A post-mortem road trip catharsis.

corner

Maybe it was the cigar I had earlier in the day.  It was strong, I will admit. Plus just coming off a road trip was taxing.  A trip I had looked forward to as much as a rattlesnake giving me a French kiss.  

I was in my front office.  Now everyone was sleeping, except me. It was 1:32 AM.

Earlier I had a blazing headache toward the end of the day, right around supper time or dinner if you prefer.  The pain was so searing that a tear welled up in my right eye and quickly ran down my cheek. I stood by the sink and E asked if there was anything she could do.  No words passed my lips. I stared at the corner of the multi-colored granite slab. Just at the corner. I could feel the pain striking into my head. It would not go away.

I opened the right kitchen cabinet where we keep the Tylenol and without any supper in my stomach, I opened the cap and let three caplets fall into my hand.  Immediately I opened the refrigerator and opened a bottle of Ice Mountain water – the only water I will drink – unscrewed the flimsy cap and downed the cold liquid until I felt the pain killers sink into the pit of my stomach.  Crunching them allows them to take effect quicker. But often the resultant bitterness is too nasty for my tolerance.

I just walked away from the slab of swirled stone and headed into the bedroom.  No words. It was dark. Daylight saving’s time you know. I lied down on the bed.  I never took my shoes off. Never told anyone where I was going. Supper (sout’side) was almost ready, but the piercing pain in my head began to mimic the rhythm of the beating of my heart. Annoying.  A machine.

The edge was not smoothed out by the pills.  My impatience didn’t help. Even as I tried to force my eyes to close it was just making the pain worse.  My body could not chill. It took several minutes for the rest of my muscles, my nerves, my electronic impulses to become relaxed.  The chaotic cacophony of different directions was beginning to slow, leading my body to stillness. Yet, the pain was still that of a two-inch needle being forced into my skin and the loose metal thread scratching through my skull with the full feeling of fingernails on a blackboard that was ten thousand miles long.

Slowly, as a lollipop melts on a hot sidewalk from the heat of the sun, I began to feel the stick being removed from the gooey mess by no one in particular.  It just levitated out leaving a warmness and it was then I think I fell into a moment of deep REM sleep. I never moved again for three hours.

********

The sharp pain in my chest woke me out of that deep sleep.  What was once the pain in my head seemed to slither into my esophagus activating Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD.  But I’m used to that.  At least the headache was gone.

A pasty, soft banana and a few slices of cinnamon toast allowed my body to begin to right itself.  I had been unconscious and had slept into the normal hours of sleep. I was not tired. I was anxious.  Wanting something.  I tried to read and flipped through the pages of Art in America.  It was my moody emotional state.  Flip. Flip. Flip. I was still drained? What to do?

Finish watching “Unbreakable.”  A wise choice. Satisfying my curiosity how it would end from the other night when I first let the disc silently slide into its slit and began to view the DVD.  Oddly, only after the ending credits did I read the detailed description of the machinations of the surreal plot and its sick twist at the end that would make anyone cringe in terror at what Elijah did to find himself in a world seemingly gone crazy allowing his obsession to attach meaning to his existence – even at the expense of the destruction of the lives of hundreds of others.

What we do to feel alive.   Brrrrrrr.

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

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Meeting Cigar Legend Jesus Martinez.

martinez

“Some folks like to get away, take a holiday from the neighborhood.”  That’s the first line in Billy Joel’s song New York State of Mind (1976).  And yes, I’m in a New York state of mind.  I did get away last week to my favorite city and the further away I traveled from my neighborhood the more I realized what my mother said was pure wisdom, “No matter where you go, you take yourself with you.”

During my stay, I took in the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, walked by the infamous Chelsea Hotel (where famous guests included Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan, Arthur Miller, Patti Smith, Dylan Thomas, Jim Morrison, plus Leonard Cohen and Janis Joplin had an affair there in 1968), wrangled my body through Times Square, and took in Billy Joel’s spectacular concert at Madison Square Garden. 

But of all the places I visited, the best time I had was when my son and I trudged from 32 W. 18th Street to visit a cigar institution.  It was there that I met Jesus Martinez. One of the only cigar manufacturers in Midtown New York.

Even though it’s a small shop the size that could not have been any more than 300 square feet, it stuck out like a bucktooth from all the other Lilliputian businesses that were all crammed together taking up the entire block.  With its hanging rectangular black and white sign “Cigars Handmade” drawing your eyes to the worn gray awning with all the information anyone needed to know – 171 W 29th Street, followed by https://www.martinezcigars.com/ and ending with 212.239.4049 – you couldn’t miss it.

My son and I walked in and was immediately greeted by a smiling regular and then Jesus got up from his chair and we immediately could feel the synergy of two men who are passionate about cigars.  Jesus has had his cigars rolled on the premises since 1979. 

He remembered me when I introduced myself with slight memory promptings, and his smile grew three sizes at that moment.  We spoke briefly, but our time was limited. So I picked out a corona, reached into my pocket for the cash, and that’s when he waved his hand, cut the cigar, took out a lighter and gave the cigar life.  

I took a few puffs, told him I would be in touch, shook his hand graciously, thanked him for his generosity and left.  I made my exit and took an outside photo of his shop and began to make the long walk back to 18th Street.

But, after being outside only a few steps, I ran back, re-entered the store and asked him if we could have my son take our picture.  Of course. That accomplished. Miles and I headed back toward where my wife was getting her haircut by an uber professional hairstylist at Sassoon’s.  (Elegant results I might add.)  

Despite visiting the Whitney, Central Park, Times Square, the Guggenheim, The Waldorf Astoria, Grand Central station’s original oyster bar (stunningly delicious seafood), 42nd Street, Broadway, The Strand, and so many other New York City landmarks all the while being surrounded by hundreds of passers-by,  I was able to find peace and serenity, if only for a few minutes – with Jesus.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=At4LN5EP-q0

Ahhhh. Finally. New York.

Day one new york

There is a movie called, “Cry for Happy” (1961), and as I find myself heading into Manhattan on the train squeezed next to total strangers like a sardine in a can, tears begin to well up at the sides of my eyes because I am totally ecstatic about what the week holds in store.

I can’t explain my sudden emotional state.  I’ve never cried upon entering a cigar lounge or smoking one of my favorites or meeting one of the famed luminaries of the industry Why now?  As the Long Island Railroad cars speed toward Penn Station eventually slowing and finally stopping right next to the greatest arena in the world –  Madison Square Garden – I have the answer.

When I disembark, I will take the subway to the Whitney Biennial 2019.  I begin to feel the warm trail of a tear that escaped and rolled down my cheek unabashedly just at the mere anticipation of being in my favorite city.

True love is an emotion that rarely occurs and when it does, I can deeply sense its pull, its intensity, its joy in my heart 

Do I love cigars?  Of course, I do.  

Do I love New York?

Plodding up the stairs from the railcar the breeze accentuates the feeling of the tear’s now cool path on my cheek and my heart is filled with exhilarating emotion –  the overflow of love is clearly visible to anyone who looks in my direction as I rub the evidence away.

Just a New York State of Mind.

midtown

I will be heading to my favorite city soon.  I don’t plan on giving a day-to-day description of my travels, I just want to enjoy them.  So this will be my last blog until I return.  And when I do, I’m going to go gonzo on the epicenter of the world with essays, observations, and thoughts because even though I won’t be publishing in real-time, I write every day of my life, and being in the Big Apple will only start the creative juices flowing to the point of Ecstasy.  Hedy Lamar?  You ain’t got nothing on me!  Love you all.  See you soon.

Go, Billy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klyfE6M4GhY  

Two vices that make me tick. Tock.

vices

I have very few vices and I’m non-judgmental.  But I’m here to tell you I have found out that one of mine is cigars.  Ha. Like you didn’t know. The second? I was confused at first what to call it. I didn’t even know what it was. But it was a genuine fix.  Like when I used to slosh down Old Style at Vito and Nick’s on the Southwest side of Chicago. One, two, three, four . . . .

Taking care of my parents I needed something that would spring me into the week.  You know. A hit. A rush. A fix! But alcohol and cigars didn’t always do the job.  I was missing something. I was missing the calm after the blaze was lit. So I went years missing that levelheaded feeling.  Oh, sure. I got the buzz. And I survived the hangover. But that wore thin after a while. Then when my dad passed? The need for something to calm me down was a void I could not seem to fill.  So I quit the brew forever. I haven’t had a drink in over 30 years. Nothing. Except I continued to experience this spatial vortex drilling into my mind as I continued to take care of my Mom.  

It was during this time between when my Dad died and I took on the responsibility of caretaker that I started smoking cigars again.  On the sly. Not regularly at all. Like E didn’t know. What an ass I was. She’s an angel. She put up with the smokey clothes and the stinky breath.  But even she knew there was a piece of the puzzle that was missing that gave me the calm after a storm had moved on. And there were plenty.

It’s only been in the last few years that I finally discovered the second vice, what it was that I was seeking that would, in the end, gently put me in a state of euphoria sans prescription drugs.  And even tonight – I’m amazed it was as simple as a snap of the fingers to produce the click.  Adrenaline.  A tsunami of peace and tranquility washes over me once it has done its job.

According to Merriam-Webster adrenaline or epinephrine “is used in both technical and nontechnical contexts. It is commonly used in describing the physiological symptoms (such as increased heart rate and respiration) that occur as part of the body’s fight-or-flight response to stress as when someone is in a dangerous, frightening, or highly competitive situation, as well as the feelings of heightened energy, excitement, strength, and alertness associated with those symptoms. In the figurative sense, it suggests a “drug” that provides something with a jolt of useful energy and stimulation.”  Specifically, just to make this clear, epinephrine is a crystalline sympathomimetic hormone C9H13NO3 that is the principal blood-pressure-raising hormone secreted by the medulla of the adrenal glands, (and) is prepared from adrenal extracts (or made synthetically), (then) used medicinally especially to stimulate the heart during cardiac arrest and to treat life-threatening allergic reactions — called also adrenaline.”

I finally came full circle.

How do I know adrenaline is the missing link?  By the deep-breathing calm that it produces in its very process of what it’s intentionally generating the “heightened energy, excitement, strength, and alertness,” in my physical being.

Then once its job is over, I feel a sense of blissful relaxation.  Where do I get this adrenaline rush? I’m allergic to needles so I’ve chosen action movies as the spark, the jolt.  Yes. Movies such as The Commuter, The Jason Bourne Trilogy (plus the fourth), Enemy of the State. Collateral, Fight Club, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, Mission: Impossible, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I could go on for pages and pages.

Give me a cigar and one of those thrillers and I can reach a heightened sense of looking down from atop the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty imagining and wondering what it would be like to simply step out and . . . .  The physical and psychological high (no pun intended) is breathtaking. (No. Do not call the suicide hotline. Everything is under control.)

All I’m saying is that sense of feeling intoxicated with raw emotions, and then knowing what lies ahead is worth each pull of sensuality from the end of a good cigar and every nerve splitting second of a genuine, natural rush produced by a good, solid thriller!

Thank you, Quentin Tarantino, Tony Scott, David Fincher, Brian de Palma – and so many others.  Thank you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeR9XKdAgIc

The next level. Mission Impossible.

judd orange

Just read in a recent sports article the phrase, “take it to the next level.”  After I stopped retching, I re-read the article and from what I could tell, I still couldn’t comprehend why anyone would want to use that phrase in any manner of sensible communication because unless you’re on an escalator, climbing stairs, or in an elevator the words are meaningless.  (Maybe The Book of Ecclesiastes is right.  Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.  Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless.”)

I’ve had that phrase thrown at me and when I hear it, the next phrase is sure to follow: “We’re going in another direction.”  In short, you’re no longer needed.  Excuse me as I continue to spew out what’s left in my system until I reach the dry heaves.

But let’s take this verbal sales tactic to task.  What is really meant by “taking it to the next level?” By the way, “it” can mean anything, football, cigar sales, office politics, whatever, but whoever’s appetite is in charge it is insatiable and will always be wanting – the next f..king level.  You will hear it no matter what your career.

Back to the question.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the standard definition of taking it to the next level  is “Further improve or develop something that is already successful.”  Hmmm.  Ok. Let’s look at say, Merriam-Webster’s take, “surpassing others: uncommonly good or impressive.”  Fine. One more. The Urban Dictionary states, “Anything above average basically.” Magnificent. That begs the question, “What is average?”

So in short, to cull these three definitions together I came up with “Do more!”  And MORE, more often than not, is the word in the cigar industry (any industry) that is used that means the broker or rep needs to make more sales, sign more customers, or expand the brand’s reach.  Fair.  It only makes sense. It’s Business.  I’m on full, naked, battle-scarred commission!  Why wouldn’t I want to sell more?  

However, manufacturers are seemingly NEVER pleased with what’s on the table. They want more.  And if more is not produced, they will go where they think they can achieve their insatiable desire for more and more and more. Kinda like that other sickening unoriginal pablum-laced phrase used by sales managers (a distortion unto itself) to motivate the troops – “Sell. Sell. Sell.”  Or worse, “ABC.”  

Excuse me I have to go lie down.  I’m upchucking guttural sounds only.  I’ll be back.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Sorry for the timeout.  But I had to compose myself.  Ah . . . .  No.  

I’m finished. I just had to get this off my chest.  There’s nothing more to say.  A conclusion is a fantasy.  There never will be an end.  Never.  Never.  Never.

(I applaud your curiosity if you completed this article.  Click on the link below and pay close attention to what the Joker is saying.  Tell me if I’m wrong.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DZ7pOVQgqo

 

Blue Cigar. No Candy.

blue cigar

Spurting spheres of savory, sweet smoke spiral in and around my salivating palate bringing scads of scintillating flavors to all of my senses.  Why – you would think I just had a gargantuan spoonful of buttercream icing off a towering wedding cake and I’m licking the spoon as I continue to smoke my cigar.

The variety of tastes are too numerous, too tumultuous to mention or remember, but I recall a rushing rainbow of raisin, caramel, chocolate, thyme, licorice, vanilla and the essence of lilac laced with humid air.

The experience was one of the most glorious smokes I can say I’ve had from a cigar for a long, long time – for the price.  Yes, I have to admit all this sensuous satisfaction came from a bundle cigar that costs about three dollars. And regardless of the amount of purchase price, it’s a cigar that would satiate the devilish desires of a preening prince or a penurious pauper alike.

My dilemma?  I cannot name the cigar due to its one fault – it is underfilled.  There’s simply not enough tobacco filler between the binder and the wrapper in this delightful conical tube.  It became squishy toward the last third, and any cigar smoker worth his or her salt would notice even when it is handled, its gossamer feather-like lightness is much too prominent to go unnoticed.  And the ash, that wispy, annoying granular, flaky remnant that continues to speckle my shirt, cannot be disregarded – or excused.

But forgive me if I don’t snub it out with snob-like snootiness.  NO!  The flavors are too intoxicating, the spasms of essences that continue to schmear my palate cannot be overlooked – nor can its luxurious bouquet, perfect draw, and construction be dismissed with the wave of my hand.

Perhaps I will have a chance to talk with the manufacturer about the loose bunching.  But until I do, I must keep the brand name a mystery so as not to offend.  And so that I may selfishly continue to draw upon its exquisite ecstasy.  

I am in the middle of the scene in the restaurant of the movie, “When Harry Met Sally,” as she groans, and gasps, and pounds the table with paroxysms of pleasure to the embarrassment of her date.  Yes, I should be having what she’s having.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdJm3DVg3EM