On a recent trip back from Venezuela, where I was the chief official for the Pan-American Mountain Bike Championships, I was able to make the most of an eight-hour layover in Miami by visiting Calle Ocho. After a short cab ride, I was quickly enjoying the hospitality of Little Havana's many cigar factories and stores. I visited the El Credito factory, where Katia Diaz allowed me to walk around on the factory floor and observe as the artisans created cigars right before my very eyes, and then made my way down the street to the Cuba Tobacco Cigar Co., where I enjoyed a very nice maduro robusto. I then stopped in with the nice people of Top Cigars before making my way eventually to Art District Cigars after a great lunch at El Pub. At Art District, I enjoyed another great cigar with the owner, Marcos A. Incer.
Needless to say, without the timely arrival of my Cigar Aficionado magazine and its feature on Little Havana, there is no way I would have been able to enjoy all of this cigar cornucopia. You see, I was reading the article as I was flying from Venezuela to Miami, when the idea that I could leave the airport during my layover and visit Calle Ocho dawned on me. Talk about a sweet idea!
Once there, the article in the magazine served as a walking guide to all of the sights, which allowed me to see all that I wanted to in the few hours that I had available.
Thanks again for a great magazine and for facilitating this little gem of a trip for me.
Bromont, Quebec, Canada
As I write this missive I am recovering from a very successful prostatectomy. But just a few weeks before the operation I was working too far away from home, all the while nervously contemplating the surgeon's knife. I admit I wasn't handling it very well.
I am an optimistic person by nature and a performer by profession, so I was able to put on a fairly confident face for my friends and family. But a demanding workload and travel schedule combined with the weight of my impending prostatectomy had eventually caused me to crumble a bit behind my mask of self-assurance. So one night after working late out of town, I took a much-needed break and escaped to the balcony of my hotel room for some private time with the comfort of a friendly cigar. Basking in the glow of one of Mr. Fuente's finest (although certainly not his most expensive), I slowly rediscovered one of the most beneficial side effects of cigar smoke—contemplation. There, with the luxury of time and quiet solitude, my blessings became as perceptible as the stars that slowly appeared in the clear Florida sky.
Yes, I was facing a scalpel, but it would be in the hands of an excellent surgeon. My doctor's idea of recreation is pulling himself up mountaintops; surely pulling out a cancerous prostate would not be much of a challenge for him.
Yes, I would have to deal with an uncomfortable and in some ways demeaning recuperation, but I have a loving wife and caring family who would be there to support and console me. And that doesn't include my numerous friends who had already shown their encouragement with many kind words and off-color jokes.
Yes, I felt bullied by my cancer, but I had at my disposal the invaluable insight of my older brother, who had his own prostate removed years before. As the clouds of delicious smoke ghosted away, they seemed to carry with them my deepest concerns.
Marvin, as a longtime subscriber of your magazine, I have read about your many events that have benefited the fight against prostate cancer. Those efforts have brought money for research and, perhaps more importantly, crucial awareness to countless men—myself included, who subsequently proceeded to get their PSA levels tested. I thank you and all those involved for that. And allow me to remind those readers who may be facing their own battle with this daunting disease that in this day and age, the transition from cancer patient to cancer survivor can be a short journey indeed (a journey I fully intend to make). And may I suggest that when they feel overwhelmed by their condition, they take a moment to stop and smell the cigar smoke.
Cigar events do not educate the public about smoking cigars. The people that go to those events are smokers like myself. The only way to stop the smoke-free madness is to stop going to cities where smoking is prohibited.
Doing this will hurt the wallets of the businesses, who will then turn to their politicians to change the law. If all the smoking population in each city would stop going to the restaurants for one month, then the owners would see the drop-off in revenue. That's when the wheel will start rolling.