Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
Winston Churchill, Autumn 93
(continued from page 2)
My father smoked cigars most of his adult life and my mother hated it. But my memories of my father always have him with a "stogie" in his mouth. One of the occasions I will always remember is the day that my dad took me with him to a small shop in downtown Los Angeles where a small band of expatriate Cuban gentleman pursued the art of hand-rolling cigars. He loved that shop, and I got some insights into my father and into what passion is when I saw the look on his face. He loved his cigars and they certainly gave him more pleasure than most anything else in his life.
Santa Cruz, California
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My business takes me on frequent trips to Asia and the Pacific Rim. Being a cigar lover, I often find myself in parts of the world where cigars of any kind are simply not available, so I bring my own. China is such a place. What follows is a tale of cultural differences escalated to the comical.
In October last year, my travels took me to the city of Zhengzhou in Henan province of China and not exactly on the beaten path. One afternoon, with some time to kill, I selected a couple of the Macanudos I had brought along and stepped out of the hotel to smoke. The people there do not see many Americans and even fewer cigars so the sight of me smoking a Baron de Rothschild was something of a curiosity.
In no time at all, I was surrounded by a crowd of curious onlookers pointing and speaking among themselves. One old man in particular had moved his bicycle right in front of me and sat there staring. We exchanged smiles. Bolder now that the ice had been broken, the old man pointed at the second Macanudo in my pocket. I thought for a minute and decided that my supply was adequate to finish the trip, so I took the cigar out of my pocket and gave it to him. Hands across the sea and all that.
The old man took the cigar with both hands and carefully put it in his pocket. Then came the surprise. he reached behind him into the wire basket on the back of his bicycle and produced a live chicken, which he held by the feet, and handed it to me. I have never had much use for live chickens, including this one, so I shook my head no. This produced a shocked expression on the old man and loud murmurs among the crowd. They were not happy.
The noise had attracted the attention of a local bellman who fortunately spoke a little English. After talking briefly with the old man, he turned to me and said, "You have to take chicken." I told him I didn't want the "&%**$&&%#%" chicken. The bellman shook his head and explained that I had been given a gift and, in China, the person receiving it must reciprocate. If I did not accept his gift the old man would lose face. So, I took the chicken. Everyone seemed quite pleased now and the old man went on his way, leaving me, the bellman and a lice chicken. Have you ever tried to smoke a cigar while holding a live chicken?
The story has a happy ending for all except the chicken. The bellman gladly accepted the bird to take back to his family for dinner. Thankfully, he had been exposed to enough foreign guests to know that I expected nothing in return.
Now, when people tell me that you have to be very careful when you light up a cigar, I smile and say, "yes and no."
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My husband, a 27-year-old chef and owner of a catering business, has recently taken up cigar smoking. I just want you and your readership to know that some wives out here do like this avocation. I enjoy going to the local tobacco shop with my husband as he chooses the perfect torpedo. (Now maybe he understands my passion for shopping!) And nothing pleases me more than when, at the en d of yet another exhausting day for him, he sits down and goes through the ritual of unwrapping, clipping and lighting his much deserved cigar. I can see his muscled relax as the tensions of the day go up in so much aromatic smoke.
Quite a novice two short months ago, your magazine has proven indispensable for him, and for me, as well. (I used it as a guide for Father's Day shopping.) Being new at this myself, I do have a question. I know cigar smoking isn't as harmful as cigarette smoking, but how much better is it and why? Our friends keep badgering us about this and we don't know what to tell them.
Editor's Response: As we've said before, the big difference between cigarettes and cigars is, generally speaking, you don't inhale cigars. Cigarettes are known to be a major factor in lung cancers. Cigars represent an insignificant health risk when they are not inhaled. Secondary smoke has yet to be validated as a serious health risk, according to much of the medical research that I have read. I'm more afraid of snow skiing or being mugged as potential dangers to my health.
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What can I say? I feel like the member of an underground movement who has just been given the secret countersign by a fellow member of the brotherhood.
Cheers and best wishes on the success of CIGAR AFICIONADO.
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A few years ago I was hired by a Washington, D.C., marketing firm and shortly after was attending a business dinner in the private room of one of Washington's finest restaurants. It was here that I was first introduces to the joys of a good cigar.
I got married (at the ripe old age of 35) and I assumed that my newfound pleasure would be restricted to the golf course or long walks with my dog. But one night this spring me new bride and I were walking home from dinner at a local restaurant when I lit up a Royal Jamaica. She out my arm around me and told me that she loved the smell of a good cigar and asked me why I never smoke them at home. It seems her father had smoked cigars and the smell always reminds her of her happy childhood.
So, I hope everyone will accept my thanks. My father-in-law for giving my wife a happy (cigar-friendly) childhood, my friends Jim and Charles for introducing me to the joys of cigars and you for publishing CIGAR AFICIONADO, which I consider to be the best written, informative and entertaining magazine I have ever read. I look forward to all of us spending many happy evenings together, if only in our thoughts.
Editor's Response: Maybe I'm a little crazy, but I know exactly how you feel, and so will many of those who read your beautiful letter.
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In the 15-or-so odd years since I started smoking cigars, I have come to one conclusion: The best cigar is the one enjoyed in the company of friends. For that reason, I want to take the time to salute you and the good company of friends at the Bayou Humidor in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Your magazine affirms that we are not a dying breed of people, but that the cigar smoker is part and parcel of our society.
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