The Beginning of a Possible End…

Well, yesterday I visited the vampires to have a tube of blood taken from me – and we will see once and for all if I am in fact reactive to gluten (or maybe even something else). Hoping for the best, but preparing for (and honestly expecting) the worst.

As I sit here nursing down an Old Rasputin Stout, maybe the last one I’ll ever get to have. Sigh. My world might be about to get shaken up in a big way.

I’m so not ready for this.

As a side note: tattoo numbing cream/gel works great for blood draws. To me blood draws are way more painful than tattoos. Ugh.


Whoa, Phoenix!!!

After an excruciating two weeks, yesterday the VW tech brought Phoenix back out to my house, after which I settled up with him (to the tune of $1,652 and change!) and we exchanged keys and he drove the loaner back to the dealership. Easy peasy.

So what have we got? Idling smooth as butter, no misfires, no nothing. All new spark plugs, ignition coils and fuel injectors, plus a carbon cleaning. We’re talking the motherfucker of all tune-ups.

So today, for the first time, I got to REALLY put her through her paces. After running to the liquor store from some wine on Tax-Free Tuesday, while talking to Laina via phone (no, not holding the phone, I swear) I decided to “dig in” and really open her up…

…I nearly pissed myself as it startled me.

Laina will be the first to tell you, too. When the turbo kicked in it caught me off guard. I got sucked into my seat and off I went. Before I knew it I was up to the speed limit on the little backwoods farm-to-market road I live on. It shocked me. I didn’t know a little 4 cylinder engine could put that much out.

OK, I’m not feeling so bad about my purchase now. LOL!

Cigar Review: Bellas Artes Maduro

This offering from AJ Fernandez features a Brazilian Mata Fina Maduro wrapper of a Mexican San Andreas binder and Nicaraguan long fillers. The size smoked for this review is a 6″ x 54RG box pressed Toro vitola.

The first light reveals a perfect draw producing thick plumes of medium/full bodied smoke. Heavy earth and black pepper dominate the first few puffs, supported by a soft creamy note.

The first third builds on the opening puffs with the introduction of a rich dark chocolate and espresso on the draw and adding a red pepper element on the finish. There’s a very subtle sweetness that ties it all together, but it’s a very heavy, dark flavor package. The smoke is very heavy on the palate also.

Getting into the second third the pepper and spice slightly diminish and the earthy note morphs into more of a leather. The final third drops almost everything but the leather and a slight spice – quite plain toward the end. Ending at 1 hour for an average burn time for the size and bringing in a matching medium/full nicotine strength.

Flawless construction throughout with an absolutely razor sharp burn line. Ash only held on for about inch or so chunks but didn’t upset the burn any. High quality self-adhesive bands that removed easily without damaging the wrapper.

I’m torn on this one. The first 2/3 of the cigar was great with lots of complexity. The last third, quite frankly, was boring. This cigar would have been much better had it been a more consistent blend (even as much as I enjoy cigars that have transition points and keep things interesting). Still a good option for a bold red wine, imperial stout beer or bourbon after dinner though. Priced fairly at $9/stick give or take. Rating: 3.75/5.

A Little Blast From My Teenage Years


In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, I share this little ditty from The Even Stevens Musical. The ending still just cracks me the fuck up.

Have a great day everyone, and here’s to that one small step for man, but one giant leap for mankind.

Cigar Review: The K by Karen Maduro

This offering from Karen Berger cigars is a Nicaraguan puro. The size smoked for review is a 5″ x 52RG box pressed Robusto.

The first light reveals a perfect draw producing ample medium bodied smoke. Core flavors of a smoky meat draw followed by a peppery finish and retrohale with a tinge of cedar.

The cigar develops beautifully in the first third retaining the first light flavors while adding a deep, rich, creamy chocolate onto the draw – almost like a malted milkshake. Think of the flavor profile as going to a 50s diner and ordering a chocolate malt with your burger. The pepper and cedar remain on the nose. The smoke is very thick on the palate – almost “chewy.”

No changes were noted in the flavor profile for the 2nd third which was fine by me because I was totally digging the flavors. The final third showed the smoky quality (don’t laugh!) getting more intense as the body ramps up to a medium/full. Ending at 55 minutes for a good burn time for a Robusto and bringing in a medium nicotine strength.

Construction was very good with only slight variations in the burn line that did require correction at the halfway point. Ash held on for half the stick. High quality self adhesive bands that removed easily and did not damage the wrapper in any way.

This cigar had a very unique and delicious flavor profile that kept me wanting more. With its medium blend profile, this is a great option for a mid-day or lunch smoke. Would go well with coffee, red wine or maybe even a nice mimosa. A little pricy at $9.50/stick but well worth it for the flavor profile. My final rating on this stick came out to 4.25/5.

The Epilogue…

So today I went and purchased VW’s fuel system cleaner. Talked to the parts director and apparently I wasn’t doing poor Phoenix any favors either.

When I went to buy the fuel additive today, the parts specialist asked me what kind of fuel I was running (note: I run exclusively Chevron or Texaco fuel with Techron as it gets the best mileage in any car I’ve ever had). I told him that and it was good, but what he asked me next took me aback – “what grade of gasoline?”

Having never owned any VW car before, I didn’t know some of their cars call for premium fuel. I guess it makes sense with all that German engineerng and performance under the hood. The Jetta GLI is one such model (which is different from the regular Jetta by the way – it’s got a slightly longer wheelbase, higher performance brakes, an extra forward gear and a beefier, turbocharged engine). I looked it up in the owners manual just to make sure he wasn’t blowing smoke, and it said to check inside the fuel door for the correct grade to run in your car.

Guess what? He was right!!!


Well that sucks. I had no idea Phoenix needed premium fuel to perform at her best. This could explain some of the residual running issues I’ve had even after having new coils installed. I’ll of course run the fuel cleaner through it with the next tank of gas, and switch to premium fuel even though that’s going to add quite a bit of additional cost to my fuel bill. Of course, I doubt the previous owner heeded this recommendation either.

It’s actually probably a good thing I didn’t know about this at the outset because it might have been a dealbreaker for me. I’d have passed up on an amazing car at an insane price. Alas, now I know and I’ll be sure to give her the fuel she needs, even if that means increased cost.

I just feel kinda bad now. Oh well, live and learn I guess. We’ll just go from here I suppose.

Cigar Review: Henry Clay Warhawk

This cigar features an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper over a Connecticut Broadleaf binder and Honduran long fillers. The size smoked for this review is a 6″ x 50RG Toro vitola.

First light reveals a slightly snug draw but producing plentiful creamy medium bodied smoke. Core flavors of a sweet nuttiness on the draw with a heavy oak and pepper finish and retrohale.

Getting into the first third the draw opens up to the perfect resistance and the smoke retains a medium body as the pepper diminishes somewhat allowing a hint of cocoa to enter the draw. I have to say not quite my expectations for a Connecticut wrapped cigar.

The 2nd third sees not so much a transition as an addition to the already complex flavor profile. Everything holding at medium body, but the finish adds a note of yeasty bread to the mix.

A slight shift in the final third as the nutty flavor transitions to a thick, creamy leather note and the pepper dropping off almost entirely. Ending at 1 hour 15 minutes for an impressive burn time and bringing in a surprising medium nicotine strength kick.

Construction was very good with a razor sharp burn line and high quality self-adhesive bands that removed effortlessly and did not damage the wrapper. Short, flowery ash so be aware of that though.

What a surprise. Definitely exceeded my expectations for a Connecticut blend. At about $8/stick it’s very reasonably priced too. Great morning or mid-day smoke with some great coffee spiked with Bailey’s, Chila or Rumchata. Rating: 4.5/5.