Monthly Archives: February 2017

“These are a few of my favorite things.”

moma-exterior

When I first saw the sideways MOMA logo on 11 W. 53rd St. in New York, I was transfixed with excitement.  Moisture almost filled my eyes to know I was about to enter the cathedral of contemporary art in THE greatest city on this planet.  It had been years since I was last there.  

And then, when I walked into the building, I felt as if I were home.  Like I just came back from a sabbatical.  I knew that in a mere few minutes I would be able to move through the historic halls of this great museum – me, a Catholic kid from the south side of Chicago who always seemed to have deep desires for other things, not baseball, football or basketball, or getting drunk, or sneaking holy communion wafers from the sacred jeweled chalice in the sacristy.

I was here.  And then to travel the halls and see some of the greatest works of art known to this civilization, my heart began to pound as if I just saw a beautiful woman.  The fact is, I did.  So my romantic muscle was confused but appreciated the puzzled reaction.

picabas-big-moment

Weeks have gone by and I’m still feeling the vibrations of MOMA’s contemporary tuning fork pulsating in my brain. Then I open this month’s issue of “The New York Review of Books” and there on page 12 the title hits me, “Picabia’s Big Moment,” by Sanford Schwartz.  A review of an exhibition at the Kunsthaus Zürich.  Francis Picabia was a French avant-garde painter, poet, and typographist.

Oh, my God!  I was in a teenage frenzy – I was at that very exhibit.  I was there.  I walked the halls, I viewed the art, I read the placards, and now the memory is as fresh as when I first saw the huge poster announcing his works were on display.  The feeling of MOMA’s grandeur didn’t leave, it was just nudged aside. The highlight of life is to feel excitement, experience joy and ride the thrills so you can relive them over and over and over again.  And even now that exhilarating tingle spins inside me of that one hour or so I spent soaking in his spectacle that was coursing through my muscles and nerves giving me visible goosebumps.

Sad, but I don’t get that same feeling when I walk into 12 E. 42nd St. aka Nat Sherman’s or any cigar shop – Midtown or not.  Why?  I’m asking myself this question as my fingers race across my computer keyboard.  Don’t I love cigars?  Yes. Didn’t I start my own broker business to be with them?  Yes.  Haven’t I met some of the most famous personalities in the industry?  Yes.  But there is that one glint of excitement missing and I cannot put my finger on it other than to say art trumps cigars by its staying power,  its meaning, and its essence.  Others will disagree with me.  I can hear the holy righteousness of CFJr. telling me that my heart just isn’t in it. And I should do this and do that.  The hordes of readers are chastising me for not placing the flag of freedom on the top of Mount Everest and saluting – frozen cigar between my teeth.

RMN26423Go ahead write.  The facts are the facts, I love my work with a sincere passion other than when I have to put up with some garbage, not even a sanitation engineer would tolerate. Yes, I love cigars. I love them enough to put my family at risk financially knowing the rules and regulations that are ahead of us are indeed to be factors that cannot be ignored and may even, in fact, destroy my livelihood.  But I have planted my feet.  I’m stayn.’

But there’s that small golden sparkling nugget of ambergris that places art just above the world of cigars that I can palpably feel.  Anyone who says they live, breathe, and die cigars is a liar.

Yes, I’ve been to the factories, the fields, the tobacco store rooms, the rolling tables, I’ve been to more factories than most.  I’ve talked with the owners and they are the most passionate men ever about their product and I truly agree with them.  But know that there are other loves in this world that move men.  And that one for me is art.  Not to take anything away from writing – which I consider to be art’s equal, therefore one.  I can love two women at the same time.

picabia-2016

I think I shall never know what that is but will experience it each time a moment comes into my life as it did this morning when I saw the article on the Picabia exhibit at MOMA.  I was there.  I have breathed the same air of that moment.  And even though I couldn’t wait to have a cigar afterward, I still am trying to find that nano-thin reason why art and writing give me the willies because I love them both so dearly.

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A Sensually Satisfying Cigar.

 

 

 

lenaras-foot

In the new movie from the Islamic Republic of Iran “The Salesman,” directed by Asghar Farhadi, there is a scene where the two main characters, Rana (played by Taraneh Alidoosti), and, Shahab Hosseini, who takes on the role of her husband, Emad Etesami, when, as if by sheer mysticism, a large crack appears on their bedroom wall.

lenaras-coverThey and the other residents of the apartments where they live are told they must move due to construction work next door which has caused the building’s entire structure to become unsafe for habitation.  At one point Emad says to his wife, “What a disaster, this town.  If we could only raze it all and start again.”  The book reviewer, Anthony Lane of The New Yorker, adds “Sounds like a failed marriage.”  And that line hit a nerve within me.

 

I love a cigar that has its own “crack” if you will.  It is not a failed cigar per se, but one that has to find its delicate balance.  The wrapper is stable, the filler and the binder are blended perfectly to produce one of the tastiest smokes around.  But it has a gambling flaw.  I won’t mention what it is.  But it’s there.  And it shouldn’t be.  But it’s there because it’s a handmade product and this problem appears in other cigars as well.  But here the flavor is so unique that it sets itself far, far apart from any other cigar with or without the flaw.

It is a boutique cigar that is trying to blast off into the cigar firmament and find its mark. And to be honest, being an unknown cigar, having any flaws can make that a very, very difficult challenge – but not impossible.  Because this one is being addressed.

lenaras-pure-wrapper

I am quite lenient on boutique brands.  Intellectually, I have to be.  I know how they are manufactured.  I know that the roller may have had a bad day.  I know that the chances for this flaw to appear are about as likely as an ash is to form on the end of a smoldering cigar. But in this case – it can’t.  It might be just that one cigar, the one with the challenge, the one I offer to the owner of the store that has the flaw.  And shop owners can be extremely critical, especially the new ones who have less experience with the human side of cigar making and see cigars only as a means to an end.  Maken da moola!

I am going to go for my walk with Flo right now and I will take one of those cigars with me. When I return I will reveal to you what I found.  And I promise to pick one at random. Nothing here is pre-planned – just the walk.

lenaras-ashListen, cigar making is no different than rolling a couple of dice or spinning the roulette wheel.  You never really know what to expect, but you can reduce your odds of a loss.  And I’m confident that this manufacturer is going to do just that.  He’s not naïve.  He’s not an ego-driven maniacal manufacturer who feels that just because he made the cigar – it’s perfect.  So off I go.  See you soon.

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Ok.  I’m back and unfortunately, the one piece of the puzzle was missing from this cigar. But the flavor, aroma, and overall feel of the cigar are far beyond the many I have tried.  I will provide mercy.  My plan is to light up another and tell you of my experiences with that one.  I will do so in a few minutes and then I will discuss my experience.

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Ok, round two and I am absolutely enthralled with the cigar I just smoked until I could no longer hold it.  What a delicious, satisfying, rapturous, flavorful, extraordinary cigar!!!  I can’t begin to explain how I’m feeling right now.   Other than to say that the experience was worth every chilling moment I spent in the garage.

lenaras-nib

I can go over the taste, the construction, the ash, the pure, sensual pleasure I have just experienced that if I had the same fear of guilt of pleasuring myself, I would feel the need to rush to the nearest church, kneel down and go to confession.  Enjoyment like I just experienced is a sin. And I don’t care what you think of my analogy, but this cigar – when it is on point –  will give you such a spank of gratification that you may not pick up another cigar as long as you live.

 

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Flatbed Cigar’s Track 7 2:46 – On Time!

track-7-cover

Track 7 2:46 by Flatbed Cigar Company is a square-pressed 60 ring gauge – not one of my favorite shapes or sizes, but this guy . . . Paul Bush, the company owner, has had so many hits, I figure “F@ck the shape and go to the flavor.”  And boy did I meet this cigar on schedule.

It is smooth, silky and divine.  Nothing to hold back the perfect draw, not even the shape. The iron and railroad ties led me into a station where I was jonesing for more on the return trip back.  Plus.  PLUS!  I’m smoking this “Sum of a bitch,” at the Patio Cigar Lounge (Open 24/7) in February.  Do you believe it!?  Yawza!!!

I will give this cigar full-flavor props especially when I was jolted into this amazing lilt of syrupy chalky fluff.  It’s so easy to review a cigar that speaks for itself.  All we do is try to convey with words what we think we taste.  So simple, this.  Honey, hickory, a lilt of subtle, hidden hibiscus, with a slick lick of licorice before it jells.   Artisinal . . . yes?

track-7-ash

Perfect burn.  This is a cigar that is constructed like a Chicago brick bungalow.

I was at the beach last week?  And I have to tell you the scenery was way more than romantic waves of emerald foam and glistening crystals of pure white sand.  So when I say, “Look at that ash!”  Do I need to tell you that’s a perfect double entendre??  I didn’t think so.  

And the ash fell off twice – only twice – naturally!

This is all I’m going to write so I can relax, stop taking notes and enjoy the rest of this gem.  When Track 7 2:46 hits your cigar station – buy it!   

I Happen To Like Cacti.

 

cactus

Now I know how it feels to back into one of these.  Ouch!  A reader (one) was apparently angry and frustrated at how I’m handling my blog posts and was tired of the intrigue, mystery, imagery and outright confusion that my posts often bring to the table.  In fact, I was shocked at the reaction.  But then the uncomfortable wave of nausea dissipated, and I was able to go on my way without feeling the need for an apology.

There are so many cigar blogs out there it defies the imagination.  In fact, I’m thankful for those of you who take the time to read mine, considering it is a bit off center at times.  But I figure the posts about cigars are many and that the content, including cigar reviews, news, headlines, and such are amply covered so there’s certainly no need for another one of that ilk.  So I created the blog you are reading now.

I am not going to go into detail as to why I write the way I do or the subject matter that I bring to my blogs.  I only hope that the articles (or posts) evoke thought and provide entertainment via another dimensional slant.  My intention is to create an art form that transcends the news of the day.  I would rather do it the way I have been and rest my head on my pillow in the evening knowing that I have contributed something to the world of cigars (or beyond) from my perspective as a cigar broker in the industry, albeit often through the looking glass.

irv-looking-backSo I offer no apologies.  Sit back.  And for those of you who want to read my blog, bless you.  I love you with all my heart. Those of you who don’t want to read it – don’t.  Or, egads! are unaware that it even exists.  Then I would hope that you run across Irv CigarBroker: The Blog! give it a gander, and come back for more.

I have no agenda other than to use words and cover subjects mostly about cigars from my viewpoint. That’s all.  

https://irvcigarbroker.wordpress.com/   (App available.)

http://www.irvcigarbroker.com/

Combustible Art.

virginia

Walking through the airport I noticed her from a distance and then seconds later she began to stare at me.  We locked eyes and I hurried by her but in an instant, I turned around and gazed back at her, but she couldn’t be seen clearly anymore from the widening distance between us.

I knew what I had to do.  So I reached Gate 7 and turned around.

I could see the golden frame as I reached the front of the case.  I stared into her eyes and she gazed into mine.  I found out that her name was Virginia De Lage circa late 1800s.  The artist was unknown.  But I had to take her back with me.  So I snapped a pic and we looked intently at each other in “person” for what might be the last time.

Like many people in life, her features will be embedded in my mind forever.

virginia-cigarI returned to my spot at Gate 7.  I boarded my plane and took my aisle seat.  My time for contemplation would come much later as I sat at the Patio Cigar Lounge (Open 24/7) in mid-February without a jacket on.  I lit up a cigar and I wrote this piece.  The combination of attraction was a mystery, but both the cigar – and the portrait of Virginia De Lage, are both certainly exquisite works of art.

 

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Incigarnito: Day Five.

shell

Beach, beach, beach.  Seems like that’s all I’ve been doing.  But it’s true.  That’s where I was most of the day.  And it was delightful.  Soft sand, salty breezes, and rays from the sun that tinted my skin to a pink blush.

Even though Chicago is going through a very warm February, I found this trip to be a much better salve without the distraction of work.  I’ve mentally gone through a lot of changes and I’m making up my mind to implement these ideas that will have no effect on you – but they will slather my business – and my life, like I never thought possible only five days ago.

I have accomplished what I set out to do, restructure and re-examine who I am and what I’m doing with this precious gift called Life.  I guess that’s what a sabbatical is supposed to do.  Uh?  

Right now I’m poolside.  The sun is taking a breather and I’m smoking a cigar.  It’s quiet, save for the traffic that I can hear in the distance.  All the atoms that are smashing against each other are taking new shapes and forms because I am allowing and willing them to do so.

Metamorphosis can happen fast.  But right now I have time.  I’m up until 3 am and then I’ll slide into the car and head towards the airport and eventually be back home.

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