I’ll Spread My Wings and I’ll Learn How to Fly…

In the final post of this series (and likely also the shortest), this refernce is another one you practically had to be living under a rock to miss the reference. Well, maybe not as blatantly as you would have had to with “Complicated” but maybe it’s obvious to me because this last one was almost our high school class song (it lost out to some stupid-ass country song called “Young” – I was disappointed).

So I’ve decided to embrace my quirks and so-called “flaws,” decided to un-complicate things and decided to live life I never have. So what do I have to in order to do that?

That’s an easy one: I need to spread my wings and learn how to fly. I need to do what it takes to touch the sky. I need to make a wish, take a chance, make a change and breakway from this prison that I call Crapilene. When I moved to DFWTF, I thought my heart was calling me back to Abilene and maybe it was in the interim, but that was just a safety net. I realize I was just falling victim to Stockholm syndrome, aggravated by the excessive misery heaped upon me by the toxic culture of “The Met” (and anyone who has lived there knows DFWTF will absolutely suck your soul).

With starting a new business comes a huge risk. Oh it’s a risk. I’ve done some scary shit in the past, but that’s probably the scariest thing anyone could ever do. Alas, with big risk also comes the potential for big reward. My business model will never make me rich, and I mean never. If I were to be honest with myself I’d be making considerably less money than I am now, even being in a city that’s all but ideal for my business concept (which SA is while Abilene is not in any way). A high end cigar & spirits bar is a labor of love all the way.

Alas, there is one thing I’ve come to realize: getting rich is life’s biggest booby prize. Living where I do (not actually in Abilene, but in a farming community just outside) I’m actually considered high income for my area even though I don’t bank. Alas I have next-to-no living expenses in my current arrangement. I’m living almost like someone who really makes half again what I make in my salaried 7-4 job. I used to think all I needed was money and I’d be happy (particularly when I went through a long stretch of unemployment), but now that I have some money in the bank and am still as miserable as ever, I realize how wrong that notion was. Of course, it’d be nice to be both happy and rich but I think every person on this fucking planet would pick happiness over riches if they were forced to pick between one or the other. You’d have to be a real idiot not to (or maybe a masochist).

Of course, the added benefit of being in SA would be to be close to my beloved neuro-sister. While it might be the icing on the cake, it’s a very, very thick layer of icing – maybe even thicker than the cake itself. Someone who I see as potential partner in this business endeavor (but who would also be the toughest one to convince to come with me) actually seems to sympathize and suggested we might be twin souls. Maybe that explains the pain I’m feeling as I write this – maybe it’s like a magnet that’s pulling on my body so hard that it’s creating pain beause my body can’t move with the pull.

Of course, that’s not to downplay saying goodbye to the ones here. Of course I love my parents, and while they would be sad to see me go, they’re even sadder that I feel so bad. I’ve not yet divulged to them why I feel this bad, but they know. They just know, and I’m sure they’d be 100% supportive of me when this comes to fruition. I’ll be back to visit of course. Abilene to SA is only about 250 miles after all, and after I’ve gotten this far in my tattoo journey almost exclusively as one artist’s canvas (and soon to be just one artist’s when I have her re-work the one done by someone else that healed like complete shit) so I’ll have to come back to add to my tattoo collection, unless she decides to break away herself and open a shop in SA that is. 😉

And yes, you read that right – it’s not “if,” it’s “when” – it’s in the stars – not only am I a tropical (false) Pisces I’m also a sidereal (true) Pisces and self-employment is in my DNA according to the true system and after exploring sidereal astrology with Laina I am a firm believer in it – hence my calling this whole thing a spiritual awakening. I’m not saying I make my every move based on it, but it’s amazingly and bizarrely accurate.

My purpose isn’t to sit in an office all day. My purpose is to do cool shit with cool people. While cranes are cool machines, the career/industry surrounding it is anything but. It’s just as soul-sucking as any other corporate job. Nah, I have to transcend. I have no choice. If I don’t, well then I might as well just commit suicide because by not I’ll be doing nothing but prolonging needless suffering and I absolutely refuse to subject the ones I love to the pain of losing a loved one to suicide. I just can’t do it. Why do you think I’m so glad my attempt four years ago failed, against all odds.

Breaking away is the final step in my personal transformation, which has been a process and now it’s entering its final stages. Of course, the process started on January 2nd, 2016 when that seemingly small blue mark was permanently etched into the dermis of my posterior inner right wrist reminding me that my story wasn’t over yet. Who knew something so small, so profound would have such life-changing consequences? What are the odds.

It’s not coincidence. It’s destiny.

Well, so much for being the shortest post of the series. It turned out to be the longest. Oops. I guess the words just flow sometimes. But that’s OK. I’ll say what needs to be said regardless of word count. Hope you enjoyed the song if anything else.

That concludes this series. I know I’ll have my haters, but you need not comment. I have no time for that. If you dare to hate on any of these posts by the time this one goes up (note: the series were pre-written on the same day and set to post in succeeding days) you will be automatically blacklisted. I don’t need anyone raining on my parade. You’re either with me or you’re not and if you’re not fuck off and unfollow me. Thank you.

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Cigar Review: Mr. Brownstone

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This offering from Esteban Cabrerras features a Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper over Ecuadorian Habano binder and Nicaraguan long fillers. The size reviewed here is a 6″ x 52RG Toro vitola.

First light reveals a slightly snug draw but producing ample smoke. Medium bodied flavors of a light earth, maple syrup and oak with a peppery/spicy finish.

Getting into the first third the body seems to waver between medium and medium/full. We see the same great flavor profile as the first light but with an added dimension of a milk chocolate toward the start of the draw and the sweetness coming up a tick. The smoke has a thick, chewy quality on the palate and is very smooth. The flavors are well blended with no one flavor dominating.

Getting into the 2nd third we see a subtle shift as the earthiness takes on more of a very distinct leather note as it takes on a rich creaminess. Everything else remains and the draw opens up to even what I would consider slightly loose by this point. The final third doesn’t see any additional changes and keeps the flavor profile consistent, with the exception of the body now being solidly into the medium/full category. Ending at 1 hour and 15 minutes for a solid burn time for a Toro vitola and entering only a subtle nictone strength.

Excellent construction with a near razor-sharp burn, but the paper band was a real pain to get off – I had to grab it under the foot to tear it off (sacrificing a tiny flake of wrapper leaf). Ash holds on about an inch at a time.

This was a solid offering all around. It would have been a 4.5/5 if not for that stupid paper wrapping (which adds nothing to the cigar and is pure marketing BS), but the issues therein cost the cigar a half point in my final ratings so it came out to 4/5. It is a highly recommended cigar that would go great any time of day and whatever you want to pair it with.

Photos and Reflections from the Inaugural IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas

Racing season is in full swing with both the NASCAR National Series (Trucks, Xfinity & Cup) and the NTT IndyCar Series so you know that makes me a happy camper. It actually gives me something to look forward to on weekends. Alas, for the first time since they opened in 2014, Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX finally hit the IndyCar schedule, and I was chomping at the bit to go.

I was already planning on visiting a good friend the week around the race (the amazing Laina of Who Loves Kitty and The Silent Wave) to check on the two cats my family had placed with her family about this time last year and to do a little show-and-tell with my Linux Mint machine, but when I found out IndyCar was racing at COTA I knew we had to add that to one of our adventures during my time there. After some arm-twisting (interpretation: hardly any) I convinced her to tag along for the race.

After getting some necessities at the dreaded WalMart and a little gas station, we found our parking spots and walked seemingly all over the track trying to find our perfect vantage point (being a 3.5 mile road course, seeing the entire track is impossible but you can see key areas in certain spots). Once we found the right spot, we settled into our lawn chairs and proceeded to talk IndyCar and a lot of the jargon used in the series (which she picked up on really quickly – something that did not surprise me in the least).

During pre-race I walked her through the whole process, pace laps, pit strategies, tire compounds among other things, but before we knew it the field was given the one to green signal, and that’s where the fun started. When the green flag dropped we were both like kids at Christmastime (I’ve attended oval races myself but never a road course race).

Laina amused me with her seeming excitement watching the cars go by and just taking in all the action – the passes, the lone wreck and just the race in general. She also entertained me with her amusing nicknames she assigned to the cars based on the livery they were sporting – “Flash Bang,” “Hello Kitty,” “Road Cone,” Blu-Ray” among other amusing names that were oddly fitting, except for one – though Will Power (#12 Penske Chevy) led 45/60 laps, he retired early with a clutch and engine failure. So much for being “The Immortal” huh? Oh well, as bad as we both felt for him, it was exciting to see Colton Herta become the youngest driver to ever win an IndyCar event – he was six days shy of being 19 years old at the time of the race.

Of course we had done some things right and some things wrong. Looking at the course map I thought I had the ideal seating spot, which I quickly found out was not the case because of the elevation change blocking the critical portion of the track (the home straightaway). OK, fine, the best place is actually between the start/finish line and turn 1 where you can see about half the track. The downside? I had gotten Lot F parking which was on the other side by our original planned set up location. Note for next time: opt for Lot T parking as it’s right there.

Of course, the time at the race couldn’t be complete without a few photo ops so we of course threw those in.

A coupld of selfies (the best we could do because Selfie Sticks are not allowed in COTA, the bastards:

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Of course, the individual images where we were just being our weird selves. She downplayed hers somewhat:

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but I being who I am just had to ham it up and pretend to be glamorous and strike a pose with the background and of course show off my racing tats and you know I’ll never turn down an opportunity to model my ever (in)famous “Davy” Dukes:

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Then they had a little prop where you could put the T in COTA – something rather amusing that neither of us could turn down an op at:

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Oh, and just a little video of the action from our vantage point for good measure:

Luckily traffic getting out wasn’t too bad; following GPS and using a TollTag (they’ve really got their shit figured out at this place – plenty of surrounding roads to funel traffic in and out). Alas, needless to say we were starving upon departure so we found a quick bite to eat on the way back to San Antonio. One way or another, I was relieved that Laina enjoyed herself and we both agree we need to make this a yearly excursion – attendance was great so hopefully COTA will become a permanent fixture on the NTT IndyCar Series schedule.

Alas, now it’s time for some rest and on to the next adventure this weekend! I’m on vacation all week this week so what the fuck ever right? I’m going to forget about work and just enjoy some much-needed time off (especially after the fiasco that was this week). Just rest and general fun this week, the I get to do it all over again in Fort Worth next weekend with the spring NASCAR weekend at Texas Motor Speedway!

Cigar Review: Sindustry Black Works Studio SE2019 Lancero

This offering from Black Label Trading company features a Mexican San Andreas wrapper over Nicaraguan Habano binder and Nicaraguan long fillers in a 7″ x 38RG Lancero format.

Slightly snug draw but producing ample smoke. Medium/full body. Lots of flavors out of the gate. Toffee, cinnamon, black pepper. A touch of raisin. A heavy oak lingering on the finish. Lots of nasal burn on the retrohale.

Getting into the first third is more of the same. Draw opens up to normal at this point. No one flavor stands out – they are blended perfectly. Very complex but there’s a slight grit to the texture.

We see a significant transition in the 2nd third as the oakiness morphs more toward a smoky, meaty quality. The pepper also takes on more of a cayenne note. It’s very substantial and the finish lingers forever. The raisin notes also morph into a distinct yeasty bread. It’s almost like a totally different cigar now.

The last third was very zesty, spicy and slightly acidic. There’s also a metallic quality. Very interesting to say the least. Ending at 55 minutes for a reasonable burn time for a Lancero and entering a medium nicotine strength.

Absolutely flawless construction with a near razor sharp burn all the way down. Ash drops off quickly but that’s to be expected with a Lancero.

This was quite a complex stick. Very spicy too. Too bad Lanceros burn fast because I’d have loved more. This is a Privada Cigar Club exclusive so if you want in on this be sure to sign up! Rating: 4.75/5.

Side note: this is my 600th post. Kind of hard to believe.

Cigar Review: Southern Draw Cedrus

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I’ve become a big fan of the Southern Draw line recently. Every one I’ve had to date has been a real winner, so when this one came in my March Privada box I was very excited to see another one of their offerings. The Cedrus features an Indonesian Sumatra wrapper over a Nicaraguan Habano 2000 binder and Nicaraguan and Dominican long fillers. The size reviewed here is a 5.5″ x 52RG Belicoso vitola.

The first light revealed a perfect draw producing plentiful medium/full bodied smoke. Notes of cedar, leather and pepper. Tiny bit of sweetness and a tinge of hot cinnamon clears the sinuses on the retrohale.

Getting into the first third we see more of the same. Pepper dials down just a little bit and a salted roasted nut note enters the mix. There’s also maybe a fleeting hint of cocoa on the tip of the tongue. Everything is bold and complex but well blended.

Into the 2nd third we see an interesting transition. The cinnamon drops off and is replaced by a zingy lemon zest. The leather also takes on more of a yeasty bread note along with a hint of banana  -think like a Belgian beer or banana bread type flavor. Still the same subtle sweetness to round it out.

The final third sees another fairly major transition. The nutty notes take on a very distinct toasted pecan note that takes over the palate. Sweetness drops off while the leather returns with a slight vegetal undertone. Ending at 55 minutes for a solid burn time from a robusto sized stick and bringing in a medium nicotine strength.

Flawless construction with a near razor sharp burn. Ash held on right to the first band. High quality self adhesive bands that come off easily and do not damage the wrapper.

Yet another solid offering from Southern Draw. Lots of complexity, richness and very transitional. I paired this with some of my Chila spiked coffee and it was a beautiful pairing. Ra.ting: 4.5/5.

Some Thoughts About Bagpipe Pitch

Continuing my recent theme of bagpipe-related posts, one thing I don’t think I could gloss over is an issue that has bothered me for a long time now – the ever-increasing pitch of the bagpipe.

An old grad school friend of mine last night remarked to me that it seemed to her that the pitch of the bagpipe has increased sharply (pun fully intended!) in the modern time. I reassured her that it was not just her ears playing tricks on her. This trend is a real thing and it’s just not a good trend in my view.

As for why this trend is a thing, despite a lot of pipers not being happy with the trend? Well, let’s just say pipe band competition drives a lot of market trends in the industry and pipe bands (particularly at the top levels of competition where minutia can make the difference between a first place and last place finish). For whatever reason, bands tended to note that if they pitched their chanters (and subsequently their drones) just a shade higher than the rest of the field it gave them an edge in scoring, most likely because a higher pitched sound is perceived as louder (well, at least within the normal operating range of the bagpipe). As such, the stage was set for an arms race for who could produce the highest pitched sound.

This trend took an instrument that once pitched a few hertz higher than concert Bb (that’s B-flat for you non-musical people) to one that now pitches right at B (natural). In the last 10 years we’ve seen almost a half-step increase in the pitch.

So why is it a problem, so long as the instrument is tuned well? The answer is the higher up you go in pitch the more of the upper harmonics (upper partials if you will) you lose as they become inaudible to the human ear as they are now in a frequency range the human ear does not detect. What you gain in perception of volume and clarity you lose in richness of tone. In the band scene this might not be a huge issue when you have multiple instruments to fill the sound out, but a soloist at today’s modern band pitch does not sound pleasant. Hell, it’s even so high now that bands don’t sound pleasant anymore.

Let’s do some case in point here. Same band, 10 years apart. One performance from 2008 and one from 2018. The difference in pitch is absolutely shocking.

This has no doubt gotten out of hand. Alas, it’s harder and harder to find lower pitched chanters these days, which is why I was relieved to find one in my perusing of shops last night (designed by a major bagpipe making firm in conjunction with a top-level piper), and no doubt I’ll be ordering one to complete my new set of drones (and to use with my current one). My current go-to chanter was designed for a vintage pitch but along with chanters, even modern reeds are designed higher pitched than they used to be so the pitch of my chanter has creeped up in turn. It’ll be interesting to see how this one compares.

I don’t know. All I do know is that I sure hope the trend reverses soon.

What do you think? Pipers or laypeople, what do you make of this trend?

Doing Something Nice for Yourself

First things first, you’ll be pleased to know my new tattoo has healed up beautifully as they always do when you use Saniderm/Tegaderm to heal a tattoo. I’ll of course post a healed pic on the “My Tattoos” page once I get ample lighting to take a good picture (not for a couple of days – cloudy, dreary and a chance of snow here for the next two days; yes it even snows in Texas!).

Anyway, aside from that highlight my life has been struck by a bunch of lowlights recently. Job stress, family stress, a health scare, a 30 day Facebook jail sentence, a pet’s death, learning of two close friends moving away, deailng with a punk-ass troll, you name it. When it rains it pours, I guess.

As such, I think I deserve something nice for weathering the recent storm. Just what I didn’t know, until I was browsing FB (yes, I can still browse but I can’t post or send messages) and I saw something I’ve been eyeing for awhile pop up and I’m like “I just got my tax refund, now’s the time!”

As an intermittent hobbyist piper, one thing that has always worried me with our climate in Texas is cracking and warping. Unfortunately, with it being able to go from blistering hot to freezing cold in a matter of minutes around here, this puts an undue stress on the instrument. It isn’t much issue when you’re playing in a climate controlled area, but anytime you play somewhere that it’s very hot, very cold, very wet or very dry you’re going to have problems, and lo and behold I have multiple pieces in my instrument with hairline cracks (all the “stocks” – the bits that actually tie into the bag). It’s inevitable in our climate.

A solution to this is to look at alternative materials, of course – the most popular being a thermoplastic called polyoxymethylene (most commonly sold under the trade names “Delrin” or “Polypenco”). This has been used in the construction of woodwinds for a long time and have been great for that and it makes a very good chanter, but drones are a different story – drones made of Delrin have historically had a very unrefined, loud and brashy tone. Nonetheless I’d always wanted such a set as one I could take anywhere in any climate and not have to worry about it.

Well US bagpipe maker Roddy MacLellan introduced an all-new design a couple of years ago he calls his “Revelation” bagpipe that elevates the Delrin instrument to a new level – it gives you the resiliency of Delrin but the sound of wood by lining the bores with a cellulose polymer material. This design features some other innovative solutions for moisture control, including silica gel cartridges in the drone stocks to keep your drone reeds dry and maintain tuning stability. Roddy talks about his new design a bit here:

Ever since this design was introduced I have absolutely been drooling over it – it’s so unique they actually applied for a patent on it. I already own and play a 2008 MacLellan bagpipe in African Blackwood and it is hands down the best bagpipe I have ever played. Alas, it does still have the issues that wooden bagpipes are prone to, granted it’s held up really well despite the abuse I’ve put it through. I could never part with this beautiful instrument. To have a twin in Delrin will complete my stable in every way. Of course, as with any of his bagpipes, you can choose any of his drone profiles and doll them up however you wish, as I have.

Now obviously I won’t be retiring my ABW set. I could never do that. Alas, I will probably just pop the stocks from the Revelation in and use those with both sets of drones on account of the hairline cracks in them and the moisture control built into the Revelation stocks. For practices and performances in climate controlled environments where the wooden pipe would be “comfortable” it will still be my go-to instrument, but anytime I have to be outdoors in the elements for any length of time or any time I have to travel the Revelation will be my instrument of choice as I have no desire to go through the permitting process for my now CITES listed ABW bagpipe – if caught with them without the proper paperwork they would be subject to confiscation! Of course, I have the same two chanters and blowpipe I’ll use with both sets of drones so that doesn’t change one way or another.

Anyway, it’s been a long time since I’ve gotten myself a gift so I figured it was about time. It’ll be approximately 4-6 months before it arrives but that’s OK. Quality can’t be rushed. When they do arrive I hope to finally be over a little health problem that has prevented me from playing at all recently and I’ll be ready to assemble and give them a test drive.

Until then, the anticipation begins!


PS: It looks like maybe the immediate threat of the troll has passed so I’m re-opening comments. Let’s hope I can keep them open.