My girlfriend and I had decided to get married, but our families objected. No matter how hard we tried to sway them they stood firm. We were forced to elope and marry in secret.
Our love of fine cigars is mutual, and, although puzzled, our minister agreed to include them in our wedding. Citing the use of tobacco in the religious ceremonies of the American Indian and of its healing properties, she went even further by using symbolism in the form of our rings. As we slipped our gold paper "Romeo y Julieta" cigar bands on each other's fingers (we have since reproduced them in white gold), she eloquently stated that the paper bands stood for the fragile nature of life and love and like a fine cigar, love needs nurturing, time and constant care to develop into full maturity.
Considering our situation, we thought "Romeo y Julieta" Cuban Churchill bands apropos. We then lit up a Partagas corona and shared several puffs before being pronounced man and wife.
On our honeymoon, we smoked those Churchills on the beach and thought, 'What a glorious way to begin our life together.' We know that in life, as with fine cigars, love will find a way. As our marriage is still secret, we ask that you do not publish our names. Sign it,
"Romeo y Julieta"
San Diego, California
* * *
I am currently a freshman at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I have noticed that your magazine focuses a great deal on Cuba and its cigar industry. As a Cuban American, I want to congratulate you for providing quality journalism in a diplomatic and informative manner about such a controversial issue.
My family emigrated to the United States 35 years ago, leaving everything behind. But leaving Cuba meant losing a great deal more than property and money. It meant losing their homeland, and for many other Cubans it meant losing their identities, language and family. My family has always maintained strong ties to the land and culture they left behind; I am constantly bombarded with the history and stories of my family's past.
My favorite story is about my great grandfather's brother, who was Cuba's secretary of agriculture prior to Castro. Family lore has it that he smoked a box of cigars daily. When I hear the stories I begin to yearn for the past I never knew. I wonder what living in Cuba was like. Often I feel angry and upset that the only tie I have to my past is my family and the smell of a non-Cuban cigar.
Christmas Eve was a particularly special event this year, primarily because my entire family was present, but also because my uncle who lives in Spain was able to smuggle some Cuban cigars through U.S. Customs. After our dinner on "Noche Buena," I experienced my first Cuban smoke. This was the first time in my life that I had felt any substantial connection to Cuba. It was saddening to me that this experience came through the illegal actions of a relative. This cigar, so small in comparison with the problems its country faces, brought me to the realization that the United States needs to reevaluate its policy regarding its relationship with Cuba.
Opening the doors of communication with Cuba is important--not for the sake of cigar smokers in the United States, but for the sake of Cubans on both the island and those in the United States. Lifting the embargo will open up trade, stimulate the flow of ideas and art between both countries, and lead to the eventual healing of a 35-year-old wound.
If the United States, the Cuban Government and Cuban Americans in exile would begin to communicate their concerns and ideas, I feel a resolution could be found. I live in Miami and understand that lifting the embargo is not a popular idea, but the time has come for both Cubans and Cuban Americans to realize that the embargo is an outdated policy. It serves no useful purpose. The cold war is over. Cuba poses no military threat and is beginning to show signs of an eventual transition from a command to a market economy. If the embargo is not lifted, first- and second-generation Cuban Americans like myself will never be able to experience their homeland, except through a smuggled cigar from a foreign country. How American is that?
Albert F. Muzaurieta
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Editor's Note: Amen. Writing this letter for publication shows a courage and maturity far beyond your years.
* * *
I had my first cigar in 1950. The time was late November; the place--Kuni-ri, North Korea. A light dusting of snow covered the frozen ridges only a few miles south of the Manchurian border. My rifle company had reached its high-water mark trying to take a hill we dubbed "Chinaman's hat." We'd taken heavy casualties and had to pull back to a low ridge. We dug in quickly and didn't have to wait long for the Chinese counterattack. Bugles blowing, massed Chinese infantry assaulted our position. We called for assistance--mortars, artillery, a tank, anything. A Sherman tank, answering our call, ground it's way up to our line.
Since I was close to the tank, I ran behind it for cover and to talk to the tank commander via the telephone on the back fender. After helping to direct their fire where it was most needed, the tanker asked me if I smoked cigars. I was 19 at the time and had never smoked, not even cigarettes. I knew some of the men in the company might enjoy a cigar, so I lied and said I did. He told me to crawl under the tank to the escape hatch and he'd pass me some cigars. The hatch opened a few inches and a box of cigars dropped to the ground. It was a box of 50 El Roi Tans.
While I knew nothing about cigars, I thought I'd try one so I slipped one into my field jacket pocket. Then I did something foolish, and yelled, "Does anyone want a cigar?" Of course the reply was positive. Crouched as low as I could get and still run, I began throwing cigars into each foxhole. Using the cover of the rear slope of the ridge I made my way back to the tank. I credit the poor marksmanship of the Chinese for my safe return.
Sitting behind the safety of the tank with bullets still pinging off the tank's armor, I unwrapped and lit my first cigar with a waterproof match. As though ordered, our guys stopped shooting. Even the Chinese in front of us stopped firing, probably wondering what we were up to. We were all lighting our El Roi Tans. For a few moments the acrid smell of cordite was lost to the sweet cigar aroma that wafted over the snow-covered ridge.
A morale boost can come in many guises. When the Chinese entered the Korean War, many of us thought we'd never leave Korea. We'd all lost friends that day. The hoopla about being home for Christmas was gone. We were not happy campers. We began shooting again. The sight of guys banging away with their M1 rifles, cigars clenched in their teeth, would have been comical if it weren't for the seriousness of the situation. There seemed to be more vigor in our shooting. The Chinese began to pull back. We held. To say it was because of the cigars might be stretching it a bit, but for the first time that day, the GIs with cigars had smiles on their faces.
On occasion, when lighting up a fine cigar after dinner the memory of that first cigar crosses my mind. Then an indescribable kind of peace comes over me.
* * *
I used to be one of the rabid smoke Nazis. I thought it was okay to trample on the rights of others to keep me in a smoke-free life. I now know 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 a 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, or drink to excess. He's a fabulous husband, wonderful father, has a great sense of humor, helps around the house, and buys me jewelry." He smokes outside (we are enclosing a porch for him) and in his car. I know Raul Julia's wife let him smoke in bed, but I can't go that far, though I presented my husband 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 of the harmless pleasures. I will help to promote the rights of all Americans. Thank you for reminding me that tolerance is the foundation of the American Way of Life.
Adele G. Pauley
Editor's Response: Thank you for one of the most thoughtful letters I have ever received. Your understanding of human values, the rewards of life and the "big picture" are remarkably on target.
* * *
As a subscriber, I believe the following information will be of interest to your readers.
Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, has a "Resolved Through Sharing" program for grieving parents who have lost their newborn child.
The program gives the personal belongings of the child to the parents in a decorated cigar box. The volunteer staff of the hospital decorates the donated boxes.
This program has met with great success and is a comfort to the parents during their time of sorrow.
The purpose of this letter is to request that your readers save their cigar boxes for this project and forward them to: Patricia A. Reynolds, R.N., 11041 North 41st Place, Phoenix, Arizona 85028.
Making your readers aware of this wonderful project will bring joy to someone in a time of need and a good feeling to all those who contributed.
Kelly P. Reynolds
* * *
Recently, on a business trip to South Lake Tahoe, I decided to go down to the Casino at Caesar's Tahoe and try my luck at the blackjack tables. This particular evening, the casino was very crowded. I walked all around the casino looking for a nonsmoking table. I am so accustomed to smoking my cigars outdoors, I never think to smoke them indoors where they may offend someone.
The only open table in the whole casino was a $25 smoking table. Feeling lucky, I sat down. Each of the other five players were all smoking cigarettes. After a half hour of cigarette smoke filling the table, the five cigarette-smoking friends all turned to me, almost in unison, and sarcastically asked me, "This smoke doesn't bother you? Does it?" I politely replied, "No. Not at all."
I decided it was now time. I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out my favorite cigar. I cut a perfect cat's eye with my cutter and took several matches to assure a good light. Then, with a cloud of delicious smoke surrounding the table, I looked to my tablemates and asked them, "This smoke doesn't bother you, does it?"
It was an outstanding turn of fortune. Just then the dealer gave me my first blackjack of the evening. My smoking companions cleared out quickly, only to be replaced by a more friendly group of cigar-toting gents who couldn't help but be pulled to my table by the familiar scent of a good cigar.
Herbert R. Solomon
* * *
I must confess that I am a cigar-loving immigration inspector stationed at Cincinnati International Airport, and as I write this letter I am enjoying a Dunhill Montecruz #210. I began reading your "Out of the Humidor" section in the March 1995 issue when I caught sight of the words "Customs" and "Cincinnati" in one of the letters. Aside from some of Mark Twain's tales, S.P.'s letter was one of the most interesting stories I have ever read.
S.P. and his friend seem to forget it is against the law to import Cuban cigars into this country, unless you are one of the few Americans permitted to travel to Cuba. Daisy, the Customs Service narcotics dog who alerted customs officers to S.P.'s friend, is unable to respond to S.P.'s letter due to anatomical limitations.
As a gentleman, I feel compelled to defend her honor. Daisy is trained solely to alert to the presence of narcotics and not to detect Cuban cigars. Your readers should know that Daisy has a success rate of over 90 percent, and the majority of the remaining 10 percent have admitted to using dope or being at parties or clubs where dope was smoked. If Daisy was trained to alert to the odor of tobacco, she would hit on me and several other officers who smoke.
I keep a full humidor of Dominican cigars in my cigar-friendly office, and usually smoke two a day. Never once in three years has Daisy expressed any interest in me or my humidor, although she does like my candy jar. Any Cuban cigars found during the course of a search for narcotics would be incidental. Never once in my long career with the Immigration Service, working side by side with the Customs Service, have I seen a person referred for search because the officer thought he/she was carrying Cuban cigars.
Customs officers are charged with the enforcement of the laws of the United States. They do not make the laws, nor are they allowed to interpret them. Until such time as the policymakers in Washington decide to lift the embargo against Cuba, as much as it pains some of us, customs officers will continue to seize and destroy Cuban cigars. I have personally witnessed the destruction of thousands of Cuban cigars, and in the case of a box of H. Upmann Sir Winstons, I was nearly brought to tears.
As I stated earlier, I truly enjoy a great cigar. I have resigned myself to the fact that Cuban cigars are not permitted to be imported into the United States, and until such time as they are, I limit myself to enjoying the fine cigars crafted in the Dominican Republic and Honduras.
What S.P., his friend and your readers must remember is that smuggling Cuban cigars, or any other items, into the United States is a crime. If you get caught, the cigars will be destroyed and all you will have left is a "lousy receipt." If you do get caught, please try to remember that the customs officers are just doing their job, and that, for many officers, destroying Cuban cigars is not something they look forward to when they get up in the morning.
Brian D. Nicholas
Cincinnati International Airport
K-9, U.S. Customs Service
Cincinnati International Airport
* * *
This letter is for wives who condemn or merely tolerate their husband's cigar smoking.
When my husband started enjoying an occasional cigar, I accepted it reluctantly, but used the opportunity to sit with him. He asked me to try a puff, and I was surprised at the fine taste of a good cigar. Before long, I was sharing so many of his cigars that I started buying my own. Now we often enjoy cigars together; sometimes with a good Bourbon. And we relax, listen to music and talk.
Cigar smoking has done wonderful things for our 15-year marriage.
To those who cannot tolerate their partner's cigar smoking: "Ladies! Wise up! You're missing a great opportunity, as well as a tasty, relaxing past-time!"
Penfield, New York
* * *
Years ago as a journalist I spent a week in a small Mexican town with John Wayne, the late, great movie star who loved cigars. At that time, while working on a story I would smoke up to 10 inexpensive, but quite good, cigars. They were long and black, as slim as Wayne himself. He saw me smoking one on the set of his movie, Cahill, and asked if I had a spare. I said sure, and gave him one.
At the time I had brought only one box with me and they were getting low. Every day thereafter, Wayne would ask if I had another cigar. He liked them and apparently had run out of his own brand. On a break I went to the local town and searched for a cigar. None were for sale in the entire town. I was running short, and if Wayne kept smoking mine I would be lost in Mexico without a cigar. And then it happened. I ran out. Wayne was disappointed. In desperation I started rummaging around the set and came upon a box of what looked like cigars. I lifted one, lighted up and spit it out. It was a prop cigar--no tobacco, all brown paper.
A true cigar smoker knows what torture it is to run out of cigars, especially in as quiet and lonely a place as the Mexican town we were in. I finally asked Wayne if he had any cigars. "Nope," he replied, "Ran out. And you're out too. We're wrapping this up in a day or so, or else I'd send Bud to Texas and get some." We wrapped it up and I hastened to get home to the brand I smoked.
Lake Orion, Michigan
Editor's Note: I received mail, both negative and positive, regarding the India Allen story in the Spring 1995 issue of Cigar Aficionado. As always, Cigar Aficionado readers were thoughtful and articulate in voicing their concerns or praise.
It has never been our intent to make nudity an integral part of Cigar Aficionado. That having been said, Cigar Aficionado is a men's magazine. Given that it is 1995, the article was, in our view, well within the bounds of good taste. The black-and-white photographs were presented as art. And, the article was intentionally not hyped on the cover. Here are a few sample letters:
* * *
In the autumn of 1992, a cigar-smoking associate of my husband presented him with the premier issue of Cigar Aficionado and a subscription to your unique new magazine. What a thoughtful 50th birthday gift for my cigar-loving husband! As each new issue arrived, a ritual was formed: He finishes dinner, sets up a fire (in upstate New York fireplaces are used 10 months out of the year), and settles into his favorite chair next to his humidor and oversized ashtray. He then lights his cigar, our 18-year-old cat climbs into his lap, and my husband savors Cigar Aficionado along with his cigar. While he is reading, our daughters, ages 12 and 14, and I are encouraged to read certain articles he feels we will enjoy--only, of course, after he's finished reading.
One of our family priorities is education. My husband and I confess to our friends that after having three children complete college and two in private schools, we have become "education poor." Our girls are excellent students and voracious readers. They have learned about George Burns, Groucho Marx and more in Cigar Aficionado, while I have appreciated the articles on antique posters, pocket watches and Tiffany glass. Cigar Aficionado had become a family magazine.
I realize that this magazine was purchased for my husband, not for myself and certainly not for the girls. Should there be any reason why all of us could not enjoy this upscale gentlemen's publication? I didn't think so, until my husband received the Spring 1995 issue. Unfortunately, my daughters will not be reading about Mr. Television, Babe Ruth or cigar store Indians.
Marvin, after more than two years of presenting a wonderful magazine that was read by our entire family, why must you display a former Playboy Playmate in the nude? Aren't there enough magazines that cater to those expecting nudity on their pages? Isn't a provocative teddy or a sensuous evening dress enough to get the point across that Ms. Allen has a beautiful body? Couldn't Ms. Allen enjoy her cigar clothed, as do all the gentlemen and other ladies in your magazine?
My husband finds nothing wrong with the Playmate layout in "his magazine" and believes it is foolish for me to protest. He's probably right; after all, it is "his magazine," since it can no longer be enjoyed by all of us.
Syracuse, New York
* * *
I received in today's mail my Spring 1995 issue of Cigar Aficionado. Since it is Saturday, our home is the neighborhood and family "hang out." Upon seeing the new issue in my mail, I passed by all the other items and pulled open the poly bag. My mother, father, friends and children already knew they had lost me from the conversation for the next hour due to the magazine's arrival.
To my great displeasure, I found the photographs of Ms. India Allen. She is a beautiful human being, but her pornographic photos have no place in my home. I understand that you are still searching to expand the niche of your magazine to a broader readership and advertising base, but I do not agree with this type of photography without prior warning to your readers. I surely hope you warned your advertisers, newsstand wholesalers and staff of this negative change in the magazine.
You have done an excellent job of broadening the appeal of the cigar niche with first-class, high-end male-oriented products and with upscale advertisers. Do not blow it by adding pornography.
The Spring issue will not be proudly displayed on my coffee table in either my home or office.
William E. Forster, Jr.
* * *
I am very glad to be subscribing to Cigar Aficio-nado; it gives me the kind of articles and information about the world that I just can't get elsewhere. Thanks.
I am disappointed, though, in the Spring 1995 article on India Allen. I had come to think of your fine magazine as something different and apart from the ordinary. I would like it to continue that way.
The article was, in a word, pandering. It was indistinguishable from anything in Hustler, Playboy or any other magazine devoted to an adolescent crowd. The only difference was you took more time and space to tell us about "Indie's" turn-ons (conservative men! How surprising!) than a more self-respecting girlie mag would.
Daniel A. White
* * *
I have been a subscriber to Cigar Aficionado since the premier issue and have read each issue with the same relish I save for vintage wines and fine cigars. The Spring 1995 issue arrived in my office today and I was drawn to the magazine as usual. However, as I began reading Mervyn Rothstein's interview of India Allen, I quickly realized this was not going to be the usual Cigar Aficionado feature. All I can say is, this magazine just keeps getting better and better with each issue!!!!
Keep up the good work and let's try to find a way to drop the embargo on Cuban cigars.
Scott A. Wickman
Oak Brook, Illinois
* * *
To quote a classic of American cinematography, Paint Your Wagon: "Until you've had a good cigar and a shot of whiskey, you're missing out on the second- and third-best things in life."
After reading the Spring issue's interview and pictorial of India Allen, I see your magazine now includes the best thing in life, as well as numbers two and three.
* * *
I just had to write after having read your latest issue. I love your magazine (my boyfriend has the subscription) for many reasons, and I always look forward to its arrival.
When this month's issue arrived, I of course breezed quickly through it, looking for those articles I would find of interest. As I was flipping through, my attention was quickly drawn to the layout on the Playmate of the Year. I thought, "Hey! There's a naked woman in the cigar magazine!"
I have always appreciated your publication for the level of sophistication it achieves in each issue, so I was relieved when I was able to quell my first impression. The photos were tasteful as was the article about this interesting and successful woman.
Patricia E. Gilliland
Tarrytown, New York
* * *
I am a 25-year-old professional who has enjoyed the unmatched pleasure of cigar smoking since age 19. For years I have considered myself to be in the minority among my peers when it comes to being a "cigar aficionado." However, I am now discovering that I am not entirely alone among the Generation-X crowd. There was one incident recently where I met a fellow cigar enthusiast in the most unlikely of places.
It was well past midnight on a Saturday when I found myself at a rave in downtown Detroit. For those of your readers unfamiliar with this term, a "rave" is an underground dance party frequented by rather exotic people. It is customary to dress in outlandish clothing, dance and party until dawn. Among this subculture one would not expect to see many conservative-types puffing on cigars, but there I was.
I was standing at the bar enjoying a smoke when I was tapped on the shoulder. Fully expecting a confrontation of some sort because of my cigar smoking, I turned around with great hesitancy. To my delight, there stood a beautiful 23-year-old woman, dressed in blue bell-bottom pants and a red polka dot shirt draped by a large pink boa. To my even greater delight she asked what kind of cigar I was smoking. I admit I was a little surprised by her line of questioning. I told her I was enjoying an Hoyo De Monterrey No. IV. She seemed impressed by my choice and asked if she could try the cigar.
Next thing I know, we're talking all about the world of cigars. The most amazing thing about the conversation was her revelation that she is not a cigar smoker. I asked her how she knows so much about cigars. She replied, "I read Cigar Aficionado."
That cinched it. I knew this had to be a dream. A beautiful woman who appreciates cigar smoking and reads Cigar Aficionado--not what I expected at a rave. It did, however, seem odd to me that she would read a magazine for cigar smokers, yet not be a cigar smoker herself. She said that she enjoyed the articles and was always fascinated by cigars because of her late father's indulgence in them.
The rest of the night, or should I say morning, we spent dancing and recalling past articles of your fine magazine. The best part was her insistence that I continue to smoke cigars for the duration of the evening. She herself did no more tasting, but revealed that she loved the second-hand aroma from my cigars. She said it reminded her of when she was a child sitting on her father's lap while he smoked one of his favorite Churchills.
The only bad news about this story is its ending. Having found what I considered to be the perfect woman, I was disheartened to learn that she was only visiting Detroit for a short period of time, and was planning to return to her hometown of Seattle the next day. That night was the first and last time we saw each other. But if I'm ever in Seattle, I'll be sure to visit as many raves as I can in hopes of finding her again.
* * *
I am writing to you from 33,000 feet, in the the final two hours of my nonstop 11 hour flight from Los Angeles to Milan. I don't know why I do this to myself, but I always pack the most recent issue of Cigar Aficionado in my carry-on (no matter how many times I've read it before) and proceed to read it cover to cover. This self-imposed sentence of "cigar deprivation" is only exacerbated by the fact that I am having to read about these precious pieces of God's great creation but I can't "light up" on the plane, even though I am subjected to the stench of second-hand cigarette smoke the entire flight.
To help ease the pain and also to get my mind off of my obsession, I decided to write to you. I have had a couple of instances of cigar smoking on international flights that I wanted to share with you.
First, the good. A couple of years go, on one of my many flights to Tokyo, I was upgraded from business class to first class on All Nippon Airlines (ANA). The chief cabin steward was a gem. He was a very dignified man, worthy of his position. The food was incredible and the wine list was surprisingly well rounded. I started off with a half a bottle of 1982 Dom Perignon. I had a lovely beef Wellington done to perfection with a full-bodied Cabernet. Dinner was finished with a 20-year-old tawny Port. I felt that familiar urge to light up one of my Cohiba robustos that I always have with me in my travel humidor. I motioned to the steward and explained my predicament. He said, "Wait here--I'll see what I can do." He came back in a few moments and said, "Follow me." He slid me into the crew's sleeping area behind floor-to-ceiling curtains, and said, "Please be my guest. Enjoy yourself." He even came by twice to fill my Port glass. I was in heaven.
The bad. My wife accompanied me on one of my trips to London on American Airlines. We were about four hours into our flight, after dinner, when my wife went to the last row of business class and lit up a cigarette. I was thinking to myself, "How unfair!!"
We had previously had a minor tiff with our flight attendant, and I had consumed a few glasses of mediocre wine. All of these things made me a little cranky, to say the least. At that time I decided, "Well, I'll show them," and proceeded to light up. I no sooner got that sucker lit but to look up and see this battle-ax hovering over me. Man, she was nasty! She told me that if I didn't extinguish that "thing" immediately that I would be met by some of London's finest upon arrival at Heathrow.
I took two more puffs and watched her face turn red with rage. In less than 30 seconds, she had me surrounded with four flight attendants. Hell, I was only smoking a cigar! I hadn't threatened to blow up the plane or anything like that!! Anyhow, I decided that this moose was serious and complied. Upon leaving the plane, one of the flight crew just smiled and shook his head at me and said, "Tough, ain't she?" We both laughed and headed up the jetway. It's nice to see that some people still have a sense of humor.
Dana Point, California
* * *
I am a bartender at a popular busy restaurant/bar in a suburb of Milwaukee. There are many nights during a busy dinner that I find myself maxed-out to the point of being (as we say it) "in the weeds." One huge side-effect is stress. I have recently found the ultimate antidote. During all the hoopla, I need only look in the drawer where I left my "cigar of the night" to receive a second wind. Then, after the waitresses punch out, the dinner crowd departs, the glasses are washed, the tickets are rung into the register and I have a chance to catch my breath, I open that drawer and pull out my "bone," my reward for being a good dog.
As I light it, I usually notice three different reactions from people: The first reaction is amusement at "the bartender smoking a cigar." (Little do they know how relaxed and separated I feel from the simple yet subtly complex act of lighting up.) The second is disgust, but I take true pleasure in pointing to the "Smokeeter" we've installed and from knowing that, sorry, there is nothing they can do about it. The third reaction is the most prominent. It is the look of jealousy. These people ask earnestly if we sell cigars or where I bought it from or what kind it is, and they always remark on how much they love cigars, all the time saying this with their eyes on mine.
Because of this, I enjoy it all the more! I'd also like to note that my girlfriend loves cigars, too. This seems like a great set-up for me, and it is, until midway through my cigar, she begs to try it, and I soon find lipstick all over it! Oh well, nothing's perfect, I guess. So to all you cigar-loving bartenders out there--cheers!
David "Mertz" Moertl
Centennial Bar & Grille
* * *
My daughter is sleeping, my husband is downstairs. I have my bubbles, perfume and candles, soft music is playing, and I'm sipping Grand Marnier and smoking the sweetest Cuban Cohiba there is.
Marvin, it's the only way to enjoy a bubble bath.
Bayonne, New Jersey
* * *
By the standards of the greater part of the readership, I am a fledgling cigar smoker, but I'm happy to say that I'm developing my taste for Cohibas at every opportunity. You see, I seem to make a habit out of developing tastes that thankfully aren't mainstream, which is why I'm glad that a magazine like yours exists. There is a certain affluence that's attached to a man who smokes a cigar, as I have discovered there is no such thing as a cheap "good" smoke. The maintenance of a well-stocked humidor is a serious undertaking, but that's good; nothing worth having in this life comes easy.
The common denominator that has escaped the notice of some of your critics regarding the individuals you've profiled is their having worked hard to make their way from obscurity to prominence. It can be argued that the personal politics of Rush Limbaugh are offensive, or James Belushi's opinion of female cigar smokers is chauvinistic, but that in itself does not prove them to be offensive chauvinists, nor does it diminish their accomplishments.
It has been my experience that people will too often pre-judge. As a young African-American man making his way on Wall Street, I've caught my share of "who's he supposed to be!" glares while walking down the street with a lit Macanudo Portofino between my teeth. However, in keeping with the spirit of the people you've profiled, I will neither apologize for the way in which I carry myself (damn good, if I do say so), nor for my tastes, which I take great pleasure in cultivating. More often than not I want to say to those self-righteous masses who would begrudge me, "@#$! you if you can't take a joke!"
Anyone that targets and tags an individual as being anything solely on the basis of their public personas is in my opinion no better than the negative images they project on their subjects. Discrimin-ation without thorough examination is wrong, and unfortunately any person who is either a minority or represents a minority view is a prime candidate for this type of scrutiny.
I am not so naive to believe that beneath the exterior of every sinister cigar smoker hides a warm and fuzzy "Teddy Bear." These things in and of themselves do not give me the right to diminish the strides these men have made to be in positions enabling them to affect audiences globally and nationally. My perceptive abilities are not so perfect that I can look into another man's heart and qualify his soul. A man's politics is one of many barometers for determining the caliber of his character, but by no means the final arbiter. Cigar smokers as a group are stereotyped as being many things, but the reality is we are simply people that enjoy one of nature's treasures--whether politically correct or not.
I believe that people should be judged not only by their outward appearances, but for the content of their character.
Byron Joel Collier
New York, New York
* * *
I was on spring break in Tucson, Arizona, from my college in Michigan. I had not had the chance to spend much time with my mother since the previous summer, so we decided to make this vacation a rather eventful one. The temperature all week had been in the mid-70s; I could not have asked for better weather. We had gone for several hikes and taken in all the local attractions and had a wonderful time. Two days before I was to return to school, my mother and I decided to pack some bread and cheese and head up to the foothills to watch the sun set.
We arrived at a small pass to the west of town where there is a small park that overlooks both the city and the barren landscape of the neighboring valley. We sat there for a while as we sipped on wine in between bites of bread and cheese.
We spoke of the past and of the future as we gazed at the brilliant orange sphere disappearing into the desert floor. The scene was one of the most magnificent I had ever seen. When I was finished with my meal, I reached into my camera bag and dug out an Avo I had just bought that day. My mother sat close by peering over my shoulder, as all mothers do, and watched as I lit the cigar. It was not long after that, and to my surprise, that she calmly called my name and proceeded to ask me if I had another. I let out a short laugh and continued to enjoy my cigar. It was not until the second time she asked that I thought she could be serious. She looked at me for a moment and, not really knowing what to think, I grabbed another cigar from my bag. After a few simple instructions I had her well on her way to the enjoyment of a good cigar.
We sat there for about an hour or more, just talking about anything that came into our heads. We talked and smoked, and for some reason I was not talking to the woman who had once warned me of the perils of smoking, I was talking to a close friend. That night we said very little as we drove back to the city, but I felt that I could have told her anything, and she would have understood what I meant. I have not had the chance to have another cigar with her since then, and consequently, every cigar I have had since that night seems to taste a little more spicy and a little more special to me. If anyone ever has the opportunity to share a cigar with their mother, I suggest they take it right away. Moments that meaningful don't come by too often.