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Being deployed service members in Bosnia, we don't have to tell you that the stress level is way past "high." Long hours, plenty of stressful events and occasional sniper fire lead all of us to try and reach a calm in this stormy country. Fortunately for us cigar smokers here at Tuzla Air Base B.H., we were able to form a group set upon a little "relaxation." We formed a cigar club affectionately named the "Churchill Club."
We smokers meet every Friday at 20:30 hours to unwind from the stressful events of our workweek. After the grueling weather, sleeping on cots and lonely MRE lunches, it is a little more than satisfying to know that Fridays are just around the corner, along with our "favorites."
The great thing is seeing different branches of servicemen and women, officer and enlisted ranks, let down their hair and just be human; even if it only lasts as long as a cigar. Seeing people chat about the week's events around a cigar is simply wonderful. Most of the talks fall on home, friends and family, and of course, cigars. You would be amazed to know that the club enjoys the gamut when it comes to the sticks: everything from King Edward, Macanudo, Anthony and Cleopatra, Don Diego, Hoyo de Monterrey, Onyx and even a Dunhill now and again. But the point is really the bonding effect of smoking cigars around people, not just faces that wear a uniform. We're sure that there will be plenty of memories for many of us, but if you are in the States, perhaps just finishing dinner, have one for us. We'll be thinking of all of you. Peace!
SRA Nicholas A. DiTondo
Sgt. Israel Cruz-Colon
I am writing to you as a fledgling cigar aficionado (I am 22 and have been enjoying cigars for just over a year now) who has, for the first time, encountered the ugly tyranny of "cigar prejudice."
This unfortunate experience occurred on the first night of a recent family whitewater rafting trip down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. After a sumptuous dinner on the riverbank, my father, who introduced me to cigars, and I lit up Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Banquets. Before long, we were joined by two fellow rafters, who had packed Arturo Fuentes in their waterproof luggage in the hope, like us, of finding cigar companions on the trip. Sharing a smoke on the first night of such a voyage was the perfect manner in which to savor the canyon's mystique as well as get acquainted with other travelers, since cigars can provide both a contemplative and social experience.
However, as we sat in camp around a butane lantern and puffed away, it was not long before, out of the growing darkness, arose the indignant cry, "Put out those damn cigars!" All of us were flabbergasted; first we were in, of all places, the Grand Canyon--it certainly couldn't be faulted as an enclosed space with limited ventilation. Second, on a trip of approximately 30 passengers, where everyone was encouraged to get to know everyone, the anonymous (although we later discovered who it was) cry of "damn cigars" we found to be a rather infantile response.
Nevertheless, the worst was yet to come. Shortly after this outburst, our trip guides came over to us on what they presented as a "diplomatic mission." In fact, they requested that we move with our cigars to a distant outpost of the camp which, ironically, was located next to the toilet facilities, a description of which is probably best left unwritten. Even our offer of cigars to any who would like to have joined us went unheeded. Hence, not wishing to tarnish such delightful smokes with such a pungent odor, we resigned ourselves to putting out half-smoked cigars.The next evening, before dinner was even arranged, the guides noted to the group that "for the smokers among us" there was a designated place at this campsite--a soggy mudflat just a short wade from the rest of the camp. So, there we sat, upon makeshift chairs (life preservers) and relished in our ostracism. Such exclusionary treatment continued until, by the last night of the trip, we were smoking off the back of the boats on which we had rafted.
Despite all, though, we enjoyed the majesty of the canyon, the company of new friends and, of course, the taste of fine cigars.
North Caldwell, New Jersey
In keeping with the spirit of your magazine in identifying those restaurants who are and are not "cigar friendly," I'd like to relate an experience I had recently involving Friday's restaurant in West Melbourne, Florida.
Over a year ago, several of my Masonic brothers began meeting after work in the lodge at the local Friday's for a drink and a smoke. For over a year, nothing had ever been said about those of us enjoying a good cigar with our drink. That is until last week, when upon sitting at the bar and ordering a good Scotch I was jokingly told by my bartender that there was a 10 percent surcharge for cigar smokers. I responded lightheartedly that I'd not pay a premium for enjoying something I'd been enjoying for years for nothing at their establishment.
At this point my bartender's female partner handed me a menu. I thought she was looking to take our order for munchies and sat it on the bar, not being ready to order anything else. At which time she turned the menu over and pointed to some very fine print on the back of the menu. There, midway through a paragraph of print so small I had to get out my reading glasses, was a single sentence stating that cigar smoking was not allowed in their establishment.
I couldn't believe it. But, there it was in print so small it had to have been printed not to be noticed. Not wanting to offend anyone, I put my cigar down immediately and let it go out. However, I could not help but feel embarrassed and discriminated against. First, I was at the bar I had visited without incident with my cigar for well over a year, in a smoking area surrounded by at least two dozen cigarette smokers. Second, no one had complained (we had just arrived). Third, we were known to her partner to be both regular patrons, never obnoxious and always good tippers. This barkeep simply took it upon herself to point out this until now hidden rule.
That Friday's should feel the need for such a rule is, of course, its management prerogative. That they had chosen to ignore this rule for well over a year, allowing my lodge brothers and myself to smoke cigars in their restaurant without incident or complaint, had led me to believe that they were a cigar friendly establishment. Upon finding out that I was misinformed, I politely advised our barkeeps that while I took no offense, I had but one appropriate response to their policy, particularly in the manner that they informed me of it, and that this would be my last visit. After paying for and finishing my Scotch, I bade them farewell for the final time.
Marvin, I've written to both point out another establishment that needs to be put on your "cigar unfriendly" list and also to point out the manner in which they informed me. I feel that they were less than up-front. After all, fine print on the back of their menus so small as to be noticed by no one is hardly the way to let someone know you don't want their business. They could have at least been decent enough to post this policy in a manner and place so as to be noticed by all who patronize their restaurant and not to take my money for well over a year while allowing me to believe that it was perfectly acceptable to enjoy a fine cigar at their bar.
Perhaps by sharing my experience, a fellow cigar smoker might be spared my embarrassment and an otherwise fine establishment might see the benefit of revising its policies so as to make cigar smokers either welcomed, or more easily informed that they are not.
I began to appreciate and consistently enjoy fine cigars when my marriage broke up in 1994. Since then I have enjoyed many evenings with a cigar and nice music in the front yard, except for the times when my 5-year-old daughter is staying with me. I hadn't decided how I would deal with my cigar habits in regard to her innocent mind and the evils of smoking that we teach our children to be aware of. Until now.
Yesterday was my 33rd birthday. I picked up my daughter to start our week together and she presented me with a birthday gift that her mom had obviously provided for me. Inside, I was surprised to find a Cuban cigar. She helped me unwrap it and looked at me for a response. I didn't know quite what to say except a bewildered "Thank you, honey."
My daughter has seen issues of Cigar Aficionado in my house, but we never discussed them or read them together and I never smoked in front of her. She said her mommy told her I liked to smoke cigars and she enthusiastically asked me to smoke it right then. I deferred due to our hurried schedule and avoided it for the remainder of the day.
Today, however, she kept on me to "smoke it" like it was some amazing act I would perform for her. After some time of amazement at her persistence and some confusion and a bit of inner turmoil I conceded. We sat outside tonight with my flavored decaf coffee while I smoked and she dazzled in awe of this feat. She actually enjoyed the smell of the cigar (remember, she's only five years old). I explained to her that it's not "cool" to smoke and that it's something for adults only. She told me she just likes me to smoke cigars and she wouldn't like the taste of a cigar anyway.
She's asleep now. We both brushed our teeth and washed our faces. I'm still a bit shocked at what the night has brought. I don't plan to smoke when she's here anyway, because I like to smell nice in case she wakes up in the middle of the night and needs a hug. However, it was an amazing night. She's a very sweet, tender and loving little girl and she's already got a lot of class.
Recently, while completing the final leg of a fabulous honeymoon vacation, fate led us to spend the night in Miami, Florida. Our flight returning from Jamaica was held over by U.S. Customs and we consequently missed our connecting flight to Cleveland. Evidently, some brilliant individual believed he would be able to import some controlled substances without being detected (not that I didn't sweat over the half-dozen Cohiba Esplendidos tucked in my carry-on bag). Fortunately, however, the culprit was not me, and my bride and I were treated to a night and a day in Miami by the airline.