By lunch on Friday afternoon, I had in my head already my desire for the evening wind down. I often look forward a cigar and drink to kick off the weekend, but for some reason on this day, I was hankering for something specific. After dinner, it came to be.
Saturday, April 10, 2021
Sunday, April 4, 2021
On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.
-- John 20:1-9
It's Easter, the fulfillment of Our Lord's promise of eternal life. Today marks the ultimate triumph of good over evil. The Resurrection confirms that our daily struggles are not for nought, that our final reward is eternal. Easter is our reminder to be hopeful, and vigilant, never surrendering to evil.
Friday, April 2, 2021
The ancient greyness shifted suddenly and thinned like mist upon the moors before a wind.
An old, old prophet lifted a shining face and said:
“He will be coming soon. The Son of God is dead; He died this afternoon.”
A murmurous excitement stirred all souls. They wondered if they dreamed
save one old man who seemed not even to have heard.
And Moses, standing, hushed them all to ask if any had a welcome song prepared.
If not, would David take the task?
And if they cared could not the three young children sing the Benedicite,
the canticle of praise they made when God kept them from perishing in the fiery blaze?
A breath of spring surprised them, stilling Moses’ words.
No one could speak, remembering the first fresh flowers, the little singing birds.
Still others thought of fields new ploughed or apple trees all blossom-boughed.
Or some, the way a dried bed fills with water laughing down green hills.
The fisherfolk dreamed of the foam on bright blue seas.
The one old man who had not stirred remembered home.
And there He was, splendid as the morning sun and fair as only God is fair.
And they, confused with joy, knelt to adore
Seeing that He wore five crimson stars He never had before.
No canticle at all was sung. None toned a psalm, or raised a greeting song,
A silent man alone of all that throng found tongue — not any other.
Close to His heart when the embrace was done, old Joseph said,
“How is Your Mother, How is Your Mother, Son?”
-- Sister Mary Ada
Thursday, April 1, 2021
Last weekend we enjoyed what is often referred to as "false spring" in Virginia. The weather was warm, the humidity low, and the pollen count high. It provided near perfect conditions for shooting. (This week we are back to cold, windy and wet, and with pollen.) A smaller contingent than usual gathered for the monthly IDPA match at Cavalier Rifle and Pistol Club. As usual, five interesting and fun stages awaited us.
As I plan to do for all of 2021, I was shooting the Compact SIG P320. I'm getting used to the 8 round count in the magazines when planning my stage runs, and psychologically, the lower round count forces me to stop including possible makeup shots in my plan.
The first stage we shot was a quick stage with three paper and one steel target. We began with the gun loaded with just three rounds. The first target required two hits to the body and one to the head. After reloading we moved to engage the remaining targets from cover. I shot the stage clean with a -0 run.
Another out of the ordinary start position was used on the next stage. We began facing up range with our elbows on a table, the unloaded gun was placed on a barrel behind us, and all magazines were placed on another barrel further down range. Seven paper targets were engaged from four points of cover among the walls. My "no makeups" stage plan bit me a bit here as I had a -3 hit one target that I did not make up, and finished -4 on the run.
Again, our next stage again offered more variation from normal. We saw a field of eight targets arranged across the bay, some hidden by barrels, high and low, with half being head only targets. The stage was shot in two strings. The first string mandated a single shot on each target, while the second string was shot support hand only, with shots to the four full targets. The starting position was the loaded gun in hand, with the barrel tip resting on the top of a cone placed mid-stage.
The target placement was such that some movement was required to see all targets. Since the start was in the center we had to traverse most of the shooting area. On the first string, stepping to the left allowed one to see six targets, before moving to the right for the last two. Given the close proximity of the targets, most of the shooting could be done on the move. For the second, WHO string, I moved left to get the far left target behind the barrel, before moving across the stage and engaging the required targets. I was -1 on the stage, for a head shot just outside the center circle.
Our next stage again required the gun to be downloaded to six rounds, and placed on a table with the rest of our magazines. We started facing the right berm, a few steps from the table. After retrieving the gun, three targets were engaged. Grabbing a magazine from the table, we needed to reload while at the same time retreating up range. At the final point of cover, there were two more targets to be engaged. I shot this one -2.
The last stage was the only one with a full gun "normal" start, but it still added a unique twist. Four of the targets in the course were partially blocked by non-threats. On those targets, the head area of the threat targets were painted as hard cover. Even though head shots would typically be the safest as they were furthest from the penalty targets, they were unavailable for scoring.
Despite that extra challenge, I shot the stage -0, and it was actually my best overall finish of the morning. It was a fun stage, with lots of movement. I was relieved to finish the day on a high note.
It was a beautiful morning for shooting. Despite a cool start to the day, it warmed up quickly. I was a little overdressed but still comfortable. I even managed to acquire my first sunburn, though mild, of the year. I was generally pleased with my shooting. Even with the -3 hit, I was -7 total for the match. Despite that, I finished mid-pack, 17th of 31 Overall. I think I still move fairly efficiently, but have slowed over the years in finding the sights and getting the shots off. Perhaps a little more dry fire, or actual practice might help in that area.
After a pleasant drive on country roads home, there was plenty of time to enjoy the mild weather with a cocktail and cigar on the screen porch. Couldn't ask for much more on that almost-spring Saturday.
For those curious, that's an Old Fashioned made with Maker's Mark Cask Strength paired with a Rocky Patel LB1 in toro.
Sunday, March 28, 2021
Friday, March 26, 2021
One of the non-medical casualties of the Chinese Virus in 2020 was the number of times I was able to hit the range, outside of an IDPA match. I dropped my indoor range membership due to their feel-good-only "health" restrictions. That significantly cut my shooting opportunities. This year I am going to make an effort to shoot at the local "conservation organization" range more often, despite the erratic, ever-changing, and often secret rules imposed by the range director.
Now that we are in Daylight Saving Time, the range is open past 4:00 so it's easier to find time to shoot. Given the price of ammo, it's likely fewer folks are using the range. Hopefully, this will lead to more rounds downrange in 2021.
On a recent afternoon, I blocked off my calendar so I could spend a little time refreshing my shooting skills. Putting up a cardboard IDPA target, I spent most of the time shooting from the 10 yard line. A lot of my rounds were fired aiming for the head of the target, or doing body to head transitions. That's a frequent pattern in IDPA matches. Sadly, we not allowed to fire more than two rounds in a string, before pausing for an as-yet defined period. No movement is allowed either, so it's really just trigger pull practice.
I also expended some valuable rounds shooting from 15 and 25 yards. I was surprisingly pleased with the results there. I did stare at the 50 yard berm, remembering some successful longer range pistol shooting from a few years back. Maybe I'll try my luck there on a future visit.
Thursday, March 25, 2021
The Shot Tower State Park provided a brief respite from the drive on the trip home. The 75 foot tower was visible from the highway and we saw it on the drive down, so vowed to check it out. There appeared to be a nice walk along the New River adjacent to the park, which was noted for further exploration on a future visit.
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
A year ago I celebrated my first "Chinese Virus" birthday. In what would quickly evolve into a political agenda, we were just beginning the "two weeks to flatten the curve." This past weekend, a full year later, another birthday has come and gone, with little change in how we marked the occasion.
The day started with Holy Mass, after which Colleen prepared our usual Sunday bacon and eggs breakfast. Our dinner plans were for an assortment of smoked meats from a local BBQ place. Picking up our to-go order mid-afternoon, we stopped by the Starbucks to claim my free birthday froufrou coffee. Those errands complete, as we did last year, we spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the fire pit.
I had loaded up fire pit earlier in the day, so it was a simple matter of lighting the kindling. We enjoyed the coffee while the fire progressed. About the time the coffee was consumed, the fire was going strong and I broke out the beer and a cigar.
I selected a Padrón Black No. 200 Natural to enjoy for this afternoon celebration. This particular stick was a limited release included in the 2020 Cigar Rights of America variety pack. The tobaccos used in the 5½ x 56 Robusto Gordo are undisclosed. The wrapper is dull brown and on the dry side. The draw was extremely loose, with copious smoke production. The predominant flavors are dark chocolate, espresso, and a robust level of spice and black pepper. When I made the comment that I wasn't expecting the level of pepper, Colleen remarked that she could smell it in the smoke. The cigar burned well, even when I left it to run inside the house. The wrapper began blowing up heading into the last third, though I suspect that may have been caused by setting the cigar down several times on the edge of the fire pit while tending to the fire. It continued to smoke well until the final splitting near the end at the under two inch point.Our beer selection for the day was Legend Brown Ale. This English Brown Ale is, in my opinion, an easily overlooked ale. It's the Legend Brewing beer most often seen on draft around here, but I pass it by due to its ubiquitous nature. However, I recently picked up a six-pack and, again, questioned why I don't enjoy it more often. The brown ale features a malt and nut aroma. Mildly sweet caramel, molasses, nuts and some roasted malt come out in the sipping. The finish is short and clean. It's an easy sipper and at a moderate 6% ABV, just right for an afternoon of relaxation. The slight sweetness of the beer offset the robust spiciness in the cigar.
The cigar finished, we headed inside for an early dinner. The smoked pulled pork, brisket, ribs, and chicken, along with sides of green beans, coleslaw, and potato salad made for a fitting feast. And we still have leftovers for a meal later in the week!
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
It's that time of the year when a Saint revered by many, especially in the Irish-Catholic community, is adopted by people of all descent. As a Catholic of Irish decent, I can find little fault with people bettering themselves. :-)
I don't drink green beer, and am very confident that neither did St. Patrick. But do as you wish. For my celebration I will stick with a dark Stout or a good Irish Red Ale. And surely a wee pour or two of Irish Whiskey will be enjoyed.
So, celebrate the memory of St. Patrick. Enjoy a drink or two and some good food, hopefully with friends. There's nothing wrong with bringing a little revelry into the world, we certainly need it. I like a good party as much as the next guy. And I certainly appreciate a good Irish drinking joke. Drink your green beer if you must. Dress up in silly clothes. (But, remember St. Patrick was a man, not a leprechaun.) Then remember the reason for this feast. Take a moment to honor the man and all the good he did. In our house we'll raise a drink of uisce beatha, "the water of life," and a prayer, to St. Patrick in honor of his deeds and his country.
Tuesday, March 9, 2021
Sunday afternoon was sunny and the spring allergies were tingling, but the temperature still needed "tweaking" to enjoy the outdoors. We decided to "de-winterize" the fire pit with the first fire of 2021. After clearing out some leaves, I got a fire going and settled in to enjoy a drink and a cigar.
I dug out a couple of bottles of aged Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout for Colleen and I. These were bottles stored from 2008. We were putting away a lot of high ABV beers in those days for aging and they are most delightful now. I really should get back into that habit. The aroma coming off the glass was rich chocolate and coffee. I could detect it coming up from the glass on the table next to me, despite the smoke from the fire. The flavor was simply delicious. Creamy, dark chocolate, a touch of bitterness, with no alcohol detectable on the palate. I am going to miss these old bottles when they are gone.
The cigar selected was the Tatuaje Great Pumpkin. This stick was part of the 2020 Cigar Rights of America sampler I picked up over the winter. It is an attractive 6 x 52 Belicoso version of a cigar that Tatujae typically produces for events only, and consists of a Mexican San Andrés wrapper with Nicaraguan binders and fillers.
I was looking forward to smoking this cigar and had been awaiting warmer weather, and the time to enjoy what would likely be a two hour plus smoke. Initially, I got some nice but mild milk chocolate notes, with just a touch of pepper. I struggled to get a lot of smoke through the cigar, so the flavors were muted. I tried relighting its few times, but the tobacco never really got going. Sadly, after about 20 minutes I tossed the cigar into the fire. I've smoked plenty of Tatuaje cigars, and have always enjoyed them. One bad stick is certainly not a condemnation of a brand or line. These are hand crafted items, made from leaves, and every now and then one will be not be right. It's a disappointment, not a condemnation. Life's too short to fret or struggle over one cigar, so I simply moved on to another selection.
Still having plenty of afternoon left, I grabbed an Oliva Serie V Maduro Especial from the humidor. This blend is one of my (many) favorites, especially in the Torpedo vitola.
Like the Tatuaje, this full-bodied cigar has a Mexican San Andrés wrapper with a Nicaraguan binder and fillers, and is spiked with Nicaraguan Jalapa Valley ligero leaves in the filler. It produces notes of rich, creamy chocolate, with a touch of spiciness. Cedar and nutty undertones add to the flavors enjoyed. The ligero leaf serves to contribute a bit of strength. The aged beer and rich cigar made for a very flavorful and enjoyable pairing.
We enjoyed the fire for several hours. A lot of that time was spend watching the numerous birds flitting around in the woods. There were quite a number of bluebirds catching insects in the leaves, and a pair of red tail hawks possibly nesting nearby. Ah, the signs of spring…
Sunday, March 7, 2021
As we begin the second year of "two weeks to flatten the curve," life can seem a bit repetitive. How many times have you thought, "What day is it?" But sometimes more of the same, isn't necessarily a bad thing.
After doing a bit (a very small bit) of pre-spring yard work this weekend, I enjoyed a relaxing cigar on the deck. After opening each drawer in the humidor several times, I finally selected a Foundation Tabernacle to smoke. More indecisive searching followed in the beer fridge, before I grabbed a Lost Colony Hatteras Red Ale. The Red Ale was a leftover from our fall trip to the Outer Banks.
Both the beer and the cigar have been mentioned in these Musings previously. The Tabernacle is especially persistent in its appearances. Knowing I've mentioned these things previously, I looked through previous postings and came across this post from December. That's when the déjà vu hit me and I did a double take. That picture…
As I've lamented often of late, "I really need to get out more." One other interesting note, the temperature during that December outing was actually warmer than it was for the March setting.
Monday, March 1, 2021
Saturday, February 27, 2021
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. Sadly, the founder of the group died in 2017 and it appears the organization is no longer active.
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!|
Thursday, February 25, 2021
The next day proved to be even warmer, creeping up over 60° for a short time. I was even able to finally get the thick layer of ice off the sidewalk to the front porch. To my delight all my Zoom meetings for the day ended by mid-afternoon. My thoughtful wife prepared our dinner early so there'd be more time afterwards to enjoy the outside before the sun set and temperature ultimately dropped.
The selection for this evening was Liga Undercrown Maduro paired with Starr Hill Little Red Roostarr Stout. The Undercrown is a favorite stick, and I've enjoyed many of them in the Robusto vitola. This time I opted for the larger Toro. The familiar espresso, cocoa sweetness, and dark fruit flavors were present, although I felt they were less pronounced than in the smaller stick. The sweet chocolate and vanilla of the stout paired well.
By the time the two hour smoke ended, the sun had set. I resorted to adding a sweatshirt, but never needed the heater. I must say, it's been a while since I enjoyed the deck without supplemental heat. The spring preview was short-lived, but was a welcome reminder that warmer weather is just a few weeks away.
Wednesday, February 17, 2021
The bartender raises his eyebrows, but serves the man three beers, which he drinks quietly at a table, alone.
An hour later, the man has finished the three beers and orders three more.
This happens yet again.
The next evening the man again orders and drinks three beers at a time, several times. Soon the entire town is whispering about the Man Who Orders Three Beers.
Finally, a week later, the bartender broaches the subject on behalf of the town. "I don't mean to pry, but folks around here are wondering why you always order three beers?"
'Tis odd, isn't it?" the man replies, "You see, I have two brothers, and one went to America, and the other to Australia. We promised each other that we would always order an extra two beers whenever we drank as a way of keeping up the family bond."
The bartender and the whole town was pleased with this answer, and soon the Man Who Orders Three Beers became a local celebrity and source of pride to the hamlet, even to the extent that out-of-towners would come to watch him drink.
Then, one day, the man comes in and orders only two beers. The bartender pours them with a heavy heart. This continues for the rest of the evening - he orders only two beers. The word flies around town. Prayers are offered for the soul of one of the brothers.
The next day, the bartender says to the man, "Folks around here, me first of all, want to offer condolences to you for the death of your brother. You know-the two beers and all..."
The man ponders this for a moment, then replies, "You'll be happy to hear that my two brothers are alive and well... It's just that I, myself, have decided to give up drinking for Lent."
Friday, February 12, 2021
We had a brief respite from the cold mid-week when the temperatures hit 50° in the afternoon. I decided enjoy an after dinner smoke on the deck. Even though the temperature dropped while I smoked, it was still an unseasonably temperate setting, though I did eventually fire up the heater.
A few weeks ago I picked up a few Powstanie Broadleaf Short Perfectos. The Powstanie Broadleaf is one of my favorite smokes, but I had never tried the Short Perfecto vitola. The small 5x50 perfecto seemed perfect for a quick smoke.
Wednesday, February 10, 2021
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. 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.
Monday, February 8, 2021
The predicted Sunday winter storm was, fortunately, a bust. It snowed quite heavily for a few hours in the morning, but then the sun came out, the temperature approached 40° and the woods soon sounded like a summer rainfall as the snow melted from the trees. It was still cool, but there was little wind in the air. I took advantage of the sun to enjoy some deck time.
The beer selection was Starr Hill 2 Tone Vanilla Porter. This beer pours nearly black in color with a thin mocha head. The aroma is sweet vanilla and caramel. Sipping gives flavors of espresso, cocoa, and a very mild vanilla sweetness. The mouthfeel is light with a lingering hint of bitterness.
Not knowing how long I had before the sun went behind the clouds, I grabbed a moderately small stick. The Southern Draw Quickdraw Pennsylvania Broadleaf is a small 5" x 46 Corona Gorda but it still gave a 75 minute smoke — lasting much longer than the 12 ounces of beer.
The Pennsylvania Broadleaf wrapper hides a Nicaraguan binder, and Honduran and Nicaraguan fillers. The predominate flavors are cocoa and coffee, with a touch spice. The cigar's flavor melded well with that of the porter.
The initial weather prognostications indicating the day would be spent indoors were thankfully inaccurate, allowing for a surprisingly pleasant and restful Sunday afternoon.
Sunday, February 7, 2021
No, you aren't experiencing déjà vu. The photo below is a common view of late. Saturday afternoon I stood on my screen porch contemplating a cigar. The temperature was not that bad, and I have heaters. But, oh, the wind. Even with the heaters, the breeze blowing through the screens disperses the heat too quickly. So I headed over to the Olde Towne Tobacconist lounge at 1781 Brewing. There I ensconced in the enclosed patio to enjoy a quick smoke and a pint or two.
Monday, February 1, 2021
"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.