Posts Tagged ‘ smoke ’

Obsidian

I have to tell you, I have been getting into cigars a lot lately.  I’m learning the subtle differences between crappy cigars and decent ones, and I’m learning more about the major areas of where they are being produced (largely Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Brazil, and Ecuador).  It’s fascinating stuff to learn about, if you’re into it.Image

I smoked cigarettes from age 18 until 24, when I met the girl who became my wife.  She never outright told me to quit, but I knew she didn’t care for the habit, and I knew early on that I really wanted her to stick around.  Finally, on the ninth try, my quitting stuck–but only because I replaced smoking with a gym membership.  I found it counterproductive to smoke and try to do any kind of aerobics at the same time, so smoking lost out time after time.  I never really cared to smoke again once I’d experienced some level of fitness afterward.  

But cigars…cigars are among those fantastic “man things”–up there with golf, scotch, motorcycles, and shaving with a straight razor–which will immediately draw other mens’ attention, if they share the same hobby.  It might be a case of Perceptual Vigilance (whereby you decide to buy a VW Jetta and instantly notice every other Jetta on the road), but it bonds people together almost instantly, I find.  I find it to have the outgoing, social nature of smoking without the damage to my health!  (Please, let’s exclude rare cases of throat, tongue, or mouth cancer, and yes, I realize it can be hard on your teeth…but it does not so completely degrade your health as smoking cigarettes does, so let’s leave it at that.)

Anyway, I have a close friend who brought me a Gurkha so we could celebrate the sale of my first home as a real estate agent on the front porch, and my brother in-law (also into scotch and cigars) sent a whole “experiment” box of Obsidians for the same reason.  Obsidians are fantastic, though my palette is probably too underdeveloped to fully appreciate them just yet.  We haven’t smoked the Gurkhas yet, but I know they have won many awards on their own.

In our apartment complex, people we don’t even know will come up and offer to hang out, just by virtue of the cigars in our hands.  I love the social aspect of it, and I’ve noticed that a cigar affects certain Cabernets in interesting ways, much the same way chocolates and cheeses do.  I also find them to be nice, quiet companions for when I take an hour to do some writing–especially now that the weather is finally beginning to warm up.  

What do you know about cigars?  What brands or sizes do you recommend?  Where do you find your favorites?  Is cigar.com supplanting the corner smoke shop?  

Find someone whose company you enjoy, and put some smoke in the air with them.  You never know what’ll happen when you have time to just think

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Experience Is The New Gadget

Every few years or so, Apple comes out with a new gadget, and competitors flock to rip it off to compete in the marketplace.  The reason that the iPad and iPhone have been such massive successes is not because of their new, wiz-bang gizmo…it’s because of the experience that people get when they interact with that gizmo.  Love it or hate it, Apple has the smoothest, most reliable user interface on the planet.  You can’t trip up an iPad even with multiple apps open, whereas my (first-gen) Samsung Galaxy got a wireless version 2.0 upgrade and would freeze up just making a phone call. Not only that, Apple products feel expensive, and elevate the user’s social status by having them.  Image

In any case, the consumer market will shift more toward experiences in the near future, as technological advances happen more and more frequently and people begin to become unimpressed by them.  Truthfully though, experiences are what life is about, not gadgets. 

Think about it.  You’ve been chasing them all along.

When I was 8 years old, I absolutely relished the first ride I ever had in a small plane.  When I was 18, one of my friends asked me, “What could possibly possess you to dive into a puddle while it’s 38 degrees out?”  When I was 22, my Aunt Lori (a dental hygienist), asked me, “What would make you want to get your tongue pierced?”  When I was 24, my Dad saw my tattoo for the first time from afar, and yelled, “What is that?!” at me from down the hall.  Even now, at 31, my wife tells me that entering a room full of people she doesn’t know is “my version of hell.”

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Our dog, Kilee. She’s about 2 years old here.

Each of these things has given me an experience.  Good or bad, it’s given me a story to tell, a way to connect with others who have experienced the same thing.  If I meet a person who is shy or averse to meeting new people, I have an idea of what their boundaries are likely to be, given that my wife is the same way.  I can relate to someone who is describing the pain of getting a piercing or a tattoo, or someone describing the freedom of the wind in your face on a motorcycle, or the visceral feeling of leaving the ground during the miracle of flight while you are in control of the airplane.  I know the absolute exhaustion that comes from working 12-hour overnight shifts, and drinking at 7am on your Friday (which is actually Wednesday morning) to blow off steam after work.  I know the familiar burn of cigarette smoke entering my lungs, and I understand the jokes that old guys make about it burning when they pee because of kidney stones.  I understand the frustration that comes from a new dog entering your household.  I know the feeling of control someone has over a vehicle that has a manual transmission, and I know the sheer, effortless beauty of my wife in the morning.

It’s the same reason you ride roller coasters, go on reality TV shows, train to climb Everest, or move out of your parents’ house:  you want to know what it’s like on the other side, or at the top.  It’s life’s experiences that make you a rich person, not the amount of money you have…but if you are someone who knows the feeling of paying cash for a quarter-million dollar car, you also have a unique experience with which to share.  The saying, “The first million is the hardest” wasn’t coined by a homeless guy, after all.  Anything to relate to those around you.  Networking is the engine of the world, and experiences give you the fuel.

I think you’ll see a rise in experience-based products and services in the next ten years, particularly for the upwardly mobile.  There are already several hundred seats booked for the first flights into space, once they become available, and they aren’t cheap.

For ideas to chase your next awesome experience, check out my friends over at Bucket List Publications.  They’ve got fantastic ideas, if you are in need.  If you aren’t, they have a contest going to see who has the Biggest, Baddest Bucket List around, and you can submit your own to win a chance to actually complete it.  

What’s on your bucket list?  What would you do if money was no object?  What would you do if you could not fail at it?  What have you been aching to do for years, but put off because you “just can’t afford it?”  Also, what things have you knocked off your Bucket List that were awesome?

 

And Now, For Some Clarity.

Having been on the trail lately for a job which will keep me a little closer to home, I am often asked in interviews, “OK, so…what’s your story?”  I usually explain, “Well, When I got out of high school in 2000, I went to Kansas State at Salina to learn to fly, got my Private Pilot’s License, then switched majors and moved home to go after my mechanic ratings”–at which point, I usually hear, Why?

I have several answers that I give for conversations’ sake, but the honest answer is simple:  I have no idea.  I’ve thought about the why for ten years now, and I still cannot put my finger on it.

Me and Bryan, ca. 2004-05

I guess the simple answer is that I wasn’t sure how to be a man yet, at that point.  I had all this freedom, no one to answer to, and despite being there for school, no clear goal.

When I watched the rest of my family drive off down the road that first day after they moved me down, I remember feeling a little trepidation, a little sadness, and a level of excitement and adventure I have only felt a few times in my life (one of them was my first solo).  When I met my roommate Bryan–who could have been my twin brother–I knew we would get along well, and there wasn’t a moment to waste.  We were both very outgoing–the ones with our dorm door open on move-in day, getting to know the other residents as they passed by.  We found collective ways to get involved–with student government, with our baby at the time, Phi Delta Theta, and secondarily, with our classes.

We did all the fun and dopey things you do when you are newly placed into the microcosm of a satellite college campus in the country.  We went “Puddle Jumping,” whereby you run out and jump into the biggest puddle of water you can find after a good rain, even though it was 37 degrees outside.   We piled into the back of a guy’s truck and literally chased thunderstorms, trying to get a glimpse of a real tornado after the sirens went off in town.  TOP GUN was almost never turned off the lobby TV, if it was on when you got there.  (Neither was it changed from CNN for five days after September 11 happened.)  We grinned knowingly at the Wal-Mart checkout lady as we innocently picked up some supplies from the automotive section–an oil funnel, some plastic tubing, and a shutoff valve.  I picked up smoking at eighteen, and we would spend hours–hours–at Russel’s (the restaurant/truck stop right off of I-135 on Salina’s north side) smoking, drinking coffee, and hammering out the issues at hand, whatever they were.  Many times, we’d have as many as twenty people there, and we’d end up staying through the shift change.  (It was really ignorant to do that, but I didn’t know it back then because I hadn’t had a server job yet.  We tipped as well as we could.)  We invented The Cigarette Olympics, whereby two people at ends of a long table would toss a cigarette at each other, and the goal was to catch it in your mouth.  We spent long hours talking each other through life’s biggest plans (Bryan’s island–“Hinnland”), and grandest failures (Bryan and Delton were instrumental in getting me through them at the time, as was my old friend Kevin).  Those people are still my dearest friends, even though life took us on different paths to different states.

Since KSU-Salina was an old Air Force base, whenever something big was happening, we’d filter out to the runway to see it.  My fondest memories are standing next to the runway (though it was fenced off) and watching the Navy slam their planes into the numbers in preparation for actual carrier landings, or standing literally under a B-2 Spirit at about four hundred feet as it slowly lumbered into the air on takeoff, bound for wherever in the broad daylight.  There was an old Lockheed Constellation who was a resident there–named “Connie”–and her four huge engines never left the ground in both of the years I was there.  If you Google Salina, KS and zoom in on the airport in Earth view, she’s still there on the north end of the ramp, as a matter of fact.  (You’ll also see a bunch of buildings to the right of the North/South runway; that’s the Kansas-State at Salina campus.)

"Connie" the Constellation

I had such a great time there, so why’d I move back?

Well, for one, I was slacking in school, and hadn’t yet developed a work ethic related to studying properly.  By the end of my time there, my grades had gone down hill, I was broke (aren’t we all at that age?), and I had begun to really miss the friends I left behind, and the house I grew up in.  I returned home confused, aimless, despondent, and (by my own standards) a complete failure.  It hadn’t helped much that my own Mom, to combat her feelings of embarrassment among our extended family and friends, griped that she’d “sent me down there to learn to drink and smoke.”  The worst part was that she was right, and I knew as much as anyone else did.  I was as lazy in grade school as I was in college, and I’d given up trying to impress my parents long before, but that first night I slept in my own (old) bed was a new low for me.

What I hadn’t realized at the time was that I was trying to figure out what kind of man I wanted to be.  Did I want to be like my Dad?  What felt normal?  What felt right?  What do I stand for?  What’s this politics stuff all about?  How do I feel about one night stands?  How do I feel about people who continually threaten to commit suicide when it’s so obviously for the attention?  How do I feel about a friend getting an abortion?  How do I feel about driving drunk, or being around those who do?  How do I feel about drugs?  How do I feel about a friend being a closet alcoholic?  I had a relatively uneventful teen-hood, and all of a sudden, I had an adult lifetime’s worth of situations before me that I was completely unprepared for.  

I didn’t know until after I’d already made the decision that I’d done the right or wrong thing.  Once, I went by a girl’s house whom I’d met at a movie theater while waiting in line.  I found out after I got there–and after she’d changed into the stereotypical “something more comfortable”–that she was engaged (the electric guitar gave her away).  I knew I had a decision to make, and twelve years later, I still feel good that I left.  Twelve years later, I see how stupid it was to have blown a portion of the rent money on beer, and to waste the chance of a lifetime–an essentially all-you-can-fly school program–in the endless pursuit of instant gratification.  I now see how sleeping in front of a toilet because of alcohol was not a bragging right.  How not remembering the night before isn’t funny, nor is puking in someone’s car.  How making nearly zero progress in two years was not helping.  How publicly embarrassing an ex-girlfriend to people she didn’t know was still hurtful, even from three states away. How being friends with everybody wasn’t paying my bills.  How taking your family for granted was foolish.

I finally kicked smoking for good about six years ago, and I haven’t shotgunned a beer since I lived in Salina.  Now, I tip for a server’s time, not for the $1.65 cup of coffee I drank six cups from.  I came out of A&P school with a 3.47 GPA in 2004, and have finally picked up the drive and motivation to develop myself into anything I want, knowing full well that it will take work.  I’ve tried a couple of times over the years to apologize to that ex-girlfriend for what I did, but I’d be surprised if she’s genuinely forgiven me for it.  In her shoes, I probably wouldn’t.  She’s part of the reason I try so hard to treat my wife well, though, I can tell you that.  My sister has made me an Uncle twice now, and I make it a point to call her, my brother, and my Mom at least twice a month–even if it’s just for a couple of minutes catching up.

So, why did I leave Salina, KS instead of getting my act together and finishing what I started?  Heh…your guess is as good as mine.  I guess it’s possible that without failure, there can be no success…but I’m sure it’s something far simpler than that.

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