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Cigar Club in Riga, Latvia

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Cpt. Earl E. Weigelt

Kandahar 286

by Cpt. Earl E. Weigelt

 

The dust! Friggin’ dust! “It’s enough to make a preacher cuss!”

I mumble to no one in particular, picking my way across the yard.

And I must focus on my stepping, careful to not turn an ankle

on the fist-sized hardscrabble scattered underneath.

A slow-rolling MRAP squirts out a rock in passing, narrowly missing my shin;

grinning ground guide watching.

 

In the DFAC line -- invariably right after a bus,

Blue Man Crue, a uniform ribbon bailing for the door;

smiling faces and acrid cigarette smoke trailing, laughter and fast voices.

“How badly do I really want lunch?” I ask, again, no one in particular

and decide that if I don’t brave the line I’ll snack myself silly

on Girl Scout Cookies and Pop Tarts and Salt Water Taffy.

 

“What will I do without the roar of aircraft?” C-130s, C-17s, Chinooks, Apaches, and Blackhawks?

Tornadoes lighting afterburner 50 feet off the deck, giving all of KAF a reality check?

“It’s an airfield, after all and we’re at war,” I remind myself as air power night shift

kicks into high gear at Oh Dark Thirty, skittering my half-empty Near Beer

or wierd-sized can of Mountain Dew along the steel rail beside my rack.

And those Warrior Warthogs thumping out nighttime cannon music—Oh!  But it warms my heart!

 

And the Jingles—those colorful, carnival, outright comical conveyances, sometimes staging

(oftentimes not) and so, much waited-for.  Bearded drivers, frequently smiley, barefoot or booted,

rugs on the ground, rig-side, sipping chai with flatbread and goat.

“What Berries!” I say as I wave at them, convoy after convoy, “Driving thin-skinned white trucks

into who knows what, targets if they do, hungry families if they don’t-

trusting our warriors with their lives, and putting it all on the line.”

 

Yes, our Road Warriors—Mighty, Precious brood of foul-mouthed, trash-talking, family-missing gems! 

Sixes numb from CONOP and mission brief, ringing for prayer in the Dome or out by the trucks

calling for Almighty protection—Ultimate Route Clearance—by Warring Angels who screw with the

enemy in advance of their approach, causing their evil plans to fizzle or recoil upon themselves,  “… and

everybody says, Amen!”  Music pounding from Battle Wagon cab, and Ma Deuce all headspaced

and timed- high fives and ass slaps, hugs and breakfast, armor and Kevlar, then “Let’s get it on!”

And they roll … Oh, Sweet God, bless ‘em all!

 

Unwinding time with Captain Black, Man O’ War, Gurkha

shooting the bull with the best of friends in the dusty dark.

Heavy aroma of Honduran or Dominican, or maybe Kentucky,

duking it out with horrible whiff from the West – “Poo Pond’s in rare form tonight.”

Alarm sounds and garbled voice mouths out a warning and we’re on the deck when the boom comes.

“Damn it! They made me break off my ash!”      

 

Then it’s out to the airstrip at two in the morning, with a lump in my throat and a weight in my gut.

Big Bird settled solemn on tarmac—the ramp is down, and “Charleston” scrip’t on the tail.

Warriors from a host of nations marching and standing and lining the cordon-

Facing movements, Colors, At Attention, then Rest.  Spirit warrior has a say and a prayer.

Then on down they come, carrying brother, with flag smartly draped, and footsteps in unison.

Colors dip and salutes snap; some shoulders shake, and bitter tears fall.  Then TAPS raises ramp

and we all bid farewell.

 

And so mark we the time—some in months, some in weeks, others in days (and some geeks in hours).

Thanksgiving’s coming followed on hard by Christmas and we all miss our loved ones—

our Sweethearts and Kids and our Mamas and Papas. 

And some miss that ground, that so-sacred ground; those rivers and hills; those towns and both oceans.

But to keep it all safe, we count it an honor and we lean on each other and we’re all driving on,

looking forward to greetings and embraces and kisses and thankful that GOD has shed us His grace!

 

 

Capt. Earl E. Weigelt is a recently deployed member of the Maine Army National Guard who grew up in the Northwoods of Maine and relied heavily upon that upbringing while serving in Afghanistan. His poetry also appears in our poetry section.

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Deadlines

by Mick Parsons, Cigar Lounge Editor, TSP

 

I should learn to manage my time better. You'd think, with all the time I THEORETICALLY have, I could manage it better. But I don't. In spite of my self and my best intentions, I'm always squeaking to finish my weekly articles. My publisher, a good egg and (I believe) a recently repented procrastinator himself, has a certain amount of patience with me. I like to think that he also has faith in the quality of the work I'm giving him – at the very least, he's very good at being patient with my squeak-by-the-deadline approach to freelance journalism.

This week has been no exception, except that it's also been the perfect storm of freelance journalism in Northwest Illinois. Two county committee meetings, the County Board, Town Council, plus an article about the impact of state budget cuts on one of the local school districts. My deadline is Monday morning, 10 a.m. I can count on one hand the number of times I've actually gotten articles in before then; I can also count on one hand the number of times I've been past deadline – and that number is higher than the number of times I've been early.

But I did okay this week. Really. I managed to transcribe my notes ... I record everything using a digital recorder so I don't miss anything … and I managed to get my work in 10 minutes prior to deadline. 10 whole minutes! That's a record, if ever I heard one. Ok. So it's a record for me. But since the only person I ever REALLY compete with is myself – unless you're going to tell me that my kindergarten teacher and every kid's show since Mr. Roger's Neighborhood LIED to me – then getting five monster articles in a dime before deadline counts as a reason to celebrate. And so I did.

The first thing I did was check my email's Sent mail folder to make sure that the email and attachments actually sent. Once that tidbit was settled, I poured myself a nice slow scotch – yes, I know, it was early but you know what They say about time ... They say time exists, but clocks are made up ... whoever They happen to be. After I took a sip of scotch, I prepared for the second part of my celebration ritual – the smoking of a good cigar.

The problem is, of course, that where I live good cigars are difficult to come by. This isn't an urban area with humidors or even one respectable tobacconist within the incorporated limits. Where I live is corn and god country, and people here, while they might appreciate a good cigar and nice sniff of scotch, certainly aren't going to pay for it on a regular basis. I've complained about this before: the nearest tobacconist is 3 hours away in Chicago. The nearest tobacco shop with a walk-in humidor is 40 minutes away; and there's no Rocky Patels, no Cohibas – except for the minis that really aren't all that good and nothing like a nice Perfecto or Churchill Cohiba – and only a few options that are slightly different from the machine rolled, mass produced shit I was desperate enough to buy from the local grocery store over the summer. After several minutes of deliberation and indecision, I picked a Cuban Reject Robusto (5x50) and told myself not to expect anything more than what $1.50 would pay for.

Sitting at my writing desk, listening to the Dropkick Murphy's on Pandora and feeling somewhat accomplished, I cut the tip off my cigar and lit up.

To be fair, Cuban Rejects are not Great Cigars. But they are cheap, and they're ... okay ... for the money. The tobacco is mild, almost too mild, and the packing is loose; not as loose as, say, a Roughneck smoke or a worn out hooker, but certainly more loose than any cigar that ought to have the name “Cuban.” The problem with Cuban Rejects is that it has the same problem that all low to medium quality cigars have – they rely largely on a minimal marketing image and a bare stamped box and a smoker's ignorance or desperation. A friend of mine who recently picked up smoking told me he really liked Cuban Rejects; and for his sake and because my only other real option was an Acid Brand cigar that I knew from experience would disappoint, I gave it my best.

Now, there are some positive points to Cuban Rejects. They burn slow, and if you share a house with someone who is NOT a cigar aficionado, the thin, non-lingering smoke will be a welcome relief. Also, they're cheap. Did I mention they're cheap? They're cheap because they're not strictly humidor cigars, and not some hidden contraband deal; they're not, as far as I can tell, even made from leaves grown from descendents of Cuban seeds. The parent company who cells Cuban Rejects, Phillip & King International, insists each stick is hand rolled. I choose to take their word for it since I can't prove otherwise.   

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