Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
Cuban Spy Scandal, May/Jun 02
There are also many untold stories of volunteers and their selfless acts. They were just ordinary people who wanted to do something —Mark DeFazio, NYPD, New York, New York
I applaud you for your "Editors' Note" in the April 2002 issue of Cigar Aficionado. I would even be so willing as to advise you to take it another step further. The way I see it, these athletes are being paid millions of dollars to play a game. They can call it work if they want and say they're in the business of entertaining, but that doesn't change the fact that they're being paid to play a game. When the games were invented, I'm sure it wasn't done in anticipation of the participants earning millions of dollars to play a game. While it may be true that the public, who pay the ticket prices, have helped to elevate these athletes to the high and mighty perch they now sit on, it should also be the public whose outcries knock them down a few notches. We're all guilty; yes, I admit to owning NFL season tickets, but we all don't have the same platform as you do to preach from.
Applauding your editorial is one thing, but will you continue to speak up on behalf of those individuals who don't have the vehicle or resources available to help get the point across? I'm sure John Q. Public wholeheartedly agrees with what you feel and what you've got to say, but it's going to take more than one "Editors' Note" to get the message across. There are a lot of people out there who want to know that their plight matters. I happen to be one of those little people who, at this moment, commend you for taking that first step to speak out. Now, show us your athletic ability and let's see you run with the ball. It's in your court.
Jay S. Hanenberg
Wayne, New Jersey
The attack of September 11 on the World Trade Center has produced many stories of heroism by both uniformed personnel and civilians alike. There are also many untold stories of volunteers and their selfless acts. They were just ordinary people who wanted to do something, anything, to help. There is one special volunteer whose selfless act brought a little comfort to those at Ground Zero, and it is his story I want to tell.
I met Mr. Herbert A. Minks of Palisades Park, New Jersey, at the New York Police Department Command Post on Vecsey Street during the last week in September. He was with a friend of his, walking around doling out cigars to the police officers waiting to start their 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. tour at Ground Zero.
One week later I ran into Mr. Minks again, this time outside the Marriott hotel on West Street, which was being used as a Red Cross relief center, and once again he was giving out cigars to all the relief workers. When he was done, I got a chance to talk to him and I heard the story of how he came to be there and how he came to do what he did.
Mr. Minks was sitting home the day after the attack on the World Trade Center still in disbelief, but wondering how he could help, even in a small way, any way. While sitting there, his friend, who is a chiropractor, asked if he could help get him to Ground Zero. He heard that chiropractors and physical therapists were going to Ground Zero to give relief to the many people digging on the pile. Mr. Minks, aside from being a lighting contractor, is also the police commissioner of Alpine, New Jersey, a small town in the northern part of the state. He called New York and identified himself, and a Nassau County police boat was sent to New Jersey and brought him and his friend to the marina behind the World Financial Center, where a makeshift respite center and staging area was set up. His friend set up his table and immediately started giving relief to a rescue worker. Herbert made his way to a wall and sat and surveyed the scene, amazed and horrified at the images before him. He had just lit up a cigar when a fireman, who had recently come off the pile, said to Herbert how he could sure use a cigar. Herbert obliged, and soon the four extra cigars he carried were given to firemen. He then decided how he could help: he started making two trips weekly to Ground Zero, handing out cigars to all the workers.
I last saw Herb the second week in October about 2 a.m., and, yes, we enjoyed a cigar right on the corner of Albany and West Street. He told me he had given out 150 boxes of cigars by then.
In writing this, I wanted to recognize this man and thank him on behalf of all the New York City police officers, firefighters, construction trades and military personnel. As someone who spent three weeks down there, I'll tell you that 20 to 30 minutes of enjoying a fine cigar, whether on the street or in a vehicle with others, and being able to talk and recharge in the midst of all this devastation really made tough days a little easier. Thank you, Mr. Minks and all the volunteers. God bless America!
New York, New York
How often do you have the chance to have a 104-year-old man kiss your hand? Not very often, but only a few weeks ago I had the privilege of being graciously greeted by Cuba's most celebrated fisherman while traveling and taking photographs in Cuba. I was saddened to read of his passing only days after I had met him. Once a handsome, dashing and daring man, Gregorio Fuentes welcomed me into his home in his quaint fishing village, Cojimar—made famous by Ernest Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea.
Although stricken with cancer and tending an inflamed neck, frail with thin bones from old age, he still managed to enjoy visitors and consented to my photographing him in his living room. Sitting in his wheelchair sporting his signature hat, tended by his loving grandson and translator, Rafael, he bantered with me about his life.
His spunk and sense of humor and especially that sparkle in his eyes became evident when asked about the secret of his longevity. "Cigars, rum and women," he responded as he held my hand to kiss it once again.