Monthly Archives: October 2017

Raw Review of Stardust by Isabela.


  • First Impression – Orgasmic
  • First Draw – Flooded with flavors
  • First Pause – Awe
  • First Full Draw – Creamy, Abstract, Dazzling
  • First Emotion – Heavenly Bliss
  • First Insight – $$$$$$$$
  • First Relaxed Moment – “How was it for you?”
  • First Musical Interlude – Styx
  • First Dreamy Moment – “I am representing this brand.”
  • First Second Full Draw – Sweet Jesus
  • First Thought of Complexity – Indescribable
  • First Disappointment – Extraordinarily limited (100 boxes)
  • First Stardust – Miracle blends still exist
  • First Burnt Fingers – Isabela’s Stardust   

The Texas Cigar.

cowboy boots

I was recently in Texas for a wedding.  My brother’s daughter.  The ceremony was right out of a Jacques Cocteau film.  Mystic, mysterious, open, yet close to the feeling of the inner soul of love.  The weather was perfect.  It was held outdoors and the lighting was enough to make you feel as though you never had a past only a now.

While there we did have some free time and so we took advantage of it the best we could.  I, of course, had cigars by the pool.  And although the wind was constantly blowing, I was able to find a corner that adequately shielded me from the brunt of the blasts.  Too, I was able to have evening cigars and write because right above me were outdoor lights.  Perfect.

Off course, I’m all alone right now, but I had an epiphany today that I never dreamt would ever happen – I fell in love with the national shoe.  I did.  At first, I wasn’t going to tag along to look, but I had to see why anyone would want to own a pair, let alone wear them.  Why?

I did stay home the first time the family went looking and they came back so excited that I had to go back with them to see what could have made them shiver in their shoes.  That’s why.

We went to a place called The Boot Barn.  When you walked in a wide variety of brand names were slathered on every inch of the window panes.  Brands I never knew existed. Why would I care to know lines such as Dan Post, Lucchese (Since 1883), Ariat, Resistol (Since 1927), Corral, and Justin (Since 1879)?

And then when I walked into the store I thought I was in Dodge City’s dry goods store.  (I watched Gunsmoke for years.  I have a good imagination.)  But honestly!  I headed toward the back and as I got closer to the almost piquant aroma of leather, I knew I hit the mother load of cowboy boots.The scent of leather was as dominant as the smokey smell in a well-attended cigar lounge.

I never saw such a selection.  Row after row after row after row after row after row of cowboy boots.  And the shelves were five high excluding the floor.  And that was jammed with more shows.  And whether it was just this location, but they were so neatly displayed I just stood there in utter and complete awe.

Every color, shade, and hue was represented – sand, brown, glitter, dusty blue, black, tan, mahogany, white, gray, burnt sienna, caution yellow, pink, steel, red, and on and on and on and on.  Every finish imaginable was there for the picking – flat, glossy, rubbed.

cowboy boots elephant

And then came the textures.  Ah, what the boots are made from.  Some are just plain old cowhide through and through.  But so many are made from leather and then covered with exotic skins of all sort of textures and feel – fish scales, emu, cayman, alligator, ostrich, shark and the one that blew me away – elephant.  I looked at it and its gray with meandering rivulets of design covering the shoe.  I took the boot and held it in my hand and it felt like, a boot.  But it was covered with the hide from one of the largest mammals on this planet.  I asked the showroom clerk, “Is this legal?”  He looked back at me with a twenty-something grin and simply said, “Money buys ya anything.”

We bought a cowhide pair for my wife.  A fine pair of western cowboy boots. Kinda reddish tan with swirls of design that despite its male origin were made to accentuate the femininity in any cowgirl.  (Can I say that?)  My God how passions can pop up where you least expect them to.  And the odd part is that it’s just like a cigar – a Texan cigar.

Perfect cigar cloning is not possible.

blurred cover

I’ve been journaling for over 30 years now.  I have literally hundreds of thousands of pages of colored paper everywhere, legal pad yellow, white, pink, orange, green, on the desk, in bookcases, the attic, in boxes, and stuffed in file folders.  Each individual page is dated.  When I started to journal, I used an old-fashioned Royal typewriter, then I switched to the computer, but most often I wrote the notes in longhand.

It’ll be a challenge for anyone to decipher some of the writings.  Some of the penmanship is readable, other pages will be as hard to decipher as a physician’s handwriting with too much nitrous oxide in his system.  I used to drink, see.  So that’s my excuse for what looks like the scribbling of a child’s first attempt at writing.

So all these notes directly reflect my mood(s) at the time.   Anyone with a pea brain will be able – despite the sloppy script – figure out my moods be they anger, fear, sadness, passion, love, hate, aggravation, serenity, disgust, surprise, joy.  And who knows how they mixed when on the same paper?  My journals are a tour de force of the stream of consciousness style of thought.

compare desk

Because I can clearly remember that no matter how sober I was or how drunk I became – I wrote.  Daily.  I was doing this to record my life and the swirling, swilling conditions that surrounded me at the time.  I wanted to etch in print my existence as it emerged from my real-time consciousness.  I wanted to be OCD anal so when I reviewed the papers in later years, I would have an exact idea of how I was feeling at a particular time.  These journals exist.  Therefore I am (or was).

So why is it so difficult for a blender of tobacco to try and shield himself from the reality of truth and the ways they are feeling?  Gut instinct.  Gibbs.  I bring this up because I am writing this to share my comparisons and my reactions to a couple of cigars that claim to be identical twins.  I’m experiencing a rainbow of raw emotions and reacting to the existence of the duo and how they play off of each other with great similarities but do not take up the same space.  I reference, The ‘law of physics’ . . . referred to . . . the Pauli exclusion principle, which states that two identical fermions (particles with half-integer spin) cannot occupy the same quantum state simultaneously.

Now, I’m not intimating that the two cigars have to be in the same cosmic space at the same time.  But think about it?  So . . .

Right now I’m smoking a Dominican cigar with a Connecticut wrapper.  This is a relatively new cigar that had been blended recently.  It’s what you might call the original’s doppelgänger.  It is the blender’s heart and soul of inspiration and hopeful duplication.  He thinks it’s the best, as well he should.

I’m enjoying it immensely.  Yet there are chinks in the wrapper so-to-speak – it is too thin for my liking.  No bitterness.  A very pleasing smoke.  Save for the construction.  It is an attempt to reproduce the original.  And please don’t try to second guess me, you don’t know what the cigar is, nor am I going to reveal its name.  No, you don’t know what it is.  Period.

It’s just like when you go to a new, exotic restaurant and order a steak that is garnering a reputation for its buttery tenderness, and exquisite flavor enhanced by its being aged months in the proper conditions (I am a former Journeyman meat cutter I know what the conditions are.)  And everyone is raving about the flavor, the texture, the absolute sensuality of the food.  And your partner orders the exact same steak.  Exact. Yet, when the knife draws across his charred beef, the delight is found to be a bit tough, and the so-called heavenly texture has a bit of gristle in it to take away from the same experience I am having.  Plus, that tad bit of garlic that the steak is becoming known for is perfect on mine, but my friend is upset that this family member of the lily family is too strong and takes away from the rave reviews of the subtle flavor.

Face it.  Nothing can be the same.  Hell, God made trillions of snowflakes.  Not one matches the other.  But it’s all snow.  White and crystalline.  So what’s the beef?  (Pardon the pun.)

compare cigars black ash

Yes, I’m committing a mortal sin, worse – if that can be – and I’m sure there are sins that are (being brought up Catholic).  I’m comparing two cigars that are said to be the same.  Blasphemy.  I’m Hellbound for sure.

Some of you might remember Rich Little or Frank Gorshin, two of the greatest celebrity impersonators in the history of show business.  When they imitated Cary Grant, or Humphrey Bogart, or John Wayne if you closed your eyes you’d swear all three were in the same room at the same time.  But despite Little’s and Gorshin’s talents, there was that one lilt of an accent or that slight rise in timbre that would give them away as impostors.  They could not sound exactly like the other person – ever.  Never.  Only mimic.  

So I’m about midway through this first cigar and then I’m going to light up the other one. See you later.  


Ok.  I’m on the second one.  Right away I can tell the difference in the wrapper.  It’s thicker and has a deeper color than the first.  When I clipped the cap this one did not crack.  It was a solid decapitation and I like that in a cigar.  It shows great construction and possibly a wee bit more expensive tobacco.  The flavor is great, like the first.  The cigar is packed a bit tighter, but the draw is exquisite, smooth, not annoying, just right.

compare cigars white ashThe ash on the first was almost too gray and black for me.  This one is pure white.  I know I’ll get an argument here.  But I’m observing.  Soil composition.  The tobacco is a bit sweeter in that it may be a bit more aged.  The smoke is luscious.  The bouquet is as wonderful as the first, but since the clouds of smoke are easier to get to, I’m enjoying it more.  And this one has a tad bit more mellowness.  A tad.  But we’ve been over that.  This one is near perfect.

Are they trying to be the same cigar?  Or close?  Why bother to go through all this asinine verbiage if the consumer isn’t able to get the two cigars anymore anyway.  Just the one, which is damn good.  What’s the point?

The point is no cigar can be duplicated.  Not even the same blend of the same cigar is the same (sorry Mr. K.). There will always be differences, however slight.  It’s a rhetorical conundrum that will never be solved. It can’t be.  But if you could, wouldn’t you try this experiment out for yourself?



eli cover

As you may know, I’m a film fanatic, kinda like Tony DiNozzo in NCIS – only worse.  And, I generally will not spend this time that you’re reading the blog post about cigars to critique or analyze a film.  But this is noteworthy.  

I just finished watching “The Book of Eli” (2010), the fantastical adventure of a character by the name of Eli who has traveled the earth for 30 years going west to deliver a book. In brief, “Thirty years after war turned the world into a wasteland, a lone warrior named Eli (Denzel Washington) marches across the ruined landscape, carrying hope for humanity’s redemption. Only one other man (Gary Oldman) understands the power of what Eli carries, and he is determined to take it for himself. Though Eli prefers peace, he will risk death to protect his precious cargo, for he must fulfill his destiny to help restore mankind.”

I happened on this film as I was twiddling through YouTube and I was immediately frozen as to the storyline and the way that Eli carried himself throughout the short clip I saw (A bar fight scene).   The sepia color of the film gave it a realistic tone that not only came through with an edgy hue but with the intended message.

Few films “touch me” as this one did.  One other that I have to mention was the 1992 classic “The Medicine Man,” starring Sean Connery and Lorraine Bracco.  Again in wiki-speak  “A brilliant, eccentric research scientist Richard Campbell (Sean Connery), after living for six years in the Amazon jungle, has possibly discovered a cure for cancer. Dr. Rae Crane (Lorraine Bracco) is sent by the pharmaceutical company they both work for to check up on him. Upon arrival, she contends with Campbell’s reluctance to work with a woman. But the two must join forces to fight commercial loggers intent on destroying the jungle and research his cure-all while falling in love.”

There’s a poignant scene at the very end of the film after the loggers and their machines have almost completely destroyed the precious rainforest where the cure for cancer has been found.  It is at this moment of what appears to be the end that the head of the pharmaceutical company that Connery works for looks at him with sad eyes and a sense of finality and tells him that it’s over.  But Campbell isn’t moved.  Says the head of the drug company, Dr. Miguel Onega, played by the great Brazilian actor the late José Wilker, seeing that Connery has no intention of quitting “You’ve been touched.”  As indeed Connery has been.  His purpose has regained strength and his resolve has been strengthened despite the abject destruction that surrounds him.

I felt that “touch” tonight.  In the scene where the long-haired scribe is diligently writing down every word that Eli is reciting from memory onto paper forming piles upon piles upon piles of precious imagery and teachings, the book  – “The King James Version of The Bible.”  Each individual lead letter is hand set in frames inked and rolled onto paper.  Single, double-sided pages are formed and bound for the world that is to be.  Will be. Must be.

A tear entered my eye as the film ended and I won’t spoil it for you just in case you haven’t seen the film.  But I know this, if what you have inside you is deep enough, nothing can take it away.  Nothing.  And that can be attributed to many an occupation. Even this humble blogger’s mission.

Cigarus Interruptous.


It’s insane sometimes trying to get the right shot.  I have the article in mind but I also have the picture in mind as well.  Plus I want to be smoking a cigar while I’m composing the post.  So I’m trying to do three things at once.  Four if you figure the idea has to stay fresh in my head before it goes south due to utter frustration.

Well, it’s all due to my impatience and the literal fear that I won’t get what I want you to see and read and then maybe contemplate.  

I just got back from a road trip and this idea swarmed into my consciousness about how I can get it down fast enough.  Plus the cigar.  It has a lot to do with the damn cigar because that’s the focus.  Or is it?  Not really.  You see I’m smoking a Dominican long-filler that’s just the opposite of what I’m reading.

interruptus nyrb

More often than not I’m critiquing the cigar but this cigar is perfect and the review is of the current issue of the NYRB Fall Books Issue.  Yes, the cover is intriguing.  The colors are brilliant.  A bright red against a pristine, glowing white paper.

“David Salle on Rei Kawakubo.”  I know who David Salle is but I know nothing about Rei Kawakubo.  Man, this cigar is beyond delectable.  Creamy.  Full of flavor.  And it has, right now, no brand name.  I will have a hand in that, but that’s another story for another time.  

So what drew me to flip open the paper was the cover. But the inside is not holding my interest at all.  Save for a book by Patti Smith.  Which I have already ordered.  So why go through it?  Because that’s what I do.  I never judge anything by its cover.

Articles and reviews and … this is going nowhere at all.  I’m trying not to miss anything and I will admit there are a few articles that attracted my attention, but in this case not one article is able to interest me to the final paragraph.

I’m outside on the Patio Cigar Lounge (Open 24/7) and I’m just waiting for a skunk to lean over by my leg like one did the other night.  It is very difficult to concentrate on anything when you’re constantly looking down to the left where the skunks usually and silently appear literally out of nowhere.

Flo is waiting for me to take her for her walk and all I want to do is get this thing written. But I’m in a desperate race for time because the darker it gets the more likely it will be that a skunk will appear.

Yes, I could be in the house at the office where it is as safe as can be but then I wouldn’t be able to smoke this delish Dominican.  So what do I do?  I gamble and continue to smoke the cigar and hope the night is skunk free.  Let’s see how many times did I say skunk?

My back hurts which is beginning to ache so much.  Too much time in the driver’s seat that the idea is beginning to fade.

Damn.  This is almost too much fun to stop.  A race against time.  What will win?  The cigar?  The article?  The skunk?  

I really am enjoying this cigar too much to even think about the article.  Damn the stage-left appearance of a skunk.  Though I have been sprayed and it is one of the most unpleasant smells on this planet.  Save for a rotting corpse.

Screw it.  I’m smoking the cigar.  When the brand name is established, I will be sure to let you know because I will be the only broker in the nation that has access to it.  And that’s a promise.


You could be going nowhere.


Think cigars for the next paragraph:

“Writing four novels is no guarantee that you’ll complete a fifth.  Readers may love you; critics may praise you; you might win a big prize.  None of it helps when you find yourself back at the beginning, confronted with your unredeemable prose, convinced, as Jennifer Egan was not so long ago, that you’ll never produce a decent chapter again.  ‘The book was bad,’ she told me recently.  ‘I did one draft that was absolutely unspeakable.  But that’s normal.’  Then she wrote a second draft, and despaired.  ‘ I thought very, very seriously about abandoning it, because I just thought, Hell – the distance between this and something anybody is ever going to want to read is too great for me to span.’”  (Excerpt from the article “Watch Closely” by Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker October 16, 2017.)

That book turned out to be “Manhattan Beach,” Egan’s latest novel – her fifth.

Needless to say, she is a prolific writer who has moments of fear and loathing.  So is it just possible that a cigar blender out there is in her shoes more than once?  And wouldn’t it be fair to say that the possibility that the attempt at blend number five does NOT make it and that the successful one is maybe seventh or eighth down the line or whatever level it comes out to be?

So I ask a simple question, “Why do these newbies who come out with their first cigar become outraged when it just doesn’t jell?  How could that be?  I’m me!  I’m a blender.  Why doesn’t everyone who tries my cigar go into erotic rapture?  It’s so simple.  It takes time.  And that is a commodity that is unknown to some of these new guys and gals.  Hell, I get everything I want fast.  Why not this blend?  The cigar smoker must be crazy.

No, the cigar smoker isn’t nuts – it’s the blender with unrealistic aspirations that are simply going to take time.

And you know what?  Maybe you or your blender just aren’t good at it and it’s time to move on to chocolate or porn.  

True talent comes through.  It will.  Always does.  Even though Thomas Edison was one of the greatest failures of all time, he had it.  The right invention eventually surfaced.  Very often the hopeful cigar blender simply drowns.  That’s life.  Move on and let the genuine brilliance surface to the top.

(Photograph by Erik Madigan Heck)

Alison, Dante, Cigars and Me.


She said it would fit on the plane.  So I bought it.  Now I have another transitional work of art by Alison Jardine.  I fell in love with it the minute I laid my eyes on it.  We were in Texas for a wedding and had to pass through the famed city.  So why would I miss meeting with Alison in her new studio?

So we got there right on time 2:30 on Sunday.  We parked the car not far at all from one of the oldest structures in one might call an area that’s going through a renaissance or gentrification.  The entire area was in pretty bad shape up until a few years ago as I understand it.

“It’s called Deep Ellum.  The name is from how the original residents pronounced the street.  The building is located on Elm.  The area was originally called Deep Elm, but the pronunciation “Deep Ellum” by early residents led to its current, official name. Because of its proximity to the Houston and Texas Central railroad, the area was also referred to as “Central Track.

As one of Dallas’ first commercial districts for African-Americans and European immigrants, Deep Ellum is one of the most historically significant neighborhoods in the city. In 1888, Robert S. Munger built his first cotton gin factory, the Continental Gin Company, in a series of brick warehouses along Elm Street and Trunk Avenue. The business grew to become the largest manufacturer of cotton-processing equipment in the United States, and the space has now been converted to loft apartments.” (Deep Ellum)

At first, the owners of the building could hardly give the spaces away.  Now it’s prime real estate.and who but artists of all stripes can handle the more shall we say a bit more primitive setting.  It’s filling up fast and that is where Alison decided to set up her new studio.

So when she let us in I could immediately feel the calm that I’m sure Alison experienced when she was searching for the right place to continue her work. I could feel the spirit of a woman who loves what she does.  She teaches at the nearby University during the day and when she is finished with the students she can escape to a place where she can create what’s in her soul in this perfect atelier.

The second she appeared and I finally was able to meet her in person it was as if we had known each other for years.  No awkward moments.  The chemistry was between that of an artist I respect and a person who really does appreciate her style of work.  I am finding that I am magnetically attracted to those with the entrepreneurialism whose world is more of the spiritual bent.

dante and alison

We began to be given the tour if you will.  I have to admit I just walked away and began to be pulled into the works on the walls and even those she no doubt is experimenting with.

It was during this alone time that I began to focus on my penchant for those who have the moxie to do what they need to do to absorb and project their ideas.  My mind went to a variety of disciplines.  One being art, the other the manufacturing of cigars.

Is what Alison does that much different than the manufacturing of micro-boutique cigars?  Hardly.  An oftimes solo operation with the perfect balance of the traditional aspects of the work, edging into the technological turmoil that seems to be constantly at our heels for the few who want to share what’s in their hearts in their unique manner.

It was at this moment I noticed on her wall a painting that spoke to me.  Even though I just went through a variety of pieces that I mentally swooned over.  And in one case, one that simply called out my name.  (I asked her to put it on hold.)

I went up to this piece that flooded me into two diverse worlds.  Melodically my mind began to play an atonal contrapuntal dance between cigars and this masterpiece of emotion.  Where?  I began to think of two very brave women who are taking the risk to produce their own cigars.

One hopes to manufacturer her cigars in Haiti, the other will be made in the Dominican Republic.

Haiti’s is a duo, Anacaona and Reina Del Nilo;  the other has been lovingly branded Passion.  Both of these women are creating what their souls are asking them to do.  To share their visions with the cigar world, just as Alison is sharing her thoughts, her emotions, and loves through her artwork.

I firmly believe that God has planted a seed in these three women to bring to us moments that we will cherish, remember, and share with others.

Alison packed the painting called “We Live Forever in Desire,” based on a quote from Dante and suggested I bring it on the plane with me.  I followed her lead.  But I have to admit I was somewhat upset when they pulled me out of the line and said “What’s in the package?  It measured 3’ x 2’ x 1′.  I told them and they took my painting and gently placed it on an aluminum table and ran an electronic device over and under the plastic covered package.

“I’m going to have to unwrap it”.  My heart dropped.  Shit.  Shit.  Shit.  I didn’t plead but I tried to explain that the masking tape was fragile and had only a modicum of stickiness left to rewrap.  The woman with bluish latex gloves began to unwrap the painting.  

“Is this really necessary?”

“Sir.  If you do not allow me to see what is in this package we will detain you and you will miss your flight and then it will be your responsibility to find a way to get it and you to your intended destination.”  What could I do?  I watched helplessly as she began to gently take off the tape surrounding the artwork.

I began to help.  Very abruptly she stopped what she was doing and with a stern look of authority warned me to back away and not to touch anything and if I persisted she would confiscate the cardboard package.  I moved away

And then she stopped halfway through the search, looked deeply into the darkness of the package and to my surprise began to rewrap the painting.  “I can see that there is only one other object in there.”   I told her it was a small print.

And as gently as picking up an infant, we both began to retape the cardboard and stretch the plastic back on.

She even went out of her way to find tape that had printed on it, ”Inspected by the TSA.”

We both finished and I thanked her for her understanding.  She?  Never a smile.  Never a you’re welcome.  Only a “Next”

dante plastic.jpg

I took the approved package to the plane where they found a place to store it during the flight and at that point, all I wanted to do was have a cigar and cry.

It seems those with a mission to accomplish will do so – no matter the difficulties they encounter.

To borrow a phrase from one my avid blog readers, “Life is good.”