Monthly Archives: September 2016

“The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men”

day-over

Some days are just not going to go as I planned them.  It’s a fact of life.  In this business you can often find options if the day’s schedule goes awry, which it often does when I’m on a road trip.

But today!  Ahhhh today!  My plans spattered into the spittoon fast and the choices I had available to me were not all that sensible.  You see, I work my out-of-town trips like a military operation.  I know where I’m going to be, and when.  I’m very good at timing, and organizing.  But you know what, others are not as regimented.  And if that sounds snarky, welcome to the real world of brokering cigars.  I’d love to be a Pollyanna, but that’s just not in my genetic makeup.

day-trash

Ok, mentally I’m running in circles.  The long and short of it is that today turned out to be a CF and that’s that.  I won’t go into spot details.  Yes, I had options, but they were not feasible.  I was too far from this shop to make it back to that shop in time.  I completely understand that s*&t happens, but tell me.  Call me.  Text me.  Do something!  Don’t just disappear.  Don’t trash me!

So I’m looking at the map and no matter which way I go I cannot make it to my afternoon appointment on time (which I hope is solid) if I deviate from the route that I’ve chosen.  The distance is too great.  Now I can call and change the schedules, but there is the threat of the inevitable domino effect.  Not only upsetting my time, but those who I do have appointments with.

Remember this is a commissioned military operation.  I accomplish as much as I can when I’m on the road so the ducks have to be in a row and they usually are – save for this day.  So like any marine I try to adapt.  Adapt.  Yes, you can adapt, but often those modifications cause a chain reaction that is worse than an exploding atom bomb and the fallout that’s left behind isn’t worth it.

day-napkinSo, I bide my time, I get some lunch.  I start writing this article on a napkin.  I do make a few phone calls to wiggle the schedule back into shape.  But it’s the afternoon one that I have to keep.  That’s the one that I’ve hinged this whole day on due to the owner’s schedule.

So I make a few changes and I get a few things done, but then I notice that my time is short and I have to make it to the afternoon appointment.  I said I’d be there and I will be.  So I pull up to the shop and park across the street.  The place looks dark.  I get out of the car.  I cross the street.  I walk into the shop.  It’s quiet.  There sit the relatives.  “Hey, is Wilfred (name changed so I don’t get my ass kicked) here?  “No.  He won’t be here until late.”  “How late?”  I can’t believe what they tell me.

I do what I can to make the trip worthwhile and I head back to the car.  I put a cigar in my mouth and I light it up.  I punch the hotel’s location into my GPS and I’m off.  Yes, that’s me up there in the wicked off position.  Why would I be otherwise?  The drive back to the hotel is quick.  Light traffic.  And the cigar did sooth my nerves.  But it still didn’t save the day.

That’s tomorrow’s job.

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Señorial In Motion.

jbs

Smoking a cigar while driving is already a habit and it’s only been a few days.  I’m enjoying it.   It’s allowed me to enjoy the drive, rather than dread every time I turn the key.  What?  Who said this was romantic.  Hey, my favorite poet is Anne Sexton, she wrote confessional verse and if you really delve into the words she uses and the subjects she broaches, you will see that my blogs are of the same ilk on some days.  But I digress.  Where was I?

michiganYes, smoking in the car while driving.  I’m discovering that I can think.  And, yes I am paying close attention to the traffic.  But while smoking the cigar I have more patience with the other drivers, and here in Michigan, you need it.  (Did I actually say that?  Was that PC?)

My thoughts are more concentrated, like the orange juice you used to be able to buy frozen in the can so you could add water and make it just right again.  The ideas flow, especially about writing and what subjects I can see.  It’s like when Cary Grant and so many others in Hollywood first took LSD, they could actually burrow into their consciousness and make some sense of it all.

I finally made it to Ann Arbor and I stopped at La Casa.  But before I went in I took with me one of José Blanco’s Señorials and clipped the cap and lit it before I walked into the shop.  Calvin was there and we ordered what he needed and so it was a short visit.  He was leaving early anyway.

So when I returned to the car I had most of the cigar still in hand and I figured, why not?  So I got in the car, punched in the hotel’s address and headed toward the expressway.  It looked to be about a 35 miles drive and that would give me plenty of time to finish the cigar.

So off I go smoking one of José Blanco’s Señorial naturals and my mind goes off on a taste tangent.  Almonds, some espresso, a smattering of fresh leather and a whole lot of satisfaction.  I just kept saying to myself “Damn, this is a great cigar.”  And indeed, it is.

matisse-olive

The construction I will admit took a beating because I don’t have an ashtray in the car, nor will I use one.  So I hold the cigar just under the window and flick the ashes off so they don’t blow back at me, that’s one thing I can’t stand.

I have the windows open for adequate ventilation, so as I’m enjoying the flavor sensations on my palate, the smoke is circulating in the car and before it heads out the window it glides by my nose and my olfactory senses are in overdrive.  (You remember overdrive?)  The aroma hints of the forest, and fresh dewy moss, with a trickle of pond water on a humid day.  Again, “Damn this is good.”

Now with all these flavors, essences, and aromas flooding my senses, I‘m surprised I can keep my mind on my driving but in reality it has become easier for me to do.  The time went by in a flash, no road rage, no hurry let’s get there, just a relaxing drive in “my ol’ Chevy Van.”  No? Too nostalgic.  I drive a Honda.

So before you know it, I’m turning off the expressway and onto the road that leads to the hotel and just as I get there I notice that the cigar is out and there’s about oh, about an inch left.  I hated to see it go.  But I did.  “Born Free.”  And there I am pulling up to the front and I’m thinking to myself, I just entered another dimension of enjoying a cigar.  What will be next?

No “Groundhog Day” This Trip!

good-night-sleep

A restful night?  You bet.  I knew today was going to be a busy one so I’m thankful for a good night’s sleep.  No, I didn’t watch the debates.

Today I’m further into the bowels of Michigan and I can tell from the start it’s business as usual.  First, Smokes on Burdick, then Chicken Dan’s SouthStreet Cigar, and then it’s on to Campbell’s and on and on and on, until I’m finished.  Then it’s off to the hotel I go.

This trip is different, though.  Even though today was a carbon copy of my last trip here, there will be modifications tomorrow and for the rest of the week.  Finally something different.  Certainly I will visit the usual stops, but this trip I have new customers.

james-brown

I’ve been coming to this state for many years as a broker and it seems to be one of the few I cover that always has cigar shop activity going on all the time.   And despite the climate created by the FDA, there are still people out here with dreams that they want to fulfill, damn the government’s incessant intervention.  Do I hear an “Amen!”

There are still people with vibrant visions.  If it’s a passion, you’ve got to reach for it with every fiber in your body.  It’s not like the play, “Your Arms Too Short to Box with God?”  Those who defy these odds are not trying to fight a losing battle, they are striving – and succeeding, to fight the regulations that have been placed upon this industry.

So, in essence, I’m changing the pattern of how I do things for the next three days.  I’ll be the first to admit that a trip with such changes is demanding, which probably contributed to my mood yesterday.  (Read the blog!)  But at the same time – this is exhilarating for me.

You see, I’m going on in this business as if. . . .  It’s what I’m doing after the “as if” that gives this broker’s life pizzazz.  Care to know?  Stay tuned.

Cigar Challenges Change!

Portrait of Lao-Tzu

JAPAN – DECEMBER 10: Portrait of Lao-Tzu, Chinese philosopher from the 6th century BC, drawing by Sesshu Toyo (1420-1506). Japanese civilisation, Muromachi period, 15th civilisation. Detail. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Trepidation, angst, and anxiety – three emotions an independent cigar broker probably shouldn’t be feeling before he’s not even out of the driveway for a road trip.  But it happens.  The hardest part sometimes is getting started.  “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu

Well, Michigan isn’t a thousand miles, but the way I feel about it right now is that getting started is like trying to pull my feet out of stiffening molasses.  Yeah, it’s possible, but it’s damn difficult unless you really want to be free.

So everything is packed up and I’m ready to go.

I’m late.  But kind of on purpose.  I know what my tolerances are.  I’ve learned them over the years and I can read my psyche fairly accurately and this trip resonated “No!” loud and clear.  But oftimes I must ignore the voices in my head (are any of you getting this yet?) and move forward.  So I did.  Two jelly donuts on the seat, “All my bags are packed.  I’m ready to go . . .  Already I’m so lonesome I could die.”

Yeah, Peter, Paul, and Mary.  Too melodramatic?  I don’t think so.  You haven’t done this as many times as I have.  But I back out and I get into traffic.  Hey, it’s Monday, give me some slack.  I don’t drink coffee so beat me.

It isn’t long before I’m in the thick of it and I can feel my eye lids are starting to droop.  I didn’t get a lot of sleep the past few days, even though it was the weekend.  Weekend?  Shit.  Oh, do I sound cross?  My apologies.  What is missing?

irv-on-the-road

So I’m finally on the expressway and the traffic has lightened up and in full control of the speed, the lane, who is around me and who isn’t.  I like to be in control.  But this morning I am not in control of my drooping eye lids.  Yeouwe!  That was close, I veered a bit too far into the other guy’s lane and I guess he didn’t appreciate my dexterity or my excellent peripheral vision, there was no accident but who’s to say that’s not in the future?

So I keep driving and it happens again several miles down the road.  This time to the left.  The serrated strips on the sides of the road woke me up and I continued to drive.  The radio was loud and the windows were open and hell, I’m not even out of Illinois.  But I muscled through, as men will do.  Dumb men.  Dead men.  But I make it through Indiana and continue on driving to the Michigan border.

But this swerving happens two more times and I am beginning to get concerned – a lot.  I can keep this up and take more chances, or I will kill somebody or myself and I have no time to die right now.  Too busy.  I know once I cross the border from Indiana into Michigan there is a rest stop and I can pull in there and take a short nap.  So I keep going with no more swerves and finally I make it to the oasis.  It’s crowded.  This one always is.  I hit the john and then grab a Michigan map.  I always take one, you never know what’s different.  Though I’ve been going to the hand for years and it’s always the same – save for the weather.

I figure I’ll eat a jelly doughnut.  The sugar will be released into my bloodstream causing that burst of energy I apparently need.  But I can feel that, while the jelly doughnut is lip smacking good, it’s not going to keep me alert.  Nor do I drink coffee – it sours my stomach.  So what do I do?

irv-with-cigar

Damn it all.  I’ll smoke a cigar in the car.  SMOKE A CIGAR IN THE CAR!  Did I even think that?  I haven’t actually smoked a cigar in one of my cars for years.  It stinks up the vehicle and then those who drive with me are always bitching about the stale smoke smell.

But I’m desperate.  I’m late and I have to get going.  So I happen to have a Hiram and Solomon in my shirt pocket.  I take off the cello as fast as a junkie wraps the rubber tube around his arm and I snip the tip and light it up.  Hmmmm.  Now that’s good.  What?  I don’t care about my car anymore?  Of course, I do.  But with 211,000 plus miles on it, I think its resale value has hit its nadir.

So I pull out of the rest stop accelerate back onto the expressway – smoking a cigar in my car. My car?!!!  And I’m enjoying the hell out of it.  I’m awake and I’m alert and I feel as though I’ve freed myself from the self-restrictions of a lifetime.  My God, I can change!

 

 

 

 

Dreams of Cigars while “Visiting Edna.”

edna-ticket

“Visiting Edna,” David Rabe’s world premiere play at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago is about “familial love (that) is not simply demanding in what it asks but challenging in what it gives.”  The play is complicated by the discovery of how a son feels about his father, and about how a mother feels about her son.  Edna, the mother, is dying, and the play concludes accordingly.

This is Mr. Rabe’s 18th play and when I found that out I was flummoxed to the point of incredulity.  Really?  Eighteenth?  Anna D. Shapiro, the Artistic Director of Steppenwolf and director of this play, praises Mr. Rabe’s work as one that demonstrates “inevitable heartbreak and loss.”  And that he does this, “with such unmatched skill of craft and such affection for his audience’s failings is nothing short of miraculous.”

visiting-edna

True, Ms. Shapiro’s knowledge is obviously greater than mine when it comes to analyzing and critiquing plays, but I have to disagree with her on many of her accolades and quell such high praise for the play just seen.  I think it was “miraculous” that I stayed for the whole thing.

Here I am sitting in the audience and I cannot connect with the characters at all.  Even considering the fact that the characters and I are deeply enmeshed in similar experiences that have engulfed my life over the past 30+ years as my mother’s care-taker.

I made every attempt that I could to surgically delve into the psyches of each character: Cancer, the TV, the Angel, Edna, and her son, Andrew, and try to figure out what was it that was lost.  And what I discovered, which may be a major hurdle for this director in the long run, is that the actors themselves lacked emotion.  They seemed antiseptic and just short of wearing body suits so they wouldn’t become soiled with the dampness of emotional perspiration.

repeling-magnetsImagine two bars of metal that are magnetized with positive and negative charges.  Now try pushing together the two bars positive to positive.  The metal bars repel each other.  Drawing close to each other can’t happen.  There is a resistance that cannot be avoided due to the physical nature of the charges.  And this went on throughout the play until the bitter end which was in fact unsatisfying providing Mr. Rabe was trying to elucidate the softly shattered lives of disparate familial personalities and failings.

Now, to be fair, I have not seen or remember seeing any of the other plays that have been written by Mr. Rabe.  And I can’t blame the director, though in this case, it is her job to interpret the author’s intentions.  Somehow, I don’t think tedium was on his mind.

patio

But that’s where the disconnect occurred for me and my mind tended to gravitate toward cigars.  I couldn’t help but envision a cornucopia of smoking stogies running through my head as I sat there trying to figure out why this play isn’t gripping me with relatable, raw reactions.

When the character who plays the TV walks on stage and begins to explain her role, I thought, hmm, maybe this will be like a twisted  “August: Osage County” written by and starring Tracy Letts.  That blockbuster went from Chicago to Broadway to the silver screen and still makes tongues wag.  Instead I thought of The Patio Cigar Lounge (Open 24/7).

Then character two strides on stage who plays the part of Cancer.  His brief self-introduction was what took me into the lounge chair with my unlit cigar.  No in fact, it was lit.  And this was only the beginning of the play.

As the other characters were introduced, I was certainly paying attention but I wasn’t being drawn into the play, as I was with say, Edward Albee’s “The Zoo Story” or Samuel Beckett’s, “Waiting for Godot.”  Now true, these comparisons of the latter two are not exactly a Letts’-styled play, but I was mesmerized when watching “The Time of Your Life” by William Saroyan (which is), and the depth of emotion that Patti Lupone brought to the part of Kitty Duval in the 1976 adaptation.

patti

No, all I could do was think of smoking that cigar.  In fact, I had a K cigar by Karen Berger with me, right in my shirt pocket.  But I knew that the audience would be horror stricken upon my lighting it up (plus it’s against the law).  Though it would have probably allowed me to pay more attention to the play or at least not be so critical.

It seemed to go on forever.  Maybe a cigar would have led me to believe it was a shorter play.  But it wasn’t.  It was two hours long with one 15-minute break.  And I did think about going outside to light up, but then I knew what would have happened, I would have missed the second half.  Priorities are priorities and you all know about how I deal with them.

david-rabe1The stage design was magnificent, the lighting flawless, the sound effects right on time adding to the ambience of the play’s goal.  But unfortunately, just like a bad cigar is distracting, the writing also seemed to be emotionless.  It wasn’t what I expected, considering the number of plays Mr. Rabe has under his playwright’s belt.

Of course I stayed for the entire production.  But the thought of making it through to the end were continuously interrupted with the desire for having a cigar.  And perhaps rightfully so. Remember I’ve been off cigars for a week due to the doctor’s orders after the tooth extraction.  So maybe this was just a weak moment – bad timing, and not the play at all.

edna-irvBut I don’t think so, I left the premier with this feeling of emptiness and abject depression that would not go away.  Nor would the incessant yearning (craving?) for the cigar.

You know I thought it odd that the management allows people to bring alcoholic beverages into the theater, but the very mention of a cigar would have caused pandemonium – or would it?  Do you think that maybe one of the other patrons thought as I had been thinking, and had a penchant for a cigar?  It is possible.  Maybe even probable.  But that didn’t happen, ergo we will have to wait for Mr. Rabe’s 19th contribution to the theater and see if he can pull me into the drama, rather than allow me to vicariously sit in the Patio Cigar Lounge (Open 24/7) contemplating a cigar.

 

Another FDA Absurdity?

 

THIS IS NOT A PARODY, SATIRE, OR JOKE.  IT’S A DAMN SHAME!

excalibur-vault-door-1

If you have a moment, please come with me and visit the future of how you will eventually select a cigar in the United States of America – Land of the FREE.  Home of the BRAVE.  Cigar store owners will provide you with a list of the cigars that they carry and without you having the chance to try them, you will be able to pick out any of them from the list.  The “tobacconist” will then slink away into the back room and pick out the cigar or cigars you have chosen and place it or them in a plastic bag, zip the seal, and you will pay for the cigars.

fahrenheit-451-2

So I thought I would show you how it will work in the future for books as well, as so many are being scrutinized by our government for information that it deems to be a threat to national security.  Science Fiction?  No.  Reality.  Unless we do what we can to stop the FDA from taking away every last crumb of freedom that we have.  Oh, it won’t stop with cigars and books, but with – wait for it – LIQUOR!  BOOZE!  ALCOHOL!  But you will be able to go down to the local cannabis dispensary and buy yourself a doobie and get high.  Oh, well.  “Reefer Madness” was right.  This is ALL madness.  Enjoy your Future.  It’s taking place right before your eyes.
growing-each-other-up “Growing Each Other Up: When our Children Become our Teachers.” by Sara-Lawrence-Lightfoot

(The University of Chicago Press)

No Description.

 

dwan-gallery“Dwan Gallery: Los Angeles to New York, 1959-1971” by James Meyer

(The University of Chicago Press)

No Description.

 

Jean cocteau.jpg

“Jean Cocteau: A Life.” by Claude Arnaud.

(Yale University Press)

No Description.

 

 

experience“Experience: Culture, Cognition, and the Common Sense.”  Edited by C.A. Jones, D. Mather, and R. Uchill

(The MIT Press)

No Description.

 

on bullshit.jpg“On Bullshit.” by Harry G. Frankfurt

(Princeton University Press)

No Description.

 

 

magrite apple.jpg“Magrite’s Apple.” by Klaas Verplancke

(Fall Books from MOMA)

No Description.

 

 

the huntress.jpg“The Huntress.” by Alice Arlen & Michael J. Arlen

(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

No Description.

 

 

cool-characters

“Cool Characters: Irony and American Fiction.” by Lee Konstantinou

(Harvard University Press)

No Description.

 

the girls.jpg“The Girls.” by Emma Cline

(Random House)

No Description.

 

 

love in the dark.jpg“Love in the Dark: Philosophy by Another Name.” by Diane Enns

(Columbia University Press)

No Description

 

 

queer theory.jpg“Queer Theory: The French Response.”  by Bruno Perreau

(Stanford University Press)

No Description.

 

 

slavery at sea.jpg

“Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage.” by Sowand’ M. Mustakeem

(University of Illinois Press)

No Description.

 

redeeming the kamasutra.jpg“Redeeming the Kamasutra.” by Wendy Doniger

(Oxford University Press)

No Description.

 

 

creating the veterans memorial.jpg

“Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial: The Inside Story.” by Robert W. Doubek

(McFarland)

No Description.

 

 

zhivago's secret journay.jpg“Zhivago’s Secret Journey.” by Paolo Mancosu

(Hoover Institution Press)

No Description.

 

 

 

bitches-brew“Bitches Brew.” by George Grella Jr.

(Bloomsbury)

No Description.

 

 

 

2001.jpg

“I hope you enjoy your choices, Dave.”

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