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Monthly Archives: December 2020

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That moment when you’ve had enough…

That moment when you say “to hell with this” to a situation and begin at last to correct course…

That moment when the pain of the status quo becomes so unbearable that you put the steps in motion to rise above it at any cost…

That deep realization that “insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result…”

The knowledge that “what got you here won’t get you there…”

That nagging and persistent feeling that you were made for more than this…

The acceptance that your challenges are uniquely yours, and the only person who can pull you out of them is you…

The quiet assurance that you can overcome…

The confidence that others have risen from much more difficult circumstances…

The upward thrust of action…

The moving toward…

The leap of faith…

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Around Christmastime, one of my dear friend’s recurring mantras is this:

“Give from the heart. Not from the mart.”

I like it, and it makes sense.

But anybody with children will attest to the fact that this sentiment only goes so far. I mean if Santa left only baked goods or a handmade craft, a palpable sense of betrayal would fairly howl through most households in this country.

I wouldn’t be any good at handcrafting a PlayStation or a Big Wheel. Hell, I had trouble assembling the Big Wheels and other contraptions Santa left for my twins, and invariably there were parts left over…

I remember grappling with a Foosball table one Christmas Eve as I downed beer after beer, in no way fooled by the fantasy that one more drink would make the process any easier. That table was very nearly my undoing, and it was as wobbly as I was.

But I soldiered on, listening to Pope John Paul II on the television as he concluded yet another Midnight Mass.

For better or for worse, I had the damned thing put together. With an air of drunken self-satisfaction, I took a bite out of Santa’s cookie, finished off his milk and went to bed.

I am so glad I am sober now, by the way. Have been for years.

Because my twins have December birthdays and I am not Rockefeller, I would always find myself “jammed up” about how to pull off the two events…

…but credit cards, a bit of squirreled cash and the kindness of loved ones made it possible for my son and daughter to enjoy their holidays; if not in high style, then by all means in a manner that prevented them from feeling pinched.

Despite my promises to myself to be better prepared “next year,” that has yet to happen. But birthdays and Christmases came and went, and everything seemed to work out. Every. Single. Year.

But what if your kids are adults?

My twins just turned 27, and I am lucky that they are both nearby. My son and daughter-in-law live in Myrtle Beach, and my daughter is down from New York, staying with them as she works from home for a time – a decidedly positive byproduct of the COVID-19 nightmare. I’m thrilled she is able to do that.

They are still getting presents, though, but the endgame moving forward is to keep it simple and avoid credit card spending.

I need to keep in mind that as far as gifts are concerned, 27 is not 17 is not 7 – and yet I keep hearkening back to those times, like, will my gifts be enough

But then I snap back to reality with the profound realization that, yes, they will be enough because I am enough. This is where the heart comes in, where spending time together comes in, where love comes in.

That kind of acceptance just became the biggest gift I could possibly give myself.

For many years, my “day job” has been at a cigar shop with a well-known name: Tinder Box.

In my case, I work for Tinder Box of the Carolinas.

If you are of a certain age like I am, you’ll remember Tinder Box.

In the 70s and 80s, you couldn’t miss the small stores with Tudor facades and tiny walk-in humidors and all sorts of briar pipes, tobaccos and collectibles throughout. It seemed that whatever mall you happened to enter, the probability that you would pass a Tinder Box franchise was very high.

The Cigar Boom in the late 1990s/Early 2000s changed the landscape. The humidors grew considerably larger.

I remember seeing such stores when I was younger – in places like Miami and in many locations in Southern California like the Mall of Orange, the Glendale Galleria and more.

Tinder Box was started in Los Angeles in 1928 by a tobacconist named Ed Koplin, Sr. Sadly, that store closed its doors for good in 2017.  A ninety-year run is nothing if not astonishing.

The franchise opportunity became available in 1973, and [my twin brother] Chris’ father-in-law, Jim Cass, was one of the first on board – launching his first shop at the Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem, North Carolina – essentially opening up the Mid-Atlantic region.

Jim started that store as a hobby while he was engaged in his career with R.J. Reynolds. What began in Winston eventually became multiple stores in the Carolinas – and there was a location in Roanoke, Virginia for a time.

Jim, thankfully, is still around, and lives with wife Martha in Myrtle Beach – but Tinder Box of the Carolinas is now generational – headed up by Jim’s son, Craig Cass, in Charlotte. Craig’s sister (my sister-in-law), Betsy Yale, helms the Myrtle Beach location.

Our organization is renowned in the cigar industry, not only by virtue of the longevity of the business and the relationships forged and nurtured with key cigar families, but also due in no small part to Craig’s efforts within the industry, from taking on the Goliath of governmental regulatory overreach as well as his service within organizations such as the Premium Cigar Association (PCA), Cigar Rights of America (CRA) and more.

Exempting premium cigars from FDA regulation is a continuing fight that goes to the lifeblood of the industry, to say nothing of the mom-and-pop businesses that don’t enjoy the deep pockets of their monolithic corporate counterparts.

The cool thing about all of this is that, as with cigar producers, Tinder Box of the Carolinas is essentially a family business.

My experience with the organization began in 1996.

More to come.

Original Tinder Box / Los Angeles