Thursday, April 21, 2011

Steel: Why do I love music and cigars so much?

From a very young age, I have always been into music. I can remember being 6 years old (1976), coming home from school and being fascinated with my cousins record player. He was 7 years older and that was his prized possession. If he ever knew I was rocking out to his albums, he would have picked me up like a guitar and broken me over a monitor.

Both of my parents worked so my aunt would watch me after school. I can remember begging her every day to please let me listen to the records, without much success. "Persistence pays off!" I am a big proponent of that saying. That being said, all that begging eventually got me the proverbial “Key to the Golden City”. One day I was finally allowed to listen but I was given two conditions...

1. I had to wear headphones
2. When my aunt said clean up, it was time to clean up. (This meant my cousin was coming home).

This is a lot to ask of a 6 year old, I know…but I would adhere to these conditions. Anything to get that sweet sweet hour of listening pleasure! Oh that heavenly bliss that filled my ears and molded my brain. Such great bands like KISS, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Queen, Black Sabbath, etc. This was indeed an era of musical greats.

Eventually I got my first record in 1977, KISS-Rock and Roll Over. I’ll never forget the day that I got my hands on that album. My parents and I were visiting a relative that was moving back to Italy! As we said our goodbyes, this relative turns to me like Mean Joe Green in that Coke commercial (you know the one I'm talking about? The one where he tosses his jersey to the kid that gave him a Coke? Google it if you must), and handed me one of the greatest gifts of all time. Shortly after this visit, I got a record player of my own (once again, persistence) and the rest is history.

From that point I sailed into the 80’s which brought heavy metal and with it, my passion for collecting music grew. I also started singing and playing guitar. To keep it short and sweet, I have done the whole “band” thing and I like to think that I was a pretty decent singer back in the day! Sadly, I never “made it”, but I will go on record as saying that I am proud of my non accomplishments and the ride was fun!

 So as I sit here writing my first blog, and glance over at my 4,000+ cd's, looking back I realize, that period of time was the blueprint of what would become my obsession with music!  

Where do the Cigars come in??

I don't have an exact date of when I actually started smoking cigars. I can tell you that I have smoked my fair share of them. I can also tell you that the Cuban Monte Christo #2’s are my favorite. That’s not to say that I don’t smoke other cigars. I smoke every cigar I can get my hands on but for me, Monte's are the pinnacle!

I don't have any "legit" reasons why I like them. I say “legit” because I have read tons of reviews and never really understand what the hell cigar reviewers are talking about. Here is an example…reviewers will sometimes describe the cigar that they’re smoking/reviewing, by saying crap like…"hints of leather and chocolate notes throughout". In my opinion that's all bullshit. I don't think I've experienced that with ANY cigar that I've ever smoked and I've smoked the best!!! Perhaps my pallet is not as refined? I beg to differ. I do believe that cigars are relaxing and there is something to be said about getting lost in the smoke but the real main reason I love cigars? Simple....because they remind me of Gin, Pepperoni Pizza and Poker. Yes, you read that correctly. Here is why....

Like most, I began smoking cigars during poker games in my friend’s basement. Many, many nights were spent, smoking Monte #2's, drinking straight Gin martinis (with 4 olives) and eating Pepperoni Pizza!

As time goes by, my friends and I find it harder and harder to get together to do this sort of thing. Most of us are married now, have kids and grown up responsibilities, etc., etc! Our weekly poker games have slowly transitioned into a "hey it's been about 6 months, lets try to put a poker game together", conversation that usually goes nowhere!

I have to say, I do miss those good old days. Why is it when I smoke the Monte #2's, I feel like I'm traveling back in time? I don't know what it is, but when I light up and the smoke fills the air, I am instantly brought back to that time. My mind is swimming and somewhere in that smoke I can clearly see Gin, Pepperoni Pizza and it's my turn to deal the next hand. Could the Monte #2's be some sort of time machine?? 

I am clearly grandiose in my description, but take it for what it's worth.

What it all boils down to is this...I am in love with Music and Cigars. Both have earned their rightful place in defining who I am!! In my opinion, they are the 2 greatest habits of all time!!! -STEEL!

Evil: In the Beginning (Shout at the Devil)

Growing up in the 80’s, being a big fan of heavy metal music and playing guitar in several Boston area bands, I was always surrounded by smokers. Marlboro reds and weed were the top choices in the circles I ran in, but I didn’t smoke either. There were those extremely drunkin’ nights that I got caught up in the partying and people would find me smoking a cigarette or stumbling my way into a circle and taking a hit, but that happened very rarely. There was also the occasional cigar on New Years eve, but unlike the other stuff, I liked the cigar…everything about it, the smell, the style and even the looks (mostly bad) I got for  people when I lit one up.

It wasn’t until 1998 that I became a full blown cigar smoker. I was living in Salt Lake City for a few years, and some of my friends decided to have a big poker night. Before the game, we went to a place called Knuckleheads for some of the guys to get some papers, and some to grab some cigars. I knew I wanted a cigar, and asked the kid working there for a good suggestion. The smell of cedar and tobacco flooded my senses when we walked into the humidor room. It always amazes me how it’s like another world when you go in a walk-in humidor, like you stepped into a portal of a jungle planet. Bombarded by box after box of stogies on the wall, the kid showed me a few brands and explained the differences in quality and prices. His choice was a boutique brand called Cupido, a good smoke at a very good price. Since I really didn’t know much, getting all my previous cigars from a drugstore, I went with his suggestion.

That night we had music from the likes of Motley Crue, Slayer and Clutch on the stereo while we sat and played cards for hours. I had some beer in me and I was feeling good, with some nice wins under my belt, when I decided it was time to light up my Cupido. I laugh now remembering that I bit off the tip and got “tobacco dandruff” (a term I picked up from Stephen King’s Gunslinger) in my mouth. The end was jagged, so I got a pair of scissors to even out the cut...very lowbrow, I know, but I didn’t know any better, or realize I could have bought a cutter for about $1. I lit up and took some long deep drags and could tell that I was hooked. It was a great cigar that began my obsession with stogies and my quest for Cupido cigars.

I still have the last hand of that night burned into my memories...the pot was getting big (for us), over $200, and someone went all-in with another $200. For a cash game with a bunch of college guys, this was big money...but I knew I had him beat with a heart I stood up, pulled out my wallet, took out my ATM card, threw it on the pile of chips and yelled, “Call!”, my cigar wisping smoke out of the corner of my mouth as I yelled. Again, we were new at all this, and I of course know better now that you can’t bet money you don’t have, but he took my ATM bet, and he lost everything against my hand. So there I was, wining a nice chunk-of-change with a heart flush, a Cupido cigar in my mouth (the logo being a cupid in a red heart), heavy metal playing in the background...and it makes me wonder if I am just chasing the dragon every time I light up...