The scene is Uptown New Orleans
on one of the muggiest nights the city’s seen in recent weeks. In the advent of the usual hurricane threat and blazing daytime temperatures, locals seek refuge in air-conditioned bars to only further dehydrate themselves with alcohol. Somehow, to the crowd, it all makes sense.
Dos Jefes is an exclusive cigar bar on Tchoupitoulas St., with a patio that, at first glance, seems to beckon the likes of local celebrities and young professionals alike. Iron chairs with decoration are beacons in the ominous night, setting the stage for this modest landmark outside of the French Quarter. Passer-bys, and tourists alike, stroll by to steal a glance …and perhaps a seat. Those non-regulars are instantly shooed away by flies that sink around the banana trees. Their complaining muffled by a live band’s coup deep inside of the dark of the place. It already feels like you’re a stranger among strangers -and as you arrive, you are.
The bartender doesn’t notice you over the rising crowd of late twentysomethings, loosening their ties under the red lights. There is carpet beneath everyone’s feet, stained with ash; their forms are iridescent and ghost-like. It’s eleven past the hour and the band won’t stop until the cusp of midnight to gather their tips, leaving counter-top conversation as the only hum in this den.
The beer is top-shelf, with a wide variety of imported colored bottles and the domestics this crowd seems to neglect. They’re a counter-culture of self-loathing yuppies. They sip Heineken and discuss Johnny Depp. None of their bank accounts weigh what they want them to, and all they seem to eyeball for is women. Of which, tonight, there are maybe three. The ratio of testosterone is a needle swinging further to 60 with no signs of slowing.
The air is cool and more importantly, clear. The humidor is a silent mistress allowing everyone a clear eye-line with everyone else through the smoke. The cigars are decently priced, though it seems they’re another number desperately trying to swing the needle the other way. Cigar aficionados who read smoke magazines will slip into fast disappointment at their lack of Ashton Virgin Sun Growns and kvetch at the thought of paying 30 dollars for an Arturo Fuente. True, their exotics are a one-two punch of wanting, but at least their Machine-Rolled cigars seem moderately priced. This crowd’s buying the 24 dollar ones like they’re bottled water at an outdoor rock festival. They laugh, they shout, they cough. Seems the new guy just inhaled. Or maybe tried to buy a flavored smoke, which is the biggest faux-pas behind mistaking one of the regulars for Chevy Chase. Why not go for broke and ask him about “National Lampoon’s Vacation”…
The clientÃ?Â¨le is serious. Their post-university faces try to pull wrinkles through to look more like Humphrey Bogart in a training camp for drinkers with conviction. In a place that wants to take itself so seriously, one doesn’t mock them. One simply agrees with the burgeoning communal apathy growing as the piano has strung its last note for the evening. To be left alone, to have a smoke, enjoy a drink, and have a think. Put your blinders on and enjoy a quiet time, or hide behind “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” This crowd did, but everyone’s so important to themselves that no one will notice you doing this. Or at least, they’ll neglect to make it their next topic of conversation. It’s safe to smile. Now go ask Chevy if you can buy him a drink.