Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
Alec Baldwin, May/June 2004
(continued from page 3)
For many of us who never got out of the "working" class, decent cigars are way beyond our means. It's too bad. People who can contemplate buying the items advertised in your elegant publication live quite differently from us. Marie Antoinette, on being told that the peasants of France had no bread, was said to have remarked, "Let them eat cake." What advice do you have for all the poorer people who used to be the real cigar smokers?
Editor's note: Murray, it's true that some cigars are more expensive today than in 1962. But try some of the bundle cigars, which can average between $1.50 and $2 per cigar. In real terms, that can't be much more expensive than the 50 cents to a dollar you were paying back then. In many cases, bundle cigars come from the same factories as their high-priced cousins, but just don't have the fancy packaging and expensive ad campaigns to go with them. That's the power of the marketplace. The good manufacturers know they have an audience for that kind of cigar.
A few thoughts about cigars and the pleasure of smoking them. I first started smoking cigars in my twenties. My father and I had a cabin in northern Minnesota and I used to fly my single-engine plane up there regularly in the summer to fish. One hot sultry day we were out on the lake and the bugs were ferocious. My dad, however, didn't seem bothered. It suddenly dawned on me why. He chain-smoked unfiltered Camels. I went to the bait shop and all they had were Swisher Sweets, but they worked!
A few years later I vacationed in Jamaica and decided to splurge on a box of Macanudo Claybournes ($15). What a revelation! Cigars could actually taste good! The rest is history. Just for the record, my regular "daytime" cigar is La Vieja Habana; my "nightime" cigar is a Puros Indios. I visit Paris two to three times a year, so I have the chance to smoke all the Cubans. But in my opinion, the exiled cigarmakers are doing a better job.
Here's a bit of my history. My grandfather came to this country from Greece as a boy and when he got to Chicago, he discovered that his relatives had all been felled by the influenza epidemic. Some friends of his relatives took him in and he lived in a bar and literally slept on the bar at night. He earned money by shining shoes for a nickel. One day a cigar salesman visited and commented that sales weren't that good compared with other bars in the area. My grandfather made a deal to buy cigars from him for a penny and sell them for three cents (keeping a penny, giving the bar a penny), and sales tripled! He saved every cent and eventually bought his own bar. So if not for cigars, who knows, I might not even be here!