Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
Michael Richards, Sep/Oct 97
(continued from page 6)
I have been meaning to write about an incident that occurred this past summer. My wife, sister-in-law, brother-in-law and myself went to New York City for four days as a finish to our vacation back east. We stayed at the Marriott, which by the way is a cigar-friendly hotel. After a long day of shopping and walking the streets of New York, we went back to the hotel. My brother-in-law and myself went to the lounge area, while our wives went up to the room. Matter of fact, I couldn't wait to smoke one of the cigars I purchased that day and have a cold beer. We chose a table, right next to the unoccupied piano, which was away from the other people as to not "offend" them with my smoking. While we were there the piano player arrived and began to play. I myself was very relaxed, enjoying my smoke and conversing with my brother-in-law. I was not paying attention to the music being played until my brother-in-law advised me to listen to what song was being directed at me. The piano player sitting in the direction of my smoke was playing "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." Needless to say I did not appreciate his sarcasm, but we remained until I finished my cigar.
I've had the trip of a lifetime to Cuba. I found the people to be among the nicest and warmest that I've ever met. And one thing about a communist system--the education system sees that everyone is literate and, in most cases, bilingual. When the date comes that the insanity ceases and we reestablish our trade relations--look out. These people will work and be able to read the schematic!
There are so many memories that space precludes mentioning many, but here are a few. We stayed at the Riviera. The water was unreliable, there were no safe deposit boxes and the rooms were a little shabby, to say the least. However, after leaving a bag of candy and a few dollars for room service, it was amazing to see all my dirty clothes washed and hung up on the drapery rods in the room! A letter of gratitude was also there, which I'll always enjoy.
Our personal tour of the José Martí (H. Upmann) factory was remarkable. At first we were informed there were no tours. As factory manager Benito Molina Menendez was leaving for lunch, we managed to talk to him a moment and were soon in his office drinking espresso and receiving gifts of Montecristo No. 4s from his desk. After some coffee, pictures and handshakes, Mr. Menendez turned us over to Joaquin R. Gomez Yera. Mr. Gomez Yera gave us a step-by-step tour and explanation of each and every process in the manufacture of various sizes and shapes of H. Upmanns. After the tour we walked around the corner of the Partagas factory and Montecristos store for an afternoon of mojitos (a Cuban drink) and great conversation.
The afternoon slipped away and we made arrangements to have dinner with Mr. Gomez Yera and his very beautiful and charming wife at the Hotel Nacional. Since our knowledge of Spanish was very limited and Mr. and Mrs. Gomez Yera's English was the same, we managed to enlist the receptionist at the Nacional phone desk to act as an interpreter. She did a splendid job throughout the meal, dessert and of course, the wonderful cigars provided by Mr. Gomez Yera. As we parted company, we were given handmade commemorative plaques containing bands and labels from the 150th anniversary year of the H. Upmann Co., signed with best regards by Mr. Gomez Yera. A very memorable night.
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