Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
Matt Dillon, Spring 96
(continued from page 1)
Keep up the great work! Cigar Aficionado is truly a superb publication. My only grievance is that it is not printed monthly.
Michael D. Moore
Thank you for sharing your views regarding U.S. policy toward Cuba. As you know, my administration has acted to address the issue of Cuban migration. The steps we have taken address the humanitarian problem at Guantánamo and will deter illegal migration, protect political refugees, and enable at least 20,000 Cubans to enter the United States legally every year. In addition, the regularization of our migration relationship will enable the United States to focus on its fundamental objectives in Cuba: a peaceful transition to democracy, respect for the human rights of the Cuban people, and an open economy with opportunity for all.
Taken alone, the measure allowing migrants at Guantánamo into the United States might well have triggered another mass migration, endangering lives and impairing our ability to control our borders. I concluded that the only way to forestall such a dangerous exodus was to signal our determination to put an end to illegal migration from Cuba while maintaining expanded opportunities for legal admission.
My administration is seeking a peaceful transition to freedom and democracy in Cuba. To accomplish this, we are enforcing a comprehensive economic embargo that presses the Cuban regime to end human rights abuses and adopt democratic reforms. We are also reaching out to the Cuban people through private, licensed humanitarian assistance as well as an increased flow of information. We would welcome an indication that the regime in Havana is prepared to take credible steps toward democratic reform and respect for human rights.
I appreciate knowing your thoughts on these important issues.
President of the United States
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Newly ordained cigar smokers need the service found at America's century-old cigar stores (Cigar Aficionado, Autumn 1995). Their original owners must have understood that teaching cigar smoking's refined rituals and rubrics to new smokers would cost them a cigar or two. New stores are opening daily. Do dealers expect to enrich our experience, earn our business and tolerate our inadequacies? Or will they show a snobbery guaranteed to keep their sales on a level much lower than their egos?
I believe this personal incident will encourage new smokers and admonish misguided dealers. I'll call my story "The Cigar Aficionado and the Arrogant Tobacconist--A Cautionary Tale."
I'm relatively new to cigar smoking, and I'm trying to find a very mild but flavorful cigar to enjoy on occasion. Every couple of months, I search for a new tobacconist who might be able to recommend a brand that will become my favorite smoke. The discovery process has been slow, because my wife hates the smells cigar smokers dare to call aromas. Last Thursday, I purchased two Churchills from the aforementioned dealer. While trying one, I noticed that the cigar's wrapper had begun to unravel. With the cigar still burning, I returned to the shop to show the owner. "Can you tell me what's happening to my cigar?" I asked. My disappointment in his product must have been evident. To answer me, he arrogantly picked up a nearby pen to demonstrate the rolling or banging or general mishandling of which I was undoubtedly guilty.
He went on to show off his product knowledge by romancing the cigar's very delicate outer layer, disturbed by (my) indelicate handling. I was truly impressed with his insight into the possible reasons for the problem I had experienced, and equally aware that he had absolutely no empathy for my frustration. After coldly delivering his polished response, he advised me with thinly veiled mockery to "throw that cigar away before it burns a hole in your suit."
I was a little embarrassed as I left, and I knew I would not do business with him again. Once back in my car, a valuable lesson occurred to me. He need not have replaced my cigar at no charge to satisfy my complaint, although that would surely have been the response of someone genuinely interested in my business. Had his professional explanation been given with concern over my misfortune, I would probably have seen the comedy of my errors. More important, I would then have simply bought another cigar on which to prove my newfound ability to handle it with the care and grace good cigars deserve.
Instead, I was treated with the superiority of a dealer who had sold "thousands of those very cigars" without so much as a trace of the unraveling problem I brought to his attention.
I'm certain that none of those 10 cigar shops around the country that have been in business for more than 100 years--nor any new stores that hope to be--would have failed to please a customer for the cost of a single cigar.
* * *
As the lead mechanic of Red Eagle Racing, I've often worked 12- to 14-hour days to ready our off-road car for a race. Tired and a little greasy after such a long day, I'll clean up and go to a special drawer in my tool chest where I keep a small supply of my favorite premium cigar. The team owner, who has been working as hard as I have, also digs out his favorite cigar and we snag a cold beer--premium beer, of course--out of the shop fridge, call to his wife to join us and retire to the hot tub. To the rear of the shop (which is at his home) is a beautiful view of our foothill community. There we can truly relax and plan race strategy and future plans.
As a reward for my work, which is unpaid, the team offered me a ride in the 1995 Baja 1000 off-road race, the longest nonstop off-road race ever held: 1,131.4 miles. I would drive about 120 of those miles. As with any serious race effort, all contingencies must be planned for. A survival kit with two days' food was prepared. Then it occurred to me that something was overlooked. We had no cigars! That was remedied with the inclusion of four cigars, a lighter and a clipper.
As luck would have it, I was in the car at about 8 p.m., 750 miles from the start, in a very remote part of Baja California Sur, when the steering box broke. After checking everything I came to the sad conclusion that the race was over for us. Luckily, a pit was within two miles and we were brought there by one of the pit crew members after radioing for help. When we got to the pit we were given a cold premium Mexican beer, a most welcome way to ease our suffering. Then I realized that I had forgotten the cigars--they were still in the car!
Lamenting this, I was overheard by a young Israeli man who was touring North America by motorcycle. To my surprise, he hopped on his bike and retrieved our cigars. So there we were, in the middle of nowhere, on a warm and beautiful night with a great cigar and a cold beer. Even though we didn't finish the race, life couldn't have been better.
* * *
Pleasant surprises are too few in our lives; as a man who has had several, I consider myself lucky. I write this letter after enjoying my Autumn copy of Cigar Aficionado, which was a surprise gift. My other recent surprise was a party hosted by my wife for my 40th birthday. Christine managed to coordinate the arrival of my four siblings as well as over 80 friends from around the country, and succeeded in keeping it all a secret. Coming from the nosiest man on earth, I call this a significant accomplishment in itself.
Another gift from my wife was an absolutely beautiful humidor filled with an assortment of my favorite cigars. The party was an unbelievably great time for all and a memory I will never forget. As you can well imagine, cigars were enjoyed by many that night, a true celebration of a significant passing in one's life. I consider myself very fortunate to have such a caring, supportive wife who understands the important things in life: family, friends and a great cigar.
* * *
Last week, I was at my son's high school football game (yes, that same premature baby who is now a 210-pound, 12th grade defensive tackle), when an officious-looking young man sauntered up to me and requested that I put out my cigar because it was disturbing the cheerleaders. His exact words were that "they found the smell offensive." We were outside, for heaven's sake!
Having been considerate enough to remove myself from the bleachers and to stand at least 20 yards away from any other human beings (even cheerleaders) before I lit up, and having looked forward to a chance to enjoy a rare weekday afternoon smoke (I work in a smoking prohibited building), I was admittedly in no mood to be trifled with. "Frankly," I began, "I find it offensive that several students are using the foulest language in the stands despite the presence of small children. Moreover, I am offended at the players who seem more interested in Deion Sanders-style strutting and trash talking than playing the game." I could feel the momentum building up in me like the tight draw of a Cohiba Robusto. "I also find it offensive that the cheerleader's cheers are lame, poorly timed and without the slightest bit of emotion. And that the coaches don't use the run more effectively. And I find it offensive..." The poor fellow looked at me wide-eyed. If his name had been Aladdin, he would have wished me struck dead by lightning on the spot. "Never mind," I said. With one last dramatic draw of Ashton, I allowed the still viable cigar--my last--to extinguish of its own volition rather than risk that my son be rendered a pariah with no chance of getting a date for the senior prom (the cheerleaders looked like the types to hold a grudge). By the way, my son's team won, 13-9.
Darrell E. Walker
Los Angeles, California
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