Monthly Archives: May 2016

Richie Havens at Woodstock

richie havens2This is the day we give thanks!  Celebrating Memorial Day can be a stirring and emotional day.  But know this – our country is rejoicing in its freedom.  Despite the shackles that seem to be tightening around our ideas and dreams, we are a free country.  And I thank God for that.

The next few days I will post some of the highlights of our freedom as played out at Woodstock in 1969.  It was that year in August when over 200,000 people congealed on a 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York–some 50 miles from Woodstock–owned by Max Yasgur for three days of peace, love and rock ‘n roll.

I will return Tuesday with the Blog!  In the meantime, light up a cigar – and “Let The Sunshine In!”

Richie Havens sang for over two hours as the opening act at Woodstock because the other bands were stuck in eight miles of traffic to the festival.

Sing with Richie, feel his passion for FREEDOM!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rynxqdNMry4

 

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Janis Joplin at Woodstock

janis at woodstock

Celebrating Memorial Day can be a stirring and emotional day.  But know this – our country is rejoicing in its freedom.  Despite the shackles that seem to be tightening around our ideas and dreams, we are a free country.  And I thank God for that.

The next few days I will post some of the highlights of our freedom as played out at Woodstock in 1969.  It was that year in August when over 200,000 people congealed on a 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York–some 50 miles from Woodstock–owned by Max Yasgur for three days of peace, love and rock ‘n roll.

I will return Tuesday with the Blog!  In the meantime, light up a cigar – and “Let The Sunshine In!”

Janis Jams!  Just try a little bit harder!!!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQ4hBsKxpiE

Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock

Jimi Hendrix 2

Celebrating Memorial Day can be a stirring and emotional day.  But know this – our country is rejoicing in its freedom.  Despite the shackles that seem to be tightening around our ideas and dreams, we are a free country.  And I thank God for that.

The next few days I will post some of the highlights of our freedom as played out at Woodstock in 1969.  It was that year in August when over 200,000 people congealed on a 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York–some 50 miles from Woodstock–owned by Max Yasgur for three days of peace, love and rock ‘n roll.

I will return Tuesday with the Blog!  In the meantime, light up a cigar – and “Let The Sunshine In!”

View Jimi Hendrix as he wails the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock!  DO IT!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKAwPA14Ni4

 

A Sense-ual Comeback

nighttime on patio

Turning the corner in the backyard to make my way to the front, I stopped.  I inhaled deeply.  I just stood there and Flo halted her movement instinctively knowing that I was not going to move.  Sweet fragrances from the lilac bushes mixed with the humid night air and entered my nostrils.  Smoke from my just lit cigar drifted into the blending of scents that I have not been able to fully detect in almost two weeks.   The air was saturated with nature’s perfume and I was taken aback.

Suddenly I remembered that Flo was the reason I left the house.  But it was then, and only then that I realized my cold had disappeared.  I was no longer at the mercy of the ironclad barrier that refused to let in the aromas I knew were there.

The night was eerily quiet by the house.  As we walked closer to town, I heard the distant mumblings of voices.  And then as we drew closer in, I realized that this was a special night.  Thursday.  The day many people have waited for with excited anticipation.  It was the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend for some.  The ties were off, high heels exchanged for flats, the menus stood at attention in many hands, and the crowded outside verandas of the downtown restaurants overflowed with people.

The quiet, replaced with the excited voices of happy folks enjoying the night, was no more.   As Flo and I walked by, only a few feet away from the tables, I’m sure many must have breathed in the honeyed aroma of my cigar.  Yet, nary had a soul taken notice, complained or commented.    I felt so free.

Our walk eventually ended back from whence it began.  But this time, I handed Flo over to Elizabeth and I stayed in the backyard to finish my cigar.  I pulled the chair out from the table and I just sat there staring into the distance.  The black branches of the huge evergreen tree were silhouetted against the cotton, mottled gray sky.  The essences of nature continued to fill my lungs as I rested my head against the patio chair.

wistful thinkingThis is what I had been missing – this ghostly affair.  I mentioned that without the sense of smell, I could not truly enjoy any cigar.  But my nose drew in all the combinations that God could muster.  The cigar began to burn my fingers – a shock, back into reality.

Intellectually I knew my malady would not last forever, though it seemed at times as if I was doomed to a life of textured blandness.

My fingers continued to test their mettle against heat.  It was time to return to the house.  I took the small, still burning ember and gently placed it down.  I stayed a moment longer.  I could tell this was what I had needed.  And miraculously it had been given back to me.

 

Hell – oooo Cigar Buyer!

glasses

I noticed the other day that I have a small, micro-scratch on my lens.  The right one.  It’s so minor that I have to hold the glasses up to a light and angle the frame just so to see it.  It’s doesn’t affect my vision one bit, but in my mind I can see the scratch.

To say I am fastidious about my lenses would be an understatement.  Ever since I started wearing glasses, I’ve always had this penchant for keeping the lenses crystal clear and void of any imperfections.  Most of the time I have succeeded.  In fact, even at this very moment, I’m despondent that the lens has this tiny, nano-sized line on its smooth, polished surface.

To me it’s a Brobdingnagian swath of white that stretches from one end of the lens to the other.  This is hampering my vision in such a way that I will – no, I MUST go to the optical store and have another one made.  If not, I will go insane.  As will the people around me because I can’t stop talking about “my scratch” on the lens of my glasses.

arrghIf you were to see this scratch, I can imagine your response.  “Where is it?  “It’s right (pause) there.  There.  See it when the light reflects off the ragged and crude edges!  There!”  The look of incredulity astounds me.  “Can’t you see it?  They’re ruined.  My perfect glasses are spoiled by the speed of life, the politics of the day, the rush to get everything done fast. Aaugh!”

By now the person has gone away.   Once I open my eye lids that I thought closing would seal in my inner angst, I find I have been left standing there agonizing to myself.

Hello, Cigar Buyer!!!

Yes, as critical as I am about this imperfection, I’ve got nothing on the guy who’s buying a cigar and giving it the once over so it can be as perfect as can be to be burned into smoke and ashes.  You’ve seen them.  They will pick up a cigar and examine it as if they are buying a rare object that has been on display in the museums and now, now they get a chance to hold it in their hands and gaze upon its sacred beauty.  I’ll hear it all the time at shops.  The manager will walk in with a customer and begin to suggest cigars. . .

“What’s this?”

“Hmmm?  Where?  Oh, that’s a water spot.”

“Oh.”  He puts the cigar back in the box and moves on to another selection.

“What’s wrong with that one?”

“Water spot.”

Am I hearing this right?  I mean I know there is a cigar brand out there that is known for its perfect wrappers with nary a water spot or blemish upon its precious skin.   Yet, this is what the customer expects from all cigars – perfection?

veinsAn alternative is drawn to his attention.

“Yeah, but look at the veins.”

Another artisanal tobacco tube turned down. Veins?  You have got to be kidding me!  Guess what the cigar is rolled in?  A leaf you idiot!  And guess what leaves have!  Veins you moron!  And once and awhile a vein or two will be more prominent.  It does not affect the cigar’s taste.  Oh, sure, if it’s a whopper it may disturb the burn, but I see that so rarely on fine, premium cigars that it’s a non-issue.

Both look at each other.  Quietly the search continues.  I leave the humidor.

There’s nothing wrong with being persnickety about your choices, but be realistic.  Those few blemishes or veins are not going to change your experience one iota.

But a scratch the size of the Nile on MY lens?!  Now that’s an issue!

 

 

Tear and Loathing

me on phone

Calling customers on the phone is not my favorite way to conduct business.  I prefer the personal touch.  However, there are times when I really do need to make the call, regardless of whether I like it or not.  Indeed, the bane of business.

This hesitation I feel to making calls stems from the anxiety created because I can’t gauge what reaction I will receive when I connect with the other party.  And that reaction will vary quite a bit depending on the reason I’m calling.  I’ll call for three reasons: following up on an order, introducing myself to a new customer, and finally to collect on an unpaid balance.

polar bear 2

The calls I won’t make are Cold Calls – those that have to do with contacting someone out of the blue.  It’s a waste of both our times.  The business I’m in runs on personality.  It does not run on trying to pry open an account over the phone. Of course, I’ll call to make an appointment, that goes without saying. But I will never try to sell any brand I represent over the phone cold.  It’s asinine.

The first reason I’ll call is if I’m taking an order or following up on one.  They are the simple ones.  I do not fear those because that’s how I make my living – selling and brand building the cigars.  Those two situations are relatively benign; I can get through those without any tension.

The second reason I’ll call is to introduce myself, though I’d rather do that in person if at all possible.  Sometimes it isn’t.  I did so this morning when I called one of my newest customers.  So new in fact, that I have yet to visit this shop or even talk with the owner preliminarily.  The sale was made through another connection and I got on the horn to introduce myself and make sure the first delivery was there on time and in good shape.

The conversation went smoothly.  Though I’ll have to admit, I was more talkative than the shop owner, which is unusual.  So in this case I made it through handily.  We briefly became acquainted with one another and talked about when would be a good time to stop by.  I also covered my ass and asked him if he received the additional samples that were to have been sent out.  He did not.  So, with that response I reassured him that the cigars (it ain’t August 8th yet!!) would be on their way.  We then both politely finished the conversation and hung up.

jumperNow the final and most stressful is to call a customer who has an unpaid balance.  I generally ask the office staff of the manufacturer to make those calls.  But often when they hit a brick wall we are asked to make the intervention.  Truth be told, I abhor and would rather bungee cord – sans cord – off the edge of the Grand Canyon into the abyss.  I avoid them like the plague, even if I know the shop owner.  Why?  People change when they owe money.  This morphing of character has not changed since the beginning of time and never will.  But!  If I have to – I do it.  Maybe I take a whole Valium instead of half of the baby-aspirin-shaded pill just prior to making these calls.  I need to be alert!

perry como

I have found that there are three types of responses within this category of call.  The first is the casual explanation, “Yeah, I know about the bill.  And it’s been slow.  So I’ll have it for you in a few weeks.  Just give me some time.”  What can you say?  They are polite and they know they owe!  And for the most part they eventually will – pay the bill.  That’s the easiest call to make.

snakeThe more difficult is when they conjure up a story about not getting the invoice or they didn’t realize they were behind.  I call this type of plea the snake justification.  They slither and slide in every direction and never make a point to actually say they owe.  So you have to give them the benefit of the doubt, but then it’s a waiting game.  And who doesn’t want to get paid.

ramsey

The third is the asshole defense.  “I don’t have the money.”  Or “You’re not around that often so I forgot about the cigars.” Or “The cigars aren’t selling anyway, so why should I pay ya.”   But, that’s not my problem, yet it is because regardless, they have the product and I want the money!  But what good are they?  Then they get mad at you for asking for the bill to be paid.  Do I really need this hassle?

Yes, sometimes I do.  But it’s all part of business – the personality business of the cigar broker.  And the reason for the gray hair!

Take . . . Your Time.

miles on drums

“What lighter can we use?

“Use matches.”

“Oh, ok.”

Those are my son’s text messages he sent me this afternoon.  He had a few of his friends over for lunch.  Earlier in the morning he was asking me what cigars he could take.  So I ran downstairs with him to the humidor and suggested he go into the green bin and take anything he wanted.

And that’s a photo of him on the drums at the House of Blues in Chicago with his band, A Semester Abroad.  That was me many years ago, doing my thing with our group The Extension of Sound – though we didn’t play the larger venues.  We were the penultimate garage band.  Miles?  He’s going all the way.

As he should – music is his passion.  And he relaxes with his buds by entertaining and smoking a cigar.  I couldn’t help but think of the similarities of our lives and how fast time does go by.  I couldn’t see time slipping away when I was young.  I was too busy doing to notice.

And that’s the cigar business in a nutshell.  Even though it’s a micro-community among the many, it’s my passion, and it’s where Miles and his gang go to visit now and then.  He has a choice.  I do too.  I don’t feel I have fewer options than he does, despite my age and time spent in the business.  I stay because I love it.

Sure, he’s going to find out about the underbelly of the music business – just like I did. Every business has its “dirty little secrets.”  But that’s life.  I’ve been so keen on bringing him up to speed, while at the same time not squeezing all the dreams out of his sponge with the absorption of reality.  He’ll discover the cracked, rough edges of a dry sponge soon enough.   His vision is quite clear.  He can see the periphery of the business already.  I don’t think he’ll be in shock once he’s in it.  I believe he’ll be so submerged in his passion that nothing will change his direction.

finished partySo from what I hear, the party was a smoldering success.   Friends, cigars, music, brats, burgers, and fresh asparagus on the grill.  Man.  What a better way to start a summer vacation?

Time does drift by.  It’s just now I keep an eye on it – lest it slips completely away.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyT1E_CROLo