Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday at the Hut - 6/27/09

We celebrated the 25th anniversary of The Tobacco Hut today in fine style! I'll try to list here everyone who attended, but I'll probably miss a few. Anyway, here goes: Lou & Dotty, of course; their lovely daughter Diane; their part-time-but-still-highly-valued-employees Joe K, Peter G, and me, your humble narrator; Scott R; Paul V; Trucking Broker Brian; Print Shop Brian; Major Brian; Ed B and his father in law Jim; Darryl; Barry C; Steve B; Joe D and his son Larry D; Tom L; Paul who didn't win a thing until Lou was almost out of door prizes; Undertaker Tom; Kevin who made Lou a table; Frank B; Irish Tenor Buddy; Hollywood(?); and probably half a dozen or so others whose names I didn't catch. Late in the day Mike G called in his congratulations from the mountains of Tennessee (I wonder, was he at the top of the telephone pole like Oliver Douglas in Green Acres making his call?).

There was food aplenty including pizza, wings, homemade pasta salad, a meat and cheese tray, chips, salsa and dip, and homemade cookies. According to Tom L there was also a carving station in the back with roast beef and ham, shrimp cocktail, and lobster tail on the grill. We found out later that the stuff in back was only for the special guests.

I committed the ultimate faux pas by bringing in the wrong type of chip. It's not that what I brought was a corn chip and Lou only likes flour chips, or they were the wrong color, or they tasted bad, or that Lou prefers the scoops. No, I brought in the wrong brand. Yes, I tried to be helpful and supply some food that would be appreciated, but I unwittingly picked up the incorrect brand of chip at the grocery store. It's my fault of course, because I've heard more than once about how Lou had some sort of legal battle with the company-that-shall-remain-nameless fifty years ago and now never buys any of their products. My bad that I didn't examine the fine print on the bag. I had poured about a dozen of the chips in the bowl when Lou discovered what brand I had supplied and he bolted out of his seat, picked up the bag and - I'm not making this up - threw them in the trash.

As tempted as I was to simply leave and go find another cigar and tobacco shop that was celebrating its 25th anniversary - hopefully one where the brand of chips doesn't matter - I took the high road and fished the bag of chips out of the trash and served them. So yes, everyone who ate the Brand X chips today was essentially eating garbage.

Drawings were held throughout the day and Lou obviously negotiated well with his vendors to supply some great prizes...shirts, hats, cigars, insulated bottles, lighters, ashtrays, playing cards and more were raffled off. There was so much horse trading going on between everyone that at times it seemed like a Chinese Christmas gift exchange, but I think everybody came away with at least one item.

Lou also had some excellent deals on cigars including Nestor Miranda 20 Anniversario Danno Cigar from Miami Cigars. The cigars were made in extremely limited quantities and shipped to only 100 select tobacconists. Lou received two boxes and made them available at a discounted price to those in attendance.

I lit a pipe for the first time in almost two months, since before my accident and surgery, and did it taste good! I smoked my favorite tobacco, Tinder Box Reserve 1928 in an Ascorti Pepino - always a great combination.

Everyone asked about my recovery and wished me well. Tom L felt so compassionate he offered to wait on me hand and foot, filling a plate with pizza and cookies and offering to rub my feet. I appreciated the food, but had to draw the line with the foot massage. Now if it had been Sue Ann offering...!

Joe K's son James was sorry he couldn't make the event. Apparently a 3000 mile journey for anything other than a party revolving around him is too much to ask, but he did convey a special greeting to Lou for the auspicious occasion. This being a family blog, his special greeting will not be repeated here.

Lou enjoyed a great turnout with probably thirty people in attendance at its peak, spilling out to the sidewalk in front of the store. Fortunately it was overcast and breezy, making both inside and out quite comfortable. Of course inside there was so much smoke it was hard to see the person beside you.

Congratulations to Lou & Dotty on 25 years in business - quite an achievement!

For the regular Saturday crowd, don't forget the Hut is closed next Saturday for the Fourth, so we'll meet on Friday the 3rd instead. I'll bring the chips!

Check out the pictures below - click each one to view at full size.

- Bob

Diane, Lou, and Dotty

Me, Peter, Joe (labor); Diane, Dotty, Lou (management)
Shameless plug: If you like the looks of that t-shirt your humble narrator is sporting, check out his designs at The Erudite Outlet - Smart gear for the smart set!

Lou and Diane with the table Kevin made (on left, in background)

From left to right in foreground: Scott, Kevin, Paul, Can't Remember.

Diane drawing a raffle ticket for a valuable prize.

Darryl and Jim

Joe D

Ed B, Joe D, Don't Know

Lou, Scott, Kevin, Paul V

Kevin, Paul V, Can't Remember, Tom L

See the chips and salsa in the uppermost corner of the table? Mmmm...

Lou on his way to rudely give back the chip I left for him at his seat.

It wouldn't be a party without Steve enjoying the wings!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Saturday at the Hut - 6/20/09

We welcomed Lou back from his gambling junket to Tunica, Mississippi today. Lou and Dotty like to get away now and then to try their hand with Lady Luck. The fact that Lou was there this Saturday and not jetting off to the Riveria means that they must not have brought too much of the casino's money back with them. But they had a good time, and that's what's important.

I think I reported in the last post that they went to Biloxi but I was mistaken; it was Tunica. And speaking of being mistaken, I made another mistake. A few weeks ago I designed a brochure on the Smoke Stik, the electronic cigarette that The Tobacco Hut started carrying. I provided Lou a CD with the front and back designs in PDF form, so he could take it to Office Depot or Staples and they could print it out for him.

The next week he reported that they couldn't open the file and that it wasn't in a PDF format. I said that was impossible, and he should go to someone competent like a traditional print shop. So when I saw him yesterday, he reported that he took it to a real print shop and they had trouble opening the file as well, saying that it wasn't a PDF. They were able to open the files in Photoshop and print the job for him, but I didn't design the brochure in Photoshop. I designed it in Adobe Illustrator and saved it as a PDF.

I was bound and determined to prove myself right, and fortunately I had saved a copy of the burn disk so when I got home from the Hut I checked it immediately. Well, now I'm eating some crow, because the files were saved in the Illustrator format. I had never converted them to PDF's.

It takes a big man to admit his mistake and the scales don't lie; I'm a big man now admitting his mistake. Sorry Lou!

Joe K and Ed B were in attendance today as Peter G was in Ft. Myers visiting his daughter. I'm still not smoking yet, but probably will break out a small pipe next week during the anniversary party. Ed, Joe and I firmed up what we were bringing to the party for eats. There will be refreshments and raffles and should be lots of fun. No dancing girls, unless Sue Ann shows up!

The party is next Saturday, June 27th, from 11am-4pm. There was a great turnout five years ago at the 20th anniversary party and we're expecting the same next week. If you don't have it on your calendar to attend, make sure to pencil it in. Dotty and Diane will be helping out as well, so at least come out and say hello to them, even if you ignore Lou.

Joe brought in a gift certificate that Val got for him as a Father's Day present, specifically reserving Joe's favorite cigar (a Padron 1926). Joe smoked it down to the nub, relishing every puff and, with the smoothness and confidence of a pickpocket, folded up the gift certificate and put it back in his pocket after he lit up the cigar.

The subterfuge almost worked until two hours later when it suddenly hit Lou that he hadn't actually been handed the gift certificate. Joe handed it over with a laugh and I think we all learned a lesson: it's tough to pull one over on Lou, especially when money is concerned.

I am reminded of a joke Mike G and I played on Lou several years ago. Lou had the TV tuned to some sports event like football or golf when he got up to take care of a customer. Mike suggested I change the channel and then take the batteries out of the remote. So I found "Disney on Ice" or something similar and pocketed the batteries.

Hilarity ensued when Lou returned to his throne, er chair, looked at the ice skating and erupted, "What the hell is this?!" He snatched the remote from the table and began stabbing at the buttons, to no avail. Lou's face got redder and redder, and the profanities started flying as he was now convinced that the remote was broken. Before he burst a vessel somewhere, I produced the missing batteries. So it is possible to get one over on Lou, but only when money is not involved.

Anyway, hope to see everyone next Saturday for the big party!

- Bob

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Saturday at the Hut - 6/13/09

Well, I'm still not smoking my pipe, but it was good to visit The Tobacco Hut yesterday after being in the hospital last weekend. People sometimes ask how long I've been smoking a pipe - the photo above proves that I started at a very young age! That's me in a photo taken in 1965 surrounded by some older cousins. If you look carefully you can see a corncob pipe hanging from my mouth. At 18 months old, I probably hadn't discovered English tobaccos yet, so was probably still smoking an aromatic. Just kidding of course. I started smoking a pipe when I was in my early 20's.

Lou wasn't at the Hut on Saturday - he and Dotty were in Biloxi playing the one-armed bandits and hopefully bringing some of the casino's money home with them. Joe K was running the store and Steve B was there along with Peter G and Ed B. Ed hadn't been reading the blog so was unaware of my ordeal over the last few weeks, so we brought him up to speed.

Usually I run the store for Lou on Saturdays when he and Dotty are away, but because of my situation I wasn't able to, so Joe and Peter took care of things. Joe was in charge this Saturday and he definitely runs things a little differently than I do. I mean, sure, I give lots of free stuff away, but I usually limit it to handfuls of cigars. Joe was giving away whole boxes to practically anybody. And he took a lot of naps.

I did tell the guys how I've been trying to "milk" the whole cancer thing with Paula. You know, she'll mention a chore that needs to be done like taking the trash out, and I'll respond with, "Hey, can't help you - cancer!" When I was just home from the hospital, I could get away with it, but now that I'm up and about and feeling almost back to a hundred percent, I can't use the cancer card anymore. Of course, not having the cancer anymore thanks to the surgery kind of makes it a tough card to play anyway.

This past Friday I had the staples removed plus we got the pathology report back from the doctor - the surrounding tissue all showed negative which is, obviously, excellent news. I meet with an oncologist on Monday who will set me up on a schedule of follow-up scans to make sure it doesn't come back.

Today Paula and I bought a car to replace the Honda that was totaled almost a month ago in the accident that started it all. We bought a 2009 Hyundai Elantra, doing our part to stimulate the local economy. Too bad I can't afford to stimulate it a little more and buy the new Camaro, but I needed something to get me to and from work.

The car came with XM Radio built in and since they've merged with Sirius, they now have an NPR feed, which I'm happy about. So Joe, not to worry, I'll still be able to fill you in on everything I hear on that last bastion of fair and objective news in this country, National Public Radio. By the way, Joe, you don't even have to type in the URL; I've given you the link to NPR right here.

The Tobacco Hut turns twenty-five this year and Lou & Dotty are celebrating with a party on Saturday, June 27, starting at 11 am. I think it's a pretty big deal when any small business can make it to the silver anniversary mark, but a tobacco store in today's economy and business environment is especially notable. Lou & Dotty have obviously been doing something right all these years and I hope that everyone reading this is able to make it over and help them celebrate. Even you out-of-towners - come on, buy a plane ticket!

Thanks to everyone who wrote or called with their support, prayers and good wishes over these last few weeks. It's been a tough period for Paula and I, but made much easier with the support of good friends.

- Bob

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Saturday at the Hospital - 6/6/09

There was no joining the crowd at The Tobacco Hut for me this past Saturday. If you've been following the blog these last few weeks, you know this weekend was spent in the hospital having my right kidney removed. When I was in the ER for the car accident in May, a CT scan revealed a cancerous mass on my kidney. Standard procedure is to remove the whole kidney, and that's what I had done this past Friday. Saturday was spent recovering, and I was home today.

The doctor said the surgery went very well - he was able to do it robotically, meaning I have four small incisions and one main one where the kidney is removed. Smaller incisions mean a shorter recovery time. It is pretty hard to fathom that 48 hours after having an organ removed, I'm home from the hospital and walking around, albeitly slowly.

I have to really give a shout out to the staff at Mease Countryside. They were all very friendly, extremely competent, and compassionate. Sue Ann, if you're reading this, you are entering a very noble profession and you have my highest admiration.

Paula wasn't even jealous when Courtnee, a very pretty blonde nurse, offered to take me for a stroll Friday up and down the hallway. I was in heaven as we trundled down the fourth floor, me holding on to the IV pole, Courtnee walking beside me holding the back of my gown closed and carrying my pee bag. I think she liked me.

I only wish that my roommate, Joe, had been as considerate as I tried to be. Was it the bodily noises he made all night long that bothered me? No, that can't be helped, and I'm sure I made a few of them as well. But did he have to keep the television on from 6 am-10 pm every day?! I don't think he watched a single program for more than ten minutes; he was constantly flipping channels. Next time I'm springing for a private room.

The food wasn't even that bad in the hospital, once I was off the liquid meals. My first two meals were broth, jello and juice, but on Saturday I graduated to solid foods. A tuna sandwich never tasted so good! Now I'm home and some home cooking from Paula tonight was wonderful.

It looks weird to look in the mirror and see Frankenstein-like staples covering my shaved belly, but it's better than one large front-to-back incision. Even the shaving process had some humor. Apparently, I'm quite ticklish on my stomach and I couldn't tolerate the technician shaving below my chest a few minutes before surgery. So I did it myself - I wonder if I get some sort of discount for doing their job?

If I'm feeling up to it, I'll stop in to the Hut on Saturday for a little bit to say hi. I should be a little better by then. I'm looking forward to getting back to my pipe, but that's several weeks off I'm sure.

Until next time - cheers!
- Bob