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Out of the Humidor

CA Readers
From the Print Edition:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Summer 96

Dear Marvin,

Not too long ago, I found myself smoking a Cohiba Lancero atop a beautiful hotel in Quito, Ecuador, wondering if it was the thin air at 10,000 feet that was making the smoke so difficult. Anyway, the next day I found myself racing down the Andes through the rain forest and into the Amazon river basin in a four-wheel drive on my way to an assignment. I was not familiar with the area, but I figured that my "good looks" and my perfect Español would get me through any situation that may arise in the jungle. Little did I know how wrong I was about to be.

The poor roads were not safe at night, so I stopped at a small oil town near the Colombian border. After settling in and having a good dinner, I found my way to the local watering hole. As I walked into the bar, I noticed that, one, it was also a bordello, and two, the local security force was armed and did not necessarily agree with the government in Quito; nor did they appreciate strange gringos on their turf.

I decided to follow Sun-tzu's advice to know my enemy, so I walked over to them with a couple of beers and started to make small talk. My first surprise came when I learned that they didn't speak a lick of Spanish, and my trying to communicate with these native Indians in a tongue other than their Cechuan made me an even bigger threat/target, depending on how you look at it. The long silence seemed interminable as I reverted back to instinct and did the only thing I could think of to fill the void--I took out a Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur No. 1.

The large cigar took all the attention away from me as the men now focused in on the smoke. I really screwed up by not bringing more than one, but I recovered by pulling out my knife and cutting the cigar in half (sorry, desperate times require desperate measures). I gave the end to one of the men, making sure that they understood not to inhale. The one who took the cigar seemed to understand and relayed it to the rest of his group. As we lit up, things really got mellow and I no longer felt as uncomfortable as in the beginning. He took a couple of long hits and passed it to the next guy, who proceeded to take one long drag straight into his lungs. Now, I know that Hondurans are mild, but try inhaling, as this poor gent did, and you can understand the sight of this unfortunate fellow as he dropped to the ground and practically coughed up his lungs. Needless to say, the rest of the group wanted nothing to do with the cigar, so that left me and the first smoker to enjoy the rest of the Excalibur. After a few minutes, he confessed in perfect Spanish that he failed to tell them not to inhale because he had always wanted to try a cigar and didn't feel that his buddies would appreciate the experience as much as he (bad form, but a great plan).

We continued to talk about nothing and enjoy the smoke, and that's when I got my second real surprise. He wanted to know how much an Excalibur costs in the States. I told him that you can find them for about four bucks. His jaw dropped as he exclaimed, "How can one cigar cost as much as a 'poke' at the bordello?" My jaw dropped as I exclaimed, "You can get 'poked' for four bucks?" Anyway, I kept to the cigar and the cold beers, 'cause we all know that we get what we pay for.

Roy D. Garcia
Albuquerque, New Mexico

***

Dear Marvin,

I have a great story to pass on. I happen to be an inmate at a Federal prison facility that is a minimum security institution. Having been here a few months, I have been given a job working outside the fence with civilian personnel. Through talking with fellow inmates here, I've come to learn of the many possibilities of bringing contraband merchandise into the institution. Through these conversations I was successfully able to have my wife deliver a package to a courier which was subsequently given to me, for a small fee.


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