Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Humidor of Ramon Carbajal

A repost from 2012 While I nurse a hangover

Enter the premises and the immediate waft of Cuba wraps a warm blanket around your cold stiff shoulders, the Cuba of another generation when the taste of sweet spiced rum dripped from your lips and the uplifting sounds of merengue music slithered around colorful casas directly into your soul.

The scent of aged cedar ramparting through the nostrils sends signals to the brain to slow down and relax, as my rigid body softens and becomes one with the third generation leather sofa I forget about the outside world and its constant electronic demands, I can no longer hear the parade of vehicles or the drumbeat of stamping feet. I have peace with a side of quiet.

Ramon Carbajal has survived 2 wars and has the scars to prove it, his features are as aged as the leather in his cigar store, his visage is at the same time both cold and warm, it is this humidor that keeps him breathing, this humidor is his heart and his soul. No words were spoken or even necessary when I entered the humidor, Ramon lifted his head from behind the counter and nodded.

I am presented with a ceramic serving tray adorned with the flags of America and Cuba, on the ceramic tray is an velvet lined cigar box with a selection of cigars that would make the most cold hearted dictator smile from ear to ear like a boy on his birthday. Still no words have been uttered between Ramon and myself, just an automatic obligatory head nod and the wheels of communication between two men of different cultures are linked.

Ramon's humidor is a time portal back to yesteryear when men made decisions on politics and war and women brought trays sticky with clear glasses of golden liquid merrily to their aid. Children dodged large metal cars on cobbled steamy streets with open air markets and rich tourists wasted their money on straw hats and cheap jewelry. The aroma of Ropa Vieja cooking on an open grill surrounded by lush gardens and the merengue music constantly in the background to remind even the most downtrodden that music and dance were still free and belonged to the masses. I wish I knew Ramon back then.

My cigar is finished and my time on the leather has come to an end. I peel myself from the sofa like a patient from a therapists office and make my way to the door, I try to absorb every emotion as I open the door to the outside world - the cedar and the leather, the music and Ramon at his counter. I nod, he nods.

Sunlight, noise, voices, vehicles.....fuck. I contemplate going back inside for more therapy but decide that would dilute the grandeur of the next experience.
I walk away.

Ramon Carbajal 1930 - 2012
Rest In Peace Mi Amigo...

Thursday, February 7, 2013

My fingers get stuck in the scissors

Blogger, Twitter, Facebook, standing in line at ABC Fine Liquors while juggling a multitude of colorful bottles because once again I angrily smirked at the baskets at the door. The almost daily question is now becoming as mundane as hanging out with Anthony Bourdain...wait a minute that wouldn't suck.
Why do they call you Sausage Fingers?

There it is the question of questions that haunts me back to the birth of this little project, which at the time was to quiet the voices in the noggin and to somehow get them on paper just in case the men with the straight jacket came to take me away or the Greeks finally realised that my last delivery way back then was a wee bit short and I was driving a new mustang! Do Greek gangsters offer statutes of limitations? I do hope so.

Anyway back to the point - Why do I call myself Sausage Fingers?

Am I a chef specializing in the artistry of the porcine?
Was I injured in some type of radioactive experiment and now have Sausage Fingers with the ability to shoot links at masked robbers running down the street with an old lady's handbag?
Maybe once as a bet I cut holes into the ends of large sausages and placed them on my fingers then paraded around the house before grilling them? (maybe)

I am just a big lad with big hands. In fact my hands are so big that the knife that cut me last week apologized in fear of retribution and violent retaliation.

It was my father that gave me the name while at the butchers and looking upon some rather plumpy links "Look ma these sausages look like our wee lad from Dundee."

There it is they call me Sausage Fingers because my fingers look like sausages. Big meaty appendages.

You know what the ladies say about men with large hands right?

Well nowadays it's "Can you please open this jar of pickles, crack these pecans then take out the trash." But there was a time when I could have been a hand replacement for a Mr. Ron Jeremy if such a replacement was needed.

There are many downsides to the whole big hands thing, typing is one. Try to picture me texting, it isn't easy and often I am accused of sending rude and disgusting messages like - "I'll pee on you by hate." which in my fingery world means that I will be home by eight. I also break a lot of stuff, I tried taking up the hobby of building model airplanes but ended up smashing most of the pieces because piece B3 was so small that the meaty appendages king konged them into the next room.

I once met the great blues performer known as the Sauce Boss aka Bill Wharton. While backstage at a benefit I was able to have a picture taken with him. Boss stands about 6' and has what would be called normal functional size hands, he is an incredible musician and a tireless advocate for feeding the needy, it was an honor to meet him. I did not look at the photo until the next day but looking at his wee(Normal size) hands compared to my large(Freakish) hands should finally answer the question. "Why do they call you Sausage Fingers"
You decide.
Guess which one I am

Friday, February 1, 2013

There will be blood...usually mine

Hello again.
I have and addiction to knives.
It seems as if I also have an addiction to letting these knives tear my flesh.

It all started back in the 70's when I first saw that glorious and shiny object sitting pretty in the window of the paper shop in Lochee. Even at a the tender age of seven I knew I had to have it - my first knife, a double blade folder with a cream colored handle and a bit of jigged bone for grip. All that sexy metal for a mere 50 pence.

As the blood streamed down my face and my mother tended to the gaping hole in my forehead I wondered if I would ever see that little beauty again, sadly I did not.

Running at full speed at an imaginary enemy with both blades open, heart and soul determined to defend the homeland from such a treacherous invader....I tripped over a rock and planted the brand new blade into the noggin right between the eyes!
My first knife and my first scar.

The list of injuries from beloved blades could take up an entire page so I will offer up a few of the more memorable.

I have a nasty V shaped scar on my left thumb from trying to cut  a pipe while said thumb was still present.
I have a scar on my chin from a evil box cutter which housed a dirty razor blade...can you say tetanus!
I also have a reminder on my forearm of the time I was camping and decided to chop firewood with a very nice hatchet which had a beautiful cherry wood handle with ivory inlay and of course a bit of my blood.

One warm summer evening back in the 80's I was part of a convoy on its way to a gang brawl in the beach town of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  If any of you out there read Smugglers Blues part 1 you will remember the somewhat illegal ongoings of young Sausage and his best pal Ecky Z aka the Greek assassin.
On this particular warm summers eve the young Sausage and his trusty pal were out cruising for the gang known as  "The Jacks."

You see Ecky Z was currently giving Greek biology lessons to the ex-girlfriend of the leader of the Jacks and the leader of the Jacks did not like his ex-girlfriend receiving biology lessons from anyone other than himself. The unfortunate gang leader had his associates jump my friend as he left work, leaving Ecky Z with less blood and four flat tires.

Later that evening as I sat in the passenger seat of the lead vehicle my hands shook and my belly emptied itself several times.  As I looked down at my weapons of choice for the pending scrap I had in my lap the following:
1. A pair of brass knuckles with a hollow front that embedded a five inch folded blade.
2. A Rambo type survival knife that had a fixed seven inch blade in black titanium.
3. An Italian para military knife that was a single cut piece of steel with a leather handle

At the end of that warm summers evening the blades were not dampened with enemy blood as I wisely left them in the car but another scar was added to the list, it's the one where the club landed above my left eyebrow and reminded me just how warm and sticky the fluid of life was and made me think what would have happened If I brought the blades to the fight. I shudder to think of me bleeding coupled with my Scottish temper while chasing a bunch of punks down beachfront avenue at 1:15 in the a.m.

Luckily I survived the rambunctiousness and stupidity of youth and can tell the stories of my scars
(I have a post half written on them....coming soon.)

I have over the years added a few more scars not because of gang related violence but because of clumsiness which leads me to the point of this entire post.
While cutting open the plastic sheathing on a new mattress I sliced my finger and undoubtedly added to my collection of stories.

I still have over 100 knives, you see I have collected, bought and sold them over the decades, always looking for that one piece to finish the collection. That being said the knife I used to slice the finger was broken!
It was a carbon blade folder with a broken lock back but it was the first one I grabbed to do the job.

If you are squeamish leave now because the photos of the cut and the sutures are below. I don't know why I took the photos of the blood soaked rags and then decided to paint with it, if you are a shrink please advise.
Those of you out there that love the blades as much as I do...well you know the story.

They almost called me 9.75 sausage fingers


Not great for nose picking!

The cluprit and the evidenvce of my failed field dressing


My attempt at Pollock - a Sausage original