Talking with José Blanco.


Melancholy /ˈmelənˌkälē/: a feeling of pensive sadness, typically with no obvious (?) cause.: “an air of melancholy surrounded him” “he had an ability to convey a sense of deep melancholy and yearning through much of his work” “at the center of his music lies a profound melancholy and nostalgia.”

Perhaps I should read the new book by Hungarian writer László Földényi, aptly titled, “Melancholy.”  Christian Smallwood from “Harper’s” wrote “Földényi is a formidable, if at times oracular, writer, who is at home in paradox . . . His book is a wide-ranging history of the Western discourse on melancholy.”  Indeed, is it calling to me for a read so I can start to understand my feelings?

Why did I begin to feel this heavy emotional weight of woe?  

I talked to one of the greats the other day at Stogies in Hanover Park, Illinois.  One of the exceptional tobacco men in the industry – José Blanco.  He was in town with the Midwest representative.  No, I haven’t got a picture.  I only thought of this article hours after I left the place while I was finishing up on another article for the blog.


But that’s the feeling that I left with after having several sporadic conversations with José.  Of course, we talked about cigars and did the common chit-chat.  But then the discussion took a serious turn and this man began to speak about the future of the cigar business.  And, according to him, it is indeed bleak.  Especially for the boutique manufacturers.  

I recalled what he said to me, “I’m only telling you the truth.”  He looked at me with this expression of honesty and resignation.  I asked him, “Why then do you stay in the business?”  He studied me with the eyes of a man who has been there, done that – the eyes of wisdom.  “If you cut me I’ll bleed tobacco,” he said as he made slashing motions on his arm.  He then went on to tell me about how many generations of his family have been in the tobacco business.  And how it was all he knew or cared to know.  It was a foolish question and his answer did not surprise me.

But despite all the shades of blue, I told him that I had a plan and that my strategy, indeed, includes the cigar business.  And notwithstanding all the negative vibes brought about since the FDA slithered into the room, that I will carry through to make my ideas into reality.

Again, he gave me this incredulous look.  My mind ticked.  Is he thinking “Perhaps this young buck, (Young?  Thank you.) is showing his naivete.”  Or perhaps he is thoughtfully musing to himself, “The kid (Kid?  Must be the hair.) has spunk.”  But as Lou Grant (Ed Asner) once said to Mary Tyler Moore on one of the greatest television shows of all time, “I hate spunk!”

tenzing-edmundLife is a crapshoot.  No news there.  But I would venture to say that this “kid” has hope, however “naive.”  Yes, I learn a lot from men like José Blanco.  I respect him to the nth degree.  I don’t pretend to rise above his years of knowledge.  He may be right on the money.  But they told Sir Edmund Hillary that no one had ever been successful to reach the summit via the southeast ridge route.  Yet Hillary and his guide, Tenzing Norgay, were able to go down in history making this 1953 trek the first official ascent of Mt. Everest without oxygen – using that very passage.

Some might feel that the FDA is mightier and more treacherous than Mt. Everest. However, I will tell you now, nothing can ever be as daunting, dangerous, and destructive as Mother Nature herself.  But I don’t have any expeditions planned for Nepal, only to the states I cover, and by and by – with resolve, I will shake this sticky emotion.        


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