A DAILY ESCAPE
If you’ve navigated M&B’s homepage at all, you’ve seen the company’s philosophy on enjoying your vehicle to its fullest extent: your car should be a Personal Oasis. If you’ve ever had any experience with 5 o’clock traffic in any city, you can relate to the panic that ensues from an ideally, but never realistically, simple commute. In fact, most of the stress Americans endure stems from the daily commute — The average American spends more than 37,000 hours in their car over the course of their lifetime dealing with bad drivers, congestion, and road rage; however, there are ways to combat this. Psychologically, a clean environment is paramount for a clean mind. This is true in your living quarters, but if you spend so much time in your vehicle, its only sensible that you enjoy that time as well. That starts with a clean, well-kept vehicle, but doesn’t stop there.
This philosophy surrounding a Personal Oasis was born from experience, as I wanted to experience a place like that of my own. My daily driver doubles as the company car, one that I spend long hours in driving across Atlanta, or across the country for detailing or for shows. To deal with the traffic, some people chew gum, some play their favorite music, some smoke a cigarette, and some even yell and scream. Given that I spend hours at a time in my car traveling and as a mobile office, my vice of choice for the past few years has been cigars.
THE POWER OF THE LEAF
I do detailing all over the country, and when I visit these cities and meet their people, I have the pleasure of experiencing their lifestyles and cultures. Different cities offer different things — Kansas City has the Barbecue, Chicago has Navy Pier, LA has the beach. Despite the vast geographical and the demographic differences of cities about the nation, the one familiar sight that I can always rely on is that “Indian Man” statue, greeting me as the acting doorman of the local cigar lounge.
The Indian Man is very symbolic and is actually a large part of our nation’s history. The Native Americans were largely active in growing tobacco or Nicotiana and would use it often as a ritualistic sacrament to connect and speak with spirits as well as heal the body and mind of ailment. Nicotine, in its purest form, is extremely powerful and versatile: as a nootropic, a stimulant for the body, and in certain doses, it is lethal.
As skirmish unfolded between the Native Americans and Europeans during colonization/settlement, it was sometimes used as a weapon of war: Familiar with the use of tobacco by that point in time, the settlers knew of Peace Pipes and the use of tobacco as a commodity. In some cases, the Native Americans would “trick” settlers to their deaths by offering them hand rolled cigarettes with lethal doses of nicotine right in the middle of them, stopping their hearts. As time continued on and tobacco remained a valuable commodity, European tobacconists used the Indian Man as a symbol for their shoppes just as barbers use illuminated poles; and pawn shops use the golden spheres. Tobacco has been on American soil for centuries.
ONE PLANT, MANY MEANINGS
Cigars mean many things for many people. For the Native Americans, it was theological and medicinal. As they’ve made a comeback in popularity in the past 30 years, many people have begun to explore the lifestyle and attach their own meaning to them. For people such as Ray Lewis, they offer meditation, or a connection to one’s childhood, or, they celebrate the birth of one’s own child. For others, something to be enjoyed with the guys on the greens for a game of 9-hole, or playing poker. For some women, it can be a break from the feminine role, or an act of rebellion. Further yet, for some, cigars act as a mere symbol of status, something that goes well with their outfit. For me, they give this busy introvert an opportunity to sit down and gather my thoughts. I’m an active person with an even further active mind, always thinking about the next idea or the next move, how I’m going to work out this problem or get started on that new project. When I sit down with a stick, after delicately choosing it, the sharp sching of the cigar cutter, the chafe of the match against the box — these signs let my brain know that we’re about to cool off for a bit. That 30 minute to an hour long break is often a mystery box until you get to it — you never know what each stick is going to hold, and here’s what I mean by that: While much thought goes into the choosing of each cigar itself to smoke for that period, depending on what I’m doing or where I am, there is no way of telling what conversation I’ll have with the gentleman next to me at the local cigar lounge, or what thoughts I’ll put together when I’m sitting alone in the car or perhaps on the back porch enjoying the scenery. Cigars are a dynamic vessel of taste, perspective, and experience. Whatever reason someone may have for smoking, the end result is usually relaxation or a new perspective represented by a pile of ashes.
When I was designing the interior of my 7 series, I had an emphasis on warmth and comfort, psychologically and physically. This meant the dual pane windows to absorb unwanted acoustics, the warm chocolate leather, the bespoke wooden trim, the illuminated speakers; and while those details work very well together, something was missing, I needed something to take it just a step further. Taking into consideration that I traveled a lot and certain shops didn’t always have my preferences(I like my earthy/chocolate Maduro cigars: Cohiba Black, Opus X, Gurkha Cellar Reserve, etc.), it made perfect sense from the standpoints of individuality, luxury, and convenience that I build a humidor for my car when I travel.
THE WORK BEGINS
The first thing I did was seek inspiration, so I went to the local tobacco spot, George Liggett’s Nostalgia Shoppe/Grand Cru restaurant and cigar lounge to get into the proper head space of what I was about to get into. George is an invaluable resource when it comes to the fine tobacco industry and lifestyle. He tells me stories, gives business advice, and is an all around great guy. He’s got a few books in there as well that would help educate and inspire me. When you’re going to take on a project, its paramount that you be well-versed and educated. Knowing the core components and history of a subject will undoubtedly make your creation better as you approach it with more confidence and creativity.
Now more privy to the possibilities, I went home and drafted up a few ideas, one of which was a Cohiba Behike (their Cuban line) themed box, complete with glazing on the glass that used the same dot pattern and silhouette as the wrapper:
However, despite it being a great concept to tie with my Cohiba brown leather, I decided that since I had already done my signature in the wood trim, that I would keep the glass free to have my signature etched into it instead. The next step was to actually build it all.
I needed a Spanish Cedar lining, as its the most effective species of wood in which to store tobacco. It breathes nicely and has a delightful aroma that, over time, infuses with the sticks within, adding yet more flavor.. This Davidoff box was plenty large in volume and surface area, so it would be perfect for the box.
The internal dimensions of the rear armrest were measured, transferred over to the wooden pieces and cut out. I also cut a hole in the top of the armrest where the glass would go. This was the result:
But of course, being a fan of lighting, I had to illuminate it to match the rest of the interior lighting.
However, I wanted the box to be a functioning humidor, not just a display case. I ordered an analog hygrometer for it — the Boveda humidifier pack rests just below that and the humidity flows through perforations cut into the wood.
After which, I finished up the rest, being cognizant of the lettering placement throughout. Here was the finished result.
I later found a deeper rear armrest, so I rebuilt the setup into that, but added a few touches to match others throughout the car, one of them being the “BMW Individual Manufaktur” logo at the floor of the box.
I enjoy it, and so do others. I plan to put one in the 5 series as well, as it has proven its utility quite well. It is now a centerpiece at every single event it’s shown at, always catching people’s attention, an inspiration for endless “come check this out”s from spectators. People usually see me near it with a cigar in hand and that sparks one of those priceless conversations that could go anywhere. Cigars allow me to connect with strangers at the lounges, but they also allow me to connect and hear from people who enjoy my work, and as an artist, that is invaluable.
Cigars are an equalizer among our society — a much-needed mediator as we traverse this hyper-political, extremely polarized climate. They remind us that we can sit down with our common man and have a civilized discussion, one where we can express different interests, perspectives, and ideas without it turning into a brawl of insults and keyboard warriorship. They allow us to gather our thoughts, to focus on one thing in this ever-fast paced world where everyone is on the move. They allow us a spiritual journey of connecting with the self, the inner-being, or with the nature from which we arose. Cigars aren’t just rolls of Nicotiana, no, their role is of much more significance than that — they’re little bits of just one of the connecting red threads that, in the midst of chaos, always provide refuge to individuals, strangers, and brothers alike.
Until next time,
Derrick D. Bundy
M&B Fine Automotive Detailing & Coatings