Monthly Archives: August 2016

My Cigar Rx.

headache before

Remember the old Anacin commercial?  Some may some may not.  The announcer would talk over the graphics of this head illustrating jagged, sharp lines, a pounding hammer, and the shock of electrical impulses gone haywire and tell the listener if you took two tablets this trio of triage would disappear.

anacin

Well, multiply that pain 1000 times and you’ll get an idea of what my head feels like tonight.  So I figured this is a good time for a test to see what happens to this monstrous nuisance if I light up a cigar and use it for my relief.

I didn’t care what cigar I smoked, so I pulled out the one that was in my shirt pocket most of the day and weaved my way to The Patio Cigar Lounge (open 24/7).  I sat down.  This headache was a blazer.  The pain was excruciating.  Metal thumb screws tightening down on every raw nerve cell in my skull.

What caused this pain is not the issue.  But I knew stress was a huge contributing factor (so what else is new?).  I lit the cigar – and that action in and of itself became a stress releaser.  I began to hear the birds singing, the cicadas screeching, and the hum of our air conditioner lull me into a different state.

closing eyes

I had eaten earlier, so food would not dissolve the pain.  I would let the cigar do its magic.  So I sat there smoking the cigar.  I closed my eyes.  I could not will this one away.  But even with the cigar’s silent medicine moving through my mental motherboard, the headache persisted.  Oh, for a massage right now.

I know that smoking the cigar would not relieve the pain instantaneously.  So I just sat there and smoked the smoldering leaves of aged tobacco.  Modern Juju.

******

plazaI continued to smoke that cigar.  The draw?  Impeccable.  The chewy smoke a dream.  The aroma a delight.  I began to imagine mist.  I have gotten to know a photographer in India, Divanshi Chauhan, a student.  She has sent me some gorgeous shots of her country.  And I thought of one in particular – a quiet plaza, where light rain is falling.

I continued to smoke the cigar and began to enter the vision.  I could sense the tightness around my neck loosen, the twisted tendons of taut muscle relaxing.  I allowed the cigar to transport me to India.  I walked around the plaza of my mind.  My eyes still closed.  I became serene.  Still.

headache after

I slowly began to open my eyes.  I had not seen reality.  It wasn’t until I noticed that the cigar was almost to its end when I discovered that the headache had all but vanished.  Silently it had disappeared into the smoke.  This combination worked.  I could feel the light breeze of the night air.  I was smiling.  My prescription for the pain had worked.  I felt as if I had discovered the cure for the plague of the 21st Century –  and this time it was not lost.

 

“We decide which is right . . .”

cicada.jpg

Cicadas are always heard during the night.  I’m recording my podcast (shameless plug coming) The Sound of Cigars, Moment #7 (heard each week on www.irvcigarbroker.com).  They can lull you into a blissful catatonic state, or the constant micro chatter can drive you insane.  But you will feel some emotional stirring deep inside you.

This is what you’ll hear when I smoke a questionable cigar.

“Hmmmm!”  A hum?  A what?

And then I conjure up the closing lines of what some consider to be the best song on this concept album, Days of Future Past by the Moody Blues, “Nights in White Satin.”  On the album the official title of the song is – “The Night: Nights in White Satin.”  Correlating with the entire idea of the typical day. . .

“This is the last song of the concept album, which follows the course of a day, jumping between people and places to capture the typical day. The song documents the heightened emotions and intimacy of dusk/early night-time. The second half, the Late Lament, completes the cycle of the day mimicking the opening monologue and invoking the privacy that the late-night embodies.”

days of future past

Breathe deep the gathering gloom

Watch lights fade from every room

Bedsitter people Look back and lament

Another day’s useless Energy spent

Impassioned lovers wrestle as one

Lonely man cries for love and has none

New mother picks up and suckles her son

Senior citizens wish they were young

Cold hearted orb that rules the night

Removes the colours from our sight

Red is grey and yellow white

But we decide which is right

And which is an Illusion?  – Moody Blues

 

And then that questionable cigar takes on a different character – one that may have in it the possibilities that might have yet come to the fore.  It is just too early to tell.  As with anything to do with nature, the variables are in the billions – giving man a break.

ltd edition

This morphed into a damn good cigar – the Flor de Gonzalez 90 Miles Limited Edition RA – A delicious, zesty tasting cigar that had me in a state of silent serenity. Unfortunately, I smoked it before I could micro-analyze it.  It’s 10 out of 10, in flavor, construction, and satisfaction.

“We (do) decide which is right and which is an illusion.”

And this is no illusion.

 

 

 

Cigar’s Continuum.

sky

“Space – the final frontier.”  (IMDb)  This is where I am tonight.  Outer space.  I’m the floating debris in the stratosphere after the rocket exploded in the film Mission to Mars (2000) with Gary Sinise.  Everything is silent.  Chaos is the norm.  Ideas are replaced with sheer, terrifying fear.

There are no ideas running through the detritus of wires, twisted metal, ragged remnants of years of work, thought, testing and mathematical configurations.   No chance to catch a piece of shrapnel.  No opportunity to grab onto any part of the bursting miracle that is now littering space.  Who can reason with what is happening?

Pure rational thought is an anomaly as the mind delves deeply into its recesses to find ideas of how to survive such a devastating occurrence, one that was never on the drawing board, considered in the plans, or recreated by the simulators.

I am these fragments.  I am these leftovers of years of calculations silently becoming micro-satellites in uncharted emptiness.  There is nothing to catch.  There is too much bedlam to build a solid thought.  My mind is a void.

There is nothing to pull from – nothing to begin with again.  It is over for this day.  The pieces are too small to bring them together.  This is now.  This is my reality.  Space has infiltrated and mastered my mind.  This one time – this one frightening sobering time, all is quiet.  The cosmos of scattered debris was filled too quickly, without warning, reaching too many places, no chance to pick up the pieces and somehow fit them together as a jigsaw puzzle.

Tonight there is silence.  No tightly knit stories, anecdotes or rants in this emptiness.  It is still.

 

“Now explain this Cigarism to me.”

black man

Ok, this intro is going to be a bit of a climb for some.  And this IS a longer article than usual, but hang in there and you’ll get some food for thought about “Cigarism.”

“Racism is a product of the complex interaction in a given society of a race-based worldview with prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination. Racism can be present in social actions, practices, or political systems (e.g., apartheid) that support the expression of prejudice or aversion in discriminatory practices. The ideology underlying racist practices often includes the idea that humans can be subdivided into distinct groups that are different in their social behavior and innate capacities and that can be ranked as inferior or superior.  Racist ideology can become manifest in many aspects of social life. Associated social actions may include xenophobia, otherness, segregation, hierarchical ranking, supremacism, and related social phenomena.

Today, the use of the term “racism” does not easily fall under a single definition.  It is usually found in, but usage is not limited to, law, the social and behavioral sciences, humanities, and popular culture.” (Wiki)

Now let’s look at “cigarism” and see what we get.  You say you’ve never heard of the term?  Hmmmm.  That’s unusual.  “Cigarism” has been around for decades but has become a major social and legislative issue since 1964 and one of major concern since August 8th of this year.  Cigarism is the resultant philosophy of the few that is based on the ideology of stereotyping and discriminating against a legally manufactured product.  This causes constant confusion and inflammatory confrontations both ideologically and physically within society.

captain

What it comes down to is encased in the famous line by the Captain as said to Paul Newman’s character in the classic film, “Cool Hand Luke,” when he says in his affected southern drawl after striking Neuman’s character with a blackjack, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

Ain’t that the truth?  Now, I know that no one wants to be preached at.  So I won’t.  But until the public, the legislators, the scientists, the educators, and the parents of nine-year-old cigar smokers begin to realize that what is seriously going on in the Cigar Industry is rational, then indeed – we need to communicate.

One question I have to ask – will anyone listen?  George Wallace wouldn’t.  Phyllis Schlafly wouldn’t.  President Obama wouldn’t (and how hypocritical is that?), the Congress and the Senate wouldn’t.   It’s a tough battle we face.  Can we win it all?  No.  Look at race relations today, even after tense decades, and pages upon pages of legislation to make things equal.  But we can come to a compromise.  And that’s what the cigar community has to strive to do.  Yes, the FDA has the fire power and all we have is the fire to light our cigars.  But we can still proselytize, go out and educate the public.

The other question I must pose then is – will the cigar community actively do it?

(Note here: If you find this boring then try reading all 499 pages of the FDA’s document.  It’s something you have to do if you really give a damn about this industry.  All play and no work makes Irv a dull boy – and in this case, possibly out of work.)

loadUnfortunately methinks not.  A downer – yeah, for sure.  But let’s look at the phenomenon of “racism” again and see how it correlates with “cigarism.”  And why changing the FDA’s dictum may seem like a Sisyphean task but really isn’t within the proper perspective?  In brief: “You can use Sisyphean to describe things that require a lot of hard work and yet will never be truly finished.  Keeping a house clean can feel Sisyphean, and so can deciding on a movie that everyone in a family will enjoy. The word comes from the character Sisyphus in Greek mythology, who was sentenced for his wrongdoing to push a boulder up a hill and watch it roll back down, again and again, forever.”  (vocabulary.com)

That first sentence in bold type is key to understanding that we have a chance to change things:  “You can use Sisyphean to describe things that require a lot of hard work and yet will never be truly finished.”  Racism is far from over, but we have made strides that would shock the peoples of the past.  Hell, look who’s in the White House!  The Reverend Jesse Jackson shed tears when President-elect Barak Obama won the election because he never thought he’d see the day that an African-American would sit in the Oval Office.  (Some pundits still believe his tears were running down his cheeks because he thought he would be the first black president.)  Bigots still think it’s a nightmare.

Then again, look around you.  Take a gander at any cigar shop in America, you see any sign posted that reads “Cigars only?”  You bet there are.  Walk by someone while smoking your cigar and get a hand by the nose gesture.  Or tell someone you broker cigars and be asked “You can make a living doing that?  Our job is to break through the ignorance.  And the only way to shed the skin of ignorance is through development.  The body and the mind have to grow in order to shed the old and allow the new to progress.

I know I’m harping on this relentlessly, but I will continue to do so until the raw nerves of courage are tapped into and we get off our butts and start to speak up.  And I say to hell with letters to the legislators.  Not only do they not read them – They can’t read save for the bigger numbers over the little numbers on election night that clearly gives them the win.  Politicians are not in Washington to represent us; they are there to be re-elected.  Period.  McFly!?

wattsriot65The boycotts of the 50s and 60s brought to light the economic impact of racism.  Sitting in the back of the bus wasn’t considered a problem until an exhausted Rosa Parks sat in the front of the bus bringing to the fore the idiocy of segregation. The riots in Watts wrenched the heads of people to take notice to finally acknowledge – “Houston, I believe we’ve had a problem here.”    Is racism gone?  Of course it isn’t.  It makes up the fabric of our society like it or not.  Really?  It’s 2016.  Look at the news (8.26.16) regarding using the “N” word in an email sent out announcing the disappointing news of losing an election in Alabama.  “Midland City, Alabama, interim Mayor Patsy Capshaw Skipper denied using a racial epithet (the “N” word) to describe an opponent on Facebook this week and instead said hackers had likely compromised her account, local media reported Thursday.” (Washington Times)  Hackers my ass Patsy.  What?  She’s an alleged racist who got caught being an alleged racist?  Backpedaling is a required course for politicians as is “spinning.”

the-truth-will-set-you-freeWill racism ever be completely eliminated?  Will the restrictions on smoking ever be completely eradicated?  NO!  But we are making progress however slowly by educating the public about our product – the cigar.  Will scholarly papers cause ignorance to vanish?  Of course they won’t.  At best they most likely will be ignored just like the 499 page FDA document that is accessible to all who care to wade through it – and it’s a slosher.  But we CAN make headway – if we are diligent in our mission to educate.

Cigarism is here to stay I’m sad to say.  But if – as a community, we work together we can continue to crack the toxic codes ensconced in racism and cigarism and allow the truth to set us free.  The truth will always win – even if it takes decades to cross the finish line.

 

 

PIO’s Resurrection.

pio mag

Cloudy.  The air smells like giraffes.  (Extraordinary smell sensory memory, I have.)  Humid.  The pre-draw is welcoming.  Butane, please.  I am now smoking a PIO Resurrection outside on The Patio Cigar Lounge (open 24/7).  No sun at all.  Ashtray is filthy.  Use it.  My son and his buddies were having cigars late last night.

It feels good to smoke a cigar you can count on – every time.  A straight ash from the gate.  Gently box-pressed.  Nicaraguan.  After a day like today, I needed this predictability.  Predominate flavor?  Sweet aged tobacco, with a lilt of molasses, viscous, slow moving – fresh green twigs twisted tenderly releasing the aroma of nature.  God’s zest in the hands of man.

colonel Yeah, it’s breezy here.  I could have used some cool air earlier today as I asked embarrassing questions and received resounding, blunt answers, a flurry of changes, and a hat-trick of cigar homicides.  (I dropped three cigars.)   The fourth, well, let’s just say that without people, nary a cigar can be rolled, but with people you can have differences.  That fourth cigar vanished.  I was punched in the stomach, but receive enough blows to the belly over time, and your muscles become taught and sinewy.  And pretty soon, you don’t flinch.  Remember the scene in the James Bond classic, “From Russia with Love” when Colonel Klebb sucker slams her fist into the muscle-bound blond Aryan’s abs with brass knuckles and the surprise blow never fazes him.  Nor did it I.

pio ash 1The Resurrection is conceived and blended by Alberto Medina, a man whose dream has become a reality.  Proof is in my sight.  And it isn’t always the bottom line that sells the cigar.  Not this one.  The gorgeous burn and ensuing ash shows flawless construction.  Grown in rich soil.  A touch of spice is sneaking in with longer draws.  It complements the mix of flavors.

I’m reminded of the “P” word.  Yes, that “P” word.  That is remarkable.  The smoke is chewy, so satisfying the ills of the day are becoming a Brigadoon mist.  My stomach muscles have not weakened.  Nor has my desire to continue.

Coffee grounds, the essence of espresso, tea tannin, and tree bark all ground together to create a smooth, velvety flavor.  So bloody satisfying.  Take another draw.  I do.  The cigar has been around for a long time and it has pedigree.  It will be available soon in stores throughout the Midwest.  That I promise.  Once you light one up, your senses will swoon with decadent delight intensified with the flavors and the cigar’s utmost perfection.

While I’m smoking this heavenly cigar, I ask myself, why don’t more people live life like the ball used in a roulette game?  Fear, methinks.  True, you may not know where you’ll end up, but the journey is fast, wild, and freewheeling (excuse the pun).  Unless you’re a corpse, you can always spin again.  You’ll never lose, you’re the ball.  You’re playing a game.

pio determination

A very bold cigar, this, with daring flavor combinations through and through.  The burn is continuously straight, a testament to the construction brought up earlier.  I think Alberto has been able to inject his passion into the Resurrection.  He’s the blender.  It comes in a variety of sizes.  No goofy names.

The Patio Cigar Lounge (open 24/7) with a lone, determined broker, smoking an excellent cigar.   The air is filled with passion; the taste buds are totally a blaze.  Thank you Mr. Medina.  (Man, this is good.)

 

Sex, Cigars, Fashion and Ads.

embrace

Years ago this type of embrace would have been either in private or in one of “those” magazines.  Now it’s in W magazine being used to advertise Equipment with Kate Moss as the draw.  I had to go to Equipmentfr.com to see what Equipment exactly is:  Voila!

“In 1976, Christian Restoin set out to revolutionize a flourishing, yet cautious women’s ready-to-wear industry with the launch of his brand, Equipment.  Straightforward and innovative, Equipment’s menswear-inspired shirts were characterized by their refined tailoring and timeless appeal.  The brand quickly became a worldwide success and a recognized name amongst the fashion elite, creating a following in film stars such as Lauren Bacall.   After enjoying twenty years of the brand’s success, Restoin moved on, wishing to pursue another phase of his career.

In spring 2010, Serge Azria, re-launched Equipment as he saw a void in the contemporary marketplace for a luxury shirt brand that catered to the modern woman.”  (Website)

cigar snob cover

Ok, I should know this?  I’m interested in fashion.  It’s just like the cigar business – something new all the time – new blends, new wrappers, new manufacturers, new trends.  It’s all quite the same.  In fact, the ways in which both industries advertise are quite similar.

Take a look at Cigar Snob magazine.  March/April 2015.  Look at the front over.  What’s Nohemi Hermosillo saying with her eyes?  I don’t know, my attention is elsewhere and it isn’t on the cigar.  See?  The editors hired her, from the Wilhelmina Modeling Company, to be photographed by David Benoliel in a variety of poses that lure the reader in.  They are sultry, provocative and appealing.

bmsmBut the ads are becoming edgier and edgier.  Example, same W magazine (September), and here’s what you see.  A conglomeration of designer’s clothes and jewelry – Alexander Wang’s belt, Cartier’s necklace, a Fenty Puma’s jacket, corset and pants, along with tats, S&M masks, leather pants and the look of sheer craving.  Lifeless it is not – bordering on the ideologically confrontational.  Models are posed in such a way as to spark a feeling, tap into a reservoir of psychological space that you might not be aware of.  What’s the upshot?

Yes, fashion has always been on the brink using taboo ideas and subject matter.  Even in the 50s, the fashions were considered risqué, improbable, and inescapably disturbing – for the time.  Yes.  Agree with me or not.  Look through Cosmopolitan, Vogue, or even earlier issues of W.  The vivid imagination has always been the high-point of the photographer and the editor.  Look.  At.  This.  And we do.

cuban thighs

So where are the ads taking us?  No longer are we safe from unsettling images, be they having to do with an embrace of two women or the inclusion of pseudo-sadomasochism.  And that’s OK.  Fashion, art, photography and cigar manufacturing have always been the same – “Rolled on the thighs of Cuban virgins.”  Or key in on Robert Mapplethorpe’s work and realize that he was testing the tensile strength of our thought threads as to what will attract and what will repel without snapping them, thus spoiling the entire experience.

This is our world and has been.  Nothing has really changed.  Go through The Kama Sutra by Vatsyayana Vatsyayana.  The difference?  It’s technology coming at you from all sides at the highest rate of speed imaginable – instantaneously.  No longer are we able to slowly absorb what we see.  We skim, we click, and we scroll down looking for something to excite us NOW!  Delayed gratification does not exist anymore.  Save for the world in which I live as a cigar broker.  It takes time to smoke a cigar.  The inflammatory passions are being stoked by the ads to make you look.  Anything goes.  So why not go there?

Yet, when you pick up a cigar, and light it, the smoke pulls through slowly, deliberately, without any hurry.  The cigar will get hot if you rush, thus destroying the subtle flavors that were meant to be enjoyed at a pace so foreign to our lives today.  Maybe the ads are trying to circumvent that possibility and make you “hot” before you try on the dress, or the shoes, or the blouse – or smoke the cigar.  They intentionally disrupt you.  They goad you into an emotion you really need not embrace.

paul orange

The cigar is a place.  The cigar is its own entity.  The cigar has control over you.  Let it shield you with its purpose – to provide tranquility, quiet, and stillness.  You can’t help but know the ads are there.  They are there to draw you in – be it in an excited state or a disturbing one.  Their goal is certain – to attract your attention.

Look at the ads.  Take in the message if you must.  But know that fashion’s goal is to incite the emotions – NOW!  The cigar’s goal is to arouse the emotions s-l-o-w-l-y.

No More Free Cigar Samples.

irv pounding table

Ever since I got back from Vegas, Life has been throwing some mighty piercing challenges at me.  Sometimes I have been able to dodge them.  Other times they hit me head on and I hurt from the impact of the blows.  Some of these trials have been seen from the distance, others I never saw coming.  And boy – did those cause pain – sometimes physically, other times emotionally.

Now I could list them, but I’m really not looking for a collective “Whaaaaaaaaaaaa!” a la Artie Lang.  But I will admit, yesterday was the kicker. I was with a shop owner.  And what we were talking about has been heading our way for some time.  So I thought I had my moves in place to swerve so the legal salvos could whiz by me.  But, no.  This one figuratively sliced right through my flesh and only stopped when it hit bone.

NO MORE FREE CIGAR SAMPLES!

Read that again cigar lovers.  No more free cigar samples.  And for whatever reason, that reality stunned me into a daze yesterday.  It caught me off guard.  I was bloodied, knocked down with the swiftness of the setback.  As many who experience shock, I felt no pain just a sudden numbness – for me, in the pit of my stomach.  That realization actually quelled the flow of my conversation with the customer.

But that was the only outward sign that something was amiss.  I finished my business and left the store.  I walked to my car and pushed the button on my key fob.  I opened the door and got in.  I slid onto the seat after placing my satchel in the back.  I automatically started the engine.  It was hot.  So I automatically turned on the air conditioning.  The radio stayed silent. Mosh_Tendrils

“The government actually did it,” I thought.  Through the FDA, the government finally twisted and turned its slimy tendrils into my business in such a way that IT now controls me.  The FDA controls me by fear of fines, imprisonment – or both.  The worse pain is in two places, your heart and your pocketbook.  I just sat there, almost in a state of shock.  They won.  Nikita Khrushchev was right, without a single shot; our government is taking over the United States – not some out of the way sand lot, but our own land of freedom.  And it won’t bother you until it hits home.  And it will.  And when it does, it may be too late.  Is the child already in the air, falling toward the ground – prepared to die?

Many businesses will die before this war is over.  If the child does survive the fall, the pain will be excruciating.  The rehab will take months.  The child will never be the same.  But the strong will endure.  I for one will not give up my freedom easily.  I have plans and have already begun to implement them to keep my business operating at full throttle.  You can take everything I have Uncle Sam, but you can’t take the “I” out of ideas.  And I have plenty.

ideasIt’s just not in my nature to roll over and pee all over myself.  I may be hurt, I may be injured, and I may be knocked down, but I’ll be damned if you think I’m out.  You are dealing with the wrong business person.  Yes, I am sensitive.  I hurt more than some, but that’s how God wired me.  And that’s what will make me a survivor.

To quote the late great actor Patrick McGoohan in the classic British series –The Prisoner, “I am not a number.  I am a FREE MAN!”

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