Out of the Humidor

| By CA Readers | From Michael Jordan, July/August 2005

Dear Marvin,
My son and I are new to Cigar Aficionado and relatively new to cigar smoking. My son is a freshman in the Ivy League, and apparently part of a proper Ivy education is the ability to choose and enjoy a fine cigar. Naturally, the fraternities handle this part of the education. My son has enjoyed many premium cigars at a downtown cigar bar.

Naturally, he has infected his father with this latest passion, purchasing a humidor for me and sending an occasional cigar home for my consideration. Although there is a lot to learn, it has given us much to discuss and research on the Internet. Many of our regular conversations turn to the latest information from the Cigar Aficionado web site or purchases made based on the magazine's Tasting Highlights. My son has assembled an impressive collection of premium cigars and we are presently setting up a larger humidor for aging. A recent family trip to California became an opportunity for us to explore some fine cigar shops in the San Francisco area. This summer, I will be traveling to Tampa Bay for work, and my son and I are planning another cigar safari.

Cigars have given us a subject to explore and learn together. We haven't enjoyed that kind of common ground in a number of years. It is difficult to keep in touch with a college-age son, but cigars have helped bridge the gap. Thanks to Cigar Aficionado for all your help and information.

Rich Dulay

Morrisville, Pennsylvania


Dear Marvin,
I just picked up the June 2005 issue of your magazine and was heartened to see that Cigar Aficionado continues to fight for the rights of smokers. As a college student, I have been a cigar enthusiast for three years now. Since taking up the hobby, I have met with resistance and downright disdain by the anti-smoking zealots both on and off campus. Unfortunately, they continually lump cigar and pipe smokers together with common cigarette users.

It is important that cigar smokers continue to make the distinction between the hobby and passion that is cigar smoking, and the quick nicotine fix associated with cigarettes.

Froston Back
Fort Gibson, Oklahoma


Dear Marvin,
It was a few years ago when I last wrote to you. You featured my letter in the issue with the baseball player seated on the front cover [April 1999]. Much has happened in the world since then, and to me as well. 1999 was my Y2K: a separation, bankruptcy, business loss and divorce. My deep humidor, filled with every size and shape of OpusXs, had to be sold for much needed liquid capital, along with my appetite for such cigars. Times were good for some Americans, but not for me.

I eventually got back on my feet after crawling for a while. By 2001, in June on summer vacation while in Santorini, Greece, I rediscovered the pleasures of a good smoke. Montecristo No. 4 was the one that started it all over. Before I knew it, Ramon Allones was my new best friend. Every trip abroad was a "souvenir safari" for gifts to my cigar buddies back home. I completely understand Alec Baldwin when he says how he likes to share stellar cigars with fellow aficionados. I never give a fellow cigar smoker a cigar that I would not wish to smoke as well.

Right now I am enjoying my first Don Carlos No. 2—it is most excellent! I find the Añejo and Don Carlos lines to be my favorites of all the great Fuentes. Especially when I am not in the best cigar mood. Unfortunately, I just received my IRS tax "liability bill" from my CPA, and it may be cigar-quitting time again. This time, it's going to be a "Star Cigars Sale." Life may be too short to smoke cheap cigars. So I choose to smoke none if I cannot afford great ones, and share the rare ones when I can.

Harry N. Bobotis
Anderson, South Carolina


Dear Marvin,
We live in the world of the nanny. And as you rightly cry, we should all, indeed, be shouting ENOUGH! [Editor's Note, April 2005].

I am an Englishman currently working and residing in the Cayman Islands. In England, buying tobacco requires (a) a mortgage and (b) a strong sense of resilience to be greeted by packaging bearing a skull and crossbones and informing one of imminent death upon consuming the purchase. Cayman is moving that way. You in the U.S. are way, way, way down the path to an Orwellian society.

This nanny factor needs to be treated on a par with it being its own weapon of mass destruction. So this morning, I went to my Cuban cigar dealer here in Grand Cayman—Havana House and its owner Jamie Pineda—and over a Montecristo "A" and Cuban coffee, chatted and came up with the following thoughts on the issue of state nannying, which I will bundle into a generic heading of "safety."

It was that exceedingly wise hector, Schiller, who said: "Our safety lies not in blindness, but in facing our dangers."

According to the Panchatantra—an ancient collection of Sanskrit tales written to teach good conduct to princes—"safety is the greatest gift in the world, better than the gift of a cow, of land or of food." Most would agree, thinking how dangerous a place the world seems, beset as it is by acts of terrorism, by natural and man-made disasters, by the fatalities of war and, it now seems, by smoking cigars. For people in quarters of the globe usually as peaceful as they are rich, like the Cayman Islands, it is something new to have perils like Ivan and threats like cigar smoking pressing so closer, distorting the contours of a psychological landscape that once seemed pleasantly familiar and comfortably safe.

The dominant school of thought among educated people in classic antiquity was Stoicism, which taught how to achieve ataraxia—peace of mind—in an uncertain and fraught world. You have little control over what happens in the world around you, the Stoics said, so you must accept with grace and resignation what it does to you. But you can govern your own emotions, and if you master them you will free yourself from anxiety. One aspect of the Stoic outlook is given succinct modern expression by Joseph Krutch: "Security depends not upon how much you have, as upon how much you can do without."

It is rational to take thought for one's safety. In England, we say, "Tis folly to bolt the door with a boiled carrot." But too much concern with safety—too little preparedness to accept that the very act of living is risky—is counterproductive in too many ways. To make everything yield to considerations of safety is to invite a different risk: that of living without opportunity, progress, or growth or experience. "The most beaten paths are certainly the surest," said André Gide, "but do not hope to scare up much game on them."

This applies to personal life, not so much matters as airline safety, where no risks are acceptable. In personal life, risks are the motors of advance, especially in emotional and intellectual respect, both of which are aided and abetted by fine cigars. To love is to risk, to try new ideas and methods is to risk, to be open to new friendships, new experiences, new challenges and changes all involve risk. The costs are occasional failure and the likelihood of suffering, but the prizes are great. Ask Winston Churchill. Ask George Burns. Ask JFK. Ask Schwarzenegger. Ask Babe Ruth. Ask Einstein. Ask Edison, Freud, Twain. And others.

Governments which, in response to threats against the liberties and securities of the state, diminish the state's liberties in the hope of increasing its securities, thereby give a partial victory to the threateners. Benjamin Franklin acidly remarked that "they that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." It is better to live a trifle more dangerously to live freely, than to live safely in a locked room made of fears and restrictions—not least when the liberties in question have been hard won over long stretches of history, and are precious.

If small countries and quiet nations—places and peoples on the sidelines, like these islands—are safe from terrorism, it is because they owe their immunity to marginality. The same applies to individuals. In his fable of the great and little fishes, Aesop has the latter say, "Our insignificance is often the cause of our safety." Some therefore embrace insignificance. But safety is almost its only merit. Although being out in front assuredly invites peril as well as rewards, there is the added consolation identified by Victor Hugo: "Great perils have this beauty, that they bring to light the fraternity of strangers." As does the medium of a fine cigar. I am indebted to Montecristo for their "A," my ataraxia.

Gary Hagland
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands