I recently received this email from an online friend:

“Hey, Wally, I notice in some of your photos that you smoke cigars, and you’ve even mentioned them occasionally in your posts. Question for you: how do you light a cigar properly? I usually have a hell of a time getting one lit, and when I do, it never seems to burn evenly.”

Yeah, lighting a cigar used to be a pain in the ass for me, too. Then, about 20 years ago, the owner of the Ceegar Gallery and Lounge in Glendale, California — I dunno if it’s even still there — taught me how to do it “properly.”

First, you should use cedar matches, if you can. If you prefer to use a lighter, as I do, make sure it’s a butane lighter to avoid strong odors.

Next, warm the open end of the cigar (aka “the foot” of the cigar) slowly over the flame, without touching it to the fire. Let a black ring form around the end.

Then stick the cigar in your mouth and draw in slowly. Hold the cigar over the flame, about half an inch above it, again without touching. Keep drawing in until the cigar draws the flame. Turn the cigar slowly, spinning it to establish an even burn.

Finally, when your cigar is lit, take it out of your mouth and observe the burn you’ve established. If the burn appears uneven, just blow on the unlit sections to draw the burn, then take one or two draws from the cigar to reestablish an even burn.

And there you go!

Now, excuse me, but I believe it’s time this afternoon to spend an hour or so in my backyard with a good cigar and Bill Kauffman’s latest book.