Tag Archive for john roling

Smoke Blog: Chill Weekend

Every time I say my workload is tapering off at work, I get slammed with a new round of headaches. As such, I was ready for a chill weekend with friends back up in the Chicago ‘burbs*. We had three plans: hit an all-you-can-eat sushi joint, smoke some fine cigars, and check out a few cool stores. Rather than regale you with a blow-by-blow breakdown of our exploits, I thought I’d instead show you what I miss about living in the suburbs and then fill you in on the smokes themselves.

We started with the sushi at Sushi Ya. For $20 they’ll bring you all the maki, nigiri, and appetizers your belly can handle. I’m a big fan of Peoria’s own Sushi Popo, but they don’t have a deal like this. I ordered some gyoza, and John ordered us half a dozen different types of roll. They served it up on a giant plate, and I’m really regretting not taking a picture. Good stuff. We followed that up with a few more rolls, and I ordered some mackerel, red snapper, and yellowtail nigiri. The latter was especially delicious.

Then John took us to Binny’s Beverage Depot. Picture a good-sized store, say an average Barnes & Noble. Now fill it with booze and a cigar humidor. Bam, you’ve got Binny’s. They had several microbrews available, as well as several whiskeys and other spirits I’d never heard of. Their humidor was very well stocked, and they hire an expert in each store to take care of their humidors. I took advantage of some of their club member deals and bought a few cigars for cheaper than I’d even see online. John collects cigars, and he got his hands on a fist-sized butane lighter.

That's no cigar lighter...

Cigar lighter... or light saber?

That’s John in his Man Cave. It had couches, heat, a kitchenette, a bathroom, and an entertainment center. I need to build me one of those, because my only options in the winter are to hit a smoke-friendly bar in Peoria (they have an enclosed patio to get around the ban), endure the cold, or hit a friend’s place and smoke in his heated garage. None are very convenient.

There’s nothing like Binny’s in Peoria. There are some decent liquor stores, sure, and I’ve seen plenty of good microbrews at some of them. But spirits and smokes on this scale? Not even close.

We visited an Apple Store. I can’t afford to do anything but drool in there, so I guess it’s just as well Peoria doesn’t have one. It would be nice to have the option, though.

Sunday we visited the Bellicoso Cigar Lounge. Jaw, meet floor. A gorgeous lounge in the front opened into one of the largest humidors in North America, which I showed you for Photo Friday. It’s hard to beat a place that has a trunk full of cigars at hand.

Trunk of Cigars

I'll have the lot.

Nothing even close in Peoria. Hell, we don’t even have a proper cigar shop these days, just some small humidors at a few of the discount smoke places. Word is the lady downtown closed, and even then her humidor had a window onto the street that made it cold and dry in the winter. There used to be a Tinder Box in one of the malls, but they went out of business. To get the cigars we love, my friends and I pretty much have to travel or order online. If I had a bajillion dollars I think I’d open a good cigar shop.

Sadly, I don’t have a bajillion dollars. Hell, I probably don’t even have a bajillion Zimbabwean Dollars, which is what, a quarter these days?

I can’t imagine there’s not a market for these places in Peoria, but for some reason it’s just never happened. In the ‘burbs there are all kinds of unique restaurants on most corners. Peoria? Mostly chains. Yeah, there are some exceptions, but not near on the level up north. Of course, then I remember all the traffic and nonsense they have to put up with every day, and I decide maybe it’s not so bad after all out here. The ‘burbs, like the city, is a great place to visit, but not necessarily somewhere I want to live.

At least we can still get a decent breakfast. Check out this spread from Café Miele:


I ate most of it.

This is why I took the time for a karate workout before breakfast. You’re looking at a Fiesta Skillet (four eggs with chorizo, onion, jalapeño, and diced potatoes) with pancakes and peaches & cottage cheese. I love breakfasts like this, and fortunately I can get something similar at the Le Peep on University.

We made time for three cigars across the two days. John started me off with a Calle Ocho. I’m not sure whether it was the Sumatran or Nicaraguan blend, but I enjoyed it. A smooth, light smoke that didn’t hammer me too hard considering I hadn’t had anything to eat yet that day. Clean draw, good construction, no complaints.

That same night I selected a Kristoff cigar. They caught my eye in the Binny’s humidor, and the manager explained they were made in nearby Aurora, Illinois. A local cigar? Cool! I found this medium-bodied Ligero very satisfying. I took my time with it and had to relight from time to time as a result, but it never turned harsh or bitter. A great smoke that needs to be in my humidor more often.

Sunday after lunch I lit up a JFR, which stands for Just For Retail. With no band and no frills, this cigar is supposed to be exclusive to retailers, a premium cigar at a more affordable price to help retailers compete with the various online cigar merchants. This wasn’t bad, but I was very disappointed with its draw. The dense center made for some burn issues, and the tight draw persisted even after I used a draw poker. The cigar itself was light and pleasant, and it did give up a fair amount of smoke despite the draw, but it was too high maintenance for my tastes.

All in all, it was a great weekend and we declared mission accomplished at the end of it. They kicked my ass a bit for not finishing Lie with the Dead yet, and I needed that, too.

Now if the frickin’ weather would let up I could go back to having a smoke on the front porch while I write.

*Up until about 10 years ago, that area was actually Chicago’s boonies. Then the sprawl sprawled and made it the ‘burbs.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Soundtrack to a Weekend

When John, Tim and I started discussing last weekend’s Three-Way Man Date™ on Twitter, a lot of people wondered how that worked.

It’s pretty simple, really. We started the day with some cigars and hooked Tim up with a new humidor, then stopped for beer and steaks. We built the evening around the UFC fights, which turned out rather disappointing because Liddell doesn’t guard his chin and Silva had zero desire to take his fight to the ground (and Leites couldn’t get him there).

We wrapped with our greatest adventure yet:

Yes, not a night we’ll soon forget.

Bonus track! this is what happened when the bartender served up John’s Coke:

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

It’s all over the news, but for those of you who haven’t heard yet, there was a 5.2-5.4 magnitude quake in southern Illinois this morning, and yes, we felt it up here. Given I’ve already fielded one phone call and a couple emails from friends who don’t live in the region, I thought I’d go ahead and post a note saying yes, everything is fine here. I appreciate the notes of concern!

The quake shook our house pretty good, and I wasn’t sure if some heavy vehicles were rolling through (highly unlikely on our street) or if it was indeed a quake. It woke the Wife and I, but the kids all slept through it. I’m sure that’ll be the big topic at school today, though.

Not that I’ll hear any of it; I took a vacation day to hang out with John, who is at that tail end of his vacation. We’ll be hanging out, browsing places full of big, shiny, electronics like Best Buy and Fry’s, and no doubt dropping by to visit New Trends for a cigar. If I’m really lucky, one of them will have the new Canon Digital Rebel XSi in stock.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Smoke Blog: Don Tomas Cameroon Collection

Cigars with a Cameroon wrapper are very popular, but I tend to find their taste a little harsh, especially in the finish. I’ve been told maybe I just had bad luck with cigars or brands, or perhaps I just don’t like the blends certain brands use. I much prefer the Connecticut shade wrappers like my go-to smoke, the Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real, but I’ll continue to try Cameroon-wrapped smokes and see if I can’t narrow down the problem.

It’s with this in mind I lit up the Don Tomas Cameroon last week. It came as part of a robusto sampler pack I ordered a while back, and I wanted to give it some time in the humidor so there would be no lingering dryness from shipping that may affect the flavor. It lit easily, and the draw was fine. My luck with sturdy cigars in the face of spring breezes continued with the Don Tomas, as I had no trouble even as the cold started to numb my fingers. The cigar had a fine ash and produced thick smoke.

But there was that odd tang to the finish again. Not altogether unpleasant, but I found myself pining for one of my Reservas instead. Perhaps next time I’ll have to try a Cameroon with a beer or a glass of whiskey and see if that doesn’t level things out. I’m almost certain some good smokes I’ve sampled in the past have been wrapped in Cameroon tobacco, but it seems like when this flavor appears, it’s in a smoke with a Cameroon wrapper.

This week I’ll be visiting New Trends with John. I’ll have to chat up the owner, Mark, and see if he can offer some insight or tell me I’m just nuts. While we discuss it, I think I’ll have a nice Avo Classic.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Gimme a Theme Song (or Three)

Driving home at 3am last night, it occurred to me that I need a theme song (which you’d already know if you follow my Twitter feed). In fact, everyone should have one. Something to at once provide a jolt of energy and convey mood to all those around us. Something without lyrics, that would explain itself in the beat, the pitch, and the tone. It worked for Peter Griffin, right?

It occurred to me, then, that we actually need three. Well, at least three, but I feel these three, if written correctly, can be adapted to just about any situation we might encounter. They are as follows:


Speaks for itself, yes? To follow the Squirt’s example, why walk when you can strut? Why stand when you can dance? I sure as hell am not going to do it without music, so why not have something blaring away as I stroll down the street? I heard Flogging Molly’s “Requiem for a Dying Song” on Sirius last night and it’s damn close; strip out the lyrics and place close attention during the chorus and you’ll feel it.

To be done right, it would need a variety of beats. Something while standing and waiting at the DMV. Something to soothe one in the security line at the airport. Something to make one’s way through a crowd to.

Something to drive to! Someone on the radio said no car should be driven without the theme to Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure blaring from the radio. Not bad, if perhaps a little over the top. Along the same line, consider the theme to The Simpsons.

You can’t tell me Danny Elfman wouldn’t be perfect to pen this one for us.


When that pinhead from the next cubicle steals the last donut from the break room, it’s time to cue up the Fight Music. It should also be good for everything from unbridled road rage to the controlled power of a sparring match, from pushing that last rep into the air or punching through that last lap. It gets the blood pumping and keeps it that way, fueling fight and flight alike. Pantera’s “Cowboys from Hell” works, but it’s way too obvious. Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart” works in the gym, but it’s too cheery for life-and-death situations or when you just need to beat some poor bastard’s face in for pinching your girl’s arse.

It needs to be mean and offensive. It needs to shock the enemy. Thus I give you Metallica’s cover of Anti-Nowhere League’s “So What” (most certainly not safe for work).

“But wait, Mike!” you might be saying. “It has lyrics!”

To that I say “so what?” Rules were meant to be broken.



I was tempted to label this one fucking, but according to the Wife, that’s not an appropriate term for all bedroom entanglements. Thus this one is the trickiest of the three, as it has to cover those tender Barry White/Marvin Gaye moments and those times you go so fast and so hard you think your nut is going to blast her through the bedroom wall.

Want metal? I suggest Judas Priest’s “Turbo Lover”. It works. Even after you remember Rob Halford is gay halfway through the song (and the lovin’). Trust me. If you were thinking “Lick It Up”, I will queue up my Fight Music right now. Although John is probably going to recommend “Swallow That Load” (do I really need to warn you this link is not safe for work?), which I will allow just to see the hilarity that ensues.

Our conundrum here is lyrics. If the song is going to tell us what to do, then we may as well watch pr0n. “Pause it, honey! I’m not there yet!” Not quite my thing. Or hers. Not to mention if I asked her to try some of the things on the Internet, she’d have me castrated. The old ’70s Disco tracks are lame and cliche, so they’re out, and I don’t want to hear what I’m fairly certain came out of the automatic mode on a $50 synthesizer in the ’80s stuff, either. (Jesus, why do I even know this?)

So once again we have to recruit someone to pen us something that alternates from wild to wonderful to fit the varying cadences of carnal desire.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Les Claypool. Jam that bass for us, my brother.

There Is No Number Four

Crying music came to mind. You know, sad stuff.

Bah, I say. Leave that one for the chicks to figure out for themselves. They can recruit Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond and pass around the tissue boxes at their Pampered Chef parties. If you’re a dude and something’s about to get you crying, cue up your Fight Music and knock that wuss crap down deep.

Or at least use it to conceal the way you’re blubbering like a little girl because you just watched Tommy’s father die at the baseball game in last season’s finale of Rescue Me. (Yeah, that’s right, cried! Don’t make me cue up my Fight Music again!)

In Conclusion

I have more time on my hands than I thought.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Where Are the Vista Apologists?


Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.

I’ve become more and more impressed with the MacBook I’ve been evaluating. Between reader comments and the things an Apple rep has showed me, I’m starting to really see the appeal of OS X.

The much-touted ease of use is really there. With no more instruction than “click here and here,” my son has fallen in love with PhotoBooth. The picture above is one of many he took while playing around, and he often asks me if he can play with the MacBook. I’m looking forward to showing him the Comic Life demo I downloaded.

I’ll be talking more about my MacBook experiences in the future, but for now I have to wonder, where are the Vista apologists?

I write a single post about my Mac experiences, and I’m swamped with comments and traffic spikes. There was no zealotry, just helpful advice and encouraging words. Meanwhile I’ve slagged Windows, especially Vista, several times, and there’s hardly a peep from my readership.

I’m on an email list for Illinois technology educators that has hundreds of members, and there’s a lot of talk about Vista headaches ranging from poor printer and hardware support to it being a massive resource hog. There are a few people who claim to like it, but they’re more interested in some of the administrative or security tools than anything a user might get excited about. Or, if they do like Vista in general, they have either turned off several features or they just accept the system’s quirks.

I read a column recently (I wish I could find it) that made a great point: Mac users love their systems. Windows users, meanwhile, just grit their teeth and reboot. This is why guys like John Roling, a former Windows power user, suddenly become Mac enthusiasts. This is why guys like me start exploring other options like Linux, and are willing to at least entertain the notion of purchasing a Mac.

This is why Dell and IBM are forced to offer XP as an option on their systems, and Vista was only installed on 39% of all PCs sold last year. This is why Best Buy is doubling the number of stores stocking Mac products this month.

The only thing the Windows, Mac and Linux camps can agree on is DRM and proprietary multimedia formats suck.

In the meantime, I ask again, where are the Vista apologists? If you’re out there, speak up!

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.