Monthly Archives: April 2017

Cigars. Love. Passion: A Proud Trio.

cigar trio.jpg

Can a man or a woman love two cigars equally at the same time?

Can a man love two women equally at the same time?

Can a woman love two men equally at the same time?

What answers have you come up with?

Let’s start with the last question first.

Answer: Yes.

Second question: Yes.

First question: Yes.

All affirmative.  Right?  Study this.  Don’t just click “Like.”  Give this some thought.  I’ll be back in about an hour.  

******

empire state bldg

Okay.  How can they all be “Yes.”  Of course, the first was the easiest to answer.  The other two – not so straightforward.  But there is a justification for the concurrence of question one which slowly trickles down to questions two and three thus providing the affirmative for all three producing the answer.

Raw Emotion.

Emotion:  As defined so regally by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED):  “A strong feeling deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.”

The word’s origin is from the “mid 16th century (denoting a public disturbance): from French émotion, from émouvoir ‘excite’, based on Latin emovere, from e- (variant of ex-) ‘out’ + movere ‘move’. The current sense (sic) dates from the early 19th century.”

Emotion:  As defined by the Urban Dictionary:

1.A mental state that arises spontaneously rather than through conscious effort and is often accompanied by physiological changes; a feeling.  Lust?

2.A state of mental agitation or disturbance.  Confusion?

3.The part of the consciousness that involves feeling; sensibility (such as love or the love of something or somebody).  Honesty?

Emotion:  From The New Yorker review of the new book by Lisa Feldman Barrett (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)  “Upbringing has the biggest influence, but we can all reshape our mental makeup and learn new concepts.  The latter part of the book considers how doing so can affect our health, the law, and our relationship to the natural world.  As Barrett frequently repeats, ‘You are an architect of your experience.'” 

Dialectical opposition comes into play when trying to satisfy the answer for (sic) questions two and three.  To quote: (concerned with or acting through opposing forces:) “a dialectical opposition between social convention (one man one woman) and individual bravado (liberty).”

STOP HERE!

stop clip

READ THIS . . .

What is love?  OED states it is “A feeling or disposition of deep affection or fondness for someone, typically arising from a recognition of attractive qualities, from natural affinity, or from sympathy and manifesting itself in concern for the other’s welfare and pleasure in his or her presence (distinguished from sexual love).  I’m purposely leaving out the Biblical definition.

OK.

go

CONTINUE . . .

So, it is easy to light up an Isabela and fall deeply in love with its flavor, the aroma, the draw.  And it’s just as easy to torch a Jafran and be consumed with its creamy texture, indescribable aftertaste, and the overall experience.  All without judgement or guilt!  Am I right?

OF COURSE I’M RIGHT!  Why?  Because no cigar is an emotional being.  But what happens when you do involve two real living, breathing, blood-infused humans who possess feelings, moods, and a conscience.  Then what?  Come on fight with me goddamnit!  Then what?  Uh?  What?  Can you love ‘em both?  Equally?  

Just because you can toss the Isabela or the Jafran or whatever onto the sidewalk or into an ashtray doesn’t mean you can do that to a lover, a wife, or a husband?   It’s your emotional conscience that weighs upon your bicameral reasoning that prevents you from getting yourself into such a dreaded situation, but it happens!  You can love two people in exactly the same way.  Something in your psyche allows you to do it!  But social convention – conformity pressures you NOT TO!  Why?  Societal order?

chinatown fare

There is no real right or wrong answer to this one conundrum except to embrace your full range of emotions!  Yet, this acceptance does not patently allow you to devour every morsel of what (or who) you love and then go on to the next one and do the exact same thing without feeling guilty.  Not at all.  Quantity is not the object here.  Quality and devotion and the reality of understanding your emotions are!

But then where does guilt come in?  To wit: Old English gylt “crime, sin, fault, fine,” of unknown origin, though some suspect a connection to Old English gieldan “to pay for, debt,” but OED editors find this “inadmissible phonologically.” ( From phonology: the branch of linguistics concerned with the systematic organization of sounds in languages.) The mistaken use for “sense of guilt” (was) first recorded (in the) 1680s.  Guilt by association was recorded by 1919.” (Dictionary.com)

So it is again the words others use to pile drive a meaning into your heart.  It is a word’s etymological origin that causes this epileptic psychological confusion if you will.  Its root creation and gradual development can turn sentiment into insensitivity, possession into relinquishment, and acceptance into indecency.  

Why is it so easy to love two cigars simultaneously, but that same dual passion becomes a mortal sin when romance and yearning are felt between two different people? Conscience!  That bloody, unrelenting emotion that can turkey truss your mind into a sailor’s knot.  Conscience is “a person’s moral sense of right and wrong, viewed or acting as a guide to one’s behavior.”   And being aware of this mental, emotional phenomenon does not mean that going ahead to satisfy this urge makes you the devil incarnate!  It simply means – I decided I can handle this.  I accept who I am.  I truly feel this sentiment within my soul.  What screws it up is you cannot control how the other person feels.  You cannot expect the other person to grasp this complex notion you’ve accepted and run with it?

vegetable trio

But if they do, if they do – then the answers to all three questions are undeniable.  Yes! Yes!  Yes!  Which, in turn, in my estimation, is that both parties possess that rare, absolute and consummate acceptance of self.  My God what a feeling that can be.  

All things considered, humans must do what they sense they can (or should?) do – and that is to accept their imperfect, unfailing personal and individual truths that make them who they are.  Society be damned! 

Shakespeare said it best – “To thine own self be true.”

“Come on, let’s you and me fire one up.”

-30-

   

 

Walks? Cigars? Simply Irresistible!

irv walk

Exercise is part and parcel of a healthy lifestyle.  Exercise is part and parcel of fighting depression.  I have, for the longest time, refused to exercise.  My idea of exercise lately was taking Flo out for a walk and smoking a cigar.  That don’t cut it, according to the doc. So, just recently I began walking for my serious physical exertion.

Now I don’t mean a meander through the park.  Nope.  I mean fast walking.  I have begun to bi-pedal at a relatively quick pace for a minimum of 2 miles a day to start. Twenty minutes per mile.  Rain or shine.  I still have the cigar, but what the hell, give me a break.  I figure I would start out with something.  So each night or day, I put my jacket on, if necessary, and I begin to walk.  

It feels great.  I light up the stogie and I do have the time set for myself at 20 minutes for each mile.  Now, I’m beginning to shave off minutes so I’m down to 38 minutes.  Not a huge reduction, but it means I am doing something.

Now, the past few days I’ve been heading out to areas that are at least three to four hours out.  I’m sitting in the car and doing nothing except listening to books on tape.  Though I have to admit, the last two books have been disappointing.  One was on Phil Collins and the other Mike Love of the Beach Boys.  Both are narrated by the authors.  Poor choices. Yes, both can either play their instruments or sing, but when it comes to reading their own literary works – they are not Grammy material.

lindsey sterling

So as a result, I put those two aside and started to listen to Lindsey Stirling’s memoir. “Lindsey is an American violinist, dancer, performance artist, and composer. She presents choreographed violin performances, both live and in music videos found on her eponymous YouTube channel, which she created in 2007. (Wiki)  And she was also on AGT.  She’s the one that was booted off and then went on to make a living doing what she wanted to do, play the violin in her own eclectic, hip-hop style.  She’s good.  She’s entertaining to listen to and as far as narration, she is tops.

That being said, I’m really wound up when I get home from those long trips.  So now I actually look forward to the walk.  And when I’m done, to make sure I am rewarded with something other than just the rest of the cigar, I take my phone with me and settle down on the bench at the Patio Cigar Lounge (Open 24/7), cue Youtube and listen to Robert Palmer’s, Simply Irresistible.  The song has punch, vivacious verve, and a bevy of beautiful backup ladies in the band.  A creamy frosting.  The song further relaxes me to the point where I just wanna absorb it over and over and over.

636084500310652357-932091567_1270386-28341Tonight it started to slowly rain and tiny micro-drops of water began to decorate the cell phone’s screen as if small diamonds were descending from the sky adding flutter, glitter, and glide to the video.

Will I continue to walk?  Yes.  Will I lengthen my mileage?  Most definitely.  My goal is to shed stress and add hope.  Losing a few pounds off the middle is a bonus.

I’m writing this piece after my trip tonight.  I feel fine.  I’m paying less attention to social diversions, and finding that this is one way to make living my life the way I want it . . . Simply Irresistible!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrGw_cOgwa8&list=RDUrGw_cOgwa8

-30-

Cigar brand immortality doesn’t exist.

royko story

“Royko wrote close to 8,000 columns in his life – most of those banged out at a five-day-a-week clip – and though many of them are collected in books and two biographies have been written about him, there is no immortality for newspaper writers.  We forget.” – (Chicago Tribune 4.16.17 Rick Kogan)

******

That’s a quote from the Chicago Tribune Perspective article by Rick Kogan, a columnist for the paper.  The whole story is under the headline “20 years without the legendary Mike Royko.”  For those of you who do not know, Mike Royko was the “best newspaper columnist this city had ever known.  “ He started writing a column at the Daily News in 1964, and when that paper folded in 1978, he moved to the Sun-Times and then to the Tribune until his death.” (Kogan)

The line that stopped me cold was “ . . . there is no immortality for newspaper writers. We forget.”

Just like I’m sure many have forgotten Ben Hecht, Jimmy Breslin, and Studs Terkel – regardless of the city.  Terkel once said of Royko, “Mike was Chicago.”  And then he added the frosting, “The best journalist of his time.”  (Kogan)

Immortality.  It really doesn’t exist for us.  Not in life, not in the theater, not in art, not in the cigar industry.  The recent passings of Carlos Fuente Sr. (1935-2016), and Avo Uvezian (1926-2017) are cases in point.  They were two of the most important people in the cigar business  –  but immortal?  No.  We do tend to forget – everything.  As long as the world continues to spin on its axis, men and women will be born whose contributions are immeasurable.  But alas, they, too, will have their “time.”   To quote Andy Warhol  “In the future (present) everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”

stained glass

There is only one being, I believe, that has reached this sought after peak in existence and has extended His existence far beyond Warhol’s prediction.  And that is Our Creator. That’s it.  The others?  They are flat stones skipping across a placid mountain lake – intermittently touching down making minor splashes until the energy of its force vanishes and the stone drops to the bottom of the lake leaving silent ripples that also dissipate bringing back the calm of nature’s solace.

Immortality is exclusive to Our Creator – He has been, is, and will be forever and ever. Amen.

 

-30-

 

Enough about price already!

restaurant

Price and pedigree come up all the time with cigars.  All the time.  I just sampled a cigar that retails for about $22.  Size?  About 5.5 x 44.  But it’s unique and absolutely delicious. I don’t care who smokes it, he or she will fall in love with the stick.  The cigar is going to blend your being with the heavenly hosts when you light it up and begin to draw on its delectable mix of aged and fermented tobaccos.  It’s worth every penny spent, and possibly more.

Here’s the end of a review I just ran across in the April 17th issue of The New Yorker about the restaurant Tim Ho Wan (“Add Good Luck.”).  The author refers to a dish that finishes with “a pleasing croissant-like texture – ‘So it doesn’t stick to your tongue’ . . . It’s the kind of consideration you don’t expect in a restaurant where it’s easy to avoid paying triple digits for a meal – even if you dine like a king.”   – Jiayang Fan

Point.  Food, wine, AND cigars run the range of prices, but just because it’s over the top expensive, or limbos low on the price scale really has no bearing at all on your ultimate enjoyment of the smoke.

So get your elitist schnoz out of the air right now!

You know who I’m talkin’ to.

Enough said.

-30-

No cigar enhances the experience.

IP cover

Just driving to the recital I felt anxious to hear Itzhak Perlman on violin with Rohan De Silva’s piano accompaniment.  The 3 pm recital was punctual.  The Lyric Opera House was jammed with people.  When the house lights dimmed, I knew my time was being well spent.

Mr. Perlman rolled on stage in his electric Amigo scooter, (he contracted polio at age 4) and the polite crowd began clapping their hands until the sound slowly took on the roar of water over Niagara Falls.  Ultimately the appreciate audience knew it was time to quiet down and eventually the recital began with Vivaldi’s Sonata in A Major for Violin and Continuo, Op. 2, No. 2, RV 31 (1678-1741).

Once Mr. Perlman’s bow caressed the strings of what he calls his “fiddle” the entire audience sat in enchanted silence as the notes of Vivaldi’s Sonata filled the auditorium with what I would call the angelic sounds of a musical genius.

Itzhak Perlman, who is considered to be “the reigning virtuoso of the violin, became Vivaldi.  HIs gentle touch, his intuitive interpretation of the Sonata was light, airy, and simple as they would say in Hebrew מָתוֹק כָּדְבַשׁ (mellifluous).

(Other scheduled pieces included, Beethoven’s Sonata No. 1 in D Major, Op. 12, No. 1, (1770-1827), and Schumann’s Fantasiestϋcke, Op. 73.)

Mr. Perlman is beloved throughout the world “for his charm and humanity as well as his talent . . . and is “treasured throughout the world . . . for his remarkable artistry.”  His performances “have garnered him 16 Grammy Awards.  And, in 2008, “he was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in the recording arts.”

IP intermission.jpg

After the intermission, Mr. Perlman played my favorite – Ravel’s Sonata for violin and piano No. 2, in G Major (1875-1937).  “Maurice Ravel’s sonata is a work written for violin and piano; its composition took quite a little time, from 1923 to 1927, and there the composer was inspired by the music of America, namely jazz and blues, whose influence is clear, especially in the second movement.

“When Ravel was living in Montfort-l’Amaury, France, he accompanied Helen Jourdan-Morhange and they shared a love for jazz;  (and) the classic blues band of W.C. Handy exhibited the style of St. Louis blues in Paris (in the mid 1920s).

“He applied the technical and melodic forms of blues. The sonata is stylistically far different than Ravel’s earlier works: the music utilizes bitonality, the horizontal management of voices that Erik Satie loved and harmonies of gnashing hardness, which Igor Stravinsky begin to personify. Satie and Stravinsky may have influenced the opening of the new creative period where the blues of Ravel’s sonata marked a high point.” (Wiki) I was indeed transfixed.    (Listen to the artistry below.)

When the recital concluded, Mr. Perlman was urged to perform again and again and returned three times to the stage to satiate the hungry audience with a variety of work from various composers.  It was clear we all couldn’t get enough.  

Finally, the audience stood in corybantic applause, while Mr. Perlman and Rohan De Silva humbly thanked the audience with words and smiles, no doubt absorbing the inner thrill they must feel when sharing something both adore.

Cigars?  No.  A respite from one passion to consuming the passion of another.

The recital was this broker’s break from the cacophony of cigars.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4z99HMbIe0

-30-

Rauschenberg, maybe Padron, & ah . . . ?

NYRB Cover.jpg

The New York Review of Books arrived today.  Excitement rushes through my body when I see it in the mailbox.  This is The Art Issue.  The one article that caught my eye on the front page was titled – Jed Perl: Robert Rauschenberg.  “Ideal,” I mused.

An exhibition will be curated at MoMA in New York from May 21st until September 21st. The article is taken from the catalogue via Tate Publishing.  So what’s this to do with cigars?  Ah, everything and nothing.  Depending on how you read the article.  (Oh, how I wish I could be there to see the show.  My perspective certainly would certainly be first hand.)

Robert Rauschenberg trio

Briefly, “Milton Ernest “Robert” Rauschenberg (1925-2008) was an American painter and graphic artist whose early works anticipated the pop art movement.”  (Google)  To wit: “Robert Rauschenberg was a showman, a trickster, a shaman, and a charmer.”  Perl goes on to say that the exhibit that will grace the halls of MoMA will display “the imprint of an automobile tire; a couple of rocks tied with pieces of rope or string; paintings that are all white, all black, or all red; a sheet and pillow spattered with paint; a drawing of William de Kooning that Rauschenberg erased; deconstructed corrugated cardboard boxes; bright silken banners; a blinking light; a taxidermied Angora goat; mixed-media works mounted on wheels so as to be easily moved around; and paintings packed with photographic images.”

Of course, I can’t reprint the entire article, but note that Rauschenberg was a success almost from day one by “keeping admirers and detractors alike on their toes with his swaggering insouciance, and thrust into the art world into what critic Harold Rosenberg dubbed, ‘the de-definition of art.’”  In short, “Rauschenberg would do whatever it took to destabilize the audience’s expectations.”  Comedic overtones.  That’s why we laugh!

BLK WKS-LOGO (1)

Sound familiar yet?  Halfwheel wrote in an article dated February 18th, 2016 “When you think of, for lack of a better term, gringos owning and operating cigar factories in Estelí, Jonathan Drew of Drew Estate and Skip Martin of RoMa Craft Tobac come to mind. But there’s another: James and Angela Brown of Black Label Trading Co., who not only own their own factory, Fabrica Oveja Negra but also live in Estelí.”  And then they decided to launch Black Works Studio.  Both producing some of the most innovative cigar blends to hit the market.  

It’s simple to see that there are some cigar manufacturers that have their three fingers on the pulse of the marketplace and are able to do whatever it takes to “destabilize the audience’s expectations.”  And with this comes interest and eventual fame.

Modern art cannot be mentioned without naming works by Rauschenberg, just as cigars cannot be mentioned without mentioning Padron.

It’s fine and dandy to capitalize on tradition, even that has its place in art and the cigar industry.  But those brands do something agile – different, that get the attention of bloggers, consumers, and the industry.

Of course, this is just a smidgen of the contributions of one artist and one gangly new cigar manufacturer.  But it’s this confident difference that defines an era in art and procreates an edgy, razor-like movement out of the temporal tradition of cigar manufacturing.

leaf display carmacksAnother perfect example is The Leaf by Oscar.  Who would ever have thought that one of the ugliest cigars on the planet would take the industry by storm and become one of the most popular boutique cigars to date?

It is the innovative eye and savvy blender plus the acute, aware artist “who crossed boundaries and cross-pollinated staid disciplines that thrust them into their respective worlds making them almost instantaneous phenomenons.

There is a caveat that must be considered here.  Art, such as what Rauschenberg produced, bestowed upon him a permanent and special place in the cultural milieux.  That is not the case for cigars and is missing from the products that come from manufacturers such as The Leaf, and Black Works Studio.  Yes, they will have their day, but will they have created an immutable spot in the cigar sphere?  Methinks not.  This is conjecture on my part, not a devastating blow to endless, enduring creativity.  

Nude descending the

When Marcel Duchamp exhibited Nude Descending a Staircase in 1913 when the Armory Show opened in Manhattan, the modern art world – the entire art world – was forever changed by dilating the eyes of other artists, critics, and museum goers alike to envision so far beyond what was considered acceptable art.  A miracle.

New blends seem only to have a temporary impact in the industry and then it’s back to the blending board to keep the Nude from slipping back down further into the abyss of the usual and the traditional.

A battle royal indeed.  Change is inevitable but tectonic, everlasting alterations in cigar blends that move smokers to trembling and tears are rarely experienced with an unusual blend.  And maybe it’s not supposed to.  But that shouldn’t stop anyone with swaggering gusto from giving it a shot.

larry gagosianWho is the next Rauschenberg?  We don’t know.  Ask Larry Gagosian the Armenian American art dealer who owns the Gagosian Gallery chain of art galleries (think, Richard Serra, Walter De Maria, Jeff Koons, Ed Ruscha, Howard Hodgkin, Rachel Whiteread, and Damien Hurst) – perhaps he knows.

Who’s the next Leaf? Who do you ask? 

-30-

Bulls*#t, Lies, and Fairy Tales!

glowing ember

It’s bad enough that I often feel like I’m living in a maelstrom of manure with what’s all going on in Illinois’ politics, the cigar industry, and the speed people have to keep up to stay in the slow lane.  And then this!

I’m sitting out here at the Patio Cigar Lounge (Open 24/7) smoking an Isabela writing by solar light still trying to keep my composure in the chilly night air.  And I’m still white hot with rage that I almost got scammed.

solar light

I knew something was wrong with my laptop when I couldn’t upload photos for the blog. I was using the tower instead and left the laptop “sleeping” in the other room. Eventually, I needed to go back to the laptop for something and when I did, I noticed on the screen an urgent message from Microsoft warning me that if I don’t call this number I will lose all my documents, photos, files, everything.  WTF!

So I read the warning and it looked genuine and it was seemingly backed up by an earlier email I received during the day that informed me that there were potential problems ahead.  Now, I had just gotten the laptop’s hard drive washed clean because of another problem with it.  So how could this be?  

I call the number and lo I get a technician on the other end of the line by the name of Josh from “Microsoft” who begins to ask me questions and starts to show me all the problems I have within my laptop.  Now, I can have all this fixed if I go to this company in town that will fix it for me.  And then I begin to get angry.  Why?  Because Josh begins to list the costs that I will have to pay to get the job done or I will own a piece of electronic junk.  What began to sizzle my wick was when he quoted me the total cost of the job and it would only set me back $799.00 with the guarantee that something like this will never happen again.  He limns more costs, added insurance costs, lifetime guarantees, all this utter bullshit that I can’t believe is true.

He assures me that he is legitimate and continues to talk, talk, talk.

I knew something was amiss when he talked over me when I asked him to justify the high cost of the repair.  I do not appreciate anyone who talks over me. That’s a sign of a bully and I don’t tolerate bullies very well.  I’m telling him he’s got to be wrong, but he is showing me the problems on the screen – hundreds!  It all looked so real!.  

Unbeknownst to him, while he’s on the phone talking, I’m calling the guy who just fixed my computer, Rocky .  He’s not there but his partner is and tells me that Rocky will be in tomorrow and I can bring in the computer to have it checked out.  NO!  I want Rocky to call me NOW!  I hang up.  This other guy is really pissing me off so I hang up on him, too. Believe it or not, he tries to call me back several times.

In the meantime, Rocky rings and I’m yelling on the phone, “What’s going on here?”  
That’s when Rocky tells me it’s a scam.  This “Microsoft” technician is going to get the computer, and for $800 bucks will do absolutely nothing because there is absolutely nothing wrong with the laptop.  The fact that I didn’t install Norton offered free by Comcast right away when I took the laptop home the first time after Rocky fixed it may have been the root cause of the problem.  Rocky tells me to turn off the computer immediately and ignore this guy.  I do.

Then Rocky goes into detail how this scam works and it’s been happening to many of his customers and believe it or not some actually fall for it.  But I’m not gullible, I’m chapped.  I ask two simple questions.  What’s up?  Can it be fixed?  Rocky explains to me that most likely a virus was installed by “Microsoft” and “Yes, it can be fixed, of course.” He tells me just bring it in and he’ll take care of it – no charge.  I’m hoping nothing has been damaged and the laptop is ok.  But he has to rid the computer of the virus and install Norton pronto and everything will be all right.

scammer notesSo, I hop into the car and drive over to the shop, drop off the computer and am informed that it will be in perfect condition when it’s returned to me the next day.  

I apologize to Rocky for raising my voice but he understands and tells me that it’s ok. “Your laptop is fine.”

So now I’m puffing away on my Isabela writing this diatribe in the solar light just seething with anger that some son-of-a-bitch would have the gall to make a living scamming people.  Yes, it’s life, but a f*^#@d up one.  I’m still not calm, the cigar isn’t working because I’m just so ticked off that we have to live in a world where the truth if very often slathered with bullshit, lies, and fairy tales.

“Really great cigar.”  I muse to myself.  And then I go back to thinking,  “That accented motherfu*@er!”

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

-30-