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Out of the Humidor

| By CA Readers | From Ron Perelman, Spring 95

Dear Marvin,

I am reading my first copy of Cigar Aficionado. My mentor, Bill Cosby, is featured on the cover. Like Cosby, I'm a comedian, and like most of America, I admire him very much. In fact, when I'm onstage, people say I remind them of Cosby. We're both distinguished black comedians, but my cigar is bigger.

I must thank you for providing me with new material for my act. Your letters to the editor provide a wealth of creative information. Two letters in particular give me cause to celebrate.

The man who gave up smoking cigars because his wife objected is a hoot and a ninny. The real kicker is that he's so happy now that his wife allows him to smoke again. Her reason for letting him smoke? Rush Limbaugh smokes. I would divorce her. To him, it's a reason to celebrate. Is he a mouse? Cigars are too good for him. Cigars are for people with convictions. Instead of smoking cigars like real men do, he should be dipping snuff like the old women in my neighborhood.

Then there is the letter from a woman who nagged her husband until they reached a compromise on his cigars. She changed her tune when she saw Rush enjoying a cigar. That, in her mind, made it OK for her husband to smoke ci-gars. I love my wife, and I love my cigars, but if my wife suggested she would tolerate my cigars only because Bill Cosby or Rush Limbaugh smokes ci-gars, I would be outraged. I would stop smoking them just because she suggested that I conform my standards to others.'

I can't believe men would allow their wives to control their personal habits, and I would like to write more on the need for these gentlemen to assert themselves, but my wife says I have to go to bed now. At least before I do, she'll let me go to the garage and light up an Onyx No. 852.

Albert N. Linton
Houston, Texas

* * *

Dear Marvin,

I'm a Chicago cop of 27 years. I've spent 20 years on the mounted unit. I'm a family man, a cigar smoker, a Scotch drinker, a wine drinker, and I love the horses, and I love to hunt. I can't make the Washington, D.C., Big Smoke on March 1 in Lafayette Park--but I'll be there in my heart. Kick ass.

Joe Thibault
Chicago, Illinois

* * *

Dear Marvin,

As was my Friday-evening custom, I found myself smoking a cigar and sipping a fine Scotch at a respectable bar in downtown San Francisco. At a certain point, I was interrupted by a well-dressed and ostensibly well-mannered gentleman who objected to my cigar smoke. I politely informed him that it was the bar's policy to allow cigar smoking and that if he was displeased, he could move to the other end of the bar or speak to the management.

A most pleasurable half hour passed. But I was then confronted again by this now irate man, who apprised me of the fact that he was a Green Beret and would rip my heart out if I did not extinguish my cigar immediately. Maintaining a calm demeanor, I pointed out that my cigar was nearly at its climax and within approximately 10 minutes his wish would be granted. Showing no appreciation for the sublime, he began to utter an ethnic slur, to which I took offense. Needless to say, having now twice been slandered, I did the only thing an honorable man could do under the circumstances and laid him out cold.

No doubt our Green Beret friend will think twice before trying to snuff out the pleasure of another cigar smoker.

D. L.
Seattle, Washington

* * *

Dear Marvin,

Let me introduce myself. My name is Brother E. Barry Bartkowiak, F.S.C. As you can see from my title, I am a member of a religious order of men known internationally as De La Salle Christian Brothers. In the United States we are known simply as Christian Brothers or the Brothers of the Christian Schools. Our institute was founded in 1781 by John Baptist De La Salle, and our mission in the Church is one of education, primarily the education of the poor.

As a Christian Brother, I live in a community with a group of men who dedicate their entire lives to the Christian education of youth. An integral part of the life of a Christian Brother is the profession of canonical vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. By these vows, I promise to live a simple life in the service of others.

As a Christian Brother, all of my basic needs are met by the community. However, anything out of the ordinary must be taken care of by the individual brother. To accomplish this task, I am given a monthly stipend of $100. As you can imagine, this does not go far in the present economy.

Marvin, I do enjoy smoking cigars. I usually smoke two or three cigars a day. Generally, I smoke a cigar after a long day in the classroom, another after dinner, and I usually enjoy a third in the evening while preparing lessons. Smoking a cigar is one of the most relaxing things I can do for myself.

While on vacation at home with my family (I was raised in Baltimore), I purchased Cigar Aficionado at a local tobacco shop. I found it to be very interesting reading and have purchased every issue to date. I often think of how wonder-ful it would be to be able to smoke some of the premium cigars you rate and advertise in your wonderful magazine. Unfortunately, because of my limited stipend, I can only afford inexpensive cigars.

I have been amazed by the enthusiasm of cigar smokers for the Big Smokes that have been conducted in various cities across the United States. I have thought to myself how great it would be to participate in one of these special events.

Currently I am assigned to our high school in Washington, D.C. At last, a Big Smoke is coming to the nation's capital. I would so very much like to attend, but personal finances do not allow me the luxury of spending $125 for one evening.

Mr. Shanken, to be able to join you and other "cigar aficionados" at the Big Smoke in Washington would truly be an unforgettable experience for me. Would it be possible for you to send me a complimentary ticket to this wonderful event? Needless to say, I would be most appreciative of your generosity.

Looking forward to hearing from you. Looking forward to meeting you on March 1. Looking forward to sharing a cigar with a real gentleman.

Bro. E. Barry Bartkowiak
Washington, D.C.

Editor's Note: By the time you read this, you will be enjoying the cigars that I sent to you and planning your attendance at the Big Smoke. And I look forward to meeting you there.

* * *

Dear Marvin,

My wife and I just came back from our annual Caribbean cruise. As is my habit, we went above deck at 10 p.m. every night, enjoying the warm Caribbean night as I lit up my Partagas No. 1. One night a young lady pulled up a lounge chair after I had lit up. A few minutes went by and the stranger announced, "I think it is so rude to smoke cigars in a public place." This in the midst of several trillion cubic feet of air to dissipate my offending smoke. I calmly replied that one of the greatest things about being an American was the right to express one's opinion, no matter how stupid. She calmly explained she was not American. I noted that this was a bitter blow for our country. The cigar remained lit, and she left.

Marvin, normally I try to take into account the feelings and rights of others. But on the high seas, in international waters, in, literally, international airspace? Enough, already.

Marc M. Jarkow
Seattle, Washington

* * *

Dear Marvin,

Years ago, the Army used to have a monthly event called Dining In. All the officers of a command, usually a battalion, would assemble in their blue uniforms for a formal dinner and cigars afterward. All topics of conversation relating to duty were forbidden. It was an opportunity for the commanding officer to observe his subordinates in a social setting and note their social skills. After years of attending these monthly events, it was an old colonel who confided to me that the cigars were not for smoking but for judgments.

The colonel explained that the way a man smoked or did not smoke his cigar spoke volumes about his personality. If he declined the cigar, it showed he was afraid to speak up. If he made a big fuss over it, he was deemed to be an ass kisser. If he let the ashes spill all over the place, unmindful and careless. If he chewed it, he was giving notice he wanted to be seen as tough. If he sat and enjoyed it without comment, he was content to sit back when things were going well; if he gestured with it, theatrical. If he let it go out, it showed he couldn't sustain. Holding it unlighted showed he wanted to be part of the group but not in all aspects. Blowing smoke rings occasionally meant he had a sense of humor. All of this observed behavior was melded to what was already observed, and it could determine whether the officer would be mentored for greater responsibility.

Was it of value? In any old-boy network, there are rules. You can make it to lieutenant colonel on your own merit and excellent work. But to make it to full bull and beyond, you need friends. Friends who invariably smoke cigars.

Col. R. Sherman (retired)
Baltimore, Maryland

* * *

Dear Marvin,

I used to be one of the rabid antismoking Nazis. I thought it was OK to trample on the rights of others to keep me in a smoke-free life. But I know now that tolerance is the way to true happiness for everyone. The technology exists to remove smoke from closed areas such as restaurants, and I love working in a smoke-free building, but I don't think that I have the right to tell anyone else they can't smoke. I do have the right to ask them to move their cigarette so that the smoke doesn't come in my face. And, yes, I really do have allergies and problems breathing.

My husband is a cigar smoker. One of my women friends made nasty comments about "how could I stand to let him smoke." I told her: "He doesn't gamble, chase women, drink to excess. He is a fabulous husband, a wonderful father, has a great sense of humor, helps around the house and buys me jewelry." He does smoke outside (we are enclosing a porch for him) and in his car. I know Raul Julia's wife allowed him to smoke in bed, but I can't go that far. I did present him with a box of Punch cigars for the holiday season, which has pleased him tremendously. I have told him that he can teach our daughter to smoke cigars, so she will never smoke anything else.

I see how much pleasure my husband receives from smoking cigars. Life is hard and we need all the pleasure that is harmless. Thank you for reminding me that tolerance is the foundation of the American way of life.

Adele G. Pauley
Decatur, Georgia

* * *

Dear Marvin,

I have a receipt for five Cohiba Coronas Especiales that were confiscated by United States Customs in Cincinnati.

They were being brought back from Grand Cayman by a friend and business associate of mine. While he does not smoke, he does appreciate my affinity for a good cigar and had promised to bring the best he could find back for me, if at all possible.

He purchased the Cohibas on day one of his trip, put the sealed package in a zipped pocket inside of his suitcase and forgot about them. Forgot about them until a golden retriever, presumably trained and engaged by U.S. Customs, sniffed and nudged his suitcase as he reentered the country a week later.

My friend was ordered to pick up his suitcase and was taken down a hallway into an inspection room. Once there, three armed customs agents proceeded to spread him against the wall, frisk him quite thoroughly, empty his wallet and search his suitcase.

"Am I being arrested?" my friend asked.

"You're being searched first!" came the reply.

The agents seemed, according to my friend, frustrated that they could find no contraband upon his person or in his belongings. It wasn't until one of the agents was rearranging the contents of the suitcase that the distinctive Cohiba package was noticed.

My friend related the conversation that followed:

"Hey, those are Cuban ci-gars!" one agent said.

"Are they?" asked the searcher. "Are you sure?"

"Sure, look, it says Havana right on the package."

"Uh oh, buddy," the agent continued, addressing my friend. "You're in trouble. Those things are illegal to bring into the country."

My friend did not plead ignorance. But I think it is safe to say that he was unaware of the extent of the treatment afforded tourists impertinent, bold and lawless enough to smuggle this variety of contraband into the good old United States of America.

The agents recorded his name into their computer, asked him who he was, what he did and how often he brought Cuban cigars into the country. He told me he did not mention that he was bringing them in for me, figuring that wouldn't help his situation and could only cause problems for me. In total, he was harassed for more than 30 minutes.

Then they confiscated the cigars and sent him on his way.

My friend related all this to me just two days ago. I appreciate the way he handled the situation--although I must admit that I might have suspected a fast one, if my friend were a smoker. All told, though, his story rings true. I just wonder how much extra it cost the government to train the dog not only to sniff out narcotics, but fine Cuban smokes as well. And I thought they usually used bloodhounds or German shepherds.

I did, of course, pay my friend for the cigars. So I guess the story in a nutshell is that my friend visited Grand Cayman, and all I got was this lousy receipt.

S. P.
Address withheld
upon request

* * *

Dear Marvin,

I am not a woman who believes in destroying or infiltrating the last bastion of male bonding. I think it's fine if men wish to have their own private clubs and schools. But please, sirs, don't deny me the luxury of a glorious Davidoff after a fine Morton's dinner. It may be true that sometimes (as Jim Belushi noted in your magazine) a cigar represents a tradition among gentlemen, thus symbolically belonging to the masculine realm; but I'll ask you to remember Freud's statement that "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." And I do love a good cigar.

Susan Zapolski
Arlington, Virginia

* * *

Dear Marvin,

I am a recent convert to cigar smoking after 15 years of trying to give up cigarettes. I felt I must write to express a certain amount of dismay at the hysterical tone of many of the letters I read in Cigar Aficionado. While I realize that the plight of the cigar smoker in the United States has suffered many setbacks in recent years, portraying this group's fortunes as that of a discriminated-against underclass is more than I can take. In fact, it is like listening to a spoiled child complain about his lack of presents on Christmas morning. Nobody should have to work in a smoke-filled environment or eat next to someone puffing a double corona. For many people, cigar smoke stinks. That is not so hard to understand. In fact, I find the smell in my own living room, the morning after a smoke, quite disgusting.

Like you, I would welcome and encourage restaurants to provide for smokers because of the obvious link in enjoying the pleasures of alcohol, food and a good smoke. However, we are the minority, and we must respect that position. I will concede that individual bars and restaurants should have a choice of whether or not to provide a smoking environment, free of legislation, and thus let the clientele vote with their feet. My parents do just that with their restaurant in St. Louis, and as far as I know there have been no altercations between diametrically opposed factions.

A great cigar is a wonderful thing, but let's not get carried away.

Benjamin Dressel
Pella, Iowa

* * *

Dear Marvin,

I recently had an unusual cigar-related experience that I would like to share. My wife and I occasionally attend polo matches in Greenwich, Connecticut, with a group of our friends. On this par-ticular day, we had magnificent weather for polo: sunny, in the low 80s with a slight breeze. Our group found a suitable spot on the sidelines, around midfield, which afforded the perfect vantage point to observe the afternoon's match. We spread out our blankets, set up our beach chairs and started to arrange the wonderful picnic spread we had prepared.

As is my custom, I also brought a few cigars in a traveling humidor, which I intended to enjoy during the course of the afternoon. With that thought in mind, I purposely arranged my chair so that no one would be sitting directly downwind from me. I am fully aware of, and have been subject to, the wrath of the occasional non-cigar smoker who feels compelled to demand that you extinguish your cigar and then proceeds to lecture you on what he or she believes is a totally inappropriate and unhealthy practice. Needless to say, I try to avoid such confrontations whenever possible.

On the field, a spirited match between two high-goal teams kept the group thoroughly entertained. Going into the final chukker, only a single goal separated the two squads.

After finishing lunch, I proceeded to light up one of my favorite cigars, a Davidoff 4000. Within a few moments, a few of my companions asked if they too could partake. Since I am usually the designated cigar provider at such events, I had anticipated the demand and planned accordingly. In no time, the group of us were enjoying a truly memorable afternoon--good food and drink, wonderful weather, close friends and, perhaps best of all, truly outstanding cigars.

The close-fought polo match came to an end, and our group began to pack up its belongings. I was still in a beach chair, attending to one of the baskets, when I noticed a distinguished, middle-aged couple walking purposely in my direction. I immediately stiffened in anticipation of the tongue-lashing that was sure to follow. They stopped directly in front of my chair and stared down. The woman said, "excuse me." I looked up sheepishly.

The woman said, "I would like to talk to you about your cigar smoking." I immediately cringed. She then thanked me for smoking during the polo match. At first I thought she was being sarcastic. However, she went on to explain that she and her husband are avid cigar smokers but had spent the afternoon with a group that would not have appreciated such activity. The woman explained that during the match, she and her husband had occasionally caught the scent of our cigars. The scent of distant cigar smoke had apparently provided them with a certain degree of satisfaction and made their afternoon that much more enjoyable. She asked what brand I was smoking. The woman smiled and nodded in appreciation when I showed her the band. They thanked me again, turned and walked across the field.

I watched the couple depart with a smile on my face. It had truly been a wonderful afternoon. This unexpected exchange with the stylish and appreciative couple, obviously true cigar aficionados, provided a memorable ending to the day's activities.

Kirk Edelman
Darien, Connecticut

* * *

Dear Marvin,

My husband is an appreciative subscriber to Cigar Aficionado, and I am an appreciative admirer of his taste in fine cigars. At times I am drafted into supplying specimens of the more difficult sort (you will understand why I request that you do not print my name), and I am happy to do this in the course of business trips outside the United States. Usually my quest for the local purveyor of fine cigars leads me to very elegant and charming surroundings, as on the Avenue Victor Hugo in Paris, where two excellent caves aux cigares can be found. However, a recent trip to Ottawa reminded me of the wisdom of not judging things by first appearance. Asking my hotel concierge for a nearby shop where Cuban cigars could be found, I was rather laconically directed to a store called Mags and Fags. After I remembered that "fags" is British for a smoke and not a derogatory comment upon sexual preference, I looked up the place. It was not encouraging: from the outside, it looked like a rather seedy convenience store with a jumble of poorly printed signs in the window and a general lack of tidiness. However, a small hand-printed note in the window said havana cigars, so I went in. Inside it was even more discouraging: several small boys were huddled over X-men comics, and a man in the corner was displaying all the signs of a casual consumer of soft-core porn. Two women in red jogging suits appeared to be the shopkeepers, one of whom was occupied with straightening out a lottery machine and its takings. I knew I wasn't in Alfred Dunhill. But having come so far, I bravely asked if they truly did have Havana cigars. I was glad I asked. A counter covered with expired magazines was instantly cleared, and I realized I had been leaning on a fully stocked humidor. One of the women opened the humidor and, taking my husband's carefully annotated list, promptly found Cohiba Robusto, Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona, Romeo y Julieta Churchill, and Montecristo No. 2. Not only that, she offered a running commentary upon his selections and noted her regret at not having Por Larrañaga to sell me.

So, if you are in Ottawa, look up Mags and Fags in the heart of downtown. Don't be put off by the name, the outside, the comics or the general disarray. Sometimes the most surprising things are found in the most unlikely places.

A Good Wife
Baltimore, Maryland

* * *

Dear Marvin,

There are evidently some life-insurance companies that consider cigar smokers to be "nonsmokers" from the point of view of insurability and for setting premiums. Has your magazine published a list of these companies? If not, it might be something worth considering. "Cigar-friendly" insurance companies are at least as important as cigar-friendly restaurants.

David W. Witter
Sterling, Virginia

Editor's Note: We've published some names of cigar-friendly life-insurance companies before. Here are the names we already have, and I'm sure there are others. American General, Northwestern Mutual Life and Prudential are three top suppliers of life insurance without penalty to cigar smokers.

* * *

Dear Marvin,

Although I have never had so much as a cigarette and normally do not like cigarette smoke, I have a newfound appreciation for cigars. It was one male-dominated area I knew absolutely nothing about--until now.

My boyfriend is a cigar aficionado, and he really enjoys a good smoke. In fact, I am not sure what he likes better--choosing the cigar from his local tobacconist or the leisure time spent smoking it. My problem wasn't accepting his habit but a fear of kissing the smoker himself.

Since getting rid of my boyfriend was an option that was out of the question (even though he explained to me that he was late for our first date because he was hung up in the "smoking room" on his way over to meet me), and I would never make him stop his passion for cigars (the truth is I really enjoy the smell and the relaxing time spent together on long leisurely evenings after dinner), the only thing left to do was join him. (At the very least we would be kissing fairly.)

It's been an education. I've learned about sizes, types, tastes, the how-tos and what not to do. We venture into his favorite tobacco shop in Los Angeles (Wine Sellers) and spend at least an hour. There's nothing I'd rather do than share, be with, or watch my boyfriend enjoy his passion.

For all those men who can't stand women in "their domain," my boyfriend would like to disagree--he loves to share his cigar (obviously providing me with the half-smoked ones).

That's when I realized that a cigar was more than a smoke--that it was a rare pleasure. It's a wonderful aroma, a relaxing passion and a part of every good evening. I love to watch him as he starts his ritual on a brand new Montecristo. Wetting the end, cutting the perfect tip, using only wooden matches, lighting the end just right and ohh...that first puff. It is a ritual after dinner I love being a part of, and I feel privileged that he can share this with me. In fact, we've had quite a few laughs betting on the reactions of people around us as I, too, light up for a puff!

Well, you can say that since that first date, not only has my passion for my boyfriend gotten better but my appreciation for the cigar has, too. Few good men understand a truly great cigar, but a great woman is one who truly enjoys the atmosphere surrounding a good man and his cigar.

Thank you, Cigar Aficionado, for shedding continual light on a subject I've learned to appreciate more and more.

Suzanne C.
Newport Beach, California

* * *

Dear Marvin,

I am one of your female readers who has enjoyed see-ing the return of the cigar. My father and uncles enjoyed their cigars when I was a child, even though we complained piteously about how bad they smelled. But we enjoyed the ritual, the sense of tradition that their cigar smoking brought to our house.

I am so happy to see men with heart enough to "come out of the closet" and smoke a cigar--of all things. I am beginning to see some of them brave a smoke in the park near my office. I now enjoy the aroma along with the wonderful look of a man bucking the trend. I think cigar smokers are our only real mavericks now; all the rest just pretend to rebel.

An admirer
Washington, D. C.

* * *

Dear Marvin,

Most smokers have their own odd habit or two. One of mine is to empty my ashtray into the fireplace, then later carry out all the ashes when I periodically clean the fireplace.

I haven't had the need for a fire since last March, and likewise haven't given much thought about cleaning the fireplace since then.

Today, this fine October morning, I decided I should have a cup of coffee and a smoke by a warm fire. I opened the doors to the fireplace and found, after a summer of smoking, around 200 cigar remains! These old soldiers were quite dry and inoffensive, so my shock was at their multitude and nothing else.

Well, I built my fire, brewed my coffee and lit my cigar, and I write to you a happy man. I find it difficult, though, to express to you the pleasure I felt a moment ago when I stepped out to the mailbox and found that my neighborhood smells like a cigar!

Paul F. Tatum III
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

* * *

Dear Marvin,

The Friday after Thanksgiving, I took my family to dinner at Chops Steak House in Atlanta. As you probably know, Chops is rated as one of the finest steak houses in the country and according to an article in the Winter 1993/94 edition of Cigar Aficionado, welcomes smokers.

After dinner, my mother and sister encouraged me to light up a Prince Philip Vintage Macanudo Cabinet Selection. I was hesitant to do so, as I basically relegate my cigar smoking to the golf course and clubhouse. My family reminded me that my father used to enjoy his cigars, and they would enjoy it if I smoked in front of them.

As soon as I pulled out my cigar, four people at an adjoining table became incensed, and, even though they were sitting in the smoking sec-tion, demanded that I not be allowed to smoke my cigar. We were already through with dinner, and I thought I would be asked to smoke elsewhere.

To my surprise, our waiter politely informed the objectors that smoking was allowed; he had the four people moved to another table at a loss of a considerable tip to himself. Pan Karatassos (the owner), the waiter Dennis and another waiter named Angelo should all be commended for their treatment of cigar smokers.

On my way out the door, after enjoying about half of my cigar, a gentleman, obviously with his family at another table, mentioned that he enjoyed the aroma from my Macanudo, but had come to the restaurant without any cigars of his own. Without telling him, I gave Angelo some money so that the gentleman could enjoy an after-dinner cigar from the Chops Steak House humidor. I hope the stranger enjoyed it.

By the way, the food at Chops was fantastic, as was the service. I suggest that your readers try Chops the next time they are in Atlanta.

John P. Fox
Miami, Florida

* * *

Dear Marvin,

Ever since I started smoking premium cigars two years ago, I'd always hoped I could find a special woman who would be able to tolerate my smoke. Being realistic, I realized that the rest of my life might end up being spent smoking outdoors as my girlfriend/wife sat comfortably inside our home. The prospect of finding someone special who would be willing to smoke with me seemed like nothing but a fantasy.

I was wrong. Two months ago, I met a very special woman whom I quickly found myself falling in love with. Several times I'd told her how much I loved cigars, and, from what I could tell, she never objected--that was, until one night she told me she wanted to try a cigar with me. Naturally, I couldn't believe what I'd heard. A few days later, I took her to Dunhill to purchase two Dunhill Condados for us to smoke together.

Marvin, several nights later, I knew for sure that I'd found the woman of my dreams. We smoked together on my hammock, and she enjoyed every minute of it. Every time I'd look at her, she was enjoying the cigar as much as I was. It was amazing--I was literally speechless. Well, we've been seeing each other for a while and smoke cigars whenever we get a chance. I never thought I would be able to share my cigars with anyone because I thought no one would want to. Boy, am I glad I was wrong.

Tonight I dropped her off at the airport since she was flying back home for Thanksgiving holiday. In her carry-on bag were four cigars I'd bought for her to enjoy while she was away. When I took her bag out of my car's trunk, she warned me to be careful since her cigars were packed on top. Simply amazing!

Michael E. Brichford
Houston, Texas

* * *

Dear Marvin,

After reading Jim Belushi's comments on women and cigar smoking (Cigar Aficionado, Spring 1994), as well as one of the letters to the editor encouraging female cigar smokers (Cigar Aficionado, Summer 1994), I would like to share my perspectives as a woman who has recently taken up cigar smoking.

I was introduced to cigar smoking by a male colleague at work, but I was introduced to cigars by my father who smoked nothing but pipes and cigars when I was growing up. Belushi claims that smoking a cigar is an experience that "women can't--and shouldn't --understand." Yet, fortunately, I was exposed to the rituals and nuances of cigars and fine tobacco before I was old enough to realize that I wasn't supposed to "understand" them. Accompanying my father when he bought cigars, watching him prepare them and sharing my thoughts with him while he smoked, created a connection between us that I would hold up to any "male bonding" experience.

When I was recently introduced to the art of smoking cigars by my friend at work, I moved to another level of appreciation: their exquisite taste. My first cigar was an Arturo Fuente maduro, and I will always remember its subtle and rich flavors. Healso introduced me to Cigar Aficionado, and I have since been learning about the fine tradition of cigars and sampling many of the better cigars available.

Belushi claims that women are "fashion-oriented," and that they will start to knock something after two or three years. Yet I agree with Joseph Leonard in his letter, which states that more negative comments about cigars come from men than from women. I also take heart from his statement that he enjoys smoking a cigar with both men and women and that many of Cigar Aficionado's readers feel the same way. I would hate to think that most of the male cigar smokers feel as Jim Belushi does.

Oh yes--in a couple of weeks I will be sharing my first cigar with my father, who greeted my newfound enthusiasm very warmly. That will be a truly priceless father-daughter experience.

Linnea C. Brush
Diamond Bar, California

* * *

Dear Marvin,

It was a great pleasure to meet you at the New York Big Smoke in November. A good time was had by all would be an understatement, to say the least. I was impressed by many things that day, but two observations I'd like to bring to light, as they are positive prognostic indicators for the future of cigar "apprecianados" in this country.

First, the relative youth of the attendees. You can back me up on this or dispute it, but it seemed that upward of 80 percent to 90 percent of smokers in attendance were under age 60--and half of these were probably under 40. Is that a perception clouded by one-too-many Johnnie Walker Blue Labels? If true, it appears that your magazine is reaching a whole new generation of cigar lovers, lovers of the finer things in general.

Second, and maybe more important, was the ethnic, racial and sexual diversity of the crowd. In a world filled with conflict, it seemed that for one-and-a-half precious hours, we all looked alike. Any gripes about a lack of racial, religious or sexual equality literally went up in smoke--albeit a huge blue cloud of smoke. Let's hope that the next Big Smoke is enjoyed by even a larger proportion of "minorities," especially women. Cigar "apprecianados" need not be men only, or white, or Republican, or Ivy League educated. Your magazine is the tangible truth of this idea.

Marvin, thank you for a great time.

Michael DePaolo
Wind Gap, Pennsylvania

* * *

Dear Marvin,

I am a 43-year-old money manager whose livelihood depends on my judgment of the moment-to-moment gyrations of securities prices. Although my family is most dear to me, nothing relieves the stress of my occupation more than a fine cigar. In good times and bad, those precious moments provide a sense of well-being as well as the opportunity to contemplate life's travails. Cigar smoking and tension cannot coexist; the cigar always triumphs over tension. And nothing makes life's triumphs more triumphant than a good cigar.

Yet perhaps the sweetest part of the cigar experience is the connection that it gives us with others. There is a bond that naturally exists between cigar smokers. When you discover that someone is a cigar smoker, you cannot help but feel a little bit closer, as if you are part of some brotherhood.

Barry Schrager
Belleville, New Jersey

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Dear Marvin,

You should know of the awareness level that the under-two crowd has for your splendid publication. On a recent driving vacation, I made a pilgrimage to the Havana House in Windsor, Ontario. While I was in the humidor at the back of the store, my wife and 22-month-old daughter, Amy, waited up front. As you walk into the store, on the right, next to the register, is a display of all of the issues of Cigar Aficionado. Amy was sitting in her stroller facing the display when she pointed at it and blurted out, "My daddy reads that magazine all the time." My wife told me that two men in the front of the store with her were awestruck. Needless to say, we will be talking about this one for a long time to come.

Edward A. Phillips
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Dear Marvin,

I want to thank you for making my 43rd birthday such a success. My lovely wife, knowing my appreciation for fine cigars, arranged for myself and four close friends to attend the Big Smoke in Los Angeles on October 11, 1994. What a treat! As we checked into our suite at the Regent Beverly Wilshire, my friends were waiting with Champagne and Cuban cigars (Montecristo No. 2). I was presented with a Dunhill lighter (what a pleasant surprise to find a lighter that actually keeps on working) and a box of La Gloria Cubanas.

After this wonderful start, we dressed up and attended the Big Smoke downstairs, where the brotherhood and sisterhood of cigar lovers was in full swing. We were each given a Cigar Aficionado bag and coupon book, and we joyfully made our way down the aisles sampling and tasting the finest in food, wines, Cognacs and, of course, cigars. I left replete with shared pleasures and enough cigars to more than pay for the cost of attending.

The next day while walking down Rodeo Drive, I entered the Dunhill store. What a wonderful place. I bought a box of Macanudos and learned how to refill my new lighter. I felt very much at home as I discussed cigars and purchased back issues of Cigar Aficionado. I then joined their cigar club and was fitted for a complimentary custom-made shirt. While all this was happening I noticed a gorgeous humidor with Cigar Aficionado in gold across the top. I asked the purchase price of this humidor and was told $5,000. "Well worth it," I said. "It's not for sale," the owner said.

Tom Herrera
Reno, Nevada

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Dear Marvin,

A beautiful wedding ceremony is memorable, but a good cigar is positively irresistible.

Minutes after my lovely bride, Linda, and I exchanged our vows before 130 friends and relatives, the urge to celebrate the momentous occasion could no longer wait. As the gathering moved outside for the traditional postnuptial waves and photographs, there wasn't a moment to lose.

I eagerly pulled out of my vest pocket a lovely Arturo Fuente Lonsdale, which I ever so carefully stored away for safekeeping. As all prudent grooms do, I had carefully double-checked my list: ring, tuxedo, best man, limo...and of course, the celebratory cigar.

Prior to the wedding, I was delighted beyond description after receiving the news from our minister, Dave Eksdale, that Winnipeg's Crescent Fort Rouge United was a cigar-friendly house of worship. Perfect!

Later that evening at the reception, held in the comfortable setting of a local golf club, a good friend capped the day when he presented me with a package of Macanudo coronas. A group of us enjoyed our postdinner drinks and smokes under a beautiful sky and balmy temperatures.

It was truly a wonderful time to share good conversation and cigars with friends. There's nothing quite like a cigar-friendly wedding to ensure a lifetime of good memories.

Brian Smiley
Winnipeg, Manitoba

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Dear Marvin,

It is always a pleasure to find unexpected treasures in life. Your excellent magazine is certainly one of them. I am an incarcerated 23-year-old in the Maryland prison system, yet this setback does not hinder my joy in being able to associate with other cigar aficionados. I started smoking cigars four years ago while attending college at the University of Maryland at College Park and had found other friends who enjoyed the exotic tastes of a fine smoke. Unfortunately, my incarceration stopped short my newfound indulgence.

I found solace, however, that we inmates are allowed to purchase cigars through catalogues at certain times during the year. My habit of smoking in my housing area earned me the nickname of "Castro," which I accepted as a compliment, considering the luxury he has [had] of indulging in a Cohiba. While I felt I was a dedicated Arturo Fuente and Te-Amo man, I certainly did not pass up the opportunity of asking my brother to consider bringing me a Cohiba or two back from Amsterdam (which he visited as part of a college class assignment). To my utter surprise, not only did he brave the misguided custom officials in smuggling a box of five Cohiba Especiales for me, but he also acquired a box of 25 Montecristo No. 5s (all Cuban).

While I acknowledge that prison is a place of penitence, some things are simply necessary to encourage a fellow not to give up on the many benefits and treasures of life. On those dreary nights of loneliness, I need only open my latest issue of Cigar Aficionado and light up one of my tobacco pals to bask in the fellowship of the discriminating smoker.

J. K.
Jessup, Maryland

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Dear Marvin,

My son will be 50 years old on October 30, and my daughter-in-law is planning a party to celebrate.

Knowing that he loves to smoke fine cigars and knowing that some people dislike cigars and cigar smokers, she has asked the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin, Texas, to set aside a separate room off the party room for cigar smokers. She is doing this to keep her husband and all the cigar smokers happy--and the rest of the party goers as well.

I write this only to let you know to what lengths nonsmokers will go to keep smokers happy.

Jack Yudof
Coconut Creek, Florida

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Dear Marvin,

The first thing I would like to do is express my appreciation for your fine magazine, your cause, and your obvious love for those who enjoy good cigars. I recently became a reader of your publication when I was handed, by my employer, the issue with Rush on the cover. With the magazine came a personal invitation to join him at Mr. Marc Adams' weekly cigar camp on the south side of Pittsburgh, and most important, a Partagas Limited Reserve. I thorough-ly enjoyed the cigar that evening, bought a few others the next day and now I can't stop!

I am 25 years old and convinced that what my eyes (and palate) have been introduced to is not an evil, disgusting habit, as almost all I have encountered think, but rather an opportunity to meet some great new friends and smoke a lot of fantastic cigars. Unfortunately, I can't tell you what my favorite brand is, as I haven't found it yet, but I am having great fun trying. Thanks to my boss in Pittsburgh (he knows who he is), and thank you again.

Brian Washburn
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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Dear Marvin,

From the land that gave the world Errol Flynn, Olivia Newton-John, the great white shark and Crocodile Dundee: to see the machinations and drama in your country on television regarding the nicotine-in-cigarettes-inquiry was pretty sorry stuff. But you are not alone. Virtually the same kind of thing is happening in this country. Watching the top brass of your major cigarette companies being grilled before Congress was, in my opinion, totally uncalled for. I say it smacks of political grandstanding.

No doubt our antismoking group would take heart in the developments in your country in furthering the cause here. Their agenda would be to try to duplicate (in whole or part) any far-reaching precedent set in your country.

A smoker is now treated like an outcast. But how the tide has turned, from being able to smoke in your office (I used to chain-smoke cigars in my work area, a government building, till 1989 when the total nonsmoking restrictions came in), in buses, planes, trains, shops and supermarkets, restaurants and cafés and most other buildings, etc., to the present situation where all of these areas are or will be out of bounds. You can see the hilarious spectacle of groups and sometimes hordes of people puffing away (on cigarettes, mainly) around the main entrances of government and public buildings. There's a movie here, I think.

The federal government is reaping a few billion dollars from the sale of tobacco products on one hand, and on the other placing restrictions on sales and consumption, with higher prices on tobacco products in the years to come. The government uses the guise of regular, hefty price increases to try to influence smokers to give up smoking, and, to some extent, this has worked. Common sense would dictate that this on going "war" between smokers and nonsmokers (and the legislators and tobacco consumers) has come far enough. Compromise should be the key here.

In the meantime, I'll con-tinue to enjoy smoking Cuban, Dominican and Honduran cigars.

Nick Jermenko
Queanbeyan, Australia

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Dear Marvin,

My wife and I read your review of Morton's in New York in Cigar Aficionado and have tried the restaurant on two occasions.

The first occasion, shortly after reading your review, was in either late May or early June 1994. My wife made reservations and requested one of the banquettes. We arrived at the restaurant and were delighted that our wait for the requested banquette was minimal. The service, wine and food were excellent. I particularly enjoyed the ability to sit and have a fresh cigar after dinner.

Our second visit to Morton's was quite different from the first. About a month and a half ago, my wife again called and requested a banquette. Upon arriving at the restaurant, we were advised that there would be a wait. That wait approached 30 minutes or more. After that time, we were advised that if we desired, a table was available in the main dining area, but that the wait for a banquette would be slightly longer. Upon asking, we were advised that the table was not in the smoking section and that the banquette was also not in the smoking section. We were further advised that due to high demand the downstairs dining area was nonsmoking on the weekends. What a disappointment we experienced in learning that the smoking section was a small upstairs area, which was more suited to be an attic.

If restaurants have a policy change as drastic as this one, it would be courteous of them to so advise your publication and the public.

George B. Wolfe
Hackensack, New Jersey

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Dear Marvin,

I have a story that I must share with my fellow aficionados. While on vacation on the Caribbean side of Puerto Rico in February 1994, I was enjoying a beautiful day, poolside at a fine resort. Unfortunately, I forgot the one thing that would have completed this perfect day: my cigars. When a gentleman next to me lit up what I quickly identified as an Avo, I knew I was a conversation away from a good smoke.

Not only did the ensuing conversation result in my smoking a fine cigar, but it culminated in an evening I would not soon forget. It so happens that Avo Uvezian performs regularly at the main hotel resort, and his cigars are featured throughout the resort shops.

That evening I made it a point to show up at the hotel lobby. Much to my pleasure I met Mr. Uvezian, who quickly bestowed on me a couple of fine cigars, including his new offering, the XO, Intermezzo.

He posed with me for a couple of pictures, we talked about his passion for cigars and the passing of his friend Zino. I stayed on to hear his troupe perform some very fine music.

I believe that most of the enjoyment and pleasure of smoking a cigar comes from the cerebral experience. In this case, a truly fine cigar was enjoyed so much more because of the surrounding cerebral experience, its fine construction, superb tobacco, his company and the way I obtained it. This was truly a memorable smoke.

He is a gentleman, and I was glad to be a cigar aficionado that evening.

Charles G. Marchese
Brooklyn, New York

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Dear Marvin,

I have just returned to my office in Chicago after my last 1994 trip to New York City. I feel rather upbeat because the trip was a success from both a business and personal perspective. The business that I needed to attend to was completed and exceeded my expectations. In addition, whenever in New York City I make every effort to visit with old friends. This trip I was able to do so.

On Thursday evening, a fellow cigar fanatic and I made plans for dinner at the Assembly, near Rockefeller Center. My friend stated that it was listed as a cigar-friendly restaurant. Through an oversight, either my friend's or the Assembly's, we were placed at a nonsmoking table. We enjoyed our meal, two large and tender filets done exactly to our specifications, medium rare. (So exactly done were the filets that when we finally cut into the center, which was dark red, the escaping warmth was visible.) The Assembly host, Tim Brown, stopped by to see that everything was to our satisfaction. After assuring Tim that the food was more than that expected of a great steak house, I inquired if cigar smoking was allowed and if it was limited to the bar area of the Assembly. Tim very enthusiastically stated that cigar smoke was allowed in the dining room as well as the bar. I then pointed out the No Smoking sign above my head. His response was that he would take care of that and we would be able to enjoy our cigars.

After we completed dinner and ordered Cognacs, we asked our waiter to have Tim stop by the table and explained why. The waiter's response was that we would probably be asked to move to the bar area, and that he would begin preparing a table for us. This was an acceptable solution, and my friend and I agreed. A short time later, Tim delivered an ashtray to the table and asked us to enjoy our cigars. After preparation and cutting, we lit our cigars. My friend's was a Romeo y Julieta Corona. Mine was a Punch Double Corona. We proceeded to have the perfect conclusion to a most enjoyable restaurant experience. The Assembly has earned the honor of being recognized as a cigar-friendly restaurant.

I truly enjoy Cigar Aficionado and hope someday to meet you in a cigar-friendly restaurant.

Patrick Jasper
Chicago, Illinois

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Dear Marvin

A group of seven friends and I, all seniors in colleges scattered throughout Pennsyl-vania, get together when we come home to enjoy a good smoke. Our smoking parties began innocently with a few cheap, handmade cigars and took off as if they had a mind of their own. Following our sophomore year, the gang and I were getting out at least five nights a week to meet at a local park and enjoy the higher-quality cigars that one of our buddies had discovered. My first quality smoke was a Don Diego (I still have the band).

Near the end of that summer, we decided that to secure the smoking bond we'd established, we'd spend one night camping out, smoking cigars and enjoying the friendship. We labeled it the "World Series of Cigar Smoking." The night would not be complete, however, without our first taste of the fabled Cuban ci-gars. We devised a plan for a day trip to Canada "to see the Falls," we told our parents. Early on a warm August morning, we set out from Tyrone, Pennsylvania, on "Operation Cuba."

Once in Toronto, we wandered the streets for nearly an hour before seemingly stumbling upon the Havana House. We were overwhelmed when taken to the humidors upstairs, where we saw hundreds of the finest cigars in the world. After browsing for several minutes, we each chose four cigars. I chose a Montecristo, an H. Upmann, a Romeo y Julieta and, of course, a Cohiba.

We stopped at Niagara Falls on our way back and avoided a potentially unfortunate run-in with the border patrol by the skin of our noses when returning to the United States. We had placed the cigars in the trunk, but while at the Falls, my friend said that we should keep them with us in the front of the car because, though not always, the border patrolmen sometimes check the trunks of vehicles returning to the United States. I felt they'd be fine where they were but eventually agreed. We placed the cigars in plastic bags underneath our arms. It just seemed like something smugglers might do, and we were so excited.

When we reached the border, the patrolman asked if he could search our trunk. You can imagine the combination of fear and excitement with which we were overcome--we'd just missed having our treasure possibly confiscated. In retrospect, we may have gotten off with as little as a warning. But at the time, with nearly 20 Cubans distributed throughout the car under the arms of four young cigar smokers, it seemed that no punishment could have been too severe, were we to be caught. Once across the border, we were so proud. We really thought we'd accomplished something.

I had exchanged my share of memories over a good cigar before, but at the "World Series," with the Cubans for which we'd traveled so far and gone to such great lengths, the stories flowed more freely than ever, and, by all means, the cigars never had tasted so good.

We went to Canada again the next year and will certainly make the trip again this summer. Cigars, adventure, camaraderie and memories--that's what it's all about.

Kerry Naylor
Tyrone, Pennsylvania