Pewey on Progress.

God how I hate to see the past pass.

Perfect example: Papaya King, the one in New York that has cuddled itself on the corner of 86th Street and Third Avenue for seventy years is staring eye-to-eye at the demolition ball to make room for more Midtown mayhem.

For those unfamiliar with this institution of Manhattan’s uber-famous eateries, may I quote from an article written by Adam Platt in the August edition of New York Magazine:

“This original branch was opened in the late 1940s by a juice-loving entrepreneur named Gus Poulos, who at first sold only his tropical potions but added hot dogs — along with his trademark sweet onions — to the menu a few years later in deference to the legions of sausage-loving Germans in Yorkville. The slim, snappy dog has its charms, but what has long separated the experience from your average street cart is the sweet, tangy papaya drink that, to me, has always tasted like the magic of the big city.”

Now why this impending act of doom affects me in such a dramatic manner that compels me to write about my feelings about the inevitable is really a mystery to me.  But I do know that anytime there is a landmark that is destined for the destruction that epitomizes New York – The Big Apple – I become agitated.  

Change sucks.

New York is The Empire State.  It is the epicenter of civilization as we know it.  If I were to mention Madison Square Garden, Broadway, or even Howard Stern, who but a melting butterhead wouldn’t know that I’m speaking of “The City That Never Sleeps.”  Gotham, baby!

I wasn’t going to connect this with cigars, but just in case there are those few out there who can’t stand to ignore our passion even for just a few hundred words about something else – think of those real cigar brands that if they were to disappear tomorrow how the tears would flow, the heart would ache, and the taste buds would shrink to Lilliputian proportions.  Oh!  Oh!  Oh!  Oh!  Oh! 

Ahhhhhhh, now you understand.  Pewey on progress.

Platt Goes. I Stay.

Adam Platt, the food critic for New York Magazine, is retiring after 22 glorious years.  Some of you may know Adam, and some of you may not.  Some may even know his predecessor, Gael Green, who grasped the job in 1968 (when the magazine was founded), as the readers gasped 40 years later when she was fired.

The latter paragraph may or may not be of immediate interest to cigar magazine readers, but in fact, it has all to do with the current situation at New York Magazine. I’m sure there are among the cigar intelligentsia who have a favorite magazine writer and will hate to see him or her go when they do.  And they will because everything has a beginning and an end.  EVERYTHING.

As Adam mentions in the article he wrote in this June’s issue of New York Magazine, “Some of the greatest critics . . . expired on the job way before their retirement years and even my friends and colleagues who have survived the obvious perils of the occupation (budget cuts, creeping drunkenness, heart failure, choking on a stray chicken bone) do so in a way that is decidedly less glamorous than it was in the glory days, when a friend of mine called it, ‘the last great job of the 20th century.’”

My point is he’s leaving and I’m staying because I believe being an independent cigar broker is “the last great job of the (21st) century.”

My job has the same risks as a food critic.  The difference is the negative fallout was far greater for Adam than it is for me, depending on your point of view as regards exposure.  The story goes that he was adored and despised.  Celebrity chef, Mario Batali, once said, and this is a direct quote, “I believe Platt’s a miserable fuck.” 

Anyway, Adam retires.  I don’t – not yet anyway.  I haven’t been out lately because contracting COVID messed up my body chemistry and aggravated an existing medical condition that has resulted in less travel and a trip to the hospital.

But I worry not.  There is always a cigar that will need me.  Therefore I feel loved, despite any sharp words that are spewed (if any) behind my back.

Adam, I bid you adieu!  I will certainly miss your reviews.  Have a cigar on me.

Consider This.

Being stuck at home with an illness is not my idea of a good time.   It was when I was in grade school, but as an adult, with responsibilities, it’s more of a psychological gut punch than a physical inconvenience.  (Though in my case I have both.)  And, since there have been enough Covid stories written and slathered on the internet wall to last a lifetime, I won’t add to it.  

But I will say this – when given the opportunity to be still – it is incredible what the mind can hear.  In my case, it was the whispers of what I’m doing with this short life I’ve been given and what I’m going to do with what’s left of it. 

No, I can’t predict the future.  But I will say that it gave me the time to consider what’s crucial to living out the balance of my existence and what isn’t.  

Will these embryonic thoughts continue to grow to maturation and release themselves into my reality?  I don’t know.  As I said, I can’t predict the future, but I can sure as hell can guide my life in the direction that is the most magnetic to my imagination.

So as I continue to use this blog as my intellectual Playdough® instead of all the time cigars, cigars, cigars – I welcome you to enjoy my thoughts about the balance of what time I have left, shove back the past, and perhaps play a little with the phrase, “predict the future.”

Insubordination.

Everything has changed since I contracted COVID (July ? 2022).  I missed the PCA show (save for day one), and then was able to memorize the collage of faux postcards and blurry photos on the sliding door to my bathroom at the Flamingo in Vegas (room 5011), and vowed that if I ever eat another over-priced hamburger – anywhere, I’m liable to go postal.

I haven’t been in a “contemplative” sick state out of town in ages.  And a lot swishes through the brain when the mind is given the chance to imagine listening to ambient silence such as is emphasized in John Cage’s masterpiece – 4’33”.  This, instead of the constant commotion and cluttering chatter of everyday sounds relentlessly bombarding my eardrums and psyche.  And in Vegas, there is no such notion as a moment of silence.  Those who run Sin City want your head to rattle so you can’t think straight ergo allowing separate cognizant thoughts from the tittle (otherwise why would anyone buy such high-priced schtuff in the first place?)

After much thought as an independent businessperson (in this case a cigar broker), I’ve decided to turn the chessboard upside down.  All the pieces have been upended, fallen to the floor, and scattered in all directions.

Look for my next piece – and my next move.  Cheers.  

Time is on my side.

I wound the watch’s stem and with each turn, I felt as though I was manipulating time in my own way.  No battery.  No solar.  This was a mechanical miracle.  Silver.  I was able to turn the notched stem until it couldn’t move any further.

I sat there with a smoldering cigar between my lips.  The smoke was slightly irritating my eyes.  The second hand was slightly spacing seconds as it should.  This was a fine timepiece, and I knew once I completely pulled out the stem, I would be able to place the hour and minute hands into the present moment.

Lately, I was addicted to telling the time via my cell phone.  The tears in my eyes blurred my vision further distracting my attention to accuracy.  So I put the cigar in my left hand, but not before I drew a lush mouthful of smoke – holding it in briefly and exhaling the bouquet into the room.  

The timing was perfect as I could see through my eyes that the shade of the smoke matched the case of the watch causing it to momentarily vanish.  It was from what I could see about one am – a late hour.  Now Tuesday morning at night.

I never gave it much thought, but the two activities stilled my nerves.  The glint of the crystal glass cover and the absence of sound drew me deeper into a state of saturated stillness.  I was startled when the ash dropped onto my jeans.  I stood up and lightly dusted the remnants of the burned tobacco leaves onto the garage floor. 

I then stretched the concatenated metal strap and placed the watch onto my slightly moistened left wrist.  The irritation of the smoke began to dissipate.  I picked up a copy of the Times Literary Supplement and began to turn the newspaper pages hoping I would discover a book that would gravitate my interest – a common occurrence.

Nothing infested my curiosity except the subtle silence and the satisfying bouquet of the smoke.  I can’t recall how many pages I flipped through.  I finished the entire issue without a find only noticing that the cigar was more than two-thirds down.  The flavor of the cigar and the swirling smoke took my melting mind to almost past two in the morning.  

I was calm, relaxed, and sleepy.  I left the paper on the glass-topped table.  I drew in a nightcap of sensuous smoke and slowly released it into space.  I gently placed the nub into the ashtray. It was the right time for me to call it a night.  And I did.

The First Time Is The Best.

My wife invested in her first piece of original art.  It’s an exciting moment in time for me because she has always been supportive of my passions and now, today, Sunday, April 24th, 2022, E has purchased her favorite piece she saw at The Other Art Show, put on by Saatchi Art in Chicago, an event that has expanded each year as one of the most successful art shows of the season.

The work is by Jeanne LaCasse, (jslacasse@gmail.com) a native of Evanston, Illinois, and the painting is called “Impressions Cougnac #1 FD5.”  It’s a diminutive work measuring approximately 4½”  x  6½” on a canvas board and framed.  The mediums LaCasse uses are quite similar to the ones made famous by Jasper Johns – a mixture of French pigments and cold wax (although Johns uses the encaustic method – heating beeswax, tree sap, and pigment and layering it onto the canvas – google).  The result is stunning and the possibilities are endless with an artist’s imagination.  And, considering that there are over 18 decillions (that’s 54 zeros) colors that we are aware of – it’s a fact that strikes the gong of genius, –  i.e. enough hues to keep a painter in the creative firmament forever.

What has this to do with cigars?  Think about it.  Just think about it.  And if you don’t get the connection, light up one of your favorite cigars, sit down and contemplate how you felt when you found your first slice of satisfaction in the world of cigars.  It’s chilling, isn’t it?  

Russia Introduces Its First Cigar.

On February 24, 2022, The Putin Perfecto Putz, a Russian Puro – was launched.  The cigar is small, and has a wrapper that can best be described as tainted – i.e. it was dyed to appear as an authentic Maduro.  (I did test it – it’s phony.)  

The tip is poorly constructed and is oddly pre-cut.  No doubt the torcedors were inexperienced yet decided to roll one of the more difficult shapes available to show their global prowess. They failed.  The cold draw was like sucking on a chicken bone.  Upon lighting the foot, I was exasperated because it not only took a tremendous amount of suction to eventually grow an ember but it was unable to stay lit.  But I did not quit in my quest to complete my review despite this major flaw.

Once ignited, the small amount of smoke that was produced by the filler (a combination of what appeared to be composed of rank leaves) brought into the air the aroma of scorched licorice, complemented with the acrid aroma of the final moments of an old, burning rubber tire.  I felt as if I should stop – because I was concerned that the resultant smoke would not only be toxic to my palate but the surrounding air as well.  Indeed, this is one cigar that should be tested in an outdoor setting.

While continuing to draw as hard as I could on the cigar, it was quite evident that this was going to be a one-dimensional experience.   

The ash was black, like coal, and as it slowly grew I noticed that it had no intention of falling off by the natural force of gravity.  So when I tapped the cigar on the edge of the ashtray, I heard a muffled “clink,” said to hell with it, and continued to suck on the tip.  (Though by this time my cheeks were beginning to cramp and I really wondered if this was worth the time spent.)

Finally, I couldn’t take it any further (longer) and decided to let it burn out in the ashtray.  I felt as I placed it down that it was oddly cold and had not softened up to any degree.   

Yes, there are hundreds of cigars that are introduced into the market each year.  But none of them are from Russia.  I am not usually this blunt with criticism, but if the Putin Perfecto Putz – a Puro, does somehow wedge itself onto the cigar map, those who accept it will only be showing his or her approval of irrational taste.

In short, this cigar has no future at all – despite its initial explosive ad campaign.

And I never offered him a cigar.

How can I miss someone I’ve never met?  I never knew his name, his homeland, his nationality, his language, his line of work, his marital status, his age, his likes and dislikes in music, his favorite food, his dog’s name, his penchant for always smiling and saying hello at 5 a.m. as I rounded the corner of his apartment while taking Flo out for her walk while he was tossing a ball to his hulk of a black dog that never once looked to tussle with Flo (an 18 lb. poodle mix who has the temperament of a rabid wolf when confronted with another four legged creature), his affinity for ink-black  motorcycles, his height, his favorite food, his brand of cigarettes, (In fact, I never even thought of offering him a cigar.),  what he likes to read, what his talents and skills are, his line of work, does he like to travel, where he was going to move to next, if he liked beer, wine or hard liquor or nothing alcoholic at all, his taste in women, does he like living in the United States, what he likes to watch on the telly and what shows he’d never miss, does he stay up late or go to bed early, did he contract COVID or any of the many viruses that are skimming the air searching for a place to land, did he have a car?  I have so many other questions that will forever go unanswered.  And now when I make my left turn with Flo in the darkness of 5 a.m. there’s nothing there.  Nothing.  Only silence.  A few shards of frozen feces.  A back of an apartment.  An empty space magnified by the closed curtain.  No movement.  Inside or out.  Nothing.  A chance to make a friend was tossed away – like the ball to his dog that never bothered Flo.   

Pens, cigars, and of course, egg salad.

It’s the new year 2022.  I’m freezing in my garage lounge smoking a 60-ring gauge cigar and loving every minute of it.  My leg feels like it’s on fire due to the circular heater on the floor.  And my face is beginning to solidify being exposed to the frosty air that surrounds me.

And even though I have my favorite pen in hand, I’m not writing.  I’m listening to Joe Cocker on YouTube thinking about the snow that’s building up and how much of a pain in the ass it’s gonna be to shovel it.  But I can’t get my Schneider® off my neuronal, glial, and endothelial cells a.k.a. brain matter. 

“Quality is not an end in itself. The point is to launch writing instruments with characteristics that allow the users to integrate them naturally in their everyday life – to make them subtly more comfortable and better.

“Therefore, we are consistently working on technical innovations, which improve the writing characteristics of our instruments. These include the Viscoglide Technology for smooth and gliding writing, the LiquidInk Technology for an extremely even ink flow, or hybrid tips made of stainless steel or elastic-plastic for particularly soft and pleasant writing.

“We want to monitor our manufacturing process at any time so that we can continuously optimize it to guarantee the high quality of our products. Therefore, we develop and manufacture exclusively in Germany – which can be seen by the “Made in Germany” on all our writing instruments.” (schneiderpen.com w/grammatical errors corrected)

Ok, so another facet of my private life that has found a leak in my inscrutable penchant for privacy.  Isn’t that contradictory?  I protect my privacy but since 2014 when I started writing these essays for the blog I’ve become more transparent as the years go by.  A conundrum.  

OK.  So I have a passion for pens.  All kinds.  I own pens by Moneverde®, Pen & Gear®, Pilot®, Woodsworth & Black®, Lamy®, Papermate®, Pelakin® and a plethoria of other gel, rollerball, fountain pens, a few Bics®, and even ordinary ballpoint pens.

Some are rather expensive and others are not.  But the Schneider® is the standout modern-day quill of my choice.  But all and all, I must stress, ALL of them use black ink.  My choice in ink color is some shade of night be it in the dusk or midnight variety, throw in squid ink and even that pales to cover the estimated 18 decillions (the number 1 followed by 33 zeros) of shades of this primary hue.

The blackest of black was Vantablack® because it absorbs 99.96 of light.  But today, the latter takes second place to MIT’s discovery of Black 3.0 which absorbs 99 percent of light.  And for all we know, black is, by some, not even considered a color at all.  Although it is without a doubt the most common of all ink shades.  

Why is my predilection for black ink, and not blue – which is considered to be the most widely used color of ink simply due to established conventions – so stalwart?  Simply because – I can see it – clearly on paper.  And the Schneider One Hybrid N® .5mm seemed to be the only one that offered my preferred shade of black ink plus my obsessive thirst for scribbled sharpness on paper.   Plus from what I could see of the pen’s shape it would fit the form of my hand neatly accommodating my crooked-shaped little right finger.

So to wit, this sky-blue writing utensil was a chance purchase I took when I ordered it off the internet for under $5 (depending on how many you buy).   Cheaper by the dozen, (right Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, who, with her younger brother, made the phrase ubiquitous in 1948)? 

As I readied to return to the kitchen, I thought that pens are a bit like cigars, yet also akin to freshly mixed egg salad.  It’s still snowing.  We were going to order take-out because I abhor delivered food – even pizza.  So we decided on Glasgow salad sans celery – the latter our son’s choice. 

As I was mixing the chopped eggs into the mayo and adding the granulated onion using Julia Child’s method of measurement (the palm of the hand), and squirting in the rough ground mustard (usually called deli-style) – I did so gently because that’s the secret to fluffy and a luscious egg salad’s simplicity – the whirl of words that I had in my head for an essay while listening to Joe, (as I put the cigar in the ashtray, and the pen in my pocket, and turned the heater off), were warmly worming their way into my churning mind about how closely the Hybrid N® rollerball classic, et al. can be so much more than just writing instruments but indeed own a remarkable similarity as to how smokers choose their cigars.

We take a chance.  We go for it.  We don’t know what it will really taste like, burn like, smell like, or like like – but we sense that the odds for error are rather minuscule so we just buy it,  i.e. we gamble on not finding a bubble in the flow of ink, a shell in the egg salad, or a plug within the filler.   We just hope for the best.

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If you’ve read this deep into the essay, I applaud your curiosity – and intellectual intrigue – that pens, fresh egg salad, and premium cigars have so much in common that it’s surprising to me that no one has written about this triumphant trio before.