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I can't close without expressing concern with the U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba. It is unfortunate that two wonderful peoples are not able to share cultures (and cigars). When one looks at U.S. world trading partners, there is really no logic to the exclusion of Cuba. The Cuban people do not deserve the hardships they endure as the result of these trade barriers. Neither should U.S. citizens be deprived of access to the miles of pristine beaches and vacation retreats, and the wonderful friendship of the Cuban people.
Someday, the barriers will come down and I may have to fight for a spot on the beach and pay more for my Cuban vacation (and cigars), but I will not complain.
Ivan A. McKaguee
Editor's note: For the prices you paid for your black-market smokes, it's a pretty sure bet that your "Montecristos"and "Romeo y Julietas" are fakes. Buying black-market cigars is always a dubious proposition, especially when the prices seem too good to be true. But if you enjoyed them, a buck a cigar is a pretty good deal.
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My name is David and I worked as one of the bartenders at CHOPS restaurant in Atlanta.
Besides having great steaks and wonderful service, the restaurant has always been cigar friendly. Even before the huge surge in cigar popularity, CHOPS had a well-stocked humidor and did not look twice when someone lit up after dinner. More than once, we had to move nonsmokers so as not to disturb our cigar-smoking clientele.
Since the cigars were kept behind the bar and I was the only regular cigar smoker on staff (I still have my collector's first edition of Cigar Aficionado), management of the cigars fell to me. I quickly became the "de facto" cigar steward. Both staff and regular customers would often seek me out for advice and general information.
One day a gentleman new to the restaurant was asking one of our waiters, Scotty Wisman (one of the greatest people ever to wear the polyester black and white) what kind of cigars we had in our humidor. Scotty told him that he was sure that we had Partagas and Macanudo, but that we had just added some new brands, and he could not remember precisely which ones. The gentleman then asked Scotty the one-word question: "Davidoff?" To which Scotty replied, "No, he's here right behind the bar. Would you like me to get him for you?"
The confused look on the customer's face was only matched by Scotty's own puzzlement. When they figured out what was going on, both roared with laughter. Scotty, to his credit, came over immediately to share the joke with me.
I am no longer behind the bar there. As we say in the business, I went and got a "real" job. (By the way, that means that I now get up early, wear expensive clothes, talk with rude people and make less money!)
My old bar buddies, Norm, Steve and Damon, are still there, and when I want to enjoy a fine cigar with a fine Cognac in elegant surroundings, I head straight to CHOPS. Anyone can do the same; with these guys behind the bar you become an old friend in a matter of minutes.
Thanks for the wonderful magazine. It has given us many more places where we can smoke and buy great cigars.
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Fishermen are always credited with telling great stories about the one that got away, or the huge fish they reeled in "but unfortunately no evidence exists." Well, I've got a tale that rivals any great fish story.
In August of 1997 my mother, who has been cleaning out her house, gave me my dad's tuxedo jacket. This jacket, made for him in Virginia, Minnesota, in the 1950s, had been in our cedar closet in the attic since 1965, the year my dad died. It had not been worn since at least 1961 or '62.
I took the jacket home and put it in my own closet, intending to have it dry-cleaned and mended so I could get it in shape to wear.
Well, one thing led to another, and it was not until February of this year that I finally got around to taking it to the cleaners.
Before I did, I went through the usual routine of checking all the pockets, more out of habit than anything because I did not expect to find a single thing in a jacket that hadn't been worn in more than 30 years.
Anyway, to my surprise, in the first pocket I checked--the front, outside breast pocket--I found a perfectly starched, still crisp, Irish linen handkerchief. This gave me inspiration as I searched the other outside pockets hoping to find something else interesting. Unfortunately, I found nothing.
Thinking my luck had run out, I stuck my hand in the inside breast pocket and paused as I heard the distinctive crinkling of plastic; at the very bottom of the pocket, I touched a familiar shape. Pulling the object out, I was amazed and shocked to see a Surrey's of New York Havana Cigar, still in the plastic wrapper, band intact.
Well, I knew my dad had been a cigar smoker and his brand was Surrey's (we still have Surrey's cigar boxes around the house), so I knew this was his. Instead of going directly to the cleaners as planned, I detoured to my local tobacconist, JB Sims of Bethesda, Maryland, and asked them what to do.
At their suggestion, I am slowly trying to rehydrate the cigar in a new Tupperware container. They gave me a piece of cedar to put in the container and instructed me to put a small amount of paper towel, that is just barely damp, in the container and check it every week. Progress has been slow.
While I do not expect great results due to the cigar, I may never enjoy smoking a cigar as much as this one.
I'd like to see any fisherman beat that tale.
Bill Pierce Bethesda,