“I went down, down, down and the flames went higher… and it burns, burns, burns…”

“Ring of Fire” – Johnny Cash (1963)
“Ring of Fire” – Social Distortion (1990)

One of the many beautiful sculptures that line the 276 acre park along Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard– known as the Cleveland Cultural Gardens. The Park, which was conceived in 1916, has been an ongoing project since then, growing to 31 different gardens celebrating ethnic cultures around the world that have had an impact on America. Here, a bronze statue of Dante Alighieri, in the Italian Cultural Garden section of the park, rendered by Cleveland sculpture, Sandro Bonaiuto, in 2012.

Dante is best known for his epic poem, considered one of the finest world literary masterpieces of all time: “Divine Comedy.” In this work, Dante depicts his journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.

The above photo was taken October 15, 2013

Here, a scan of one of my original vintage Tampa cigar labels: “Dante” brand cigars, produced in Tampa, Florida during the 1910’s. A beautiful rendition of the Poet, Dante Alighieri.


“Heads will roll and rock tonight… For those about to rock, we salute you…”

“For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)” – AC/DC (1981)

The all-star line-up for the Cleveland Indians Major League Baseball team, photo taken circa 1992-93, at the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium (demolished). From left to right, Sandy Alomar, Jr., Carlos Baerga, Kenny Lofton, Albert Belle, and Jim Thome.

Tonight, the current edition of Cleveland Indians host the Tampa Bay Rays at Jacobs Field in Cleveland– the American League “Wild Card” game. The winner earns the right to enter into the play-off tournament to crown an American League Champion, and eventually a 2013 Major League Baseball World Series Champion.

Coincidentally, I lived in the Tampa Bay area for 9 years and followed the Rays quite closely during that time. Born and bred in Cleveland, and now back as a resident, there is no question which team I want to “Rock” tonight. GO TRIBE!!

“If you want to destroy my sweater.. hold this string as I walk away… watch me unravel– I’ll soon be naked…”

“Undone – The Sweater Song” – WEEZER (1994)

Coyote Ugly Saloon
1722 East 7th Avenue
Ybor City
Tampa, Florida

Photo taken September 9, 2006

“…When it’s too hot, I light it up… Light it up… yeah, smoke ’em if you got ’em…”

“HARLEM” – New Politics (2013)

At the Tampa Cigar Heritage Festival
Centennial Park
Ybor City
Tampa, Florida

Photo taken November 17, 2006

“Operator…. give me… infor… ma…tion…”

“Operator” – Manhattan Transfer (1975)

Historic Hyde Park neighborhood
Tampa, Florida

Photo taken January 14, 2007

“Everyday is like Sunday”

“Everyday is Like Sunday” – Morrissey (1988)

Cleveland Browns vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Raymond James Stadium
Tampa, Florida

Photo taken October 13, 2002

“He smoked a big cigar.. drove a cadillac car…”

Rock and Roll Band – BOSTON (1976)

The J.C. Newman Cigar Company
Ybor City
Tampa, Florida
Established in Cleveland, Ohio in 1895
Cuesta-Rey brand established in Tampa, Florida in 1884

The J.C. Newman Cigar Company moved from Cleveland to Tampa in 1954 and eventually purchased the Cuesta-Rey brand. Today it is the largest family-owned premium cigar manufacturer in the world– maker of many high quality hand rolled cigar brands, including Arturo Fuente, Diamond Crown, Brick House and Cuesta-Rey.

Photo taken September 9, 2006

From my vintage Tampa cigar label collection:

Cigar Box inner label, circa early 1900’s:

Cuesta-Rey promotional card, circa late 1920’s

cigar band, circa early 1900’s

LIFE magazine Cuesta-Rey advertisement, circa 1920’s

“Like a bird on a wire…”

“Bird on a Wire” by Leonard Cohen (1968)

A Ladybug found it’s way onto this hand rolled cigar that I purchased in Ybor City – Tampa, Florida.

Photo taken September 9, 2006

“I am the bread of your kindness…”

Prayer of the Woods sign at entrance to the River Rapids Trail
Hillsborough River State Park
Thonotosassa, Florida

Photo taken June 14, 2003

“You can check out any time you like, But you can never leave”

“Hotel California” – The Eagles (1976)

Photo taken October 26, 2001

On the banks of the Hillsborough River, the former Tampa Bay Hotel, has been a national gem since its opening in 1891. Built by Railroad Tycoon Henry B. Plant, the lavish structure, of Moorish architectural design, boasted 511 rooms and covered over 6 acres of land and over 150 acres of lush grounds for guests to enjoy.

In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, the United States Military used the hotel and it’s grounds as a base of operations. Teddy Roosevelt and his “Rough Riders” prepared for battle on these grounds, and Roosevelt took comfort in a luxury suite in the hotel, while enlisted men stayed in near-by tents. Years later, Hall of Fame baseball player Babe Ruth signed his first Major League contract at the hotel, surely, with a Tampa hand rolled “Optimo” Cigar (his favorite) clamped between his teeth!

Following depression era hard times, the hotel closed in 1930. In 1933, the Tampa Bay Junior College established residence in the old hotel and the school eventually grew in size and became known as The University of Tampa. Currently, “Plant Hall” as the treasured building is named today, houses University of Tampa administrative offices and student oriented areas, as well as the Henry B. Plant Museum.

The Tampa Life cigar box featured the Tampa Bay Hotel prominently on it’s inner label artwork, to attract customers during the time that the hotel was in operation.

One of Babe Ruth’s favorite cigar brands was OPTIMO, also hand rolled in Tampa, the cigar capital of the world at the time!

Florida Gator

The Florida Aquarium
Tampa, Florida<

Photo taken December 27, 2006

The buzz on the street…

“The Bank of Ybor” building, at 1702 E. 7th Ave in historic Ybor City – Tampa, Florida, was built in 1910 and served as a bank until 1955. Today it is the home of BERNINI’S high end Italian restaurant. Much of the building’s interior and exterior charm from days gone by still contribute to the allure of the famous “Cigar City,” as seen here.
Photos taken September 9, 2006

The Sponger

Tarpon Springs, Florida
Photo taken March 8, 2003

Hand rolled cigar city

Arturo Fuente Cigars
Ybor City
Tampa, Florida.

Photo taken September 9, 2006