Monthly Archives: June 2017

Finally, the order. An Ode To Joy!

irv satisfied

An overwhelming feeling of sweet satisfaction slathered over my entire being the other day.  Yep.  Sometimes it takes a long time to get an order.  Even years.  Especially from a shop that snubbed me repeatedly.  And now I have what they want.  And the only way to get it is – through me!  Oh, what a joy!

rwe“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9dLGDCdg3g

I can now continue with my daily routine.

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Abrupt frustration induces creativity.

frustration

Frustration is an integral part of my life as a cigar broker and as a writer (and an abstract artist which we will get into at a later date). 

To wit:  Everyday I write something.  Everyday.  I have written in daily journals, on scraps of paper, envelopes, napkins, and Kleenex boxes since the early 80s.  I have literally thousands of pages of stories, ideas, and, of course, posts in piles, envelopes, and manila folders.  And those that don’t fit into those options are most likely on my desk that always seems to be in an upheaval.  According to Grammarly, the software that I use to double check my copy, I write more words on a weekly run than 98% of the bloggers on a consistent basis.  But I do not confuse quantity with quality.  Is everything I write the best?  I think so, but I am a realist.  But my goal isn’t so much to be the best (though I do make every attempt at it) – as it is to be myself.  Ergo, the eclecticism of my work.  I don’t purposely make the subject matter different, difficult, or deranged.  I only write what down what is on my mind and how I express myself about a particular topic is just me – being me.  An established point.

piles of papers

So it is with much hesitation that I tell you that when an article I write does not appear exactly as I envision it on the screen – I go a bit nuts.  No.  That’s not quite accurate.  I go ballistic!  The calm person you see in photos at events, or at the IPCPR is me at that moment in time.  Thankfully, the maniacal purist that lurks within me only rears its exacting head when it is necessary to blow off some steam.  And done usually in private.

I will give you an example.  A quick one.  I wrote an article recently that I will admit took quite some time to complete.  I produced it to be a double entendre.  What I scribbled had two meanings.  And to create such a piece takes much thought, and above all intense creativity.  I have to make sure the reader(s) understand what I am saying, or it is useless for me to pen so that the other reader(s) will understand what I am saying.

Well, this one article was finally ready for publication.  It was a cigar review with another meaning beneath it.  And I only wanted the obvious to come thru.  Photos were an intricate part of the article.  So when I felt the post was finished, like the proper aging of cigars – I went to the program and clicked “Publish.”  And then I copy the article to those sites that enjoy what I write.  

crooked art 1

But this one time, the photos were off!  The spacing between the copy and the pictures was just not right!  You would think I could handle the adjustment in the editing mode. But whatever I did had no effect on the final piece.  I went insane with frustration!  I did everything I could think of to fix the problem but to no avail.

Did I quit!  No.  Not in my vocabulary.  I tried changing the spacing, the position of the paragraph.  I deleted the picture.  I reintroduced the photo.  Nothing!!  Until I had the thought, perhaps the photo is just too big for this space.  So I quickly went into the edit mode and reduced the size of the photo, a most necessary element to the story and “Voila!”  It fixed the issue.  Like that.

calm 1

I could feel the pressure begin to ease, my heartbeat began to slow, the tension in my body oozed out.  I checked the preview. Perfect, except for the smaller photo.  But I didn’t mind that too much, although I did have a reason for it being larger.  BUT, no one would know.  Just me.

What’s the point of all this?  Nothing is as easy as it looks.  Especially if you’re a perfectionist.

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Dim light on blind cigar tastings.

shedding light

Blind tastings run rampant throughout the cigar industry.  If held properly, such a review of a particular brand would be conducted solo in a quiet environment with the skill sets to erase all that is in the mind’s file cabinets about previous cigars.  In short, the mind should be a tabula rasa.  “ Tabula rasa or a clean slate (from the Latin) refers to the epistemological idea that individuals are born without built-in mental content and that therefore all knowledge comes from experience or perception.”  (Google)  Well, that’s how the mind of a taster should be when presented with a cigar to critique.

What brought this post about was a review I read in the Chicago Tribune (5.29.17) by Meredith Fineman of Bianca Bosker’s best seller, “Cork Dork.” (Penguin Books)  The book is all about how the author “ . . . quit her job as executive tech editor at Huffington Post . . . and decided to dive into the world of wine and become a sommelier.”

I have not yet read the book, so I am unable to agree or disagree on Bosker’s findings and summations.  But, from the Fineman review, Bianca Bosker discovered “  . . . that if she was going to get anywhere in the wine world, she had to be truly present.  She had to quiet her mind and all the noise that came with it.  In order to ‘blind taste’ – identify a wine’s origin, grape and flavor notes without anything except liquid in a glass – (she) had to learn how to drown out any background noise, from her own head of (sic) other, in order to be successful.”

Fineman goes on to write about the “mental control” . . . and shut out all the things that are designed to play our cognitive biases.”  In short, “Trust your judgment.”  This skill of disregarding all outside influences is, according to Bosker, an extremely difficult task. She emphasizes that these skills are indeed, available to everyone but is a “deep mental exercise.”

irv musing

Now I am not privy to taste testings such as those held at Cigar Aficionado, Cigar Press, and Cigar Snob magazines. I can only guess how they really do it.  Yes, they give us the “qualifications” of the tasters, but the question then arises, are they qualified? And how strict do they adhere to scrutinized limitations?  What information are they provided?  Even one tidbit such as the country of origin may have a direct and deleterious influence on a taster’s opinion.  For example, “I hate Nicaraguan tobacco.”  

But I do know that the retail end of “blind tastings” are held primarily for entertainment, not for a serious discussion or critique of the cigar at hand.  A final summary cannot be considered meaningful because the conditions in which these tastings are held are usually at the shop in a social setting and much of the general information is given to the tasters.  All they are really there to do is vote “yea or nay.” The latter a direct precursor or link for the shop owner as to whether or not the cigar will sell there, not whether or not the cigar merits significance discourse of its sound if you will allow me that terminology.

Am I lambasting retail shops and the inevitable social aspect of this type of blind tasting? Of course not.  All I’m saying is that if a cigar, like wine, is to be critiqued to the nth degree to access quality, I do not feel that the retail arena is the proper setting for this type of analysis to be held for the assessment or grouping of an accurate aggregate of information.  But if it is of any solace to Mr. or Mrs. Cigar Shop Owner, I am certainly not convinced that the blind tastings done “behind closed doors” of the major magazines or the myriad of blogs have any validity either.

Lemon ice anyone?

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Curbing my cigar.

curbing.jpg

Smoking a 7 x 70 by Horacio XXXL ( I added an X).  Huge.  Almost comical.  No, correction.  It is preposterous.  This brand, however, is extremely yummy despite its challenging circumference.  I think the whole idea of these bastardizations of sizes is ludicrous.  As is my current position, nay my current situation in this industry.

When I started in 2005, I was the kid vicariously milling about in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, California, named for the intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets.  The “birthplace” of the counterculture.  I donned my Dad’s old army jacket with my rose colored glass perched on me nose.  It was a time of bathing in the summer of love in an industry ripe for another cigar broker to join in the fray.

 

Now, 12 years later, the summer of love has turned into the season of “how many boxes can you move” and the corner of Haight-Ashbury has been replaced with highways allowing dizzyingly speeds to jet to yet another event while looking at the bug massacre on my car’s windshield through dingy-tinted lenses.

Heston clings02

It’s a race with thoughts running rampant in my consciousness like in Ben Hur during the lawless chariot race but without Charlton Heston holding onto the reins.  Despite the rumor, there really is no finish line, only the journey that excites and pulsates with hot deep red blood.  

Is it a lazy afternoon?  Naw.  I’m lazy this afternoon trying to make sense of it all.  It’s about 5 p.m. and the wind is causing the pages of my notes to flap spasmodically back and forth, back and forth.  My pen is blown off the table, my irritation has been ignited.

We have control over one thing – our mind.  It’s looking at an autostereogram for too long and not being able to see the 3D image purported to be hidden amongst the swirls, cross hatches, and topsy-turvey lines made even more difficult with colors and bright hues. horacio ashAargh!  A frustrating puzzle.   

So far this broomstick is holding its own.  How?  So much filler and so little wrapper.  The construction is admirable.  No splits, so cracks, no internal explosions. All the flavors of the smaller ring gauges are here only amplified.  The combination of essences is cascading all over my palate like Niagra Falls’ roaring natural beauty.

It’s a long smoke – a long journey.  Holding onto the leather straps, pulling the horses to a straight path. But I must head out to Home Depot.  I want to stay. Finish my smoke. But I need plumbers epoxy to fix a hole in my humidifier so it will be ready for next year.  Ha.  Next year.  Next.  Year.  Repeat.  Next.  Year.  My teeth hold onto the cigar.  

I pull into the lot.  Park.  Take a final draw and place what’s left of the XXXL on the curb.  Oh, God how I hate this necessary excursion.  It’s pedestrian, so f – ing prole.  But reality isn’t always sparkles and glitter.  I find the mix of resins – make my purchase.  

I don’t retrieve my cigar from the curb when I return.  I just hop back into the car, put it in drive and begin reminiscing about what pleasure tobacco can bring to the senses.

ulay and marina

When I get back home, there’s another “journey” waiting for me – to do, to do, to do, to do, to do.  “Oh, God how I wish I could see the journey for what it is.”   Nirvana.  The 23rd Psalm.  Dinner is Taco Bell.  Life is Ulay and Marina.  The action went on – traversing the Great Wall of China – but the end resulted in tears and broken hearts.  It is the journey.

Convince me.  Convince me.  Convince me.  That’s the hard part – the challenge of linear change that chills the heat of sensual excitement to the point of placing the Brobdingnagian nub on the curb – and just being able to let it go.   

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New Group To Rattle FDA’s Cage.

pipes and cigars

I was asked to write a weekly article in a soon to be established internet group that centers around the FDA’s shenanigans.  This, due to the recent comments made by the junior state senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, at the Senate Appropriations Hearing, who “brought up the Deeming Rule and the current impacts on the premium cigar market.  Senator Rubio asked FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb if there were any plans to re-evaluate the inclusion of premium hand made cigars in this rule.   Rubio also pointed out that premium cigars are not marketed to children, and that there is a difference when it comes to premium cigars.”  (CigarCoop – see below)

This balanced discussion caused a maelstrom of chatter over the internet giving Senator Rubio the kudos he deserves for highlighting the situation.

Not long after his appearance and subsequent statements, I received the call from one of the more pro-active heads of one of the more legendary cigar manufacturers in the industry based in the DR.  His request took me aback.  I was not at all sure what his intentions were but from what I could gather, he felt, since I am a blogger with a following, I could do some good if I were to write about the situation in whatever manner I felt appropriate to “make noise” as he is so often heard saying in conversations with him.

I immediately was hesitant to agree.  I told him that I have been very active in citing the idiocy of the FDA and its knee-jerk reactions to the premium cigar industry.  I did not bring up but surely recalled, that every time I broached the subject of the FDA in the style that I write that I was drilled a new bodily orifice by readers who vehemently disagreed with my assessment.  My guess is that they formed this “safe” stance by not reading the entire article and formed their opinions of what I was saying by just scanning the lead, or listening to a third party’s take.

Journalism is my second language.  I know how to write a news story.  I know the formula of who, what, when, where, why and how of a standard news item.  But I don’t write like that.  Period.  I bend words.  My form of writing is based on imagery and my slant is delving into the emotional aspects of a subject rather than directly reporting on it. There are enough cigar news bloggers out there who do a fantastic job of reporting the daily stories that crop up in the industry.

When I wrote, what I am convinced were well-thought out challenging articles, I was exposed to being called egregiously foul names by readers who I can guess only read a portion of the stories. I felt the vitriolic wrath of Carlito Fuente Jr. who debased my words and ideas to the point of outright hatred.  How am I to know the level of a reader’s interest in absorbing other forms of expression and representation.  But to attack a writer in such a mean spirited way I found to be shocking and extremely disturbing.  But I continued as the days went by to scrawl what I felt inside – I am not afraid to express myself.  I do not conform.

So I have yet to make up my mind.  I want to see what this new group is all about.  I want to see what its motives are and is it an open forum such that – if I may be so bold – to accepting artistic editorializing that expounds on a particular subject or political viewpoint from the prisms of factual yet imaginative elocution.

I do know one thing, should I decide to contribute, my style will not change.  If the reader is familiar and savvy to know my bent, then there will be no stinging words thrown at me – or the copy I pen.  If they are not used to my style, then perhaps they will sludge through and find that I am simply coming at the subject from a different angle.  We are all in the same industry, yes?  Why would I write something to hurt, damage or destroy it?  Nonsense, eh?  (I shrug with indignation.)  

(Commissioner Gottlieb’s response can be read and heard on https://cigar-coop.com/2017/06/cigar-news-fda-commissioner-gottlieb-addresses-premium-cigars-at-senate-appropriations-hearing.html)  (CigarCoop) 

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Cigars are important, but . . .

 

embryo real

When your Mom is in the hospital with congestive heart failure, that reality allows me to slowly sink into the very soft, viscous syrup of reality that leaves cigars, plumbing, store snits and arguments on the surface weightlessly floating.

As gravity is steadily pulling me deeper into the gel, all outside sounds become deadened and the utterances of hate, dislike, and bluster become muffled to the point of incomprehensibility.  The silken liquid is soothing to the body.  Being immersed in it brings my mind to a state of relaxation that conjures up embedded emotions that were thought to be dulled to the point of extinction in this litany of life.

There is no bottom to this mass.  It goes down ad infinitum.  Eventually, my weight begins to equalize with the external pressure.  My body begins to steadily slow to a stop as I am being bathed in the serenity of silence.  I can breathe, as Gary Sinise’s character, Jim McConnell, is able to do in the final scene in “Mission to Mars” as he is being prepared for his journey to worlds unknown.  He suddenly realizes that he is able to breathe inside the life-sized glass chamber as it begins to fill with water.  He opens his eyes in astonishment, as small bubbles of oxygen trickle from his nose and mouth.

It depends on what is happening on the surface that will determine my length of stay. But as of right now, I am as free as an embryo twisting and twirling oblivious to the stress and strain of the outside world.  I am in the end scene in “2001: A Space Odyssey” – ready to be reborn with renewed energy and resolve.  I know what’s important.   

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDvyeQw8cBs