Monthly Archives: November 2016

Pulita Pacifies . . .

pulita-band

My Pulita Aniversario was in my hand and the ash was beginning to form.

“Tell me about it!”

My voice was a bit higher in volume that usual and my heart was beating a bit faster than it should, but that’s all I could say when the tech on the other end apologized for the inconvenience.

Instead of having a conniption, I calmly curled my lips and saw the humor in his naivaté. So I looked at my cigar.

tabac-el-artista

My Pulita Aniversario, from the El Artista factory in Tamboril was a bit roughed up, what with the wind hitting it and the many stops I had made in and out of parking lots thrashing it here and there while I tried to make calls to my phone company.

I got up like any other morning and went to check my messages.  Hmmm.  None.  This was odd.  I can usually count on at least 10 or more from overnight.  This morning?  Nothing. But I let it go, figuring it was just a coincidence.

Walking out the door, after taking Flo for her walk, I checked the phone again.  Zip. Unusual to say the least.  I get to my first stop and find that the owner is in a hurry.  That suited me just fine.  So I took the order and headed out the door.

That’s when I lit up the cigar.  Little did I know at that time, it would be my savior.

So of course, I get back in the car and check my phone.  I get a call from out of the country. The caller asks me if I received the email that I sent and what my thoughts were regarding the information. 

“Email?  What email?”

He then explained to me that he sent me an email last night and that he was curious if I had gotten ahold of so and so.  I informed him that I had not.  Hmmm.  Odd.  So he filled me in and asked me to call him back after he agreed to resend the message.  I waited and I waited but nothing came.

Then I got a call from a store that usually emails me and asks if I have time to take an order.  And I did.  Then I receive a text from a manufacturer that he can’t send me an email, he receives a fail.  

pulita-burning“What?”  Now I am concerned.  Very concerned.  I take a pull from the cigar and the essence of sweet tobacco fills my mouth and the whiff of the steam from a fresh demitasse of espresso swirls into my senses.  Hmmm.  My thoughts are diverted momentarily.

“Ping!”

I pick up the call while the cigar is still in my mouth.  Why take away the pacifier?  One more call that informs me of another failed email.  Did I begin to chew?  No, that was my imagination.  I seemed calm despite the growing concern of a growing problem.  I sat there, in the car – smoking the cigar.  Did you read that?  “I sat there, in the car – smoking the cigar.”

I call up the helpline of my carrier.  I explain my problem and the tech on the other end asks me if I am calling from the phone I wish to be tested.  Affirmative.  Then, he tells me that I will have to wait until I have access to another phone.

(The cigar is smouldering, but is still in my calm, non-vibrating hand.  “That’s rare,” I began to think to myself.  A burning cigar and a steady hand.  That doesn’t sound right.  The cigar yes.  A still hand?  Now?  Does the latter sound like me?)

The tech explains to me that having two phones will be the only way to fix the issue, and he apologizes for any inconvenience.  He is sorry that this problem has interrupted my work day.

“Tell me about it!”

“I understand.  Yes.  I will.  Thank you!”

I tapped the touch the screen.

pulita-nub

Oddly enough, I agreed with his assessment of my conundrum and noticed that I was indeed calm, and collected despite the enormity of the situation as I saw it.  Pulita Aniversario.  By now the damn thing was down to a nub and sadly damaged.  Yet, it was still lit, providing me comfort – a sense of relief.  I was still unfazed.  And they call the Biblical story of Jesus changing water into wine at the wedding feast a miracle.

I went back to work.

(Just a note, I have retired by trusty Blackberry {RIP} and I have gone over to the other side and now use a Samsung Galaxy.)

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Proud to be a cigar smoker!

downtown-crowd

-”I decided to attempt to connect the threads of those who enjoy smoking cigars.”-

Michigan Avenue was busy.  People seemed to coagulate everywhere I looked.  Chilly Chicago was in top form.  The sounds of shopping penetrated every corner, street, and doorway.  It was too much for me.  So I came to the conclusion to escape.

I took a left onto Chicago Avenue and saw my place of solace, I headed for the pyramid of concrete steps that lead to the entrance of the Museum of Contemporary Art.  Slightly out of breath, I walked in.  I talked to Robert, a presumed docent there, and afterward, I confidently went to the desk to buy an annual membership.  Inside it was quiet.  I could hear my own thoughts once again – however unattended.  I stopped briefly as I put on my badge that would signify that one, I paid – and two, that I was now a member in good standing.   “Welcome to the family,” I heard Robert say as I moved toward the stairs.

Where does a member go on this spontaneous lark of a detour?  I looked at the brochures that Robert handed me before I was ensconced as an associate.  I would go upstairs.

Andrew Yang, professionally a natural historian as well as an associate professor at the School of the Art Institute and a research assistant at the Field Museum, had an installation there.  His bent is to study and try to understand the cosmos and express that curiosity through his work.

yangs-sand

On the second floor in the designated hall to the sharp right of the Guggenheim-style staircase was the Yang exhibit.  A darkened room with minimal lighting that barely highlighted the seven tons of opaque, crystalline deconstructed sandstone that was no doubt shaped to Mr. Yang’s specifications, drew me in.  The entire display, save for a lighted “book” of the remnants of particles of quartz on a stand that was available for the public’s viewing, was to bring to the fore of our consciousness “the human time needed to make a child and the geologic time needed to make a rock,” (program) thus also representing the billions of stars, or individual specks of light in the galaxy.  In short, the work constituted the fact that “I matter, they matter, you matter, all matter . . . matters.”

I stood there, my gym shoes squeaking with any movement I made, my mind silently absorbing the simplicity of the idea and how Mr. Yang chose to portray the complexity of this cosmos we all live in.

Taken further, we are all indeed random specks of sand, billions upon billions of bits of unique grains of naturally formed pieces of multi-faceted pieces of matter – yet, so very separate upon closer inspection.

solo-speckAs I tired of the sheer plainness of the exhibit, I passed a tinted window to the left that brought in much-needed daylight from the purposeful dusk.  I stopped to soak up what refreshing sunlight I could and noticed a figure, a lone person sitting on the steps from whence I had just climbed only minutes before.

No one, not a soul was around to disturb this individual’s solitude within the public chaos that I had just run away from.  I stared down at this person, and was transfixed by the serenity I felt, more so than the peacefulness that I had just witnessed at the Yang display that I am sure it was supposed to evoke.  I began to ponder, muse, ruminate how we all have what it takes to be amongst ourselves within the chaotic confines of this solar system.  How we all have the intellect to display our individuality within the limits we set for ourselves – despite the crushing weight of billions upon us as each grain of sand was represented in the installation.  

I snapped a photo of this person.  Capturing not only the solitude but the shading of light that brought me to the realization that we all have filters and we place them in front of one another with subconscious or unknown regularity.  We do this to protect ourselves from the sharp shards of pain that can come from moving too quickly against one another.

******

downtown-cigar

From here, I descended the staircase, walked out the building and headed toward Lake Shore Drive.  I pulled a cigar from its protective sleeve and clipped the cap.  Hmmm.  Lake Michigan and a cigar – what a combination this would be. My thoughts raced through my brain as the first puff of smoke indulged me in sheer pleasure knowing that I was like that individual on the steps, concerned with my own thoughts and cares, but still among the crowds of the city where we must protect ourselves from strident, pusillanimous persuasion.   

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Silence is golden. Billionaires abound.

kohls-trash

A Takashimaya department store in Kyoto, Japan after a devastating 4.0 earthquake?  No. Kohl’s department store in Arlington Heights, Illinois after shoppers trashed the place on Black Friday.  Do you believe it?  I was appalled.  But we live in a world of “Let someone else do it.”  And that is sad.  Because you know something – that “someone” probably won’t.

So indeed, I have not recently railed on the silence heard concerning what’s being done about the FDA rulings on cigars for a bit.  And quite frankly, I am a bit hesitant to do so.

(A thoughtful pause.)

Oh, what the hell!  Some folks seem to have the power and money to do more than they are doing. Yet all I hear is vapid proselytizing, and invective verbiage against those who do say (or writesomething of content.

So I will keep this short.  Don’t wait for “someone” else to do what you are able to do. Ersatz legends die young.  Actions are king!  Not vapid, ignorant words that attack, destroy, and demean others for trying to do something.  Get off the soapbox!  You know who you are.

I am now heading back to Mayberry where life is idyllic.  Yep.

“Shriner” by Hiram & Solomon a Hit!

shriner-band

Pure essence of pine needles, planks of charred wood, and a dash of hardwood barbecue. What a wonderful find this red label Shriner Cigar made by Hiram & Solomon. This cigar, made at the famed Placencia factory is loaded with complex flavors – and that’s even an understatement.

I was rummaging through my stash in the basement and I needed a cigar to smoke while I was preparing the Thanksgiving Day meal.  I saw this one and without a second thought, took it and went outdoors to light up the hardwood.

Boy, what a combination, charred hardwood and the above aromatics, plus the aroma of superbly seasoned rib eye steaks on the grill and I was in the thralls of heaven.  The cigar, officially called The Shriner, smoked like it was made specifically for this occasion.  And I knew I had to take note because it was the only one I had.

Placencia comes out with some magnificent smokes, and very often I can tell from whence they came.  But this blend was a masterpiece of deception.  I had no idea where it originated from at the time I lighted it up.  No sign of the Placencia signature or “lilt” as I call it. (Could it be because Mr. David Blanco had a hand in the blend?)  Talk to my son.  He asked me why I was so excited and I told him that I had stumbled upon the Holy Grail.

shriner-ashPerfect draw, you know about the flavors, a classic ash that held up even in the wind, and the burn was a textbook illustration of how a cigar should be aged to produce such a result. Slap me down, I was ecstatic.

Indeed, Hiram & Solomon is a brand that will be reckoned with over the next few years. Hidden away for some time under the veil of secrecy, the Shriner is a magnificent addition to the selection of cigars that are offered by H & S today.  This company is on its way to a permanent spot in the cigar firmament – and higher should that be possible.

******

I have to add, retailers, when you are introduced to the Master Mason Brand, be sure it is an authentic and genuine Hiram & Solomon.  The cigar’s popularity has made it the perfect target for counterfeit knock-offs that are made and sold without the legal sanction that is required to carry the Shriner’s logo.

counterfeit-mmThe fact is, if you come across a Hiram & Solomon cigar in the Midwest and it has the band you see in the photo (left), it is NOT one that is licensed by the owner.  Caveat emptor.  Take that into account, it’s your reputation (as well as mine, I represent the brand legally) that is on the line here. Indeed, when a cigar is this popular, it’s no wonder everyone wants to get into the act. It’s just a shame that some feel it’s OK to egregiously hem in on another man’s success.  Not cool.

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Steak and Cuban Cigars.

cuban-cigar

And after the feast – a cigar.  Ah.  How else to cap off the perfect Thanksgiving banquet? What better way to mingle with your thoughts as you sit back and light up one of man’s natural pacifiers and healer- a cigar.

A cigar is what I look forward to each year.  Yes, I have access to them throughout the year, but if you remember, in 2015 – at least in the Midwest, we were shoveling snow instead of food.  It was a harried awakening to the fact that winter indeed had arrived and we just had to deal with it.  Bah!  Humbug!  And throw is a colloquialism – WTF!

carrot-and-stickBut the cigar?  The proverbial carrot on the stick.  Yes.  One backbreaking shovelful, another hooah! And one step closer to nighttime nirvana.  

This year, according to the weather reports, there may be rain and a chilly wind to add to the mix, but snow?  Not this time.  No.  This time we can relax and know that the day will be on our side of enjoyment. And indeed, we shall enjoy.

But just like last year was a change, this year will be a change for our meal of Thanksgiving. Yep.  No turkey.  Steak.  Delicious rib eye, herb-encrusted , delicately marbled, tender and succulent steak.  Hmm.

norman-rockwell-parody

Yes, this year we trashed the turkey.  It’s a relic of tradition that I am not ashamed to say, I’m fed up with.  I’m sure most people anticipate the arrival of the golden brown turkey surrounded with herbal greenery to accent its glow, and to celebrate its placement upon the Norman Rockwell table setting.  (Ahem.)

This, along with jellied cranberry sauce (the homemade scrambled mess is an abomination), mashed potatoes, a boat of gravy, and the ubiquitous green bean casserole swimming in Campbells® mushroom soup and topped with mountains of French’s® onions.  All to be met afterward with the perfect pumpkin pie weighted down slightly with thick, creamy whipped cream.  Hmm.  That does sound scrump-dilly-umptious.

But!  It also reeks of dull donkey drudgery.  So this year it’s steak.  Rib eye steak.  Freshly cut an inch thick right off the bone near the 4th, 5th, and 6th rib.  Yowza!  (I am a journeyman meat cutter, so I know my stuff.)  Add to that the potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole and you have a decadent meal worthy of King Richard III. Then top that with a luscious chocolate cake, slathered in delinquent buttercream frosting and you have what I can honestly say is the perfect entry into the “lounge” to have – a cigar.

Yes, ah, hmmm, the sparkling twinkle in me eyes cigar.  I am not 100% sure, but I think I will go for a Cuban cigar this year.  I do have several well-aged beauties that I save for special occasions and I think this may be considered one of them without hesitation.

hemingway-and-bottleThe question is – what one will it be?  Now, I must add a caveat here that the allure to smoke a Cuban cigar has pretty much left me.  Yes, I am still enthralled with the cigars from Cuba. But they are not what they used to be nor will they ever return to their glory days.  It’s just not going to happen.  No matter how long I close my eyes and imagine Ernest Hemingway at the Bodeguita del Medio or the more upscale La Floridita sipping on an ice cold mojito and puffing away on a well-made Cuban cigar – scribbling notes limning his next novel, the experience will never be the same.

But however jaded I am, I have gone to my cache downstairs, and after a few minutes of poking around, I chose one of those my brother brought me from the famed James J. Fox Tobacconist  (19 St James’s St, St. James’s, London).  I know this is an authentic Cuban masterpiece –  a Romeo y Julieta Short Churchill.  It is in fabulous condition and I am ready to light it up now, but I will discipline my desires and wait until after the feast – tomorrow. Arrgh!  I hate! discipline.

podcast-logo  But I can dream.  Oh, the wonderful nocturnal nudges that give me respite from the days I call reality.  I can still fantasize and pull together my ideas of romance, passion, and lust and apply them to this future situation. 

Yes, this will be a Thanksgiving with a twist – shaken not –  No, wait. Yes indeed, stirred – up.  And however cliché-esque this may sound – have a Happy Holiday my friends.  Enjoy what you have because we all have plenty.  

How Does My “Cigarden” Grow?

kill-bill

I played the Beatrix Kiddo character, codename “Black Mamba” aka The Orchardist recently.  I strategically swept through my cigarden, and with the swift and mighty fury of my decisive mind, slashed cigars from their repose leaving an edgy mess that no doubt would be a disturbing sight to any manufacturer or brand owner.

Why?  Why do I obtain a brand and then shear it from its “perch?”  Let me try to explain.

kamakura-daibutsu

Harken back to the China of 700 AD.  It was during this epoch that the pun-tsai (or tray planting) form of plant cultivation began to, excuse the pun, take root.  “Originally only the elite of the society practiced pun-tsai with native-collected specimens and the trees were spread throughout China as luxurious gifts. During the Kamakura period (1185-1392), the time in which Japan adopted most of China’s cultural trademarks, the art of growing trees in containers was introduced into Japan. Bonsai is (the) Japanese art form using trees grown in containers.” (Bonsai Empire)   The miniature sapling can expect to live as long as its larger versions, some up to 5000 years.

Old-fashioned pruning, on the other hand, is trimming (a tree, shrub, or bush) by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, especially to increase fruitfulness and growth. It can also mean to “reduce the extent of (something) by removing superfluous or unwanted parts.”  Know that the full reason to prune is to allow growth – height, width, and girth.  This growth requires space.  Without room, a plant cannot flourish.  And what is life without some form of development?

bonsaiAnd what is a business without some form of change?  Some types of change can be likened to the bonsai tree embedded deliberately in earth and resting delicately within its exquisite ceramic bowl, its branches cut and snipped and watched over like a Japanese cow or wagyu, thus producing a unique and venerable Lilliputian version of what God intended.

Business, especially the cigar business, specifically the independent cigar broker business can be likened to a Bonsai tree.  It can change and grow but to proportions that are measured and confined.  It can last seemingly forever, but its maturation is stifled and put on display.  It has not grown in size –  only in years. 

Pruning can also be compared to the cigar broker business and is also a delicate process, but the end result is far different than what the Chinese or Japanese envisioned to mark and exhibit a tree’s beauty.  This end result is lush, tall, vibrant and dominating.   It can be seen for miles and its beauty is taken in by more than those who wish to see a peculiarity of manipulated nature.

fall-treeSo need I go on?  It is simple.  I want a cigar business that is abundant, Brobdingnagian, noticeable, manageable, and vibrant.  What leaves change color to the gasps of the masses? Those of the Bald-Cypress, the Sugar Maple, and the Black Tupelo.  They are the trees when being cultivated from cuttings for planting, are cared for by the masters of the craft of pruning and shall result in a strong and enduring force to behold.

Yes, the Bonsai is a beautiful and long-lasting miniature tree that has all the characteristics of its larger species.  And it can live for hundreds, if not thousands of years if taken care of properly.  But its reach is limited.

By pruning a tree, man and beast alike can enjoy its splendor throughout the tree’s lifetime and revel in its complement to nature and to the world by offering up its yearning branches to the heavens and saying in its own way – I am here.  I am a force to be reckoned with.

God’s Plan for Tobacco Leaves.

gods-roots

I could have been anything – my genetic makeup was once a tumble of genes.  Yet, over time, and with divine and decisive intervention, I was made into a tobacco leaf.  I believe that, as it is right to trust a bold move when such a power of decision intercedes, that everything has its place.  Just as Bill Buckley was so convincing when he said that every word has a specific meaning, and that is why, when he was catechized for his Brobdingnagian vocabulary, he implored his interlocutor that he was simply using what he considered the specific and proper terminology of description –  not that he was an elitist snob showing off how many “big” words he could use..

So why this for me?  Since I really had no choice, I learned to accept my fate and embrace the reality that my existence was concatenated to my ultimate destruction – that my demise would one day be the penultimate act to give others brightness, community and relaxing pleasure, not mourning or sorrow but solace.

gods-field

I will admit that this final vow of acceptance took millions of years, some of those in complete desolation.  I was on this earth, covering the land with color and texture.  But I knew that my life had a more dynamic purpose – not a stagnant, overlooked and forgotten existence.  And I was right.

But I had again, the intervention of a less than divine nature, but miraculous nonetheless – of man.  The native peoples of Mesoamerica and South America discovered that when I was dried and burned, I gave off an aromatic smoke.  In time, I began to be used in spiritual ceremonies and was stuffed into pipes to be “smoked.”

My true voyage into the world began when Christopher Columbus took me back with him to the land from which he left – and thus my cultivation began. I provided what man and animal seek throughout their lifetimes – pleasure.  Unabashed, exotic pleasure.

That is the key to my existence – sensory satisfaction.  And for that I am indispensable. Sometimes I marvel at how ingenious this bi-pedaled primate became to nurture me into such a unique, valuable and necessary flora.

I am proving every epoch my worth.  My mettle.  My enduring strength.  My influence.  My place.  My legacy.  I have no more to do than exist for the gratification of man – oh, what a keen and impressive responsibility I have been given.

gods-sprayWhat?  Arrogant?  I disagree.  I am humbled at my contribution in a world of so many choices. Yet, I am a force to be reckoned with.  I will not succumb to the pressure.  I can withstand hundreds of pounds of gravitational and man-made force.  I am used to being wrapped and stacked and sprayed and weighed.

Immortal?  No.  My demise is only for the ecstasy of man.  My end is really the utmost of sacrifice.  I am grown to perish.  I only begin to live when I am torn from my stalk.  Then my journey commences, my final passage to please, placate – to physically arouse the senses.

I am universally known.  I am historically significant.  I am alive only through imagination and perhaps a bit of happenstance.  But I am reborn as your cigar.  Whoever travels with me does so with panache, pride, dignity and class.

gods-cigar

Ah, class – the institution of privilege.  The humility of saints.  For all I ask is to be respected.  Not chastised.  I do not force myself upon any one man, woman or child.  I am gleefully and thoughtfully chosen.  I am a conscious option.  I am.

 

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