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Out of the Humidor

| By The Editors | From John Travolta, Jan/Feb 99

Dear Marvin,

As a cigar smoker for over 40 years, I have great joy in reading your fine magazine and especially reading "Out of the Humidor." It appears that cigar smokers are a tight-knit band of folks who can enjoy the pleasures of cigars and the different social opportunities afforded by cigars, despite the big, bad social police.

I recently took a client to Pro Players Park in Miami to see Mark McGwire and the Cards battle our failing Marlins. It was a night to remember! After a light dinner we smoked a cigar on the drive to the park. I told my client that if McGwire tied Hack Wilson's National League single-season homerun record, I would have a surprise for him. Well, not only did McGwire hit number 56, he also hit number 57. After the game I broke out some brand new Montecristos I had just brought back from Costa Rica. A glorious way to finish a historic night.

This evening was much like last October, when as season-ticket holders we in south Florida were treated to the Marlins being in the World Series. I attended game seven with a crew that included a doctor, dentist, lawyer, physicist, geologist, engineer, stockbroker and a retired gent. Hardly the types that fit the social police's stereotype of tailgaters. Each of us was assigned a chore for the party. My chore was to bring the cigars, while others had less important jobs, such as bringing the food and fire and drinks. Needless to say, we were thrilled when the Marlins pulled the game out in the bottom of the 11th inning. After the game, while basking in the glow of a special night, I passed out the Montecristos--a fitting way to end a perfect night.

Don Fenton
Boynton Beach, Florida

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Dear Marvin,

I am a 24-year-old up-and-coming professional in the financial industry who had--until recently--been concentrating on my career, preparing to obtain my MBA in finance, and smoking cigars (of course). In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, I had forgotten how precious family and friends are to me.

In June 1998 my father passed away at the age of 67. He was truly a great man, husband, father and Opa [grandfather]. Essentially, my world was torn asunder. Fortunately, God has blessed me with a strong family and close friends.

After the passing of my father, I dreaded being alone with my thoughts because I would always review in my head the things I would have liked to have told my father before he passed away. Basic things such as "I love you" and "Thank you for everything."

Two weeks ago, while camping, I actually came to appreciate my moments of time to myself. Late one night, beside the campfire, I enjoyed a "real" Cohiba while gazing at the stars and absorbing the tranquility. I reflected upon the man I had become--thanks to my father, and also the tremendous sacrifices that were made by my mother and father on behalf of my brother, sister and myself. In my reflection I came to realize that if you love someone, tell him or her. I also realized that my father is now at peace with God and knows what I had neglected to tell him all too often when he was alive: Thank you for everything, and I love you, Dad.

For me, a cigar will never again be just a good smoke.

Thomas G. Pramberger
Queens, New York

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Dear Marvin,

I am an airman in the United States Navy stationed in Puerto Rico. I am not a spokesperson for my command, nor do my views represent the Navy or any part of the Navy. I am an avid reader of your superb magazine. Yet, I cannot receive it overseas. I do however, find time to enjoy some of the finest cigars available in this area.

Getting to my point of this letter: as the world knows, we were hit by one of the largest and strongest hurricanes known to this area, Hurricane Georges. After a day and a half of strong winds and heavy rains, there was damage that one would only see on the television. You could only compare such devastation to a war-torn city: trees lying on the rooftops and in roads; cable and telephone poles snapped in half, destroying cars that were stranded on the street. Broken glass from windows scattered across the ground. Shoreside houses now part of the sea, and a golf course that is now a lake. Not to mention, many other damages to the quality of life and operational status of the naval station.

After the all clear sign was given, the people began to filter out of their houses and clean up what was left of their lives and get things back to normal. Without water and electricity for up to two weeks on base, the rest of Puerto Rico would be at a loss for months to a full year for recovery. This little Caribbean paradise no bigger than one-third the size of Vermont is now a disaster.

After the reality hit me and the family I was staying with, I made my journey over to my home, the Bachelor Quarters. I walked up the stairs to the barracks, and realized the roof to the three-story building had been ripped off by the hurricane. As I walked into the passageway I was thinking, "I'm glad I live on the first floor." I opened my door and about five inches of water spewed out of my room. A hi-fi stereo system was trashed, as well as many other items. One of the most prized possessions, my humidor. A collection of cigars I have been acquiring in the Caribbean area--GONE! Very upset with these losses, I packed what I could and moved to another place.

Someone must have been looking over me at that moment because just before I threw the last thing in the truck, a cigar fell out of a box of papers! A Partagas No. 1, 6 3/4 inches by 43 ring gauge. Although it was not in the best condition, it was all I had! After returning to my buddy's house, grief stricken, I sparked up my cigar and gazed at the magnificent stars in the dark blue sky. We recapped the past few days as I puffed away at my only remaining cigar.

I have to say, no matter how tattered or dehydrated this Paratagas was, it had to be one of the finest cigars I ever had! This was just another story of how a fine cigar can make any situation better.

Todd M. Frey
Puerto Rico

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Dear Marvin,

The letter from William S. Bishop in the December (1998) issue of Cigar Aficionado was very interesting because there is much truth to what he says. Anyone who has been smoking cigars for any length of time (I am 41 years old and have been smoking cigars "seriously" for at least 14 years) knows the reality of what he is saying. As recently as the early '90s, very good, properly aged cigars were plentiful. The unmistakable aroma of aged tobacco--which was released as soon as the cigar was lit--is almost entirely missing today. I remember lighting up a Licenciados President or Las Cabrillas, which were cheap then, at a party and watching people who were not even cigar smokers taking in the bouquet with pleasure and commenting upon it. Casa Blancas, which had a wonderful cedar taste and smell, are nothing now--like the other two just mentioned. These earlier cigars were cured and rolled "pre-cigar boom." And there were plenty of other low-priced cigars which could be bought and enjoyed easily.

I had my first hint of what was coming two years ago, in London at the Davidoff shop, when I bought some Cuban Cohibas and Partagas Serie D No. 4s that, as expensive as they were, I had to throw away after smoking about half of them. In Havana, the situation is only slightly better, and a person had better examine all the cigars available, look and feel closely, and choose among which brands the cigar zeitgeist had traveled to. Cuban cigars are still the best in the world, but a person really has to know and love cigars to be able to sort through the different brands and choose the best (the current Partagas Serie D No. 4 look pretty beautiful but since they were just being packed into their boxes at the Partagas factory, they were unavailable at the cigar store there). So a person buys the Romeo y Julieta Exhibicion No. 4 and puts them away for a while. The point being that the really classic cigars that William Bishop is referring to are harder and harder to come by. Only as more serious cigar smokers continue to buy and smoke less because of the overall decline in quality combined with the ever-rising prices, will the cigar industry wake up and realize they are setting up a very bad situation. I avoid cigar bars like the plague because of the sight of young idiots with their cigars of the moment or their fake Cubans, who barely even know which end to light. I even smoke my old pipe occasionally when I get frustrated.

As far as your rating system is concerned, you are right, taste is subjective. But your rating system is way too generous to bad cigars. I do not have time to look through all my back issues of Cigar Aficionado, but I do not remember your magazine ever giving a cigar a rating below 70 (which you say means "don't waste your money"). I feel you should stiffen your criteria in judging a good cigar because I feel it does not reflect the reality of what is out there.

Larry Deyab
Brooklyn, New York

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Dear Marvin,

I was pleased to see your recent commentary, as you discredited Winston's ad campaign that suggested class warfare between the cigarette and cigar industry. What a strange position for Winston to decide to pick a fight with an ally.

As Americans struggle to maintain our constitutional freedoms, I've been OK in siding with the entire tobacco industry in fighting for individual rights to choose. But I've always felt uncomfortable with any notion that smoking a cigar is analogous to cigarette smoking. If push comes to shove, the cigarette group can go find their own alley to blow smoke in.

We all know that hard scientific evidence proves cigarette smoking is unhealthy, but the recent government cigar report has yet to be statistically and objectively analyzed. Of course, I've seen a couple inappropriate conclusion jumpers, media members happy to encroach on another of our freedoms. The evidence they've used as the foundation for their comments are based on assumptions of cigar smokers inhaling, and environments withunidentified ventilation.

I used to be appalled that many bars and other commercial venues would allow cigarette smoking but abolished the finer smokes. In my mind it's no different than saying, "Go ahead, drink cheap beer and lousy whiskey, but don't you dare drink Cognac in this establishment." For eons I've put up with cigarette smokers for the sake of respecting their choice. I expect the same respect, and I'll be more reasonably conscientious of others around than many cigarette smokers I've observed.

Here in California it's illegal for any bar to allow us to make our own decision to smoke legal products of any kind, in these social places we go to of our own volition. Cigars, cigarettes--what's the difference in this overall issue of personal options?

I just heard an editorial comment on a news radio station that stated the majority of bar patrons now support this antismoking legislation, whereas they didn't a year ago. Duh, didn't it occur to them that the bar crowd is now composed of fewer smokers--as they've been treated like second-class citizens--which obviously affects the marketing research now tainted by a larger proportion of purists? I used to look forward to visiting a cigar bar and enjoying an after-dinner drink and fine cigar. Now, these establishments are actually outlawed; places considered too dangerous for this state to allow.

So typical of American conservatives and overreactive, relentless legislators that have been brainwashed into thinking that the fix for everything is to establish more laws; and all to create a society hell-bent on coercing us into conservative behavior and subverting our personal freedoms as promised by our forefathers. We are plagued by others imposing their values on us, and they do this with motives of their own self-assuming, moralistic ego gratification.

Enough from these tyrants; give us back our country, the real America.

Joel Weiss
Camarillo, California

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Dear Marvin

I thought I would tell you about a company that sticks by its advertising. In early July, I was sent to investigate a suspicious death in the Chinatown area of Seattle. Upon my arrival, I was advised by other homicide detectives that an elderly woman who lived as a hermit had been found dead in an old, decrepit home. Further investigation concluded that this woman had died of natural causes.

While I was leaving the scene I observed piles of old newspapers in the front yard of this residence. The papers were from the mid-'60s and were yellowed and tattered. I picked up a pile and brought them to my office and began to read them. I noticed an advertisement for a pack of Cuesta-Rey cigars and the Traveling Man's humidor, both for $1. This sounded like a good deal, and with a chuckle I filled out the order form, and placed a dollar bill and the form in the mail.

Three weeks later I was surprised when I received a box of cigars and this letter from J.C. Newman Cigar Co.


Dear Mr. Ciesynski:

You are one amazing individual. I am specifically referring to the order we received for you from an advertisement we ran at least 25 years ago.

Nevertheless, I am pleased to enclose three packs of our Cuesta-Rey Caravelle natural cigars. Unfortunately, the Traveling Man's humidor was discontinued 20 years ago.

We hope that these cigars bring you many hours of smoking pleasure.

Eric M. Newman

Needless to say, I shared the cigars and this story with my fellow homicide detectives and we all agreed that the J.C. Newman Cigar Co. sticks by its advertisement claim of "Fulfilling the Promise Since 1895."

Detective Mike Ciesynski
Seattle, Washington