Friday, December 26, 2008

Pipe Smoking

I got a shaving-soap refill to go with my mug and brush, and did a little research to make sure this item is not going to disappear on me (I imagine Vermont Country Store will carry such things forever, though).

I happened upon Peter Carlson's Washington Post article on pipe-smoking, which references a shaving brush in passing. Carlson gets it right. The pipe had a certain mystique that is now lost. There were a variety of personae associated with pipes - professors, sailors, farmers, detectives - all quite masculine, yet differing greatly. But pipes are labor-intensive, and require a lot of fiddling and carrying of stuff. They're inefficient in that way. You can't text-message and smoke a pipe in the same person.

I took up pipe-smoking my freshman year in college, or tried to. It was a common affectation then, yet none of us looked quite natural with it. It's a skill that takes more than a few months to do naturally, and most of us had a limit as to how long we were willing to look like goofs while getting the motions smooth. As the smoke is not inhaled, there is also no instant nicotine hit to your frontal lobes. The pleasure is more subtle. Subtle and college freshman do not blend well.

The main problem with pipes is that their tobaccos smelled better than they tasted. The smell of a good pipe always made you think "That stuff must taste great." But it doesn't. I thought at first that it might just be the cheap tobacco that impoverished students bought, but even my few experiments with expensive blends were no better.

Pipes are fun to play with, though. Nice to look at, and a whole set of sensory experiences around pulling out the pouch, packing the fragrant stuff in the bowl, and getting down the trick of lighting it. You will look at yourself in the mirror at first, but that's allowed for the first month.


Anonymous said...

Both of my grand-dads smoked pipes, and when visiting them as a youngster it was always fun to disassemble the ones hanging on the rack and refit the pieces amongst themselves (gramps undoubtedly exerting much restraint not to be irritated - though perhaps hiding their fav one anyway) Hey, what a great idea - a text messaging pipe ;)

Anonymous said...

So true about unburnt pipe tobacco smelling better than the pipe smoke tastes. In college my roommate and I got on this kick where we bought corn cob pipes. I don't know why two techie-hippy types thought that was the way to go, but we both dropped the habit before year's end and never looked back.

Anonymous said...

I gave it a try in college, too; my dad was a pipe smoker. Don't recall how long, though. Took up shaving with a mug and brush in the late 60's, and still do.