Monday, June 09, 2008

Another Bad Habit

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.


Scott Lyons said...

Why am I always anticipating and defending myself against potential disapproval? I swanny (another bad habit)! Get over it, boy!

Dan said...

I wholeheartedly approve of this new habit! And it sounds to me like you're not packing your bowl tightly enough. Three matches per bowl isn't actually that bad, but you might want to experiment with packing your bowl slightly tighter. Not much more than what you're doing now, I'd imagine, just a little tighter. And when you're getting it lit, make sure you really get a lot of the flame sucked into the bowl, and that there's a nice flame all the way around the bowl right after you light it, before that first puff puts it out.

I haven't mastered packing perfectly yet, but it's a noble endeavor!

It doesn't take too long to learn to enjoy a pipe either--that's what I've found. And beer--I'm a huge fan now, though coffee is something I don't think I'll ever drink. I've had perhaps the equivalent of a Big Gulp of coffee in my life and don't have the desire to acquire the taste...but beer and wine...acquiring that taste makes life richer!

Scott Lyons said...

Next time I light up, I'll try packing the tobacco a little tighter. I appreciate the advice. I'm trying to walk slowly here, because I think I could enjoy having a pipe around all the time. And I don't think that's where I want to go with this.

Regardless, I am going to order some more tobacco and some real pipe cleaners - all I have is some "chenille stems" from my wife's elementary stockpile, and I'm afraid pipe smokers will emerge from the dark some hot summer night and beat the crap out of me. And I'm afraid I would deserve it.

I've thought about a new/used pipe for Father's Day, but I'll have to look around to see what eBay has available.

Any pipe suggestions would be appreciated.

Dan said...

I'd recommend black cavendish...that's a nice, mellow smoke and what my brother Jim and I are currently using, though it's been a few months since I smoked mine. I should haul it out! Though for me, it tends to feel more like a fall/winter activity, though I know I'll be spending some time with my pipe this summer when I go camping.

As to the type of pipe, I don't have any specific recommendations, though I have found the Sherlock Holmesian types problematic. The condensation pools in the crook and becomes annoying, since it sounds like a little kid slurping through his straw. Blech.

HIllbilly Rockin' Robin said...

I cracked up at Avery's comment. Kids always say what's on their mind! Let me know if you get the smoke-ring blowing mastered! Thanks for your prayers for Braden. Things are looking better!