He Knew What Hit Him.

sonny

If you can’t handle rejection, don’t think that because you adore cigars and becoming a cigar broker is going to shield you from the psychological pain that you will feel when your cigars are given short shrift.

“Oh, but I love cigars, the camaraderie, the community, the romance, the friendships that are created when I’m out there every day.”

Land back down on the ground my friend.  There isn’t a rep out there whose skin is thick enough to honestly tell you, “Not to one’s taste doesn’t matter.  It’s just business.”

If you tell me that, you have swallowed the pill that dissolves every day in your idyllic imagination.  Rejection in any business is very difficult to get used to.  And to be gut honest, you really never get used to it.

Yes, it’s a fact of life.  You can tell yourself that it doesn’t bother you, but if you’re human, it causes a cramping twinge in the pit of your being.  

So what do you do?  A sane person would call it a day and become a solitary writer, an artist, or a musician.  But you know something, you get pushed aside in those businesses as well.  So what do you do?  You make a decision that you will manage the pain.  You can’t ignore it.  Even a professional boxer will tell you that that last uppercut hurt like hell.  The burning pain is real.  You never really can ignore it.

No.  The aches and soreness never go away.  So why do it?  That’s a rhetorical question not even the best of ’em can answer.  Even the rewards, aka the money made, makes little difference.

You know why you stick around and put up with the abuse?  Hope.  You have convinced yourself that there is an underlying chance that the constant rejection won’t destroy you to the point of giving up.  But as one who has been in the cigar broker business for near 12 years, it still hurts.  If I am honest with myself hearing “No,” still feels like a sucker punch from Rosa Klebb in “From Russia with Love.”  And the rejection will continue to take the wind out of me until I make up my mind to do something else.

Get out of the tunnel of love future cigar brokers.

Welcome to reality.  

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Cigar Post Number 728 Blue.

frozen windshield

What do I do when I finish a post?  (This one will be No. 728.)  

I exhale.

And then I experience this awesome pre-rush rollercoaster of adrenaline throughout my entire body that I’m going to do it all over again.

Some of my posts are in draft form, they sit and intricately marinate just in case I want to change things around at a later date.   Others are written and published within hours.

But regardless of their place in the queue, I write every day.  When a post will be published I never know.  Unless it’s of such a current nature that to hold it back would be a disservice to the readers.  Yet, if that happens, I get this annoying, itching compulsion to keep it out of cyberspace.

Part of my skill or style is not to jump on the “seconds to live” bandwagon and stay in the present all the time.  It’s a controlled spasm I’ve conquered.  It seems that I have mastered the ability to manage that erotic compulsion thus allowing me to hold it in rather than to blast out an immediate release of a post – regardless of timeliness.

So, back to question numero uno, what do I do when I complete a post – vide supra.

And then it’s back to work scraping the brain cells of my imagination.  It may be an idea that comes out of the blue, a gestating complex of swirling thoughts, or a single notion that is brought to my attention by an article, a vivid personality, a book, a single word, a discordant note or a period of silence from so many hiding places that are always nearby.  

I will gather them up and pick and choose and thus begin the process of sculpting the invisible into a malleable form of editorial copy that wondrously appears upon the screen or on paper (one of my favorite feelings – the tactile sensation of a pen or pencil scratching across micro-milled paper).

I mentally absorb the solidifying mixture and begin to mold it into several hundred words that somehow are taken to completion.  Keep in mind that Jazz trumpeter Miles Davis practiced his horn daily, John Coltrane played his sax for hours, Buddy Rich hit the skins more than any man on earth.  Legends all.  Mixed metaphors, perhaps.  Forgive me. But the intensity is the key.

So I write and I write and I write and I write and I write and I write and I write – trying to intimately comprehend every subtle nuance of each word I use so that I am able to compose each sentence to flow like honey from Winnie the Pooh’s favorite beehive.

********

Writing is one of the greatest feelings on Earth and I defy anyone to dispute it.  The virtual act of creating something out of nothing is haunting.  Honing, refining, and polishing an idea that never existed before I seized it, places me in pure rapture.  And, then . . . over time, once all the proper words are in place and the final copy is staring me in the face – an articulate post by the very act of my persistent, tenacious will is published.

(Photo credit to a great FB guy.  I apologize I cannot find your name.)  

Cigars and Donald Judd Writings

judd

Cigar Aficionado, Cigar Press, Cigar Snob, Cigar Journal, and whatever other cigar publications I’m leaving out, write about all sorts of things, but their primary goal is to offer interesting (keyword there) content about cigars.   Why is it I can so rarely get all the way through one of the articles that are published in any one of those and other cigar-related magazines?  

I really don’t have the answer, save for the idea that I may not be interested in the subject matter, or I know about the subject matter, or the subject matter is too blatantly presented.  Just an example: October 2017 Cigar Aficionado in the table of contents there are 25 articles.  Of the 25, six are what I would call cigar-related.  That’s about a quarter of the articles with topics such as, “Tasting: The 10 Cigar Essentials; Is the Party Over (?); Moments to remember (photos); and, Made for You.”  The latter is simply a Buy Page with sophisticated items to purchase for the formidable aficionado.  In short, it’s not an article.  In Journalism, we called such a page a “filler.”  No editorial content.   

Yet I can, starting on Page 30 in October 26th’s, 2017, New York Review of Books (NYRB) read in its entirety an article titled, “A Visionary of the Real” by Jed Perl about a book I’ve never heard about: “Donald Judd Writings.”   It has 1,055 pages, is rather small (roughly 8.5” x 4.5″ x 2”), flashes a cover of blazing reddish orange and costs $39.95 (paper). And I find more fascinating intimations to the cigar lifestyle and cigars in general than are contained in every one of the articles I mentioned in CA?  I won’t tally the number of stories in the other publication in deference to space and time.  Why is that possible?

I find this to be an intellectual dilemma that has its roots in the old journalistic adage that in order for an article to be engaging, it has to be understood and appreciated by a sixth grader.  Yes, an apothegm with solid truth running through it.  But is it necessary for the writer to have that philosophical bent in mind in order to draw readers to a publication’s copy?  Methinks not.

But as I go through the article by Mr. Perl, I find more information that contains truisms about cigars and life in general than the publications that are supposed to draw us into specific areas of the world of cigars so that we may vicariously visit a topic through the author’s actual experience and/or research.  

Judd was not only an artist but a critic as well. But what he had to say can be magnetized to cigars if only the time is taken to appraise an article that expands our thoughts rather than one that has everything spelled out for us.  To paraphrase the great Red Auberauch, This is a match.  This is the foot of the cigar.   “ . . . et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  (Thank you, Yul Brynner.) 

Relate some of these quotes from the article to a cigar and its cultural milieux:

“It’s possible to think and act without being simple and fanatic and it’s possible to accept uncertainty, which is nearly everything, quietly.”

“This fiercely independent artist belongs in a long line of American aesthetes who embraced an unadorned style . . . ”

“Most works finally have one quality . . . the thing as a whole, its quality as a whole, is what is interesting.”

“(Jackson) Pollock, Judd believed, wasn’t concerned with emotions but with ‘sensations.’ “Emotions were evolutionary; sensations were immediate.  ‘The dripped paint in most of Pollock’s paintings is dripped paint,’” he wrote.  “It’s that sensation, completely immediate and specific, and nothing modifies it.”  

“(Judd) saw a situation in which ‘a lot of new artists’ had ‘developed their work as simply their own work.  There were almost no groups and there were no movements.’  He believed not in world history but in what he called local history.”

You can see that the critical aspects of the cigar industry are not specifically spelled out, nor should they be – this article appertains to an artist, not a blender.  But the full picture isn’t projected out in front of you and is written in interesting and cogent sentences that challenge the reader rather than just give off a squinty, dissipating spark that flies off into space from a flint rock.

Remember that Judd wanted to be in the now, as most cigar smokers want to be.  From the very beginning, Judd felt that the key was in the distinction between emotions and sensations.  Same as what any cigar smoker is looking for.  

Ok, I guess I just find things that relate.  Maybe I’m all wet.  But I would like to read an article or two from the major magazines that test my intellectual prowess rather than ABC everything out for me.

When Cigars Mean Nothing.

rose bed

Rose is dead.

And I’m crying.  Rose was my Mom’s roomie at the facility she has stayed now for quite some time.  I think I last saw Rose alive just before I left for the Dominican.  I’m asking myself, “Why am I crying?”

I never knew Rose very well.  She was such a sweet lady, thin as a twig.  Quiet, and so fragile.  She used to eat with the rest of the residents on the floor in the dining room, but lately, she stayed in her room where food was brought in to her to eat.

I just found out this afternoon.  She passed this morning while my Mom was having her breakfast and I was placing orders here at the office.  So many things going on simultaneously.  The world never stops.

But I believe that Rose knew what was going to happen in the early hours.  My father-in-law knew.  It must be like a marble silently swirling around and around and around in a conically shaped space and only Rose could clearly see the entrance.  

And when her time came, I’m quite sure she began to relax because she knew she would soon be in Heaven.   And when she got there, standing tall, she met God with His arms outstretched and a huge smile on His face.  And without nary a word being said between them, took her in His arms and gave her a huge hug.  And the brilliance of cascading white light filled the space with rapturous intensity.

It’s times like this when nothing really matters in the world of cigars – not brands, numbers, sizes, types of tobacco, sales, essences, flavors, processing ideas, fermentation, discounts, finding an errant stem in an otherwise perfect cigar, wrappers, fillers, binders – nothing matters but Life.

If you could ask Rose, she’d tell you.  She’s full of life now – eternal life.  God bless you, Rose.

A Late Night Cigar.

ashtray

(Click on the link below and then read this article.  What an experience.)

Sometimes a late night cigar is silly.  Especially in the Midwest.  The temperature changes are abrupt and can affect the cigar’s wrapper.  Like tonight, this one is splitting and disintegrating like a stale cracker.  It’s not the cigar’s fault.  Chalk one up for Mother Nature.

It’s cold in the PRESTO Cigar Lounge (Open 24/7), despite the new heat source.  I’m sleepy.  Yet, this how I unwind.  And it’s stupid late.  I just got home from a very hectic day trying to catch up from my trip.  What am I doing in the lounge at this hour?

This is how I clear my thoughts.  I have an active, kinetic mind.  It’s difficult for me to unwind.   Hell, it took me three days before I began to chill in the Dominican and begin to allow that magnificently humid and warm climate to permeate my body and soul.

So you can imagine how difficult it can be to be dropped back into this clime and routine and relax after a full day of work.  But here I am – smoking a cigar.  My eyelids are beginning to droop and I’m becoming drunk drowsy and I don’t even drink.  But I have an incredible memory – if you get my drift.

I can feel my smile beginning to return.  My heart rate is slowing down.  It doesn’t matter a whit to me that the cigar is literally falling apart.  The fact is – I’m not.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPMojig7oOE&index=4&list=RD3TNK916Pjto

Curb Your Cigar.

seven hour cigar

Seven hours ago I gently placed a half-smoked cigar in front of the rear tire of my car in a parking lot.  I had an appointment in a building that does not allow smoking.  I was going to be there an hour, an hour and fifteen at best.  I would then go back, pick up my cigar, relight that delicious caramel-licorice flavoured pacifier with its brush of singed hickory-fermented tobaccos –  and be on my way.   

But the tables turned on me and I had to stretch the meeting off-site, switch cars and head on back to the office in a different car – without my cigar.  Time flew by.  But the reality was that I had to go back and retrieve my automobile.  So I caught a ride and away we went so I could get my car back home.

When I got there in the darkened lot, two cars were there.  Mine and another bloke’s.  I graciously thanked the driver of the other car and headed on over to mine.  As I began to move toward it, I saw lying next to the curb an object that looked mighty damn familiar. Was it?  Could it?  Will I become a saint because I witnessed a miracle?

Yes!

It was my cigar!

I knew it was my cigar of seven hours earlier.  It had to be.  Most likely the wind had to have blown it to the curb where it finally came to rest trembling in the chilly night air.

As nonchalantly as Jack Benny walked onto the stage at Universal Studios Hollywood, and with nary a whit of hesitation, I picked it up, flicked off the ashes and headed to my car.

Now, even though I had the faith of the Papacy beneath my wings that this indeed was my cigar, I reached into my pocket and, with blind precision, clipped about a tad less than half an inch from the end.  I returned my hand to my jean’s pocket and located the lighter. And not more than 20 seconds later I had a glowing ember on the end of that sucker and blue smoke filling the cabin. I backed out of the space the car had occupied for almost a work day and took in another huge draw.  Ahhhhhhhhh.  Indeed, this was my cigar.

As I drove through the streets, I could tell it was warming up to its old original self,  forgiving me for forcing such harsh conditions upon it.

Would I ever admit to such an act?  Am I that desperate for a smoke that I would chance picking up a cigar off the street that ended up in the gutter, and may have been the one that I placed under my tire so I could retrieve it in sixty to ninety minutes?  

No.  I would not.

Birth of a Broker.

hoffman doas

“By common consent, this is one of the finest dramas in the whole range of the American theater.” —Brooks Atkinson, The New York Times

Tears came to my eyes this afternoon while I was having lunch at Culver’s.  It hadn’t been a good day.  And like slow flowing maple syrup, “Death of a Salesman” entered my mind.  I never saw the original with Lee J. Cobb playing Willy Loman the main character in Arthur Miller’s tour de force – I wasn’t even born yet.  But I have seen Dustin Hoffman’s performance via YouTube.  Excellent.  

I have read the play many times.  And it was while I was googling the summary of the play, that this phrase erupted off the screen and in essence, is a commentary that the drama, as a whole, is –  “The harsh criticism of the American Dream.”  And that’s when the tear began to warm my skin.

Is it?  Really?  When the audience at the Morosco Theater in New York City first saw the play on February 10, 1949, no one, not methinks even Arthur Miller, the playwright, had an inkling that it would play for 742 performances.  And, have such an impact on the enduring philosophy of why we do what we do.

Briefly, quoting from http://www.sparknotes.com, “Death of a Salesman, Miller’s most famous work, addresses the painful conflicts within one family, but it also tackles larger issues regarding American national values. The play examines the cost of blind faith in the American Dream. In this respect, it offers a postwar American reading of personal tragedy in the tradition of Sophocles’ Oedipus Cycle. Miller charges America with selling a false myth constructed around a capitalist materialism nurtured by the postwar economy, a materialism that obscured the personal truth and moral vision of the original American Dream described by the country’s founders.”

Why now?  Why today?  Why such a scathing thought had I?  The answer?  I don’t know. But I do know that if we continue to do what we do, the way we have always done it, the picture of our endurance will be blurred and will no longer cast a shadow of hope but one of pessimism.  

Willy was a salesman for 35 years, always keeping in his thoughts the ideal personae of “a legendary salesman named Dave Singleman,” who was partially responsible for convincing Willy to go into sales.  But as it turns out, Dave was Dave and Willy is Willy. What Dave experienced was not what Willy hoped to achieve.  And in the end, Willy Loman sees himself as a failure.

The burger was good.  Hot.  Juicy and flavorful.  I scribbled more notes on my napkin and refilled my cup with DewBeer and got back into the car.  The tears had almost completely evaporated by now and I was on my way to another stop.  

So far, this year has been one of the most successful I’ve had in the cigar broker business. I just couldn’t figure out why this small psychological “bump in the road” occurred today, at this time. It seemed to be a rather odd juxtaposition of recalling the fantasy of a playwright’s elements of doomed and controversial thought adjacent to the actual booming success I have been experiencing.

As I lit up my cigar in the car, I began to feel the wind blowing through the open window and a slight coolness of where the tears had decided to dry.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPoYmQ9My_E