New Group To Rattle FDA’s Cage.

pipes and cigars

I was asked to write a weekly article in a soon to be established internet group that centers around the FDA’s shenanigans.  This, due to the recent comments made by the junior state senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, at the Senate Appropriations Hearing, who “brought up the Deeming Rule and the current impacts on the premium cigar market.  Senator Rubio asked FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb if there were any plans to re-evaluate the inclusion of premium hand made cigars in this rule.   Rubio also pointed out that premium cigars are not marketed to children, and that there is a difference when it comes to premium cigars.”  (CigarCoop – see below)

This balanced discussion caused a maelstrom of chatter over the internet giving Senator Rubio the kudos he deserves for highlighting the situation.

Not long after his appearance and subsequent statements, I received the call from one of the more pro-active heads of one of the more legendary cigar manufacturers in the industry based in the DR.  His request took me aback.  I was not at all sure what his intentions were but from what I could gather, he felt, since I am a blogger with a following, I could do some good if I were to write about the situation in whatever manner I felt appropriate to “make noise” as he is so often heard saying in conversations with him.

I immediately was hesitant to agree.  I told him that I have been very active in citing the idiocy of the FDA and its knee-jerk reactions to the premium cigar industry.  I did not bring up but surely recalled, that every time I broached the subject of the FDA in the style that I write that I was drilled a new bodily orifice by readers who vehemently disagreed with my assessment.  My guess is that they formed this “safe” stance by not reading the entire article and formed their opinions of what I was saying by just scanning the lead, or listening to a third party’s take.

Journalism is my second language.  I know how to write a news story.  I know the formula of who, what, when, where, why and how of a standard news item.  But I don’t write like that.  Period.  I bend words.  My form of writing is based on imagery and my slant is delving into the emotional aspects of a subject rather than directly reporting on it. There are enough cigar news bloggers out there who do a fantastic job of reporting the daily stories that crop up in the industry.

When I wrote, what I am convinced were well-thought out challenging articles, I was exposed to being called egregiously foul names by readers who I can guess only read a portion of the stories. I felt the vitriolic wrath of Carlito Fuente Jr. who debased my words and ideas to the point of outright hatred.  How am I to know the level of a reader’s interest in absorbing other forms of expression and representation.  But to attack a writer in such a mean spirited way I found to be shocking and extremely disturbing.  But I continued as the days went by to scrawl what I felt inside – I am not afraid to express myself.  I do not conform.

So I have yet to make up my mind.  I want to see what this new group is all about.  I want to see what its motives are and is it an open forum such that – if I may be so bold – to accepting artistic editorializing that expounds on a particular subject or political viewpoint from the prisms of factual yet imaginative elocution.

I do know one thing, should I decide to contribute, my style will not change.  If the reader is familiar and savvy to know my bent, then there will be no stinging words thrown at me – or the copy I pen.  If they are not used to my style, then perhaps they will sludge through and find that I am simply coming at the subject from a different angle.  We are all in the same industry, yes?  Why would I write something to hurt, damage or destroy it?  Nonsense, eh?  (I shrug with indignation.)  

(Commissioner Gottlieb’s response can be read and heard on  (CigarCoop) 



Cigars are important, but . . .


embryo real

When your Mom is in the hospital with congestive heart failure, that reality allows me to slowly sink into the very soft, viscous syrup of reality that leaves cigars, plumbing, store snits and arguments on the surface weightlessly floating.

As gravity is steadily pulling me deeper into the gel, all outside sounds become deadened and the utterances of hate, dislike, and bluster become muffled to the point of incomprehensibility.  The silken liquid is soothing to the body.  Being immersed in it brings my mind to a state of relaxation that conjures up embedded emotions that were thought to be dulled to the point of extinction in this litany of life.

There is no bottom to this mass.  It goes down ad infinitum.  Eventually, my weight begins to equalize with the external pressure.  My body begins to steadily slow to a stop as I am being bathed in the serenity of silence.  I can breathe, as Gary Sinise’s character, Jim McConnell, is able to do in the final scene in “Mission to Mars” as he is being prepared for his journey to worlds unknown.  He suddenly realizes that he is able to breathe inside the life-sized glass chamber as it begins to fill with water.  He opens his eyes in astonishment, as small bubbles of oxygen trickle from his nose and mouth.

It depends on what is happening on the surface that will determine my length of stay. But as of right now, I am as free as an embryo twisting and twirling oblivious to the stress and strain of the outside world.  I am in the end scene in “2001: A Space Odyssey” – ready to be reborn with renewed energy and resolve.  I know what’s important. 

Cigar Cynicism’s Cure.


When you’re in the dumpster, it can take the will of God to pull you out of your funk.  But sometimes, all it takes is knowing that you’re appreciated – and loved.  Yes, you may still be in the dumpster, but just being able to generate that internal impish grin, and are fully conscious that deep within your soul there is that white-hot spark of unfathomable, genuine affection that actually exists is all that is needed for you to confidently climb out.

I was talking to a manager the other day and she told me that she gets such a kick out of the fantasy some guys have of what being a cigar broker is.  To lift a line from the great Motown tune by The Main Ingredient, Everybody Plays the Fool,Love runs deeper than any ocean . . .”  is precisely what pulls these guys into this phantasmagorical world of make-believe that they hold so close to their fragile hearts.

Phantasmagorical is defined as “having a fantastic or deceptive appearance, as something in a dream or created by the imagination.”  And that is why we become enveloped in this shady conglomeration of grays, blacks, whites, smoky, misty hues of daydreaming.  And it’s when we are immersed up to our necks in what I call, the angular disturbance of Germanic wood carvings that I need to draw upon that glimmering iridescent crystal of love to drag me out of the dumpster screaming of the injustice that is being perpetrated on human beings.

I have access to that fiery glow that is more brilliant than the light that is produced from a rapidly burning, oxygen infused strip of magnesium.  I do.  I really, really do.  

I delved ponderously into my metaphysical mind today to churn up its oftimes insouciant ambivalence – clay people,  and I willed that grounded emotional support I needed to keep me upright to action – and I did it.  

I was able to achieve that balance because I knew in my heart that I would not let myself be sucked into the nadir of negative and unproven lies the mind constantly creates to pull you even further into the deep, dark, dangerous dungeons that this world can lead you into.

I stayed in that rat infested, garbage spewed steel container for about an hour.  But not once during that time did I take my eyes off the word that I knew could catapult me out of what some might call utter despair or hopelessness.  The latter word is the more positive one because it contains – hope.  And I hang onto that with a grip that no vise can exceed.

I won today mates.  I got out of the dumpster with, figuratively speaking, bloodied hands and knuckles.  But love will always be stronger, tougher, and more resilient than anything the Dark Side can throw at you.  Even if that effervescent glob of concentrated emotion is suddenly hurled in your direction at the very last second, even when you were totally convinced that you had lost that emotional connection from above – don’t give up!  Grab for it, scrap for it, stretch your muscles for it, force your mind to absorb what you know is within you with every last ounce of desire and you will not be trapped in the dumpster, but rather will be free from whatever it was or is trying to keep you a prisoner.  “I am not a number.  I am a free man!”

The feeling of winning is worth every nano iota of physical, mental, and spiritual pain you must endure to lift yourself out.  No dumpster walls are high enough to keep you from escaping.

You’ve got it.  It’s in you.  I promise you.  It’s there.  No shit.

Horacio cigar II and her – forever.


St Christina Church

Many years ago I was in church on the Southside of Chicago.  Before the service, I noticed one of the most intriguing women I have ever seen there.  She was several pews in front of me to the right.  She was short in stature, oh maybe about 5’5”.  Her medium-length hair was black, simple – halo style back then.  I thought I was being discreet as I stared at her from behind for practically the whole mass.  My intention was to go up to her after worship and introduce myself in some kind of Christian way so as not to scare her off.  

So the mass ends and I get up and she leaves on the right and heads for the door.  I’m in the center aisle and proceed to head for the back as well.  I’m just a few feet from her and the priest who had the mass was shaking everybody’s hand and as much as I tried to avoid that contact, he seemed to reach over to me and take my hand.  Odd I thought.  But I wished him a “Good morning” and attempted to get on my way because this woman I noticed was not a slow walker.

He still has my hand, and he looks at me and asks, “What were you thinking today during the service?”  Those were his exact words.  I will never forget them.  And I felt a rush of nausea in the pit of my stomach because I could see he had no doubt noticed my attention was on the young lady and that my mind was a galaxy away from his homily.

She’s walking further away by now.  And I do remember the very words I answered, “Father, I have a lot on my mind.”  He looked at me.  It was as if he kept me there until for all practical purposes it was too late for me to contact this woman unless I ran or raced toward her and that would not have been a very smart thing to do.  He knew what was on my mind.  He knew what I was concentrating on – and he was right!

I marvel at this vivid recollection of fact.  This is over 40 years ago.  Yet, it’s as if it happened yesterday and in my redolent vision, it did.  I remember the feelings, the angst, the embarrassment, and the dialogue.  It’s when a moment like this occurs that you know you have an indelible crevasse etched in your memory.  This is how I feel about today’s cigar.

I’ll just rewrite my notes, as scattered as they may seem – the whole is what counts:

(Notas ad verbum est)

horatio no 2Horacio II.  Delightful first puff.  Aroma matches the taste of the cigar.  Oh boy, was this worth the wait. Caramel.  Soul-stopping flavour.  Decadent.  Hedonistic. Sybaritic.  A grand smoke.  Ecuadorian, Nicaraguan and Costa Rican.  The time it took to get this brand through the proper channels into the US will remain with me like a nightmare – as will the erotic essences so essential to the exotic end.  A smoke of wide proportions.  Thick with details of the memorable mixed minutiae of madness – David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest.”

Savory.  Sensual.  No.  Sensually satisfying.  The bouquet pulsates with luxury.  

Deep, ground Roman coffee.  Call it a pleasurable sensation.  A feather.  A look.  Marie Magdalene “Marlene” Dietrich may sing it the best:

Falling in love again/Never wanted to/What’s a girl to do?/I can’t help it.  Love’s always been my game/Play it how I may/I was made that way/I can’t help it/Men cluster to me like moths around a flame/And if their wings burn, I know I’m not to blame.  (Repeat)

irv with horatioWhat?  What?  What?  What?  This aroma touches my senses – all of them.  A buffer of sweet spice colliding with rich touches of Dylan’s poetics.  It’s beginning to thunder. The sky is dark.  I’ve lost sight of the thirds.  I don’t think anybody really gives a damn about the fractions.  Na!  

It’s beginning to rain.  The moisture in the air melds with the melting aromatic smoke silently whisked into the air and into my memory.  “What were you thinking today during the services?”  A calm resonates above the splashing rain on asphalt.  She may have gotten away, but her memory, like Horacio II – will forever be engraved in my mind.

(Songwriters  F. HOLLANDER, REG CONNELLY/Published by Lyrics © MUSIC SALES CORPORATION/Song Discussions is protected by U.S. Patent 9401941.  Other patents pending.)




inside culvers

I’m at Culver’s waiting for my lunch to arrive.  I’m No. 15.  And my brain is working overtime.  I just left a shop about an hour ago, and I had to inform the owner that his usual discount is history.  “And the times they are a changin’.”

culvers meal

Ah, that’s good.  The burger is hot.  So are the fries.  I’m not a french fry fan, but Culver’s fries?  When they are done right, they are perfect!

Next, I’m headed to see my Mom.  And I can’t help but think that I’m just trying too damn hard.  Way too hard – to make people happy, to satisfy their every demand, always having to explain why, why, why.  Why the price increases, why the variances in blends, why the acquisitions, why the mergers, why the back orders, the whole shebang of problems, complaints, and emotional contusions hurled at me on a daily basis.  And all these things bleed into my private life like collateral damage does on the battlefield and the House and Senate Chambers.

mob bossNow I don’t know how other people cope.  But I can guess they have figured out a way or they wouldn’t be here with me in this chain restaurant having or waiting for their lunch.  I look around the place and what do I see? An overweight woman with scalding orange accents in her hair glued to her over-sized cell phone, taking tiny sips of her pop in between eating her fries.  There’s a couple to my far left who are holding hands.  She’s listening to him and gazing into his eyes.  I’d love to be privy to the conversation.  In front of them is an elderly woman wearing a loosely, ill-fitting light blue blouse chomping on her burger.  Alone.  And right in front of her, an older, gray-haired man who could pass for a mob boss.  Quiet.  Deep in thought.  How do they all cope with what’s going on in their lives?

Me?  I go for long walks at night with a cigar in hand.  Sometimes it’s for one mile, other times two or three.  I normally go at dusk or night when it seems, at least to me, to be quieter and less crowded on the streets.  Often my head in pounding after a day out on the road.  Selling takes its toll.  This helps.

I tell the truth.  Always have.  Always will.  The demands on a cigar broker are total.  And when you come down to this or any other business, it always ALWAYS sinks to the bottom line.  Period.  Done.  I couldn’t sell windows or plumbing jobs, or roofing – I wouldn’t.  The thought is abhorrent to me.  I have a passion for the leaf.  My raison d’être. But in the end – it’s the green scene gene.  End of the romance you Cuban tree huggers.

Ponder “the Comedy and Tragedy Masks.  These were taken from Greek Mythology. Thalia, being the muse of comedy and pastoral poetry; and Melpomene, the Muse of tragedy.  Muse, in this case, is a protector of an art or science.”


I can go into the history of these amazing theater props.  “But on a more practical side, these masks and others like them were worn in the Greek theater to distinguish the different emotions of the characters.  Their exaggerated look was so that people who were sitting far off were still able to see the character’s emotions.  The mouths of the masks were enlarged and designed to make it easier for the actor to talk and for their voices to project to the back of the auditorium.  Actors were able to play more than one character because of the masks.  When they played other characters, all they had to do was change masks.  Talk about being two-faced…LOL.”  (T. Dawn Gatling-Coates)

Take the damn masks OFF!

Get out of line!  Or you have Fritz Lang’s imaginary “Metropolis!”

irv bloodied

Have I become a “pseudo cōper?”  Walks or no walks. Am I being too honest or have I hit that wall, seen stars and then painfully pulled back with bloodied skin risking the truth.  

Being with Jean-Michel of De Los Reyes the last three days, I was inundated with a tsunami of information about the industry.  The man has an encyclopedic mind. He tells me that there is hope if we just “make enough noise.”  No no.  Not the bullshit uninformed rhetorical racket we’re fed on social media every day about how everything is “gonna be alright” now that Trump is in office.  Stop blowing sexually suggestive smoke rings. Ladies, it isn’t attractive.  Enough! That’s delusional.  That’s daydreaming.  Watergate. Babel.

Make utter chaotic unabashed pandemonium that will make a difference.  I’m talking meaningful, raucous, rattling noise.   

Offfff.  I’m tired.  I’ll stop here – I want to listen to all you bellowing . . .