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Out of the Humidor

| By CA Readers | From J.P. Morgan, Mar/Apr 00

Dear Marvin,  

I can't believe that some of your readers are so incensed at your magazine's decision to run an article on Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation. So what! I'm not an avid supporter of pro wrestling, but it's only entertainment, people! Mr. David Tarr's letter in the February 2000 issue irritated me more than most. To say that Cigar Aficionado was "dumbing down" or "pandering to the lowest common denominator of our society" is an insult to some of us who like to stray to the crazy side of life now and again. Now, I only had a 3.75 GPA in college, like to smoke Cohibas, and work hard for a living, so certainly I wouldn't dare have a little fun and watch pro wrestling.  

I, for one, applaud Cigar Aficionado's walk on the wild side every once in a while. Cigar smoking has finally reached a point where it's acceptable for the "common man" to enjoy them, and it's thinking like Mr. Tarr's that has put a "high society" stigma on cigar smoking for such a long time. Cigar smoking should cause you to sit back and reflect on life's little pleasures, which may include the occasional wrestling match. Why not? If the "lowest common denominator" includes those willing to pay $30 to $50 per ticket to watch a billion-dollar-a-year business, then I'm willing to be common. As long as I can keep my Cohibas!  

If you want to put a professional bass fisherman on the cover next month, I'll still keep my subscription.  

Jerry L. Burch Knob
Noster, Missouri  

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Dear Marvin,  

I never would have imagined people writing such negative comments about your issue featuring the WWF and Vince McMahon. I think that your magazine and your events try to include people from all walks of life. While I feel that your subscribers are basically the wealthy and culturally elite, these people need to remember that cigar smokers come from all levels of society. The WWF may be viewed by some as morally objectionable, but remember, take the show for what it is: entertainment. Those who do not want to watch have the freedom to change the channel.  

Michael Murphy
Via e-mail  

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Dear Marvin,  

When it comes to Winston Churchill ("Top 100 Cigar Smokers," December 1999) and Saudi Arabian royalty, Abdul Aziz Ibn-Saud could hardly have been convinced by Churchill's argument for smoking cigars in front of His Highness. In The Kingdom: Arabia & the House of Saud, author Robert Lacey relates a telling anecdote about a meeting between FDR, Churchill and Ibn-Saud on board an ocean liner anchored in the Suez Canal.  

FDR was an avid cigarette smoker, but he would only smoke late at night, in his wheelchair on deck, out of the king's presence. The king, however, did catch a glimpse of FDR smoking late one night and was honored.  

Churchill, on the other hand, persisted in smoking in the king's presence and even blowing smoke at the king, who was extremely uncomfortable with Churchill's belligerence. As a result, The Kingdom concludes that the relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States to this day have been warm and friendly while the Saudi's relations with England have been chilly.  

An awfully powerful consequence for a few puffs on a simple cigar.  

David Curry
New York, New York  

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Dear Marvin,  

You are to be commended for putting Laurence Fishburne on your cover (February 2000). Your magazine has always been a leader in covering the full world of cigar lovers, and not just the lily-white world.  

That being said, your cover article made no mention of the Spike Lee movies in which Mr. Fishburne played key roles. If there were no School Dayz or Do the Right Thing, there would not have been a Boyz in the Hood or Othello with Fishburne in lead roles. These movies established him as an African-American actor who is not afraid to appear in movies that have something to say about the state of race relations in America.  

To not include these two movies in your article is to give an incomplete review of his career and is a disservice to African-Americans who hold him up as one of this generation's great black actors.  

Bill Bright
Washington, D.C.  

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Dear Marvin,  

I have been a casual cigar smoker for about four years. For as long as I can remember, my father has smoked cigars, but I have never taken the chance to smoke one with him. Earlier this year I was going through a somewhat sticky divorce when my dad, who lives in Alaska, decided to visit for a few days. During his visit we got to talking about cigars. We took a trip to my favorite tobacconist and walked into the humidor. Before this trip my knowledge of cigars was severely limited, but on this day my education was to begin. My father talked about every aspect of cigars--size, shape, color and construction. We decided on Aurora Robustos and took our purchases home. It was a clear, cold, sunny day and we sat on my deck smoking them while my education continued: cutting, lighting, draw, taste and the big warning, "never inhale," which I had been doing until that day. I discovered that you could really taste a cigar if you don't inhale.  

In the past 20 years (I am 38), my father and I have spent few precious days together; that day will always be etched in my memory. He also subscribes to your magazine, and I hope he gets a chance to read this letter, should you decide to publish it.  

Carl Lewis
Everett, Washington  

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Dear Marvin,  

I've been enjoying cigars for about 10 years and have been subscribing to your magazine for the last few. By the way, did I mention I'm female? You see, that's the point. While I consistently find a wealth of information in Cigar Aficionado, I also find a "niche" that is neglected--articles geared to the female smoker.  

I, of course, realize that the vast majority of cigar smokers are male, but in part I believe that's because the female population is neither actively marketed to nor, frankly, acknowledged. An authoritative publication such as yours must clearly see the void--no?  

I cannot tell you how many times over the years I have overheard the smug comments, expressions of disbelief, ridiculous innuendo and the like when I light up a cigar in public. Even in a "cigar-friendly" facility I find myself being stared at unblinkingly on a regular basis.  

I can't help but wonder if a little regular article/commentary in Cigar Aficionado on the woman cigar smoker wouldn't help to destigmatize my gender's cigar smoking. Believe me, it's at the very least awkward and sometimes downright difficult to enjoy a smoke, even in the company of a man, when people around you are so taken aback by the sight. Not to mention the tobacco shop owners who inevitably assume A) you're shopping for your husband/boyfriend, B) you haven't the first clue how to differentiate a robusto from a corona, C) the only thing you could possibly enjoy is a flavored cigar, D) you wouldn't know a humidor from a hothouse, or E) you must be one of those women who wears the pants in the family.  

Ah, the bane of ignorance. What do you say we do something about this and attack these preconceptions with insight and information on a monthly basis? Please take my idea and exploit it. I promise you, you shall endear yourself for all eternity to the thousands of my gender's "silent smokers." You might even be surprised at the feedback you get from both the men and the women.  

For the record, my personal humidors (I have two) are stocked with my favorites: Montecristo No. 2 torpedos, the old "nonbanded" Cohibas and the occasional--when I can get my hands on them--Fuente Fuente OpusX. OK, if you look closely enough you may uncover an Olivero Sweet or two, but hey, after all, I am a girl!  

Abbe Myers
Via e-mail  

Editor's response: We have always welcomed women cigar smokers, and we have published articles focused on them (Summer 1995) and on women tobacconists (February 1998). That said, our magazine's mission has always been to explore the world of cigars and the good life from the male perspective (men make up roughly 95 percent of the U.S. cigar-smoking population). As for those who disapprove of women cigar smokers, I'm willing to wager that there are at least 10 times as many men who find such women a welcome addition to the cigar-smoking community.  

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Dear Marvin,  

I wish to make a couple of additions and comments to Sam Gugino's article, "The Perfect Cup," in your December 1999 issue. Mr. Gugino certainly hits the spot regarding the poor extraction of espresso and the "abuse" of a fine product. We moved to Wisconsin (30 miles south of Green Bay and "Packerland") three years ago and found that two of my vices were nonexistent and scoffed at. There were little or no espresso services and virtually no public places to smoke my cigars. Although a couple of neighborhood taverns now tolerate my cigar smoking ("please smoke those smelly things in the corner by the open window") and a couple of "espresso" houses have opened, we decided to open our own espresso service in the form of Wisconsin's first mobile espresso van. As we both work full time, we have been operating part time, attending charitable and nonprofit special events.  

We received our barista training from the nonprofit Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and are committed to the same quality of excellence that they have taught us. Mr. Gugino should have mentioned that besides the fact of using filtered water for your espresso machine, you should use a water softener also. This will keep your machine's internal parts from calcifying, and in commercial applications it is a must to maintain the machine's warranty.  

Regarding the purchasing of quality beans, try to buy your beans from the roaster. Make sure the bean bag is vacuum-sealed. Use the beans (if unopened) within three weeks of purchase. When opened, use the beans within seven days of opening and keep the beans in an airtight container, stored in a dry, room-temperature environment. Like cigars, do not put your beans in the refrigerator. Also do not make the assumption when you buy your usual brand of beans at a local coffeehouse that they will be fresh. We discovered that the beans might be "brokered" and months old by the time they are sold. Our beans are typically roasted within three days of our placing an order.  

John Julsing
Appleton, Wisconsin