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Out of the Humidor

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Dear Marvin,
I recently received a copy of Cigar Aficionado from my wife for my birthday and was reading the "Out of the Humidor" entries. Reading this brought back memories of my childhood with my father smoking his Macanudos, which we brought home from our Christmas vacation to Jamaica. I am 34 years old and remember the day I took my first draw off one of those cigars when I was 10 years old.
Throughout my younger years and growing up in an upper-middle-class family, I was exposed to some of the finer things in life. Though it didn't come easily, I continued to smoke cigars as well as introducing my close friends to this pastime into my college years. Even when I met my wife, she never could understand why I smoked cigars, until now.
Today, I work as a deputy sheriff and see things that would make most people thank God for what they have. Even today I introduce my world of cigars to the people I trust with my life. To see the expression when they seal their lips around that masterpiece, taking that first draw, that's what it is about.
I read what Alan Pollak of Newtown, Pennsylvania, wrote in the October 2006 issue and I had tears in my eyes. It's like looking in a mirror. No matter who the individual is or what he does, a cigar is a state of mind. It takes you to that moment in time that you never forget about. You remember the past and relive those special moments with loved ones. Also, thinking about the future and how my three-year-old son watches me light my cigar and pretends to do the same. Thinking about that rite of passage is what it is about.
Today, my wife understands the true meaning of a cigar. It's about that state of mind and that one special moment in time, which continues forever.
Chris Such
Sandy Hook, Connecticut
Dear Marvin,
Recently I attended a charity auction for Heartbeat International in Tampa, Florida. At the end of the evening, I went to see what I had won and to pay my tab. The clerk opened my file and said, "Oh my, you have quite a list."
I was aware of a few items I would probably win, but couldn't imagine on what else I was the lucky bidder. In the group were two Panama hats, two folk art trays from Mexico, a piece of pottery from Romania and a box of Baccarat Churchill cigars from Honduras.
Before I go on, I must tell you I am a female and I don't smoke cigars. In fact, in my area of south Georgia, I don't know anyone who smokes cigars. What I was bidding on were memories of happier times and I had won them.
Back in the mid-'70s, I met an artist who smoked cigars. We lived in another area where it was impossible to get good cigars and he was a mail-order customer of a smoke shop in Washington, D.C. Whenever he traveled to another city, the first thing he looked for was a smoke shop in order to try something different.
When we started seeing each other, he talked about the romance of cigars. He was a ruggedly handsome Hemingway type who appreciated the finer things in life. Wanting to know why he was so fascinated by cigars, I bought a couple of books to read, not only to gain cigar knowledge, but to impress him.
The first gift I ever gave him was a box of Bering Corona Royales—at that time a 40-cent cigar—which I ordered from a shop in Columbus, Ohio. He was always a most gracious receiver of anything I gave him and let me know that he had never received anything he appreciated as much as these cigars. I think at that moment he decided I might make a good life partner. (I am sure all his previous lady friends abhorred this "filthy cigar habit" and let him know it.)
Needless to say, we did marry and even opened our own smoke shop, bringing fine cigars to our area. Later, we opened another shop in Florida. I loved working in the shops and introduced many people to the finer cigars available to them. We visited the cigar factories in Tampa and also the little factories in Miami where Cuban families had set up shop.
We took fishing trips to Canada in June when the mosquitoes were hatching and would probably have devoured us had we not repelled them with our cigar smokes. We had stopped in Toronto and bought real Cuban cigars, and my husband had brought along his own stash, and all of us, including my 10-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter, smoked cigars purely for survival. It was a sight to see them trying to puff on a cigar while reeling in a fish.
Later, the cigar business became very tough. It seemed that at every downtown or mall event, the American Cancer Society had displays outside our stores warning about smoking. It became an economic problem for us and finally we sold both our stores.
By this time, my husband had graduated to Punch, Hoyo de Monterreys and his favorite, Padróns, and went back to getting them via mail order. One of my gifts to him on every special occasion was a box of his favorite cigars. Again, they were his best gifts.
My husband did not die from smoking cigars, but instantly from a fall. Later, I heard one of the youth with whom I worked say, "Mr. Schmader died as he wanted, with a cigar in his mouth and his dog by his side."
A few years later, when my husband's beloved dog died, I had her cremated and put their ashes together. When we went to give the ashes a water burial, my son brought out a cigar and we all smoked it almost to the end and put those ashes with theirs and sent them away together. My husband would have been proud.
During our years in the cigar business, I had learned to identify many different brands of cigars by their aroma. After my husband died, I wasn't around many cigar smokers and had forgotten their wonderful aroma.
Last fall, I attended a dinner and wine tasting in Tampa, and as we got outside the restaurant, I detected a familiar aroma. I mentioned to my daughter and son-in-law that someone was smoking a Punch or Hoyo de Monterrey. The lady in front of me turned around and said that was her husband's cigar I was smelling. We began talking and I told her of my cigar past and how I missed those times. She told me her father was Frank Llaneza, owner of Villazon and maker of Punch and Hoyo de Monterrey cigars. We talked for some time and she said she couldn't wait to tell her father about meeting a woman who knew all about his cigars.
What am I going to do with a box of fine Baccarat cigars? I teased my friends, telling them I was going to advertise on e-Harmony with an ad saying: "A very nice lady with a box of very fine cigars looking for a gentleman who can appreciate both." I doubt I would get a response, but that is OK. I have my box of cigars to remind me of a time when people appreciated romance and cigars and other fine things and took the time to enjoy all of them. The Panama straw hat with the braided horsehair band looks pretty good on me. I may just put it on and go sit on the beach and smoke those cigars myself.
Barbara Schmader
Valdosta, Georgia

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