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My wife and I have been enjoying fine cigars for about two years (she is my favorite smoking partner) and have had times like this before, but being the weekend before Christmas it seemed extra special to me.

I want to thank you, Marvin, for your continued efforts to bring the enjoyment of cigars to everyone, because sharing cigars promotes friendship and a spirit of closeness that we all need to feel.

John B. Cannizzo
Downers Grove, Illinois

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Dear Marvin,

On the eve of my 19th wedding anniversary, two weeks after my 41st birth- day, I celebrated several blissful moments worthy of your readership. Any cigar smoker worth his ash would envy the time my family and I recently spent at the Elk River Inn and Touring Center.

We have always celebrated our anniversary by taking a vacation trip to the North Carolina mountains or South Carolina coast, with a couple of Caribbean cruises for good measure. Never, before this trip, had our children tagged along. However, this ski trip to the West Virginia mountains would not be complete without them.

We left home two days after Christmas and didn't encounter snow until we crossed through the tunnel separating Virginia from West Virginia. By the time we got off the interstate, we were driving through a veritable blizzard. The first night we were too tired to do anything but crawl into our warm cozy beds.

The next day, after sleeping in late, we spent snow tubing and shopping for ski attire. After returning to our cabin, I poured myself a stiff Scotch, stepped out onto the covered porch and fired up my La Gloria Cubana Robusto. By then it was nearly midnight, and an unearthly calm had settled around the former sheep ranch as I walked down the drive, across the Elk River bridge, to the main highway. The winter stars twinkled brightly in the night sky as I contemplated the nearly finished day, and interestingly enough, it was still snowing in the cloudless night.

The next night, after a full day of strenuous Nordic skiing with my wife and daughters, the girls napped while my wife and I sipped bartender Mark's wicked hot chocolate in the inn.

Following a sumptuous Italian feast prepared by my gourmet wife in our cabin's kitchen, I played a challenging game of Scrabble with my youngest daughter before putting both daugh-ters to bed. As the witching hour again approached, I noticed that my wife had fallen asleep on the sofa. It was now or never!

After putting on my bathing suit and covering up with ski bibs, jacket, woolen socks, snow boots and ski gloves, I pulled my fleece ball cap over my head, poured myself two fingers of Glenmorangie, picked up my pocket humidor and trudged through two feet of snow to the nearby redwood hot tub perched on the deck behind the old farmhouse next door.

After stripping down to my bathing suit, I grabbed my Scotch and Fonseca pyramid and stepped daintily across the icy deck, immersing all but my head and hands into the 120-degree water. The snow actually sizzled as it hit the water, adding to the clouds of steam that were soon to be combined with my own smoke. As the snow landed in my glass, it released the wonderful flavor of my birthday whisky. I thought, this can't get any better! All I was missing was my beautiful, bikini-clad wife! OK--forget the bikini!

As I dictate this letter, the snow is tapering off and we are preparing for bed. A full day of Alpine skiing is planned for our anniversary, followed by a fabulous home-cooked meal by the inn's fireplace. And yes, I will try to improve upon the previous two evenings with my Arturo Fuente Gran Reserva Hemingway. Perhaps another letter to the editor will be in order!

Chuck Morgan
Charlotte, North Carolina

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Dear Marvin,

Like many of your readers, I have become increasingly aware of the influx of counterfeit Havanas. The piece you ran on your Web site showing the genuine article as well as the knockoffs was terrific. I printed them out and went through my entire collection.

I am happy to report that I have only the real thing.

Richard Berkowitz
Westport, Connecticut

* * *

Dear Marvin,

I wanted to have a very special evening on my 52nd birthday. My wife made dinner reservations for us and several close friends at a local Spanish restaurant. The establishment is known to be very cigar-friendly, which fit into my plans.

I had been hoarding a Cuban Cohiba in my humidor for months. It was given to me by a friend who would not reveal his sources. I was having a fantastic evening enjoying my friends and trying to flamenco dance, after a little too much sangria. The time finally arrived to light up my prized Cohiba. It was akin to a religious experience. I finally knew first hand what all the fuss was about.

At this point nature called. I proceeded into the men's room with my cherished Cohiba. While washing my hands I ever so carefully placed it on the edge of the sink. This is when tragedy struck.

Suddenly, my cigar rolled into the sink, as I watched helplessly! Well, I returned to the table with my soggy Cohiba. I spent the remainder of the evening lighting and re-lighting my smoke.

What did I learn? A wet Cuban Cohiba was still better than anything else I had ever smoked.

Dominic Bianca
Boca Raton, Florida

* * *

Dear Marvin,

When I lived in Burbank, California, a colleague from work was a big Kansas City Chiefs fan, and they were playing the Chargers in San Diego. He wanted to drive down just to see the game. I wasn't really up for it, but he said he'd drive, so we went to San Diego.

Neither one of us knew where the stadium was, so we pulled over in one of the business districts to ask for directions. Wouldn't you know it, we stopped in front of two cigar stores! I was in cigar heaven. I had brought along one of my H. Upmann Monarchs, packed in the aluminum tube, because I needed something to make the day pleasurable.

When my friend Javier and I walked inside one of the stores, there were four or five guys hand-rolling the cigars right in front of us. The only place you usually get to see that is in Cigar Aficionado. I hadn't witnessed this in person before. The aroma and atmosphere were wonderful.

While my friend was getting directions to the stadium, I was looking at one of the invitations for a cigar night at one of the local clubs. I picked it up and put it in my back pocket and then we left.

We got to the stadium at about 4:45, but there wasn't a car in the entire lot. The game was supposed to start in about two hours. We saw a security officer driving by in a golf cart making his rounds, so we asked him.

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