Enlightenment and cigar essays.

my drawer

I think there may be a misconception as to why I write my posts, select the subjects I choose, and my style of composing text.  I have a site on Word Press where I publish an essay once a week (www.irvcigarbroker.wordpress.com).  I also share it on Facebook for my friends, a variety of groups, (most of which I have been asked to join), and individual direct messages.

I began this blog over 1000 essays ago to give the reader a taste of how cigars and the industry interact with our culture from my perspective as a cigar broker.  By culture, I am referring to “the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.” (Google).  I never said, wrote, inferred, or intended the blog to be anything more than my viewpoint.  

On the site, the reader will not find the casual or standard cigar review;  the reader will not find the casual or standard profile; the reader will not find the casual or standard style of writing; and, the reader will definitely not find the casual or standard subject matter – though each article intertwines in some way, shape or form with cigars – however minute that connection may be.

My point is to link cigars, its history, its personalities, its mere fact of being to whatever I find makes a lucid and entertaining read – with a twist.  Oftimes, the connection is rock-solid, other times the mixture of culture and cigars is a bit more complex and challenging.  

We were taught in journalism 101 that the news is written for those who want to get through the day’s events without any effort, ergo the lead – who, what, when, where, and why (and sometimes how.)  That is still the goal of journalists provided that’s all the author of the article intends it to be.

But I thought it would be interesting, née, a challenge to link art, dance, music, sculpture, literature, poetry, and the sciences with the cigar simply because they coexist!  There is a relationship that exists between the two – however slim that link may be.  True, oftimes, I do go off on a tangent that even becomes a confounding maze for me to figure out the connection,  but I do it to produce a challenge for the reader and for myself as the author.

In short, please enjoy my work for what it is.  If you appreciate it – fantastic.  If not, really, all you have to do is scroll down and you’re over it – literally and figuratively.  No need to get nasty.

So I will continue to write every day.  From those articles, I will pick out what I am convinced is an essay that will tantalize the reader’s intellect and post it.  And if a reader is smoking a cigar while perusing the piece, it’s even more ideal and enjoyable.  Why?  Because very often I’m puffing away myself as I’m scratching out an essay on my pad so that in the end the reader will hopefully absorb some enjoyment from it – even if just for a few minutes in what has become a very hellacious world to comprehend.

Cigars and Bacon.

Francis Bacon 2

Wait!  For criminy’s sake!   This is a cigar article with the background info first.  Stay with me.

Bacon and the Mind: Art, Neuroscience, and Psychology.  In brief: The publication focuses on what neuroscience and psychology bring to the table with the late artist’s works. (“Francis Bacon was an Irish-born British figurative painter known for his emotionally charged raw imagery and fixation on personal motifs.” (Wiki)  Many of his works grotesquely distort the reality of what actually is.) 

“For some 20 years now, a subfield of the neurosciences called neuroaesthetics has been investigating the neurobiological under-pinnings (sic) of human art behaviour (sic). Using brain scanners to probe neural activity while people experience works of art, this research effort has predominantly pursued two central questions: how does the brain come to like or dislike objects it encounters, and how does it represent art objects perceptually, cognitively and emotionally?”  (www.theartnewspaper.com)

There are tons of cigar reviews on the internet.  (Too many if you ask me, but you’re not asking me so I’ll keep that discussion at bay for now.)  There are sites that do nothing but review cigars, some analyze our choices, some go so far as to make our choices; some are good and some are not so good.  It’s all an opinion anyway, just like this article.

Point:  The above tome published by Thames & Hudson brings to the fold another angle to looking at cigars that I don’t believe has been brought up in conversation, print or podcasts – And that is “. . . how does the brain come to like or dislike objects . . . ?”  And to come full circle how does a cigar smoker’s brain process this information?  

Well, this book on Bacon is 160 pages in length.  I haven’t read it all. But there are a few sentences, that the reviewer of the book, one Martin Skov, hypothesizes or at least brushes up against an answer by writing  “ . . . the central impact of Bacon’s paintings consists (of) their ability to shock the . . . nervous system . . . .” He further goes on to write,” . . . Specifically, the visual (sensory) system contains  dedicated neural systems for recognizing (normal) bodies and faces (or tobacco tastes and flavors). . . .” He then continues, “ . . . Bacon’s paintings succeed in shocking us because they effectively distort how our visual (sensory) systems expect a face to look.”

To conclude, Kotz writes “To me as a neuroscientist, one of the most striking things about Bacon’s paintings is that he deliberately crafted images (cigars) that provoke negative emotions, ugly colors, deformed human bodies, etc.”  To be (dis)engagingly different. 

So we cannot answer the question with intellectual clarity and emotional alacrity to any degree of correctness and can only speculate what goes on in the brains of cigar smokers as to why he or she is dizzy with enthusiasm for one brand and another causes the same individual to wince in sensorial discomfort.  All we can know is that the results occur but the “why” is left for the Martin Skov’s of the world. 

 

   

 

Enlightenment and cigar essays.

my drawer

I think there may be a misconception as to why I write my posts, select the subjects I choose, and my style of composing text.  I have a site on Word Press where I publish an essay once a week (www.irvcigarbroker.wordpress.com).  I also share it on Facebook for my friends, a variety of groups, (most of which I have been asked to join), and individual direct messages.

I began this blog over 1000 essays ago to give the reader a taste of how cigars and the industry interact with our culture from my perspective as a cigar broker.  By culture, I am referring to “the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.” (Google).  I never said, wrote, inferred, or intended the blog to be anything more than my viewpoint.  

On the site, the reader will not find the casual or standard cigar review;  the reader will not find the casual or standard profile; the reader will not find the casual or standard style of writing; and, the reader will definitely not find the casual or standard subject matter – though each article intertwines in some way, shape or form with cigars – however minute that connection may be.

My point is to link cigars, its history, its personalities, its mere fact of being to whatever I find makes a lucid and entertaining read – with a twist.  Oftimes, the connection is rock-solid, other times the mixture of culture and cigars is a bit more complex and challenging.  

We were taught in journalism 101 that the news is written for those who want to get through the day’s events without any effort, ergo the lead – who, what, when, where, and why (and sometimes how.)  That is still the goal of journalists provided that’s all the author of the article intends it to be.

But I thought it would be interesting, née, a challenge to link art, dance, music, sculpture, literature, poetry, and the sciences with the cigar simply because they coexist!  There is a relationship that exists between the two – however slim that link may be.  True, oftimes, I do go off on a tangent that even becomes a confounding maze for me to figure out the connection,  but I do it to produce a challenge for the reader and for myself as the author.

In short, please enjoy my work for what it is.  If you appreciate it – fantastic.  If not, really, all you have to do is scroll down and you’re over it – literally and figuratively.  No need to get nasty.

So I will continue to write every day.  From those articles, I will pick out what I am convinced is an essay that will tantalize the reader’s intellect and post it.  And if a reader is smoking a cigar while perusing the piece, it’s even more ideal and enjoyable.  Why?  Because very often I’m puffing away myself as I’m scratching out an essay on my pad so that in the end the reader will hopefully absorb some enjoyment from it – even if just for a few minutes in what has become a very hellacious world to comprehend.

Bad Cigar. Bad Cigar. Bad Cigar.

bad ash.jpg

I’m going to break the so-called Cigar Courtesy Protocol.  I was in the garage the other night, doing some writing ’cause that’s where I smoke my cigars.  Can’t do it in the house. And I’m lighting up this aged cigar, oh it has at least two years on it.  Now before I get any advice from all youse aficionados out there about aging, let’s just say that in the time I’ve been smoking, I know how to properly age a cigar.  Yeah. I do. And this one cigar is made by one of the older factories that uses some of the finest leaves known in the business.

So its tobacco pedigree is of high quality – to say the least.  This is a cigar that has some of the sweetest and most delectable undertones of flavor I have ever smoked.  In fact, I had only two left. And this day I felt like smoking one.

I snip the cap.  I toast the foot.  I give the cigar a chance to breathe and to realize it’s on fire.  And I slowly draw in what I know is going to be a cornucopia of flavors aged to perfection that will cause my toes to curl. Eventually, I’m going to feel this spasmatic sensation in the netherworld of absolute ecstasy.

Pause.

Another draw.  Hmmmm.

Pause.

Maybe it’s the garlic sandwich with onion and sardines on pumpernickel bread schmeared with bacon fat and sprinkled with fresh ground pepper, and a spritz of the juice of a gefilte fish I just ate for dinner that’s causing this unusual aftertaste.

Pause.

WT bloody F!

So I close my eyes and put myself in the realm of fantasy and figure, OK I got the virus and I’m going to vomit so that’s why the taste of what I thought was once a wonderful cigar is no longer what I experienced in the past.  Now it’s just a lousy, poorly rolled shank of rancid, old tobacco leaves that if left alone for a few more weeks would probably turn into a cylinder of DIRT!

I couldn’t believe it.  This had to be one of the worse cigars I have ever had the chance to smoke. 

No, I didn’t eat such a sandwich mentioned above.  No, I felt fine. No, I did not have the onset of COVID-19.  It was the bloody cigar! I couldn’t believe my taste buds.  No matter who would have asked me, I would have said, (damn the phony cigar courtesy),  “This cigar is terrible!” I mean really? What happened? It was sour, tasted like burnt, reburnt grilled hamburger drippings, with a smattering of skunk oil all rolled together by some beginner who didn’t have a clue what to do with the leaves placed in front of him or her.  And the construction was just as amateurish. Black Ash. Canoeing. The inside was glowing, the outside leaves were just singed.   

It was a mess.  Did I toss it?  Hell no.  I figure how low can it go.  Well, let’s just say that if the phenomenon of black holes is factual and one is so dense that nothing can ever escape its gravitational pull this would have placed the late Steven Hawking in an awkward position to explain why this cigar was able to hit bottom, defy gravity and bounce back up and out and bring with it the flavor of the blackhole’s bottom residue!

Yech!  It tasted bad, it burned bad, it smelled bad, it was just – bad.  So there. No redeeming value to write about.

Cigar courtesy be damned?  Should not all cigar manufacturers who produce lousy cigars be let out to pasture or ah, abandoned tobacco fields?  It’s best summed up by Alastair Sim, who played Scrooge in the 1951 classic remake of “A Christmas Carol” and when asked if he’d give to prisons’ charity, he grumbled,  “If they would rather die, they had better do it and decrease the surplus population.”

Cigar Courtesy.  “Bah Humbug!”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsUXAEzaC3Q

Cigar businesses adapting to THE virus.

Pollyanna

Will cigar lounges ever be the same?  Will cigar shops ever be the same.  Will I conduct my business the same? 

To wit: the culture of cigar lounges as we knew them have been sent into another dimension – The Cigarlight Zone.  This, of course, is due to COVID-19.  What type of lounges are to be expected?  Who knows.  But needless to say, I don’t think they will get back to what we’re used to.  Not for some time anyway.  Imagine the work involved now.  Constantly sanitizing the chairs and counters, sitting at least six feet apart from your buddies and restricting the number of people allowed in the store.  Whether it’s inside or out, the feel of the lounge will be forever different – antiseptic and cool.  

Has the virus changed the way I run my business?   You better believe it has.  Especially in the manner with which I visit the lounges.  Pre COVID-19 everything was more pliable, my time, the way I introduced new cigars, the way I took orders.  Now it’s more in and out.  Why?  Do I really need to answer that?  It’s simple, the business has changed overnight and continues to be altered in real-time.

Throughout the “stay at home” restrictions (And thank you to all the shops that ordered during this time.), I was in virtual contact with every shop in my territory.  If the shop manager, owner, or help didn’t respond to a phone call – I made the call.  (I’m well aware that some stores were closed.)  If I sent a text and it went unanswered – they missed the message.  If only a percentage of my emails were opened, then that was the recipient’s choice not to open it.  Hey!  I was – and am, trying to communicate with you!  Business-to-business.  Take my efforts seriously!  Sales are not conducted the same way anymore.  Don’t expect it.  No one has a reason to bitch and moan that a discount was missed or a new cigar was introduced and now you don’t have it.  Man up!  Woman up!  Or Shut up! 

Now, I may use Zoom for shops that are hundreds of miles away to “meet” and for the most part, it’s working out rather well.  I send samples out only when there is serious interest.  And I continue to text, email or call accounts to keep in as direct contact as I possibly can.

Why all the changes?  I don’t trust the new coronavirus.  Nor do I have faith in those sources that are reporting the news about COVID-19.  Plus, I don’t think it’s a good idea to spend a night in a hotel that touts that it has been sanitized and scrubbed so clean that its accommodations are now equal to or better than those of a hospital operating room.  I’m going with my gut.

Yes, the hotels I frequented were clean and tidy before the pandemic, but now that same process of changing linens, washing sinks, decontaminating countertops has been forced into the new dimension i.e. how it should have been in the first place.  And my confidence level of truth is at low ebb.  Right now, staying at a hotel just isn’t a reality for me.  So.  It may sound like what I’m writing is an indictment on the cleanliness of the places I frequent, lounges, hotels, restaurants, public washrooms, and wherever else the insidious virus can hide.  But I make no apologies.  That’s how I feel right now and no one knows how I feel except me.  

Keep in mind that I have a lot to think about and one of them is my family and their safety as well as my own.  The other is a belief system that has been proven throughout my time in business (and life) –  that people say one thing and they do another.  Sad.  But undeniably true.  Just try and disprove my point.  Impossible.  You can’t.  We’ve been sliding on a Mobius rail since civilization began, the pandemic has grossly magnified this reality.  And I can’t see the efficacy of being on the road at a distance where an overnight stay is mandatory.  Things have changed forever.

So until the virus finds a new home or a vaccine is discovered that lessens the severity of the symptoms and the people in the places I mentioned take seriously the precautions that have been mandated – welcome to the new 2020 Cigar Culture.

I will eventually get back to a quasi-normal routine.  I had one while I was figuratively glued to my home office and I will eventually return to in-store visits with an obviously revised routine.  But not until I’m ready and feel safe.  And that’s my call because as an independent business person, I have had to make tough decisions to assure my family’s health and safety – as well as my own.  I’m doing fine and will carry on.  And I will continue to do my best to serve each and every one of my accounts until I can return to some modicum of normalcy.  Intellectually and physically.

Will cigar lounges ever be the same?  No.  Will visits to shops be the same.  No.  Will I conduct my business differently?   YES.

No one can Pollyanna this one away.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLOgY8hWe1I

Ideas from Vatican City, December 1965.

vatican classic

It’s been a rough few weeks.  I feel as though my cranium is so full that it will burst and yet at the same time the void exceeds the scientific phenomenon of the vastness of space that makes up a black hole.  Ergo, as far as cigars go, ain’t much to write about except COVID-19, riots, and looters.  

Contradictions?   By definition, a contradiction is “a combination of statements, ideas, or features of a situation that are opposed to one another.”  What better example?

Then I come upon a fascinating book review by Garry Wills in the November 7th, 2019 edition of The New York Review of Books, of John W. O’Malley’s, “When Bishops Meet: An Essay Comparing Trent, Vatican I, and Vatican II.”  (Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 223 pp.)

Basically, Mr. O’Malley has a fascination with ecumenical church councils.  A niche subject to be sure, but I can say with zealous smugness, I experienced the changes that took place after the precepts of Vatican II were implemented and made permanent within the Catholic Church.  Game-changing to say the least.

Keep in mind the reason that Vatican I (1869–70) and Vatican II (1962–65) were formed in the first place was because of the Council of Trent, “ . . .  the 19th ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church, (was) held in three parts from 1545 to 1563. Prompted by the Reformation, the Council of Trent was highly important for its sweeping decrees on self-reform and for its dogmatic definitions that clarified virtually every doctrine contested by the Protestants. Despite internal strife and two lengthy interruptions, the council was a key part of the Counter-Reformation and played a vital role in revitalizing the Roman Catholic Church in many parts of Europe.” (Read that paragraph again and recognize the parallel ideas that were proposed then – and how they relate to today’s tobacco battle with the FDA – and what’s essential and what isn’t.)

These ecumenical church councils were formed every now and then throughout the centuries as the church adhered to, discarded, and adopted a variety of ideological reforms that took place with each council.  And there were plenty.

Some changes were heralded and many were challenged.  But the fact remains that nothing remains the same, as the title to the article states,  “Changing the ‘Changeless’ Church.”  

One could compare this waxing and waning of ideas to what is happening to our Constitution, a separate document from the Declaration of Independence which essential and unequivocally “ . . .  formed our federal government and set the laws of the land,” i.e. the United States.” (Wiki)

But since the Constitution was adopted in 1788 many changes have wormed their way into the hardwood of the document causing its stability to become unsteady.   Plus, since the Supreme Court began to overtly play politics with the wording of the Constitution, especially with the inclusion of Justice Anthony Kennedy (1988-2018) and his remnants of tie-breaker decisions, the once-solid structure of the document that held the original ideals together is beginning to sway and weaken as the spirit of the Constitution becomes riddled with holes, thus giving the highest court in the land the “legal right” to fill questionable rulings with political putty in direct conflict with what our founding fathers intended.  And as St. Augustine once said, in part, in your heart you know what’s right – AND wrong!  (Though I’m not too sure politicians read St. Augustine so that could pose a problem.)

So the crusade for the rights of smokers via the rulings regarding cigars and tobacco in general by the FDA – and now with the new coronavirus restrictions, and the intellect of or lack thereof of how people are reacting to the murder in Minnesota – is going through the same devastating changes, revisions, revulsions, misunderstandings, truths, lies, recapitulations, misaligned moral dictations, ignorance, misinformation, and monetary machinations that keep any political or religious document intact.

So as all this chaotic detritus is whizzing around in my head, I can’t seem to grasp onto any one of the ideas in flight long enough because the facts are being twisted, twirled, and tangled to the point of forming titillating, tempestuous twaddle by those who obviously know more than “We the People . . . ” do. 

So it seems like I’m back to square one.  Or am I?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbMgWm6C0GQ

 

 

Silence rediscovered with a price.

julie cropped

Covid-19 has given the world its wrath, its destruction of lives, its lack of submission to prayer, but it also has given us the precious state of silence.  I’m smoking a cigar in the garage and I can hear there are no cars on the street, no people walking, no parties, no airplanes, no trucks, fewer birds chirping – it’s presence has introduced the world to silence.

Silence is defined as the complete absence of sound.  I experienced this phenomenon on a lark to Wyoming many years ago.  As we drove we headed off on a side road to reach our hotel.  As the tires were rolling across the road I yelled, “Stop the car!”

My wife looked at me as if something had to be amiss.  Slowly the vehicle came to a complete halt.

From inside the car I could detect not a sound.  Nothing.  I got out and I just stood there on this two-lane road in the middle of a state, I had never been to before.   I said to her, “Do you hear that?”  Her response was, “Hear what?”

I just stood there.  I almost felt abusive to the environment when my voice created an invisible fissure within its realm.  I asked her to listen.  “”There’s not a sound anywhere.”  I was completely transfixed.  I felt a pressure in my head that I had never felt before.  The absence of noise.  I felt privileged.  Yet I’m sure the locals are used to it.  Tarzan was.

As horrific as this pandemic is, it has allowed us moments of silence.  I can remember beginning to feel emotional as I just stood there – and I noticed a jackrabbit.  His long ears jutted above the undisturbed grass.  The animal was like a remnant after Pompei’s obliteration.

Cigars can do this to me but on another level.  The outside sounds are furiously slicing through the air causing commotion and chaos.  But when I have a cigar in my hand and I am alone in a contemplative mood, I hear nothing..I am at peace.

All destruction is not bad.  It’s how one perceives it – absorbs it – accepts it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWGzr-kOoQY&list=RDaWGzr-kOoQY&index=1

Your Cigar, Sir.

cocktail

What is a Barreda Cocktail?

It is one of the most ravishing and unique cigar experiences you’ll ever have the pleasure to enjoy.

The Cocktail, made by Barreda Cigars, is composed of short Cazador filler, with a Nicaraguan binder and a Nicaraguan Habano Criollo 98 filler, and will give you the same tantalizing tingling thrills of your first sip of an Ono Champagne Cocktail, the Original Mai Tai, or a Ritz-Paris Sidecar.  (Be decadent and try one during the day.)

The enchanting essences of the Barreda Cocktail Cigar will entertain your palate with dancing exotic (some may say erotic) sensations of tanginess, sweetness, zing, a bold jolt, and mesmerizing molecular molestation. And the cigar burns like a laser is slicing off each quarter of draw, a testament to perfect fermentation and construction.  

The fountain of flavors fizzes with the eccentric essences of charred cinnamon, unsweetened chocolate, a hint of saffron, grains of cumin, deep dark pepper specks, and tiny bits of dill – depending on your mood, the company you keep (or are keeping), and your untethered imagination – this is one delicious cigar.

The Barreda Cocktail comes in the Puntica (4⅜ x 46), the Robusto (5 x 50), the Toro (5 x 52), and the Sublime (6½ x 54).  All arrive in a 20 count bundle at your “beck and call” with bands of blue, silver, gold, orange, purple, blue . . . .  

Ahhhh.  Tip well!  

Getting caught up in the midst of bedlam.

dec 30

May 2020.  I’m just getting to the December 30, 2019 issue of The New Yorker, smoking an aged cigar, and enjoying the time-warped articles.

What little good that is coming from the COVID-19 pandemic?   Time.  I will take any moment I can to remain positive to get caught up on my reading and to smoke a cigar to help relieve the anxiety.

You?

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