Out of the Humidor

| By The Editors | From Orlando Hernandez, Mar/Apr 99

Dear Marvin,

As I sat down to read the December issue I noticed something about the "Out of the Humidor" section. A lot of the letters sounded like complaints. What about all the good times and memories? Well, I had a day which I feel worthy of this topic.

My girlfriend, Kimberly, and I wanted to go to Vermont to see the fall foliage and enjoy a day away from home. So on a Saturday morning we hopped in a car and headed north. We arrived in Vermont and drove to the top of Hogback Moun-tain. Words cannot explain the magnificent view. The only thing that could have made it better was to have had a cigar. I, however, left home without one. This would be a lesson learned.

After doing a little shopping at the mountaintop store, we headed down the mountain to see what we could find.

Now in Massachusetts, on the Mohawk Trail, we found a little country store with not only hot apple cider on tap but with the aroma of baking apple pies filling the air. And of course, nearby was another magnificent view.

As the day turned to evening, we headed home to Connec-ticut and stopped at my place to get one of my previously forgotten cigars, and then turned off to Old New Haven, a restaurant that we visit often to enjoy some good food. I followed my dinner with an Astral given to me by my father. Kimberly enjoyed the Black Forest cake. I was nearing the end of my cigar and our day together was coming to a close. Back at my place, I found the December issue of Cigar Aficionado in my mailbox and I spent the rest of my evening reading it cover to cover.

It was the perfect day and a wonderful evening, the kind of day that memories are made of. I can only hope for a few more days like that one.

Jarrett J. Rousseau
New Haven, Connecticut

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Dear Marvin,

I thought you might like to know, in fact be happy to hear, that former president Jimmy Carter now owns a copy of the December issue of Cigar Aficionado.

I was waiting for a flight from Atlanta to Miami when I saw Carter roaming the concourse near my gate. To my surprise, he boarded the plane I was to get on and sat in the first row of first class while a Secret Service agent stood guard. I noticed that he was thumbing through those really boring magazines that airlines want you to take with you.

I proceeded to my seat knowing that I still had half of the December issue of CA to read on my flight home. (What a comforting thought.) About 10 minutes before pushing back from the gate, Carter walks down the center aisle of the plane with one of his three agents, saying hello and shaking many hands. I thought this gesture was sincere and very gracious. As he approached my row (I was in the aisle seat), I extended my hand, and he shook it firmly and gave me a warm greeting. He proceeded to the back of the jet, meeting nearly everyone on the plane.

Upon his return up the aisle it dawned on me that since John F. Kennedy was on the cover of the current CA, I was sure Carter would enjoy reading at least that one excellent article. I turned around to make eye contact with him, holding the magazine up to him so he could see the cover. I told him the JFK article would be something he would take pleasure in reading and, of course, I told him that there would be no need to return the magazine to me. He thanked me very much, took the magazine and proceeded back to his seat.

Upon leaving the plane on our arrival in Miami, he was quickly taken down the stairs of the gateway to a waiting car. I want you to know that he did not leave the CA behind on the plane, as I looked on his seat and in the pocket attached to the bulkhead of the plane.

I have a good feeling that he enjoyed reading more than just the JFK article. Don't be surprised if you get a new subscriber to the magazine named Jimmy Carter in the near future.

Larry Grusky
Miami, Florida

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Dear Marvin,

Thank you for Mr. Arthur Schlesinger's recent article about President John F. Kennedy. Living in Massa-chusetts, I have always been a fan of JFK and made a point to visit the JFK Library every fall. I applaud Mr. Schlesinger for putting to rest those ridiculous rumors about Joe Kennedy Sr.'s bootlegging and "buying" votes from the Chicago Mafia, and explaining that JFK inherited the Bay of Pigs plan and the Castro assassination plots from the Eisenhower administration.

I do, however, want to take issue with remarks he made about JFK's sex life, and in particular, morality: "The argument is made that recklessness in private life leads to recklessness in public affairs. But history shows no connection between private morality and public conduct."

It is this kind of thinking that has led to the moral crisis our nation now finds itself in. Our president has had sex in the White House with a girl barely out of her teens, has lied about it under oath, and the American peopledon't really seem to care. Although I agree with Mr. Schlesinger's statement about revisionist history regarding JFK, let's also apply that argument to the founding fathers of this great nation, and see what they said about private morality in public life. (I'll bet that most people growing up never read statements like these in their history class.)

"He who is void of virtuous attachments in private life is, or very soon will be, void of all regard of his country. There is seldom an instance of a man guilty betraying his country who had not before lost the feeling of moral obligations in his private connections. The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men." --Samuel Adams

"If we trifle with the injunctions of morality, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us. No government can be secure which is not supported by moral habits." --Daniel Webster

"In selecting men for office, look to his character. If the citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made not for the public good so much as for selfish or local purposes; corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizens will be violated or disregarded. When a citizen gives his vote to a man of known immorality, he betrays the interest of his country." --Noah Webster

"As governments are made and moved by men, so by them they are ruined too. Let men be good and the government cannot be bad. But if men be bad, the government be never good." --William Penn

Mr. Schlesinger is a brilliant man, but I would be apt to take the advice of the founders of this great nation over his opinion of morality. The founders sacrificed everything to start this form of government. And as a historian, Mr. Schlesinger is well aware that the majority of Americans favored remaining a British colony and not fighting for independence. And the majority of Americans favored leaving the Southern slave states alone. Thank God this country had men of principle such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, who exhibited in their private and public lives the "moral habits" that Samuel Adams, William Penn, and Noah and Daniel Webster referred to.

Alan Ringuette
Concord, Massachusetts

Arthur Schlesinger Jr. responds: I thank Mr. Ringuette for his kind words, and I agree with him in cherishing private as well as public morality. But history does not show that one guarantees the other. As I noted in my article, Martin Luther King Jr. was sexually wayward, yet he was an indisputably noble moral leader, while Pol Pot, by many accounts a dedicated family man, murdered hundreds of thousands of his countrymen. I don't think the adultery test tells us much about the qualities required for enlightened public leadership.

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Dear Marvin,

As a subscriber and a presidential history buff, I very much enjoyed Arthur Schlesinger's essay on President Kennedy. Obviously, his previous proximity to JFK affords us all a glimpse of what he was or was not like. However, I thought there were a couple of other components of the Kennedy mystique that were not covered but may bear interest for your readers.

Kennedy in many ways reshaped the presidency into its current form. Many of these elements are not important ideologically or even of historical significance, but nonetheless provide another facet to Mr. Schlesinger's argument of Kennedy's impact.

JFK introduced America to the live news conference. Previous presidents relied upon a formal question-and-answer format--usually with the questions submitted in advance. Kennedy used the power of television to advance his agenda and programs while circumventing the press. As a result, his now famous wit and humor in those sessions helped build the power of the activist presidency. [The news conferences] also served to embellish the power of the president, who possessed a firm grasp of a myriad of topics. It should also be noted that such an approach was not without substantial risk. It could have easily backfired on a less confident incumbent.

I believe it could be equally argued that Kennedy was the first peacetime president to be a world figure. From his Inaugural Address forward it was clear he took his role as leader of the free world as an active part of his duties. Many of his speeches were invariably of a global nature and futuristic--and almost always grounded in historical connections. The latter point served to provide a link to mankind overall, without geographical limitations. JFK invigorated masses within many foreign lands--Ireland, West Germany, France and others--to levels unparalleled in the past. His traumatic demise only further intensified these emotions, adding to his legacy.

Finally, the "Kennedy style" has left a significant mark on the presidency. The now famous Resolute desk that JFK retrieved from previous obscurity has subsequently been the desk of choice by his successors (of both parties), including Carter, Reagan and Clinton. In addition, Air Force One continues to be painted in the same striking colors that JFK approved on his watch some 35 years ago. The argument over myth or legend will continue, but it is safe to say that this cigar-smoking president made his mark on the highest office in the land.

Blake J. Greenstein
Atlanta, Georgia

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Dear Marvin,

My wife and I ran into a gentleman smoking a cigar at the Jefferson Hotel in Washington, D.C., last month. I commented to my wife and the other couple that was with us what a fine smell the cigar was emitting. The gentleman overheard us, and graciously offered to put the cigar out if it bothered us. After we assured this person that we were not offended, he offered us cigars to smoke later. Upon thanking him for the ci-gars, we found out this was Tom Selleck! (We didn't recognize him without his mustache.)

Tom, we want you to know we were delighted at what a class person you are. Oh--and the A. Fuente Gran Reserva was indeed a fine cigar.

Tom and Cindy Cochrane
Spokane, Washington

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Dear Marvin,

Next to my marriage to my beautiful wife of five years, Chastity, and the birth of my daughter, Alexia, one of my greatest joys in my life came yesterday. After a hard and very long period of seven years, my day had come for me to receive my college degree. It was a very proud day for me and my family, and though the ceremony was held outside and rain was headed our way, I was determined not to let anything ruin my night. I'm glad to say that the ceremony turned out just fine.

Once we arrived home, my wife and daughter surprised me with a graduation gift: a cigar lighter with a built-in cutter. With my diploma in one hand and my lighter in the other, my first decision as a college graduate was to decide which of my prized selection of smokes in my humidor was worthy of being cut first with my new gift. I'm an avid cigar smoker and have been for two years, so in that time I've had the opportunity to acquire a number of different smokes. My options range from my favorite--a Don Tomás Special Edition No. 5000--to an Upmann, a Macanudo, even a Dunhill. This night was very special, so my choice of smoke had to be worthy of the celebration. I chose a Montecristo No. 3. Not only is this smoke a favorite among Cigar Aficionado readers, but it's one I haven't smoked before.

After putting my daughter to bed, my wife and I proceeded outside to finish the night with a relaxing smoke. My wife doesn't smoke, but enjoys relaxing with me while I enjoy a cigar. Truthfully, I wouldn't want to share that night with anyone else but her. After the first puff I knew this was going to be one of the best cigars I've ever had. My wife and I spent the next hour reminiscing about the good and hard times during my college years.

I want to take this time to thank my friends and family for their help and support, and my parents for the values they instilled in me and for their confidence in my ability to succeed. But most importantly, I want to thank my wife and daughter for their patience, their support and everlasting love, and for placing an eternal smile on my face and filling my heart with joy for the past five years and the rest of my life.

Sam Newman Jr.
Melbourne, Florida

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Dear Marvin,

I am writing you to say thanks for all that you have done to help me in my quest for the perfect cigar. I am 28 years old, a well-to-do professional in Philadelphia, and subscriber to Cigar Aficionado. I have been enjoying cigars for the past five years and consider myself a novice. I currently enjoy Dunhill, Ashton Cabinet, Punch and Bahia Gold, but have stocked my humidor with Fuente Fuente OpusX for those special occasions. I would like to take you back to a moment in my life that has changed my feelings about being called a cigar smoker.

In July of 1998, I purchased a Land Rover Discovery that I promised to get myself several years ago. Prior to my purchase I knew that I needed to have the perfect cigar waiting for me to help me celebrate when I arrived home. I found the Fuente Fuente OpusX Double Corona. On this day, my fiancée, Maria, and I invited my brother and his wife out for dinner and a short drive that evening. After a beautiful drive along the river, we decided to return to my house.

I ordinarily like to enjoy my cigar with a fine vintage Cognac, so I offered a cigar and a taste of Cognac to my brother and his wife, who declined. I knew at that moment that they would be unable to embrace what would take place next. With my Cognac slightly warmed and my OpusX, I began my voyage to euphoria. On occasions like this, I love to enjoy a cigar with my fiancée (she loves La Flor Domin-icana), but she too wanted an OpusX. As we sat back with a little jazz and conversation, Maria and I almost forgot we had company.

I always enjoy a cigar as if I'll never see it again, and after about three hours it's usually gone. I have found that they are all unique and each has a slightly different taste, but all excite my palate. So, about 15 minutes into my Fuente Fuente OpusX Double Corona, I was asked a question which has changed me forever. My brother asked me, as I watched the smoke swirl into the air, "What are you looking at, and what do you get out of that?"

I have a habit of watching my cigar from start to finish. I roll it between my fingers, look at the wrapper, watch how it burns, enjoy the aroma. I totally embrace my cigar. I replied to his question by saying, "Once you've connected with your joy of having a good smoke, there's nothing in the world more relaxing--next to sex." He said, "That's one hell of an analogy, so give me one." He didn't have his cigar that night but he did have it on a later night after a long drive and a little jazz.

I don't like to be called a cigar "smoker" or have it said that those who enjoy cigars just "smoke" cigars. There's so much more to the pleasures of having a good smoke. I derive joy from having a fine cigar.

Mark Williford
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Dear Marvin,

I just finished your February issue. Regarding the letter from Larry Deyab in Brooklyn, New York [responding to another letter about high cigar prices and low quality]: Hey guys! There are many good cigars out there. As far as price, even milk and newspapers have gone up.

Larry was talking about Las Cabrillas. I'm sharing one now with my wife of 27 years. She likes to light them for me. A cigar is like a woman, my friends: you take care of them and they will take care of you.

Yes, the times are changing. But there's more times out there, and many more cigars. The adventure is in the hunt. So sit back, let your women light your cigars, and enjoy both.

Jeff Z. Holand
Lido Beach, New York

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Dear Marvin,

Well, the health police are at it again. Last week, a major weekly newsmagazine on its cover portrayed cigar smoking negatively. Recently, a well-known newspaper advice columnist, citing catastrophic health hazards, saw fit to bemoan the rising popularity of cigar smoking. These are but a few examples of what is a growing sentiment against cigar smokers, no doubt caused from the ongoing fervor against the cigarette industry.

As a responsible adult who is conscious of his health and as a licensed engineer with a graduate degree in environmental engineering who enjoys an occasional cigar, I am insulted by the pervasive "junk science" publicizing health impacts associated with cigar smoking.

Cigar Aficionado recently raised excellent questions and valid points relating to junk science on its online home page that goes beyond what skeptics may think is a smug attempt to counter negativism. As one who takes pride in his health by exercising regularly and eating sensibly (heck, I wonder how many cigar antagonists know their own blood pressure and cholesterol levels?), defending cigar smoking may appear to be a contradiction. I would be the first to admit that cigar smoking is not without health hazards; however, I believe that putting this issue into a proper perspective is important.

I become infuriated when a magazine writer or newspaper columnist, in their powerful ability to reach a wide readership, are quick to denounce cigar smoking by citing studies or reports (many of which may be cigarette-based), evidently with little or no technical comprehension of the very data they claim to understand. To my mind, these writers have no business painting all cigar smokers with a broad stroke if they are unable to provide even simple statistical reference points so that the reader may render an informed, educated opinion for him/herself.

Many questions come to my mind when someone points to a study or data that have serious implications and risks, alarming my sensibilities, but is unable to produce concrete data: What type of distribution was used to establish the population of cigar smokers? What was the sampling size and confidence interval of cigar smokers that showed a high incidence of oral cancer? What is meant by high? What was the frequency of smoking by those cigar smokers that contracted oral and other types of cancers?

Now, I am not suggesting that we become deluged with monotonous statistics every time a writer or columnist wants to impress a meaningful story upon the reader. However, if a writer is going to go on record to expound a personal belief, he or she better be prepared to defend the article.

Allow me to explain some interesting facts that the public rarely hears: The American Cancer Society states that the general population's chances of getting cancer are one in four to one in five over a 70-year lifetime. This means that 200,000 to 250,000 cases of cancer can be expected in a population of one million.

A one-in-a-million (.0001 percent) chance of contracting cancer is considered by many in the medical community to be an insignificant risk and is used as a benchmark. One may be surprised to learn that an increase in cancer risk from eating just one tablespoon of peanut butter is 140 in 1 million. That is to say, 140 additional cases of cancer (not necessarily deaths) may be expected from 1 million people eating a single tablespoon of peanut butter! Does this mean we should be alarmed about the consequences of eating peanut butter? Absolutely not! Foreknowledge of the matter would dictate that we eat peanut butter in moderation. The point here is that the cancer risk from eating peanut butter is not exactly highly politicized. Note that a quantity was assigned to peanut butter that correlates to a carcinogenic risk. I rarely see in published articles any statistics that show the correlation between the frequency of smoking cigars [and] an oral cancer risk. I do not know what the oral cancer risk is from smoking cigars, but common sense dictates that, like peanut butter, I moderate my intake of cigars.

I will digress for a minute and describe my weekly cigar ritual. My wife is a registered nurse who works on weekends, so I am the lone caretaker of our two very active children (ages 3 and 6) during that time. As any parent can tell you, raising children is a very rewarding but exhausting endeavor. By around dinnertime Saturday or Sunday, I start to contemplate my cigar selection from the humidor. Shall it be a Savinelli ELR tonight? Or, how about a Flor De Florez Cabinet Selection? A Fuente Fuente OpusX never fails to deliver. Such a tough decision to make! After I dutifully put the kids to bed, I pour myself a glass of fine Port, retreat to the patio outside (no secondhand smoke to consider here), light up, and, as James Woods said in an issue of Cigar Aficionado, "take stock in things." Ah, what mental relaxation and subliminal pleasure I derive from smoking a fine cigar!

Now, does having an occasional cigar make me a statistical aberration which does not fit the norm of a "typical" cigar smoker that is the focus of epidemiological studies? I do not know. The published articles will not tell me. All I know is that the health police, despite my adherence to a healthy lifestyle, would have me believe that my indulgence in a weekly cigar significantly increases my risk factors. In a larger perspective this is unfortunate, for widespread public concern and perceived risk (public opinion) will strongly influence public policy and legislative action, even without concrete scientific validation for the position taken. Magazine writers and columnists would do well to heed this, lest they may someday find a warning label on their favorite jar of peanut butter.

Mark C. Searfoss
Eastampton, New Jersey

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Dear Marvin,

I work for an engineering firm, and one day it seemed I was getting more than my share of flak about schedule and budget busts. By lunchtime I had been in two and a half hours of meetings and had my rear chewed on a couple of times for something that was out of my control. To make matters worse, the lead engineer on the project was trying to get me to do some out-of-sequence work that was really not in my scope to do. (It was one of those projects that we refer to as something similar to "sewage details." He didn't want to do it, and rather than taking the criticism himself, was trying to pawn it off on me.)

I left for lunch a little early that day and went out to my vehicle to get a smoke. I opened the small travel humidor that I keep in the console and, to my surprise, found it empty. I thought of just blowing off the idea of having a good smoke, but my judgment got the better of me. A friend of mine had told me about a little shop that sells sporting goods and accessories, a few blocks away from the office. He also said they had a nice-sized walk-in humidor; I figured I would give them a try. I walked in and found that their humidor was nearly as large as the shop itself.

I browsed a little at the golf shirts and some old wooden clubs they had before stepping into the humidor. I then spent another 15 or 20 minutes perusing their cigar selection. I picked up a couple of different cigars, along with a Dominican Cohiba. This Cohiba was one of those small ones that I like to refer to as a walk-the-dog-type cigar, in which you can take a short walk and enjoy a short smoke without having to put it out later.

I lit my Cohiba and crawled into my truck. I still had nearly 30 minutes to kill, so I drove around a bit, enjoying my smoke. About 15 minutes later, I realized that I had not eaten yet and thought that a burger was in order. The only place nearby was one of those places with the big "M" outside. I pulled up to the line with five or six cars in front of me, and as I was about to flip out my stogie, I put my left hand up on the roof of my truck and felt this sharp pain in my palm. I looked at my palm to see a bee trying to pull his stinger out. I smashed him into the top of the windowsill.

I had not been stung by a bee in probably 20 years or more, and forgot what a surprise those little guys can give a person. I thought for a moment and remembered that my grandfather would put tobacco on a sting to take out the "pop." I bit off the end of my little Cohiba and made a tobacco poultice to put in my palm. In a couple of minutes the sting was gone and I was munching on a burger, on my way back to the office. Not only had that little cigar been used for psychological purposes, but medicinal as well.

Scott R. Nelson
Olathe, Kansas

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Dear Marvin,

A few years ago, still in high school, my best friend, E. B., and I would sit outside our chemistry teacher's door after lunch and imagine the perfect trip to New York City. We both share the same passion for cigars, food and good living in general. Now, if you consider two teenagers in São Paulo, Brazil, planning a trip to NYC unrealistic....

Five years later, our day finally comes. Our two days in NYC included Le Cirque, La Cote Basque, Aida at the Met, cigar clubs and even Cuban Davidoffs! More important than any of those pleasures was that our plans, after many years of waiting, were coming true. I was there and with the company of a great friend. Somehow, I feel that all of these interesting happenings would not have been the same without his good company. The food would not have been so absolutely great, Pons would have missed a couple notes, the Davidoffs would have been a bit too dry...even if everything was perfect.

I just hope that E. B. and I have many more opportunities for such pleasurable, enjoyable and unforgettable moments. Maybe next time, and hopefully richer, we might also bring our best girfriends!!!

T. M.
São Paulo, Brazil

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Dear Marvin,

I am a 24-year-old African-American male who absolutely loves the taste of an occasional cigar. One day while in school I saw a couple of gentlemen smoking outside. I decided that it would be nice to join them; after all, fellow smokers should stick together. As I walked over and introduced myself, it became very obvious that they did not appreciate my company. I tried to converse but I was very abruptly cut off and then ignored.

I moved to the side and felt very upset over what had occurred. I hoped that it was not due to my race that this incident happened, but I knew it was. The only thing on my mind was how to handle the situation. A late friend of mine once told me, "When you smoke a cigar, relax. Use it as a form of meditation and relate to your surroundings; but most importantly, always be calm." The same man helped me to achieve my goals, even though my surroundings did not allow me to move ahead.

The point--I was very upset after this incident occurred. I was in a new environment with a lot of people that came from very different social and ethnic backgrounds. I grew up in public housing in New York and they in the suburbs, but my late friend taught me that there is no obstacle too high for me to conquer; I am everything I want to be and more. Most importantly, he taught me how to use a cigar at the time of this incident. I guess Don Tomás prevented a situation from getting ugly. Thank you, Don Tomás.

Donnell Nichols
United States Navy

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Dear Marvin,

Thank you for the informative article on the Great Wall of China cigar dinner, which was published in the December 1998 issue of Cigar Aficionado. We are very pleased that your magazine was able to cover this unique and special event, which was organized by The Palace Hotel, a Peninsula Group property.

While we have normally hosted cigar dinners at our Roma Ristorante Italiano, this was the first attempt by The Palace Hotel or anyone else ever to bring such an event to the Great Wall. It might interest your readers to get a glimpse behind the scenes.

After receiving the Chinese official nod to use this particular section of the Great Wall (a not-so-minor achievement in itself), there were the logistics involved in putting together cocktails and a six-course, black-tie dinner with premium Champagne, fine wines and three varieties of cigars for 90 people in a location some two hours away from civilization.

Our food and beverage manager, Robert Logan, and executive chef, Daniel Lichtensteiger, plus a hotel staff of 50, had to put together an on-site kitchen piecemeal early during the day. Power generators, a grand piano and portable loos were just a few of the items that were likewise hauled over the arduous steps. Over the course of the dinner, the chef's creativity and culinary skills were matched by the service staff's muscle power in climbing the steps of the Great Wall, bearing the artfully arranged dishes.

Peter L.J. Finamore,
General Manager
The Palace Hotel, Beijing

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Dear Marvin,

In the summer of 1996 I had the opportunity of visiting Lebanon for the first time. I was traveling with family (in-laws) and upon arriving at Beirut International Airport, we were waived past customs and all the long lines, including baggage claim. It seems as if my wife's (fiancee at the time) uncle, a retired general in the Lebanese army, had something to do with this. The vacation was truly an experience of dispelling stereotypes about the Middle East, specifically Lebanon. The people I met, relatives and friends made, were all very warm and hospitable.

The meals were lavish, at times overwhelmingly abundant in variety and quantity, and the personal attention by the restaurants' staffs, impeccable. Many of the tourist attractions were breathtaking and pristine, due to the lack of foreign tourism.

For me, however, the most memorable experience was walking into a local grocery store and finding a glass-enclosed walk-in humidor the size of two telephone booths, stocked with boxes of Cuban cigars. As I slid the glass door behind me upon entering, I felt like a kid in a candy store. Beautifully stacked boxes of Bolivar, Cohiba, El Rey Del Mundo, Upmann, Montecristo, Partagas and Romeo y Julieta surrounded me. As I gazed upon the prices on each box and did the monetary conversions necessary to buy some cigars, a feeling of dismay overcame me. I realized that any one of those boxed cigars could cost me much more than a few dollars. I chose one box of Montecristo No.3s, which I generously shared with my future uncle-in-law, the general, during the remainder of my vacation. And though I no longer have any of the Montecristos, the memory of that summer day in the Cuban-stocked glass humidor lingers like a plume of smoke.

Harry N. Bobotis
Anderson, South Carolina

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Dear Marvin,

I just returned from a glorious 10-day vacation in France with my amazing wife, Rebecca. Upon arrival (and thanks to your recommendation) we made a stop at Boutique 22 to stock up on some Havanas. The selection was incredible,to say the least. (Bolivar, Punch, Hoyo de Monterrey, El Rey Del Mundo, Sancho Panza, La Gloria Cubana, Montecristo, Cuaba, etc.) The best part is that there wasn't a cigar in the entire humidor that cost over $11. My wife nearly had to drag me out of the place. I normally smoke El Credito Monarchs for under $2 per stick, but this was one of those occasions where I simply pleaded temporary insanity and broke the proverbial bank. Each night I enjoyed a different Cuban cigar and a glass of Port in the hotel lounges in Paris, the Loire, the Dordogne and Bordeaux. The exchange rate is currently a spectacular eight francs to the dollar. (It's normally around 5 to 1, so the extra 60 percent on your money goes a long way). Most of the meals we ate would have made Henry VIII blush, and they cost around $75 (including tax, tip and wine!)

Last, the French people could not have been any more pleasant or accommodating. The whole "French are rude" idea is antiquated and just plain not true.Like your mother always told you, if you say "si vou plait" and "merci" a lot, you'll do OK in life. I'mconvinced that no matter what country you're in, if you make an attempt at being polite, you will get treated with courtesy and respect. My wife and I can't wait for our next trip back to France. The best food, wine and cigars in the world--who could ask for anything more?

Glenn Holley
Middletown, Connecticut