Two years ago, on Father's Day, I purchased two tobacco pipes off eBay: A Peterson Irish Seconds and a Wellington Medium. I was trying to get on board cheap. I received the pipes and they sat in my important-things basket largely forgotten. You'd think in North Carolina that you could find tobacco in Toys-R-Us, but you can't. (Well, perhaps cigarettes.) So earlier this year while at a mall we infrequent, about an hour from where we live, I stopped by a tobacco store and picked up two ounces of pipe tobacco. I ordered a smoker's knife off eBay and had Laura pick up more wooden matches from the grocery store the next time she was there.
I've smoked about five times in the past two months. The first time was outside at midnight after watching a movie by myself - I went through 30 matches easily. I'm a student, a novice, a newbie. I used to not like being inexperienced at something, but I've realized that in nearly everything in my life I am a learner. So it became easier to ask the owner of the shop about smoking a pipe and his advice on tobacco.
Now being a novice is not the only thing that makes beginning smoking difficult. There is a good deal of societal pressure against starting a habit like smoking or drinking when you're a quiet, staid adult rather than an experimental, wild youth. Some people think it's wrong and others speak of its dangers. Some think it's wrong because of the dangers.
Anyway, I've smoked the Irish Seconds pipe every time and haven't had a great deal of luck with the pipe. It is the nicer looking of the two pipes I have, but apparently it goes no further. Today I tried the other pipe with great success. I smoked through an entire bowl and only used about seven matches. Now a more seasoned smoker might chuckle at that number, I don't know. But for me to get through a bowl with seven matches when I was only smoking through a quarter of a bowl with three times as many is an accomplishment.
Now my dad asked a particularly cogent question about my drinking (my learning to appreciate beer, really) recently that is also appropriate to my picking up smoking, "Why do you want to try to like it?" And this question seems fair to me as drinking and smoking are not seen as entirely respectable in the circles in which I grew up. But as it concerns smoking a pipe and drinking beer, some of my reason has to do with being an adult, just as with coffee (though caffeine remains a less potent and more accepted drug). Coffee was particularly distasteful to me for years. But I plugged on because it seemed practical to enjoy a coffee with a friend and to get me moving in the morning. I love coffee now, though I am still also learning to love it. But there is more to it besides being an adult that drove me to drink and smoke. (It's the children, I tell ya!) Tobacco pipes and beer have always held a romantic place in my heart because of two English professors whom I greatly admire: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. I devoured everything these two men wrote and wanted to be like them when I grew up. Of course, smoking and drinking were off limits - which, perhaps, made it that much more romantic for me. To boot, Jesus drank. And I always thought it would be a shame not to be able to enjoy a nice glass of wine with our Lord in the Hereafter. Furthermore, people have always found a great deal of pleasure in these two pastimes - respectably so in moderation. And as a child, I was enthralled by it. My godfather smoked a pipe and the cherry tobacco smelled, well, simply perfect.
Moreover, I'm quite ornery. And I get tired of stupid arguments about alcohol and sermons about juice and jelly in the first century. Jesus was accused of being a drunkard (though he was not) and of eating with drunkards. It seems like fine company to me.
So I will continue to ask around and learn how to enjoy these simple, age-old diversions. Pointers are welcome. Harbingers of my soon demise are not. Unless you're my mother.
A quick story from the yellow-haired files: While smoking in front of my children, Avery said to me, "Blow a circle like Randalf."
This comment made me chuckle, of course, and I told her that, sadly, I could not blow a smoke ring like Randalf - that he was a great wizard of Middle Earth and a far sight more gifted and experienced a smoker than I. And magic helps.
She then said, "Do you like the air when you smoke?"
"Yes, I do," I said. "It makes me feel ..." I paused to try to capture in words the peace and simple pleasure of it.
"Even weirder?" Avery offered.