In Remembrance – “Salute to a Brave and Modest Nation”…

I came across this article a while ago, as a reprint in one of my policing magazines, “Blue Line”.  The article is by Kevin Myers, and was reprinted from “The Sunday Telegraph”, from June 29, 2014.  Enjoy…

Salute to a Brave & Modest Nation

Kevin Myers, ‘The Sunday Telegraph’ LONDON:

Until the deaths of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, probably almost no one outside their home country had been aware that Canadian troops are deployed in the region.

And as always, Canada will bury its dead, just as the rest of the world, as always will forget its sacrifice, just as it always forgets nearly everything Canada ever does.

It seems that Canada’s historic mission is to come to the selfless aid both of its friends and of complete strangers, and then, once the crisis is over, to be well and truly ignored.

Canada is the perpetual wallflower that stands on the edge of the hall, waiting for someone to come and ask her for a dance.  A fire breaks out, she risks life and limb to rescue her fellow dance-goers, and suffers serious injuries.  But when the hall is repaired and the dancing resumes, there is Canada, the wallflower still, while those she once helped glamorously cavort across the floor, blithely neglecting her yet again.

That is the price Canada pays for sharing the North American continent with the United States, and for being a selfless friend of Britain in two global conflicts.

For much of the 20th century, Canada was torn in two different directions:  it seemed to be a part of the old world, yet had an address in the new one, and that divided identity ensured that it never fully got the gratitude it deserved.

Yet it’s purely voluntary contribution to the cause of freedom in two world wars was perhaps the greatest of any democracy.  Almost 10% of Canada’s entire population of seven million people served in the armed forces during the First World War, and nearly 60,000 died.  The great Allied victories of 1918 were spearheaded by Canadian troops, perhaps the most capable soldiers in the entire British order of battle.

Canada was repaid for its enormous sacrifice by downright neglect, it’s unique contribution to victory being absorbed into the popular memory as somehow or other the work of the ‘British.’

The Second World War provided a re-run.  The Canadian Navy began the war with a half dozen vessels, and ended up policing nearly half of the Atlantic against U-boat attack.  More than 120 Canadian warships participated in the Normandy landings, during which 15,000 Canadian soldiers went ashore on D-Day alone.

Canada finished the war with the third-largest navy and the fourth-largest air force in the world.  The world thanked Canada with the same sublime indifference as it had the previous time.

Canadian participation in the war was acknowledged in film only if it was necessary to give an American actor a part in a campaign in which the United States had clearly not participated – a touching scrupulousness which, of course, Hollywood has since abandoned, as it has any notion of a separate Canadian identity.

So it is a general rule that actors and filmmakers arriving in Hollywood keep their nationality – unless, that is, they are Canadian.  Thus Mary Pickford, Walter Huston, Donald Sutherland, Michael J. Fox, William Shatner, Norman Jewison, David Cronenberg, Alex Trebek, Art Linkletter and Dan Aykroyd have in the popular perception become American, and Christopher Plummer, British.

It is as if, in the very act of becoming famous, a Canadian ceases to be Canadian, unless she is Margaret Atwood, who is as unshakably Canadian as a moose, or Celine Dion, for whom Canada has proved quite unable to find any takers.

Moreover, Canada is every bit as querulously alert to the achievements of its sons and daughters as the rest of the world is completely unaware of them.  The Canadians proudly say of themselves – and are unheard by anyone else – that 1% of the world’s population has provided 10% of the world’s peacekeeping forces.

Canadian soldiers in the past half century have been the greatest peacekeepers on Earth – in 39 missions on UN mandates, and six on non-UN peacekeeping duties, from Vietnam to East Timor, from Sinai to Bosnia.

Yet the only foreign engagement that has entered the popular non-Canadian imagination was the sorry affair in Somalia, in which out-of-control paratroopers murdered two Somali infiltrators.  Their regiment was then disbanded in disgrace – a uniquely Canadian act of self-abasement for which, naturally, the Canadians received no international credit.

So who today in the United States knows about the stoic and selfless friendship its northern neighbour has given it in Afghanistan ?

Rather like Cyrano de Bergerac, Canada repeatedly does honourable things for honourable motives, but instead of being thanked for it, it remains something of a figure of fun.  It is the Canadian way, for which Canadians should be proud, yet such honour comes at a high cost.  This past year more grieving Canadian families knew that cost all too tragically well.

Lest we forget.

Havana Trip, Feb-Mar 2015: Cigars Smoked (Part 3 of 3)…

And lastly, finishing up from my first and second posts about this…

11.  Cohiba Siglo VI.  Though I’m usually loathe to enjoy a fresh one of these, this was quite nice.  Gifted and enjoyed while having an amazing seafood lunch experience at Santy’s, I’ve no doubt it helped in my enjoyment of it.  Strong, strong flavours of fresh-cut grass, hay, citrus, strong leather tones, and vanilla-laden whipping cream.  Just wonderful to go with the kaledioscope of flavours present in that meal.

12.  898 custom, gifted from Yolanda at Melia Habana.  Wonderful.  I’ve actually not had that format from her before – I usually just have the piramides, which is what I picked up a bundle of this time as well.  But this 898 was nice.  Slightly peppery, but sweet at the same time.  Reminded me of a vanilla / white chocolate laden Partagas 898.  While it was damp, and constantly needed relights, it put out just the right amount of smoke, and had a wonderful draw.

13.  Ramon Allones Superiores LCDH.  Dic 2014 “ULA” coded, priced at $57.50 CUC’s for a 10-box.  I found three super fresh, identically coded boxes of these at the Melia Habana LCDH, and scooped them up.  Smoked amazingly well for being less than three months old.  Strong RA flavours of stewed unsweetened fruit, with some molasses, dark old leather, and rich poundcake with a cherry tinge.  Just wonderful.  Perfect draw, perfect construction.  RA releases lately have just been so stellar.

14.  Ramon Allones Gigantes.  Nov 2013 “MUL” coded, and snagged for $261.25 CUC’s for a 25-box.  Perfect cigar.  Aside from the many many Monsdales, this was my other favourite cigar of the trip.  This was smoked during a wonderful seafood dinner at Ivan Justo’s, on a last night with Nino, Gino and Stefano.  These are from a wonderful box I picked up at the shop at Commodoro, one of a handful of great looking boxes of these that I found (none with matching box codes either, if I recall correctly).  For such a big cigar, it smoked impeccably.  Wonderful draw, razor-sharp burn generally, fairly firm and solid ash.  Flavours of old leather, mild cedar, light Christmas-cake tones, mixed with sweet prunes.  Stellar.  These are definitely ready to smoke now, but I’m also interested to see how this box in particular develops over the coming years.

So, that does it for this rundown.  Hope you enjoyed a bit of the condensed reviews, backgrounds and photos.

Cheers all.

Havana Trip, Feb-Mar 2015: Cigars Smoked (Part 2 of 3)…

So, continuing on from my earlier post of cigars smoked last month in Havana…

6.  Montecristo Churchill Anejados.  Sep 2008 “URO” coded, and priced at $335 CUC’s for a 25-box.  Not a bad smoke.  Better than the RyJ Piramides Anejados.  But still fairly uninteresting.  Toasted tobacco, some vegetal tinges, but no richness.  Was able and enjoying it enough to relatively smoke these to the end, but just barely.  Sad to say, these are very one-noted to me really.  Might be an overly large and expensive version of what some refer to as a “yard work cigar”, for when you’re doing other stuff that’s pre-occupying you.

7.  Cohiba BHK 52.  I’m more of a BHK 54 fan, and even so, not overly much of a BHK fan at all – I find they’re a bit much ado about nothing, and nowhere near as good as aged Siglo IV’s, CoRo’s, Espy’s and Lanceros.  That said, I did have a chance to have a solitary current production one that was a gift from a special friend-of-a-friend.  It was quite nice.  Very nice actually.  Tea, honey, strong flavours of fresh grass and herbs, fresh leather, even a slight sweetspice note with some mild hazelnut chocolate.  Just wonderful.

8.  Montecristo Especial.  Jun 2014 “ARG” coded, priced at only $7.15 CUC’s a stick.  I grabbed a few sticks from a newer-coded box of these I cracked into at the Casa Del Tabaco in the basement of the Hotel Nacional.  Was able to kick back and enjoy one of these in the courtyard at Conde de Villanueva (yes, the peacocks were there, but they were hiding in the back cafeteria area, secluded with their new chicks from November).  A very nice cigar.  Dark, dry cocoa tones, mild coffee tinges, leather and rich toasted tobacco.  The draw was perfectly resistant, and the ash and burn was amazing for such a youthful cigar.  Really debated about picking up a box, but already have a few resting at home, and found some other interesting boxes instead.  Most of the boxes of these Especials that I found looked similar, had the same date codes relatively, and looked to have equally amazing construction.  They smoked wonderfully, if not just slightly closed – would love to try another one with another year on it.

9.  LFDC Siboney 2014 RE Canada.  While it was offered but I chose not to partake in this, Yannick and Nicky did a bit of a tasting of them one evening when we were on the back terrace at the Nacional.  Some similar notes were picked up compared to my review of these from November.  However, similar to Simon’s recent review of them, they did note that some of the harsh sour tones were mellowing out.  As Nicky said, “not near ready yet” (as if Yannick’s face in that blurry final picture didn’t say that enough!), but apparently somewhat improving.

10.  Corona custom roll, from Juanita at Melia Cohiba.  Picked up a couple of her coronas and Churchills (only $2.25 CUC’s and $5.20 CUC’s a stick, respectively), and tried one of these coronas – had as a good-morning cigar with a cappuccino.  Not the greatest one of these I’ve had.  Fairly bland actually.  Weird bunching to the filler at the cut head.  Very faint flavours.  Light cedar wood and hay, nothing overly interesting.  Had a second cappuccino to finish the cigar off and make it worthwhile.  Will be lying the rest down for at least a year before I try another sample.

More to come shortly to finish this off.

Cheers all.

Havana Trip, Feb-Mar 2015: Cigars Smoked (Part 1 of 3)…

Yup.  I smoked some cigars in Havana last month.  Surprise, surprise.  As always, some good, some bad.  Rather than trying to do one of my gawd-awful full-rundown reviews on all of them, here’s some brief rundowns, particulars, and photos…

1.  Trinidad Vigias.  Oct 2014 “APU” coded, priced at $32.50 CAD per stick (at LCDH Toronto).  Smoked one of these, first-off once I disembarked the plane at the airport, but actually one that was bought at home at the LCDH Toronto.  This was nice.  Smoked it with a Bucanero, and both actually made me get honestly distracted, not lock my phone, and HONESTLY take the below inadvertent-but-lovely-picture of a fellow traveller of the female and blonde variety (too bad her and her girlfriend were going to another locale for the week, LOL!)

This cigar had strong flavours, very fresh (obviously).  Strong hits of black tea and hay.  Light, almost lemony fruitiness to it.  VERY reminiscent of the Trini Robustos T (still PISSED that H S.A. chose to discontinue those).

But this impressed me very much.  While I wish it was more a robusto or a corona gorda, and the shorter-and-fatter trend isn’t my happy-place, this stick still performed well for me.  I picked up a couple of these at LCDH in Toronto, and smoking this one, picked up a 12-box of these while down in Havana.  I’m going to delve into them over the next two to six months, and then go from there on a decision to load up on them or not.

2.  Monsdale customs.  I smoked most of the way through a bundle of these just on this particular trip.  I actually brought down one from Nov 2012 as well as one from Nov 2014, and then I got a couple bundles of fresh ones on this trip too.  Even though the wrappers on the Nov 2014 ones were fairly fugly, and even though the fresh ones from this trip look better but still not quite as chocolate-like and gorgeous as those from Nov 2012, they all still tasted spot on.

Flavours of creamy elegance.  Simple, slowly building flavours of fresh, light leather tones, rich and pure half-and-half coffee creamer or unsweetened liquid whipping cream, slight honeyed and white pepper tones, and clean and rich toasted tobacco.  I’ve never had one of these yet that have been plugged or had an overall bad burn or bad experience, though I admittedly did have one on this trip that had tunnels and hollow spots in the first inch or so that led to a wonky burn and slightly off flavours, but that hit it’s full stride shortly after.

These are so consistent, and such a fabulous value, at only $5 CUC’s per.  Currently, my favourite custom that I pick up out of Cuba, and such a wonderful format and presentation, in that it’s a closed-foot and pigtail-capped lonsdale.  Jorgito does lovely cigars.  And even if there were a few ugly ones, there were some where the wrappers were gloriously dark and oil-laden too, as that last picture shows.

3.  Romeo y Julieta Piramides Anejados.  Wow – crap.  I smoked two of these, gifted in generosity, but not worthwhile of the experience.  Both with Sep 2008 “TEB” box codes (interesting – a code that I have a fair bit of Montecristo stock in, but no RyJ; yes, to me, this further adds fuel to the fire that is the speculation that H S.A. simply swapped brand bands, essentially, between RyJ Churchills and Monte No. 2’s).

Slight black licorice tones, tongue-tingling, maybe some slight coffee and leather aspects there (but it’s a struggle to find it – maybe I was just hoping too hard).  Nothing else in the frame of normal and pleasurable flavours.  Boring.  Pitched my first one when only about halfway through, the second one smoked a day or two later, and only smoked through the first inch before pitching.  Will avoid.

4.  Partagas Seleccion Privada EL 2014.  Nov 2014 “ARG” coded, and priced at $12.50 CUC’s for a stick, and sold in 10-boxes.  These are quite wonderful.  I’ve somewhat turned away from Partagas in recent years, aside from aged D4’s or 898’s.  But these were nice.  Smoked a couple of these, with various beverages over the week.  Lots of smoke, dark pepper tones, spice, and Kona coffee perhaps (red cherry-bean tones).  Hints of dark old leather.  Bold in body (yet not an overpowering stick) and slightly sweet, without being overly chocolately like many EL’s are.

5.  Robusto largos custom rolls, from Jorgito at Club Habana.  Wonderful.  While these seem to need some time to age, and show some youthful harshness (compared to his Monsdales, which are always ready to smoke it seems), these show lots of promise – Gino, Nino, and a few others got to partake in these as well, and stated similar thoughts.

A robusto with an extra inch to it, the presentation is similar to Monsdales, with a pigtail cap and a closed foot.  For the most part, the smoking experience from these was nice and smooth.  Light flavours of cedar and hay, some light whipping cream.  A slight vanilla fruitiness.  But they do still need to sit for a bit, and that tanginess needs to mellow out.

More to come…

Cheers all.

Havana Trip, Feb-Mar 2015: Special Humidors – “Cohiba Silver”…

So, when I was in Havana last month, I had the chance to go LCDH browsing.  I found some decent cigar stocks at various locations, and some interesting goodies, as outlined here.  Well, when I popped in to the LCDH shop at the Habana Libre hotel, I found two sets of special humidors available there.

Generally, various LCDH shops can get special “limited edition” humidors done, and these are sometimes specifically set out for display purposes for the Encuentros Partagas in November, but almost always for the Festival Habanos in February.  Not too many hotels/LCDH’s take part in these offerings that frequently, as they need time to get them done, cost issues, space to house them in-store, high-traffic needs for sales to make it a worthwhile venture, etc., etc.  However, along with the Partagas LCDH, the Habana Libre LCDH always seems to have something special in stock, and this February was no different.

Available there was the Omara Portuondo record player humidor – something that I actually neglected to take pictures of, but that Nino also did a write-up and gallery of it on his blog too.

But this thing in particular caught my eye, as it was like a little wine rack…

Thankfully, I was wiser than to let it catch my pocket book.

This humidor is the “Cohiba Silver”, which one of the staff members told me is “the most best [!!!!] way to showcase and properly store the most best [again!!!!] that Cuba has to offer”.  Well, while all that’s up for debate, what’s not for debate is that the seal on these was not the greatest at all, and this little humidor cabinet appears to be simply a showpiece – not an adequate long-term storage medium for cigars to be kept at proper RH.

While beautiful, it wasn’t $530 CUC’s beautiful.  That’s right – five HUNDRED and thirty cookies!  And as the pictures show – only for a lowly 10 cigars.

Fuck.  That.  Noise.

Add to it that the cigars are your choice of only two options, as far as it was explained to me – either 10 sticks of Cohiba Siglo VI, I believe it was, or the same amount of Cohiba Piramides Extra tubos.  That’s right, ladies and gents – only 10 cigars, normal regular production no less, and then a (albeit beautiful) small cabinet that only holds those 10 sticks, and doesn’t seal very well.

I mean, some of these releases, while expensive, are still quite nice and can be considered fairly good value, for what you’re getting in the overall picture of things.  But not this one.

Looks like they’re trying to milk it for all it’s worth, and one day the stone ain’t gonna have no more blood to let.

I was quite aghast when the staff member was telling me the specifics above.  Other than that, it’s a special edition of “only 100 humidors” (sure), with special numbering placards inside and outside of the little cabinets, with a special paper certificate as well, and even a specially marked outer shipping container.

I also noted that of the various stacks in the store, they almost all seemed to have little white paper stickers in the upper left-hand corner of the shipping boxes.  Yup – buyers’ names on there.  GREAT!!!!  So now anyone browsing through will know who bought what, and which rich-cats may have bought a dozen or more at once (all the better to know who to rob, my dear!)  When I was in there, there was actually a beautiful but shy, young asian lady who was working with the staff in organizing shipping arrangements for what sounded like it was her employer, whom had bought what I think was 6 or 7 of them.

Sorry, but while somewhat beautiful, the concept on these special humidor releases are getting crazier and crazier lately (save for that of the ones at Partagas last November, with the various artist-painted and varied-themes humidors holding Sir Winnies and Partagas Lusi’s, I think it was – but even those were horribly expensive, but yet somewhat justifiable too, given the rarity and uniqueness due to the one-of-a-kind artistic nature of them).

However, even though I choose not to partake in buying these (and really am not rich enough to afford to be that wilfully stupid in buying something like this), I still respect the artistic nature that goes into something like this.  Just wish the LCDH’s / Habanos S.A. weren’t milking it for all it was worth, or at least were spreading the wealth equally with the humidor manufacturers (given that the cigars aren’t worth much of the overall collectibility of these).

All that said, thought I’d share it here.

Cheers all.

Havana Trip, Feb-Mar 2015: Follow-Up on Cigar-Specific Items…

So, tailing my post about getting back from my Havana trip last month, and going through some of my e-notes I made on my iPhone while down in Havana, I’ve got a bit of a follow-up here solely on cigars – cigar talk, stock at stores, etc.  Some people have been asking me for a bit more detail on the status of some stores and whatnot, so I figured I’d expand on that here.

Regarding cigar stock at stores specifically, for those I was able to hit up…

  • LCDH at 5y16 (Carlos Robaina’s store):  heavily picked over, lots of piramides of all types, lots of the cheaper standard-production stuff.  Trinidad – only Reyes available; LGC – only MdO No. 4’s; PL Montecarlos only.  No 50-cabs to be found there at all aside from two not-so-nice-looking Magnum 50’s.
  • Club Habana:  Jorge is up to his eyeballs in custom orders for Monsdales and his new robusto largos, so if you want those, order ahead of time (he’s 3-4 weeks lead time right now).  Lots of varied production stuff available, good general selection, occasional aged gems to be found in the piles.  Found boxes of RA Gigantes, RASS boxes from 2010 and 2011, lots of HdM Epi Especial, fair amount of aged SCDLH, etc.  Lots of boxes here of the newer stuff – Trinidad Vigia, PL Picadores, Partagas Seleccion Privada EL, the HdM EL and LCDH stuff, etc., etc.
  • Hotel Nacional shop, Casa de Tabacco:  LOADS of RyJ and Cohiba (except for the most popular).  No cabs at all.  Minimal Trini and LGC (just Reyes and MdO 4’s again).  Boxes and boxes of fairly gorgeous fresh-production Monte Especials – best I’ve seen in Cuba in years.
  • Habana Libre:  absolutely RIDICULOUS “special edition” Cohiba Silver humidors available now (detailed here in a separate post, but safe to say if you buy these, you have more moolah than brains).  Lots of RA Gigantes and RASS, loads of PL Panetelas and Picadores, HdM Epi De Luxe, Boli Liberatador, loads of Cohiba Maduro 5 stuff, tons of regular RyJ and Montecristo stock.
  • Shop at Casa Del Ron y Del Tabacco Cubano (beside Floridita bar):  absolutely nothing worthwhile in stock.  All newer stuff of regular brands.  No room to move in their already small triangular-shaped walk-in humidor, as they’re using it for storage for extra boxes of bottles of rum.  LOL.
  • LCDH at Conde de Villanueva (Reynaldo’s shop):  as always, a very busy and smokey little shop.  Yet again, managed to kief my fucking head off of one of the boxes nailed to the ceiling beams – hate those things, LOL.  Minimal selection of stock in there right now, and nothing special found at all.  Mostly 10-boxes and simple 3- and 5-packs.  Seems to be more and more catering to tourists grabbing simple give-away stuff (not a bad business move though, considering the sheer numbers).
  • Partagas factory shop:  tons of all stock, except for brand new releases like PL Picadores and Trini Vigias (all sold out from the preceeding week).  A fair amount of the new Anejados stuff.  Dozens of Sir Winnies boxes.  Not too many 50-cabs noticed.
  • LCDH at Melia Cohiba:  fair amount of customs availble, but they were fairly bland and nothing overly interesting this time.  Very faint flavours.  Stock very similar in look to that from 5y16 – very picked over, nothing interesting in hand.
  • Commodoro:  some nice boxes of aged RA gems, like Gigantes, some good Trini stuff.  A decent selection, but not much overall volume.  Again, pre-eminent placement and quantities of Monte Open, Cohiba Maduro 5, RyJ, etc.
  • LCDH at Melia Habana:  humidor nicely stocked, not feeling “overly damp” as in the past.  Very noticable tobacco-beetle glue trap sitting out on a shipping crate in the middle of the floor near the back by the AC/humidifier.  Pretty good overall selection – Trinidad very aromatic here, great Partagas selections, found RA Superiores here, WONDERFUL looking and smelling boxes of Sir Winnies, and some great 25- and 50-cabs too.  Lots of 50-cabs here actually – found a wonderful Punch Double Coronas 50-cab even.  Lots of Yolanda’s customs too, but she’s prepping a bigger order for a Chinese customer.

And, regarding some of the various cigar talk and discussions that took place over the week…

  • Many of the custom rollers I saw and spoke to said wrapper leaf is still a bit of an issue.  While the quality is much better than the green-speckled light claro stuff we saw in November, it’s still got a bit of a way to go.  Some rollers said they were rejecting a bit of what they got in wrapper leaf, and using it as filler instead if possible.  Some were behind in their “normal” production for customers by 3-4 weeks, to upwards of 2 months (compared to usually only a few days for orders, depending on specifics) – definitely call or e-mail ahead if you wish to get some customs from the more popular divans.
  • Some of what was normally available in LCDH stores was not there.  With many of the brands, selection was few and far between.  Sometimes, with RA for example, one store would have loads of RASS but no RASSC, and then vice versa for another store.  Same with PL – cabs and cabs of PLPC at one place, and then a glut of Panetelas or Montecarlos at another.  But, with Cohiba especially – I was looking for a nice box or two of Cohiba Robustos or Siglo IV’s with the newer El Laguito code – there was really nothing to be found in shops of those at all.  Lots of Siglo II’s, Piramides Extra, various tubos and cardboard packs, and LOADS of the Maduro 5 line to be found, but nothing else generally from Cohiba.  I went to El Laguito as a quick hello / pop-in, but did not do a full tour this time, so I can’t comment on what production looks like there.  But, it was weird to see the state of Cohiba non-available-stock in the stores such as it was with this trip.
  • In a conversation with Simon Chase and Mitchell Orchant, we discussed the full colour La Gloria Cubana bands that Simon designed for the Gloriosos UK RE from a number of years back, and overall beautiful design of the box and packaging.  Simon stated that he would do something similar to that again, like those or better, if he did a LGC UK RE again (and there was a glint in his eye when he said so, so if one’s not already in the works, he seemed passionate to follow through on that).
  • Obviously, conversations on Hamlet’s move.  Many shocked and saddened by it, especially the manner it was done, however everyone seems to understand it also, and everyone wishes nothing but the best for him and his family.  Many are excited to see what the future may hold for him, now that he has the freedom to be his own man.
  • Anejados cigars – many conversations, not enough room here, LOL.  The RyJ Piramides – had one, pushed myself to smoke half, pitched it; smoked another, chucked it after only being an inch in.  Crap.
  • Amir Saarony – more coming from this collector of all things cigar, and the author of “Partagas: El Libro”.  I didn’t have as much of a chance to have a conversation with him during this trip as compared to November or recently on the phone, but we’re going to follow up with another phone chat soon hopefully, and I can hammer down more of what he’s coming to market with soon.

Cheers all.


Repatriation: the process of returning a person to their place of origin or citizenship. This includes the process of returning refugees or military personnel to their place of origin following a war.

Yesterday, I had one of the most humbling and awakening experiences thus far in my career.  Sgt Andrew Doiron was repatriated back to Canada from Iraq, coming in via my base at 8 Wing / CFB Trenton.  I’m here, in the comfy confines of a frozen but comfortable country, while other brothers-in-arms are off in harm’s way.  His sacrifice, like the sacrifice of others before him, is always remembered by those in the armed forces community.

So, I and many others volunteered to assist on our days off, as even though we’re at minimum manning in the Military Police, it was one event that we all insisted to the chain-of-command that we wanted to be there for.  I wasn’t quite ready for it though.

Myself and our Lt were tasked with providing a presence, in standard MP patrol-dress uniform, at the A-lounge of the PAX terminal at CFB Trenton.  There, we would witness the heartbreaking agony of a family with their son/brother/former-spouse/rock taken from them.  Many dignitaries arrived to try and console their loss with the knowledge that he died fighting for our beliefs and freedoms – Gen. Tom Lawson (our Chief of Defense Staff), the Governor-General, the Minister of National Defense, and multitudes of other brass and VIP’s would try to encourage the family.  All the while…Sgt Doiron’s various nieces and nephews played and wondered what all the fuss was about, too young to quite comprehend the loss and the extreme solemness on display by the 60 or so family and dignitaries huddled into the small, secluded, private area of the terminal.

Marching out after the family onto the tarmac to receive his casket and then salute it’s procession, I had it easy.  Our wing chief, CWO Elder, a giant 6-foot-4 or so of a man (and an MP as well, prior to becoming our wing chief), stiffled hardly to retain his composure as Drew’s remains were loaded into the hearse.  Hundreds of soldiers, many of them Canadian Special Operations Regiment personnel in their noticable tan berets, stood in salute to him, frozen at attention aside from rapidly blinking eyes holding back tears.  Other MP co-workers of mine took part as escort vehicles for the ride to the coroner’s office in Toronto.  Public support, as always during these events, was present at every major roadway and highway overpass.

Some of the most humbling aspects of what we do, and who we are, as Canadians, was on prominent display yesterday.  Makes me so very very proud.

Lest we forget.

Why has “unarmed” seemed to become synonymous with “not deadly”?!?!

So, yet another tragic police-involved shooting incident in the U.S. of an unarmed black male…

“Tony Robinson shooting elicits Madison police chief’s sympathy”

Yes, “black lives matter”.  But, why does it always seem to be the black lives that are taken by white police officers that become an issue for the various protesters and others of the ilk of Al Sharpton, etc., etc.?

No one seems to be protesting in the streets and chanting “black lives matter”, and screaming “burn this bitch down”, when young black men kill each other – it’s not politically relevant as much, or doesn’t sell as many papers as the rascist-inflammed and twisted viewpoint that white cops are gunning down poor, innocent, harmless black “kids”.

In 15 years in the U.S., from 1999 to 2014, there were 76 black males killed in police custody or in the course of arrest…

“Unarmed People of Color Killed by Police, 1999-2014”

In fact, black males kill black males more than any other population group, and 93% of murder victims are killed by someone who shares their own race…

“Juan Williams: No. 1 cause of death for African-American males 15-34 is murder”

Somehow, the political, black rights, and social groups have banded together in recent months and years, and somehow turned this into a race-baiting issue.  Hell, if you don’t agree with them that white cops are senselessly gunning their kids down in the street, then you’re a racist. If you point out that black males are killing each other more so than at any other time or by any other group, well, you’re a racist, because you don’t see how the past treatment by the white man caused these conditions.  No self-responsibility, no self-awareness, nothing – these groups seem to aim to have others fix the problems for them, and stick their heads in the sand as to the community itself festering in these self-promulgating conditions.

There were also two police officers that were recently shot in a shootout with some subjects a month or so in New York, during the midst of all this racial unrest.  Where was the self-righteous Al Sharpton and the rest of his cronies then?  Where was the thousands and thousands of people protesting then??  Where were the signs saying “Police Lives Matter”, or simply “Lives Matter”, no black, no white????

With these recent occurrences, there seems to be this thought that “unarmed” seems to mean “non-deadly” or “non-violent”.

Let me share something…

Source: The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, A National Use of Force Framework (November 2000), 13.
Source: The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, A National Use of Force Framework (November 2000), 13.

That’s called the “Use of Force Continuum”, and it’s what myself and relatively all other police officers are trained on.  The differences in various Canadian provinces and U.S. states may be present, but overall, it’s a similar item used across policing everywhere.

The concept is that the Use of Force Continuum emphasizes that there are several degrees of responses to threats that do not involve weapons, and that weapons are only an option of last resort.  Lethal force is also only used when the officer has a perception that there is a threat of serious/grievous bodily harm or death, as illustrated by the subject, and focused as a threat to the officer or any other member of the public that the officer has a duty to protect.

Does a gun always present a threat of serious/grievous bodily harm or death?  Absolutely.  Doesn’t matter if it’s proven to be loaded or not, firing pin broken or not, etc., etc. – those are all semantics for afterwards.  Bad guy points a gun, threat is real.  Period.

Knife?  Same thing, if you’re within a certain distance.

Anything else that can be used as a weapon?  Perhaps.


Take the Michael Brown case.  It’s now known that he tried to disarm the officer, was beating him in the head, the officer felt his life was threatened, a round went off in the car, Michael ran away, the officer felt woozy and felt like he was about to lose consciousness from the beating and altercation, Michael was a giant of a man compared to the officer, and then after running away he turned and charged back at the officer.

Reasonable to believe that the officer felt his life was threatened?  Absolutely.

Just because Michael was unarmed, didn’t mean he didn’t portray a deadly threat.  Due to the circumstances around that, it was extremely likely and reasonable for the officer to believe that if Michael got back to him, the officer might lose the fight, have his weapon taken from him by Michael, and be slaughtered.

This new incident with Tony Robinson in Wisconsin.  Again, not all the facts are out yet, but since these special interest groups are rushing to judgement immediately – the officer was responding to a call of multiple occurrences involving the same subject, of a threatening manner and a battery that had occurred, busted into the subject’s apartment (lawful and required action of a police officer) after hearing an ongoing disturbance, etc.  Some media reports I’ve seen have stated that that officer was struck over the head with a pipe or other metal object, that the subject was something in the nature of 6-foot-5-inches and 220-plus-pounds (vastly different from the officer), and that the officer said the subject was trying to take his gun away from him in a struggle.

Reasonable to believe that the officer felt his life was threatened?  Absolutely.

With the above two examples, unarmed does NOT mean non-deadly.  One thing I was taught as a cop – no matter what, NO MATTER WHAT, there is ALWAYS at least one gun at any scene…mine.  If I “lose the fight”, if some guy gets the better of me, if he’s already taken the choice to fight a uniformed police officer and disregard the law to that extent, it’s more than reasonable to believe that if he knocks me out he’s going to want to get my damn gun – from that point, there’s only really one round he needs to use to take me out, and then gawd knows how many others could be killed or hurt with the remaining rounds.  The onus is on every individual police officer to always go home to our family’s, and to always protect the public safety as well, and if some subject, unarmed or not, wants to present a threat like that and have his family claim afterwards that their “poor innocent harmless child” has previously “never done no harm to anyone”, tough.

These special interest groups, these parents (and I do understand their grief and anger, no matter how ill-aimed it may be), these communities – they need to fix their own issues, fix the roots of the problems.  They need to stop blaming everyone and everything else.  They need to wake up that, yes, while everyone’s sons and daughters may be sweet, innocent, harmless little babies at one point in their life, they sometimes develop into little devils and gangbangers and deviant criminals.  If your “innocent little darling child” has an arrest record and rap sheet longer than their scholastic endeavours, there’s an issue there.  If they’re “well known to police”, generally it’s safe to say they haven’t been a complete angel, no matter the sentimental misrepresentation.

These aren’t “innocent kids” as some of them claim – these are men, old enough to vote and drive and be done school and be working.  These are sometimes giants of men, stereotypical “football players” – tall, well-built, muscular, determined men.

White, black, red, yellow – doesn’t matter.  Unarmed or not – doesn’t matter.  If a subject exhibits a threat of serious/grievous bodily harm or death, that’s when the “police challenge” is issued by the officer yelling “Police, stop!!!” or “Police, don’t move!!!” and drawing their weapon to bear.  After that – cede and obey commands, or we’ll cede you for yourself.

Back again from Havana, missing it already…

So, my voyage La Havana has come to a close again.  Got back yesterday, relatively trouble free.  This trip was overall quite wonderful – no stomach issues, the ability to put more faces to names, and many more good times shared with other BOTL’s/SOTL’s from around the globe.  As always, some interesting news tidbits and a very few nice finds (though the latter is definitely getting to be less and less prevalent).

More posts will come in the following days detailing some of the below, but here are some of my highlights…

  • As is the current trend in Cuban cigar shops, tons of availability of the “big stuff” for tourists especially (Montecristo, especially the Open line, Partagas, tons of RyJ, HdM, fair amount of Trinidad, LOADS of Cohiba Maduro 5 line-up, etc.)
  • Almost nothing found of outside-of-the-norm or vintage stuff, aside from a few special boxes.
  • No evidence of recent tobacco beetle infestations continuing.  Looks like it’s calmed down a bit, and/or being taken better care of.  Did notice especially that at the Melia Habana LCDH walk-in humidor, they had a very prevalent tobacco-beetle capture “pest-strip” sitting out in the open.
  • A fair amount of newer LE’s were to be found.  Lots of availability and push for the Partagas Seleccion Privada EL’s.  A couple spots had the Cohiba Robusto Supremos available in mild quantity.  Fair amount of LCDH specialty releases to be found also.
  • Big push with the Anejados releases, RyJ Piramides and the Montecristo Churchills.  A number of conversations were had about these – opinions vary, but most are fairly negative, and nearly all tastings were blunt: they’re un-brand-related shit.
  • Tobacco availabilty to custom rollers appears to be levelling off, and perhaps improving a bit.  Jorge at Club Habana and Yolanda at Melia Habana both had their hands full with multiple large orders.  Other rollers (Alex at Commodoro, Reynaldo at Conde de Villanueva, Juanita at Melia Cohiba, etc., etc.) all had a decent availability and selection of their custom rolls available.
  • Loads of rum to be found everywhere – lots of Legendario Elixir to be found this time, and even a new elixir rum coming from Santiago I think it was (I’ll have to check over my pictures and report later)
  • Cubita coffee and Cafe Serrano were found here and there, but only in the vaccuum-packed pre-ground variants, and none of the big bags of whole beans were seen anywhere.
  • Another wonderful visit to see Graciela and others at the Sociedad Lung Kong there in Havana, with more gift items brought to them from Canada and as well from Hong Kong.
  • Prototype jars from San Ramon Producciones as announced here previously were not available for either the Baire or the La Patrona jars.  Arrangements were made to get pictures once they’re ready, so that they can be shared here.  Nearly all of the La Patrona jars are pre-sold already (at about 100 of the 120 jars spoken for).
  • Yolanda, the custom roller at the LCDH at the Melia Habana hotel, has her own “custom jar” soon to be released.  She went over the details with me, and more on that will be coming here soon.
  • I finally had the chance to meet a few international friends in person, rather than simply electronically through e-mail or the forums (Andy Ryan and Gino / Mr Japan are perfect examples of this).  Great relationships were formed or solidified.  The overall Fox clan is becoming more and more cursed by allowing me into their fold.  Glad to still claim being able to out-drink the Irish so far.
  • Was invited to a relatively new “after-hours” bar that’s apparently only available to the waitstaff, bartenders, and security staff that work at other bars/restaurants in the city – only OPENS at 4 am, and runs to 9 am.  Very cool place with a giant tree growing right up through the center of the palatial mansion that houses it.  Wild to be walking out of there at 7:30 am, blinded by the sun, and seeing everyone else get on buses to go to school or work.  There was nary enough Tylenol in my luggage for that day.
  • Exchanged money at many places this trip – Varadero airport, Hotel Nacional front desk and cambio/money-exchange, money exchange at the business center near the Melia Habana, and even at the cadeca exchange in the Melia Cohiba.  Not even a single attempt at the money exchange scam was observed or heard to be attempted during this timeline.
  • Great times shared again as always with Simon, Nino, Yannick, Amir, Yiorgos, as well as some other Euro and American travellers that have passed each others paths on FOH or other cigar forums, or met somehow through the industry.  I was again able to share some great times with Punch Joe, La China, and other H S.A. and industry personnel, such as Luka and Michel.
  • Yet again, everyone’s favourite “one-eyed cat” jazz club, otherwise known as the “Irish Embassy”, continued to be made into the “Commonwealth Consulate”.  Great times were had – drunken limbo, ghostly photo-bombing, etc.
  • While down in Havana, I heard on Wed/Thurs that Obama had announced that the U.S. Special Interests building would be getting re-commissioned / re-opened next week as the formal U.S. Embassy.  On the Mon/Tues, we did see work being done to either install a new one, or repair the current foundation, for the flag pole in the northwest facing corner of the building’s grounds, adjacent to the Malecon.  So, while I haven’t seen any media reports on this continuing movement, there was noted activity there.

So, more will be forthcoming later on over the next week or so about some of the above.

Obviously also, there’s the news of Hamlet’s departure / defection to the U.S., with him now in Naples, Florida, working for Rocky Patel.  Needless to say, many there in Havana were shocked and saddened by the occurrence of this, but many also understanding and wishing nothing but the best for him and his family.  We all only found out about it on the Thursday night / Friday during the tail-end of the festival itself (with it being the talk of the town prior to the gala dinner), after his resignation letter was brought in to the Partagas shop by a third party after his departure.  Something that had been in the works for quite a time apparently, and some of his best friends and childhood amigos there in Havana not even aware of it prior to (understood, but heartbreakingly so).

My own thoughts are very conflicted on it, but I can only hope for great things in the future for him.

And, by the above attached photos, I did find enough to fill my luggage again, LOL.  Going through Customs on this end was fine, with no additional taxes levied surprisingly.  A selection of some of the goods found during this trip:

  • Some more Hotel Nacional ashtrays for myself and some friends
  • Some Cafe Serrano packets of the pre-ground coffee
  • Three wonderfully dark, oily and rich boxes of Ramon Allones Superiores LCDH releases (Dic 2014 ULA codes) as well as one box of Ramon Allones Gigantes (Nov 2013 MUL) that was one of three boxes of these wonderful goodies that I found hiding out at two different locations
  • A fairly nice-smelling box of the new Trinidad Vigias, as well as a really nice box of the new Por Larranaga Picadores also
  • Two bundles each of Jorgito’s Monsdales and his new robusto largos (both with closed foot and a pigtail cap), which everyone was gleefully indulging in all week.  Should have got much more, but even he was saying he’s 3 to 4 weeks behind in his orders.  The wrappers also looked much better than what was available to the rollers back in November – some of the wrappers were gloriously dark and oily.  If the wrapper quality is there, I’ll likely go for 2 more bundles of the robusto largos in November, and 3 or 4 for the Monsdales – simply one of the best customs coming out of Havana in the last number of years
  • A bundle of Yolanda’s piramides
  • Some of Juanita’s coronas and Churchills
  • Couple bottles of Legendario Anejo rum for friends
  • Couple of the classic Cuban licence plates
  • A couple of other choice customs from other miscellaneous rollers as gifts and trades
  • Various cigars smoked from current / new release stuff, EL’s and Anejado’s included.  All pretty much meh, except for the Partagas Seleccion Privada – had a few of those, and they were quite nice, and packaged well in 10-boxes too
  • Two custom jars picked up for some buddies

My liver is aching, my lungs are tired, and my throat is sore.  Gonna be on a greens and fruit diet for the next little bit (my new joke – the only thing that makes Caesar salad shitty is those green leafy things they include with all the cheese, bacon and chicken sometimes, LOL).

But, it was another wonderful visit to the island and crazy little city.  Definitely better for me relaxing and getting “into the vibe” compared to November, when I was “herding cats with a ladder” as some like to say.

Glad to be back home (need family time again), even though the weather’s crap here still (going from plus 30 C to -20 C always sucks).  Miss the island a bit already, and will definitely be looking forward to the next trip again!

Cheers all.