Spring Cleaning Monday, Apr 6 2009 

April showers bring May flowers.

Unfortunately, that old proverb translates to snow showers when you live in Michigan.

However, April is a good time to get your spring cleaning out of the way, and that is exactly what I did yesterday while the poor weather kept me indoors.

After going through an entire bottle of disinfecting wipes, my dusty room had undergone a transformation.  I was now looking at a repositioned bed with fresh linens and a washed comforter, a giant Scotland flag now adorned my wall in between my “Blues Brothers” poster and window.  Yes, my room was once again a place I could live, sleep, and eat off the windowsill if I so pleased.

This past weekend had a few tasks I had to overcome.  Saturday morning, I ran in my first official 5K race and finished with a time of 22:40.  That averages out to be about 7:15 per mile, which completely shocked me.  (It didn’t hurt that a hefty portion of the race was downhill).

The completion of the race was only the beginning of the festivities.  My brother, good friend, and I could think of no better way to aid our feeling of accomplishment with some sausages, brewskis, and of course, some hand-rolled Romeo y Julietas.  I’m not sure which part of the trifecta I enjoyed the most, but it was the perfect post-race celebration.

That leaves me with one question.  How will I chose to celebrate my completion of a 10K?  Probably something similar…definitely something epic.

After rolling back into the bustling city of Mt. Pleasant Sunday morning, I was faced with a new challenge.  Should I go to the library and get a head start on the homework I blew off?  I think not.  I was able to get my room cleaned and reorganized, though.  I think that constitutes enough work for one day…and makes sharing a few cold beers with my buddy after his successful surgery an option.  Perhaps a necessity.

This weekend allowed me to rest and rejuventate.  I have a long week staring me in the face, but I have no doubts my recharged battery will get me through it.  That, and the thought of the home cooking that awaits me over Easter weekend.  Mmm..  Smoke ’em if you got ’em.

Out on the River Monday, Mar 30 2009 

My buddy Joe and I recently purchased fishing licenses and some poles at Meijer.  In hopes to spend much of the summer outdoors and on camping excursions, we thought this was a good move.  And it was.

One problem.  When two newbies go fishing, drinking a couple brewskis often takes precedent over untangling lines.

The fishing trip started out on the right foot when we discovered the night crawlers had frozen overnight…the rest is history.  After a few casts and a few tangles, we spent most of the coming hours toasting to stay warm.  And of course,  a couple of stogies came along for the ride.  I had a Hoyo de Monterrey to compliment my already festive afternoon.

It is hard to multi-task when you fish on the river, it would be much easier in a boat on a lake.  Despite the mishaps on the river, we were able to catch something.  A buzz.

I am not going to let our poor luck discourage me.  As soon as the weather improves, we will be out there again with our poles repaired, live bait, cold beer, and high hopes to catch something to give our a grill a work-out.

I have noticed a cigar can be enjoyed most anywhere, no matter what you are doing.  My favorite venues include the golf course, watching a good game or movie, and as of recently: out in the wilderness attempting to stay atop the food chain.

I think a good stogie can be more than a relaxing experience, it is a good way to shave a few strokes off your handicap.  The general feeling you get when you are enjoying a cigar amplifies the enjoyment you get out of most every activity.  Fishing fits nicely into this category.

After blowing off some steam this weekend, it is back to the grind for me.  Class, Gym, Bed.  Rinse and repeat.  I am refreshed and ready to tackle anything, because I know I have another weekend of rest and relaxation in the future.  I am getting into the routine of working hard during the week and reaping the benefits of free time on my 3-day weekends.  Eventually, I will have to get used to this routine when I get “a real job.”

But not yet.  For now, I am free to get in touch with my “Tom Sawyer side”  outdoors.  If spring ever comes, I’ll be back out on the river.  Preferably the lake.  Canoe anyone?

Drink Milk for Strong Bones Tuesday, Mar 24 2009 

Is it just me, or does everything come with a health disclaimer nowadays?

Drink milk for strong bones.

Take your daily multivitamin or you WILL get sick!

Warning: Smoking may cause mouth cancer.

I know they make sense, and are often true, but the fact that disclaimers are thrown in your face on a daily basis is starting to get to me.

I have recently begun training for a 10 K, and have already completed a 5 K, so I think I’m on the right path.  I take a multivitamin and exercise five days a week, but according to health officials I am unhealthy.  I smoke a cigar or two a week, so what?  I once heard a good cigar to a man is like a good cry to a woman.  Mark Twain once said “If there are no cigars in heaven, I shall not go.”

Since when did every little thing someone doesn’t promote optimal health sign their own death wish?  I also chose to limit my alcohol consumption to one day a week to let my training be more effective.  Am I to assume this one day a week of could lead to cirrhosis of my liver?  Perhaps.  But I highly doubt it.

I am under the impression that everything can be done in moderation.  A glass of red wine per day promotes good heart health.  Eight hours of sleep a night will drastically limit your caffeine cravings in the morning.  If someone chooses a lifestyle that suits them, good for them.

A fine cigar that allows me to relax with my thoughts and plan out my next goal to accomplish, or the next obstacle I wish to tackle is not going to kill me.  If anything, I would go further and say it promotes my mental health.  After a long week of chaos on campus, I deserve this time to myself to reflect.

I am not an advocate for big tobacco or anything, but for someone looking to quit smoking cigarettes because of the raise in taxes, or someone who can’t seem to organize their thoughts for long enough to make anything of them, give a cigar a shot.  A solid, affordable option would be a Sancho Panza Churchhill.  The gauge is not too wide, which allows for a smooth drag and a mild flavor.

So here are my own personal disclaimers too throw back at the  world:

Everything in moderation.

Do what makes you happy, who cares what your “friends” might think.

And in the words of Pink Floyd- Have A Cigar:

“Come in here, dear boy, have a cigar.
You’re gonna go far,
You’re gonna fly high,
You’re never gonna die,
You’re gonna make it if you try;
They’re gonna love you.”

A Manifesto of ‘March Madness’ Monday, Mar 2 2009 

One can learn volumes about a subject by simply doing some research on it.  Allow me to explain.  A manifesto is “a public declaration of principles and intentions, often political in nature, but may also be life stance related.”  A noteworthy example: The United States Declaration of Independence.

Brace yourself for my manifesto on March, my life stance,  and the utter madness it entails for me.

For those of you searching for advice on the real “March Madness,” my final four as of now contains MSU, UConn, UNC, and Pitt.  This might change when I see the final bracket, but this is not the subject of my post.  This post refers to the hectic times endured by college students, myself included, during the weeks leading up to spring break.

My hellish period began early last week when I realized I had let blogs, papers, projects, and a presentation pile up on my already full plate.  My choice to study abroad in Scotland at the University of Stirling was being researched while I was busy rushing to finish my schoolwork.

It is common practice for professors to ambush students with mindless papers and projects across the nation.  They may feel the need to wrap up loose ends before the break so material is not delayed or forgotten, but they often neglect to realize all the professors are doing the same thing.  This leads to a stressful week in the library for students when they have an exam or paper due in each of their 5-6 classes in a matter of days.  Allow me to manifest that this practice is nothing short of torture.  It essentially leads to a mental raping of wits and limits your free time to reading a magazine on ‘the can.’

The countless applications, essays, recommendations, and financial aid required to study abroad does not help this matter.  Sure, I’m partially to blame for this absence of free time because I decided to study abroad in the first place.  I believe the educational benefits and life skills and experiences I will develop in Scotland will be worth every penny and the time it takes to get there.  The issue at hand is why the study abroad program makes it so damn hard to do so.  I might look into the circus during my well deserved week of rest and recooperation after jumping through all these hoops..

Perhaps more realistically, I might treat myself to a few day getaway to Chicago with a friend or two.  I’ve heard train trips are cheap and fun, and I plan on finding out.  Did I mention they serve alcohol on the train?

Last week may have been unbearable without the Hoyo de Tradicion Corona I had to aid in my relaxation on Thursday night.  Also, my skills in mixology allowed me to turn a simple ginatonic into a masterpiece.  I recommend the Hoyo, it is not for the faint hearted, which is good because I have another hell week staring me in the face.

This concludes my manifesto of ‘March Madness,’ and best of luck to all with similar agendas to my own.

I Need Caffine (Or a Drink) Sunday, Feb 22 2009 

My basement is slowly being engulfed by the smoke of a CAO Criollo while I watch Christian Bale go crazy in American Psycho.  Go figure.

I am writing this the ‘old-fashioned’ way, pen and paper, for two reasons.  The first of which is my mistrust of the virus-ridden computer upstairs.  Surely the variety of websites and downloading services I used in high school did  that  machine no favors.

The second, more practical, reason is the basement is the only place in the house my mother allows smoking.  I wouldn’t dare let the chilly winter gusts outside cramp the style of this smooth, rather rustic cigar.

I went home to Rochester Hills this weekend so I could discuss my plans to study abroad this coming fall with my mother.  (No, not that kind of broad).  I am talking about my lofty plans to attend the University of Stirling in Scotland.  Nothing is finalized, but I am going to drop in the study abroad office tomorrow morning to see what I can swing.  Naturally, my visit home was a success, the stockpile of food I managed to ‘nick’ alone filled me with satisfaction…(Just practicing a bit of U.K. slang).

From there, my motivation will slowly deteriorate throughout the upcoming week I have cleverly dubbed “Slap Me Silly Week 2009.”  This is not due to my workload including two projects, a 5-minute presentation, two papers and a blog to write, exam,  or even the few quizzes in need of taking.  I simply enjoy getting slapped from time to time!  (If you don’t believe me, ask my ex-girlfriend).  Just kidding, but seriously.

After all those obstacles are dealt with, I am free to turn my Thursday evening  into nothing short of a night of celebration that would rival the kegger I hosted on New Years Eve.  I can hardly wait.  Alas, I must apply the old “business before pleasure” motto…for now.

Friday morning I will wake up, thoroughly dehydrated, pack a weekend bag, and meet with other students from the volunteer center.  We are shipping out to lovely Saginaw,MI to help at the Hospitality House.  They call it an “Alternative Break,” I call it practice.  I am trying to place myself in situations “out of my element” in order to prepare for studying abroad.  I have been informed not to bring anything of value, and there is a strict ‘no alcohol policy.’  About that…

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, and I know three things I will not be giving up this year.  Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Drunkenness.

President’s Day Pointers Monday, Feb 16 2009 

Americans often use Presidents’ Day as an excuse to have fun, spend money, and/or  honor the great history of leadership the U.S.A. has been blessed with.  My fellow Americans…today I will exercise all three of these options.

If I worked at the Secretary of State, I would have the entire day off to do as I please.  But I don’t.  I’m an unemployed, hard-working, full-time student at Central Michigan University.  Allow me to bore you with my plans on celebrating this historical day in America’s repertoire of holidays.

At 6:15 p.m. EST, I will be released from my fourth and final class of the day.  I will then walk home in the dark, dreary, bone-chilling weather of Michigan about a half-mile to my apartment.  This is where the Presidents’ Day celebration will begin.

After the layer of ice is melted from my windshield, I will drive up to the cigar store and buy a fresh, aromatic, hand-rolled stogie to appease my senses.  Upon returning to my messy apartment, I will proceed to kick back and watch the 1. U Conn. vs. 4. Pitt game in hopes of gaining some insight for my personal bracketology in the near future.  My newly purchased  cigar will be accompanied by a few, perhaps a few too many, ‘hoppy’ beverages.  Ahhhh…….Presidents’ Day never tasted so sweet.

With my money spent and fun being had at my fingertips, I will take a moment to honor the presidents, former and current, of the United States of America.  This will probably be during halftime.  A cigar to me is not just an oral fixation, it is an event.  A chance to celebrate the day’s events, a recent accomplishment, or simply to provide myself with an introspective look into my future.  -Getting serious for a brief moment by splurging a mental ‘to-do list’-  I plan on studying abroad for the Fall ’09 semester, but I have no idea where.  Perhaps I will travel to Ireland to improve my writing and discover my heritage.   Maybe it will be visiting the outback in Australia, or being a robot in Singapore (probably not).  Either way, I would like to have an idea before I go home and speak with my mom about it while  we fill out the dreaded FAFSA.  God, help me…

So, my fellow Americans, no matter how you decide to celebrate Presidents’ Day, make the most of it.  After all, it comes but once a year.  Maybe one day I will grace that historic list, shortly after I retire from the Boston Red Sox after discovering the “meaning of life.”

Fire It Up! Monday, Feb 9 2009 

I have always wondered what a Sunday dinner would feel like if I were a mobster.  If you haven’t guessed, The Sopranos is my all-time favorite show.  It might as well define television as a whole, because half the junk on now does not even compare…

I decided to brew up my own version of a nice Sunday dinner (If there is such a thing while living on a college budget, this was it).  I had a bunch on ingredients ready to go in my first stew.  Keep in mind this was also my first time using a slow-cooker.  Painfully-slow, rather.  I chopped up a bunch of veggies and threw them in with some kidney beans, beef broth, and diced tomatoes.  Lets just say the soup didn’t go over as well with my roommates as the sweet aroma of my Arturo Fuente “Short Story.” This little cigar is short and stout, rips like a cuban, and comes out my spout!  For six bucks, it rivals any other cigar in this range I’ve had the chance to puff on.

So I had the fine cigar, stewing  vegetable medley, all I needed was a cheap bottle of red wine.  Luckily, Meijer had some Aussie wine on special (2 bottles for 12 bucks).  Cha-Ching.  It wasn’t the greatest Merlot, but it definately helped in biding my time while I waited on dinner.  Needless to say, I was living the good life Sunday night…Sopranos style.

By the time the stew was “cooked” and didn’t literally melt the roof of your mouth, it was time to cap off my night… more like weekend of utter indulgence.  I boiled the kidney beans for 10 minutes before throwing them int he mix as suggested, but for some reason they were very firm.  I don’t know if that means they were over- or under-cooked.  (If someone knows, do tell).  Either way, after a bottle of wine and a nice stogie, it tasted good to me!

One of my roommates had some of the stew/chili/soup, and I have yet to ask his thoughts.  Lets just say when I woke up this morning, I had to pick out a number of kidney beans of our garbage disposal-less sink to finish rinsing the dishes…Ugh.  Never sign a lease with four other gentlemen if the tiny kitchen is crowed with everything except the most important thing…a garbage disposal.  (We do have a dishwasher, though.  And that is really the most important kitchen appliance..I just figured it went without saying.)

Well, there you have it.  The college Sunday dinner.  A few hold-ups, but still a welcomed break from constant….studying.  Bon Apetite-

Super Bowl Blues Monday, Feb 2 2009 

Many people watch the Super Bowl year after year for the commercials alone.  If you are one of those viewers, I’m sure your disappointment equals mine.  Except my disappointment is aimed towards the referees and the “eyes upstairs.”  I’m not trying to take anything away from the game, it was an exciting battle until the–untimely end.  If you don’t believe me, see for yourself: Oops.

Sorry, done venting.  At least I had a plump Partagas No. 1 to aid me in watching the Cardinals demise.  This cigar was an even burning, pleasant  smoke throughout the halftime show and deep into the second half of the big game.  While my life wasn’t changed by it (Romeo y Julieta No. 1, where art thou Romeo?), it was a welcomed addition to my overall game-watching experience.  So were the Coors Light tall-boys.

I have decided since it will be tough to equal, not to mention surpass, my previous cigar experience of the Cuban R & J.  Therefore, my blog will be focusing more on the experiences associated with my classy new habit.  I will attempt to pair cigar smoking with various aspects of my surrounding atmosphere, or  other ways to ‘live the good life.’ (You said it Zman).

Furthermore, I will try and offer suggestions to you guys–and gals–on ways to enjoy cigars while keeping your wallet intact.  One of these inexpensive ways to do so is buying packs of cigars.  All of the major brands (Cohiba, Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, etc.) have these tins/packs of 5-10 ‘mini’ versions of their larger brothers.  They aren’t always hand-rolled or as much of an experience as the ‘big-boys,’ but they do the trick.  You can get some nice stogies for under $10!! If you want some of the nicer/larger cigars, it ends up being closer to $15.  They are convienient, practical, and still lets us college students fuel a true gentleman’s habit.  Obviously, they don’t last as long, which is fine if your roommates make you smoke outside during Michigan’s cozy winter season…(No, I smoke inside..BECAUSE STONE COLD SAID SO!)

Well, my caffine buzz is dwindling and my eyes are tired. Next time I will try and squeeze in some vino into the picture.  Focker out-

A smoky salute to the semester Wednesday, Jan 21 2009 

Many college students, myself included, often under appreciate the taste of a fine cigar.  It can be an incredibly satisfying and relaxing time to reflect on or celebrate something.  The topic of my new blog is directly inspired by the tasty “Romeo No. 1” by Romeo y Julieta.

First, allow me to set the stage.  A cold winter night in Michigan, shocking right?  My roommates and I are huddled around the big screen in our apartment watching the Red Wings play the Ducks.  I was able to find complete relaxation, almost a meditative state, despite the shouts at the TV and the dogs playing tag at our feet.

One of my roommates had acquired some cigars as a gift from his dad, and kindly offered me one.  To my great delight, the tube which mine was contained read “Hecho en Cuba.”  (To anyone who hasn’t taken a Spanish class in grade school or can’t figure this one out, that means ‘Made in Cuba.’)  Anyway, up to this point smoking cigars was just a small hobby of mine passed on to me by my father.  Well, before I had even finished that delicious cigar, my interest in fine cigars had grown tenfold.

I’d indulged in one or two ‘Cubans’ before, and a handful of expensive cigars in the past, but nothing like this one.  I think I had to first develop an appreciation for the art of creating a flavorful blend of tobacco into a true masterpiece.  And when I mention flavor, I’m not talking about Strawberry, Lemon/Lime, or ribbed “for her pleasure.” No, I mean a smooth, woodsy, fine blend of flavors all rolled into one.

Don’t make me out to be some cigar aficionado, yet at least.  My last visit to a cigar shop, (Goodfella’s Cigars in Rochester Hills, MI), I had picked up a free publication on cigars that I have since browsed through.  I think a little research on the topic gives a much deeper appreciation to a subject, which is almost always the case.

My path to enlightenment ended with “The Wizard of Oz,” Chris Osgood of the Red Wings, making a few great saves to finish off a solid victory almost simultaneously with the end of the cigar right down to the band.

So let me leave you with this advice:  A little bit of reading and research can make things in your life much more enjoyable. And of course, if you ever get the chance, smoke a Cuban cigar! (With now official President Obama in office extending his peace offering to all foreign nations, you just might…) Until next time- as they say in Cuba, Buen Apetito.