Posts Tagged ‘ wine ’

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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The Power Of Family Heritage

Any of you out there who have followed me for any length of time may know that I’m really interested in the heritage of my family.  As a kid, I learned through the modeling of my own parents (and their 20 brothers and sisters and in-laws, and my 30-40 first-cousins) that family is the most important thing you can ever have.  Sure, it’s possible to survive without them, but it’ll be far less fun to!

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Gram and Grampa DeMasi–my grandparents

My family’s heritage is mostly Italian–we are step-married into Sicilian, English, Norwegian, and Swedsish blood on my Dad’s side, and never really identified with any of them, I guess.  I actually don’t have many pictures at all of the Grana side of the family, either, now that I think of it.  

I’ve been trying to find a way to get my Italian citizenship (or jure sanguinis) to be recognized; basically this is an Italian law that states recognition of citizenship for anyone who can prove a clear bloodline-path back to the Old Country, no matter where you live, or how many generations removed you are.  We are currently missing a long-lost great, great, great grandmother’s birth or death certificate, I don’t remember which.  I think it will ultimately take a trip to Italy, to the town where they were born or passed to find the missing link.  Many countries have some form of similar law, but I believe Italy might be unique in the lack of a generational restriction.

I never knew (as any kid ever does) how important my grandparents would become to me, even so long after they’ve gone.  I wish I could’ve gotten to know them, to know what they know.  I got a Youtube link from my Ma a couple of days ago that really illustrates how the Italian culture in America has evolved, despite everyone’s best efforts.  If you’re Italian and want a trip down memory lane, or aren’t Italian and are interested in how the culture and customs were back then, take a look.  If you want a good laugh, take a look at this clip about the conversational pitfalls that happened to “The Italian Man Who Went To Malta.”

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A Look At My Own Family, Christmas 2009.  Me (oldest), Chris, Ma, Dad, and Greg (youngest).

Our family has grown and changed since this picture was taken…all three of us kids are married, my sister and brother in-law have two kids, and sadly, Dad passed away in January of 2010.  Just goes to show that no matter how annoying pictures are to take at the time, they will be so tightly clung-to later on.

If you are Italian and living in the US, you ought to check out your local Order Sons of Italy in America chapter (yes, women are welcome).  My wife and I attended our first meeting (which was kind of a trial-run) this past Saturday evening.  We were the youngest folks there by (easily) a quarter-century, but the folks we met have so much to give in the way of stories and knowledge, and it’s their passion and goal to pass on the culture so that it doesn’t die out here in the US, as time goes on.  

This particular meeting had a live performance; the former president’s husband is a concert pianist, and has a nine foot grand piano in his living room, and he and a professional floutist friend of his played three separate classical works by different Italian composers as a “culture/history lesson,” of sorts, for the crowd of 12 that were there.  Then we had a potluck dinner, and had a short language lesson before departing for the evening.  The food…I’m telling you–homemade antipasto, gnocchi, baked zucchini, chicken, salad, and three kinds of bread–add that to the red wine, and I felt like I was at home again.  We all left around ten o’clock, but these were the type of folks that you could sit and chat with all night.  I’m looking forward to meeting with them once again.

Is anyone out there involved with OSIA?  And even if you aren’t Italian–do you have any great stories to do tell about how your family is connected to major people or events throughout history?  

 

 

Real Estate Initial Impressions…

So it’s been three or four weeks since I passed the test.  That very next day, I walked into a brokerage which is lead by a guy I was put in contact with probably four or five months ago–Matthew Sutter, at Keller-Williams Capital Properties in Fairfax, VA (or, KWCP, for short).  He and I shook hands, sat down, and I signed the papers which would make me officially affiliated with KWCP as a real estate salesperson.

I did some homework and met with a Long and Foster broker out here near the house before I signed up with KW; she was pleasant, but never once mentioned the words “building a team” or “managing your business,” whereas I’ve known that a major emphasis is put on that at KWCP since well before I was licensed.  I chose KWCP mainly because Matt turned out to be one of the first people I’ve ever mentioned my big, hairy, audacious goal to who literally didn’t flinch when he heard it.   See, Matt’s a special breed.  He seems like he’s barely older than me–35, max–and he’s achieved a 7th-level business in Austin, TX, and moved here to northern VA as a Team Leader (downplaying title for a CEO within KW) to get this office off the ground.  They have grown like crazy over the past three years, making it onto the Inc. 5000 list for all three of them–almost unheard of for companies, especially for a real estate brokerage firm.  He’s fit, (presumably) financially stable, driven, and successful.  The day I met this guy, I remember thinking, “I want this to be me in ten years.”

At this point, I’m a licensed real estate agent, but I’m still finding my direction.  I show up to team meetings every couple of weeks, and do whatever I can to help out during them or other office-related events; this is mainly because I have learned how to be a good worker and houseguest over the past ten years–and both are successful doing these things among company old and new.  But the fact is, I’m still adjusting to the entrepreneurial aspect of this, and despite the comfort I take from feeling helpful, doing what I can to help out around the office carries the same productivity level as spending three hours designing a business card:  Exactly zero.

The truth is, I’m not quite sure what it is I’m supposed to do yet.  They say that the hours between 9 and 12 should be spent “Lead Generating,” whatever the heck that means…I’ve heard some agents say they cold-call everyone and their mother, and others say they have never had to bother with it.  Still others say they’ll knock on doors, or focus on a technology-based lead generation system.  I’ve learned that there are probably ten good ways to generate leads, but I don’t know which one suits me.  Hell, I haven’t tried a one of them yet.

I may not be a lead-generating monster yet, but I haven’t stopped networking.  The book to the left of this column has blown my mind on several levels, but one of them really struck a chord with me:  Networking is best done around a dinner table.  Think about it: people tend to open up and show their colors when there’s food–and plenty of wine–around, and for me personally, I get so energized around meeting new people that I decided to have the first of many dinner parties to come, in a week or so.  Heading into the holiday season, we’ll probably only do one more–if that–but come the new year, we’ll be running them probably once a month.

The great thing is, it isn’t even about the food.  A homemade meal is almost universally appreciated (even if it’s terrible, people usually appreciate the effort), but something I learned from “the Orange Book,” as I call it, is that the point is to get people around the table.  It’s a traditional, communal thing for us humans to do this, and I have a firm belief that around a table is where humans are at their most intimate (excepting the obvious other place that they are, of course!).  It’s true now, among all of my closest friends in my adult life, but it’s also been true among all sides of my family since I was a kid.  In my family, there’s been a kids’ table and an adults’ table since I could remember–simply because we couldn’t fit 25 or 30 people around the table–but it didn’t matter.  When a hilarious story comes up, it’s usually shared with the whole room, no matter who’s sitting where.  Christmases, Thanksgivings, Pool Parties, July 4th Parties, Tailgate Parties…everyone gets together, eats too much, pops that belt buckle out a notch, and talks candidly about politics, football, opinions on so-en-so’s kid heading down the wrong path–it’s all there, and it’s all because of food (and beer or wine…and in some cases, Bag-O).  I feel very close with a good majority of my cousins simply because of that time we spent each year hanging out and catching up.  It’s still the same as it ever was…only now the kids’ table is all grown adults, and some of them have their own kids to look after 😉

The really great thing is that I’m expecting between 6 and 12 people to show up for dinner, but it really isn’t to corral them into buying something or giving me leads.  I’m not selling timeshares in the Carribbean, for god’s sake.  In fact, I don’t want to talk shop much at all (unless it comes up naturally) because I won’t subject my friends to any kind of manipulation just because they’re a captive audience.  That’s just crappy, far as I’m concerned.  I really just enjoy the company of people around my dinner table, and I love introducing people to each other who can help each other accomplish things, or just get along well.  One of my best friends told me once, “You’re the glue that keeps this group together;” well, now I’m starting to take that seriously, and make it into something bigger than myself.  Here’s to the journey!

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