Sunday, July 21, 2019

Cigars and Pipes


Cigars and Pipes

Recently, because I enjoy a cigar now and then (well, a few times a week I’d say), I became interested in pipes. To be honest, up until I met a friend of mine, we’ll call him Spencer (because his name is Spencer. HA!) a few years ago who is extremely knowledgeable in pipes, I thought they were a thing of the past.

Truth be told, the only thing I had ever seen when it came to pipes is Popeye, a few old Normal Rockwell paintings and my uncle Dave. I remember as a kid always seeing my uncle Dave with a pipe and it smelled so good. He was always smoking something like cherry or something fruity smelling. I was a kid though, so I never really put much thought into it. Other than my uncle, no one I knew or had seen ever smoked a pipe. So, like I said, I had thought it had disappeared.

Well, flash forward a few decades and here I am as a 48 year old man now involved in cigars and pipes. More involved than I ever thought I would be. Now as of this writing, I have a few pipes, 8 to be exact (I assure you I am in the market for a few more. I don’t need 150 in a collection, but perhaps a few good dozen would satisfy
Dracula
my wants and needs). One is a corn cob (and yes, those still exist and lots of people smoke them) and one is called “Dracula”.  I have over 20 jars of pipe tobacco from Crème Brulee to rum and I have three desktop humidors filled to the top with cigars (so around 80-100).

Just like any other hobby, sport or collection (yes, I know, cigars and pipes are not sports…just stay with me here for a second) it grows into something bigger and ends up costing more than you probably would imagine. Take a musician for example. A musician doesn’t just purchase a guitar and go…no no, they also have to purchase the guitar, a strap, picks, amplifier, cables, pedals, case, strings, stand, and on and on. What starts out as a $300 purchase quickly becomes a $3000 habit. Did I say habit? I meant hobby. Yeah, hobby.

Well when someone gets into cigars and pipes, the simple $8 cigar or $50 pipe turns into much more; humidors, tobacco, different cigars, pipe tampers, pipe cleaners, humidifying gels, different pipes, cigar cutters, special lighters, pipe racks, special ashtrays, tobacco storage, and on and on. $500-$1000 later and you finally feel like you can be somewhat comfortable in the “realm of the dark leaf”…for now. J

My kids asked me a few weeks ago why I’m into cigars and pipes so much. Good question. Motives to get involved in anything for people are different for each person. Some people get into sports for the love of competition and physical aspects. They get into music for the way each note speaks to them and makes them feel. They get into hunting for the thrill of the chase and the success of bringing down that trophy buck. I suspect many people get into cigars and pipes for a variety of reasons. Here are my thoughts...

Now, my reasons are nothing profound, nothing earth shattering and nothing that will or has changed the world. This is just my little world, my little “slice of heaven” as they say. First and foremost I would have to say that I am always intrigued by how things start, how things are made and the traditions behind them. I’ve always been enamored by how craft beers are brewed, how whiskey is made, how grapes turn into wine and so on. The “how it’s made” or “how it came to be” is one of the things that intrigued me with cigars and pipes.

Cigars and Pipes, to me, have always been a symbol of sophistication, gentlemanly gatherings, good conversation, great smells, history, stature, confidence, rituals, tradition and relaxation. Many fine people throughout our history have enjoyed fine cigars and pipes, so I always knew I’d be in good company.

There’s a peacefulness and relaxation that comes with enjoying a cigar or pipe from time to time. The way you prep, the items you gather, the way you light them, the way you take in the smells and on and on. It forces you to slow down and focus on just the task at hand.  …It’s completely different than simply lighting up a cigarette.

Cigars and Pipes are not for everyone…and honestly, I’m ok with that. It’s a special club to be a part of. It’s the brotherhood of the dark leaf. I recommend if you ever want to check out a cigar or pipe, partner with someone who knows what they are doing. Don’t let some dufus give you some garbage from a gas station and tell you it’s a top notch cigar (gas station cigars have come a long way and have their place, but come on…). Do some research on the Internet and YouTube…there are some great things out there. Light up and enjoy!

…And the answer is yes, yes I am. I’m assuming someone is asking “Is he smoking a pipe or cigar while writing this?” I currently have a nice Isla Del Sol Robusto cigar in my mouth. It’s a pleasant infused cigar with a hint of coffee and sweetness. It’s one of my favorites.

NOTE: The uncle I spoke about earlier, Uncle Dave, gave me one of his old pipe tools after we had a conversation about pipes. He purchased it back in the 1950’s and passed it down to me. A simple gesture on his part, but a meaningful moment for me. It’s a treasure I will hold on to for the rest of my life especially since he recently passed away.

Want to know my favorite cigars, pipes or tobacco? Just ask.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Faith in Humanity; Look closely, but it’s there.


10/2018


Faith in Humanity; Look closely, but it’s there.

I’m cynical, there, I said it. In the 47 years I’ve been on this earth I’ve had my fair share of somewhat miracles, glorious hours and joy joy feelings. And I have also learned that life is not fair, money certainly does not grow on trees and I’ve also taken quite a few bites out of life’s crap sandwich; which I can easily say that it is not enjoyable. I’m sure many of you can relate. We all have our “Time in the barrel” as they say. It’s a Yin and Yang thing right? A balance of good and evil, can’t have one without the other…and so on.

With so much negativity in the air, drama coming at you from all sides and the endless bombardment of news channels spewing political garbage, more senseless killings and an endless amount of idiots running around, it’s no wonder more and more people have become cynical. We’re quick to point out the bad, we’re quick to judge and we’re quick to put up walls (figuratively, not literally…then again….). The innocents of our children is dwindling by the minute because even they are feeling it too younger and younger.

However, unlike the rarity of the mystical unicorn there is still faith in humanity. Yes, it’s true. There is still good in this world and it happens each and every day. Sure you may only hear about the big things on the news like people helping during the aftermath of a hurricane or schools pulling together to raise money for cancer research, but what about the small things? What about the littlest of gestures that most likely go unnoticed by the masses, yet mean so much by the people involved? Let me share three examples that I was a part of within one week.

The Grocery Store – The wife and I stopped in to Meijer for groceries. The cashier was an older man, probably in his late 60s’ or early 70s’, wearing a Vietnam Veteran hat. He didn’t say much, just grabbed each item quickly, scanned them and put them in bags. To be honest, he was quiet with a bit of a scowl on his face and didn’t seem to be much of a conversationalist. My wife and I just assumed he was having a bad day and began conversing with each other about something. When it came time to pay, I took out our joint account debit card and ran it through for the $114 total. The card reader or card seemed to be having a glitch as I ran it through three times.

The cashier then advised that the card was declined. We knew we had plenty of funds in the account so we were perplexed at why it would come up as declined (we found out later as a fraud security measure, the card is shut down if there are multiple attempts to use it in once instance). The cashier then took a credit card from his wallet, set it on the little register shelf in front of us and said, “Here, this one should work.”

I grabbed another card from my wallet and slid it into the chip reader…and then it hit me and my wife at the same time. He was offering to pay for our groceries. He, an older veteran, was going to put our groceries of $114 on his own personal credit card. He had never met us before; we didn’t know him and he didn’t know us. Why would he do such a thing?

Well, to me, it’s obvious. He’s sacrificed himself before by serving his country during the Vietnam War. He is selfless, he is compassionate, he is a giver. Quiet and dignified this man, this veteran was a true gentleman.

I thanked him for offering to pay for our groceries, but that it was not necessary, we had the means. I thanked him for serving in the military, for being a Vietnam Veteran and thanked him for my freedoms which I enjoy every day.

Compassion and humanity at its finest.

The Gas Station – The wife and I stopped at a gas station in Perry Michigan one afternoon in mid-October. It was grey skies, windy, cold and certainly not the kind of weather you want to be walking in. As I pumped gas I looked across the station and saw an older gentleman (probably in his late 60s early 70s) walking away from the station with a small plastic gas container. He was walking towards the direction of the freeway. A moment later a younger gentleman (probably in his 30s) called out to the man to stop. He raced over to him and although I couldn’t hear the conversation, their body language and hand gestures told me everything.

The old man ran out of gas on the freeway a few miles down. He walked to the station to get gas and he was now walking back to his vehicle. The younger man offered to give the old man a ride back. He did so without hesitation and without asking for anything in return.
A simple gesture to many, but to me it was someone having compassion towards another and helping out the best way they could.

The Cross Country Meet – This year (2018) was the first year my kids joined Cross Country at school (7th and 8th grades). Late September was their first meet at Lakewood schools (Lake Odessa). I didn’t know what to really expect…I had never been to a Cross Country meet before. It’s basically parents just standing at the starting line, then waiting while their kids run through the woods, then waiting at the finish line about 15 minutes later to encourage their kids at the end. …with some parents being crazier than others. Anyway, at this meet were a few schools; Portland, Ionia, Lakewood, and Charlotte. The boys ran first, then the girls.

As the boys ran, the girls stood on the sidelines cheering on their school, then basically the same when the girls ran. However there was an incident at the end of the girls run that really stuck with me. And I’ll be honest, I got quite choked up over it. Yes, a grown 47 year old man getting choked up at a Cross Country meet. 

Most of the girls had crossed the finish line with a few stragglers coming in here and there. In fact, many parents and students had left already because they figured the race was over…or at least their child was done. However there was one girl still running through the woods.

She was a student from Ionia. She was the lone runner. Struggling to finish, you could see the pain on her face along with determination. Slow pace, and still a long way to go, but she wasn’t giving up (I’m actually getting choked up and teary eyed again just writing this, I swear).

Seeing a fellow team-mate in need, the girls from Ionia that finished the race began to run towards her and offered encouragement, then the boys from Ionia joined them. They were supporting their team-mate and fellow student. As if this weren’t amazing enough, something happened that really kicked my faith in humanity to the next level.

A male student from the Portland team stood about five feet from me. He waved to his fellow Portland students and yelled, “Come on guys, she needs our help!” and just like that, every student from Portland ran towards her to offer support.

They didn’t have to. In fact, most of the other schools had already left the field. But, they didn’t see competition at that moment. They didn’t see a rival school and they didn’t see a runner inferior to them. They saw a human being in need of encouragement, in need of inspiration and wanted her to cross that finish line a winner. And that she did.

I wanted to thank every one of those students from Portland. Heck, I wanted to hug every one of them for the compassion they showed to someone…not for the recognition, but for the simple fact that someone needed a little help and they could do something about it.

Kudos to them and all of the others who truly understand what compassion and teamwork is really all about.

Three simple examples that may not add up to a major event, but it’s still something. It’s still people caring about people. Its true humanity and compassion coming together. It shows that through all of the negativity, there is still positive out there. There is still the ability and the want to be selfless and do something for others. We can all learn that even the smallest of gestures can make a difference on someone’s life. It’s treating others with dignity and respect. And if you believe in Karma, it will come back to you tenfold.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

PUBLISHED!! Wicked Harvest is here!


They’re HERE!!! Ahhhhhhh!!!!

Ladies, Gentleman, ghosts, ghouls and the walking dead…I am extremely happy and so proud to say that Wicked Harvest: Michigan Monsters & Macabre – Series One has been PUBLISHED! And ready for purchase! YEAH!!!!

It is available on Amazon.com as an eBook and Paperback versions.  Please make sure to share the information with family and friends. Give them something awesome to read for the Fall and Halloween season.

Don’t forget to check out the websites at WickedHarvestMI.com and my new author website at JerrodSmelker.com

Monday, September 24, 2018

Hello & Welcome

Hello and welcome welcome welcome!!!

This blog will be my personal outlet for everything else that is clogging up my brain and dying to get out!! I'm usually busy writing scary stories, books, other blogs and on and on, but I needed another outlet...yes, another outlet for all the other stuff I really don't want to jam into a story or a book. 

Here you will find all kinds of interesting and crazy articles and posts. More than likely I won't have my editor bogged down with trying to fix things here...so take everything with a grain of salt and try not to dwell on the grammar issues, the spelling errors and the stuff that just doesn't make any sense at all. 

Try to enjoy and I welcome any comments, questions or concerns, so feel free to comment below any of the posts or shoot me an email at jsmelker@hotmail.com

Thanks!  😎