Out of the Humidor

| By CA Readers | From Danny DeVito, Winter 96

Dear Marvin,

Whenever I enter a restaurant and the question is asked, "Smoking or non-smoking?"--my answer is "I'll take smoking." It's a better class of people.

Just one small gesture for those of us who truly know how to live.

Michael Sirianni
Deltona, Florida


Dear Marvin,

Four women in a BMW sedan pull up in front of a restaurant. The parking valet is at the driver's door before it comes to a complete stop and informs the driver that she will have to park across the street in an unlit lot. "It's our policy to reserve our closest spaces for domestic cars, in support of American labor."

Arriving at the front door of the establishment, they are met by the Protocol Manager.

"Ladies, I'll have to ask you to go home, shower and shampoo with fragrance-free soaps, change your outfits, return without perfume or makeup, and park again across the street."

To answer the stunned looks on four faces, he explains:

"Some of our customers are sensitive or allergic to certain smells. They find perfume, cologne, hair spray, powders and creams to be offensive. The leather belts, shoes and purses are an obvious affront to our strict vegetarian and animal rights clientele, and quite frankly, I find the rest of your outfits visually objectionable. If any of your diamonds originated in South Africa, please leave them home, too, so as to not upset our apartheid-aware diners."

Four showers and two hours later, the women reach the lobby of the restaurant, where they are escorted one at a time to the house doctor's office to be weighed and have their blood pressure checked. "We don't want to be liable for feeding someone who shouldn't be eating our food."

Finally, they reach the dining room. They are approached first by the wine steward, who informs them that based on current standards, they will each be allowed two servings of alcohol. "Except for the driver, of course. We don't want any accidents, now, do we?"

Next, the waitress provides menus. In bold letters, the carte du jour advises, "No high-cholesterol meats. No artery-clogging sauces. No cheese. No butter or sour cream. No salt. No fattening desserts. No caffeine. No wine or sherry used in food preparation. No fried foods. No imported foods. No seconds. To your health!"

When the waitress serves the meals, she instructs, "Please pay and leave immediately upon completion, so as to not inconvenience our next customers, or our staff."

Ludicrous? Preposterous? Well, it's already happening. Similar rationale is used by anti-smoking zealots. On one side is individual freedom and pleasure. On the other side is everybody who seems to know what's best for me, and they find my pursuit of happiness offensive. Maybe they just can't stand to see anyone having more fun than they are.

Michael D. Washington
Rochester, New York


Dear Marvin,

I just finished reading your "Final Thoughts" in the August issue of your newsletter, Cigar Insider, and I wanted to say, "How right you are!" The relaxation afforded me by my cigar on the golf course is worth several strokes a round; at the same time, a bad smoke may cost me two or three strokes just from its distractions.

In fact, I think that your statement about the perfect relationship between cigars and golf can go even deeper. Many rounds of golf I remember distinctly by both the event and the cigar I enjoyed on the course: Pinehurst Number 2 and a Cohiba Esplendido; Royal Dornoch and a Montecristo No. 2; the Ocean Course and an Avo Pyramide; Troon North and a Partagas 150 Robusto; at my home club (Lake Hickory Country Club) with some cigar smoking buddies and an Opus X; the Old Course at St. Andrews and a Punch Punch; or Muirfield and a Romeo y Julieta Corona. Indeed, the smoke is as much part of the memory as the round, or the company. I can still smell the grass, azaleas and the La Flor de Cano that I smoked at Augusta National during the Masters last spring--and not one person among the crowd even looked at me sideways.

When I think of all the other times and places that a cigar would have added to a memory, it makes me sad that cigar smoking is looked down upon by so many. And how glad I am that having a good wine or other drink isn't frowned on in the same way (yet). Here's hoping things will change for the better.

Frank A. "Sandy" Porter
Hickory, North Carolina


Dear Marvin,

I have a great cigar smoking story from New York City. I was in New York for a business trip. After having dinner with my colleagues and my boss, Julio, at a Cuban restaurant near our hotel, I felt like topping the evening with a Cuban tradition--a fine cigar. Of course, being in a New York restaurant I couldn't smoke there, so I walked the few blocks to the front of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square to smoke my cigar. I was leaning against the hotel, smoking a smooth Belinda double corona while watching a crowd around some street performers. I was waiting to see some pickpocketing. I enjoy the sport of people-watching on a nice summer night. Talk about a prime spot for watching strange and interesting people pass by! With all there is to see in Times Square, people still stared at me because I was smoking my cigar.

Well, as I'm puffing away, a huge police motorcade comes up 45th Street. The motorcycle cops stop the traffic on Broadway and people start rushing to the intersection. I figure, Who could it be? The president? Been there, done that! I work in D.C.; I ain't moving to see him again--I'm relaxed now. Then I re-member seeing on the news that Bubba Clinton is still in D.C. OK, maybe the mayor, Rudy Guiliani. I can walk to the corner to see a big-shot pisan.

I stand down the street a little, away from the crowd. Finally, the procession gets to Times Square and I see a big van with the Coca-Cola symbol, and then I see the word: Olympic. Holy Sh!!! It's the Olympic torch relay!! The van goes by and then I see an old lady walking with the torch. People start cheering, and she is waving and smiling. It was fantastic! I felt a wave of enthusiasm and began to start clapping furiously. The moment made me long for an opportunity to cheer the U.S.A. Olympic team in person. Wow! It must be unreal to feel that at the Games.

I thought to myself, "See, great things happen when one smokes a cigar." If it wasn't for my desire to finish off a long day with a relaxing cigar, I would not have been at that corner to see such a wonderful symbol. Also, I have to thank the strict no smoking laws in New York or I would have been inside somewhere with my Belinda.

Wayne Pestone
Falls Church, Virginia


Dear Marvin,

I'm a 36-year-old ex-bodybuilder who has never smoked, and have lived a very healthy life. My wife and I have been together for 13 years and she is my best friend. Recently, I was introduced to cigar smoking by a very good friend, who explained that a good cigar is about relaxation and a way to escape the hectic world we live in. He also explained the great tradition behind a good cigar, and since I'm a Cuban American who came to the United States with my parents in the early 1960s, I decided it would be a good idea to try it, and a good way of getting close to my Cuban roots.

I told my wife about it and we decided to go to a local cigar shop near our home. I picked up a Churchill-sized cigar for me, and I talked my wife into getting one for her. To my surprise she agreed, and I selected a petit corona for her. Thanks to the knowledge I've acquired reading a couple of issues of your magazine, I was able to choose the right cigar and ask questions without being embarrassed. When we got home we opened a bottle of wine and we started to enjoy our cigars. I could not believe what I've been missing. It was like learning how to ride a bicycle for the first time. I've read some of the letters from your male readers about them being the luckiest men in the world because their wives enjoy cigar smoking. Well, you will not believe what happened next. Forty minutes into our cigars, my wife's is gone, and she is asking for mine, which is three-fourths of the way gone. Not only did she ask for my cigar, but she didn't want to give it back. Our night ended with unbelievable hours of lovemaking. So what does that make me in the ranks of being lucky?

Issac Katz
Miami, Florida


Dear Marvin,

Being deployed service members in Bosnia, we don't have to tell you that the stress level is way past "high." Long hours, plenty of stressful events and occasional sniper fire lead all of us to try and reach a calm in this stormy country. Fortunately for us cigar smokers here at Tuzla Air Base B.H., we were able to form a group set upon a little "relaxation." We formed a cigar club affectionately named the "Churchill Club."

We smokers meet every Friday at 20:30 hours to unwind from the stressful events of our workweek. After the grueling weather, sleeping on cots and lonely MRE lunches, it is a little more than satisfying to know that Fridays are just around the corner, along with our "favorites."

The great thing is seeing different branches of servicemen and women, officer and enlisted ranks, let down their hair and just be human; even if it only lasts as long as a cigar. Seeing people chat about the week's events around a cigar is simply wonderful. Most of the talks fall on home, friends and family, and of course, cigars. You would be amazed to know that the club enjoys the gamut when it comes to the sticks: everything from King Edward, Macanudo, Anthony and Cleopatra, Don Diego, Hoyo de Monterrey, Onyx and even a Dunhill now and again. But the point is really the bonding effect of smoking cigars around people, not just faces that wear a uniform. We're sure that there will be plenty of memories for many of us, but if you are in the States, perhaps just finishing dinner, have one for us. We'll be thinking of all of you. Peace!

SRA Nicholas A. DiTondo
Sgt. Israel Cruz-Colon
Tuzla, Bosnia


Dear Marvin,

I am writing to you as a fledgling cigar aficionado (I am 22 and have been enjoying cigars for just over a year now) who has, for the first time, encountered the ugly tyranny of "cigar prejudice."

This unfortunate experience occurred on the first night of a recent family whitewater rafting trip down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. After a sumptuous dinner on the riverbank, my father, who introduced me to cigars, and I lit up Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Banquets. Before long, we were joined by two fellow rafters, who had packed Arturo Fuentes in their waterproof luggage in the hope, like us, of finding cigar companions on the trip. Sharing a smoke on the first night of such a voyage was the perfect manner in which to savor the canyon's mystique as well as get acquainted with other travelers, since cigars can provide both a contemplative and social experience.

However, as we sat in camp around a butane lantern and puffed away, it was not long before, out of the growing darkness, arose the indignant cry, "Put out those damn cigars!" All of us were flabbergasted; first we were in, of all places, the Grand Canyon--it certainly couldn't be faulted as an enclosed space with limited ventilation. Second, on a trip of approximately 30 passengers, where everyone was encouraged to get to know everyone, the anonymous (although we later discovered who it was) cry of "damn cigars" we found to be a rather infantile response.

Nevertheless, the worst was yet to come. Shortly after this outburst, our trip guides came over to us on what they presented as a "diplomatic mission." In fact, they requested that we move with our cigars to a distant outpost of the camp which, ironically, was located next to the toilet facilities, a description of which is probably best left unwritten. Even our offer of cigars to any who would like to have joined us went unheeded. Hence, not wishing to tarnish such delightful smokes with such a pungent odor, we resigned ourselves to putting out half-smoked cigars.The next evening, before dinner was even arranged, the guides noted to the group that "for the smokers among us" there was a designated place at this campsite--a soggy mudflat just a short wade from the rest of the camp. So, there we sat, upon makeshift chairs (life preservers) and relished in our ostracism. Such exclusionary treatment continued until, by the last night of the trip, we were smoking off the back of the boats on which we had rafted.

Despite all, though, we enjoyed the majesty of the canyon, the company of new friends and, of course, the taste of fine cigars.

Stephen Boorjian
North Caldwell, New Jersey


Dear Marvin,

In keeping with the spirit of your magazine in identifying those restaurants who are and are not "cigar friendly," I'd like to relate an experience I had recently involving Friday's restaurant in West Melbourne, Florida.

Over a year ago, several of my Masonic brothers began meeting after work in the lodge at the local Friday's for a drink and a smoke. For over a year, nothing had ever been said about those of us enjoying a good cigar with our drink. That is until last week, when upon sitting at the bar and ordering a good Scotch I was jokingly told by my bartender that there was a 10 percent surcharge for cigar smokers. I responded lightheartedly that I'd not pay a premium for enjoying something I'd been enjoying for years for nothing at their establishment.

At this point my bartender's female partner handed me a menu. I thought she was looking to take our order for munchies and sat it on the bar, not being ready to order anything else. At which time she turned the menu over and pointed to some very fine print on the back of the menu. There, midway through a paragraph of print so small I had to get out my reading glasses, was a single sentence stating that cigar smoking was not allowed in their establishment.

I couldn't believe it. But, there it was in print so small it had to have been printed not to be noticed. Not wanting to offend anyone, I put my cigar down immediately and let it go out. However, I could not help but feel embarrassed and discriminated against. First, I was at the bar I had visited without incident with my cigar for well over a year, in a smoking area surrounded by at least two dozen cigarette smokers. Second, no one had complained (we had just arrived). Third, we were known to her partner to be both regular patrons, never obnoxious and always good tippers. This barkeep simply took it upon herself to point out this until now hidden rule.

That Friday's should feel the need for such a rule is, of course, its management prerogative. That they had chosen to ignore this rule for well over a year, allowing my lodge brothers and myself to smoke cigars in their restaurant without incident or complaint, had led me to believe that they were a cigar friendly establishment. Upon finding out that I was misinformed, I politely advised our barkeeps that while I took no offense, I had but one appropriate response to their policy, particularly in the manner that they informed me of it, and that this would be my last visit. After paying for and finishing my Scotch, I bade them farewell for the final time.

Marvin, I've written to both point out another establishment that needs to be put on your "cigar unfriendly" list and also to point out the manner in which they informed me. I feel that they were less than up-front. After all, fine print on the back of their menus so small as to be noticed by no one is hardly the way to let someone know you don't want their business. They could have at least been decent enough to post this policy in a manner and place so as to be noticed by all who patronize their restaurant and not to take my money for well over a year while allowing me to believe that it was perfectly acceptable to enjoy a fine cigar at their bar.

Perhaps by sharing my experience, a fellow cigar smoker might be spared my embarrassment and an otherwise fine establishment might see the benefit of revising its policies so as to make cigar smokers either welcomed, or more easily informed that they are not.

R.D. Taylor
Melbourne, Florida


Dear Marvin,

I began to appreciate and consistently enjoy fine cigars when my marriage broke up in 1994. Since then I have enjoyed many evenings with a cigar and nice music in the front yard, except for the times when my 5-year-old daughter is staying with me. I hadn't decided how I would deal with my cigar habits in regard to her innocent mind and the evils of smoking that we teach our children to be aware of. Until now.

Yesterday was my 33rd birthday. I picked up my daughter to start our week together and she presented me with a birthday gift that her mom had obviously provided for me. Inside, I was surprised to find a Cuban cigar. She helped me unwrap it and looked at me for a response. I didn't know quite what to say except a bewildered "Thank you, honey."

My daughter has seen issues of Cigar Aficionado in my house, but we never discussed them or read them together and I never smoked in front of her. She said her mommy told her I liked to smoke cigars and she enthusiastically asked me to smoke it right then. I deferred due to our hurried schedule and avoided it for the remainder of the day.

Today, however, she kept on me to "smoke it" like it was some amazing act I would perform for her. After some time of amazement at her persistence and some confusion and a bit of inner turmoil I conceded. We sat outside tonight with my flavored decaf coffee while I smoked and she dazzled in awe of this feat. She actually enjoyed the smell of the cigar (remember, she's only five years old). I explained to her that it's not "cool" to smoke and that it's something for adults only. She told me she just likes me to smoke cigars and she wouldn't like the taste of a cigar anyway.

She's asleep now. We both brushed our teeth and washed our faces. I'm still a bit shocked at what the night has brought. I don't plan to smoke when she's here anyway, because I like to smell nice in case she wakes up in the middle of the night and needs a hug. However, it was an amazing night. She's a very sweet, tender and loving little girl and she's already got a lot of class.

Robert Hunt
Fullerton, California


Dear Marvin,

Recently, while completing the final leg of a fabulous honeymoon vacation, fate led us to spend the night in Miami, Florida. Our flight returning from Jamaica was held over by U.S. Customs and we consequently missed our connecting flight to Cleveland. Evidently, some brilliant individual believed he would be able to import some controlled substances without being detected (not that I didn't sweat over the half-dozen Cohiba Esplendidos tucked in my carry-on bag). Fortunately, however, the culprit was not me, and my bride and I were treated to a night and a day in Miami by the airline.

The following morning, July 4th, we arose and decided to take a walk to the small merchandise mart attached to our hotel. While browsing through the many storefronts, we came upon a small corner cigar store. To my dismay, due to the holiday all stores were closed, with the exception of a small newsstand. As I was purchasing the summer edition of Cigar Aficionado, I noticed a short, gray-haired gentleman speaking Spanish, enjoying a cigar and conversing with the clerk. Boldly, I asked if either of them knew if the cigar store might open today. With a smile, the gentleman introduced himself, and stated that he was the owner of the shop and that unfortunately, it was closed for the day. Being that it was my honeymoon and that I was dying for a great smoke, I asked if he might open the store for my bride and I. Politely he agreed.

The following hour was one of the most delightful and educational experiences of the entire vacation. He spent the time educating me in the particulars of cigar manufacturing and etiquette and discussing our individual preferences. It came to be that after emigrating from Cuba, this fine gent continued his profession of creating fine handmade cigars. In fact, he rolls and packages cigars there in his store on a very limited basis. I stood as a bright-eyed young man absorbing as much knowledge about his beloved pastime as I could ingest. After our discussion, I purchased several of his coronas to place proudly in the humidor I had received as a wedding gift from my wife.

Since returning home, I have lit just one of the fine cigars, every puff bringing with it the memory of meeting such a fine man, who took the time to educate me and enrich me with his knowledge and love of our mutual pastime. Thank you, Mr. Quirantes.

Drew Tewksbury
Chagrin Falls, Ohio


Dear Marvin,

I am a 20-year-old college student who has recently found the joy of cigars. I admit my first indulgence was before the proper age of 18 years, feeding my rebellious attitude. My friends and I would share stories, card games and other events that made us, well, men. However, while my friends started to change to the cigarette mood, my mood stayed with the cigar. Finally reaching 18, I was legal to purchase my own goods. That's when I met one of my best friends of all my life. He shared my passion for the love of cigars, always purchasing a new brand every week and exploring the joy of tobacco.

We enjoy going to the local cigar shops once a week followed by a night at the dog track to enjoy a low college income of living. To us new cigar lovers we are a minority; sure, you'll see an 18- to 25-year-old smoking a stogie, but it is usually a $2 pack bought at the grocery store. My point is you have a new generation of cigar lovers coming up--it's not just for the old anymore! Recently, I have begun to spread my love to the older generation. My three brothers-in-law appreciated my love of Montecruz cigars that I purchased for a fishing trip to Wyoming. Now I have stirred up youthful memories of their college days, bringing them back to them, back to the love of a fine cigar.

Thomas Mckenna
Littleton, Colorado


Dear Marvin,

All was not lost on a rainy Memorial Day 1996.

As the day got more gray and the rain began to fall, we needed to change our outdoor plans, and we set out for a pleasant drive in the country settings of western Pennsyl-vania. As my two children slept in the back seat of the car and my wife peered out the window, I unwrapped a fine 7 1/2 inch Las Cabrillas Natural Honduran (compliments of my boss) and slowly savored the flavor without firing it up. (No smoking in the wife's car). I pondered how good life is and contemplated smoking this cigar upon my return home.

After an ice cream break, we returned home to prepare our evening dinner. I retreated to the porch to enjoy this fine cigar and enjoy some light talk radio. My 4-year-old daughter and I discussed the fact that some time ago brave soldiers fought long and hard so that we could enjoy our freedom, simple luxuries and settings like this. Although she didn't fully understand the entire concept, someday she will.

Hopefully she will also recall happy times sitting with her father as I enjoyed a cigar, and positive family conversations, many of which take place with a cigar in hand.

The holiday weekend will close shortly, but I don't think I'll ever forget this relaxing rainy day. I appreciated the fact of how the simple things in life--family, children, cigars and a rainy, but memorable Memorial Day--can make someone
so thankful.

Thank you, brave men and women, for fighting for our country and making this great day possible.

Thom Sepela
Zelienople, Pennsylvania


Dear Marvin,

A couple of weeks ago I was going through my semi-daily ritual of sitting at home in my easy chair, enjoying a nice Macanudo and listening to Chet Baker, while reading Cigar Aficionado, when out of the blue the doorbell rang. Not expecting anyone, and being somewhat annoyed at the disturbance of my "personal time," I hesitantly approached the door. As I opened the door my frustration turned to elation when I realized it was Harry, a childhood friend I had not seen in over 10 years.

He immediately noticed the fine aroma of my cigar and apologized for disturbing me. His apology made me realize that he, to, had become an aficionado, for only a cigar smoker himself knows the quiet pleasures of sitting alone and enjoying a good smoke. I invited Harry in and offered him a cigar with a glass of Port. Without hesitation he accepted the offer, and before long we were sitting in a cloud of smoke reminiscing about old times.

Since the evening was young, and we were both in a social mood, we decided to go to a local jazz bar to have a couple of drinks and listen to some nice music. As we approached the bar, Harry stopped just short of the entrance and handed me a cigar. He explained that it was a Cuban he had recently acquired (I didn't ask how) and was saving for a special occasion. I felt honored that he would share it with me. We immediately lit the cigars and proceeded into the bar.

Being at a jazz bar, I was confident that the smoking of cigars would not be a problem. Besides, there was already a thick haze of smoke in the air from all the cigarettes. We sat down at a table near the back, ordered some fine malt Scotch and puffed away on our little treasures. This truly was the best cigar I had ever tasted! It was so uncommonly smooth yet flavorful that I thought this must be what cigars in heaven are like. The band that night was excellent, I was with a good friend whose company I had missed the past few years, and the Scotch was going down like liquid honey. Nothing could disrupt this ambience.

Suddenly, I felt a tap on my shoulder from our waiter. He informed me that cigar smoking was not allowed at that establishment! My initial reaction was to laugh. After all, this was a jazz bar, the room was filled with cigarette smoke and no one in my immediate vicinity seemed to be bothered by our indulgence. I asked him why we had to extinguish our cigars. He gave us no legitimate reason other than stating it was the bar's policy. Not wanting to argue more, we agreed to let the cigars go out, and set them in an ashtray. As the waiter left, a couple sitting next to us told Harry and me that they were actually enjoying the fine aroma our Cubans were emitting. That did it. Now I was upset.

I went to the bar and asked to speak to the manager. A young man about my age (mid-20s) came out to the back room and approached me. I immediately asked him the reason behind the cigar smoking ban. He informed me that because he is offended by the smell of cigar smoke, he made the policy. I could not believe it, and immediately gave him a lecture about my belief that cigar smoking "offenses" should be handled on a case by case basis. For example, had someone sitting close to me been offended and asked me nicely to put out my cigar, I would have done so without hesitation. But to make a blanket policy based simply on the whim of the management is appalling.

After this little incident, Harry and I went back to my apartment and finished our cigars. At least there we could enjoy our Cubans, listen to good music and have a drink unencumbered. Needless to say, I will never again go to that bar.

Nils Kuehn
Ann Arbor, Michigan


Dear Marvin,

Allow me to first give you some background: I am a 21-year-old college junior who attends school in Memphis. I began smoking cigars in high school and have grown to become a true aficionado. Smoking has always been a

somewhat personal activity for me as it offers an outlet from the competitive academic environment which I am a part of. I often find myself in a deep meditative state while smoking and frequently discover myself doing the strangest things under their influence.

On July 19, 1996, I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of watching the Olympic torch as it was carried through my neighborhood. As I stood there smoking my Fuente and wondering why I was up at 3 a.m., it all became clear to me. I was going to be the first person to light a cigar off of the Olympic flame. Beautiful, I thought to myself.

I pushed my way to the front of the mob, politely moving forward. Reaching the police block, I figured my initial efforts of making contact with the torch were futile. I decided to hold my current position. I must have been there no longer than five minutes when one of the attending police officers approached me. He asked me what I was smoking. Looking down at my partially extinguished Fuente, I replied. The officer, astonishingly, went on to tell me all about his love for cigars and how his new wife had forced him to smoke in secrecy, as she did not like the "smell." Upon the completion of his story, I had nothing to say or do but offer him one of my Fuentes. What some would call unprofessional of an officer on duty, he accepted graciously. I felt compelled to tell him my plan, in hopes it would add to our conversation. After finishing, he exploded into roaring laughter. I waited for his response to my idea. "Maybe I can help you," he said.

I watched in awe as he guided me through the block into a special roped-off area. "The torch stops here for a moment for the runner switch, pictures and the rehydration of the last group of runners.You are on your own now, good luck!"

The torch stopped just as the officer said it would. However, I was still a bit unclear as to how I was going to pull this off. There were cops everywhere and the runners were never left unattended. At that point, I noticed a wooden rack containing the torch that was next in line to be carried. One of the attendants had poured some liquid fuel inside and lit the torch. I assume she did this to burn off any excess fuel before she extinguished the torch and handed it to the next runner. I quickly walked over to the flame and began roasting my stogie. Almost immediately, I drew looks of sheer horror. I felt two firm hands on my shoulder, while an authoritative voice said, "Come with me, son." To make a long story short, it was my police smoking buddy. He led me away from the area and began laughing again. He told me he would cover for me and to disappear before anything nasty happened. Needless to say, I was long gone before there was a problem. Oh, in case you were wondering, I did manage to light my cigar; however, I ended up dropping it somewhere as I fled the scene.

Name Withheld
Memphis, Tennessee


Dear Marvin,

I must admit I have not yet learned the fine art of smoking a cigar, but I have learned to appreciate the acquiring of a cigar as an art!

It all started when some Arab friends of mine wanted to introduce me to a very famous legend, who unfortunately will remain nameless, as he is not the key to this story. It's just that he, too, loves cigars. I was invited to his home for lunch. As I awaited his entrance, my palms soaked from nerves, I wondered what he was doing prior to my arrival. Then I heard his voice as he
apologized for the delay; he was finishing his mid-afternoon cigar and wanted to put it out before he met me. I thought it a gracious gesture, as I will now admit I believed it to be a nasty habit and thought that all cigars were disgusting! We proceeded to have lunch and a meeting that now ranks as one of the most memorable days of
my life.

A week or so later, I had a "chance" meeting with an incredible man. He is fascinating, very adventurous and I believe that we are truly soul mates. It was love at first sight. But for your purposes, his true attribute is that he is a cigar aficionado.

On our first evening he hosted a group of five to dinner. At the close of the meal, he asked if I objected to him smoking a cigar. Unlike the previous gentleman, he wanted to test my reaction. For some strange reason, I nodded my approval. He lit up an Avo No. 1. I was ready for the worst. Maybe it was him or just the way he handled the situation, but it was heaven. I had never experienced such a beautiful aroma. It certainly could not have been a cigar (remember, I thought they were disgusting). It was captivating, and so was he. Unfortunately, the restaurant asked us to leave. We moved to the lounge in the hotel and ordered an after-dinner drink and he (or we) continued to enjoy his cigar. We talked until dawn, mostly about cigars, and I was hooked.

Now the adventure begins. During the conversation he, not knowing my character, proposed a challenge. He began by telling us (yes, we still had an audience) about his favorite cigar, one that is impossible to obtain. One so difficult, he said, that Castro himself could probably not get it. Yes, it was a Cuban cigar, an Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona. It had to be a double corona. None of this meant anything to me, only the challenge. Then he sweetened the deal. He said, in front of the now much-appreciated witnesses, that he would marry me if I could get one, no, not one, but a box. He then laughed. Mind you, he was not being pretentious, he was merely emphasizing the fact that these cigars were special, very special. Well, to me this man is special, very special.

I began my quest for this rare cigar. I put out feelers to my resources in London. They said, no problem, we will get them for you. Great! Easy. Three days later the call came, "No cigar! These things are impossible!" Now what? I wasn't sure where to turn. I called the Arabs; they laughed. Now I was desperate. I was left to my own devices. Should have done that in the first place. I opened up the Yellow Pages and started dialing for dollars. I must have spoken to everyone in the country connected to cigars, even someone at your publication. Again, no cigar...

After spanning the globe, I began to search locally. I met my new best friend, who will also remain nameless for obvious reasons. Finally, he said, "Yes," I can get this cigar for you. Within hours I, not Castro, had a box of Hoyo de Monterey Double Coronas in my possession. The details on how I actually got them is enough material for another letter.

So what happened to Mr. Right? He does not live in the same city as I. We have spoken on the telephone and he knows (or thinks) that I have the cigars in question. It is an understatement to say that he is in shock!!! We will be meeting next week in an undisclosed location to celebrate. I will let you know how things develop. He has promised to now teach me the other side of cigars, smoking them.

I ask you, how many MEN does he know that would go to such extent to capture the essence of a fine cigar without even a puff? Maybe women learn the value of something fine before they acquire a taste for it. When I do take my first puff, I will have already a "unique" appreciation for the fine art of cigars. And a new friend, a "unique" man who introduced them into my life.

I look forward to finding my own special brand and hopefully it will be easier to obtain. Yes, after two weeks I am hooked and fascinated by the world of cigars and aficionados. I will end this saga by quoting something from your pocket guide (yes, I bought that, too) that I believe to be true: "Sharing a cigar with a friend becomes a stimulus for civilized conversation, a common ground where shared experience builds a bond."

A Cigar Aficionada
Las Vegas, Nevada


Dear Marvin,

Not surprisingly, the good times and new friendships created from the pleasure of smoking fine cigars is being undermined by the insurance industry. Namely, it's the life insurance industry. Recently, my life insurance agent notified me that smoking more than 12 cigars a year puts such an individual in a higher risk category, and is therefore subject to higher premiums. This sent me over the edge, particularly at a time when cigars are enjoyed by mostly upper-income, healthy individuals that have life insurance-- how convenient and profitable.

If the ban in many restaurants for cigar smoking wasn't bad enough, now the insurance industry plans to sink their teeth into our wallets by observing a preposterously low smoking tolerance level. Where is the justice? More importantly, do you have any medical evidence to help fellow cigar smokers counter their claims? I eagerly await your response.

William R. Little
Cazenovia, New York

Editor's Note: We ran a story about cigar friendly life insurance companies in the Autumn 1995 issue. Please check it out. There are still many alternatives for people whose life insurance companies try to unfairly lump them together with cigarette smokers.


Dear Marvin,

On June 22, 1996, I was vacationing at our camp in Tionesta, Pennsylvania, situated at the western edge of the Allegheny Forest. The camp itself is on an island in the middle of the Allegheny River. Around 10:30 p.m., I was sitting on the porch smoking my favorite cigar, a Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur No. 2. I was accompanied by family members that included my wife, son, sister-in-law and her husband. Everyone was very interested in my preoccupation with cigars, especially this one. My wife and sister-in-law wanted to puff on it mainly out of curiosity. I made a rare exception this time and agreed to it.

Cigars, to me, are personal things not usually passed around for people to puff on madly, making them hot, soft or otherwise abusing them. I like the way a cigar will take on the fit of my mouth and teeth after a few minutes and don't like anyone screwing that up. This cigar was recently lit, making it the most gentle time of the cigar for a beginner to try. My wife is accepting my cigar smoking very well and jokingly refers to them as "stogies."

I was more than halfway through my smoke when someone said, "Don't look now, but something is after you." To my amazement, a very large flying something was acting aggressively towards me. It had a four- or five-inch wingspan and a ring size 40 body. The porch lights were dim, making it difficult to see what sort of thing it was. Guesses ranged from a bat to a hummingbird to a wasp. I was in no mood to find out who or what it wanted, so I got out of my lounge chair and danced around like a rap singer/dancer/performer to avoid the thing. Everywhere I scrambled to, the trespasser did in like manner. I would evade its repeated lunges and it would fly right at me, relentlessly, again and again. There was only one thing left to do: retreat to the cabin. It chased me all the way there, as I slammed the screen door behind me, eluding it once again. After about one minute, everyone said the coast was clear and to come out. Within seconds after I came out, it reappeared from out of the inky darkness, lunging at me aggressively.

By the way, I never put down my trusty Excalibur. I even snuck in a puff or two along the way.

Someone noticed that when I puffed smoke through the screen, the creature would reappear only to flit around in the plume. When I held the Excalibur to the screen, it fluttered madly in front of it with a sort of urgency. It became obvious that he or she wanted the cigar and not me. My brave 9-year-old son grabbed a fishing net and temporarily subdued the intruder. The holes in the net were too large to contain it for long. In that brief moment, we could see it was a moth; a very big moth...or so we thought. I came out of the cabin again after much prompting from everyone.

After all, was I a man or a moth? They persuaded me to stand still and let the moth land on my cigar. The moth landed on my hand in-stead. Let me tell you, these were tense moments. If you are not accustomed to having large fuzzy creepy crawlers on you, this is a real experience. It may as well have been a tarantula.

The struggle could have been over with a swat, but that is too often the way people handle something they do not understand. We are there to observe the wildlife and respect it. We studied its brown and black colors for several minutes, increasingly becoming more comfortable with it. Then I shook it off to go to the cabin to retrieve my camera. By the time I retrieved it, it was too late; the furry buggy-eyed creepy crawler was gone forever, returning, once again, to its mysterious nighttime existence. My Excalibur was waning badly, about less than an inch long by this time. I hadn't another cigar to continue the experiment, partly because we had extended our stay an extra day, exhausting our supply.

My research revealed the culprit. I believe it was the five-spotted hawk (or sphinx) moth. When in the caterpillar stage, it is known as the tobacco or tomato hornworm. My guess is that the moth may have been looking for a place to lay its eggs (a tobacco plant, I presume).

I plan on going to camp again in the near future with Excaliburs and camera at the ready. I can't help but wonder if this happens to other cigar smokers. I've had other cigars at camp at night but never to this effect. I feel justified somehow that even wildlife can enjoy a good smoke.

David A. McLaughlin
No Address Given


Dear Marvin,

This summer I completed a performance-based admissions program at a North Carolina law school. From talking with people who had been through the same program (some passed and some did not), I was advised not to trust anyone, to study alone, etc. Needless to say, I was not looking forward to the experience. More to the point, I enjoy my close friends, and the lack of which was not something I looked forward to.

Fortunately, the law program was not as I had been told. Yes, the work was intense, demanding all hours of the day and night, but I enjoy learning and was completely at home. At the end of the seven-week period, admission to the fall term of law school is determined by the results of two exams. My intentions were to abstain from cigars until after exams; then I would celebrate with a fine cigar. Unfortunately, upon completion of the exams I knew there was nothing to celebrate. It would be two weeks before I received the official results, but I knew.

It is ironic that though I didn't get into law school this fall, I still aced the summer program because I proved the naysayers wrong and left the experience with a truly remarkable friend.

A few days after the dreaded letter arrived, I went to spend a few days with my friend, Steve, and his girlfriend, Barbara. (Steve was accepted and I plan to improve my skills and reapply). It was just like old times for he and I. It seems as if we have known each other for years, and Barbara is simply the greatest.

During the drive to Steve's I realized that there was a reason to celebrate after all, so I stopped at a tobacconist to buy my favorite Arturo Fuente cigars. To my dismay they were out, so I had to settle for another brand that I buy when this problem arises. After dinner on the last night of my stay, I asked Steve to join me for a cigar on the veranda. He had never smoked a cigar before but appreciates the finer things in life and was thus eager to savor the experience. As I mentioned, the cigars were not my first or even second choice, but I never enjoyed one more than I did that evening.

Sam Middleton Jr.
Laurinburg, North Carolina


Dear Marvin,

Thanks so much for your in-depth article on Arnold Schwarzenegger. I am one of his biggest fans and it was great to learn some new things about his pathway to success. I found your article to be engaging, objective and straightforward. Keep up the good work!

Maria Kelly
Bronx, New York