Out of the Humidor

| From Dennis Hopper, Jan/Feb 01
Published January/February 2001 - Out of the Humidor

Dear Marvin,

I enjoy reading your magazine and try not to let the letters in your "Out Of The Humidor" section upset me, but I just got burned up by Tim McGlasson's letter in your October issue. Please forgive me here for a second, but aren't the Democrats the same people who decry racism, but support forced quota hiring practices that discriminate against talent and abilities? Aren't they the same people who scream that education is failing in America, but tear apart standardized testing and teacher accountability? Is this the same group that praises the ACLU for its dogged defense of constitutional rights, but condemns the NRA for doing the same thing? Didn't the Democrats in California, New York and other states lead proposals for banning smoking in public and private places (even in your own private automobile)? And don't they believe that homosexuality is an accepted form of expression in school, but prayer isn't? Never in American history has one political group been driven by so many minorities' group agendas.

I am a Republican, and proud to be in the party that produced Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. And while I support the right of Mr. McGlasson to state his opinion, I think that I should also let you know that his is only one voice. A dialogue between opposing views is a great thing; but Mr. McGlasson has used typical political rhetoric and demagoguery in placing every political evil of the past 12 years at the foot of the Republican Party and the so-called Conservative Conspiracy! True, no political party is perfect. Bill Clinton wasn't the first president to seduce a young woman in the White House, and he won't be the last. But lying to Congress and obstructing justice is a crime, and those proven guilty should suffer the consequences. Let's face it: Jimmy Stewart's Mr. Smith could never be elected today. The reason no "good people" run anymore is because of the fact that you can't please all the people all of the time. Someone is always going to take exception to something that will be said. The sad, but true, fact is that the Democratic Party, by letting small, minority agendas run its policy making for so long, has lost its direction.

Thanks for the soapbox.

(P.S.: When I say "minority groups" I am speaking about the many issue-specific and wacko groups that have long dominated the Democratic Party. I am not referring to any racial or ethnic groups.)

Chuck Tomaszewski
Detroit, Michigan

Dear Marvin,

I still vividly remember the warm June afternoon in the early 1960s. My father had told me the night before that he would be coming to school to pick me up and take me to see the Red Sox play the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park. For an 8-year-old born in the Boston area, to go to Fenway Park for the first time is a magical experience. To have my father rescue me from the boredom of school on a perfect warm spring day as well, was as close to heaven as I could have imagined. I couldn't contain myself that morning. I spilled the beans to all who would listen, even my teacher, Mrs. Connerly. I proudly explained that my father was taking me to see the Red Sox, as I handed her the note that said that he would be collecting me before lunch.

As the appointed time finally arrived, there was a sudden feeling of dread as my father and I were both asked into the principal's office. "So, Mr. Hester, Michael has been informing everyone that he is having the rest of the day off so that he can attend a baseball game with you. Is this correct?" My father shot me a look, and my heart sank thinking my big mouth had blown the most perfect day in the world. My father answered yes, and went on to explain how he had acquired the tickets, and had been granted the time off of work by changing to the night shift for the next week. The principal smiled and interrupted him by saying, "I wish I could go with you both, and I wish more fathers would take their sons to a ballgame every now and then." Ecstasy! How could the principal be a human being on this most wonderful day of my young life?

I barely remember the drive into the city, with my father's gentle chiding about me telling the whole world about our secret day. I do remember quite clearly walking into Fenway Park. My nostrils were filled with the wonderful aroma of cigar smoke, and I was soon engulfed in the large crowd funneling through the turnstiles. I remember walking up a ramp, inhaling the magical scent of cigars and still seeing nothing but the back of the legs of the man in front of me. Suddenly we reached the top of the ramp, the crowd parted both to the left and right, and in front of me stood the greenest grass I have ever seen.

My father tugged my arm and I followed him to our seats on the first base side. I had listened to the games on the radio. I had spent many a summer afternoon with my grandfather watching the Red Sox play bad, bad baseball in all the glory of black-and-white TV. Many times, it was more interesting to listen to my uncles curse and scream in frustration than it was watching the Sox snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Still, I was hooked. I was a Red Sox fan for life, just like my father, and his father before him.

But on that day I was actually sitting in Fenway Park. I didn't need Curt Gowdy to explain the action. I was there myself. I didn't need to watch him pour another "Gansett for my neighbor." The man sitting beside my father could just buy a beer from the usher. I didn't need to watch the strangely beautiful "White Owl" lady on TV. I could see and smell the cigars all around me. I could also see all the players whose cards I had so dutifully collected. No longer pictures on a card, or a black-and-white image on the TV screen; here were the Boston Red Sox in living color, right in front of me: Carl Yastrzemski, Frank Malzone, Pete Runnels, Chuck Schilling, Pumpsie Green, Eddie Bressoud, Mike Fornieles, Tracy Stallard, Bill Monbouquette and of course my favorite, "The Monster," Dick Radatz.

The day couldn't have been any better. Here I was sitting next to my father, watching the Red Sox play and win a game. In my mind it had something to do with the magic scent of the cigars all around me. Sure enough, the next game I watched on TV, without any cigars around me, the Red Sox lost.

As I grew up the Red Sox teased me along the way. The Impossible Dream year in 1967, with Yaz, Reggie Smith, Tony "C," Rico Petrocelli, George Scott, Mike Andrews, Jerry Adair and Jim Lonborg. In the 1970s I attended college in upstate New York. I started smoking the occasional cigar, and savor many happy memories of getting together with like-minded friends. At the time all we could afford were White Owls, El Productos and the highly offensive Ben Franklin blunts. The Red Sox continued to torment me with the fantastic series against the Reds in 1975, with that legendary Game 6. Along with Yaz were the new breed of Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans, Bernie Carbo, Rick Burleson, "Spaceman" Lee, Carlton Fisk and my new favorite, Luis Tiant. I still recall the picture in The Boston Globe of "El Tiante" sitting in a spa bath after a victory, while smoking another magical cigar. Although they lost the series, I was still convinced of the magic of cigars.

In time I managed to move up to Macanudos. The ritual of lighting up occurred at many happy occasions in life: graduations, reunions, promotions, engagements, marriages and births. After graduating from college, I started working in Australia. Though far from home, I vividly remember arriving at work, tired and bleary eyed, after evenings staying up till 4 in the morning, watching the 1986 World Series against the Mets. How I agonized in lonely solitude as Mookie Wilson's innocuous ground ball dribbled through Bill Buckner's legs to continue the dreaded "Curse of the Bambino."

I now enjoy cigars such as Cohiba, Montecristo and Romeo y Julietas. I still keep in touch with Boston sports via the Net. My father and I keep in regular contact, and our phone conversations somehow manage to amble around to the Celtics, Patriots, Bruins -- and the doomed Red Sox (much to my mother's consternation.) Together we ask ourselves how long will we have to pay for Harry Frazee's foolish sin. [Ed. Note: For those outside of Boston or baseball, Frazee was the Red Sox owner who sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919, dooming the Sox to 81 years (and counting) without winning a World Series.] I take comfort in enjoying a cigar while watching my 13-year-old son play baseball, in a land where cricket and rugby are the norm. I don't know if he will grow up to be a cigar smoker. I do smile when I hear him tell his friends that he hates the "Damn Yankees." As his father and his father before his did.

Michael Hester
Port Lincoln, South Australia

Dear Marvin,

The article "Death Penalty Evaluation" is a real wake-up call. Many celebs like Ed Asner, Danny Glover, Bianca Jagger and Oliver North are taking the stand against the death penalty and I salute them. I believe if everyone who is pro-death penalty actually witnessed a death sentence carried out, we would see how inhumane the death penalty actually is. After seeing the movie about Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, I know that there are people who are incarcerated in our prisons for crimes they did not commit. There are inmates who are put to death for a murder they did not commit. The death penalty issue needs to be reanalyzed. If the death penalty were for serial killers, torturer murderers who were convicted beyond the shadow of the doubt, then I would have probably been pro-death penalty. But since possibly innocent people are being put to death, I think it's time to stop and find alternate methods of punishment in our prison system.

Joseph Anthony
Walnut Creek, California

[Ed. Note: The facts cited in the following letter have not been verified by this magazine.]

Dear Marvin,

Mike Farrell, a television actor, in his set piece on the death penalty, made statements, used "research" and cited several death penalty cases. All of his claims of these cases are either entirely false, grossly misrepresented, thoroughly debunked or simply platitudes.

The books and "studies" he touts in his article, showing that "innocent" people have been put to death, have, in fact, been proven to be utter rubbish, data manipulation of the lowest form. Professor Paul Cassell, in his clinical dissection of the books and articles by Radelet, Bedau and Putnam in a Wall Street Journal article, showed just how the extreme left creates facts from thin air, misrepresents actual fact, twists methodology and uses a tear-and-a-sob to come to a conclusion that is all too predetermined.

As a matter of fact, of the 23 cases of misplaced justice touted by the above author as alleged proof of "innocence," all the murderers, where original documents still exist, were shown to be "guilty as sin." I cannot help but wonder what the attitude of those who read the wholly sentimental pieces by Radelet, et al. would be now that their scholarship has been exposed as fiction.

What is true is that execution of murderers prevents additional horrors from being visited on truly innocent people. Convicted murderers who have been set free by the likes of Mike Farrell and the ACLU have gone on to kill again and again. Certain execution would clearly have prevented this sort of outrage.

Conservative (what a wonderful word) estimates as to the number of lives saved since 1973, by executing the human detritus Mr. Farrell holds dear, is between 10,000 and 30,000. Is Mr. Farrell suggesting that these lives are somehow of less import than those convicted murderers he wishes to set free? Should all these lives be forfeit on the wild off chance that someone is on death row in error?

The application of the death penalty is applied more fairly and replete with more safeguards than [in the prosecution of] any other criminal act. It is more often than not, neither applied nor carried out due to specious, thin or contrived technicalities, and not because any actual innocence was proved.

Moreover, even if you buy the pro-murderer arguments of the extreme left that as many as 40 "innocent" people have been set free from death row, the conviction rate is 99.5 percent. Since these theoretically innocent people were set loose on society, the percentage of those still under the sentence of death is 100. Damn good system it seems.

The hypocrisy of Mike Farrell and his ilk is monumental. These are the self-same people who are seemingly untroubled by the killing of innocent, unborn children, while simultaneously shilling for those who are vicious murderers. Additionally, as is typical of leftists everywhere, nowhere in his comments is found any mention of the victims of those murderers he would either free or house forever, and nowhere does he suggest that he and his fellow travelers would gladly become financially responsible for those whose freedom they seek, or whose execution they abhor.

Take these folks home, Mr. Farrell, allow them into your life and community, and free the rest of us from the nightmare that they will re-offend and kill again. Oh yes, one last fact: Mr. Farrell's sainted Mr. Brandley was re-indicted in 1997 after holding a pistol to his girlfriend's head and pulling the trigger. His girlfriend is alive today only because he had failed to load the weapon.

Mr. Farrell's piece is simply more sentimental, leftist eyewash. God help those who would be harmed by Mr. Farrell's mawkishness.

Charles W. Kindt
Poulsbo, Washington

Dear Marvin,

I am writing in response to the article about smoking cigars in California [August 2000]. I have been smoking cigars since I was 18. Growing up in Chicago, I have been accustomed to having great cigar stores, whether the local drugstore or the cigar stores downtown. About five years ago I moved to California, prior to the cigar tax and the antismoking laws, and I enjoyed cigar smoking even more, going to excellent restaurants and having a cigar after dinner or going to one of the several clubs that Los Angeles had to offer. But then came the antismoking law, which is good in some ways because, although I am a fan of cigars, I am not a fan of cigarettes, and I cannot stand smelling like smoke or making nonsmoking reservations. But come on, no smoking in bars? But what did me in was the cigar tax. I simply cannot understand this tax. Every night I hear on the news how schools in California are in need of money and how they don't pay teachers enough. Where is this money going?

After the antismoking law was established, I joined the Cigar Club in Beverly Hills. (I can say that I have never seen Rob Reiner in there.) I have been enjoying the only positive aspect of this law ever since. Before the law, I was smoking cigars almost every night and I was starting to lose the value of why I smoked a cigar. But now I enjoy going for a smoke once and a while even more, not only with my father, but friends and business clients as well.

Let's just hope that they don't mean all tobacco products and tax your magazine out of the market. Keep up the good work!

Robert Velo
Beverly Hills, California

Dear Marvin,

Re: "Cigars Under Siege" in the August issue. The cigar industry in California has been routed. And the idiots who were quoted by tobacconist Mr. Haddad saying "I don't smoke cigarettes, so it won't affect me" are to blame. Anyone who could read knew that Prop. 10 would tax cigars. More importantly, anyone who would vote for any regulation for no better reason than "it doesn't affect me" does not deserve the liberty they were born with.

Mike Culpepper
Antelope, California

Dear Marvin,

I write this in response to a letter I read in the August issue. In this letter a gentleman complained that you gave out too much and useless information in the tasting section. This gentleman went on to say that you should give your readers a little credit for already knowing some if not all of this information.

I read your wonderfully informative magazine at my favorite cigar-friendly bar, Harry's Bar & Tables in Kansas City, Missouri. I have smoked cigars on a very casual basis for more than 10 years. I have become a very serious smoker in the past six months (two to three a night). In that short time I have learned what truly good cigars are, sampling, testing and tasting hand-rolled cigars. (Before that I smoked cheap mass- produced brands.) In the last six months I have read every back issue of Cigar Aficionado at Harry's and have learned very much. Is that not the intent of a magazine, to further the knowledge of the longtime practitioner and to enlighten the unknowing?

I usually smoke an Ashton Corona, a suggestion made by my local tobacconist. I also now smoke several other cigars based on information that I've learned from your magazine. Although the corona remains my favorite size, thanks to some of the "useless information" that I've gained from your magazine I now enjoy an occasional lonsdale, maduro and Churchill made by Fonseca, Punch or Match Play, the latter by suggestion of my tobacconist, Fidel's in Kansas City, Missouri. So in opposition to the gentleman's claim that you think your readers are idiots, I say thank you for the continuing education. I'm sure that I will continue to try new brands and sizes based on what I learn from your pages.

R. J. Christen
Kansas City, Missouri