Cigars Need To Stay On It.

julius

I just became aware of Julius Eastman, “ . . . the kind of American genius not enough people know about.”  (The New Yorker, January 22, 2018)  He is on the periphery of the famous avant-garde composers, such as Philip Glass, Harold Budd, Charles Ives, John Cage, Steve Reich, Lydia Lunch and David Tudor.

His music, though somewhat controversial, (John Cage once said “that the younger writer had few ideas,” has been around since the 70s and had been almost forgotten save for those who are deeply embedded in this genre of composition.

His pedigree is impressive, “ As a student, Eastman earned his degree in piano and composition at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Musics, in Philadelphia.”  And his talents were not limited to composition, “he had a remarkable voice – deep, soulful, nuanced – that attracted attention.”  

What brought about this renaissance of notoriety surfaced about a year ago when news about the author, Renée Levine Packer, and composer, Mary Jane Leach, edited an anthology of essays about him, entitled “Gay Guerrilla,” published in the January 23rd, 2017 issue of The New Yorker.

Known more for his vocal process, “Identity politics has probably played a role in the Eastman renaissance: programming a black, gay composer quells questions about diversity. But it’s the music that commands attention: wild, grand, delirious, demonic, an uncontainable personality surging into sound. (Alex Ross)

He called what he composed “organic music,” each phrase of a piece contained a bit from the previous phrase – but then he might erase some phrases.”  After listening to a number of his pieces, I can say with certainty that Mr. Eastman has a permanent place within the famed composers of greater recognition.

Unfortunately, being ensconced at this late date may have been to his short time on this earth as well.  “Eastman, it seems, was a man filled with longing, and with dashed hopes that he helped dash.  He wanted an academic position in order to keep going, but it didn’t come through; he didn’t go along to get along, which is part of his genius, and his tragedy.  When he died, in 1990 (b. 1940), he was homeless.  Many of his compositions had been thrown out when he failed to pay the rent for his East Village apartment.”

All the arts have their forgotten souls who contributed so very much or tried and were revived only by the interest of others.  So it is with brand names of cigars that surface for such a short time, but then are totally forgotten or never gain traction due to the hapless fate and the unwillingness of the scoured, dreaded marketplace that has so little time for those who can’t instantly pay the rent.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9X3j_76VBvI

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Consider this an inscrutable dilemma.

irv exhausted

A few days ago:  This is very unusual for me.  I can’t fall asleep.  In fact, it’s ah, 1:07 am CST.  And I’m wide awake.  No desire for a cigar.  Kinda thirsty.  Apple juice usually does the trick.  I’m in the office and the space heater next to me is making my skin itch more than usual, but I’m not in the mood for freezing.

There’s obviously a lot on my mind.  Swirling thoughts of what if are pummelling my brain.  And the odd thing is I have control over all of them.  Just slight slips of logic can put my mind in a mangle of mania that won’t allow the cells to relax.  I mean this is odd.  

I wrote a few notes on my phone to a few people I know are not up.  That’s freedom.  You can get a lot off your chest when you know the other person isn’t most likely to respond. Courage?  No.  Just the opposite.  Dwindling guts.

A lot that’s keeping me up is pure supposition on my part.  Imaginary.  And then again there are minute grains of truth that shimmer through the darkness.  I mentally reach out to those spinning specks.  And I can tell when I connect with one because my eyes flutter and I have this desire to fall asleep.  

Unfortunately, there are not enough of them to keep my brain relaxed long enough so I can get to sleep.  The pricks, pins, and needles of scratchy skin aren’t helping the situation at all.  And even if I did light up a cigar, I couldn’t do it here.  A lot of negative thoughts have trickled into my mind lately, and this temporary sleep deprivation could be the direct result.

I could go through my Rolodex of the mental minutiae that may be keeping these weary brown eyes from relaxing, but then that’s allowing you, the reader, in too deep.  And I have to keep my private psychological trauma at bay about some things that occur in my life to myself.  I’m not living in a fishbowl.

I know I’m going to get a glass of cold juice and swish it down and try to sleep.  But I am engorged with energy, like an anxious racehorse might feel, snorting out snot because I’m just too wound up.  I could take something, but then I may regret that decision in a couple of hours and the last thing I can be today is woozy.  Yes, it is today.  The outside’s darkness might fool me into thinking it’s tonight.

I will let you in on one fact, a misguided wonk has emerged.  It’s becoming . . . so, prevalent?  So bloody obvious.  Years ago the sparkle of the new was enough to keep me spot on.  But, you have to really read into what I just wrote.  What comes up when you’re this wide awake?  Work?  Or a perception of the notion.  I saw an article about how robotic arms are being programmed to complete delicate jobs with almost surgical precision.  Instead, I intellectually go over a variation on a theme on delicacy.

********  

“Pistil, the female reproductive part of a flower. The pistil, centrally located, typically consists of a swollen base, the ovary, which contains the potential seeds, or ovules; a stalk, or style, arising from the ovary; and a pollen-receptive tip, the stigma, variously shaped and often sticky.

pistil

Differences in the composition and form of the pistil are useful in determining taxonomic relationships. There may be a single pistil, as in the lily, or several to many pistils, as in the buttercup. Each pistil is constructed of from one to many enrolled leaf-like structures or carpels. The carpel is a single megasporophyll or modified seed-bearing leaf. A pistil then may be composed of one carpel (simple pistil), as in the sweet pea, or of two or more carpels (compound pistil) partially or completely joined, as in the mustard (two carpels) or lily (three carpels).

A flower that contains separate pistils (and therefore separate carpels) is termed apocarpous; if it contains a single pistil with two or more united carpels, it is syncarpous.  Pistils in the collective sense form the gynoecium, in distinction to the male reproductive parts, or androecium.”  (www.britannica.com)

Odd, uh.  Yeah.    

Not a thought about the tobacco plant.  That’s work.  But what’s keeping me up?  A facet, a strand, a detail of work or omnipresent collateral emotional extremes that are resultant remnants of it?  What would that be?

I would hazard to guess it’s not inanimate.

gorey w stick

Most likely, it’s relationships.  The insurmountable unpredictability of the interaction of the species.  I won’t go so far as to say fear, the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected.  It could have to do with a loss.  Of what?  Which, I suppose can be considered a form of terror.  Loss.  But the intoxicating effect of fear sluices through my mind.  Especially, as I mentioned, when I think I have absolutely no control over the outcome of a situation when in fact I do!  Marginally perhaps.  But I do!!!

The flower?  It’s initial pollination, growth, bloom, and aroma are all predictable.

People?  A person?  Totally unpredictable.  Really?  Really.

Obviously, I have to try and get some sleep because this temporary insomnia is robbing me of refreshing my psyche.  Damn.  Will I be forced to seek medicinal encouragement? My thought process is genuinely being mangled.

Or I could let nature take its course sans juice or pills, as it is – right this very moment – because I’m still wide awake, which is very unusual for me.  I can’t fall asleep.  In fact . . . 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qc4G6tOgOYI

     

What if Woody Allen made cigars?

Woody at CannesI used to wonder how Woody Allen does it.  I mean, for the most part, he produces at least a movie every two years.  And very often he directs a film every year.  In fact, he directed a film a year from 1992 until 2014.  I would often ask myself where all his ideas come from?

Now, some hit the mark and some are so off center I’ll bet he doesn’t even want to be associated with them.  But he just keeps on producing, directing, writing, acting on and on and on.  He is steeped in talent.

Plus he could care less what the critics say.  “I have no apprehension whatsoever. I’ve been through this so many times. And I found that one way or the other, your life doesn’t change at all. Which is sad, in a way. Because the people love your film… nothing great happens. And people hate your film… nothing terrible happens. Many years ago, I would… I would… a film of mine would open, and it would get great reviews, and I would go down and look at the movie theater. There’d be a line around the block. And when a film is reviled, you open a film and people say “Oh, it’s the stupidest thing, it’s the worst movie.” You think: oh, nobody’s going to ever speak to you again. But, it doesn’t happen. Nobody cares. You know, they read it and they say “Oh, they hated your film.” You care, at the time. But they don’t. Nobody else cares. They’re not interested. They’ve got their own lives, and their own problems, and their own shadows on their lungs, and their x-rays. And, you know, they’ve got their own stuff they’re dealing with… So, I’m just never nervous about it” (September 2007 interview, promoting Cassandra’s Dreams.)

He doesn’t give it a whimper of thought.  It’s in his blood.  Creativity courses through his veins with such speed and predictability that he cannot avoid making movies.

So, is that the bleeding reason cigar blends come out faster than the remnants of someone with an ulcerative colitis episode?  Because “Nobody cares?”  Keep in mind that Woody had a career as a joke writer for the great Sid Caesar, crafted scripts for the Ed Sullivan show, and wrote gags for humorist Herb Shriner.  He had a capacity to write that exceeded the imagination of Dick Cavett.  Then he branched off into the insane world of stand-up comedy (1960-1969), slowly bifurcating writing comedy and stand up into filmmaking.

In short, he had years of experience behind him to drawn upon.  A classic background. 

(Those who want to bring in his private life go ahead, but that’s a diversion he has handled with aplomb and it really has no effect on his skills.  If we brought the private lives of business people into their “jobs” {as we are doing today} the world would be at a standstill.  I’m not making a judgment here.)

Ok.  I’m stumped.  Where do I go?  Do I grouse about the new guys who get into the cigar industry because their family has been in it since the discovery of the wheel?   The family’s great-grandfather’s grandfather’s father’s lineage is tobacco.  Now there’s experience.   But is it transferable?

So the son (or daughter) really believes he has been ordained to be the scion of the next generation of cigar makers.  Why?  Well, that makes more sense to me than some of these guys who feel they are also somehow duly consecrated by the gods of tobacco to start their own line from scratch.  A foolish belief.

I’m not talking about a bloke who has a cigar made for him.  No, no.  They don’t count in this equation because the only risk they are taking is financial.  It’s not their reputation that is at stake.  But the guy who decides to go it alone, now he’s looking over the edge of Angel Falls in Venezuela with an unprecedented height of 3220 feet, 2647 of those are totally uninterrupted.

Now we’re talking risk.  Even with experience.  Once they jump they have at least 2647 feet to right themselves so when they land they have a slight chance of survival.   Slight.

Now the unschooled have that same amount of distance to correct whatever they started, but what are the odds that actually occurs.  Splat!  But I see the would-be Woody Allens of the cigar manufacturing world jump as if to say “Ha!  Watch me” all the time.

Hmmmm.  Or do I go off on the panoply of brands from both sides of the fence – experienced and inexperienced?  

Yes, Woody wrote when riding the subway on anything that he could scribble on.  But here’s a guy who had talent from an early age.  Pure consecrated brilliance.  So he makes a film that flops.  He doesn’t just spin the wheel.  He makes an educated guess and produces another.  Some guys without a whit of talent put out a cigar and even before they get to the Sid Caesar level (hell, most of these guys never even reach the writing on the subway stage) they have another blend on the market.  It’s incredibly doltish.  

Face it.  They have no talent for blending or making cigars.  Period.  But do they quit? Luckily most do.  Sales show skill.   But some keep going with the belief that they are actually going to succeed like Allen.

True talent is a natural ability to do something.  A knack is an ersatz talent that is learned. A lot of cigar makers have a knack.  But they aren’t the same.  Woody is gifted. And that’s how the former Allan Stewart Konigsberg from Brooklyn continues to retrieve his ideas – talent from within.

The others?  “Hey, somebody gimme a dart.”

Screaming for the pleasure I covet.

sotl2

E is politely repeating, “Amazon, Amazon, Amazon, Amazon, Amazon . . . .”  This went on for a few more seconds.  

“Yes!  Yes!  Yes!”

She was looking at the Mastercard statement for January.

“Is this all you?”

I squirmed not knowing if all the purchases from Amazon really were mine because I share the account with my son and he buys games and computer stuff via Amazon with the same card.

“Fourteen!”

Ouch.  Was I being henpecked?  I felt stung each time she said the word Amazon because I had been exposed.  Yes.  Seized by Ms. Sherlock Holmes.   Damn!

“They can’t all be mine,” I said trying desperately in split second thought patterns how to throw my son under the bus.

But that wouldn’t be fair.  F*#k fair.  I was being dressed down.  He didn’t buy a thing.

I decided to take the late Mayor Ed Koch’s political ploy and – fess up.

“It’s possible, but look at the prices?”  I was the middle ball of Newton’s Cradle that proves “action and reaction are equal and opposite.”  I couldn’t move but the equalized vibration was coming at me from both ends.  

I explained that the cost per book was far below the original prices and some were even, go ahead!  SAY IT!  “Used!”  God, how I hated to utter that word.

The rest of the conversation was the rustle of paper.  But surprisingly not a drop of guilt was shed.

What books?  Infinite Jest, My Love Affair with Modern Art, The Dream Colony, Malacqua, Seven Days in the Art World, Calder, The Back of Beyond.  Naken Civil Servent.  See?  That’s eight.   Two fans.  Ten.  But my memory isn’t always that good.  Ah.  E bought a book.  That’s Eleven.  Two on pre-order.  Thirteen.  Gold Bond.  Fourteen.  Ok, not all books.  But I want to own those I ordered because they interest me.  Go to the library?  Sure.  But I’m a book collector.  Need I say more?  My personal gratification.

And this is how I try cigars.  Yes, I’m lucky.  I’m beyond lucky.  I’m blessed.  I’m in the tobacco netherworld where every cigar smoker worth his or her salt of addiction wants to be.  In a position to try cigars.  All different kinds and sizes and brands of cigars.  FREE.  Plus I save the bands.  My personal pleasure.

It’s what I do.  I try different cigars by hopeful blenders, manufacturers, guys from states so far away from the epicenter of the cigar world I wonder how they even generated the idea.  I mean guys from Pittsburgh, New York, Brooklyn, Montana, New Mexico, Indiana.  These are the guys with dreams dripping of dyslexic delirium that they will skate on the edge of madness, irrationality, and intoxication to have their own cigar.  An idea that can slam a wannabe tobacco warbler into the steel-dipped fist of Conor McGregor.  It’ll be an experience you’ll never forget. 

But they do it.  And I try ‘em.  Cigarazon?

Purchasing books from Amazon provide me with insurmountable enjoyment.  Sampling cigars promote praise while providing me with pleasure.  A loose net of contrition always surrounds me.  Why?  Because I can.

Then there’s that silence.  The box has been opened.  The tobacco leaves begin to burn.   

Ohhhhhhhhhhh, how coveting books and smoking cigars evoke the erotic, erogenous energy of serendipitous sensual spasms within me.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeKqD2g9-ic&t=15s

Invictus Redux.

invictus band

Invictus is a short Victorian poem by the English poet William Ernest Henley. The word is Latin for unconquered.  It was written in 1875 and published in 1888 in his first volume of poems.”  (Wiki)  It is a poem that centers around the human spirit.  Too much detail will spoil the thoughts that emerge from reading it slowly.  

********

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

 

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

 

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

********

Invictus is also a cigar brought to light by Nimmer Ahmad.  Even before I put a torch to it, I could tell it had something.  The flavor of drawing on the unlit tobacco is delightful.  I can only imagine what it will taste like once the leaves begin to give off their intended mix of essences.  It is a cigar that centers around what nature can produce.  But just from what I experienced, this review is over for now.

 

Wanting to get off the grid.

solo shadow

Off the Grid.  Unrecorded, untraceable through normal means.  A delightful, delirious, dilemma.  Yet, it seems people today want everyone to know where they are, what they are doing, when they did it, with whom, how many times, and why.  Ergo, the fanciful fascination with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and God knows what else is available.

Why?  I bring this up because it seems to have become an incurable addiction.  There was once a saying, “Excuse me, but I think you’re confusing me with someone who gives a damn.”  Now I can’t give enough praise for the way communication has evolved today. I am an avid proponent of email and text messages.  However, I use them for divulging pertinent information because it’s fast.  Plus, I have no real desire to talk to anyone when small messages are the desired method of correspondence.  I like – to the point – verbal intercourse.

Which brings me to my desire of being off the grid.  It’s doesn’t seem to be entirely possible.  Why do so many people want the world to know what they are doing?  It’s almost as if they really believe that everyone cares what is going on in their lives.  Some may, but to place this phenomenon in perspective – most don’t.  So why the constant influx of omnipresent information?    

My son told me about a social media type of communication called “Snapchat.”  Now this is cool and I would urge everyone I know in business to become familiar with it and add the app to your screen and get on it to express ideas in a matter of seconds and then “Whoosh!”  We be gone.  Job done.  No PC b***s**t razzle dazzle necessary.  

Example: “Did you get your order?”  “Yes.”   Done.  Move on.  Get the f**k off the device. Another example: “Do you have XXX in stock?”  “No.”  “When?”  “By Wednesday, next week.”  Vamoose.  Message sent.  Get back to work.  None of this “Heyyyyyyyyyy, how ya doooooooin’?  It’s freezing up here, but the weather forecast is for a slight warm up.  Yeah.  Say, I’m calling to find out if you finally got that order we spoke about last Tuesday.”  Ah, maron, enough already.  Done.  Enough of the small talk.

I bring up “Snapchat” because once the app is tapped and the information is digested it disappears –  Mission Impossible style – in a matter of seconds.  That’s about the closest I can see right now staying off the grid.  

So, If I use this method of speedy information interchange verbally on the phone or via text, FB, or email – please do not be offended.  I don’t have, nor do I want to have, to spend any more time on the phone than I have to.  Got it?  Good.  

Ciao!  

  

 

Boots on the Ground.

boots on the ground

IF YOU HAVE NO INTENTION OF LISTENING TO THE VIDEO AT THE END.  MOVE ON.

I remember the first time I heard the expression, “Boots on the ground,” I thought I was going to throw up.   The phrase was expelled from a woman who had a product she wanted me to sell and when she said it, right there and then I decided not to rep it.

Why?  Because I am not an appendage with leather surrounding it.

But to explain my distaste for the phrase.

The short answer?

The use of “boot“ as shorthand for “soldier” (of which I am not) goes back a long way. The earliest use of “boots on the ground“ so far found in print occurs in a US newspaper in 1980.  It is attributed, in that article, to a US general.”  (www.bbc.com)

The more detailed account?  “Infantry have been stomping in boots through mud and sand for centuries. Back in World War One “boot” was used as an alternative to “soldier”, and a soldier’s introduction to service was in “boot camp”.  But the expression “boots on the ground” appears to be relatively new.

British military officer Sir Robert Grainger Ker Thompson came close to using it in a 1966 book on his experiences of counter-insurgency in Malaya and Vietnam – chapter 15 was entitled Feet on the Ground.  But that is not quite the same. The earliest known use of the precise phrase we use today occurs in 1980.  

This was the conclusion reached by the late New York Times columnist, William Safire, who investigated the subject in 2008 with the help of an army historian. The historian rifled back through published sources until he found an instance of the expression in a Christian Science Monitor (CSM) story written during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. The reporter attributed the coinage to a US general, Volney Warner.”

Some cigar manufacturers seem to have this idea that the independent cigar broker is an extension of a mobile crane from Liebherr which are suitable for both on-road and off-road use.  We dig up the stores and dump the product.  Where this came from is that we are all indeed in a quasi-militaristic type of operation with one identifiable mission: sell, sell, sell.  (Another troika of infuriating verbiage that I won’t get into here.)  

The fact is, some manufacturers have no idea what we do – or how we do it.  Nor do they seem to care a whit to find out.  Their passion is not for the romance of cigars but the “cha-ching!” of the silver dollars.  Oops!  Did I just mention capitalism?  Naw.  Can’t be. (Capitalism?  The economic system and an ideology based on private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit?  Hmmm.  I guess I did.)  You thought I was talking about swaying tobacco leaves, rippling in waves of natural motion being lovingly harvested by always smiling workers with bandanas and “hats made of straw, cotton, waxed or oiled cotton, hemp, linen or leather.”

Torcedores giddy with the thought that they are involved in the lost art of rolling cigars for the masses, be they Americanos, Brits, Argentinians, Italians, or Rutabagas.  Piling up box after box of cigars to be exported to be distributed throughout the world by the “Boots on the ground.”  Us.  The Independent Cigar Broker.

Such is the life of the cigar broker, a dandy drenched in style smoking some of the finest tobacco that can be grown on the planet.  Ah.  Yes, “Boots on the ground.”  That’s us! Skipping into cigar shops offering samples to the managers like Willie Wonka offering Everlasting Gobstoppers to babies in Central Park.  “Of course, Mr. Wonka!”   

“Boots on the ground,” the military equivalent to “bums on seats.”  Just moving, breathing, cash sucking automatons that bring smiles and compliments from the cigar and shop owners until the heels wear down, the soles begin to thin out and the laces become frayed.  And then when the step slows down and the jingles begin to tinkle.  

Looks like we need more . . . .“BOOTS ON THE GROUND!”

The phrase is still out there and the next time I hear it, I can guarantee you I won’t react any differently.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ns2FkZNTC0