.  The interwebs are filled with helpful hints on opening the darned thing.  We opted for the pulling the hinge loose approach, and with just one or two scratches, managed to get the thing open.

However, once opened, you do have this wonderful sense that this is a fine, well-manufactured piece of heavy duty plastic.  We felt very secure placing our humidifying thingie and the few cigars Ed and bought into it and closing it up. In fact we felt like perhaps we should bury it with a dairy and wait 25 years before we opened the hatch again.

Seriously, we’ve not had it long enough to see if the cigars stay fresh, but the reviews for it are wonderful.  One reviewer said his XiKar managed to get into a river somewhere and when finally he fished it out, the cigars were dry… but of course not dried out.  Another guy, or maybe the same unlucky reviewer ran over his XiKar with his pick up truck and it survived.  I’m not at all surprised.  So we have hopes that this little box will serve us well for years, or months. I have a feeling Ed is plotting to get some lovely art deco looking accent piece type humidor in the not to distant future.

Thoreau wrote: “Beware of all enterprises that require a new set of clothes.”  Well this cigar hobby (dare I use the word yet) hasn’t required new clothes. Ed already had the smoking jacket. But I’m afraid it requires new toys. But what’s a hobby without toys?