Monthly Archives: January 2017

On a roll!

vincent-on-toilet-this-one

So I’m doing the Vincent Vega Scene in Pulp Fiction as Jules (Samuel Jackson) is trying to talk some sense into Pumpkin’s (Tim Roth) thick skull while his girlfriend, Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) is standing on the counter in the middle of a diner holding the patrons hostage at gunpoint, and I notice a New Yorker ad for the “GOINGS ON ABOUT TOWN” APP on page 59.

nyapp

“It’s all new and still free!”  Man if I had known about this app when I was In New York. Wow!

So I go to pull out my new phone and I can’t get the damn thing out of my shirt pocket because there’s an Old School Panacea Mexican cigar wedged in there.  Without even thinking about it, I rip the annoying cigar out of my pocket, fling it on the floor and reach for my phone to install the app because as you all know, I’m a member of the 21st century now with my Samsung – the Blackberry has gone to cell – phone heaven.

So I follow the instructions and bada-bing!  I install the app. Way cool!

old-school-cigar I quickly scan through it and as I’m ready to exit,  I notice the cigar on the floor, pick it up and replace it in my pocket.  No damage was done to the cigar.  Little did I know the pleasure it would give me when I lit it up later in the day.  Bush . . . you’re on a roll.  But don’t get a big head.  I still have several to go – and help Jules out.

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A perfect pairing . . .

agnes-review

Cigars are like the new novel by Peter Stamm, “Agnes.”  I mentioned this book not only because I bought it at New York’s Strand bookstore, but because of how it parallels the lifespan of a premium cigar to a “T.”  Let me explain.

First I’ll quote the review from the New Yorker that drew me into this love affair with “Agnes.”  Too, keep in mind I don’t read a lot of fiction.  That genre has had a tendency to bore me into a somnambulistic state in seconds.  (Yes, a double entendre!)

But of course, I read many fiction authors, among my favorites, Gay Talese, John Updike, and Melanie Benjamin.  And I adore plays with substance by playwrights such as Jean-Paul Sartre, and Samuel Beckett, and of course, the most difficult form of literature – poetry.  And who else but Anne Sexton can come to mind (And now Bob Dylan!) when venturing into that aspect of the written word.

So I’m reading The New Yorker’s Briefly Featured books reviews sidebar and there’s Eade’s “Evelyn Waugh,” James’s “The Glamour of Strangeness,” “ Perfume River” by Butler and finally “Agnes”, by Peter Stamm, translated from the German by Michael Hofman.

agnes-and-cigar

“Agnes is dead.” this starkly written novella begins. “Killed by a story.  All that’s left of her now is this story.”  The narrator, an aging Swiss writer researching a book in Chicago, meets a mysterious young grad student in a library and falls in love.  At her request, he begins writing a story about her.  When, inevitably, it slips out of his control, tragedy follows.  Stamm emphasizes the story’s metafictional concerns,, but what could be a tired postmodern meditation on the dark power of storytelling becomes a haunting psychological study.  The vivid impression left by Agnes herself belies her conclusion that ‘the character’s life ends when the book does.’”

Now if that doesn’t draw you into reading this future masterpiece, then I know you don’t smoke premium cigars on a regular basis.

Why “Agnes?”  Because it is a brief telling of a short life that is full of animation, death, contradictions, and confusion, as well as harmony, happiness, and happenstance. Examine this book and you will “smoke” a cigar that is filled with substance and brilliance.

 

For What It’s Worth: Part 2

IF YOU CAN’T TAKE SNARKY HUMOR THEN STOP READING NOW.

BUT IF YOU APPRECIATE CUTTING LITERARY AMUSEMENT WITH A PINCH OF TRUTH TO IT, THEN PLEASE ENJOY THIS POST . . .

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gordon-gekko-greed

“The movie ‘Wall Street’ of 1987 (to) date is remembered as the most quintessential film depicting the dealings of the stock market. However, the soul of the movie was Michael Douglas, or Gordon Gekko, the ruthless trader who made even greed sound good. Agree or not, there is a little of Gordon Gekko in every(body) trader (businessperson) or better to say, every trader wants to have a little bit of Gordon Gekko in him.

Let us take a look at (one) of the best quotes of Gordon Gekko from the movie “Wall Street,” that will remind you of the level of ambitiousness one can have in the ‘free market’:

“‘The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right.  Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.’”  (Roshni Agarwal Bawari)

And it permeates every – every, business on this planet earth, including the cigar industry. (Those who are shocked can line up over there by the water cooler, I’m sure there’s enough room.)  

buffalo-cuban

Arggh!  I shan’t believe such innuendoes, such – such histrionic, hallucinogenic, hypocritical hyperbole (the back of my hand ál a silent film icon, Mary Pickford, is upon my forehead with my head dramatically tilted to one side, eyes-a-flutter, to reveal such evocative emotion that cannot be expressed any other way sans words) as I begin to become light-headed, feeling faint and distressed at such a thought.  How dare such slanted truth, such vacuous vulgarity escape into the hot humid tropical air of the restful, wind-rustled tobacco fields of Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and even – dare I even prick my own finger on the sharp glistening point of sad reality – the Dominican Republic, my land love affair that I still hold so dearly and so very close to my breaking heart.

But I center not so much on greed as I do on its contrapuntal counterpoint word, paranoia (synonyms include delusions, obsession, and psychosis).  The actual definition of the word translates into intense, anxious or fearful feelings and thoughts often related to persecution, threat, or conspiracy.  Does not paranoia contain the shimmering greasy, iridescent essence of greed?  To have it all at whatever cost – including your reputation.

(I quote from Buffalo Springfield’s seminal stanza:)

los-angeles-rally-1966-f3944526-0868-4fb3-a3b6-2b535dc9fbf5

Paranoia strikes deep

Into your life it will creep

It starts when you’re always afraid

You step out of line, the man come and take (it) away . . .  

And who be the man?  Your fellow cigar rep, the manufacturer, a master blender, the wholesaler, a retailer, the customer, whoever is involved in the machinations of making, marketing, and/or selling of cigars.  It’s happening every day.  As a broker, I am asked this question all the time, “What brands are you thinking of picking up?”  All I do is give them “the Gibb’s” look.  “Really?  You honestly expect me to answer that question?”

No, we live in a time of the NSA, we need to protect our ideas and intentions.  The hiding of innovation.  To covet thought because of greed.  If I can get something out to market without putting in the hard work, why not?  Why the hell not?

buffalo-outlaw

Greed?  Paranoia?  In this industry?  Thatched roofs, cold beer, smiling faces, warm handshakes, and huge bear hugs smothering your competitors?  (Jr. need not worry about reading this and reacting violently because he plucked me from his social circle and will miss this diatribe.  Ta!)

The mood is set in the song.  The reality is set in the actions.  The result is seen in the results.

This country is going through one of its most dramatic changes it has ever experienced. We are being governed by a non-politician who is a businessman.  Nothing has changed but the noun.  It’s all still business as usual.

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For What It’s Worth: Part 1

buffalo-springfiled-riots

“For What It’s Worth.  Informal.  When you are giving someone a piece of information and you are not certain if that information is useful or important.”

(Derived from Cambridge English Dictionary.)

I’ve never written a two-part blog post before.  But I felt this was necessary.  This is part one.  The reason for doing this will be explained in part two.  So if your attention span is short, you may miss the entire point.  Your choice.

Below is a song written by Stephen Stills performed when he was with Buffalo Springfield “An American-Canadian rock band, formed in Los Angeles in 1966. Their original lineup included Stephen Stills (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Dewey Martin (drums, vocals), Bruce Palmer (electric bass), Richie Furay (guitar, vocals), and Neil Young (guitar, harmonica, piano, vocals).”

“Fifty years ago (this Saturday), Stephen Stills, then in Buffalo Springfield, was on his way (to) Hollywood to hear live music on the Sunset Strip. But in one of those defining rock & roll moments, what he encountered was a rally: hundreds, if not thousands, of kids protesting a new curfew and the imminent closing of one club, Pandora’s Box, by way of a fake “funeral” for it.

buffalo-springfield-solo
Within weeks, Stills had written – and Buffalo Springfield had recorded – a song inspired by that night, “For What It’s Worth.” With its emphasis on Stills’ spooked voice, drummer Dewey Martin’s ominous snare drum and Neil Young’s warning-bell two-note guitar part in the verse, the track became the band’s only hit, peaking at Number Seven in the spring of 1967. Yet equally striking was its sound: The eerily quiet song captured the uneasy mood of the moment that extended beyond Los Angeles to Vietnam, and lyrics about “a man with a gun over there” and “young people speaking their minds/Getting so much resistance from behind” were the sound of the rock counterculture cementing its socially conscious voice.

“For What It’s Worth” has transcended its original story to become one of pop’s most-covered protest songs – a sort of “We Shall Overcome” of its time, its references to police, guns, and paranoia remaining continually relevant.”

 (David Browne, November 11, 2016, Rolling Stone.)

If you’re my age this will resonate, if you are younger it may mean nothing.  But the fact is, it’s relevant NOW.  And God knows I’m NOT referencing politics.  I’m talking about the song as a whole thought-provoking idea with a particular emphasis on the particular stanza in the song about “Paranoia.”  Splice this into the changing mind of an independent cigar broker and you’ll get the drift and the complete connection.

(The original song is linked on the bottom to the band’s recorded performance in 1967.)

buffalo-springfield-monteray

For What It’s Worth

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side

It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

We better stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, now, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gp5JCrSXkJY

Written by Stephen Stills • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

The age-old practice flourishes.

old-jefe

You know what really gets me chapped?  Trying to be taken for a ride.  I don’t mean in a taxi or the subway – I mean being deceived.  And this time I was fooled without a single word being uttered to me.

lie

I discovered the omission of truth today – and that’s almost worse than a verbally calculated lie.  That’s what really pisses me off.  I discovered this obfuscation of honesty by sheer coincidence.  Perhaps the person who tried to get this ruse by me thought I would never notice.  I can’t see it as any more than a hope and a prayer on his part that he could talk himself out of it if I brought it up – which I most certainly would have.

I will not divulge the details.  I will let the picture do the talking.  The photo will reveal the hypocrisy that there is a scurvy, worming misanthrope in this industry.  And I loathe that.  No.  I won’t rep the cigar.  What was once a great smoke has naturally passed into the netherworld of just being an old stick.

Luckily I didn’t get stuck.  

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Pennsylvania’s Panacea

 

panacea-ashr

Paul Bush, the owner of Flatbed Cigar Company, asked me to represent his brand again.  I tried the brand years ago and didn’t get in.

My mistake?

I’ll never know.

But I do know that this time one of his cigars captured my attention -the Panacea PA.  Toro. Holy shit!  Mine wasn’t the prettiest cigar in the world, a bit mottled on the wrapper, but that’s minor.  What drew me in was the most intriguing flavor I’ve had cross my palate in a long, long time.

panacea-band

And forget the descriptions of the first third, second third, blah, blah, blah taste comparisons and all that blustering, blathering bullshit.  This cigar’s flavor was as dramatic as Mikhail Baryshnikov’s famous move – the ballon (the ability to appear to pause, suspended in the air during leaps).  It takes your breath away and all you feel is the exhilaration of a master.

In short, you don’t need to know how a dancer is able to do what he or she does – only that it mesmerizes you and the audience.

And this is one great performance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnoJO2KxxvA

Isabela’s Serpentine Produces Pleasure.

isabela-resized

Severus Snape’s no-nonsense, parseltongue command “E-plaýa-ēvanésssska!” thunderously bounced off the ancient stone walls of Hogwart’s Medieval meeting hall as the threatening snake was suddenly struck by a bolt from Snape’s wand, shooting a speeding, glittering orb of light directly into the fanged reptile.  Then, as quickly as the sparkles of a cheap, silver Chinese firecracker’s wick linearly consumes particles of unstable black powder, the ominous snake dissipates into thin air leaving a wispy trail of charcoal-colored smoke with nary a scab of a scale left to dab up off the wooden table.

Isabela will not frighten you, nor will it threaten you.  Isabela will fascinate you, your taste buds and your imagination far beyond the multi-billion dollar words of J.K. Rowling.

“Sa!”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9SfIqPzVak

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