Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hi! ::waves::

I've missed you!! Sorry to have deserted you! My computer deserted me, and the blogger app won't do things the way I like, so my words have remained tucked away in my noggin.

But they will soon be free! Soonish, anyway. 

A new top for my lap.

But don't think I've been resting on my laurels, whatever that means. Because quite the opposite! We have lots of fun things coming up--things you can be part of! Things you'll want to be part of!! 

Stay tuned! 

A hint: 
Still love this logo!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Words of Wisdom #100: Mel Brooks because...Mel-freakin'-Brooks!

If you don't adore Mel Brooks and every word he's ever written and/or spoken, we can't be friends anymore. Sorry, not sorry.
He directed three of American Film Institute's 100 Funniest Movies: Blazing Saddles (1974) at #6, The Producers (1967) at #11 and Young Frankenstein (1974) at #13.
Go watch all his works and then report back.
If you still don't agree with me, we're breaking up for realz.


Happy birthday, Valentino!

Today is our hero's birthday!




Friday, August 21, 2015

Words of Wisdom #99: Thomas Mann

"I never can understand how anyone can not smoke.
It deprives a man of the best part of life.
With a good cigar in his mouth a man is perfectly safe,
nothing can touch him, literally."

5 Things* about...Why you should like the Love of the Leaf Facebook page

 If you don't like Love of the Leaf on Facebook, you've made us have the sad. You're missing out on so...much...awesome! Keep reading (if you need convincing) and then join us there, at the cool kids hangout! (They let me go there too, so if you're uber-uncool like me, they'll still like you!)

5. Exclusive giveaways
You know we're not above bribery! For example, when we reach 200 likes/followers/stalkers, one lucky subscriber gets this (chosen completely randomly because, if nothing else, we're obsessively fair):

Instagram photo by @jerseyjay. Swiped from here.
(Too lazy to get up and take my own photo.)

Yep. One of you will receive two Drew Estate Undercrown Shade cigars! Like the page and you're in the running! (Chat with previous winners and they'll tell you we have difficulty with directions, always sending more than promised. Damn us!)

4.5. Sales and auctions
Sometimes we manage to lay our hands on cigars and swag that might make some of you swoon. You know. This kind of stuff:

Auction coming soon! For realz!

or this:
Just the hat, ma'am. Or sir.

...or who knows what else.  As we've told you before, one of us is known as the Cigar Hunter, able to find and trap even the most elusive of sticks. We want to share the awesomeness with you by offering the stuff for sale or auction. (We're nice like that! But not nice enough to just give it to you!)

4. Your sales and auctions! Yes--your very own!
List cigars you want to sell or auction! Check out the pinned post on the Love of the Leaf Facebook page for guidelines. Keep in mind--this page is for kindness only, so please don't gripe or bitch about prices or anything else.  If you have a problem, please direct your comments towards the person privately or send me or Valentino a message. We'll help resolve any problem! And if we can't, we'll send out the Goon Squad.**

3. Blog posts, which as you know, are always good for a laugh or five. 
No need to track down that day's blog posts or new info on the Love of the Leaf website. The Facebook page will bring it all to you in one shot. Lucky you!

2. Instagram photos documenting cigar shenanigans, featuring all the crazy one picture can hold.
Like this one, a personal fave:

1. Additional bouts of craziness I can't put into words or even anticipate!
Who knows what we're going to get into next! (Although if you want to know where we'll be, in hopes of catching us mid-shenanigan, check out these events...more added frequently!)

*6 really, but we're pretending 5.
**Zillion trillion bonus points plus my undying friendship for getting the reference.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Cigar Lounge Manners: No Trash Talking

"Dude. Really? A _____ [cigar brand]*?"

The smoker at the bar looks at his premium cigar as if for the first time, and finally says, "I really like these. It has good flavor. Have you had it?"

The instigator, rather than looking sheepish, gives the cigar another blast of Stinkeye. "No, but it's a _____. How good can it possibly be?"

The smoker takes a thoughtful puff, blows smoke out his nose like a cartoon bull, smiles like the Cheshire Cat...

...and says, "Pretty fucking good."

Unvocalized questions rattled around my noggin all night: Why? Why do people (a very small contingent, but still, enough to make a difference) do that, dissing each others' cigars?

Do you do that?

Don't do that. Please don't ever ever do that. Please.

Just because you don't like something--or it's less expensive than what you usually smoke--doesn't mean it's bad. It means it doesn't fit your flavor profile. Don't be a douchebag snob.

If you were to blind smoke a few cigars, could you even name the group's brands? Probably not. Don't make that face at us. A well-established rep we know did a blind taste test and didn't know he was smoking his own newly-released cigar (which he's smoked several times before ).

*Mad Libs? Nope--although that's a really really fun game. Because we're super duper nice here, we're never going to say anything negative about any cigar brand. Fill in the blank at your own whim.

**Not even kidding. We don't say anything negative on the blog, but if you're an asshat and steal from us and our sponsor [to be announced soon], your douchebaggery will be publically proclaimed.

Words you should know: Criollo*

You've heard the word in passing as folks describe cigars, tobacco plants, and/or tobacco seeds, depending on who's doing the talking. By the way, we're ignoring the people who say it just to sound smart, especially since they usually mispronounce it** and/or don't know what the word actually means.

Keep reading and you'll know all the things. (Or at least mostly all the things. Or at least some things. Or something.)

The word translates to "native seed," so when you say "criollo," some folks may think you mean actual Cuban leaf grown on Cuban soil--the actual plant.

However--there's always a however, isn't there?--Criollo also means a person of Spanish descent born in Spanish America. Know what else can mean the same thing? Creole, as in "I went to New Orleans for the International Premium Cigars and Pipe Retailers (IPCPR) convention and never met anyone of Creole descent. But I sure did have some Creole food while smoking a criollo cigar." (There's also a criollo horse, but that's a blog post for another time. Probably around never o'clock.)


We're here for tobacco, though. So think of the criollo seeds as those native to Cuba, but (literally) uprooted and planted in another region, most notably NicaraguaHonduras, and San Andres in southern Mexico.

Obviously, if you live on planet Earth, and for the sake of argument, we'll make that assumption, you know the US and Cuba have been in a tiff for quite a long time, so you can't just call Fidel and ask him to send some criollo seeds. However! When Cuban tobacco growers beat feet out of the country for points southwest (Central America), as well as north to Miami, F-L-A*** and south to the Dominican Republic (among other non-Cuban havens), with them went their livelihood and way of life: tobacco seeds.

Those original criollo seeds have changed over the years,**** especially through hybridization to eliminate blue mold, a disease known to destroy plants and crops.

Once, criollo lived only as a sun-grown plant and, as a result, spent the rest of its days within the cigar, as filler. (Poor criollo.)

Yes, grown in the actual shade. [source]
Now, however, thanks to the innovation and smarty-pantsness of tobacco growers, a shade-grown criollo emerged around the turn of the century (20th to 21st), proudly becoming a perfect first impression of the cigar--the wrapper.

We're telling you this because we care about you: Please don't say "This tastes like criollo." No. Remember that tobacco's taste/flavor ultimately comes from the soil and regional conditions, not the seeds themselves. For example, you'll find a Jalapa, Nicaragua-grown criollo much sweeter than that from the Esteli, Nicaragua region. (You're welcome to use that fact at your next cocktail party.)

Oh! Maybe next time we see you, we'll tell you about the criollo chocolate. Yep! It's a thing!

*To paraphrase Buddy the Elf: "That's a fun word to say."

**Super awesome when Valentino says it; ask him next time you see it. In the meantime, repeat after me: cree-oh-yo.

***You're welcome for the earworm!

****Haven't we all?

Why I don't post every day.

My friend Pat (Hi Pat!) is a supergreat lady and BFF Jame's mom.

Sometimes, when a blogger she loves takes a break or doesn't post regularly, Pat says, "[Name of blogger] has gone off her blog."

I go off my blog pretty regularly--days pass and I know you miss me. Sorry! I miss you too!

I wish I could post a lovely, witty, clever story daily. Except some days I don't feel lovely or witty, or even especially clever. Sometimes these are days I've "gone off the Adderall." Sometimes I sensory-overloaded the previous day or two, sending my body into a tizzy, because MS is an asshole.*

I never go off the blog because I lack content ideas. Currently, 67 stories live in the blogger draft folder and another million in my brain draft folder--and don't forget pictures on my iPhone demanding words.
I'm unsure how long a blog post takes other folks to write, but for Love of the Leaf? I average four hours for 400-500 words. Four. Hours. Think I'm crazy? Take a look at a post creation, the 5 things about CRA (Star Wars edition), created in the Habanos Cigar Lounge members' room:

3 months (at least): You need to write about the Cigar Rights of America organization, my brain tells me. I promise. With my fingers crossed.

1 hour: Research CRA, reading their website, current national, state, and local issues, previously submitted legislation and results.  Drink Diet Coke, thanks to bartender.

Without you, DC, I am nothing.

1/2 an hour: Make a list of "things," culled from research, that require inclusion for an audience with a slight working knowledge of the organization. Come up with a dozen.

1/2 an hour: Delete extraneous and repetitive topics and pile a couple together, all while eating cookies. Realize there are still seven (items on the list, not cookies).

1/2 an hour: Play Sophie's Choice, trying to determine which points readers should know about most. (Five things is random but it's a manageable number for most topics.)
You guys. I need this. Need it badly or I will die.
Available here.

1/2 an hour, many more cookies: Expand on points, adding details and explanations, along with a brief introduction.

5 minutes: Read post, finding it so boring I nod off. Consume more Diet Coke in huge quantities.

20 minutes: Look at Google images, putting in keywords from the (boring) text. Consider featuring Archer gifs again just because...Archer.

Because Archer.
5 minutes: Re-reread boring text and spot a glimmer of an idea. If only the CRA had a version of the Force to say, "This is not the legislation you are looking for" to the Evil Empire's stormtroopers.

1/2 an hour: Rewrite entire piece with Star Wars extended metaphor. Feel smugly genius throughout revision.

40 minutes: Reread. Feel the opposite of awesome. 700 words. I edit out clutter, helping verbs, prepositional phrases, adverbs, and all the other word detritus, inching closer to (self-imposed) 400-word "5 Things" limit. Hit 500 words. Think about throwing in the towel and saying, "Meh. Good enough."

20 minutes: Pound head on glass table out of frustration, which also dislodges remaining active brain cells. Cut another hundred words.

5 minutes: Valentino reads the piece. A friend (with 90+ books published) says, "Good editors make good writers." True story. Our hero points out a sentence unclear beyond the limits of my brain. He offers suggestions for a funnier turn of phrase, kisses me on the top of the head (as all good editors should), and flees writer central.

15 minutes: Revise again.

Publish blog post.

10 minutes: Reread 500 times and make adjustments.

Post on Facebook.**

Lather, rinse, repeat.

I can do both in the Habanos Members' Room.

*I don't need to hear about how diet soda will make my head explode and/or is giving me MS. I literally have one vice: Diet Coke.

**Do you like our Facebook page yet? You should. We're giving away stuff on there! You like stuff! We like giving stuff!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Where we may be...maybe: A three-hour tour

Last year's event was a two-hour tour and that wasn't nearly long enough to chat with everyone you know and love (or want to know and love) and eat delicious foods and smoke one of the many amazing cigars you received.
So this year, a three hour tour...

 I'll be part of "and the rest," so as to remain incognito.  I probably won't be wearing gingham--although I am technically a professor, so there's that...
Anyway, join us (maybe) and a ton of cool kids (definitely) on Boston Harbor for the Massachusetts Tobacco Retailers Association (MTRA) cigar cruise. In addition to being a super fun event (if you remember to take your Dramamine), you're also helping raise money for some serious legislation ass-kicking.*


Even if we wind up not going, you definitely should! It will still be fun even if we aren't there!

Don't forget to pack and bring your entire wardrobe like Thurston Howell III and his lovely wife Lovey.

Get your tickets here:
The Owl Shop (This was not named after Will, no matter what he tells you.)
416 Main St Worcester - (508)-753-0423

Cigar Room II (Hi Karin!)
378 Walnut Street Ext. Agawam- (413) 285-8078

Old Firehouse (Hi John!)
116 Rock St, Fall River - (508) 678-2185

 L. J Peretti

2 1/2 Park Sq, Boston - (617) 482-0218

Watch City Cigar
497 Worcester Rd, Framingham - (508) 628-0112

Cigar and Lounge
56 Dexter Ave, Watertown - (617) 393-1645

Brennan's Smoke Shop (Hi Geoff!)
909 N Main St Brockton - (508) 897-0777
1 Broadway Taunton - (508) 823-5773
6 Broad St Bridgewater - (508) 697-9990
1510 Route 44 , Raynham - (508) 828-5773
24 Main St Plymouth - (508) 746-5711
308 Brockton Av, Abington - (781) 871-4388

Premium 70/70 Cigars (Hi Nolan!)
875 State Rd, Westport - (508) 677-0333

 Red Lion Smoke Shop
93 Washington St, Salem - (978) 745-2050

Harrington Wine and Liquors
10 Summer St, Chelmsford- (978) 256-2711

Victory Bar and Cigar
56 Shrewsbury St, Worcester (508) 756- 4747

*There's probably a more politically correct way to say this, but I don't want to.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

5 things about...stupid questions

I believe I am required by law* to say "There's no such thing as stupid questions."

But come on. If you're a cigar smoker who has been on Facebook for more than three minutes, you've come in contact with a stupid question or two, including the following five.

5. Real or fake?

Not these. The other kind.
You own it. Does it matter?

If you aren't positive whether your recently acquired "Cuban" actually hails from the newly-unembargoed country, forget its heritage and either smoke it or don't. Here's why: If your overpriced vacation souvenir is a "Fauxhiba," you won't enjoy it, knowing you've been duped. (You and everyone else on the cruise.)

Or perhaps a pal brought it back for you as a thanks for ensuring his house wasn't overrun by uncollected mail and newspapers. You don't want to look at him differently for getting you a fake. Smoke it, none the wiser. Remain BFFs.

Never never never
in a glass/plastic-topped box.

If you don't set this "Cuban" aflame, you'll glare at it each time you open the humidor and its off-color yellow band winks at you from below the Nicaraguan, Honduran, and Dominican beauties. Either way, no joy. Smoke it. Move on with your life.

4. "This isn't cigar related, but..." and then a non-cigar related question.
Why why why is this happening on a cigar Facebook page? Send a private message to a couple of folks if you need an answer to your extremely pressing problem. Yes, this social media group is like a family--a family of thousands--but would you ask your entire family for their opinion on...anything?

3. Mold or plume?
This question always always always reminds me of this:

Mold: Fuzzy, usually in spots rather than all over (at first), and notably on the foot if in full bloom. Spreads from cigar to cigar. Usually in 70+% humidity, although not exclusively. Pitch the cigars, because yuck.

Plume: Appears evenly on the cigar, stemming from the oils crystallizing because it has been stored awesomely for a long period of time. Keep it because yum.

If you can't tell from these descriptions and an internet image search, you should probably literally ask a professional in person.

2.  What do you guys think about...[insert cigar brand and stick here]?

Consider this a verbal facepalm.
A variety of answers from a variety of people shall consume the internet, with participants arguing amongst themselves. Expect to hear "Best smoke ever!" "It's okay." and "That sucks"--all about the same cigar. Variations include "Overpriced" "An okay dogwalker" and "Where did you get that? I've been looking all over for that!"**

What is the purpose of asking except to incite a Facebook riot?

1. Which one should I smoke?
This one makes Valentino's head explode.
This question generally comes accompanied by a picture of three or so cigars, lined up for the firing, er... lighting, squad.
A new cigar community member learns quickly not everyone will love every cigar. So why are you asking perfect strangers which one you should choose? If you've spent cash money on them, we hope you'd actually like them. Plus, how do we know what mood you're in?

This is a show-off ploy. A lot more honest (and less annoying) (and less passive-aggressive) Facebook post would be, "I'm so excited! I just found my favorite!" or even "I'm going to try this cool new cigar! I've heard a lot about it!"

To quote our hero, whose head, thankfully, has remained intact, "Why the fuck do I care what you smoke?"

We all know you don't really want an answer--you want attention. Go spend time with your family, make friends with a neighbor, or hang out at a cigar lounge. (If you need an answer, especially about #1 or #3, head to your local tobacconist for a professional opinion.)

*Because I shape the minds of America's youth for money

**This is a form of dry-begging, which makes me want to throat-punch people.

Words of Wisdom #96: Zino Davidoff

"A wisely chosen cigar to me, is like a weapon against certain of life's torments,
in some mysterious way, a little blue smoke chases them away."

Monday, August 10, 2015

When your tobacconist is much, much more or: International travel can be confusing

FIRST: I don't know why this is all wonkily (mostly) centered. I do know that the blogger and I are having a bit of a spat and it's winning this round. So...centered it is!
The first time I went into a tobacconist in Italy, I was all ...

True story. Much confusion.
Because when we asked where to purchase stamps, that's where the kind il signore directed us. Figuring, uncertainly, that we heard him correctly, we headed in that direction. I figured if nothing else, I'd purchase some cigars for Valentino, who did not accompany me on this trip--because I'd just met him a couple weeks before. (That did not, of course, preclude me from purchasing gifts for him.)
Anyway, upon entering the shop, tobacco--cigars and cigarettes--seemed like an afterthought at Il tabaccaio.

Il tabaccaio 
The tobacco shop

Even if you don't smoke, there are plenty of good reasons to stop at the busiest store on a city street or in the tiniest village in Italy: the tabaccaio. In this guest post, Silivia Bascelli takes us inside these uniquely Italian shops:  
Il tabaccaio is obviously the shop where tobacco is sold, but you can buy much more than cigarettes (sigarette) there. The shop sign is always the same: a small rectangle with a big T and the words  ”Sali e tabacchi" (salt and tobacco).
The tabaccaio is licensed to sell goods and services (beni e servizi) that, according to law, are controlled exclusively by the state. Salt once was a government monopoly, but no longer is. 
Today’s state-regulared items, besides cigarettes, include lottery and lotto tickets; matches (i fiammiferi); stamps (i francobolli); revenue stamps (le marche da bollo), which are digital stickers with a bar code and value stamped on them); and stamped paper (la carta bollata), used for official documents such as birth, marriage and death certificates, requests to a court (tribunale),legal documents issued by a notary, house rental contracts (contratti d’affitto) and such.

A tabacchino (little tabaccaio) near a courthouse can sell millions of revenue stamps for judicial proceedings -- and take a percentage of the sales.
In addition to prodotti “ufficiali ed esclusivi” (offical and exclusive products), the tabaccai sell materials for writing letters, such as paper (la carta da lettere), postcards (le cartoline) and pens (le penne) as well as smoking-related items like lighters (gli accendini), pipes (le pipe) and pipe tobacco (tabacco da fumo). You can also find candies (le caramelle), playing cards (le carte da gioco) and various games, such as chess (scacchi) and checkers (dama), plus poker chips (fiches per il poker) and bidding boxes for bridge.

So at a tabaccaio you can buy something as innocuous as stamps or something as bad as cigarettes. You might even get sucked into il vizio del gioco d’azzardo (the bad habit of games of chance). The tabaccio is the place to go if you want to giocare al superenalotto (play the lottery), giocare al totocalcio (play the football pools)  or place scommesse sportive (sports bets).
Various tabaccai specialize in different things, and some become gaming and betting meccas well-known among tutti i giocatori (all the players). They create their own lotto systems in order to hit the jackpot when it gets very high. If they manage to win (vincere alla lotteria), the money is split among the players in the betting pool.
Now that we live in the age of the ATM, customers can make payments or use services once available only at the Post Office at a tabaccaio. For instance, they can pay car taxes (il bollo delle automobili) and traffic tickets (le multe). If you are travelling in Italy, you can go to a tabaccaio to purchase prepaid calling cards for a cell phone (ricariche dei telefoni cellulari), international calling cards (schede telefoniche internazionali) and city bus tickets (i biglietti degli autobus urbani).
In effect the tabaccaio presents a microcosm of Italian life, with people stopping by throughout the day for one reason or another (per un motivo o per un altro). Once it was a modest and unremarkable type of store, with a distinctive smell of tobacco (tabaccoso). Today you can find elegant tabaccai, such as this one on the Piazza San Silvestro in Rome, providing many more goods and services than in the past.

Words and Expressions 
Una stecca di sigarette -- a carton of cigarettes 
Abbonamento settimanale / mensile per l’autobus –-- a weekly / monthly bus pass 
Fumatore accanito -- chain-smoker 
Bacco, tabacco e Venere riducono l'uomo in cenere --  Wine, tabacco and women can reduce a man to ashes (ruin a man)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Two out of three ain't bad.

The other day, Valentino and I met up with Caballero #3 for Rooftop Cigar Shenanigans, er, make that a Cigar Social on the roof of a Mohegan Sun parking garage. Remember? We told you about it here.

While up there, we saw this picture, courtesy of Caballero #2 and the mighty internets:

#2 with a Padron '64.
Because these guys are who they are, naturally, a retaliatory photo session occurred:

#1 and #3 with a Padron '64.
A bunch of glad-handing and glad-kissing with cigar rep SuperFriends ensued. (Hi Jon! Hi John! Hi Cody! Hi Dave! Hi Mike-who-is-not-on-Facebook! Hi John-who-did-not-remember-us!*)
Then this happened:
The bloom was off the rose. We had the tired.
The moral of the story? We missed you, Caballero #2!
*I know you're thinking, "How is that even possible? You guys are so awesome and memorable!" I know!

This makes a bad day better.*

You're welcome.

*Plus, it's my blog and I can do whatever I want.**
**You're not the boss of me.***
***Thankfully, Valentino, kind of the boss of me, doesn't know how to work the bloggy blogger.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

5 things about...When to ask for help in a cigar lounge or: Ode to my celebrity boyfriend, RIP

Untrue! Untrue! Untrue!
(No disrespect, though, sir.)
You’ve driven by this cigar lounge no less than one million times, barely noticing it.

Today, your car pulls itself into the parking lot.

Last week at the cookout, your best pal handed you a cigar. You savored every last moment of it, right down to the finger-burning nubbin.* At party’s end, you were set free, cigarless, no memory of the name or band. But damn, it was good.

Now here you sit, scrolling through Facebook, the world’s best procrastination tool, hoping no one’s watching you through the lounge’s mirrored plate glass windows.**

Exactly. Put down the phone and go in.
Go in. We’re right there with you, cheering you on. Just keep some stuff in mind—and if you don’t remember any or all of it, ask for a tutorial from a kind soul—and by that we mean anyone in the lounge.

Choosing the cigar
You don’t remember that fantastic smoke. That’s okay. Ask your cigartender for assistance and she’ll happily help, by asking what you like. Shrugging won’t offend her, especially since you’ve had exactly one cigar in your life. She’ll probably start you with something more on the mild side rather than something super strong and powerful that kicks your tastebuds in the nuts.*** Who knows? This could be your new favorite (at least for a while).

Words to live by.
Cutting the cigar
Cigar in hand, you’ll be pointed toward the cutting station or your cigartender will ask you how you’d like it cut. What she means: straight cut, V-cut, or punch. You probably don’t have a preference, so just go with the straight cut for now. You can figure out your favorite in future visits.

Lighting the cigar
Lighting a cigar is nothing short of a process, a procedure, a preamble to a long, relaxing hour or more. Go here for the fastest,no-nonsense how-to ever. Or… ask for a tutorial, paying close attention to the way she sets the cigar aflame.

Never never never forget: Don't inhale.

Settling in and maintaining the cigar
You’re chatting with new, cigar-smoking friends. You take a puff and…nothing. The bastard’s gone out. Yeah, it happens. Borrow the house lighter again. Flame + puff = you’re back in business. And don’t worry: You didn’t do anything wrong. Sometimes a cigar shrugs and gives up the ghost.

Making friends
So you’re there, you’re comfortable, and you’re chatting. We have to go, but you’re in good hands. If you need advice, a suggestion of another cigar, or anything else, the folks in the cigar lounge are great people. They’ll give you a hand; buy them a drink as thanks.

We’ll catch you next time!
*Like our SuperFriend Brian. Hi Brian!
**They aren’t. We promise.
***If your tastebuds have nuts. Otherwise, this is a dang good metaphor.

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