Sunday, March 22, 2020

Happy "Chinese Virus" Birthday

On Saturday I marked another trip around the sun. I'd been looking forward to simply relaxing on Saturday, even more than any celebration. We've experienced several days of warm Spring-like weather with temps in the 70's and 80's this week, until Saturday when the thermometer barely cracked 50°. Disappointing but tolerable. The need for social distancing as our country deals with the Chinese virus pandemic would not be allowed to add more than a minor inconvenience to the day.

The morning started off as usual, with breakfast followed by some yard chores. After lunch, we made use of the local Starbuck's drive-thru to take advantage of my free birthday coffee, this time with extra espresso added. Retiring to the screen porch I enjoyed the coffee, some light reading, and a Rocky Patel Vintage 1992.



It got a little chilly in the shade of the porch, but the sun would intermittently pop through the clouds to take the edge off. Once the smoke was finished, I took some time to prep the fire pit for use later in the day. Time around the fire pit was on my short list of birthday plans, and would be unaffected by isolation.

Typically, we dine out for birthday celebrations, but that would not be possible this year. We did the next best thing, and placed a to go order at one of our favorite restaurants. We are making an effort to support them during this crisis, and I joked with the manager that we'll probably be eating their food more than we do during "normal" times!



A couple months ago I had picked up a bottle of Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon. This is one of my favorite whiskeys, but one that's reserved for special occasions. I had also reserved a favorite cigar for this celebration, a Fratello Navetta Inverso. The cigar had been resting in my humidor since last fall, also for just the right time and whiskey pairing.


Soon, the trio of the fire, the bourbon, and the cigar was providing copious warmth, both externally and internally. Colleen joined me fireside and we enjoyed a few hours of relaxation, conversation, and simply forgetting the concerns of the rest of the world.

Eventually, I let the fire die down. It was a tough decision to call it quits, but another treat was in store for the evening. We had some Irish Whiskey Bread and Butter Pudding left from our combination St. Patrick and St. Joseph Feast Days celebrations earlier in the week. This is another one of my favorite celebratory pleasures.

World pandemics aside, it could not have been a more enjoyable celebration. Birthdays these days seem all the more treasured. In these times of "social media" and "social distancing" even those Facebook and text messages from friends were treasured. For one day at least, the demands of work and plummeting 401k's seem just a little more distant.

And it's officially Spring, so brighter days are coming soon!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Surviving COVID-19 with Beer and Cigars

What else shall I do? I don't need to run out to shop for hand sanitizer or toilet paper. My work schedule, though from home, is filled with frequent conference calls and check-ins as we negotiate the (temporary) displacement of the normal routine. But, life goes on and so does the enjoyment of cigars and adult beverages.

After a busy Thursday, and presumably my last day in the office for a while, I escaped the cacophony of pandemic news and planted myself in a comfortable chair at the Olde Towne Tobacconist lounge at 1781 Brewing. With a tasty brew in my mug, I lit a Micallef "To Be Named Maduro." This pre-release cigar is currently available at Micallef retailers for review by enthusiasts. The final name will be nominated and voted on by the company's "Ambassadors" social media group.




The ale for the pairing was 1781 Brewing L'Automne Imperial Irish Red Ale. This beer has malt and caramel sweetness with a nice dry finish. Both the beer and the cigar are medium bodied in flavor, with the beverage coming in as the more dominant profile. The cigar had nice leather and coffee notes, but was milder than expected. Overall, a quite enjoyable combination.

After dinner Friday, the temperature was approaching 70°, allowing for a pleasant outdoor respite on the screen porch. Perusing the basement beer fridge, I realized that I have been remiss in keeping it well-stocked, and the choices were limited. I found a lone Old Bust Head Caramel Macchiato Stout hiding in the backRoasted coffee notes were topped by vanilla and caramel sweetness. I grabbed a Man O'War Armada by AJ Fernandez from the humidor to go along with the beer. The cigar has an Ecuadorian wrapper over Nicaragua filler and binder. For my tastes, beer started out too sweet. However, has I progressed with the smoke, the moderately full wood and spice notes countered the cloyingness of the beer.



We had plans to attend an afternoon event featuring Irish music, food, beer, and cigars on Saturday. However, giving in to "social distancing" we opted to stay home. Though a bit cooler than Friday, it was still warm enough to allow for another beer and cigar paring on the back deck. Staring again at my bare beer fridge, I located a Tröegs Nugget Nectar. Though not a traditional red ale, this Imperial Amber Ale is one my favorite seasonal beers.

The previously selected cigar choice for the afternoon event was the Alec Bradley Filthy Hooligan Shamrock. The venue may have changed, but I was still going to light that stick. This is a limited release that sports three different Honduran wrapper leaves creating a unique triple striped barber pole. The flavor was medium bodied with espresso, leather, and wood. It's probably a great match for an Irish stout, however it was also most enjoyable with the bitter hopped Red Ale. I have another, so perhaps after I restock the fridge I'll try the Stout pairing.



Sitting in the sun, reading a book and listening to music made for a most enjoyable afternoon. The pleasure was only slightly marred by having to grab my laptop and sit on another call before I finished the smoke.

I suspect this will be the routine for a while, so I'm hoping warm temperatures prevail in the coming weeks. There are certainly worse ways to weather this storm. Alas I do need to go on a beer run to restock that supply.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

St. Gabriel Possenti: Patron Saint of Handgunners

Today, February 27, is the Feast Day of St. Gabriel Possenti.

Legend holds that Gabriel Possenti was a Catholic seminarian in Isola del Gran Sasso, Italy. In 1860 he is said to have used his skills with the pistol to drive off a band of marauding soldiers who were terrorizing the town. Possenti faced the troublemakers after grabbing revolvers from two soldiers. As they laughed at the young student, he took aim and accurately shot a lizard that was running across the road. Impressed, the soldiers left the town, escorted by the seminarian, who had become the hero of the town.

Like many Saints, there's an unclear line between the facts of the Saint's life and the "tradition" associated with him. However, this story about Gabriel Possenti has led to him being promoted as the Patron Saint of Handgunners. The St. Gabriel Possenti Society was created for the purpose of promoting the Saint's cause. The society also promotes the study of the historical, philosophical and theological bases for the doctrine of self-defense.


A few years ago, our parish was presented with a relic of St. Gabriel Possenti, under the title St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows. It was an exciting moment when I saw the blurb announcing the displayed relic in our weekly bulletin. Since then, I've enjoyed sharing the story of Gabriel Possenti with many parishioners. I dare say most of our Catholic friends who also enjoy shooting are now familiar with the Saint and his story.

In another interesting "coincidence," my Virginia Concealed Handgun permit was originally issued on February 27, the Feast Day of the Patron Saint of Handgunners!

St. Gabriel Possenti ora pro nobis!

Today would be a great day to hit the range. If that's not possible, buying some ammo would be a fine recognition of the Saint.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Cigars of the Weekend

And for something a little different, some cigar updates…

I'm tired of winter. (Actually that feeling emerged months ago.) So I was thrilled when this past  weekend we saw moderately warm and sunny days here in Virginia, when thermometer cracked 60°.

Admittedly the Friday prelude to the weekend saw temps shy of 30°, so I found myself at the Olde Towne Tobacconist lounge at 1781 Brewery. There, the wood stove, a pint of the brewery's Tough Kiltie Wee Heavy, and a L'Atelier LAT56 by Tatuaje Cigars gave me my first chance to sit and chill after a long week. The bold cigar paired well with the malty beer.



On Saturday afternoon, the sun eventually warmed things up to around 55°. I grabbed a quick smoke after lunch, enjoying an Oliva Serie G Maduro. The small 4 1/2  x 50 stick, with some black coffee and a little fun reading, provided a 30 minute break from chores.



After finishing the aforementioned chores, I opted to enjoy another small stick, RoMa Craft Neanderthal HoxD. Though a diminutive 4 x 46 vitola, the cigar packs a lot of flavor and strength in a small package.



After a Sunday afternoon hike in the woods, Colleen and I retired to the back porch to enjoy the sun and warmth, with a couple pints of Guinness Drought Nitro. I also lit a Tabernacle Havana Seed CT #142 from Foundation Cigars. This was a cigar I'd been wanting to try for some time. I enjoyed the original Tabernacle at the beach last summer, but had never had this much heralded variety. The full-strength cigar did not disappoint, though I will need to go back and revisit the original to get a better comparison.



After a couple very busy weeks of work-related travel and meetings, to finally have a relaxing, warm weekend respite at home was most welcome. That there was time to enjoy multiple good cigars was an added bonus.

As a final note, for those interested, there is more cigar-related content over on Instagram or also in a Flickr album.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Saint José Sánchez del Río

Today, February 10, is the anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint José Sánchez del Río. On this date in 1928, this 14 year old boy was killed by Mexican troops for refusing to renounce his Catholic faith during the Cristero War. The story of this period of Catholic persecution led by Mexican President Calles was told in the movie "For Greater Glory." The young martyr was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on November 20, 2005, and later canonized by Pope Francis on October 16, 2016.

The Saint's story is one with which few American Catholics are familiar. That is a tragedy in its own right. Though they might not know the Saint's story, many Americans are no doubt familiar with his face. The picture, shown below, of the young boy with Cristeros fighters is one that is often seen hanging in Mexican restaurants, among other old photos. Probably not too many diners know that a Saint and fighter for religious freedom is looking down at them while they eat.


After José was captured by government forces fighting the Cristero, he was forced to witness the torture and execution of fellow Catholic countrymen, yet he never wavered in his faithful resolve. He was himself was tortured and urged to shout "Death to Christ the King" with the promise his suffering would be over. On the day of his torturous execution, the soldiers cut the soles of his feet and he was made to walk barefooted to the grave they had dug for him. He was repeatedly stabbed with bayonets as he made his way to the place of his martyrdom.

Even after he had been shot he continued to cry out "Viva Cristo Rey!" ("Long live Christ the King!") The commander of the soldiers was so furious that he was able to resist the government barbarism, he finally shot the boy in the head. As he died he is said to have drawn a cross on the ground with his own blood as a final act of defiance.

During the Cristeros War many Catholics were killed by the Mexican government for their faith. This tragic part of recent history is pointedly ignored by the history books in both the United States and Mexico. By some accounts, the anti-Catholic Mexican government received military aid from our own government. It is a story that needs to be told and learned by all free people.

Saint José Sánchez del Río is truly a Saint for our times. His faithfulness in the face of torture and death should be a model for all of us. I pray we can be as strong when our own persecution comes.


Saint José Sánchez del Río, Pray For Us!

Saturday, February 1, 2020

St. Brigid of Ireland

Today is the Feast Day of St. Brigid of Ireland, one of our family's favorite Saints. In a quote
traditionally attributed to St. Brigid, she prays...
"I'd Like A Great Lake Of Beer For The King Of Kings. I Would Like To Be Watching Heaven's Family Drinking It Through All Eternity."
Our family has long had an affection for this great Saint. It was during our trip to Ireland a few years ago that I came to realize just how popular she is in that country, second only to St. Patrick it seems. Her legendary association with miracles involving beer often overshadows her deeds of charity and compassion.

Beyond her prayer for a "great lake of beer" this revered Saint has other interesting connections with beer. According to tradition, Brigid was working in a leper colony when they ran out of beer. Since beer was an important source of safe liquid refreshment and nourishment, this was indeed a serious issue. Brigid is said to have changed her bath water into beer to nourish the lepers and visiting clerics. In another miracle attributed to St. Brigid, she provided beer to 18 churches for an entire Easter season, all from a single barrel of beer in her convent.
St. Brigid Statue, Knock Shrine, County Mayo, Ireland

St. Brigid, ora pro nobis! And cheers!