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Out of the Humidor

From the Print Edition:
Arnon Milchan, September/October 2008

Dear Marvin,
Today there are many tales about how cigar aficionados can't smoke. But you still can be surprised, as I was, by very fine places where smoking is still allowed.

My tale's from Bern, Switzerland, while visiting relatives. It started with a promise of a surprise, which took us walking downhill over the Kornhaus bridge into the old town. I'd never been to Switzerland, so I was trailing behind my companions, twisting my neck left and right, attempting to absorb everything around me. Looking right across the bridge I saw the opera house, with a lone figure standing on the balcony, smoking by himself. You only saw his contour against the light of the tall windows; a short, red dot with puffs of smoke trailing off and a yellow sparkle from his wineglass. The sky was cobalt blue with patches of black and . . . "Come on!" my girl said. "We're almost there," her niece affirmed. I closed the distance, trying not to hurry.

Past the opera house we crossed the cobblestone street and walked towards a big, pillared archway. My girl's niece pointed us towards a glass cube with a glass door leading to old wooden stairs, one flight to the left and one to the right. We walked down the right side and arrived one level down. After another few steps there was a big, old double door with glass and lead windows. We opened it and stepped into a huge cellar. The ceiling was low, and before us, 30 feet further down, was the dining room. Wooden balustrades ran around the center. We took the right side past intimate little arrangements of comfy chairs, low tables and small couches. The dark wooden bar held a great variety of bottles, most of them Scotch. In the right far corner there was the walk-in humidor. I smiled, finally getting the surprise they had in store.

I was carrying my own supply, the Swiss-exclusive Ramon Allones and two Trinidad Reyes. The crowd was a potpourri of people. There was a mother and daughter sipping something bubbly. In the corner next to the walk-in humidor was a stout fella in a fancy suit, mid-20s, with an open bottle of Cognac on the table, working his way through a double corona. There were couples and singles, there were trousers and dresses, nose rings and blue spikes, well-knotted ties and turtle glasses.

We could select Scotch from a menu that held about 50 different types, so it took us a bit to choose. My girl's niece and I discussed options and she went with my recommendation, a Clynelish 1995 Cask Strength 59.9%. I took a Cragganmore 1992 Distillers Edition. The significant others were not into Scotch, which was fine. There were plenty of cocktails to choose from and they settled for a Cosmopolitan and a Bellini. I asked the waitress for water, adding explicitly on the side. The waitress smiled in such a way that I knew, that she knew, that I had just showed my utter lack of exposure to good service. The glasses were tall and on a foot, almost but not quite like wineglasses. You could sniff and swirl the whisky and just, at your leisure, enjoy it like that. We drank and chatted and I smoked my Ramon Allones.

You know, Marvin, Bern is a UNESCO heritage; it's old and pretty, but solid. It's more like a fortress than a palace, impressive but not grand like the Louvre. And sitting underneath the cellar's Jugendstill ceilings creates a feeling of being in some fairy tale. Being allowed to smoke enhances this feeling. So whenever you're in Bern, I would surely recommend that you visit the Kornhauskeller. Drink up, light up and enjoy the good life, if that's your choice.

Erwin Huijsmans
Nijkerk, The Netherlands

Dear Marvin,
You and Mr. Mott had it nearly right in your Editors' Note on Tiger Woods [June 2008]. After carefully outlining Tige's personal work ethic, competitive drive, concentration and supremely honed mental abilities, the Editors' Note goes on to state that "Tiger possesses a supreme confidence born of absolute mastery that he can do it [i.e., achieve] whenever he calls upon his God-given abilities." God-given abilities? I think not. Earl and Kultida-given abilities to be sure; Tiger-honed-and-practiced abilities for certain, but God-given? "God-given" is code for [saying that] the other guys' abilities are simply the luck of the cosmic draw, a theme that runs contrary to all you state in your article about Mr. Woods. Tiger calls upon abilities that have been dearly and personally purchased by countless days/week/years given to a sport that most treat as recreation. God can merely watch in awe with the rest of us on what is achievable with unbridled determination.

Thomas Stewart
St. Louis, Missouri

Editor's note: Nonetheless, others have worked hard and not achieved what Woods did. From the time he was a tyke, he had some innate ability that, yes, he has developed to its fullest potential. But call it God-given or innate, he had more to work with than most people.

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