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Out of the Humidor

CA Readers
From the Print Edition:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Summer 96

(continued from page 2)

***

Dear Marvin,

Gay Talese's comment on the cigar as a peace offering in the Winter 1995/96 issue reminded me of an experience I had last year, when I was managing a humanitarian relief project in Kabul, Afghanistan.

I should explain that there is not much peace in Kabul. A civil war continues there, and the city was under siege and cut off by a blockade for most of my nine-month stay. And while life in Kabul was rich in adventure, it was deprived of the finer things you celebrate in your magazine. No fine wines or Ports, only cheap Russian vodka and Bulgarian beer left over from the Soviet occupation. No cigars; only dry Dutch cigarillos and bad Japanese cigarettes.

One day, some French doctors I knew told me they had found a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label on the black market. I went to their house that evening to savor it. A French TV journalist had arrived from Paris that day and was staying with my doctor friends. The whiskey was poured and a general discussion began on the state of the world and its wars. The journalist had traveled the world's hot spots. Everywhere, behind every tragedy, he saw U.S. expansionism and the dastardly hand of the CIA. I told him that I found his view to be a bit simplistic, and I tried to explain the complexities of U.S. foreign policy to him (nothing inspires me to patriotism like the company of a Frenchman). The discussion outlasted the Scotch and then grew quite heated. Hours later we reached a tense impasse where we knew we would never agree, nor would we ever convince the other. Voices had been raised and insults had been exchanged. Everyone was a bit uncomfortable. Then the journalist reached into his pocket.

"Do you smoke cigars?" he asked me.

"Yes," I said, surprised.

"Here." And he passed me a Romeo y Julieta he had brought from Paris. I smoked it the next day, and while smoking it the following poem wrote itself:

The other night I found myself

Mired in a deep debate


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