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Out of the Humidor

CA Readers
From the Print Edition:
Denzel Washington, Jan/Feb 98

Dear Marvin,

In celebration of my 50th birthday, my lovely wife, Jane, surprised me with a trip to Italy. While in Rome, on Saturday evening the night before Easter, Jane (my wife is no fool, she bought tickets for two) and I entered a quaint café for a cappuccino and a lemoncello cordial. We were having a splendid time, enjoying the rich history and abundant art of this ancient city, but for one hitch: I had no cigars. I found myself craving a good smoke and, not knowing where to find one, especially at 11:45 p.m., resigned myself to an evening unfulfilled and frustrated. Jane, however, scoped out the place and immediately spotted an Italian man, perhaps in his late 60s, puffing away on a corona. Wasting no time, I asked him if he purchased the cigar nearby. Fortunately for me, his friend interpreted my question, as he spoke no English and I little Italian. The answer was a disappointing "no." I thanked him and as we turned to walk away, the friend said the man would like to know if I would like to have a cigar. My broad grin serving as a universal affirmative, he held out a box, opened it to reveal his last cigar, and gestured for me to take it. Shaking my head, I motioned that I couldn't possibly take his last cigar. Determined that I have it, he sternly gestured again that I take it. I did. He would have no part of accepting my offers to pay for it or to buy him a drink. As I lit the cigar, our eyes met, his as if to say, "I hope you enjoy it," and mine replying, "Thank you for your kindness." I shall never forget the encounter.

Roy E. Corso
Parkland, Florida

***

Dear Marvin,

First of all, I'd like to start off by saying that although this is a fish story, it's not a fish story. A couple of friends and myself were out salmon fishing on the Sacramento River in my boat. We had been there for a couple of hours with no luck, so I decided to enjoy a dark beer and one of my prized Arturo Fuente 8-5-8s.

As any good cigar does, mine brought me luck within about 20 minutes. My fishing rod went down, I sat my beer down, placed my cigar in my mouth and started fighting the fish. Life was good!

For a minute. As I fought the fish, I pulled back hard on my rod. Too hard. I brought up the rod right into the end of my cigar. Of course, the line got in the way and...Bink! Fish gone. Well, as if losing the fish and tackle set wasn't bad enough, have you ever tried smoking a fine cigar with monofilament fishing line mixed in? Don't. This really wreaks havoc on the taste.

Well, I'm not one to give up easily, even though my buddies were needling me something terrible, so I rigged up my fishing rod and cast out again. I then tried to knock off as much of the melted plastic as I could from the end of my cigar. I managed to accomplish this and had just started enjoying the smoke when my rod went down again! I grabbed my rod and began to fight the fish. This time I attempted to put my cigar down, but as I did it slipped and went overboard!

Well, this fish story kind of ends on a happy note. When I reeled the fish to the boat, I came to the end of my line. Wrapped around my hook was some fishing line! One of my buddies pulled the line in by hand and it was the same fish that had cost me my cigar. Twice!

Well, I guess vengeance is nice. But honestly, I would rather have my 8-5-8 back.

Tony Garofalo
Colusa, California

***

Dear Marvin,

I have read numerous stories from "Out of the Humidor" from men praising their lovely wives or girlfriends for sharing, or at the very least tolerating, their cigar smoking. I was particularly touched by the times a cigar played a role in their meeting the loves of their lives. I read these stories with a yearning to be able to share my own some day with my distinguished brethren. Allow me now to tell you about finally finding the woman of my dreams.

Karen was introduced to me by my best friend, Jordan, who works with her. Jordan is also a fellow cigar smoker and a gentleman of the highest order. One day we were going out to dinner and we purposely planned for me to meet at his office so that I could meet Karen. Our intention was to invite her to come along, and fortunately for me, she accepted. During dinner I quickly became enthralled by her. Jordan and I always smoke a cigar after a meal and I was hoping Karen would also join us in the park for our traditional after-dinner smoke. Not only did she join us, I later found out that she was hoping we would invite her.

As we sat in the park we continued the stimulating conversation that had begun at dinner. With every swirl of smoke I was becoming more and more enchanted by this beautiful woman. The pinnacle of the experience was when she actually took a puff of my cigar. Jordan told me that the next day at work, Karen was telling their coworkers how she "took a puff of Mark's cigar." It was that same day that I asked her out for our first date.

Marvin, all of my life I have been searching for my soul mate. Finally the search is over. Karen is absolutely the most wonderful woman I have ever known. She is a beautiful person both inside and out and my respect and admiration of her continues to grow. As a clinical psychologist I have an extra edge at judging peoples' character based on their actions. But one need not be a professional clinician to know when one strikes gold. I knew Karen was a giving and unselfish person, one who would love her man with all her heart, the first time I was at her apartment. How, you ask?

Very simple. She told me I could smoke a cigar there any time I wanted.

Mark R. Vogel
Newton, New Jersey

***

Dear Marvin,

As my reward for being selected "Sailor of the Quarter" in September 1959, a chief petty officer treated me to dinner one night. He took me to the Cuba Alliance in Yokosuka, Japan, where we had an excellent meal followed by a Drambuie and a corona--a Golden Tabacalera cigar. It was the finest meal I had ever eaten, my first Drambuie and my first cigar. By the end of the evening, I thought I had died and gone to heaven!

I spent 25 years in the Navy and never forgot that wonderful experience. When I became a chief petty officer and then a warrant officer, I often used a good meal and a good cigar as a reward for a job well done by one of my sailors. I also used a good meal, a good cigar and a Drambuie to reward myself for having had a good day, or a bad day, whichever.

Then, when my children got old enough to be a major pain in the neck, they joined their mom in a campaign to make me give up cigars. So, in 1986, I gave up smoking altogether because I love my wife and children; I also love a little peace and quiet around the house.

My son, Walter, grew into a fine young man and started his own business here in Austin. He is a good son and often comes to visit his old dad, usually to borrow something or use my nice garage to work on one of his classic old Mustangs. Imagine my surprise when one day he offers me a Macanudo Ascot! My first reaction was, "Is this some kind of joke?" "Well Dad," he explained, "Austin is a pretty happening place for cigar smokers these days. Almost all of my friends visit brew pubs and smoke good cigars now." He then tells me he often goes out for a fine meal followed by a B&B and a good cigar. "Yeah, Dad, you ought to try it yourself sometime!"

Well, since that memorable afternoon, Walter and his friend, Luther, and I have enjoyed some of the finest cigars made. I smoke mostly Cuesta Rey Cabinet 1884. However, Walter and Luther both have well-stocked humidors and often share one of their aged treasures with me, or they stop in at Wiggies on 6th Street and buy something special when they visit. To date, we have enjoyed Don Lino, Arturo Fuente, Dunhills, Romeo y Julieta, Montecristo and many more. Life doesn't get much better than having a good cigar after dinner with your older and wiser son, and his friends. We often sit on my front porch in the soft summer evenings enjoying each other's company with a Drambuie or B&B, and a fine cigar.

In an odd twist of fate, my son, Walter Payne, is now president of the Texas Cigar Smokers Association. Here in Texas, they have an old saying: "What goes around, comes around." Must be something to that.

Robert R. Payne
Leander, Texas

***

Dear Marvin,

For 12 years I have been married to a devoted cigar smoker. I never liked cigars much myself, but I had a beautiful cigar lounge built in our home for him one Christmas and filled it with beautiful pictures of mermaids and naked water nymphs by Waterhouse, classic overstuffed English chairs and ottomans, antique lamps, and even a lighted cigar ashtray.

One Christmas morning I led him to his room, unlocked the door and sat him in his chair. I put his favorite double maduro in his hand and noticed his beautiful blue eyes were misted over.

Well, many long afternoons and evenings were spent in his room enjoying fine cigars and although I sometimes joined him, I never took him up on his offer to try the cigars, until...

Several years went by and, in the throes of temporary insanity (a.k.a. mid-life crisis), an old girlfriend from 20 years ago began to call him, and he began to respond. He told me that he had to be with her, so we began a long journey into new territory. During this time he was spending several night a week with her and the rest at home with me. We just gravitated to the nurturing atmosphere of the 'cigar room,' as it had become known, where we talked for hours while he smoked cigars and I lay in his lap watching.

It was such a sensual and nurturing experience that I felt impelled to try it myself as a deeper sharing between us. I was immediately hooked, and now a year later we are still smoking at least one cigar a day together in "our" precious room. He has moved in with his girlfriend, but we own two businesses together and work six days a week. Every afternoon we take our work up to the cigar room and allow ourselves the pleasure of finishing our day with each other. It hardly seems like work, and sometimes it isn't!

The end to our story has not been written yet. I love my husband, and the cigars, very much. I am writing a book about our journey through his experience and how much we've learned and grown from it, and about how much we still love each other. The book will have a happy ending one way or another--of that I am sure.

Sherri Scott McLean
Seattle, Washington

***

Dear Marvin,

I have recently taken up enjoying a well-made cigar. Lately, though, I have realized how much most of the people in this area hate cigar smokers. Recently I went to a Philadelphia Phillies game. The whole time that I was walking around I had my Macanudo 1993 Vintage in my mouth. I got a lot of comments from the ballpark employees. One man even said that the cigar looked like it was going to be a very good smoke.

As my friends and I made our way to our seats in the upper deck, which after buying the cigar was all I had money left for, we sat down and started to enjoy the game. At this point it was the fourth inning and I decided to light my cigar, when all of a sudden this lady jumps up and says, "Could you put that damn, disgusting thing out?" As a gentleman with good manners, I told my friends that I was going to move my seat. So we moved halfway across the ballpark, where there was not one person within 20 rows. (At this point I still did not know that it was a smoke-free stadium.) As I was puffing, a ballpark employee came up and told me--didn't ask me--to put that thing out. I kindly asked him why and he then told me that the establishment is a smoke-free one, so I then said, "But sir, there is no one within 20 rows of me." He then called security and they told me the same, so I asked if there is anyplace I could smoke; they told me, 'Yeah,' and escorted me out of the stadium. On my way out I started to puff furiously on the cigar, blowing the smoke in the guys' eyes. I just wrote this to ask you if you could address this situation. I don't understand why, since this stadium has no roof, you cannot smoke. Personally I think this is discrimination.

William Tirpak
Sayreville, New Jersey

Editor's note: Keep protesting. Write your government officials to complain. At the very least, outdoor stadiums should have a designated smoking area. But don't blow smoke in someone's face; it only reinforces their anti-cigar prejudices.

***

Dear Marvin,

I have been smoking fine cigars for a few years now, ever since having my first Cohiba following my initiation into Beta Theta Pi fraternity. I believe a good cigar is more than the cigar itself. I like to refer to it as a smoke, an experience encompassing the people, place, circumstances and, of course, the cigar. This is one of those fine experiences.

While on my September break from my year-round, hectic schedule of medical school, I had the opportunity to visit Rushing River Provincial Park, on the Lake of the Woods, Ontario, Canada. I was there only two days before it closed for the season, and to my delight, I found that I was the only person in the 200-plus-acre forest. So I hiked a few miles onto a secluded, rocky ledge overlooking the river. In total silence, I sat there for hours smoking a very nice (yet relatively inexpensive--medical school costs a pretty penny!) Fonseca. Outside of my usual world of tests, patients and hospital calls, it was just what I needed: only myself, the wonders of nature and a good cigar. Now that is what I call a true smoke.

C.S. Prough
Kansas City, Missouri

***

Dear Marvin,

As a frequent reader of your letters to the editor column, I am often intrigued by the quality of the stories read. Weekends with a Fuente Fuente OpusX and a Montecristo No. 2 are a normal occurrence, it seems. As a young aficionado, I have learned how difficult these cigars are to come by and was extremely skeptical of a few of the letters in your column. However, I have just spent the most amazing weekend of my life and the following is all true, right down to the very last Cohiba and Partagas.

The weekend of my parents' 30th wedding anniversary, they planned something special., two days of euphoria that anyone is lucky to experience in a lifetime. The weekend started with the gracious gift of several Cuban cigars from a close friend. Thanks to your magazine, I knew the best Cuban cigars to choose.

Saturday morning, a stretch limousine picked up my parents, my brother and his wife, my sister and her husband, myself and my girlfriend for a weekend in New York City. We checked into one of the finest hotels in the city, The Palace Hotel. The men were then off to lunch followed by massages at the Peninsula Hotel. The women were off to Georgette Klinger for facials, manicures and pedicures.

After an amazing one-hour massage followed by a steam, we journeyed to the roof-top bar at The Peninsula Hotel for drinks.I sat down and clipped the end off a Montecristo No. 2 and I was in heaven. Those who have had fine massages know the euphoric feeling afterwards. A great Cognac and the world's best cigar brought me to a new level of pleasure. I can't even begin to tell you the power of this cigar, but it is amazing.

We met the women back in our hotel rooms for an hour of rest. It was some of the best resting I've ever done. We were told to meet in the downstairs lounge of The Palace, where we enjoyed fine wines, hors d'oeuvres and a Cohiba Robusto. Marvin, I'm not sure the weekend could have gotten any better at this point; it was truly unbelievable. After an hour of wonderful service, food, drink and cigar, a limousine whisked us all off to the Majestic Theatre. We were ushered to our orchestra seats for Phantom of the Opera. At that point, I felt as if we should have been making a documentary, with Robin Leach as the host. Phantom was breathtaking, a show that captured the audience from the curtain's open to the final curtsy. It was the first time I had ever been a part of a standing ovation so well deserved. As we left the theater and hopped into the limo, I'm not quite sure how the night could have gotten any better, but it did.

We proceeded to the Rainbow Room for drinks, dinner and dancing. We had an hour to kill before dinner, so we decided to sit in the lounge, overlooking Manhattan. At this point, I was handed a Partagas Serie D No. 4. There was no smoking allowed in the dining area, however, but cigars were welcomed in the lounge. Sipping a house drink, I could not help but thoroughly enjoy this spicy, yet soothing cigar.

As the hostess took us to our table for dinner, I was captured by the atmosphere of this magnificent establishment. Obviously, we were given the best table The Rainbow Room had to offer. How else could a weekend like this unfold? The evening progressed with family conversation, dancing and fine dining. A truly wonderful affair for all.

The next morning, I awoke to room service, wonderful cappuccino, "Meet the Press" and a second Montecristo No. 2. I'm not sure what heaven is like, but this was the closest I've ever come. After a wonderful morning, I walked across the hall into my parents' room to find my entire family reminiscing about the weekend activities. I sat down and let everyone know how special they are to me and what a truly wonderful weekend it was. I wished my parents a happy anniversary and 30 more glorious years.

Marvin, I owe a debt of thanks to my family. That weekend goes down as one of the greatest in my life. We truly captured the essence of family, love and friendship. It went well beyond the materialistic pleasures we had experienced, to a level of closeness that few are fortunate enough to feel in their lifetime.

Jeremy O. Skule
Washington, D.C.

***

Dear Marvin,

It all started when I was younger, but it is good to be young and happy. My brother had some of his friends over to play poker and one of them was smoking a cigar. I had never smoked anything before and never wanted to, but the cigar appealed to me for some reason. So I asked if I could have a draw and I did. I did not think it was anything special, but a little while later I realized that I loved the aftertaste in my mouth, and decided that I would like to buy and smoke a cigar of my own.

So, my birthday was coming and I told my brother that I just wanted a good cigar from him. He bought me a Macanudo and gave it to me before I went away to our country home in upstate New York to celebrate my birthday. On one great summer night, I drove our boat out into the middle of the lake we lived on, sat back and enjoyed my present. It was fantastic.

Since I was not old enough to buy cigars yet, I would have my brother or father get them for me. My dad had no objection because he knew I would not smoke often and he, too, was a cigar smoker. I allowed myself to enjoy only two or three cigars a month; I figured I was young and would like to stay healthy. Well, as all cigar smokers understand (I'm sure), I could not resist. Now I enjoy about two a week.

I am now attending school in Connecticut and am old enough to provide smokes for myself. I have my own humidor here at school and have a fine collection of smokes sitting in it.

The first weekend here it was crazy. There were so many people partying in my dorm that I felt I just had to escape--and what better way to do that than with a cigar? So on my way outside someone saw the cigar in my hand and asked if he could join me. We sat outside on the edge of a bridge and talked and smoked until our cigars burned to the labels. I am well aware of the fact you are not supposed too smoke them that far, but we still wanted to talk and just kept puffing. We hardly knew each other but shared so many stories that we hardly noticed. It was a wonderful night and my maduro Macanudo Hyde Park Café helped me make what is today my best friend here at college.

I just want to say that it does not matter how old you are, who you are or where you are. What matters is the cigar.

Chris Place
Hamden, Connecticut

***

Dear Marvin,

Let me preface my story by providing a little background. I am a 35-year-old male and I make a living as a computer systems engineer. I have been a cigar smoker for about two and a half years, a part of the recent wave of young professionals to become entranced by this delightful predilection. I started my journey in the usual way, by experimenting with various types and sizes of cigars until finally coming to the conclusion that I really could not decide on any particular brand as my favorite, opting instead to match the cigar to the mood of the moment.

After having had the opportunity to try most Jamaican, Dominican and Honduran brands at one time or another, I began to wonder if I was really enjoying the epitome of cigar pleasure in these brands or if the renowned quality of a Cuban cigar was the only way I could experience that level of enjoyment. My curiosity to try a real Cuban became something of an obsession.

I tried for well over a year to get my hands on one, and the closest I could come was watching one of my closest friends fondle a corona-sized Cuban Partagas that he had received as a wedding gift. Before he left on his honeymoon (where he was planning on enjoying it when he arrived), I managed to hold it long enough to sample the bouquet, and it was very different from anything I had encountered prior to that. Exquisite was the only word I could use to describe the sensation and this only served to amplify my efforts to try one for myself.

Through a series of inquiries and the intervention of destiny itself, some of my friends and I were able to obtain a box of (verified authentic) Cohiba Robustos. I considered this fortunate acquisition to be nothing less than the find of a lifetime. I had read many accounts in your fine publication about famous and upper-class individuals enjoying Cuban cigars as if they were as easy to get as your garden variety Dominican. This made it all the sweeter when I, a middle-class professional with no political or diplomatic ties whatsoever, was able to procure some as well.

Upon receiving the box, we took one cigar each and agreed to meet some other time to divide the remainder, leaving it in the humidor of a friend (the only one of us with one big enough to hold the box). The timing could not have been any better as my birthday was just days away. I took the lone Robusto and put it into my own humidor for safe keeping until the day arrived.

When that time finally came, I invited one of the other members of our group who shared in the Cuban treasure to my house to help me celebrate and enjoy a cigar with me. When he arrived, we went to my humidor and drew out that sacred jewel, and adjourned outside. It was a beautiful, star-filled night, and comet Hale-Bopp was shining bright in the Northwest sky. It almost seemed as if it were a cosmic acknowledgment to the experience we were about to enjoy. We exercised extreme caution in cutting and lighting these fine cigars so as not to do anything that might lessen their flavor or quality. Finally, we relaxed on my patio, looked up into the night sky and took our first draws on our prized possessions. If the word epiphany could be used to describe a cigar-smoking experience, it definitely applied here. The deep, rich and complex flavors that graced our pallets lived up to every expectation either of us could ever have imagined of a Cuban cigar.

We remained there, enjoying our cigars for almost an hour, by which time I had gingerly nursed my cigar until the heat from the lit end almost burned my lips as I took my final draw. I was thoroughly amazed at the quality of every aspect of this smoke. I usually do not care for the last inch or so of any cigar, as the taste begins to turn rather bitter as the end approaches. But, in the case of this Cohiba, it was truly great from start to finish. I would say in this instance, the results more than justified the effort and anticipation I had put into obtaining this, the finest cigar I have ever had.

I could not think of a better way to toast the occasion of my birthday than to enjoy one of the best cigars that Cuba has to offer with a friend who could appreciate and share the experience with me.

Since that day, we have divided up the rest of the box and I ended up with three additional cigars. Of course, they are the treasured additions to my humidor and will not be touched until a suitable occasion arises that befits their stature. But on that special night, I felt like I had taken a major step in my quest to experience perfection in a cigar and joined the ranks of the elite in my own small way.

R. Anderson
Clovis, California

***

Dear Marvin,

I am a recent convert to cigar smoking, having all my life believed them to be nasty-smelling things. I am still anti-smoking, but I am not anti-cigars. Just recently I had what will probably be one of the best times with one of my younger brothers. He is 23 and living in California; I am 32 and living along the Gulf Coast.

He and my youngest brother flew into New Orleans to meet me so that I could show them one of my favorite cities. While at lunch the older one mentioned an interest in finding a cigar shop. I was floored. "You like cigars?" I asked. And we began to speak about the fine points of cigars and cigar smoking. I have to thank you for your magazine, for without it he would have sounded smarter than me, and I couldn't have that. We left the restaurant and headed to a cigar shop. Once there, we walked into the humidor and chose our cigars. He wanted to smoke them in New Orleans, but I convinced him to wait until we returned to my home. A few days later we lit up at my favorite cigar club, my backyard. I can't tell you how good I felt sitting in the backyard, a good cigar in my hand, my brother and I talking about life back home in California. It was truly an unforgettable experience.

I later showed him a copy of Cigar Aficionado and his eyes lit up. He immediately went to the tasting section and tried to find his cigar. I had to show him that each issue you evaluate sizes, not necessarily brands. And that he might have to wait for the next issue to check his brand on the meter of perfection. He told me when he got home he would immediately subscribe; I reluctantly gave him the issue with Claudia Schiffer on the cover. I keep all my magazines. But seeing his eyes light up was worth the loss of one magazine.

I look forward to many more good days of smoking with my brother--you see, he's moving to Florida soon. Look out cigar stores and clubs, the Hester brothers are coming, and we accept only the best.

J.C. Hester
Mary Esther, Florida

***

Dear Marvin,

As my 12-year-old son, Robbie, was boarding the Air France flight to Paris with his grandmother (an 80-year-old woman who has the energy and enthusiasm of a thirtysomething), I reminded him that he had an important task to accomplish when he reached his destination of Aix-en-Provence, France. His mission was to find out if there were any good cigar stores in town so that I would know whether to bring some of my prized cigars from my humidor when my wife and I traveled to Aix the following week.

A few days later, we received a fax from Robbie not only telling us about the wonderful time he was having with his grandmother exploring the old and beautiful towns of Provence--including retracing the steps of Cézanne--but also that he had found "a great cigar store" not too far from the Hotel Le Pigonnet where they were staying.

We arrived in Aix-en-Provence on Saturday afternoon and, after we had spent some time around the swimming pool catching up on the previous week, Robbie announced that he and I had to walk into town to the cigar store immediately since the store would be closed the following day, a Sunday. So, hand-in-hand we set out for the 15-minute walk along the tree-lined streets of Aix to find his cigar store. Sure enough, right on the Cours Marabeau near the center of town, there was a small tabac store, Au Khedive. The Cours Marabeau is the incredibly beautiful, wide main street of Aix that is justifiably famous for its towering "plain" trees that form a leafy canopy over both the entire street and the numerous cafes that line the sidewalk. The trees have shielded the townspeople from the hot summer sun of Provence since 1651.

Just as my son had promised, at the back of the store, behind the counter, there was a tall humidor with a fine selection of Cuban cigars. There were five types of Montecristos (including my favorite, the No. 2), three sizes of Cohibas, two types of H. Upmanns, two sizes of Partagas, and the Churchill Romeo y Julieta in shiny metal tubes. The store also had a few less interesting Dominican and Dutch cigars. Although the store certainly did not have the selection of a place like Davidoff, its prices (thanks to the relatively strong dollar this summer) were also not like those in Paris, London or Geneva.

After spending some time reviewing the selection, I bought a few cigars (there was no reason to stock up since it would be fun and easy to return), and we walked back to our hotel. That night we ate a terrific gourmet dinner at Le Pigonnet's excellent restaurant (the hotel has four stars under the French government's rating system). Because the weather was so glorious, we were able to eat outside under the stars while overlooking the hotel's gardens. The dinner was not only delicious, but also great fun because during the previous week Robbie had become very friendly with Bernard, the hotel's remarkable maître d'. During a previous stay, Bernard had befriended my mother-in-law (Robbie's grandmother/ roommate), and now Bernard was teaching Robbie the fine points of French cuisine. What a lucky boy!

Of course, there is no better way to complete a superb dinner than with a great cigar. So, after the last raspberry was eaten and our espressos had been fully enjoyed, I asked Bernard if it was permissible for me to smoke a cigar at our table. Since we were in France, where smoking is still done everywhere, Bernard responded to my question with a gentle shrug and the comment "But, of course!" I immediately lit my Montecristo No. 2 and let the entire experience sink in.

With great conversation about everyone's previous week's activities and animated discussions about what we should do during our 10 days in Provence--as well as being in the most serene setting and being surrounded by the love of a wonderful family--no cigar has ever tasted better or been more enjoyed. At least I had thought that there had never been a cigar enjoyed more. However, I was proven wrong virtually every other night for the remainder of our trip as I had the great pleasure to enjoy smoking a wonderful cigar after dinners that seemed to get better and better. Travel is wonderful when you have a great family, a terrific four-star hotel like Le Pigonnet, superb food and an amazing host like Bernard, and a great cigar.

David A. Gross
Rockville, Maryland

***

Dear Marvin,

I'm now a senior citizen who had my first cigar after our junior-senior school banquet in 1937. I've enjoyed them ever since, but now find, due to the big demand, they are being priced out of my range. Your magazine caters to ultra-rich people. I find many of us cannot afford a $3 to $7 cigar. Up until last spring I could purchase a 7 x 44 maduro, long filler, for about a buck apiece. That is about the maximum I can afford. I just received a notice from my supplier that the raw product had increased 300 to 400 percent. Sure, we can still get el-cheapo, cut-filler blends, made from odds and ends; they're pretty reasonable, but once exposed to the good life, it's very hard to give it up.

Hang in there, keep up the fine quality of your publication, and remember once in a while that there are many of us lower-income people, too.

George Clark
Peterson, Iowa

***

Dear Marvin,

I am writing you this letter at the end of a perfect day. My wife, Leeanne, gave birth yesterday to our first child. I spent today watching my son, Greg David, in his first full day in this world. What a sight. What a feeling. This little man has hopefully a great life ahead of him.

After leaving the two of them in the hospital, I returned home tired but elated and very proud. I had saved a special cigar for this very occasion, a Hoyo de Monterrey double corona. As I savored this incredible cigar along with a great single malt, my thoughts wandered from how much I loved my wife and new family to all the things I was going to do with my son. I also started to think about the Hoyo and how long I had stored it for just this moment.

Marvin, I have been smoking cigars since long before they were the "in" thing, and I have read and own every issue of your great magazine. I could not help but think how these little items of pleasure have become a political and social stand in our society today. So many of the letters that are sent to your "Out of the Humidor" section are about where we can or cannot smoke, or should or should not. I smoke lots of cigars throughout a year: on a golf course, after dinner, reading. But many are remembered for the people and the events I enjoyed them with. This cigar I enjoyed tonight will always be remembered for the birth of my son.

Marvin, I agree we cigar smokers have to stand up for our rights, but let's not forget the reason we all started this cigar journey: pure enjoyment.

Keep up the great work you and your staff do.

Glenn Murray
Etobicoke, Ontario

***

Dear Marvin,

My daughter recently gave birth to our first grandchild, a beautiful little boy named Austin Mathew. When it comes to being proud grandparents, my wife and I take a back seat to no one.

What I was unprepared for was how much closer I felt that day to my son-in-law, Josh. After spending time with my exhausted daughter and the new baby, I began thinking of an appropriate way that Josh and I could celebrate the arrival of this first son and my first grandson.

Then it dawned on me: cigars! I have been an avid smoker of premium cigars for 15 years, and Josh had an interest in cigars, but hadn't ever smoked a good one. I recalled that a few days before the baby's birth, he had questioned me about which cigars I liked best. Just as I was about to excuse myself from the hospital room for a quick trip to my tobacconist, Josh produced two cigars--one of them my favorite, a Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur No. 1, a Joya de Nicaragua robusto for himself.

Not surprisingly, those were two of the best smokes ever, and Josh confessed that his was the first cigar he had ever really enjoyed. Smoking those cigars together expressed our feelings of joy, pride and relief, which were beyond words. When I visited them at home two days later, I brought two Partagas No.10s along, and again we savored them and celebrated Austin's arrival.

Those cigars not only helped to mark a wonderful milestone in our lives, but also highlighted a new, stronger bond between Josh and me. And last but not least, there is my good fortune at having found a new cigar-smoking companion!

Brian J. Todd
Bakersfield, California

***

Dear Marvin,

Believe it or not, your magazine causes miracles. I am a sergeant first class in the U.S. Army, presently deployed to Bosnia. As the medical platoon sergeant (Second Armored Cavalry Regiment), I must plan for the worst and pray for the best. Since our arrival here, we have had to deal with minor injuries, but with land mines still unaccounted for (over two million); we must be ready for everything.

As a cigar smoker of many years, it is very important for me to keep my "field humidor" filled and, of course, get my subscription to ca. Well, the mail system over here is not exactly the best and the availability of cigars is nonexistent. Knowing that I'd be there for a while, I of course brought enough to get me through the first month.

Well, as the time went by, I found it very hard to get cigars here; only the departing unit's soldiers had some and they were being tight. My wife had sent me a package, but with no cigars.

As I was reaching a zero balance and with no relief in sight, I was getting quite worried. Then there was the miracle. I got two packages in the mail, both intact but bruised. Inside one was a selection of fine cigars my former boss (and friend) had sent me. Although they needed some time in the humidor due to the trip, I immediately had one and was totally as ease. While I smoked it, I opened the next package. There it was: ca, with Kramer [Michael Richards] on the cover.

I suddenly forgot where I was and dove into the pleasure of great smoke and my favorite magazine. Even though I'm in the middle of a war-torn country with a long way to go towards peace, there is a chance. Miracles do happen.

P.S. Feel free to send cigars! They are for a great cause.

SFC Armand A. Fermin

Operation Joint GuardDear Marvin,

"Cigars don't lie, but the people behind them often do," was one of the maxims my dad raised me by, right along with his Romeo y Julieta Churchills. Our Guajiro (Wahiro) culture values honesty, and cigars above all else. I was born in Camaguey Province, Cuba, the son of a frustrated artist--a romantic dentist whose greatest joys were making beautiful gold teeth for the very wealthy and original jewelry for the family. And his word was as good as the gold he wrought till the end. He died happily in his shop on a rainy day.

Many, many rains later, in November 1994, I found myself on the west coast of Canada at the end of an overworn marriage and an overdue master's degree, looking for sun-shine. I decided then to visit Cuba for the first time in 33 years. This would be the most important trip of my well-traveled life; it was where and when I ran head-on into Luz Maria (pseudonym), a stunning upper-class Cuban-American living in New England. She was petite, tanned and educated, a dreamboat with a great job and a naturally perfect set of "pearlies," who looked and danced well enough at fortysomething to out-shine much younger women. We met over breakfast at our hotel and that starry Havana night she opened her purse, offered me a Romeo y Julieta Churchill and stole my heart.

Upon our return to North America we called, wrote and I flew to see her in February. She met me at the airport with a box of Savinelli E.L.R. (lonsdales). I was hooked. Our romance grew to transcontinental proportions over the following months. We visited furiously back and forth, and by summer's end we pledged to love each other only, a difficult but wise move in these times of plagues.

That Christmas of '95 we went to Miami to meet our respective families, and one night I formally asked her father for her hand. I gave her an heirloom diamond and platinum ring (Dad's) and she gave me a kiss and box of Honduran Hoyo de Monterrey Maduro Sultans. I thought she already knew I like claro wrappers and thinner ring gauges--Maduro Sultans are 54s, but I accepted my gift most graciously. When she came for Easter she brought me Canaria d'Oro Finos: wrong again, too thin and mild this time. She seemed distant that visit, a bit short, curt and even cold in little ways at times. I thought it was the weather.

With our wedding plans set, I started wrapping up my art business to go live with her in the United States by the fall of '96. Before I went to meet her in May, I designed and made our wedding bands in antique 19-karat dental gold. She was late picking me up from the airport. "The traffic," she said at 10 p.m., and handed me, apologetically, a box of Aylesbury Puritos. They were simply below my taste. I protested and the next day found just what I wanted in three calls: Montecruz 200 Natural Claros and Juan Clemente Churchills. She was slightly offended, but I was definitely alarmed. It seemed she wasn't putting much thought into my preferences, and the quality kept dropping. Something was clearly amiss, and cigars don't lie.

Back in Canada, I took the trip's film to my usual lab. When I picked up the pictures, the clerk's smile appeared to show more than just cheap dentures. That night, at home, I opened the envelopes and there was Luz Maria on her bed, covered only by the light of the flash, in the most revealing and provocative poses a man could ever hope to see. The problem was, I hadn't taken those shots! Obviously, her roll had gotten mixed in with mine, but now the cat was out of the bag. I made some calls and a month later received a confidential report in the mail, complete with lots of black and white photographs.

Luz Maria led a very loose life when I wasn't looking. Promiscuity is, of itself, not a moral issue with me; honesty most certainly is. I am a practicing hedonist and support freedom of lifestyle, but I never wanted an "open" relationship or marriage. I had kept my word scrupulously, Guajiro style; she had chosen otherwise. Confronted with evidence all she said was, "If you don't lie, you don't get anywhere in this life." In her zeal to "safeguard her privacy," she had opted not to tell me until then that she (and therefore I) could have been exposed to AIDS through her unprotected participation in a love triangle (her best friend's boyfriend). I yanked Luz out of my life like an abscessed wisdom molar and went to work double-time to dull the pain and nervously await the six-month H.I.V. incuba-tion time.

One sunny winter day, after the tests for diseases had turned out alright, I was alone in my penthouse when I thought about my dad. I took the last two Cuban Romeo y Julieta Churchills from my humidor, lit them, placed one in the ashtray by my father's portrait and began to slowly enjoy mine. "Things could be worse," I told my dad in Guajiro Spanish. "At 49, I am a healthy, youthful, bon vivant with no debts and a successful career I really like. Just think, I could have married that woman; instead I am a free if not an entirely happy man. Thanks Papi, for teaching me about honesty, people and cigars.

Name Withheld
Vancouver, Canada

***

Dear Marvin,

I had always wanted to try a Cohiba Robusto, especially after reading Jorge Torres' letter in your March/April 1997 issue of Cigar Aficionado magazine. The only setback is that one of these cigars cost Malaysian Ringgit 92 to purchase (U.S. equivalent is $38). A bit ridiculous to spend such money on just one cigar (although it's not just any cigar), especially with my salary.

I was blessed one day by a kind gentleman who works as a manager in a cigar shop called Little Havana, who decided to share with me one of his Cohiba Robustos, given to him by a friend. Words could not express my joy. This gentleman, whose name is Edward, said that he had left this cigar in his drawer for over two months and it may have dried up. I suggested that he leave it in his shop's huge, built-in humidor to restore it before I could collect it from him. Having read many books on cigar restoration--that is, be careful not to shock the cigar --I assumed a manager of such an outlet should know better.

When I drove 25 miles to pick up the cigar, I was shocked to notice a large portion of the wrapper leaf towards the tip of the cigar was destroyed, as well as four cracks and a couple of small holes in different places on the cigar. My heart sank, since from my previous experience I have noted that smoking a cigar with even a small crack can be unpleasant, as air will run in, making the draw difficult and, to add injury to insult, the crack will keep growing bigger while you smoke (due to the heat, I think). I thanked him for his kindness, took the cigar and went home wondering what to do with it.

Then an idea hit me. After my brother and I smoked a Cuban Partagas each that night, I decided to make use of the stub's wrapper leaf to restore my precious Cohiba. But where do I go for vegetable glue? I remembered in those days my mom used to make glue for us to be used in our schoolwork. I decided to ask her what substance the glue was made from. To my pleasant surprise she said that she would make it from tapioca flour. Voila! Vegetable glue! I asked her to make some.

That night I used a sharp blade to separate the wrapper leaves from our Partagas stubs and used the vegetable glue to patch all the cracks, holes and the large tear. The glue worked like a charm; it was odorless and easy to use. The next day my brother blessed me with a holiday trip (which we had planned earlier) to a lovely beach resort called the Andaman. That night we had an excellent Teppanyaki meal in the hotel's Japanese restaurant. We sat by the lounge while my brother lit up his Partagas Robusto and I lit my precious, rescued Cohiba Robusto. The cigar could never have come at a better time than an occasion like this. Overlooking a lovely, lit-up jungle with tall trees by the beach, this was the finest cigar I had ever tasted in my life! The surgery to the cigar was a success!

For those who wish to rescue a cigar that has cracks or the wrapper leaf unraveling, the following is the formula for the vegetable glue. Please note this formula is a family secret, but to cigar aficionados around the world, you are part of the family.

The formula: One tablespoonful of tapioca flour. Place it in a mug and add steaming hot water very gradually while stirring it continuously. The glue should be right when you reach half a mug. The glue should not be too thick nor too watery. It should be slightly thick.

I ended the cigar telling my brother, if I were a wealthy man I would smoke only Cohiba Robustos.

Andrew S. William
Kuala Lumpur, West Malaysia

***

Dear Marvin,

I am now convinced that I can truly relax with a good cigar. It happened while I was waiting for a bachelor party to begin at the Grand Wailea Resort in Wailea, Maui, Hawaii. I didn't know many people, so I planned to show up fashionably late.

I walked through the plush grounds down to a bench overlooking a perfect beach and the beautiful Pacific Ocean. The sun had set about 10 minutes earlier, so there was a still pinkish-orange glow on the distant horizon. After taking my seat, I took out a Joya de Nicaragua corona I brought from Denver. It was in perfect shape, thanks to the tropical humidity on Maui.

There on the bench, I cut my cigar that had survived so many thousands of miles. The evening was perfect, and despite being just 100 yards from the crashing surf, it took only one match to get the cigar going. Soon the air was filled with not only the great smell of the ocean, but that great smell we all love: the just-lit cigar.

The island of Kaho'olawe was right in front of me, right across the channel, and the island of Lana'i was somewhere off the right of me. The sounds of the surf provided the sound track, palm trees with young coconuts swayed overhead, and a few hundred yards down the beach, dancers took part in the early stages of a luau.

The cigar was smooth and mellow, with tastes of oak and butter and hints of spice. This was probably the first time I was actually able to distinguish different tastes--the setting probably helped.

About 25 minutes into my memorable smoke, the stars came out: thousands of them, stretching from the horizon to infinity. I watched the smoke curl its way towards the heavens, and realized how great the time was.

After the cigar was down to the stage we all dread, I soaked up the final moments of the experience and then headed through the meticulous grounds and pools of the resort and met up with the bachelor party group. They were smoking cigars, but there's such a difference between just smoking one and enjoying one.

The next day, when I told my wife about the night, I explained that I had likely one of the best cigar-smoking experiences I would ever have.

Steffan Tubbs
Denver, Colorado

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