Out of the Humidor

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Dear Marvin:
A few weeks ago, just the thought of someone smoking a cigar appalled me. If there was one thing worse than cigarettes, it was cigars. It has taken me several years to recover from the shock of learning that a friend of mine had avidly taken to cigars. I recently presented him with a three-year gift subscription to CIGAR AFICIONADO. To obtain a subscription card, I purchased a copy of your magazine. Now that I've read the issue cover to cover, my attitude toward quality cigars has changed completely. I never realized the fine art that's involved in crafting, let alone choosing a quality smoke. Moreover, the enjoyment of a quality cigar is not a trivial matter. Now I'm looking forward to enjoying my first Romeo y Julieta.
Robert Perlstein
Medford, Massachusetts

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Dear Marvin:
Three years ago, my Swiss friend invited me to his annual summer party here in Tokyo. With the party ending, selected guests were invited to his office. Everyone was looking at him walking alongside the conference table. Sitting at the far end was a majestic humidor. Everyone exclaimed they were enchanted. One by one, we were invited to select a cigar--all Cubans of course. It was the beginning of my second love. Of course my first love accepts this and is a fan of my second love, too.
When I had the chance to visit my headquarters located in Geneva, I didn't miss the opportunity to give myself a humidor for Christmas. On top of that, last October, a cigar aficionado decided to open the first cigar club in Tokyo. You can choose from a selected variety of Cubans, smoke them at the club, accompany them with a good drink or stock them in your personal humidor at the club.
As soon as I heard of it, I became a member. We meet interesting people at the club, but one common negative is that most members have intolerant wives. Solution: to place my wife as the club's official public-relations manager. It won't hurt except that it is still me who pays for her Cohibas. Conclusion: it's probably a glory to have two loves.
Michel Descent
Tokyo, Japan

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Dear Marvin:
I am an offshore paramedic, and unlike many of your readers, my wife doesn't mind one bit if I light up a good cigar in "her" home. I just don't understand why all these influential people (like our president) can't work out something so they can smoke in their own homes.
Even the oil company I am contracted to has banned smoking in all company buildings. So I retire in the evenings to the porch swing at our living quarters to smoke and watch the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico. It is the perfect stress reliever after a hard day at the office. Working two weeks on and two weeks off, I pack all the issues of your magazine almost everywhere I go and find myself rereading them. Four issues a year just isn't enough.
Thanks for such a fine magazine.
J. Todd Wind
Nederland, Texas

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Dear Marvin:
I am a subscriber and admirer of your fine magazine When a new issue arrives, I usually disregard my Times and opt for picking out a prime corona from my humidor, going to my balcony and lighting up while slowly perusing my cherished new CIGAR AFICIONADO. I particularly enjoy your "Out of the Humidor" section. Although I'm rarely inclined to write to magazines, I do enjoy reading other people's views and opinions on a wide variety of issues.
I had not taken offense with anything printed in your magazine until I read your Summer 1993 editorial. I have been arguing against the American misogynist attitude toward our first lady since day one. A strong woman in the White House should not be perceived as threatening to cigar smokers or any other American for that matter. Hillary is a hard worker with strong convictions and ideals. That should make all Americans proud.
I have a nonsmoking wife who respects my right to smoke cigars. We have a nonsmoking policy in our apartment as does the White House. I am fortunate enough to have a balcony where my friends, guests and I enjoy our cigars. I find no philosophical quandary in this arrangement as you do in reference to the White House policy.
All this said, my offense comes from the inference that President Clinton is a wimp for allowing such a policy because he is a cigar smoker. As logic follows, that makes me and I'm sure a lot of other American smokers out there wimps as well. I feel it is my duty to write this letter offering a different point of view.
First and foremost, smoke in any form is destructive. It is destructive for painted walls and wallpaper; it is destructive for hanging works of art; it is especially destructive for sensitive electrical circuits such as those found in expensive communication, computer and audio/video equipment. Smoke tends to be absorbed by furniture and curtains, permeating the fabric and leaving an odor that is usually sprayed with aerosols that further contaminate the air, which is so precious for all indoor-dwelling humans.
Don't get me wrong, Marvin. I am a smoker and as such, I am in strong support of having well-ventilated public areas for people to indulge their right to smoke cigars and pipes as well as cigarettes. My real disagreement with your point of view is how we perceive the White House. You consider it a country club; I see it as residential home and historic shrine. I don't believe there is a museum in this country that allows smoking. Like them, I find the effects of smoke compromising to the well being of my home. So, like President Clinton, I live in a smoke-free environment, yet I do love smoking my cigars in the great outdoors.
As for your suggestion to allow smoking in the White House dining area, there would have to be designated smoking areas to comply with the national trend. Think about it, Marvin. Segregating smokers from nonsmokers in the White House is not going to help foreign policy. There is enough segregation on the issues alone. This would only exacerbate problems in the diplomatic process.
Keep up the otherwise great work you're doing with CIGAR AFICIONADO.
Steve Vavagiakis
New York, New York
Editor's Response: All cigar smokers, including President Clinton, need to stand up for their rights. I never said he was a wimp, but he should carve out a space for his pleasures. Moreover, there wasn't one word of Hillary-bashing in my column; she is a hard-working professional. We just happen to disagree on our attitudes toward cigars, and civilized people in a democracy should be able to disagree.
I can't say I agree with your characterization of the White House as a museum. It is a thriving, vibrant home to our nation's leader and his family. Many presidents before him smoked cigars and the house is still intact. Let's keep it for the people ... all the people, including cigar smokers.

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Dear Marvin:
I'm a classical-music D.J., the music director for a fine-arts radio station here in Pensacola, Florida, and a longtime lover of cigars. One of the things about being on the radio is the constant surprise I encounter when I meet listeners. Announcers never look like what people imagine. It's axiomatic and a source of amusement for most of us in this business. But to that is the added surprise people always show when I appear with a partially smoked Hoyo de Monterrey Excaliber No. 1 in hand.
I always allow my cigars to go out at a certain point, and then I just savor the taste and aroma such a good smoke has even when it's no longer lighted. One of the comments I often get is: "you know, smoking those things will shorten your life." My answer to these good and well-meaning folks is to cite the list of well-known personalities who smoke or have smoked cigars well into their 90s. Many, of course, are master musicians, the most notable being Arthur Rubinstein, who wrote lovingly in his autobiography about his acquisition of a taste for cigars as a young man.
I was visited for the summer by my college-age nephew. He arrived with a carton of mentholated, very thin cigarettes and a nervous promise that he would only smoke them on the front porch. I said that would be fine and that I always smoked a cigar there myself in the evening. He looked startled and said with polite chagrin that he really hated the smell of cigars. He was surprised when I replied that I was in sympathy with his feelings inasmuch as I detest the smell of cigarettes. We agreed to put up with each other's tastes and share the evening smoke together.
After a few evenings, he told me that he actually liked the smell of my Hoyos. I suggested it was perhaps the first time he'd encountered a fine cigar, that perhaps the cigars he'd been exposed to before were badly made. On impulse, I offered him one of mine, sharing with him the whole ritual of the experience we all know so well. That was the first of many evenings spent there, talking about cigars and cigar making, the result of which has left my nephew a confirmed admirer of the craft and art of cigars. He no longer smokes cigarettes. Instead, with his limited student's resources, he enjoys one excellent though modestly priced cigar per day. He's become a bit of a chauvinist though: he only smokes cigars from Honduras.
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