I am a police officer in Southern California. Approximately two years ago, I was forced to shoot and kill a mentally deranged woman who was attacking my partner with a knife. The incident, which lasted only a few minutes, finally concluded last month after a jury found that my actions were justified. The two years between the shooting and the civil trial (I was sued by the woman's son) were stress-filled, but were also filled with an outpouring of emotional support from my family, fellow officers and many citizens, most of whom were complete strangers.
One of the many things which made the past two years bearable was what I would like to call the "Brotherhood of the Cigar." Many a night on patrol found a lull in the action, which was then filled by myself and several of my fellow officers sharing cigars, usually La Unica 100s or Cuba Aliados robustos, with an occasional La Gloria Cubana (whenever we could find them). Those times allowed me to talk about the incident, which tremendously lessened the stress I felt. More often than not our impromptu "therapy" sessions were ended by an urgent call for service, usually a shooting or stabbing.
Another stress reliever was being able to attend several cigar dinners sponsored by one of the local tobacco shops. To be able to spend an evening in the company of others enjoying a fine dinner, fine wines and more than satisfactory cigars, conversing about simple pleasures, was "just what the doctor ordered." In fact, one of the jurors in my trial was dismissed by the other side because he had met me at one of the dinners.
Another benefit from those nights was the start of a great friendship with the proprietor of the sponsoring shop, a fellow former Marine named Odell "Smitty" Smith. Many a time I would go into his shop to purchase my weekly supply of cigars, only to spend an enjoyable hour just talking. His understanding, compassion and support was, and is, a priceless commodity.
It did not take the jury long to deliberate and conclude that I had no other option that spring night in protecting a fallen officer. Immediately after the verdict, I called my wife with the good news. The second thing I did was to go to a fast food drive through, buy lunch and go to Smitty's store. I gave Smitty the news, ate my lunch and then purchased a Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur No. 1. That was the best smoke I'd had in two years! There isn't a better celebration than a cigar smoked in the company of a good soul.
Darryl George Wood
* * *
I am a 24-year-old gay man who lives in New York City. I began smoking cigars when a professor of mine at New York University handed them out to celebrate the birth of his baby boy. I was 19 at the time, and my five-year cigar smoking journey has been one of the most exciting and rewarding adventures of my life.
Sadly, I have come across many people who make sweeping judgments about me both because I am gay and because I smoke cigars. It is ironic, Marvin, how similar these judgments are! In fact, many of your heterosexual readers have a very good idea how it feels to be gay in America because of the fact that they smoke cigars and receive the same type of persecution.
I have sat on a park bench smoking a fine cigar when someone who is walking by has turned to me and given me an angry sneer. How fragile these individuals must be if their afternoons are so quickly ruined by smelling cigar smoke for a split second as they pass me on a park bench! I still remember the day when a very large woman lectured me about how my health would suffer if I continued to smoke. I don't know about her, but I work out at the gym three times a week, swim three times a week, roller blade every day and eat a low-fat diet.
The hope for tolerance that all cigar smokers have is very similar to the hope that my gay brothers and sisters have. All we want is for people to realize that our private behavior neither affects nor concerns them in any way, shape or form, and that the United States of America was founded on the idea that every citizen may engage in his or her own personal pursuit of happiness unencumbered by others who may disagree with their ways.
The cigar and gay rights movements have a lot in common. In unison, we should all get together and tell the government to stay out of our smoking rooms and out of our bedrooms. It really is true that when we fight for the rights of one group, we are in turn fighting for the rights of all.
New York, New York
* * *
For quite some time now I have been enjoying the company of a good smoke after a long and stressful day at work. I enjoy smoking cigars as much as I do purchasing them, touching them, and smelling them. As a single male under the age of 30, I try to socialize as much as possible. My career and my future are very important to me. I also realize how unacceptable smoking is in today's world. I seem to be in a generation that is split down the center, creating two factions: the smoke haters and the smoke lovers.
In the past six weeks a friend of mine has decided to try the time-honored ritual of cigar smoking. She was very impressed with the taste and now looks forward to a cigar as much as I do. Lately my friend and I have been going to a secluded local restaurant/bar to sample different drinks and cigars during the week. I have always, and will always, smoke cigars where others are not bothered by the aroma. If I know that someone around me is bothered by my smoke, I don't enjoy my cigar as much as I should. I have always been a considerate cigar smoker.
This same friend of mine had a birthday last week, and I received an invitation for a formal dress party in her honor. As my gift to her I purchased several cigars that I felt she would enjoy. As she opened the gift around a crowd of people, she thanked me and appreciated the time I spent in selecting the cigars. Her sister immediately stood up and began to ridicule me in front of everybody for forcing a bad habit on someone else. As I glanced around the room, all private discussions had stopped and attentions were in my direction. As the uncontrolled sister spoke on, her voice became more intense. She was actually telling everyone in the room that I had forced someone to smoke cigars and my gift was proof.
As I drove home that evening I began to wonder about forcing beliefs on others. It was obvious that she felt it was my fault that her sister started smoking cigars. I was the "bad guy," because she knows that her sister can make her own decisions in life regardless of other opinions. There is one simple point to be made about this situation. She feels that I am forcing a belief on someone else, yet that is exactly what she was doing to me.
Sean P. Klunder
Lake Forest, Illinois
* * *
I am a 20-year-old college student and cigars are my life. Or, should I say, my livelihood.
Since the age of 14, I have been working for my uncle's tobacco distribution company, where he deals primarily with premium cigars and fine pipe tobaccos. I am, more or less, his right-hand man.
Given my surroundings, becoming a cigar smoker was inevitable and proved to be enjoyable. I have had the privilege of working with classy, interesting people who have supported my enthusiasm by giving me fantastic cigars to try. Needless to say, this is a great job for a young cigar smoker to have.
Being a middleman company, I don't get to see our cigar smoking public, though I know it is there, and multiplying; I'd have to be blind not to see the increase in demand over the past few years (due largely in part to Cigar Aficionado), as we get a shipment of cigars in and sell out within hours.
Last month, I had the opportunity to attend several cigar affairs held at fine retail establishments, and finally met some of the people who make this smoking chain all possible. Contrary to the demonization of cigar smokers through the media, I found those who attended to be articulate, successful folks who liked to enjoy good company and some of the finer things in a comfortable atmosphere. I have never really connected with my peers and could never understand the fun in excessive drinking and partying. I prefer the relaxed, refined style of cigar smokers. It is a good time without having to work yourself into a frenzy in order to have fun. And not one person imposed his good time on everyone else.
The people I have met through the cigar industry have only given me a greater sense of pride in what we do.
Roger Matthew Kunkle
* * *
Recently, I was invited to a wedding in Pasadena, California. Knowing how strict (ridiculous) smoking laws are in California, I was quite pleased to see that the reception was being held at Bistro 45; Bistro 45 is listed in your Guide to Cigar Friendly Restaurants as allowing cigars on the patio.
Shortly after my arrival, I smelled the aroma of a fine cigar and followed my nose to the patio where I found pastry chef David Berg enjoying a good cigar. After a brief discussion with him concerning the smoking laws of California, the pleasure of a great cigar, etc., we agreed to meet after the dinner to enjoy fine Macanudos together.
After a lovely reception and a wonderful dessert (thank you, David), I adjourned to the patio for my after-dinner smoke with chef Berg. We had barely begun to enjoy our cigars when the manager approached me and advised me that cigar smoking was not permitted. I reminded him that he was listed in the Cigar Aficionado guide as a cigar friendly establishment. The manager affirmed that they do permit cigars on the patio when the restaurant is "open," however, since the restaurant was "closed" for a private function (for which I was an attendee and had been given permission to smoke by the host), he would not permit cigars. Once again, the logic of Californians is beyond belief!
Since the management of Bistro 45 obviously had no sense and since I did not want to jeopardize my newfound friend's career, I thought it futile to pursue the issue any further.
On the advice of my cigar comrade, we adjourned to the back alley of the restaurant and continued smoking our cigars among the dumpsters and used, rusting kitchen equipment. The chef had a table and chairs brought to the alley where we resumed our cigars over a fine Cognac.
Although this episode initially upset me considerably, the panache of enjoying my cigar with a new friend and a fine Cognac in the back alley resulted in a new and unusual cigar experience.
I write this letter to affirm to you the true camaraderie of cigar smokers the world over. In addition, I would respectfully request that you remove Bistro 45 from your directory of cigar friendly restaurants.
E.M. Gullia, M.D.
* * *
My Good Cigar
My window open and to the sea,
silent companions, thoughts, and thee,
fire that burns so close, yet far,
the glorious scent of my good cigar!
The Atlantic swells and south winds blow,
my heart tells warm with your leaves aglow,
and as dusk turns to night and the sea grows weary,
I gather my thoughts with cigar held near me!
Joseph C. Nemie Jr.
* * *
Your letter to me regarding the India Allen article (Spring 1995) was most gracious and sincere. I also appreciate your having taken the time and trouble to correspond with me.
I have always been proud of my charter subscriber status, and the decision to cancel my subscription was not an easy one. After reading your letter I felt compelled to make yet another, more pleasurable, decision: Please reinstate my subscription!
Your apology was both well-meaning and well-timed, and as a result, I am once again a fan of, and friend to, Cigar Aficionado. Let us continue to live long and prosper together.
Christopher S. Tyler
* * *
The article "Ladies and Cigars" in the Summer issue took me back to a hot August night last year at Giants Stadium.
The Rolling Stones were about to open their Voodoo Lounge show. I was there with four good friends, and in a rare moment of sexism on my part, I offered Steve, Mike and Tim Arturo Fuentes, and excluded Brigitte. Suddenly, she looked at me, saying, "And what? I can't have one because I'm a woman?" I quickly handed her a Fuente and she proceeded to light up.
As Mick completed his first song, Brigitte turned to me and said, "I can't believe I'm at a Rolling Stones concert in Giants Stadium with a Roman Catholic priest, smoking a cigar." She was right. It didn't get much better than that.
Since then, I have repented of the sin of sexism, and Brigitte and I have enjoyed many Arturo Fuentes together.
Thanks for Cigar Aficionado. It is a class act!
Reverend David J. Faraone
Sodus, New York
* * *
You will receive a package in a few days: Contents--two wooden cigar boxes, one cigar holder and a cigar cutter.
The inscription on the latter is in Czech and translates:
For the 50th Year
It was bought in 1915.
These items were discovered as I helped Mildred Vainer clean and sell her house after her sister Henrietta died in May 1994.
We had planned to sell them, but I saw you on the CNN program "Pinnacle" and was so impressed! I told Mildred about you and we decided it would be special to send her grandfather's cutter to you as you are a collector of cigar accessories. We thought the boxes and the holder might be of interest to you too.
Mildred Vainer is 87. She was eight and her sister, seven, when they gifted their grandfather with the cutter. Neither sister married and they lived together until now. Mildred must go into a home now and it has been a sad thing to close their house and move on.
It has made her happy to pass something on to someone who will find some joy in its possession.
I bought a copy of Cigar Aficionado to get your address. It is a classy magazine as would befit the height of smoking elegance.
Wishes for reaching more "Pinnacles."
Willoughby Hills, Ohio
Editor's response: My thanks to you and Mildred for thinking of me.
* * *
I always look forward to the next issue of Cigar Aficionado. But when I saw that your Spring issue included a review of the best poker rooms in all of gaming, I was even more excited than usual.
Of course, ratings of any sort are extremely subjective. However, I would like to note that author Jim Maroe was unfortunately just a few weeks early in his quest to find Atlantic City's finest place for poker play. On April 7, superstars Willie Mays and Paul Anka helped The Grand, owned by Bally's, open our new casino, which includes Atlantic City's most refined poker room. Among the more striking features of our new 16-table room are boardwalk-level, floor-to-ceiling windows that offer a panoramic view of our beautiful beach and ocean (the only such view in Atlantic City).
Like Cigar Aficionado itself, we at The Grand pride ourselves in catering to an exclusive audience. And we are confident that your readers, and all discerning poker players, will thoroughly enjoy our new poker room. After all, since The Grand is already the Atlantic City home for another Cigar Aficionado fan, Bill Cosby, where else would a self-respecting cigar lover play?
Joseph C. Jimenez
Executive Vice President
The Grand, Atlantic City, New Jersey
* * *
Having just passed my first quarter century of cigar smoking, it is time to share with my fellow cigar aficionados the top 10 reasons why it still pays to smoke a cigar in New York City.
Reason #10--The dog gets a lot more exercise.
Reason #9--Nobody throws red paint at you.
Reason #8--Your wife never smells perfume on your clothes.
Reason #7--The "pooper-scooper" law doesn't apply to cigar butts.
Reason #6--It's a great way to meet Cuban women.
Reason #5--It's a great way to meet Cuban men.
Reason #4--Your wife's lawyer keeps conferences to less than 10 minutes.
Reason #3--When you fall asleep on the bench at the mall, people save your cigar.
Reason #2--You seldom have to see your mother-in-law.
Reason #1--You get thrown out of some of the finest restaurants.
Harry N. Turk
New York, New York
* * *
I read with great interest your Editor's Note in the Spring 1995 issue.
The U.S. government, somewhere along the way, decided the length of life is far more important than the quality of life. Our government considers average Americans unable to make our own decisions or take responsibility for our own actions. It must look after our best interest.
We have become so weak that the government continually succeeds in imposing foolish regulations upon activities deemed dangerous to our health. But where will it stop? A person doesn't smoke, so why worry about liberties being removed from a smoker? A person doesn't like wine, so why worry about laws regulating the consumption of wine? It won't affect me, will it? Perhaps not, but who will stand with you when it does?
Soon the fragrance of perfume or aromas wafting through a dining room might be considered, by some, a form of secondary air pollution. I can just imagine the "Government Warning" signs in restaurants. Can you picture our media-hungry politicians setting up public hearings as they rake Oscar de la Renta over the coals? Perhaps a special independent council to investigate Julia Child.
Alexander Hamilton said, "Real liberty is neither found in despotism or in the extremes of democracy but in moderate government."
The country has spent the last 219 years on a pendulum that has swung from "despotism" to "the extremes of democracy." We all should fight, not only for moderate government, but also for a moderate understanding that, for some, "the superfluous is a very necessary thing."
Timothy J. McCormick
* * *
In the Spring 1993 issue of Cigar Aficionado, you featured an article written by my employer, an ear, nose and throat surgeon. At that time, I was a nonsmoker, but since then, I too have come to enjoy a good cigar. As his nurse, I find it interesting to share ideas with him about different cigars that we have tried. My favorites, so far, have been Punch and Arturo Fuente. My husband has also become a cigar smoker. It's quite nice after our evening meal, to relax together, smoke a cigar and discuss the day's events. While others may prefer a glass of Cognac or brandy, I personally enjoy my cigar with a piece of fine chocolate. I am also the proud owner of a Cigar Aficionado T-shirt, given to me by my boss. Whenever I wear it, it draws attention and some unique conversation from other smokers. Cigars have become a very interesting "hobby" and added a relaxation and pleasure to my life that even up until very recently, I never thought I would have considered. We enjoy your magazine very much and anxiously await each issue.
* * *
The first time I saw a cover of Cigar Aficionado, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. My first thought was that some fool had taken leave of his senses and must be trying to commit financial suicide.
I mean, how many guys are there like me who wait until they are halfway down the first hole before they dig a cigar out of their golf bag? It is a way of making sure that only the guys playing with them will know their dirty little secret. And how many guys are there like me who fly-fish all over the world in remote places, so we can smoke cigars in solitude, and maybe get lucky by snagging a box of Montecristos in a duty-free zone on the way home?
Well, I bought the issue with Cosby on the front, and as I moved through the pages, I felt the weight of a 100-pound gorilla come off my back. I know now what it must feel like for a gay man to come out of the closet and admit his sexual preference. I felt the same way when I learned how many people share my passion for fine cigars. And now, each time I read another edition, I feel completely uplifted and welcomed as a man.
I know your magazine is a huge and rightful factor in the explosive renaissance of cigar smoking, but I often wonder if part of the fun of smoking a big fat cigar is the feeling of giving a big fat finger to the increasingly strident voice of feminism in this overly sensitive and humorless time we are living in.
I doff my cap and raise my glass to you for the brass balls it took to step up to the plate and produce Cigar Aficionado. Only Amadeus comes to mind in the least likely to succeed category--an awesome achievement.
William S. Bishop
La Quinta, California
* * *
My cigar memory goes back to two days in 1972. Mike and I had just graduated from high school in Concord, California. Thanks to Jack Kerouac, we knew that we had to get on the road. We hitchhiked up to my aunt and uncle's house in Bellevue, Washington, and after a day layover, we headed for Canada via Port Angeles and the ferries.
Everything was fresh and new to us: the ferry ride across beautiful Puget Sound, the arrival at Bainbridge Island with the greenest grass and the golden Scotch broom. We hiked along with our packs, catching frequent, short rides from the islanders. A couple of college kids passed us three times; each time, they wouldn't give us a ride, but instead gave us a beer. Walking along, we came upon a roadside stand selling fresh raspberries, and we thought we were in heaven. Finally we made it to Port Angeles and walked on to the ferry just as it finished loading for the trip to Victoria.
I don't remember a lot more about that day except that we ended up at a youth hostel in Victoria. The next day started a lifetime love affair with Victoria. We walked through downtown to the waterfront. The city was remarkably clean and the natives friendly. With graceful old buildings and flowers hanging from lampposts, here was an urban setting as splendid as the country we had just come through.
That afternoon, with instructions from a knowledgeable local, we picked up some Silver Springs beer from the government liquor store and then found a tobacco shop. We bought Cuban cigars that the clerk recommended. I wish I could remember what brand they were, but they were BIG. We took the beer, cigars and some postcards, and climbed into an empty freight car sitting in a siding. We sat, drinking, smoking the mild flavorful cigars and writing our letters home. There is a sort of golden haze around these memories, and I can still taste the cigar and beer. That trip had a lot more ups and downs in store for us, but those two days alone would have made it all worthwhile.
Keep up the good work, and remember: Life's too short for bad cigars.
* * *
I enjoyed reading about Mike Johnson's cigar experience ["Out of the Humidor," Cigar Aficionado, Summer 1995] on one of our flights to London.
Our flight attendants are required to follow rules of the Federal Aviation Administration, various international regulatory authorities and the regulations and rules as written by my own airline. One of those rules is that only cigarette smoking is allowed on designated smoking flights. Sorry Mike, we don't make all the rules, but as flight crew members we sure do have to enforce them! In fact, there are pressures mounting to eliminate smoking on all flights, including long international trips.
I am sorry if Mike Johnson had an unpleasant experience on one of our flights. I hope he will do what I am going to do this evening: retrieve one of his cigars (in my case a properly humidified Te-Amo No. 7), light up and reflect on how great life is when you still have the opportunity to relax and enjoy a favorite smoke.
Captain American Airlines
* * *
From my journal of 4/23/95, San José del Cabo, Mexico, our first day there:
As I sit here, pondering the words I am about to etch onto this page, I am humbled by the simplicity of the issues that make us friends and the fine line that makes one an enemy.
Two evenings ago, I sat in the bar of the Tropicana in San José del Cabo, Mexico, drinking a poorly made 1800 Margarita and smoking a Montecristo No.4. It was my third Cuervo following four Pacificos earlier in the afternoon, thus allowing my mind to settle in with these Baja surroundings. Diane (my wife) was spending most of the burning moments with our Cuban masterpiece, and it caught someone's eye.
Her name was Denise, a transplanted born-again local from Canada with enchanting turquoise blue eyes whose sole purpose that night was to point us in the right direction and then make sure we got there safely. Drawn over by the cigar, she said that anyone smoking a Montecristo would be interested in the best that San José had to offer. Indeed we were. The evening that followed was quite the local sightseeing, barhopping tour. First night in town, being introduced to all the locals and touring their favorite hangouts, who was going to argue with this? All the while being chauffeured by Joseph, Denise's fun-loving expatriate mate.
New friends drawn together by a Montecristo. It seems so unlikely, and yet it is so common for something so simple to have a meaningful effect on people. Lines across the earth; who rules the heavens; who deserves to exist unmolested based on their heritage. None of the above should separate people, and in reality just a cigar should not forge a friendship. But it does.
Pacific Palisades, California
* * *
Both my husband and I have been reading this magazine for the past year, and we both appreciate the taste of a good cigar or pipe from time to time. We also both appreciate the articles you publish.
In reading the responses to the Spring 1995 India Allen article, I am frankly appalled. I have read from women who claim that they do all they can to educate their families, but will not allow them to appreciate art. I have read from gentlemen who cannot appreciate form for what it is. I am only sorry that these people are so narrow-minded and bigoted as to blind their senses to the art portrayed by Ms. Allen. In the beginning of the article, it blatantly advertised her former publication credits. At this time, anyone who did not wish to read this article should either have removed the appropriate pages or turned past them to the next article.
I am shocked at the ignorance of individuals who cannot appreciate the beauty of the human body as portrayed by God, Monet, Gauguin and other master artists, past and present. I also sincerely hope that these individuals never have the opportunity to visit an art museum, as I do not wish to have their senses offended or to have some of history's most treasured monuments removed by the same mentality that authorized book burning for the sight of "that word" or "that attitude" toward other people.
I can only hope that Cigar Aficionado keeps up its high standard of articles so that my husband and I can continue to appreciate the caliber of writing that we have become accustomed to.
Rebecca I. Penney
North York, Ontario Canada
* * *
One of the most overlooked discriminations against cigar smokers is in the area of insurance. It is truly an outrage. Just about all insurance companies charge cigar and pipe smokers the same life insurance rates as they do cigarette smokers. They just lump everyone together. I even know of an insurance company that gives a nonsmoker discount for auto insurance--AUTO INSURANCE!
I suppose that they're afraid someone will fall asleep at the wheel while smoking and set their car on fire. Who knows, then they're liable to hit someone else and set their car ablaze.
Generally, the insurance industry has a serious perception problem regarding smokers. They not only raise the bogus health issues concerning cigar smokers, but perceive smokers, on the whole, as irresponsible. Nationally, this misconception costs cigar smokers millions.
This past April, I spent one of the most enjoyable evenings of my life at the famous Bookbinder's 15th Street Seafood House in Philadelphia. The occasion was a cigar and spirits dinner presented by J.R. Cigars. Hosts Richard Bookbinder and J.R. Cigars owners Michael and Sam Driban provided a truly memorable evening.
I sat at a table with some of the most intelligent and articulate gentlemen and their wives that I have ever met. It struck me that I was sitting with anything but irresponsible people. Through our conversation, I discovered that these gentlemen were all physicians and surgeons at one of Philadelphia's finest hospitals. These were very responsible people, indeed. As I watched them enjoy their cigars, it pretty much put the health issue to rest as well.
I love cigars and I love cigar smokers! I urge all cigar smokers not to deal with insurance companies that blatantly discriminate against you. Only do business with agents and brokers who will give you the best deals on all your coverage as a smoker.
Besides, just think of all the extra cigars you can buy with the savings.
Brian Johnson, Agent O'Neill Insurance Agency
Voorhees, New Jersey
Editor's response: I'm also outraged by the discriminatory policies of insurance companies. There is simply no justification for them to lump cigar smokers into the same categories as cigarette smokers. There are some companies, however, that continue to treat cigar lovers equitably. Please check out our survey of some major life insurance companies on page 334.
* * *
I first smoked a cigar during the summer of 1985. I was working for a private club in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, when I saw a waitress bring the chef a $1.00 cigar from the front; I thought it would be cool to try one.
About a year ago, my family bought a liquor store in Covina, California, and my father, brother and I have been running it. Shortly after we bought the store, a very prominent attorney began to frequent the store and request certain cigars. Through talking with him, I've learned a little about cigars, mostly that you can enjoy them on a daily basis. Garcia y Vega maduros quickly became my favorite everyday smoke.
A few months ago, the attorney came in and said he had tried a Partagas Humitube at a smoker and asked if I could carry them. He was very pleased when I called him a few days later and told him his cigars were in. He knew that I had an interest, so he very generously gave me one to try. Needless to say, I bought a box for myself and when I want to treat myself that's what I choose.
Like everyone else who enjoys a good smoke, I too have been scrutinized by nonsmokers about my newfound pleasure, especially by the women I've dated. Now, however, I've finally found the perfect woman. A couple of weeks ago, she came to my apartment after I closed the store. I'd had a particularly frustrating day, so I grabbed a Partagas Humitube and a glass of Crown Royal and went down to the Jacuzzi. This gem of a woman grabbed the bottle and followed me down. I eased into the Jacuzzi and lit my cigar. After we talked a bit she swiveled around to sit on my lap and took my cigar and gave it a try. My God, that was the most beautiful sight ever. For the next hour, we made love under the stars while sharing great whiskey and a wonderful cigar. That night I knew I was in love.
Covina, California Return to this Issue's Contents