Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A huff and a puff and the land is ours

(A special prize to whoever can figure out what I'm riffing on as re. the title.)

I come to speak of cigars.

As always, I started out easy. With cigarettes. My habit consisted of a semester of Dunhills (cigarettes) as I was, um, seeing a rather sophisticated sophomore girl during my freshman year of college (she was very partial to Gitanes). But after a broken heart, I moved up to the hard stuff: pipes and eventually strung out on cigars.

When I drink Scotch* (straight up with the merest sprinkle of mineral water) I feel my marrow ACHE for a cigar. For a while I was fortunate to have a cigar client and I managed to score The Really Good Stuff. (I once remember forwarding the catalog to a friend who said "Dude, cocaine doesn't cost this much." Little did he know he was looking at wholesale prices.) So I got used to filling my pockets with it and firing up on my back deck. FREAKIN' bliss. But then again, when you're incinerating $20's worth of leaves and converting it into an aromatic haze, it damned well oughta be. But then the situation with the cigar client dropped into the 87th circle of Hell and I was out. I did have enough sense to hoard as much as I could** prior to my bailing out. I won't tell you the names of those cigars, but I'll clue you in to the best*** you can find these days:

1- Oliva (Cameroons)
2- Gispert (Maduros)

I swear I am/was funnier and more charming with a cigar in my hand.

There is a ritual (and for good reason) to the whole cigar experience. First you clip the end with a double-guillotine cutter (I like Davidoff's but I am eager to try the new ceramic blade models). You do this by placing the cutter flat against the table, opening up the blades, positioning the cigar "cap" against the tabletop (within the opening of the blades) and shutting quickly, for a clean cut.

Next, you "toast" the end. You take a lighter and just run the flame quickly to blacken slightly the WHOLE area of the end. Then you place in your mouth, applying flame to cigar as you puff and spin the cigar. You do not want to leave any of the end's surface unlit. A proper cigar will not require you to constantly puff to remain lit. A puff every 30-60 sec. ought be fine.

Now you know!


* THE best Scotch for drinking with a terrific cigar is Aberlour 10 year old Single Malt. It's not the best Scotch overall, but its flavor profile does the slap 'n' tickle with a cigar better than anything else.
** Being shafted on my final invoice, I felt no compunction about making off with several boxes with street values--back in 1997, mark you--in the $300-$500 range. This was the best of the best stuff...nothing rated under 90 points by Cigar Aficionado or Cigar Aficionado's Insider. I then went out and splurged on a burled walnut humidor where these beauties have been aging patiently. I had one a couple of weeks ago and time stood still. The sad part is that the client sold out, the new management changed the blends/discontinued the brands and it has been HELL getting replacements. That's why I won't tell you what these are. Sorry.
*** Cuban cigars just ain't all that. The tobacco is still the best, but as one of the few sources of hard currency for the [spit]Communist gummint[/spit] the emphasis is on maximum output, not quality control. 20%-25% of the cigars in any given box will be total losses.

Monday, October 23, 2006

It's all in the details, really.

[If you are reading this post on a site other than Basic Civilization, or reading this with Bitacle.org in the address, you are reading scraped and stolen content.]

If you look carefully, you will see that current thought on matters of menswear is pendulating* back in the direction of unaffected elegance. Mark you, this doesn't mean men are dressing that way in appreciably greater numbers, but it's a twinkle of optimism which bodes well for the very long term. At dead worst, it can't hurt.

When discussing the matter of unaffected elegance, what we really mean is the conjunction of simplicity and perfection (of fit, construction, etc.) and suitability (flattering color or cut, and so forth). Of course, the more simply elegant things get, the more scope there is for the man whose mind can work in subtle ways to express himself.

As I march inexorably towards senescence, I am beginning to look at different things when glancing at the pages of (what passes for) fashion magazines or noticing the aspect of my fellow man. 10 years ago I would have focused on his lapel or the cut of his trouser cuff. Today I notice things like the jetting of the pockets and the shape and finish of the buttonholes.

Which brings us to the topic of today lads (and those unfortunate lasses stuck with lads who ought be absorbing evcery word on this blog but aren't) which is the matter of bringing a subtle frisson of elegance to your array. Part of the "subtle" thing is to make sure that a) all the elements are individually subtle, and b) the aggregate of all these subtle elements is likewise subtle. That is to say, if you wear a discreet pair of cufflinks, with a discreet pocket watch chain and discreet fob, and a discreet collar pin, and a discreet signet ring, and a discreet tie clip/bar...well, a metric ton o' subtle is hardly subtle, is it?

The goal is for those who know to notice, and those who don't to not notice.

Here are some of my favorite gentlemanly fillips, fortunately in broader availability** these days:

1- Silk knot cufflinks. You may wear them in your school colors, to match your tie or pocket square, etc. It fairly elevated the wearer to the ionosphere of cognoscenti.

2- A proper timepiece. It takes nothing--beyond a net worth which outstrips one's sense of taste--to wear a diamond-encrusted Rolex. If one is keen to wear the cost-equivalent of a midsize sedan on one's wrist, one could choose from umpteen elegant Patek Philippe or Breguet or Blancpain watches. But even that is unnecessary. Just avoid too much gold (solid gold bracelets ought be approached with the greatest caution, as they can very easily fall into pimp or The Sopranos territory) and all precious stones except a cabochon at the crown. Leather straps are preferable with suits and sports jackets, steel bracelets are acceptable with more sporting apparel or any time your wrist is likely to get all perspirant. Oh, and avoid the modern tendency for watches with cases the size of bagels. Lastly, one needn't spend beyond the mid 100s for an elegant, quality timepiece. Brands such as Tourneau (although those can get very pricy very fast) and Tissot and Frederique Constant are quite reasonably priced, excellent quality and more often than not, supremely elegant. The less said about replicas, the better.

3- Collar pins. I know, I know...it screams "1980s." The trick is to find the plain barbell (where one ball unscrews) and, ideally, a shirt with the proper pinholes sewn in. If you cannot find such a shirt, find an old one destined to polish furniture and practice affixing the bar without scarring the collar. If push came to shove, tab collars are also natty and very understressed these days.

4- Monk strap shoes. A touch of glint around your Antarctic circle is a good idea. Also, their construction, unencumbered by broguing or caps is sleek and cool. (The buckle only being revealed when you walk; in the above picture the trousers are hiked up a scoche to show off the whole shoe.)

And there you have it. Go perform a benefit for the eyeballs of the human race.


* If that's not a word, it damned well ought to be.
** Make hay while the sun shines, says I.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


[If you are reading this post on a site other than Basic Civilization or with Bitacle.org in the address, you are reading scraped and stolen content.]

As I was reading one of my favorite blogs I ran across this little lovebomb: some imbeciles at bitacle.org are STEALING various blogs' contents and posting them on their own site and appending advertising thereto and--surprise--not compensating the bloggers whose contents they steal/stole. As it is, it seems my blog is not yet caught in their machinery, but that could change at any moment.

Oh, and they utterly ignore any and all copyright* notices.

To see if your blog (they seem to prey on blogs which have feeds**) has been one that has been pillaged, read this article. So far, nothing's been done to me or my blog...but I feel soiled and violated anyway.


* Unfortunately, I'm too dense to append such a copyright to my blog.
** Fortunately, I am too dense to know HTF the whole "feeds" thing works.