Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
Greg Raymer, Sept/Oct 2004
My blood is boiling with anger. I am just pulling my hair out as I type away. The treatment of Mr. Richard "Mick" Connors is just out-of-this-world wrong. As we all know by now, Connors did break the law according to the U.S. government, but this is just silly. We are talking about cigars here, not cocaine. I am outraged. I mean, I cannot believe the time, manpower and tax dollars that went into putting a fellow cigar lover in jail for a crime I consider harmless. I know that there are those out there in this community that are against the smuggling of Cuban cigars into the United States, but really, should a man go to jail for over three years for it? I think not, my friends. What really angers me the most is that all of that time and tax money could have gone to stopping drug runners from entering our country and bringing their terrible cargo into the United States.
What is going on out there? Is everything going completely crazy? Putting a man with Cuban cigars in jail is more important than stopping drug runners? There are people walking the streets today who have committed worse crimes who have received lighter sentences than Richard Connors.
I hope there are others out there who agree with me on this matter and would gladly voice their own opinions. We have more important things to take care of in this country than busting a cigar smuggler. Wouldn't you say that stopping drug runners is more important than putting Richard Connors in jail for three-plus years? In closing, I just want to say that I think we have much bigger fish to fry here and abroad, and putting this man in jail is just wasteful. He has been put through hell for too long now and it's only going to get worse for him. My thoughts and prayers are with him, as a fellow cigar aficionado.
Editor's note: Well said. We have argued for years that the amount of manpower devoted to interdicting Cuban cigars, a legal product in every other country on Earth, is simply ridiculous.
I was reading the Editors' Note in the August 2004 Cigar Aficionado about golf courses being the last frontier for cigar smokers to enjoy a good cigar. I was reminded of the EDS Byron Nelson Championship in Irving, Texas, this year. I was sitting with a friend on the 18th green on the final day of the championship when two gentlemen lit two very nice cigars. They were standing several people away, so I couldn't see the bands, but they were either Churchills or double coronas. It was a warm, breezy day and was just beautiful. I had set out two A. Fuentes for my friend and myself, but forgot them at home. I was bummed out most of the day. The smell of the cigars was wonderful. I couldn't help but hear a man and a woman behind me complaining about the stink coming from the two gentlemen smoking their cigars in public. They both went on and on about the rudeness of the cigar smokers. Being the troublemaker I am, I starting talking louder than normal about how good the cigars were and how I wished I hadn't forgotten mine at home. This was not lost on the couple behind me or the two men smoking. The smokers looked over at me and grinned about it. I am just glad they continued to smoke and ignore the jerks behind me.
My worry here is this: One person sued and got prayer out of public schools, and now one man is suing to get the Pledge of Allegiance changed because he doesn't like some of the wording. How long is it going to be before one person sues the PGA to have smoking banned from an outdoor golf tournament? Then how long will it be before public and private courses follow the lead? This will stop golfers and golf fans from enjoying themselves even more. When is this P.C. crybaby stuff going to stop? When are like-minded Americans going to stand up and say enough is enough? The smoking police have already done enough. We pay our taxes, go to work every day. We are Americans, too. Leave us alone.
Editor's note: The only way it will stop is when the people unite and tell their politicians to stop wasting their time on needless intrusions into what should be personal decisions.
I just got through reading the August 2004 issue and all I can do is applaud your article on the all-American food, the hot dog! When I entered my local cigar store, the owner told me there was a good article about the hot dog in there, and I would probably enjoy reading it. I just finished the story while smoking one of my personal favorite cigars (Punch Churchill Maduro)!
I'd like to respond to Ronald E. McCarty's letter, which appeared in the August 2004 issue. Let me begin with a disclaimer:I have enjoyed cigar smoking for almost three years now. I have found it an excellent way to unwind while enjoying the company of fellow cigar lovers.
I find the "Out of the Humidor" feature the most entertaining part of your magazine. Each issue's letters brim with rationalizations, half-truths and flat-out contradictions. While I can appreciate the zeal that most writers bring to their defense of this lifestyle, I can't help but wonder whether we are doing our cause more harm than good: answering the hysteria of the nonsmoking crowd with our own fanatical response.
As cigar smokers, we tend to forget that our passion is not shared by others, and that while we have assumed the risks associated with it, we have no right to impose our choice on others—least of all those who are required to earn a living catering to our crowd and who may be insensible to the danger. This is pathologically self-indulgent, and I don't love the leaf so much that I would jeopardize the health of others to satisfy my cravings.
"I have yet to see one death certificate that lists as the cause of death, secondhand smoke," Mr. McCarty writes. You will also never see alcoholism, obesity or a host of other complaints listed as the immediate cause of death, but few would argue that those complaints kill as surely as the complications that attend them. Every absurdist argument that goes unchallenged—or, worse, is encouraged—discredits our cause, and I find myself shaking my head in disbelief at your cheerleading.
This is not a "freedom of choice" issue, and to drape oneself in the popular banner of liberation is simply dishonest. I place Mr. McCarty in that group, small but vocal, that confuses license with liberty and, in so doing, has made our passion obnoxious to a great majority.
In the arena of public opinion, cigar smokers often act as their own worst enemies. We could all stand to become better ambassadors to our mission of spreading "the good life."
Sean K. Conroy
St. Albans, West Virginia
Editor's note: Your point is well made. However, we live in a time where the loudest arguments seem to the ones that get heard. As long as cigar smokers are the targets of illogical attacks, it will be hard to quiet the same kind of rebuttals.
Your choice of Sharon Stone for the cover of the August 2004 issue of your magazine is puzzling. In the article, you say that since Stone's brain aneurysm, "cigar smoking is no longer part" of her life and "she has cut out most tobacco and alcohol. But she can still get nostalgic about cigars." You quote her as saying, "Oh, I used to like them now and again in the right environment. I love it when you're in a tropical setting. The more jungle tropic it is, the better."
I guess she doesn't plan to make any movies in the tropics then, since, according to an article in the July 7 issue of The Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey, one of the "perks" she requires when making a movie is that there be "no cigar smoking on the entire movie set."
Union, New Jersey
Editor's note: I think you are being a bit harsh on Ms. Stone. Many movie sets have become nonsmoking. And she, unlike some knee-jerk antismoking zealots, has made a point of how much she used to love a cigar. In several public interviews she has defended cigar smoking. Asking that cigar smoking not take place in a closed environment where she is working is probably not an unreasonable request.
Not too long ago I was fortunate enough to take a cruise down to the Caribbean and had a cigar experience that I'd like to share with you.
I started smoking cigars about 10 years ago with a handful of buddies with whom I go camping. As a result, cigars for me have always been about quiet pleasures and good company.
So when the cruise ship we were on pulled into George Town in the Cayman Islands, I made a mental note to treat myself to a couple of fine Cuban cigars. My wife and I planned to see the town anyway, so it wouldn't be that difficult to find a cigar shop. Obviously, I wasn't the only person to have this thought. As soon as we got off the boat, I was confronted by a line of tourists who were all in the process of lighting up Cuban cigars. Seems that the locals knew what people wanted and an enterprising soul had set up a tiny kiosk at the end of the dock to meet the demand.
Now, it was a hot day with not a cloud in the sky. The dock didn't have anyplace to sit and barely any shade of which to speak. But all these guys were too busy puffing on their forbidden pleasures to even care. They stood around sweating and smoking and looking remarkably happy with themselves because of it. But that wasn't for me. Much as I craved a cigar, I knew my wife didn't want to stand around in the sun waiting for me to finish my smoke and I knew that wasn't how I wanted to enjoy it. So I passed up the opportunity in favor of a little sanity.
George Town is a great place filled with bright, sunny shops and warm, friendly people. We wandered around for hours, taking in the sights, talking with the merchants, buying a few souvenirs and generally enjoying the day. As often happens in the Caribbean after a long, hot morning, a sudden thunderstorm appeared just as we were entering a secluded little courtyard filled with small boutiques. The courtyard also had one real-life cigar shop. The dark clouds had rolled in with amazing speed and lightning now flashed across the sky. The thunderclaps were so loud that they echoed off the buildings and sent people running for cover.
My wife, who had noted my restraint so far, took one look around and said: "Why don't we go into the cigar shop and wait it out. You can get your Cubans." I knew there was a reason why I married that woman. So we ducked into the open doorway of the store. The shop was just a tiny one-room establishment with shelves and shelves of cigar boxes. Like some ancient bookstore, the boxes were stacked in any manner that would accommodate them and the aroma of finely aged tobacco hung in the air, both rich and inviting. The owner welcomed us in with a broad smile but then excused himself, saying that he had to go out and get his birds. Without another word he ran out the back door of the shop. Needless to say, my wife and I followed him.
With the rain falling in heavy sheets, the owner of the shop stood in the center of the courtyard yelling at two blue and gold macaws that were sitting on a perch. Despite the fact that it was pouring, the birds did not seem to want to come in. My wife and I had to stifle a laugh as the poor man, shirt and pants now soaked by the rain, commanded his pets to come to him. The two birds, however, oblivious to their owner's threats and pleas, only spread their wings in order to bathe in the warm rain. Pure malicious pleasure was written all over their faces. It was a scene we both remember to this day.
Later that evening I went up on deck. With stars sparkling overhead and the distant lights of the island fading behind us, I lit up my Cuban Montecristo and enjoyed my own forbidden pleasure. I thought of those poor souls who could not wait to have their cigars, smoking frantically in the hot midday sun. To me they seemed to have missed the point of smoking a fine cigar. It's not being able to say that you've done it. It's being able to enjoy the moment. That's why I smoke cigars, and after spending the day in port, I was glad that I stayed true to my reasons.
Arthur Sanchez Peekskill, New York