Typical February Sunday here in south Florida, a street festival in full swing on Central in the tiny village community of West Palm, which again is being invaded by us in-landers. I try to maneuver my way around the tiny car lined streets, my destination: Gene Arganese sixth floor condo over-looking the Atlantic, not a bad way to spend an afternoon. The next couple of hours would play out like a scene from the movie "Boogie Nights", minus Sister Christian playing in the background and no one to resemble Dirk Diggler; it still had all the makings of a Hollywood set.
I pushed the cracked door of the spacious condo my welcoming was a stout babied faced Pisano with a smile from ear to ear. I could already tell with hair tousled, his clothes wrinkled that this 1pm meeting might have been a little too early, since the escapades the night before consisting of an after-the event-party, which seems to be pretty much standard in the cigar business. He casually shook my hand as we introduced ourselves to him: being Gene Arganese, of Arganese Cigars, and I, CigaRobbie of well... Ah, damn it CigaRobbie, whatever that means? He introduces me to a man on his right standing tall, white cowboy hat, shit-kicking boots and the eighties porn stash flowing, I later learned he has a Colombian line of cigars called Bravo. Nice man served in the Marines under Ollie North in the jungles of Columbia where he made direct contact with the tobacco farmers.
Now we finally sit down to the business at hand, we enter the living room which the entire condo has not seen an interior designer since the late seventies. I jump straight for the big man's throat: Gene tell me about the bad blood between you and Joseph Gannascoli who played "Vito" in the Soprano's, and originally had a deal with Gene to produce Joey's new line of cigars Cugine, which means cousin in Italian. Gene looks at me with his boyish smile that turns to his version of a scowl, which is still like most people's smirk, "I'll whack the bastard", in his best Tony Soprano accent. Ha, we both laugh, he alludes to "some people just don't do good business." We finally make our way to his line of cigars which his face beams with pride when he tells me his one of only two or three companies who grow their own tobacco he tells me, "no one has better product control in the industry", than he does and I nod in assurance.
We sit on the patio with its northeast exposure, facing the Atlantic, my thoughts are on my "White Label Maduro" it is a preferido, "tough roll", claims Gene, I nod and agree again. We talk about how most of the industry is constantly worried about what the other guy is doing than focusing on their own product. He gives me advice about tasting the tobacco of a cigar; he tells me how the cigar industry and the land development game politically are no different. The interview ends with a study handshake, he is off to a dinner meeting on the island; I'm off for a three hour drive across the state. The afternoon was good I smoked another cigar with the brands creator conversing on blending rituals... Not a bad life!
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