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Out of the Humidor

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This is a co-authored letter. I'm Jim, an avid golfer and smoker of fine cigars. And I'm Bret, a retired PGA golf professional and cigar aficionado. We're down in Jim's basement smoking a fine Fuente 8-5-8 and Henry Clay, discussing an article in the March issue of Golf Pro magazine.
We are both surprised and amazed by a comment from a PGA Merchandise Show attendee. The general manager of Cog Hill Country Club in Lemont, Illinois, complained about the proliferation of cigar vendors at the recent PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Florida. He said, "There's too many positive things out there to promote something that's a proven detriment."
We assume this gentleman is a part of the "hang 'em high" non-smoking crowd that feels the enjoyment of any kind of smoking should be banned. But we don't understand how smoking a cigar on a golf course could be offensive to anyone in such a non-confining space. And for many like ourselves, it actually adds to the pure enjoyment of the game.
We would like to suggest to our fellow smokers a tip that will leave us out of harm's way with the non-smoking golfer. When you finish your favorite smoke, discard your stubs in trash containers provided around the course. Leaving them lying around the golf course is nothing more than littering and it just adds fuel to the non-smoking fire that we face everyday.
It is disturbing to read comments like this from individuals in the golf business who think that cigar smoking and the game of golf don't go hand in hand. The journey that one can have while playing golf with friends and enjoying a cigar is very memorable and worth living. We know that many others share our interests and will continue to enjoy the rewards of golf, friendship and cigar smoking.
Jim Rutherford and Bret Bonzheim
Manistee, Michigan
Dear Marvin,
I am a longtime cigar smoker whose wonderful (non-smoking) wife of 22 years is pretty understanding. She has long enjoyed the aroma of my cigars but considered smoking a "guy thing" that she didn't really understand. Lately, having seen all the pictures in Cigar Aficionado of ladies enjoying a smoke, she became more and more intrigued, even to the extent of taking a puff or two when I lit up.
This past Valentine's Day we planned to have dinner at a fine local restaurant, Cafe Citron. Knowing the bar was "cigar friendly," I told my wife that I was going to bring a cigar to enjoy after dinner. She said, "If you're going to smoke, then you better have one for me."
Later, after enjoying a wonderful dinner, we went to the bar where we ordered two glasses of Port. For the better part of the next hour, we sat at the bar indulging in the twin vices of alcohol and tobacco. The Macanudos had a perfect draw and were mild enough for even the most novice of smokers. In the midst of our reveries, my wife turned to me and said, "Now I know why you enjoy this so much." She added that not only was it relaxing after a good meal but it was also a great way for people to bond.
Marvin, my thanks to you and your most excellent journal for helping even an "old married couple" find a new pleasure to share.
David Jay Fishman
Apopka, Florida
Dear Marvin,
Although I sort of understand the point Mr. Washington was trying to make in his letter to you in the Winter 1996/97 issue, I was extremely upset with his line of thinking. Mr. Washington is right to say that some of our personal freedoms have been infringed upon, but his weak attempt to explain borders on being offensive. The example he uses are common of "ditto-head" thinkers. His comment about South African diamonds upsetting the "apartheid-aware diners" is a slap in the face to all those people in South Africa who struggled for a simple thing: human rights. As for drinking and driving, maybe Mr. Washington should talk to the family who lost a loved one because "someone" was exercising his personal freedom by getting wasted at a bar and driving home in his BMW. I certainly hope that Mr. Washington, or anyone for that matter, doesn't really believe that all the prohibitions in his letter are the pleasures in life. Does anyone?
Don't get me wrong; I do enjoy the fine things in life, but before I do I have to ask myself: "At what cost?" All too often we put a monetary value on success, and all too often we are wrong. There is nothing wrong with having money or being well off, but when we disregard the people and world around us, our personal happiness is cheapened. While in college, I supported myself by working at a restaurant for the well-to-do. Night after night I gave excellent service to guests who thought they could treat me any way they wanted because they had lots of money. There wasn't any respect for me or the people around them. Does a fur coat from an endangered Siberian tiger really improve your lot in life? Does it make you a better person socially? Does "individual freedom" mean we can trample on the rights of others? At what expense are you having fun, Mr. Washington?
Marvin, as a subscriber, I have enjoyed your magazine for the past couple of years and have been smoking cigars since 1992. My "best" cigar is not an Opus X or a Cuban, although both are very good. My best cigars are the ones I associate with the best times in my life: fishing with my uncles, camping with my buddies, weddings, dinner parties. In part, celebrations of life. Looking back on my college days, I remember sitting on the balcony of my fraternity house and talking with my Pike brothers about the endless possibilities that our lives held for us. Now in my late twenties, I work for an organization that is dedicated to saving rare animals from extinction. My income is modest, but I enjoy my work and the feeling that comes from knowing that I am doing something for the benefit of all. From time to time I visit used bookstores for less expensive novels. The covers may be a bit bent or dusty, but the story enchants me just the same as in a new book. The beer I drink may not be microbrewed, but the people I drink with are what's important to me. This is the "wealth" I have accumulated. This is my success. This is my pursuit of happiness.
I guess what it boils down to is respect. When I do smoke my cigars, I try to be aware of those around me. There is a simple phrase that I have found that will work wonders: Mind if I smoke? Nine times out of 10, no one minds. People just want to be acknowledged. Lighting up without asking is rude. Period. Once I do smoke, it is amazing how many want to try one, even my female friends!
Mr. Washington is right to not want to lose his individual freedoms. We all have our own pursuit of happiness, each differ-ent and unique. We should all take pleasure in living life deliberately. But maybe when he, and others like him, start respecting the individuals around him, they will start enjoying themselves even more.
Finally, Marvin, cigars are a celebration of the fine things in life. For me this includes great literature and wonderful music. Please include more of these topics in your upcoming issues. Your magazine is a celebration of the cigar. Cigar smokers are a diverse people. Let your magazine celebrate that diversity.
Scott Trudell
Ferndale, Michigan
Dear Marvin,
I am 67 years old and have enjoyed cigars since I was in my mid-20s. In that time my appreciation of the elements of a good cigar have evolved from plastic-tipped drugstore imitation cigars to finely constructed, hand-rolled, quality smokes. In my high middle-income professional years, I always enjoyed the best cigars I could afford (without bringing down the wrath of my wife). Now, in my third year of retirement, my fixed income coincides with the insanity of runaway prices on cigars. My regular everyday favorites, Santa Rosa Quatros, have doubled in price in almost a box-to-box time period.
The industry says that there are a lot of dollars chasing a more and more limited supply of cigar tobacco. I don't discount this. It has also not escaped my attention that there has been an almost exponential proliferation of cigar retailers lately. Since I don't believe that these nouveau dealers are in the business for altruistic reasons, I'll have to conclude that there are some fairly decent bucks assured to go into this specialized retailing. Conclusion: runaway cigar prices are largely dealer driven, not driven by supply of raw materials.
I've done the bundle-shopping drill, trying to find an at-least-reasonable value cigar as an alternative to my preferred but no longer affordable brands. A lot of others have probably done the same. The remaining options are to smoke a preferred brand, but in greatly reduced numbers, or to just withdraw my lifelong patronage of the cigar industry as others such as I will undoubtedly do. Maybe this vacuum in the market will be taken up by the new, occasional cigar smokers--women, yuppies, etc--and maybe not.
It would give me the greatest pleasure to enjoy on a regular basis the fine cigars that are so prevalently pictured in the hands of celebrities on the covers and feature articles of publications, or at least to enjoy cigars of the quality that I have smoked in my lifetime before this aberrant market. But, since this is not likely, I'll continue to smoke within the limits of my options. I smoke for pleasure, not to make a statement. It doesn't matter what band is on the cigar when there's no one around to impress. When my options can no longer provide a cigar that provides simply a pleasurably personal smoke, then maybe I'll do my bit to relieve stress on the tobacco supply by making my share available to someone else.
Michael Shaw
Vienna, Virginia
Dear Marvin,
I am a 23-year-old novice cigar aficionado who has been smoking cigars for about a year. During the last four months I have done extensive research into cigars and have acquired a great love for the art of smoking them. I recently had an experience that I feel is worthy of your "Out of the Humidor" column, so I have decided to share it with you.
One late Thursday night my girlfriend and I decided that we would go on a little road trip to get away from the everyday run-and-gun lifestyle of our city. On instinct we decided that we would spend our Friday afternoon traveling to see Graceland. We live in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Memphis is about two and a half hours from where we live. After deciding that, I immediately went home and signed on to Cigar Aficionado On-Line to check for cigar stores in the Memphis area. Needless to say I found many shops!
The next day we were on the road by 9 a.m. Upon arriving in Memphis I immediately drove to the closest cigar store. Entering the store I found treasure, the Fuente Fuente Opus X. I was overwhelmed with joy since I had read so much about these precious smokes. After buying as many as I could afford (they are not cheap) and hitting a couple of other stores, we were on our way to see the King!
We spent hours wandering through the grounds of Graceland and had a wonderful time together. It was definitely an experience to remember! We left Memphis around 5:30 p.m. and arrived in Little Rock around 8 p.m. Although we were both tired, we took my cigars to my humidor at our local cigar shop and kept one out for later that evening. We drove around that evening for about an hour looking for the perfect spot to enjoy my Opus X. Finally, around 11 p.m. we arrived at a small, intimate pond where I could enjoy every second of the smoke. It was very dark and all you could see was the reflection of the moon on the pond and the fountain in the middle of the pond gently spraying water.
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