Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day and Racings Greatest Weekend 2012

Memorial Day is the day where we pay tribute to our fallen serviceman and women.

A little more than a year ago my step-son Stephen graduated boot camp.  I remember this when he, and his platoon said the Soldiers Creed

  • I am an American Soldier.
  • I am a Warrior and a member of a team.
  • I serve the people of the United States, and live the Army Values.
  • I will always place the mission first.
  • I will never accept defeat.
  • I will never quit.
  • I will never leave a fallen comrade.
  • I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.
  • I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
  • I am an expert and I am a professional.
  • I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy, the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
  • I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
  • I am an American Soldier. 

And so begins Racing's Greatest Weekend.

Saturday afternoon it was a perfect 79 degrees out on the Hillbilly Hilton.  This is a 30 degree temperature drop from Monday!

I chose the CAO Lx2, or Double Ligero to Kick-Off  Racing's Greatest Weekend. 

For my second cigar of the day I chose the Ortega Series D No. 8.  These are excellent cigars, with some pepper spice and subtle notes of cocoa and coffee...

Sunday Morning, I got up at 4:00 am and headed up to Ye Olde Pipe and Tobacco to watch the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Monaco, with some of my closest friends, LIVE!  I held true to my convictions and not smoke before 6am. At 6:40am I lit up a Vartan Churchill, a good mild mannered, almost sweet, smoke to start the day. 

Since Ye Olde Pipe and Tobacco was actually closed we brought our own sticks.  I lit my next cigar up during the Indianapolis 500.  I love this race, it has been a tradition of mine since 1984 when I saw my first IndyCar race at Pocono International Raceway.  Danny Sullivan won that race. The following year he would win the Indianapolis 500.

During the 500, I deemed the Jaime Garcia Reserva Especial Robusto, My Unofficial Official Smoke if the Indianapolis 500...35 lead changes, and a banzai move by Takuma Sato going into turn 1 on the last lap...we couldn't ask for anything more...
And my favorite part about the Indianapolis 500 is when the most famous words in racing are said., yup that right "AND ANDRETTI IS...
Slowly down the backstretch, Into the Wall, has blown up," your pick!

I got home just in time to watch the start of the NASCAR Coca Cola 600, or NASCAR's Longest Day.  My evening smoke was,  one I anticipate smoking a lot of this summer, the San Cristobal Elegancia.

I remember, when John Andretti, Tony Stewart, and Robby Gordon ran both races!  Times were different then.

The final smoke of the weekend was the Por Larranaga Cabinet Seleccion, as you can see from the photo is was full of veins and was actually cracking at the foot. I believe this was due to the poor condition at a shop that shall remain nameless.
Have a Smoking Week.. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Creature of Habit

How to fill a humidor in the simplest way...Attend events!

Last Week I attended a Gurkha Cigar Event at Ambassador Fine Cigar.  Buy 5 Get 2 Free.  I picked up a couple of Vintage Shaggy's,  The Gurkha Master Series, which has not been made for 6 years, a Cellar Reserve, and two Gurkha Evils

As apart of the event I was entered into a drawing and took home this flag.  I think it add to the decor of the Hillbilly Hilton but I was overruled and it was taken down...
I was really a creature of habit this week. I enjoyed several of my old favorites including the Patented La Flor Dominicana Air Bender Chisel (Right)--stillnot sure about the Chisel.  As you can see I punched it, on both sides!  And I followed that up with an El Tiante Habano Roasdao, a La Reloba Seleccion Sumatra, the Warlock, Both of these made Cigar Aficionado's Top 25 Cigars of 2011, and quite a few Arturo Fuente Flora Fina 8-5-8
Yesterday the the Tatuaje La Casita Criolla Robusto hit the humidor at Ambassador Fine Cigars.  This is a very well balanced medium bodied cigar.
Thanks to a couple of Boveda Packs,  I finally got my humidor stabilized! Yay Me and Boveda!  After a horrific experience with the first one RoMEo, the new Maduro from Romeo y Julieta I smoked a couple three weeks is just what the cigar needed.  Unlike the first one the wrapper on this cigar was slightly oily, with notes of cedar and hay.   Initially the draw was somewhat tight but loosed up relatively quickly. The Cigar was consistent with notes of Cedar and Hay and later cigar hints of black pepper and cayenne pepper.
Finally, Ryan Graduated from High School Yesterday.  I thought It was kind of cool that the Graduation was held at University of Phoenix , Home of the Arizona Cardinal. Welcome to the Real World, and we ain't talking about a reality series on MTV
Until Next Time....Have A Smokin Holiday Weekend...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Reflections on a Company that I Truly Loved

In 2001, I took a job, as a Regional Sales and Market Development Manager, with Freedom Communications, Publishers of the Orange County Register and Daily and Weekly Newspapers in California, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida.Freedom was owned by the family of it's Founder R C  Hoiles. Year in and year out, these are award winning newspapers and there are a few Pulitzer Prize winners in the mix too!

 In 2004, when several of the family members "wanted out"  the company was sold to a Blackstone Provident. Then things went seriously wrong.  Freedom entered into bankruptcy protection, and when it emerged from the bankruptcy it was heavily in debt.   In 2010 it sold the East Valley Tribune to 13th Street Media, a deal which included the the Northwest Valley Daily News in Surprise AZ, and the Clipper

In January of this year, Freedom Communications sold the Seymour Tribune, later in Q1 they sold off the Freedom properties in New Mexico, and this past week the Papers in Alton, IL; Jacksonville, IL; Sedalia MO; and Lima, OH.  Yesterday they sold the papers, and their ancillary publications, in Odessa, Brownsville, Harlingen, McAllen, and Weslaco, Texas.  What remains of Freedom are the Orange County Register, the Colorado Springs Gazette, and Daily Newspapers in Yuma, AZ, Victorville, Barstow, Porterville, and Marysville, CA; Burlington, Jacksonville, Kinston, Gastonia and New Bern, NC;  Panama City and the Destin, FL. and their ancilary publications which consist of weekly newspapers, Spanish language publications, magazines, custom publishing and shoppers

Shortly after the sale of the Midwest paper's was announced a Facebook Group called Freedom Family: Until we meet again, appeared. As of this morning there are 600 plus members of this group, and I can say that the ones that I know are my friends and to an extent they are part of  my family.  Jon Segal, the now retired President of Freedom Newsapers,  said it best in his post last night.  The photo is was taken at the Freedom Community Newspaper Publishers and Ad Directors Conference in Tampa Florida in possibly 2004. Disclaimer I have no idea why Arnold is in the background.

Former Freedom Colleagues:

While I am not particularly proficient or prolific in using Facebook, I was pleased to see that it is now being used to connect former Freedom associates. I confess a certain sadness as I watch the dismemberment of Freedom as we knew it. Perhaps many of you feel the same.

I know I will remember Freedom as a company that:
  •  treated associates with respect
  •  practiced community stewardship
  •  made a lot of money while publishing quality newspapers
  •  espoused individual liberty and free enterprise
  •  had owners who cared about the associates as well as the newspapers
  •  believed in autonomy 
  •  took a long term view
  • fought for open government and the  public's right to know
  • had a great group of associates who worked hard and played hard
  • had Fighting Libertarian T-shirts, (Jim, you are probably having a stroke over the word Liberterian, however as Jon said. Freedom believed in autonomy, and to that extent they accepted my Conservative Republican views and I never wore anything with the word Libertarian on it)  Freedom Schools, late night karaoke, talent shows, go  cart  races, cornhole contests and, of course, parades down Bourbon Street. Les bon temps rouler!
Indeed, those were the days.
My best personal wishes to you all. I hope you will stay in touch.


In retrospect,  Dawn you were right I never should have left and should have thought through my decision.  I am grateful for the friends and mentors that I have met through Freedom.  Yes we we're a family and we still are. 

Freedom Long May She Reign,  Till We Meet Again....


Friday, May 18, 2012

It's Friday Night and I.....Just Got Paid (Well Not Really)

It's getting hotter than the seventh layer of hell in the PHX, which mean the Hillbilly Hilton will be open limited hours, usually after the sun goes down.  Weekday smoking will be at Cigar King or Ambassador Fine Cigars in Scottsdale and weekend smoking will be at either Ambassador Fine Cigars West Valley or Fine Ash Cigars in Avondale.  Either way we will press on and have a smoking Summer!

Here we go a Joya De Nicaragua 1970 Antano, a recommendation from my good friend Chris Davidson.  Great first smoke on Sunday!  and yes that is a V-cut.

A few months back I discovered Perdomo, not sure why I never picked these up before. But I from the 10th Anniversary Champagne, to the 10th Anniversary Noir the Perdomo's are great cigars!  At left is a Estate Seleccion Vintage Maduro.  This was a good medium bodied cigar that simple yet complex.
Stuck in a rut, don't know what to smoke? Shelley at Ambassador Fine Cigars is the one to ask.  Earlier this week, I asked What am I smoking today? She pointed out this little gem.  A Paul Garmirian Gourmet Series that has been in the humidor at Ambassador Fine Cigars since 1999.  Perfectly aged it was" Smooth, Subtle, Spicy and Delicious!" And Yeah that's a V-Cut again
Alec Bradley had several events this week in the PHX,  this week included  smoking the Alec Bradley Black Market, which if I heard right is becoming their top selling cigar.  The Alec Bradley Family Blend and the Alec Bradley New York (Below)                                                                      
So here's the story on the New York. It is only available from New York State Retail tobacconists. The goal is to help them overcome the tobacco tax (75 percent of the wholesale cost of a cigar) that NY enacted in 2010.

New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothin' you can't do
Now you're in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Let's hear it for New York, New York,
New York"

Chorus from "Empire State of Mind (Featuring Alicia Keys)

This might be reserved for New York Yankee Playoff Baseball or NY Jet Football out on the Hillbilly Hilton this fall!
Summer in Phoenix, means the snowbirds head to cooler parts.  Rob Hamilton, one of the nicest guys you will ever meet,  is heading back to Minnesota on Wednesday. He left me with a parting gift a Romeo y Julieta 125th Anniversary Churchill that has been aged 9-10 yrs. I look forward to smoking this on a special occasion, possibly the birth of our first Grandchild, who should arrive somewhere around November 22nd.

What's Up Next...A Gurkha Event Saturday at Ambassador Fine Cigars, West Valley.  Why Yes I believe I will join them. Peace Out!!!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Graduation, Severe Weather, and Cigars

Getting back to the grind after a week 7 days off, is never easy, but when you are working only what amounted to a day and a half it makes it really hard to get back into the grind. Here's where the half day came into play Ryan, Rhea's youngest son,  had his Awards and Recognition Ceremony from West-MEC yesterday afternoon.  West-MEC focuses solely on Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs that prepare students to enter the workforce and pursue continuing education.  Ryan for the past two years has studied Automotive Technologies.  Essentially his course of study has been  automobile engine performance, brakes, steering and suspension and electrical components. Now that he as completed the two-year program, he can take ASE Certification Exam or further his education at a community college or University.

Wednesday was the night that was, Severe Weather hit the PHX on Wednesday Night. Dustnadoes (Dusted Devils on Steroids), Rain, Hail, High Winds, and a 30 degree drop in temps all happened within 45 minutes.  We Suffered some minor damage.

But the member's of the West Valley Cigar Club, went ahead with our monthly Meet-up and Johnny Fox's Public House. While the turnout was light, we suspect due to the weather, it was always a good time.I was really looking forward to the cigar I had chosen, the RoMEo by Romeo Y Julieta.  This is a new cigar from the folks at Romeo Y Julieta that had shipped to retailers earlier in the week.  Unfortunately, I think the heat in the car of the Rep from Altadis got to this one.  We experienced a very tight draw, no flavor at all, and the construction of the cigar was extremely poor. I have another one that I am going to keep in the humidor (which is a whole other story) for a bit before posting my tasting notes.  Its only fair. Right?
OK highlight of the week, Pete Johnson was in town Thursday and Friday.  We all know that I am a huge Tatuaje fan.  For the event I chose the Tatuaje Cojonu 2012, already a great cigar but imagine what it will be like in 2 years with age!  It was a true pleasure to meet Pete....Here's to continued success and a thanks to Vartan for having Pete at Ambassador Fine Cigars--West Valley.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A New Quest

I need an affordable way to fill my new humidor, which holds about 60 cigars.  Now aside from my friends overwhelming generosity in sharing their collection with me, becoming more friendly with the proprietors of the 86 premium cigar shops in Maricopa County, or timing my weekly cigar shop visit to the times that the sales reps are visiting the stores. I figure the easiest, and most cost effective way to do this,  is going after the "Value or Bargain Cigar." HOWEVER, life is far to short to be smoking lousy cigars.
Therefore  I am arming myself with a list, courtesy of Cigar Aficionado and their list of the of 75 Best Bargain Cigars of 2011

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Be Nice to Me, It's my Birthday...

I've been a cigar smoker since 1992, and believe it or not, I have never owned a humidor.  I always bought enough cigars to get me by for the weekend.  If I amassed any sort of quantity I would store them in one of those Humidipaks from Arturo Fuente.  Friday this all changed when my beautiful wife bought me, as a birthday present, my first humidor. I believe she bought it at Ford & Haig,  Ford & Haig is located next to the Frenzy Stamper, in Scottsdale, where she teaches paper arts.  The Humidor is very different. It's made of cork, and yes she wants to bedazzle it! Nope that ain't going to happen!

Today is my 46th Birthday.  Birthdays call for a special cigar, one you don't smoke every day, so I busted out a  Zino Platinum Z-Class 654-T.  I picked this up at Ambassador Fine Cigars several weeks ago and  left it sit in a Humidipak for about 4 weeks.  This was an thoroughly enjoyable smoke all the way to the end. 
A gorgeous day in the PHX I ended my SMOKING afternoon with a another Davidoff , the Special "R"  I was given this at the Grand Opening of Ambassador Fine Cigars-West Valley.
I've got three more days left of the furlough and I'm starting to get bored.  But no worries I will muddle through.  Looking forward to Wednesday Nights Meet-Up of the West Valley Cigar Club.  Always a good time.  But the Cigar Event of the year is Friday where Pete Johnson, the man behind Tatuaje will be at Ambassador Fine Cigars-West Valley!  I however will be at the awards/graduation ceremony for West Mec where Ryan has been enrolled in Auto Tech.  Family comes first.

Friday, May 4, 2012

My Attempt at a Journal, Pre Birthday Lunches, the first few days of Furcation and truly random thoughts

So here is the Journal.  I have an idea what to include, thanks to Chris Davidson, but  one thing I know Is that I need  careful to not make double entry's.  Only one band per cigars. 

Earlier this week, i decided to catch up on some reading...its comfortable enough to sit outside have a beverage and enjoy your favorite cigars, or Cee Gars, as Anthony would say.   The favorite on Monday night was a Vartan Zoravar Rubusto

I love food, and Tuesday PJ, Rhonda, and Lisa took me out for an early Birthday lunch. For years, I have wanted to try Zinc Bistro in Scottsdale and, even though the server dropped a lit sparkler into my lap nearly setting my junk on fire, it did not disappoint.

Another beautiful evening out on the Hillbilly Hilton,  This evening called for a Vega Fina Sumum. As  I understand it Sumum is latin for “the highest, greatest or summit.”  These VegaFina's are a great value, with big flavor. 
And here is random thought #1, Who decided we have to wear socks? I means seriously did Jesus wear socks, probably not, he wore flip flops. BFD they were more like Sandels...anyways I blame the French, they're sneaky like that!
This Cigar, a recommendation from Chris Davidson, is one I really like.  It has great flavors  but I don't know if the manufacturer knows that when you ship to Arizona you need pack the shipment with a humipak.  Berger and Argenti learned this the hard way. 
As you can see, almost immediately after toasting, the cigar gets a case of the splits. It corrected itself but still $10 a stick it shouldn't do this and I left it sit for two weeks in the humidor after acquiring it.
Greystone Cabernet, the Official Cabernet of this years Furlough.
The first cigar of this years Furlough is the Perdomo Ltd Reserve Champagne 10th Anniversary and did it pair well with the Chardonnay I was drinking at the time
Furlough day 2, I decided to spend the afternoon with some good friends, and a few people I could do without, up at Ye Olde Pipe and Tobacco in Central Phoenix.  Shelley warned me NOT to stray, I would have brought my own cigars, but that's like bringing your own bottle of wine to a restaurant. 

So purchased another Perdomo Ltd Reserve Champagne, but this time the Noir.  I have another love affair, this time its with Perdomo!   
I have the weekend, which includes the 25th Anniversary of my 21st Birthday and three  more days left of Furlough,  Stay Tuned