Category Archives: Commentary

Points of View. See. There.

van goo

If you’ve ever been to the Art Institute, MoMA, Chicago’s MCA or any art museum, you no doubt have ambled by a group of adults or kids who are in front of a particular work of art and there’s a docent explaining some particular aspect of a painting, sculpture, or artifact.  If you listen closely you can get in on the guide’s expertise.

I meander up to as many groups as I desire just to hear what the man or woman is pointing out.  I’m amazed what I can pick up about a particular painter or sculptor. Now the fun part is if you already know about a particular artist and what the guide is pulling from the work.  

Very often I hear about shapes, the repetition of angles and most often light and how it is used to emphasize a framed masterpiece.  Case in point, when I was in MoMA in New York recently, I happened to stop by one of the most famous paintings in the world – Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”

Vincent van Gogh painted “Starry Night” in 1889 during his stay at the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Van Gogh lived well in the hospital; he was allowed more freedoms than any of the other patients. If attended, he could leave the hospital grounds; he was allowed to paint, read, and withdraw into his own room. He was even given a studio. While he suffered from the occasional relapse into paranoia and fits – officially he had been diagnosed with epileptic fits – it seemed his mental health was recovering.” (www.vangoghgallery.com). 

The crowd was a minimum of some 30 odd art lovers trying to not only take selfies with van Gogh’s signature painting while trying to hear the information they were privy to listen to while the guide spoke.

It was as fascinating to see as watching a torcedor roll a cigar for the first time in say, Honduras, Nicaragua, or the Dominican Republic.  Now, without sounding too egotistical, I am very familiar with the painting so hearing what I already know repeated in the discussion gave me a sense of empowerment that gave my ego a boost.

Same with the cigar roller.  I’ve seen the process dozens of times and I always notice that some people are completely mesmerized by the dexterity of human hands and pay very close attention to his or her every move.  

Others – and I observed this with both the van Gogh and the cigar roller – are not hypnotized by what is being explained or the skills of the roller.  I used to get so annoyed that I used to think, “Look at those assholes. The know-it-alls.”

But that’s not the case at all.  Oh sure, it may be that way for a few, but I’ll bet you those who are not magnetized to the museum’s speaker or the roller are either quite familiar with the artwork or the intricate process of making a cigar. So they begin taking in other things around them.  I wish I had the nerve to ask them why they aren’t listening or watching, but I just keep my mouth shut.  I keenly observe their actions.

And since I find myself oftimes in the latter group, I have discovered that I still learn – but just about something else that’s indirectly related.  I love to watch people and I find that their immediate attention is what I find so fascinating at the time and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  

Like when I took the shot of the painting, I was able to weasel my way right to the front of the group, take the picture and move on to other artists’ work in the gallery that caught my attention. Why?  Most of the people weren’t paying attention to me.

Same way with the rollers.  I often find myself not so much focused on the skills of the torcedor, but rather the face of the individual doing the rolling.  Is he or she bored, engrossed in the process, or feeling electric because he or she has the rapt attention of so many people? That must feel fantastic.

And it does.  

I get such a rush when I write.  I’ve seen people struggle with creating a letter or getting a homework assignment completed and it seems to take them an eternity.  Not fun.  For me the more complex, the more I get out of the end result. It’s what makes this blog so much fun to write. I get this intellectual and rapturous physical surge creating it.

I hope you’re one of those who get high when reading it.  Thank you.

Me.

Heading out!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOVW938sr0k

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Why would I do that?

linarus redux

A few days ago I did the most unusual thing.  I sent a text to the national sales manager of a boutique cigar I adore and came right out and asked if I could rep it.  I did at one point, but I had a bit of a rough start with the owner in the very beginning, so who knows what his impressions of me will be at this later date.  I don’t quit easily.

No, I’m not going to name the cigar.   All I’ll say is that it has the most fantastic flavor that is consistent and teeters on the point of becoming addictive. I have a few of them left from the samples he provided before, and I’m going to smoke one tonight when I walk Flo.  Give it another test run and see if it has what I am remembering.

Why would I go to that extreme?  It’s gold – 24k is pure but too soft to use, so it is mixed with other metals to strengthen it. Note that 18k gold is 75% pure.  But I think he’s using 24k to keep the temper of the cigar at its freshest. In short, akin to a puro.  

Few cigars excite me to the point of reconnecting with the manufacturer.  Too, by now I would figure a rep is in place. But by asking the right questions, the answers led me to believe that the company is in good hands on the national level.  Having a rep, however, would relieve the manager’s tasks overall – at least in the Midwest. No one can do it alone. God knows I’ve been going it alone since day one. And as Ringo says, “It don’t come easy.”  You know it.

So I’ll wait for a reply – if any.  Though I’m not very good at that skill.  But I have a choice?  Remind me, and I’ll let you know one way or the other of the decision.

Wish them luck.

The Value in Vulgarity.

crushed can

That can is the direct result of absolute frustration.  I find that if I take the aforementioned emotion out on an inanimate object the reactive retort is usually predictable.  So what irritation caused the destruction of the can? Why was I so annoyed that I had to crush an object to feel at ease?  

It’s because I cannot comprehend why an established cigar manufacturer would be so unaccountable in getting back to me regarding my contractual representation of one of his cigar brands.  I’m completely baffled by slothfulness.  (Or maybe he changed his mind?)

My business is to introduce new brands of cigars to prospective buyers.  The object is not only to make money, but it’s to jump-start building brand recognition.  I visit the lounge, the store, the shop and with my persuasive techniques and samples.  I have the owner or manager light one up.  And then if there is a lifted-eyebrow moment, I will be fortunate and make the sale.

Then between visits, if the cigar catches on, the next time I stop in, I will be greeted with a smile and not a scowl.  A smile means money has been generated.  In fact, I may even be offered a pop, or like the other day an invitation to lunch.

So with the prospect of making more money and slowly building the brand, why is the manufacturer not on the phone, sending me a text, or emailing me faster than the speed of light?  I DON’T HAVE A CLUE!  I do give the manufacturer the benefit of a doubt though.  Life does get in the way of expediency. 

But after what I consider a reasonable period of time, I quote Sonja who always seemed to have the right answer for this type of situation.  Do you know what her return to serenity was?

“F++k It !!!

 

Cigar musing number 4629.

golden age notes

Got back from the field early today.  Having a cigar in the PRESTO Cigar Lounge (Open 24/7) because there was half a cigar left so I stopped in to finish it.  The radio is scratchy. Quite annoying really, but right now I prefer that to silence.

Finally secured an order from a shop that should be a model for all lounges. But I’m still in the embryonic stage of decision making.  

“Look at them guys lookin’’ at me like I’m a fool

But aww, deep down inside they know I’m cool

I said, “Now” I said, “Now, the moment of truth has finally come”

When I have to show you some, some of that cool jerk

Now, give me a little bit of drums by himself there

Now, give me a little bit a bass with those 88’s” (“Cool Jerk” by The Capitols)

My persona is being compared to that of Ernest Hemingway because of the beard?  You can’t think cigar, cigar, cigar.

Karen Carpenter couldn’t cope.  Sad.  That voice could soothe the Middle East.  But there’s always conflict.  Maybe it’s because they can’t listen?  Focus. Stay focused.

So when the day goes well, I take a break. The effort is worth it.  It’s the push and shove that gets to you.

Smoking a Golden Age by Saga.  Perfect burn.  Mellow flavors.  Copy reads “It narrates (cigars can’t talk) better than words can describe, the history of a family’s tradition in tobacco, delivering a cigar much like the ones they used to smoke in the times of Hemingway.”  An odd juxtaposition, coincidence, wry.  Me.  Ernest. Saga. Beard. (By the by, “according to myth, Ernest Hemingway’s favorite drink was the Mojito, which he drank often at one of his favorite bars, La Bodeguita del Medio, in Havana, Cuba.{eater.com})

Sun is out.  I’m still at PRESTO.  The flexibility of independence.  The bane of individualism. You must have discipline.  The latter is not genetic, but a sharpened highly-honed learned skill.

“Twinkle,” my phone is ringing.  Wait.   A follow-up email.  You have to stay on top of things.  Regardless.

“All I want is what I – have coming to me.  All I want is my fair share.” (Lucy from “A Charlie Brown Christmas – original track.)  Is that too much to ask you, I ask you?

Smoking a great cigar that is half enjoyed is like having your favorite song playing on the radio (87.7 FM) just as you pull into your driveway or spot and it grabs you like a magnetar would attract iron filings – it’s virtually impossible to get out of the car.  You stay put and listen to the whole damn song. I sit there and smoke the whole damn cigar. Could I toss it? Turn off the radio? Sure. But what’s a molten moment of sizzling ecstasy worth to you, uh?  

Madonna sucks on this fingernails-on-the-chalkboard staticky radio.  Buts that’s why I’m out here – to finish my cigar. My choice. Not the sales manager, boss, or the “Massa.”  My doctor once said to me, “Your business. Your plan.” Spot on.  Gorgeous.

But this isn’t made up.  This is my mind whizzing through thoughts – impressions of an independent cigar broker.  I just have had to learn to like roller coasters – tall, scary, vertical vomit comets.  I hate ‘em.

Ja, the radio has lost the guttural, electronic insolent chatter.  It’s custard. Kopp’s. Smooth.  An anteater’s delight. It’s stupefying.  A lot more pleasant to listen to.  “Take it – to the limit, one more tiiiiiiiiiimmmmme.”  I’ve adapted.

Corporate is being cooped up like a chicken in a cage.  You can see the outside, but you ain’t never gonna walk “da Earth, like Kung Fu.”  Sun is down. Getting chilly. Gray. Cigar sill smoking great. One more chorus and I can get my ass into the warm house.  

Maybe the air, the sun, or lack thereof has allowed the radio waves to penetrate the sound gristle thereby smoothing out the Tom Waits cackle.

Ending the day feeling good.  Like chocolate with hot peppers in it.  Close those eyes. “California dreamin’ (California dreamin’).” (Mamas and the Papas)

“No matter how they toss the dice, it had to be.”  (Turtles)

Finish that Golden Age.

To a close, man.

Buttery in-the-shell escargots.  (Elitist Gastronomy)

Just Another Industry To Fall.

industry to fall

Song Parody Written by Irv Cigar Broker

(To be sung to the tune of Pink Floyd’s, “The Wall”  Originally Written by Roger Waters.  Mixed by Steven Hyde.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXgdMmYG8aU

Click on link, return to post and sing along)

 

All And All We’re Just Another Industry To Fall

The FDA will own the scepter

Leaving us a memory

There will be laws passed by Congress

Thus destroying our industry

What did you leave behind for me?

If we don’t do something we’re another industry to fall.

If we don’t do something we’re another industry to fall.

 

(Music, Effects, and Voice Overs)

 

We don’t need no regulations

We don’t need FDA control

No dark sarcasm in cigar shops

Your blatant ignorance will show

Hey G-men, leave cigars alone

If we don’t do something we’re another industry to fall.

If we don’t do something we’re another industry to fall.

 

(Music, Effects, and Voice Overs)

 

We don’t need no taut restrictions

We don’t need outside control

No dark sarcasm in cigar shops

Lest your stupidity will show

Hey G-men, leave cigars alone

If we don’t do something we’re another industry to fall.

If we don’t do something we’re another industry to fall.

 

(Music, Effects, and Voice Overs)

 

We don’t need to bow to pressure

We just need to be left alone

We have seen the writing on the wall

Don’t think we need rules or checks at all

No!  No!  Leave cigars alone.

If we don’t do something we’re another industry to fall.

If we don’t do something we’re another industry to fall.

The End

 

 

What category cigars fit into.

seven

I often say to people jokingly that I had to keep one of my vices so I chose cigars.  It gets a laugh.  But in the pursuit of pleasure, vices play their roles. Are cigars a vice?  

********

According to The Catechism of the Catholic Church Vices can be classified according to the virtues they oppose or also be linked to the capital sins which Christian experience has distinguished, following St. John Cassian and St. Gregory the Great. They are called “capital” because they engender other sins, other vices.  They are pride, avarice (greed), envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia (emphasis in original). (www.catholicexchange.com)

********

I’m watching ”Se7en” directed by David Fincher, and written by Andrew Kevin Walker. A tale of obsession about when retiring police Detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) tackles a final case with the aid of newly transferred David Mills (Brad Pitt), they discover a number of elaborate and grizzly murders. They soon realize they are dealing with a serial killer (Kevin Spacey) who is targeting people he thinks to represent one of the seven deadly sins. Somerset also befriends Mills’ wife, Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow), who is pregnant and afraid to raise her child in the crime-riddled city.

I’m in the office inside, not at the PRESTO Cigar Lounge (Open 24/7) so no cigar tonight. The movie is being played on my laptop, which for the longest time wouldn’t work. But whatever was wrong fixed itself.  

The movie is grisly, to say the least, but to set the tone, Fincher wanted the opening credits to veer it as far away from Brad Pitt the heartthrob, and Morgan Freeman the gentlemanly driver in “Driving Miss Daisy” as possible.

“So he turned to title designer Kyle Cooper, a virtuoso but as yet inexperienced movie credit designer, to forge a black-as-midnight sequence that set the pitch, plot, and characterization of the noir thriller. Cooper leaped at the chance to frontload the film with John Doe-dosed menace. “I was really into horror movies when I was a kid,” he remembers, “and I used to get frustrated when they’d hold back the monster to the very end. It occurred to me to get an idea of the killer before they finally catch him. We wanted to get the audience curious about what this guy is going to be. He has to be super, super evil.”

What Cooper conjured up was one of the great title sequences. A stylised mash-up of scratched frames and fuzzed-up, glitchy graphics set to a remix of Nine Inch Nail’s Closer, it was shot over two days, taking a further, painstaking five weeks to cut together. It was deemed by the New York Times to be “One of the most important design innovations of the 1990s,” and has proved almost as influential as the film itself.” (www.empireonline.com)

I first saw only the first half of the movie when a male victim is discovered in a bed and has been left to rot to death by the serial killer illustrating Sloth.  I was thrown off my sick meter when in the middle of the investigation the man on the bed, void of what anyone would call the human condition, coughs and scares the hell out of everyone.  Panic ensues and I click off the movie.

But I was obsessed with what happens next and was dutifully surprised when my son told me had the film.  But he suggested I watch a Tom Cruise Sci-Fi flick instead. I tried, but it turned out to be a bit ridiculous and I pulled it from the slot and slid “SeVen” in.

The atmosphere created is dark, dank, and far beyond any film noir ever produced in the 40s through to when this film was released – a noir masterpiece.  It rained in many of the scenes adding to the thickness of the sickness that can sluice its way into the minds of man.

New York at its worse is captured and the casting by a trio of geniuses Kerry Barden, Billy Hopkins, and Suzanne Smith made the film into what would become one of the best of its kind of 1995.

The seven deadly sins are usually attached to Catholicism, but in the end, they are placed on this earth by Our Creator for Christians to navigate through life and prove their loyalty to the Father.  For this, the church created the seven heavenly virtues of Chastity, Abstinence, Liberality, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, Humility.  Not as alluring as the evil that seems to dominate humankind.

“I’m sick of all this insanity,” a conversation ensues between the two men.  “This is a job!” The patina of the colors matches the exasperation of the characters.  Even though the hues, the drab, burnt, foggy prismatic wax choices that add to the cloudy stink that we can only imagine.  A bucket of vomit. Piss. Shit. Yes. It’s us if we are left alone to atone for the infusion of vices.  Smell a used ashtray lately?

********

Spoiler alert.  This film ends with Spacey’s character fulfilling all his sick thoughts of the human race and how we have handled our choices.  “Go easy on him,” Detective Somerset insouciantly mumbles as his eyes follow the police car with Mills in the back held for murder.  The vices have won. They will always win unless we slide into the glossy and slick contrarian condition that the chur7ches mess gives us to choose from. Provided you even want to go there.

Are cigars a vice?  Ask further questions about candy, alcohol, and the preoccupation of what is or isn’t.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FD7w2l88dl8

 

 

Setting the cigar on fire.

robert lowell

I can’t seem to find a book that can hold my interest beyond the first chapter.  It’s just like when I can’t find a cigar that satisfies my taste yen. So what do I do?  

Well, I may be considered very lucky or even spoiled, but here’s what I do when I must solve the choice conundrum of what book to read next.  I walk over to my bookshelves and I cock my head to the right and begin to scan the titles of the books I have on each shelf.

Now I have a lot of books, in fact, I just donated over 400 to the local library because I just didn’t have any more room.  Plus my taste in subject matter has changed. However, I’m already back over the 400 donated mark now so I still have a need for more bookshelves.  I’m headed in the same direction.

Have I read them all?  Of course not. What’s the point in having a library if you’ve read every book that sits on the shelves?  So, I confess, I’m a habitual, unstoppable book buyer. My eclectic tastes in subject matter cause this affliction.  I may find a review that pricks my interest or a line that lures me into purchasing it, or it’s simply a subject matter I never tire of – such as cultural history and biographies.

But in the last month, nothing, and I mean nothing, has grabbed my thought threads so that I become entangled in the content of the book.  So far I have started six books. Some make it to the double-digit page number, some don’t even make it past the introduction.

But the above scenario is almost an exact match when it comes to finding a cigar that satisfies my tastes.  And, here is where the spoiled part comes in. I can go down to the basement storage humidor, cock my head to the right and search among the hundreds of cigars I have available to me for one that I think may satiate my tobacco desires.  Just plug in the word cigar for the book and you have a book searcher’s doppelgänger.  With a few minor variations, of course. I’m not going to smoke the book, or arrive at an introductory impasse.  You get it, yes?

But I think I may have solved my search for the book.  I slid off the shelf Robert Lowell’s “Setting the River on Fire.  A story of Genus, Mania, and Character,” by Kay Redfield Jamison. The book starts off with a poem by Robert Lowell “ Reading Myself.”

Sorry, it lost me.  But I decided to read the Prologue.  There was the hook. “The trouble with writing poetry is that you have readers, and the trouble with readers is that you have to listen to them after they have spent their time reading you.”

It took a second look, and a reread before the Prologue, page ⅹⅷ before the book’s razor-sharp words hooked me and were securely embedded in my flesh to finally say to myself, “This is the one.  I can start.” It was only three weeks to a month and six books (five if you figure Lowell’s was a second read) before I finally found what I was looking for.

So I’m letting the public in on how I accomplish some dilemmas.  And I’m hoping the boutique manufacturers that read my blog seriously consider the time and effort it takes to place their product on the shelves of cigar stores.  Even though I know I’m a bit fastidious, I know the store owner is even more so because he’s placing cold hard cash on the line. But even so. You gotta try ‘em. Maybe not all the books I buy I really like, but at least I make the effort and the minimal investment.

Same with cigars.   Don’t take it so seriously and you will have achieved opened enlightenment (开启了启蒙).

That’s when you really fly confidently without the bungee cord. Scary?  Perhaps –  but oh what a rush!