Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saturday at the Hut - 7/23/11

We had a smaller crowd at The Tobacco Hut today than the last several Saturdays. Not standing room only like last week, but a more intimate assembly. No vodka and liverwurst either, so I had to make do with peanut butter pretzels and Mountain Dew. No matter. In attendance today were Paul O, Joe K, Lou and me...and Adrian made an extended appearance!

I was joking with Adrian that a group picture had been taken a couple years ago that included him in the background. At the time, Adrian was just the black guy who breezed in and out and we didn't really know too much about him. In fact, I remember looking at the picture when I posted it to the blog back then and thinking, "Who the hell is that guy?".

From left: Tom L, Steve B (sitting), Bob H (your humble narrator), Joe K ("Thank You Jesus" pose), Peter G (sitting), Lou, Adrian (who is that guy?), James K, Ed B.
(Click to enlarge)
I did a little searching and found the blog post in question and am re-posting the picture above. The occasion was a party we had for James K, Joe's son, who was moving back east for his job. You can read the blog post here - it sounds like we had a good time back then.

Even with the debate and rhetoric over the debt ceiling raging in Washington, our discussion today remained pretty sedate. I tried to stir the pot a little, but no one took the bait. I think what's more pressing is whether professional football will be played this fall or not. We obviously have our priorities in order.

Joe was thoroughly enjoying his La Gloria Artesanos de Tabaqueros cigar and - best of all - he didn't complain once during the entire smoke! Typically for Joe, it will canoe or unravel or become too tight to draw through or taste funny or get a stem in it or go out or have an odd smell or the band will give him a paper cut. But this time, Joe was smoking perfection! Woohoo!

Glad to see Paul O sticking around. We could have called him the "White Adrian" because he would often breeze in and out, but the last couple weeks he's settled right in and enjoyed a cigar or two. Hope to see you next week again Paul!

Now the best news of all. Not only did Adrian show up but we actually played a game of chess. Typically when he does show up on a Saturday he'll make up some excuse why he can't play. He adopts his old "breeze in and out" persona, claiming that Mrs. Adrian is waiting in the car and doesn't have time for a game. Of course, he only started doing this once he had three victories in a row under his belt.

But today he sat down and, after everyone else had left, we broke out the chessboard. Hell, I was about ready to just take it home one of these weeks, thinking he would never sit down for a game. I'm glad I kept the board at the Hut though. Especially an hour and a half later when I emerged victorious! Adrian had me on the ropes about midway through the game, but the turning point was when I forked two of his pieces, a bishop and rook, with my pawn, and I was able to go up a piece. I still had to be careful, 'cause Adrian is quite resourceful and always has a surprise or two up his sleeve, but I held on and, with just a few pieces left on the board, he resigned.

He has pledged to return next Saturday, anxious to regain his crown. Maybe I'll do a disappearing act for the next few months so I can rest on my laurels - LOL!

 - Bob

Monday, July 18, 2011

Saturday at the Hut - 7/16/11

Sorry I'm a couple days late in filing this report. Saturday evening our air conditioning went on the fritz and was finally up and running this afternoon (Monday). Just didn't feel like banging out a blog post when the inside temperature was 92ยบ.

Anyway, Saturday at The Tobacco Hut was standing room only as we had a dozen guys in attendance. Besides Lou and me, the roll call included Peter G, Joe K, Ed B, Jim C, Paul O, Vic and his cousin Russ, Tom L, Steve B, and Arnie. Arnie called his brother-in-law, Don, in North Carolina, and put him on speaker so we'll let that count.

Before I get to the savory treats provided by some of the fellows, I have to point something out that was a little troubling. Tom L apparently keeps a picture taken long ago of James K, Joe's son. I'm thinking Tom has a bit of a man crush on James, and was probably heartbroken to hear of James' wedding a couple months ago. Sorry, Tom, couldn't resist - you were giving me a rash of crap because I didn't know how to hold Arnie's iPhone. In retrospect, I guess I deserved it after I introduced you to Arnie as our resident a**hole. Maybe I should have softened the label by calling you our resident wiseass instead.

Paul O has been in many times, but seldom stays for long. This Saturday, however, he settled in for the duration. Paul works in the funeral business, selling pre-planned funeral arrangements. He is also gifted with a great sense of humor, and his choice of profession lends itself to many jokes and stories. So stop by often, Paul, we enjoyed hearing them!

Lou ringing up a big
sale - note the large bag
on the counter.
(Click to enlarge)
Lou was in an especially good mood since the cash register was ringing a lot, including a big sale of 5 lbs. of roll-your-own cigarette tobacco. That's Lou at the counter ringing up the huge bag of it. Whenever a customer walks out of the store with a bag that large, Lou's a happy man.

Vic mentioned that while he enjoys the blog, especially the photo of him that I doctored up last week showing him on his scooter with the bright purple handlebar streamers, I never include stories that poke fun at me. Now, be assured that I find myself in the barrel quite often, to use the terminology of the Hut. writer of the blog, I exercise certain literary freedoms, and one of them is that I like to remain relatively unscathed and not draw attention to the barbs aimed in my direction. It's far more fun for me to recount the jokes at others' expenses. You are free, of course, to leave a comment on any of the blog posts if I've omitted anything!

Vic brought in a chub of homemade liverwurst from upstate New York. Joe brought in the crackers, and the feast was set up on the end counter. Quite a few people enjoyed the Braunschweiger, which originated in the city of Braunschweig in the Brunswick province of Germany. This particular liverwurst is made by a guy in western New York that Vic knows. Vic has brought quite a few chubs of liverwurst and other deli meats with him in his various travels from the north.

Arnie actually brought in
a full bottle of the blue-
berry Vodka, but it didn't
take long for us to drink
half of it.
(Click to enlarge)
Arnie brought an ice cold bottle of Norwegian vodka, Vikingfjord. He was telling us about it last week, along with Aquavitt. He didn't have any of the latter with him, but he did bring us a bottle of this blueberry flavored vodka. It's made with purified, distilled glacier water and it was quite good. I had a couple small shots of it and the blueberry flavor was distinct, but not overpowering by any means. It actually went well with the pipeful of G.L. Pease's Westminster I was enjoying. Indeed, in Arnie's honor, I was smoking a Nording pipe. Now Erik Nording isn't from Norway, rather Denmark, but it's all Scandinavia. The vodka did not go too well with the remainder of my Mountain Dew however.

Vic brought his cousin Russ in for a visit. Russ is visiting the Rochester, New York area and, we discovered after a bit, that he went to school (as did Vic) with a cousin of mine in Avon, NY. He's also friends with a cousin on my father's side, who also lives in Avon. Definitely a small world. Russ is a liquor and wine sales representative, so he and Peter had some common challenges to explore as Peter is in food sales.

Russ almost committed a fatal error by sitting in Lou's chair when he arrived. In Russ's defense, the chair was empty and I...well, I encouraged him to sit in it. Lou was more forgiving than I thought he would be, and after Vic fell from his scooter to one of the regular chairs, Russ took up his position on the scooter (sans handlebar streamers).

A shout out to Leah, Vic's wife. I became friends with her today on Facebook. I've looked for Vic on Facebook, but can't seem to find him there.

A little later in the day, Steve was talking to a customer about something I found interesting. The customer had suffered a heart attack a few months ago and is trying to maintain a healthier diet. Steve recommended he look at a website called Mark's Daily Apple. The creator of the site, Mark Sisson, has developed a "primal" diet. Acknowledging that humans have only been farming for the last 10,000 years, but began evolving millions of years before that, Mark eschews foods containing the various grains and sugars, instead favoring primarily meat and vegetables. I won't go into the whole diet and philosophy here, but check out his website. It's very extensive and understandable and makes a lot of sense. It boils down to a primal diet, i.e. eating what our ancestors ate, which was whatever they could pick or kill. Peter had asked for the website from Steve, which he gave him, but I thought a wider audience could benefit from it.

Another shout out, this time to Jim C, and his new (to him) 1978 Corvette. Sorry I don't have a picture to show, but this is one fine looking - and sounding - machine. If you ever get tired of it, Jim, and just want to give it away, keep me in mind!

Paper bead necklace; beads
imported from Uganda.
(Click to enlarge)
One more many of you know, Paula has been making bracelets with paper beads that come from Africa. She has now just started making necklaces from the same beads. Bracelets are still only $5 and necklaces start at $20, depending on the size. I'll be adding photos of the necklaces to her website, Paper Bead Bracelets but, for now, you can see what the necklaces look like here.

That's it for this week.

 - Bob

P.S. In the weeks to come, you may see some unobtrusive advertising from Amazon along the right "rail" of the blog. I'm exploring ways to monetize the blog, but only if I can find a way to do it that isn't distracting and is relevant to the subject at hand. If you have any feedback regarding this, please don't hesitate to let me know, good, bad or ugly. Thanks!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Saturday at the Hut - 7/9/11

Saturday was a well-attended and fun-filled day at The Tobacco Hut. The roll call included Joe K, Peter G, Vic, Coast Guard Don (two weeks in a row for Don!), Barry (although he came later in the afternoon), and a newcomer to Saturdays - Arnie, Don's brother in law. And, of course, Lou and myself. A little more about Don and Arnie in a minute, but first, I think we need to change Vic's nickname to ScooterPoot or something.

Apparently, he tore a ligament in his left leg several weeks ago and was wearing a boot until it healed. Well, it didn't heal properly and now he's wearing a full hard cast over his foot and almost up to his knee. Lou signed it with a loving, encouraging message of good will ("Too bad, Lou"), but the rest of us were more interested in the little scooter Vic was tooling around in.

Vic's scooter with pretty
handlebar streamers.
(Click to enlarge)
Vic wheeled himself to the restroom and on his way back, Arnie surreptitiously snapped a photo of him trying to navigate his way out of the back room. (Lou, to avoid an ADA lawsuit, you'll probably want to widen the doorway to the back, widen the bathroom door, and install grab bars). We had talked about what accessories Vic should add to the scooter, like a big orange warning flag to the back, a cute basket in front, or chrome wheels. But I think the consensus was that he should add bicycle handlebar streamers. So, thanks to the magic of Photoshop, I have outfitted Vic's scooter with adorable purple and white streamers. I think Vic said he's hoping to have the cast off in a few days so won't be needing the scooter anymore, but hopefully he'll take our kind suggestions to heart and install the streamers before he turns the scooter back in.

I enjoyed a bowlful of Baker Street in a pipe I haven't smoked in probably ten years. It was a Savinelli unfinished tomato shape with Lucite stem. I obtained it when I worked at the Tinder Box in Columbus and smoked it so much at the time that it darkened up quite nicely. I added a coat of wax to it and buffed it up and, other than a few spots of putty, it's a good smoking pipe. I'll probably add it back into the rotation.

Coast Guard Lockheed HC-130H
based at Clearwater Air Station
that Don may or may not fly
or work on in some capacity.
(Click to enlarge)
This was Don's second visit in as many weeks, but he'll be shipping off to North Carolina, so it will be awhile before we see him again, I'm afraid. For the next couple days, Don is stationed at the Clearwater Coast Guard station but, my apologies to Don, I can't remember if he said he works on or flies a particular type of airplane. He was talking with Joe about a certain plane last week. I know he said he flies, but not sure if he flies for work or pleasure. In any case, I located a photo of a plane that is based at the Clearwater station and include it here for your viewing pleasure. (The photo was taken at an air show somewhere, but doesn't look like Florida). Trivia time: What is the Coast Guard's official motto? It's Latin, and bonus points if you can translate it. Answers at the end of the blog.

Don's brother in law, Arnie, is a pilot for Continental Airlines. He is also originally from Norway although Vic and I tried to place his slight accent as Scottish or Irish at first. Arnie has lived in the States for quite awhile now, in Pennsylvania, but is looking to relocate to Florida sometime in the future. One could say that by migrating from Norway to North America, he has followed in his ancestors' footsteps, since the Vikings actually discovered North America before Columbus did. Archaeological digs in Labrador and parts of Newfoundland prove that the Norse lived in North America five hundred years before Columbus "discovered" the New World. Truth be told, neither Columbus nor the Vikings actually discovered America. Various indigenous tribes had been living here quite happily for thousands of years before any Europeans set foot in the Americas.

Continental 767 similar to what
Arnie flies.
(Click to enlarge)
Arnie flies 767's on mostly international routes and, in his honor, I have included a pretty cool photo of just such a plane. I stole the photo from someone's website, thanks to Google Images. It shows a heavy layer of condensation accumulating on the wings and in the engine intakes.

Arnie had lots to say about life in Norway which, as is most of Europe, a socialist capitalist society. I thought I would no longer be the lone liberal in the room when he explained that for years he always leaned more to the left, but now has swung over to the dark side (my words, not his) and is more right-leaning. Joe erupted with a "Thank you, Jesus!" and when Arnie identified himself as a Christian, I knew I was once again the token Godless communist in the room.

Peter is doing well in his new position as food service sales representative, having opened a new account this past week. I told him that Paula and I were headed to Mr. Souvlaki in Tarpon Springs for dinner. By the way, we ran into Undertaker Tom at the restaurant. He advised the waiter to watch out for me, as I was one of the biggest "dine and dashers" in the county. Thanks Tom, I felt like I had to tip extra big to make up for the guy's newfound suspicion of me.

Arnie and Don spoke at length about preparing various foods. Don apparently has a 1000 lb. meat smoker and Arnie explained how to salt and age various meats. Peter, Vic, and Joe were all salivating, especially when Arnie was talking about preparing and cooking leg of lamb. It was all quite interesting, even to someone like me who can barely make Jello without burning it.

Aquavit, or akevitt in Norwegian,
served in traditional tulip-
shaped glasses.
(Click to enlarge)
Arnie also had everyone salivating about aquavit, a vodka-like spirit that originated in Scandinavia and is obviously one of Arnie's favorite drinks. He has pledged to bring some one day for us to sample and I'm sure if we announce it ahead of time, the Hut will be packed that day. Akevitt, as it is spelled in Norwegian, is distilled from grain or, as is the case in Norway, from potatoes and blended with spices such as caraway, cumin, and anise. A little research on Wikipedia discovered that, although many Scandinavian countries drink aquavit, Norway's production and consumption of it is unique. In fact, Arnie mentioned that the akevitt is aged in oak casks that are transported by ship from the colder northern latitudes southward past the equator and back north again, to gradually change the temperature of the liquor, all to assist in the proper aging.

We watched as Derek Jeter got his 3000th hit, becoming only the 28th player in major league history to accomplish that feat, and the second to do it with a home run (Wade Boggs doing it first, as a Devil Rays player). Vic was kind enough to call Barry at work to let him know we all witnessed history while he was digging a ditch. Barry came later in the day, but everyone had left by that time except me. Sorry you missed the fun, Barry!

That's it for now. Safe travels to Don and Arnie and hope to see them again soon. Arnie said he would try to make it next Saturday and Vic was hoping to as well, but after seeing the above picture, he might stay away for awhile.

Oh yes, the Coast Guard motto is Semper Paratus, which is Latin for "Always Ready", not to be confused with the Marine's motto, Semper Fidelis, or "Always Faithful."

Until next week...
 - Bob

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Saturday at the Hut - 7/2/11

We had a nice crowd at The Tobacco Hut today - Tom L, Joe K, Peter G, Ed B, and Don. Don's not new to the Hut, but he's not a Saturday regular. He's in the Coast Guard and is actually being stationed out of the area in a couple weeks. His reputation actually precedes him, as Lou has talked about his barbecuing prowess in past conversations. Once the topic of food preparation came up, Peter and Don were off to the races, talking about marinades and the art of dry aging steaks.

Peter shared with me something very personal and private, and normally any secrets entrusted to me are "in the vault" but I can't keep something this momentous in. Peter said that he heard an interesting news report...on NPR! Yesss! Another convert! Yet another person who has seen the light of fair and objective broadcast journalism. I think he said something about making a donation come pledge time too! Okay, I just made that last part up, but I'm just happy he's listening.

Joe actually smoked two cigars - well, one and a half. His usual go-to cigar, the Padron, has been inconsistent lately and Lou gave him a new one to try. Didn't catch the name of it, but Joe seemed to enjoy it.

I was smoking the Cavicchi Paula had given to me for Christmas a couple years ago. The Dunhill 965 tasted wonderful in it, the touch of Latakia adding a perfect amount of pungency to the aroma and a subtle "roundness" in the taste.

Tomorrow I'll be headed up to my mother's in Spring Hill for our 4th of July cookout and, thanks to Vic and Ed F, it'll be extra special flavors of home. A couple weeks ago when Vic came up for the Father's Day party, he gave me a 4-pack of red hots from Rochester. There will be a couple folks reading this blog that are very familiar with red hots and white hots and their unique flavor. Ed F also surprised me with Stadium Mustard from Cleveland. Can't wait to try out the combination of the two. A big thank you to Ed and Vic!

The talk today was a little political in nature, but nothing too contentious. Tom L didn't even make one "Libby" remark to me. He must not have been feeling well.

Other topics included the age-old debate about who was sexier, Barbara Eden of I Dream of Genie or Elizabeth Montgomery of Bewitched. Elizabeth Montgomery got a vote, but the overwhelming winner was Barbara Eden.

Joe informed us that his son James is closing on a house soon in Atlanta. Congratulations to James and his new bride!

Toward the end of the day, it was just Peter and I and Lou sitting around chatting. Talk happily turned to pipe making and Peter was taking quite an interest in the subject. I was kind of hoping he would not only convert to NPR but to a pipe as well, but I think he's content with his one cigar a week habit. Anyway, I promised I would put up the link again from a previous post on a pipe making video segment from the program Modern Marvels.

I had blogged about the program a couple years ago and provided the link to the YouTube video that included the segment. I located the old post but when I tried the link I got the dreaded message that "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by A&E."

Undaunted, I did locate a video on the Peterson Pipe website that shows their process for pipemaking. It's a short video, less than 12 minutes, and interested readers might find it enlightening. It can be found here.

BTW, thank you to the folks who took the survey that was posted for the past two weeks. The results are as follows: 50% of respondents are regulars to the Hut who read the blog to find out the spin on what happened, 40% are occasional visitors and like to read the blog to keep up with what's happening at the Hut, and 10% are out of the area and read the blog to stay in touch. Again, thank you for participating and maybe I'll come up with another survey soon.

Happy 4th of July everyone!

 - Bob