December 29, 2007

Buy local

Walking through the Farmers Market, I'm caught by a Melange of scents from a stall. Drawn closer, I realize it's a spice vendor. Fresh anise, cinnamon, ginger, paprika, and many I don't know. Housed in large bags, it reminds me of Granada Spain, yet not. Here, I'm surrounded by men and women hawking fresh produce you can only imagine the taste.

Mangos picked yesterday and brought to market early this morning before the sun rose. A tiny morsel yields more juice than any mango I've had at home. The color of the flesh a dark yellow verging on orange/gold. Cut fresh straight to your hand, the juice drips down your hand as you try to keep it from slipping from your fingers.

Fresh garlic bulbs stacked in rows beg to be snatched up for set of meals. Four or five kinds of bananas fresh from the tree. Bright yellow and harvested at the peak of freshness and ripeness. Each bite full of rich flavor. Lichia, papaya, guava, pineapple, plums, nectarines, limons, are just a few of the fruits you can buy and sample. We won't even delve into the vegetables and greens.

December 20, 2007

Smoke 'em if you got 'em

I think my first experience with a cigar was around 14 or 15. I was going on a retreat for the weekend to the city with thousand's of other 'religious fanatic' teens. None of us were, but it was an excuse to get away for the weekend and pretend we were more adult than we were. Me and my buddy Brad went to the downtown smoke shop and loaded up on essentials. We planned on playing poker into the wee hours and we felt we should be smoking cigars while we did so. Not that either of us knew anything about cigars, but he smoked cigarettes so I trusted his judgment.

We filled our hands with boxes of tipped Swisher Sweets, some kinds of Cohiba'ish cigar in a white metal tube (sealed to keep the cigar fresh), plenty of wooden matches to light our booty when the time came. There were also some other random cigar's thrown into the mix including this incredibly long, thin cigar in a plastic case to show off the goods.

The result of this sampling of tobacco wonders had me thinking that all cigars (unless dipped in something else for flavor) were pretty much like sucking on an ashtray. A belief that would stick with me for years. Including my first Cuban cigar experience in Germany on the 4th of July when I was 26. I remember sitting in the midst of a few thousand souls waiting for the fireworks sucking on this monster cigar while waiting for the fireworks show. I was with a few friends and sat downwind to keep the smoke from bothering them.

It wasn't until a few years later that I had my first 1964 Padron Anniversario box pressed and just the right size for my desire to smoke it quickly and put myself out of misery. Hey, this thing ain't too bad. Not as ashtray like as the afore mentioned Cuban rolled behemoth. I imagined that even though my Padron's weren't from Cuba I was closer to self-actualization for smoking a $10 cigar. They were 'rare' and 'hard to get'. About as rare as seeing Sarah Jane's camel toe in high school as it turns out, but that's another story for another day.

A few months ago I treated myself to a Fuente Opus X. I think it was a Opus XXX, but I don't have the band handy to double check. At a cost between $20 and $60 depending on where you find it, this has to be one of the most expensive cigars on the market today due to it's rarity. Only released a few times a year, this cigar has become almost as sought after as sex tapes of the stars. Let's pretend for a minute that the market was unlimited and availability not so rare. I think I might have to smoke one of these on a daily basis. It pretty much ruined me for my previously amore, the Padron. I doubt I'll ever smoke another of those with enjoyment again.

The Opus not only burned perfectly flat and even (a first for me), but it burned with a rich smooth flavor I cannot begin to describe. After two hours with this lovely beast, I was pretty much ruined for lesser cigars. With this in mind, last week, I was able to sample the Punch Grand Puro and a Macanudo Gold from the 54's Future Classic Sampler. The Punch was very smooth and smoked almost as well as the Opus from months ago. A quite pleasurable experience from a much 'lesser' cigar. The Macanudo although a fine smoke, did very little for me other than remind of my ashtray licking days as a teenager. However, my smoking companion that evening seemed to much prefer the Macanudo. Different tastes.

The Opus X is a rare cigar as I mentioned, but not as rare as the cigar I smoked tonight. The rarest of rarities perhaps in a long time. With less than 800 boxes made, the Fuente Don Carlos 2007 Anniversary cigar could be considered by many the Holy Grail of cigars. At $1300-$1500 a box, they should light themselves, or at the very least give you a reach around when you are finished. Would I pay the price a second time? Perhaps, if the the event were equal in stature. Tonight is a memory I'll never forget, and that makes the cigar pretty much priceless in value. A cigar is a cigar, a lifetime memory is well, my own Holy Grail.

December 18, 2007

Lookin' goooooood

I lost 10 pounds yesterday. The trick now is to keep it off. How did I lose 10 pounds in one day you ask? Dehydration. It's the miracle of all weight loss programs. It's does tend not to stick well though. I don't have a scale, so I'm guessing on the exact amount. It might be more. Doubtful? Let's just say my shorts are riding a little more loose today than when i tried them on a week ago for the suitcase packing. Is it really important? Yes and no. No, because being comfortable in your body is paramount to your success in life. If you don't like yourself, odds are most other people aren't going to like you either. Yes, because I have an image of myself that I wish to project. And I feel better when I'm thinner.

Not being to exercise since my accident has been killing me. I've altered my diet pretty extensively, but that only gets you partway. Now that my ribs are mostly healed and I can start to lift heavier objects with my shoulder, I'm due for some good old-fashioned exercise. The last few days, I've walked more than is prudent since I'm just starting back, but the body is a resilient sucker. It's keeps coming back for more.

My legs ache like they do when I'm on a regular travel trip. I tend to walk 8-14 hours a day when I travel. Granted, I'm on vacation now, which is different, but I'm also walking just to walk. I did 7.5 km yesterday (and that doesn't include sightseeing, mall travel and just general up and across the street for lunch or an acai snack. I'm on my way to a new improved me. One that better matches the tan I'm going to have when I leave here.

Hopefully, I'll have a new improved mind set as well. I'm just starting to wind down. I hear people take vacations all the time that are uber short. I never understood this. You don't really start winding down 'til the 2nd week. Then you need to rejuvenate. Do it right or don't do it I like to say. Let's hope I'm on track to do it right.

December 17, 2007

Travelin' again

Random thoughts from today:

The sun is following me everywhere I go. Where is the shade?
I'm gonna be too burned to go to the beach tomorrow.
Joelho - the best version of ham-n-cheese ever.
Ice cold coconut water (drunk from a fresh cut coconut) is better than any beverage I ever drank when I was thirsty.
That's the spot I saw the dead body in the middle of the street the other night. Poor fucker.
Sun, wtf? Go shine on someone else for 5 minutes.
No, I don't understand what you said, I smile like a dumb-fuck because I don't.
Ice cold Chopp (Brasil draft beer). 'Nuff said.
Cupuacu - what a tasty little amazon fruit. Why don't they export this to the states?
Acai for dinner with a side of banana. Scrumptious.

Yes, you poor basterts, I'm in Brazil again. Shocker.

Can you say New Years Eve on Copacabana Beach with 2 million other revelers for the biggest NYE party in the world. For more pix and the full story, click here.

December 06, 2007

Cliché TV

10 things Jeff Probst should quit saying on Survivor.

10. Come on in guys.
9. Guaranteed an X spot to win a million dollars.
8. Wanna see what you are playing for?
7. Worth playing for?
6. Survivors ready!
5. X Wins Reward!
4. X wins Immunity!
3. I'll go tally the votes.
2. Xth person voted out of Survivor...
1. The tribe has spoken.

This is what the 8 or 9th season? Jeffie can't be any more original than that? Do we really need him there? Just get someone up there with a tape recording of his lame ass. Hey Jeff, get a shirt that isn't blue and perhaps doesn't have epaulet's.

I've got a couple of Survivor twists for future seasons. Winner of the immunity challenge gets to vote off the person of their choice and bring someone back to the game. Oh, here is a good one. 'The Hidden Tribe' only to be revealed after the merge and then joins the game. Or perhaps, play a whole season with just one tribe. Just imagine the power plays.

Put on yer booties, 'cuz it's cold out there

My freshman year of college was many things. Many more than I could articulate in the short space I have here. In some ways, it was the most expensive year of my life. In others it was the cheapest. You can't pay for many of the learning experiences I had. I'm sure most people feel similarly. My first semester of college was at an exclusive private college. I couldn't afford to go there. I had the biggest aid package they could muster. Mostly it was loans. That semester cost more than the remaining 4.5 years combined.

Let me explain a little more of the phrase, I couldn't afford it. They gave me a dorm room that cost more than I could gather in financial aid. I had no other money. It's practically unheard of for a freshman to live off campus. I did it. I lived in a friends basement. I didn't have a choice. I missed the best part of the freshman experience. I say that, but in retrospect, I could have lived there had I tried a little harder. I did have the meal plan. I didn't have a winter coat. In the mid-west, where temps can reach 30 below zero that's insane. I had two jean jackets I wore together to stay warm. I wore double sweatshirts and everything else I could find to stay warm.

I developed a scheme to raise money for a new coat. A brown leather jacket I coveted at the mall. I put it on lay-away (do they still have that?) I made payments whenever I could come up with $20. Eventually, the coat was mine. I ended up wearing that coat for a very long time. The collar is stained dark with skin oils. The pockets are worn out, the lining is shot. I can't seem to throw it away. It hides in the back of my closet not quite forgotten. A reminder of different minds and different times.

December 05, 2007

That's the spirit

I'll be honest, I don't have the Christmas spirit yet. There is this little budding champion inside me though. I can feel it daring to burst forth any second. Like a butterfly emerging from chrysalis I can tell Santa's spirit is right there. Maybe if I strain... Grrrruuuuuhhhhhh. Nope nothing. Damnation. Maybe if I listen to Christmas music all day, that will help.


Hours pass. Track 63 of my Christmas mix. Nothing. Dammit.


OK, so it takes more than straining and grunting like an ape to get into the swing of Christmas. What's that? Think of someone besides myself? What a grand idea. My last charity effort ended with a $40k medical bill. Let's aim a little lower shall we? Christmas caroling? I can't sing a lick. Or a spit. Or a note or whatever. Maybe I can hum a few bars. Humming is acceptable no?

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Sings Bing Crosby on track 64. The man is a Christmas spiritual genius. I can see the 50's family sing along right now. Ladies charming in sweaters and bras underneath that could only be acquired in a 'specialty shop' today. Marvelous. Why am I suddenly thinking about Twin Peaks instead of Christmas?

December 04, 2007

I call

My choices today are Rancid Milk or Gambling. I guess in essence, they are the same thing. You gamble on the milk not being sour. There comes a moment when you are all in and you don't even know it. You've pushed your chips into the pot and you are waiting to see if they will come back to you with some of their friends. You probably couldn't pinpoint the moment you moved your hand. The chips slide across the table. There is no sound. That moment is invisible. Was there a tell? Is everyone getting ready to plunder me? You don't even think those words.

Caught in a moment when there is no wrong. Your hand is unbeatable. We three kings. Then, suddenly, time moves again. The world catches up. You hear the clink of the chips, the rustle of the cards. You feel the eyes trying to read you. To get inside your head. It's not so different from the jug moving. Moo juice about to pass your lips. Rush down your throat. That split second before it hits your palate. Is it Rancid? Your stomach quakes the same way as when your opponent is about to show his hand. The same queasy feeling.

December 01, 2007

Mind embrace

I live largely in a fantasy world. Not the kind of world filled with elves, dragons, mercenary swordsman, highwaymen and magicians. But rather a world filled with my dreams of what could be. I want a lot, I dream a lot. Sometimes I even achieve my dreams. I've traveled the world, I've met marvelous people. I've seen sunsets cinematographers only dream of while they are filming. I've heard sad tales. I've seen dreams shattered. I've seen hope bring new life.

I cannot shut off my head. The fantasy world is where I tell off my boss, I say the right thing at the right time every time. There is no challenge I can't overcome, no impossibility. There is simply me and my belief that I will succeed. Eventually, I'll have all the right lamps in my condo, I'll drift off to sleep with the right girl in my arms, and I will wake up smiling.

I bet you've been there. Perhaps you have a fantasy world you visit when you have time. I'm telling you it's always time. That's how it seems to me anyway. People who daydream are more successful than those that don't. So, live a little. I'm giving you a pass for the day. Fantasy world. Live it, breath it, accept it.