Published November/December 2001Out of the Humidor
The following letter was written the week after the September 11th terrorist attacks.
I am writing this letter with a heavy heart, in light of the tragedy at the World Trade Center. Up until about a year ago, I worked on the 97th floor of Tower 2 at Fiduciary Trust International. To date, I am missing one of my closest friends, Walter Baran, a vice president at FTCI.
Here is a quick tidbit about Wally (I never called him Walter) that sums up his character: when his two daughters were young, early in the morning on Easter Sunday, he would go around the house with three fingers in some powder and make rabbit paw prints on the floor, so his daughters knew that the Easter Bunny had been there.
Wally enjoyed his family, his friends and his cigars. It is because of Wally that I have a passion for cigars and read your magazine each issue. Wally is a cigar smoker from the old days (he is only 42, but I always tease him about being 10 years my elder). He tells me about when he used to smoke cigars right at his desk. I was introduced to cigars by smoking Hoyo de Monterrey Excaliburs (Wally's favorite). We like to sit around, laugh, tell stories, talk sports and smoke cigars. I always make fun of Wally because he smokes his cigar to the very end, and I often wonder how he doesn't burn his fingers. I hope to see Wally soon, but as the days go by it seems less and less likely that I will ever get to talk, laugh or smoke a cigar again with my buddy. I hope to live every day to its fullest now, and smoke every cigar to the end, because I never know when it will be my last. Thanks, Wally, for being a friend, a mentor, and introducing me to things like smoking cigars and enjoying life.
Paul K. Ranieri
New York, New York
Thanks for your continuing defense against the political correctness craze. America has really gone mad. Adult-oriented businesses flourish as protected free speech, but I can't post a notice on my restaurant that we allow smoking to give those die-hard anti-smoking fanatics the option of going elsewhere. We still can have a smoking section, but for how much longer? I spent quite a bit to meet our codes and keep my loyal customers who smoke.
In Oklahoma they tried to impose a surtax on cooking oils because they contribute to health problems. The public outcry stopped it, but for how long? Will people get upset when they start taxing burgers as artery cloggers? Will they get upset when they try to ban red meat? Can french fries be far behind? What will it take for people to realize Big Brother is not the path to a better society? Freedom has a price. We cannot be our brothers' keepers lest we risk having them tell us how we should live.
Why is it that the ACLU only tries to protect the deviants in our society? The legal choices of average people just keep getting attacked. Very few stand up to fight. SUVs are under attack, as well as furs, smoking, guns, prayer, religion. Democracy in our land is no longer majority rule.
California is the prime example of the idiocy of this all. They choose not to build power plants, to protect their environment. They lead the nation in conservation. But they don't like the results of their policies. They want the rest of us to absorb part of the cost.
Smokers now pay a huge amount of tax to subsidize health care. As long as our government sees it can make a profit from our fears, and the constantly increasing press needs to fill time with the whining of zealots, I am afraid the pendulum will keep swinging away from freedom and towards Big Brother.
Keep up the not-so-common, common sense.
Gary B. Gomez
I read your latest editorial (October 2001) with a bit of amusement. In it, you are decrying the use of technology in an "in your face" manner. While I agree with you that the use of cell phones in public places is indicative of a lack of common decency in our lives, I still must disagree with some aspects of your editorial. Your solution to the problem smacks of government intervention: "Authorities…should create technology free zones…" Authorities being whom? The problem with solutions like that is that they only creates the possibility of further erosion of our rights and liberties.
Take, for example, no-smoking laws. While virtually everyone will agree there's a need for separate facilities for those who don't wish to breathe someone else's smoke while eating dinner, laws prohibiting any smoking in any restaurant are totally over-the-top. A facility should be able to have the right to decide if it wants to allow patrons to smoke in a smoking section of its restaurant.
There is a scary trend in the United States and that is we are told what to do and what to think by government laws and regulations. I am surprised that a magazine which is an opponent of one overregulated industry, chooses to advise that similar legislation be enacted on another industry. I agree that people fail to heed the feelings of others when they scream into their cell phone while on the morning commute. But I hope you rethink your proposed solution and call instead for a return to common decency and respect for one's neighbors.
Dover, New Jersey
Editor's note: Your point is well-taken about our call for regulations. We were just angry at the intrusion on our privacy. And, you're right: any call for government-imposed limits these days carries the real risk that the solution will be worse than the offense. As in many situations, it's important in this case that we all realize that a lack of respect for others could lead to onerous regulations. Let's start by demanding that common courtesy be observed in the use of cell phones and laptops.
This happened to me a few years ago when I first started to enjoy fine cigars. For vacation, my wife and I decided our kids were old enough to appreciate a bit of history, so we went to Gettysburg. After a long day touring the battlefield, the boys were real tired. We went back to our hotel room after dinner, where they immediately crashed. My wife was also a bit tired, so I took it as good reason to go out and have a smoke. It was a beautiful early summer evening. I went into the national park and parked my car near what is called the High Water Mark on Cemetery Ridge. This is where the brunt of the fighting happened on the third day of the battle in 1863. About 8,000 soldiers on both sides became casualties on that day alone. I strolled along the ridge, sat down on the stone fence in front of the stand of trees that became the center of Pickett's Charge, and lit up a Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur No. 3.
As I sat and smoked, I couldn't help but wonder what the Union soldiers, resting the night before the charge at that exact same spot, were thinking. It was a clear and mild evening, as it was back on July 2, 1863, and was so quiet then that some soldiers heard the striking of the courthouse clock almost a mile away. I imagine quite a few boys were also having a cigar and wondering what the rebels were doing on Seminary Ridge a mile west across the valley, as they watched the Confederate campfires twinkling in the mist.
Gettysburg is a town famous not only for the largest battle ever fought in North America, but also for being full of ghosts. As I watched the sun go down over Seminary Ridge, heard the crickets chirping, and felt the ground fog come up around me, I swear I could "feel" those soldiers still there, some smoking their stogies if they had them, wondering what the next day would bring. Sitting there, the feeling was almost palpable and sent a chill up my spine. As my cigar burned down to its last inch, I saluted them, truly being able to appreciate what they did for our country.
Even though I've had many different types of cigars since then, I believe that because of this experience, that particular Excalibur was the finest cigar that I ever had!
John T. Fallock
As owner and captain of the Fishbuster Barter boat in Key West, Florida, I was interviewed for your article (June 2001) on how to get to Cuba. Your article implied that I would take a charter to Cuba on my boat, and I have had several calls requesting Cuban trips. We only go to Cuba on a recreational basis to fish the Ernest Hemingway Fishing Tournaments. These tournaments are held to promote fishing throughout the world regardless of political differences, and are fully hosted. I charter fishing trips 350 days a year for half and full days in the Key West area only. I feel the article misconstrued my intentions. I have gone to the Ernest Hemingway Fishing Tournament, held in September and June, about four times in the last six years. This is only because it was a fully hosted trip through the Marina Hemingway Yacht Club.
If your subscribers would like to come to Key West, we offer wonderful charters to fish the fertile waters of Key West. We also have numerous cigar shops, world-class hotels and plenty of fine dining.
Capt. Bill Kieldsen
Key West, Florida
I have been to Cuba three times now and find it the best place I have ever been. I have had the privilege to go by license from the U.S. Treasury Department. I volunteer with an organization called the Timmy Foundation, which provides medical supplies and people to places around the world. Another organization with which I've traveled is called Ambassadors for Children. In October 1999 we made a historic flight from Indianapolis, Indiana, directly to Havana. We made a tremendous impact on the people in Havana. We brought a lot of medicine and supplies down with us. We were able to set up a clinic in old Havana at a church called Saint Nicholas. If you have ever been to this part of the city, you know it is very poor. The first afternoon we brought baseballs, footballs and soccer balls, and within 15 minutes we had over 200 kids playing with us. The people are the friendliest I have ever met. The next day our clinic went well, with our doctors seeing over 200 kids.
This whole trip was incredible. We also had eye doctors doing eye exams and giving out glasses over three days. The thing I learned is that the people in Cuba are very well educated. The one doctor I gave a stethoscope to cried because now he can examine people.
I am glad you feel you can write about Cuba and the political differences between our countries. This is what makes America great, the freedom of speech.
I am a humanitarian and believe all people should have the ability to make their lives better. I would like to caution everyone, however, about the temptation to be in this unknown Cuban land. I have seen how a lot of tourists, including Americans, try to exploit the Cuban people, especially the women. I wish you would do a story about the problems with prostitution and how people are causing more harm than good. I would like the Cuban people to see Americans as something more than our history in regard to the Mafia, and our association with Batista.
I would love to see the embargo lifted so I could visit my friends there. We are planning trips back to Cuba in December and in April. We are also trying to get some Cuban doctors to a conference here in America called Medical Challenges of Developing Nations. Hopefully by fostering relationships, each nation can teach each other something.
Please continue with your stories about Cuba. I will smoke a Cuban cigar tonight and think of Cuba.
Darrell W. Wheeler