I become an apprentice pipe smoker

My first foray into the world of tobacco came in 1961 with an L&M (the brand advertised on Gunsmoke) when I was twelve and camping alone in the backyard. Then came snuff and chewing tobacco, both of which made me so sick that I wondered how anyone persisted into addiction. In college, a pipe smoking friend persuaded me to try a pipe, but when I couldn’t keep it lit, I gave it up as a bad job. I had no such problem with cigars, which I ordered by the box from Tampa, Florida. For reasons unremembered, I eventually gave up cigars, and have rarely touched tobacco since.

Six weeks ago, I returned to pipe smoking in the faint hope that it would help me get off tranquilizers (which I never liked). I spent the first week looking for my Dr. Grabow (a brand of pipe made in North Carolina) and two more before I overcame my aversion to leaving home enough to visit The Briar Shoppe where I bought some cherry-flavored tobacco and other supplies. I immediately lost my new tamper, and spent the next three weeks using a screwdriver. My pipe relaxed me better than Ativan, and I seriously needed to relax because the Remeron was driving me up the wall. It's also true that, by the time I took enough Ativan to make a difference, I had to struggle to remember my name.

Yesterday, I got low on tobacco, so I went back to The Briar Shoppe for another fix. My first salesman was scheduled to work that day (I try to avoid new people when old ones will do, so I had asked him when he worked), but he wasn’t there, and the fellow who was there charged me double for the tobacco. When the store's owner couldn't figure out how to issue a Visa refund, I suggested that she give me a store credit. I did this partly to be agreeable and partly because I figured she might give me more than was owed, which she did.

Peggy and I agree that smoking indoors is obnoxious, but she doesn't want me to smoke in the garage either (I'm bigger and could beat her up, so I don't know why this should matter). When I complained yesterday that I had gotten cold smoking outside (the high was 55-degrees F.), she said I could smoke in the garage, but I thought it would be better to smoke outdoors for a few months and re-evaluate the situation in the fall.

Peggy is also concerned about the health effects of smoking and, in expressing them, she astounded me by saying that pipe smokers inhale. This isn't normally true, but pipe smokers are still more prone to oral and esophageal cancer. It's also true that I take so many drugs that I anticipate juggling between risk and benefit, so I'm less concerned on this score than she is.

As with many things that a person gets interested in, my interest in pipes has caused me to come up with questions that I never thought to ask. For example, as a boy I only knew three pipe smokers, two white and one black. The black man, Cleo Kelly, bought Prince Albert (the Milwaukee's Best of tobacco) from my parents’ country store, but what did the white men smoke?

I knew one of the white smokers from church, and also through his son, Jack, who was my age. The father's name was Edward Tousinau and, as I just learned, he’s still alive, although he would be awfully old by now. Like all of the pipe smokers I’ve known, "Brother" Tousinau seemed removed from the concerns of ordinary men. He would fire-up after services while chatting with the other men in the churchyard and because my church condemned tobacco, it was a bold move. Maybe Brother Tousinau didn’t care because he was already in hot water for another mortal sin—Freemasonry. 

I enjoyed watching Brother Tousinau pull his pipe from his suit-coat pocket and go through the ritual of getting it loaded and lit, and I noticed that others felt the same, not that Brother Tousinau seemed to notice. I concluded that other men respected him because he had the guts to go his own way in a church that shamed weaker men into conformity, but maybe I was projecting. I sometimes visited his son at home and was enthralled by the pipe-rack that set on a table beside his father’s recliner. Because I was a boy who craved ritual and loved intellectualism, Brother Tousinau impressed me greatly.

The other white pipe smoker I knew was a cop named Leroy Smith whose daughter I was sweet on. Unfortunately, my friendship with Kathy fizzled because her best friends were horses and, despite being a country boy, the closest I had ever come to a horse was through movies and TV. The first time I got onto one of her horses I pulled back on the reigns so hard that the horse went into reverse--right through a fence. Must I admit that I was humiliated?

Cleo Kelly was my only black friend's father. Because of his race, I didn't call him mister, but found him too forbidding to take a chance on Cleo. Like other pipesmokers, Cleo was quiet and thoughtful, but I never regarded him as intellectual because I knew he wasn't. I thought he looked down on me, and the only time I even remember him talking to me was when we crossed paths in the woods one day. I was out shooting whatever non-human life that moved, and he was on his way to my parents' store. He said that my long-barrelled .12 gauge would knock me on my ass, and I hated him for it. 

I wanted a quotation to accompany this post and, after much thought, settled on the following. Reading it again just now after the passage of many years, I was mortified to discover that it contains no mention of a pipe, but since it accurately describes my own pipe-smoking reverie at the close of day, I'll include it anyway. It comes at the end of Thoreau's chapter in Walden entitled "Higher Laws."

"John Farmer sat at his door one September evening, after a hard day's work, his mind still running on his labor more or less. Having bathed, he sat down to recreate his intellectual man. It was a rather cool evening, and some of his neighbors were apprehending a frost. He had not attended to the train of his thoughts long when he heard some one playing on a flute, and that sound harmonized with his mood. Still he thought of his work; but the burden of his thought was, that though this kept running in his head, and he found himself planning and contriving it against his will, yet it concerned him very little. It was no more than the scurf of his skin, which was constantly shuffled off. But the notes of the flute came home to his ears out of a different sphere from that he worked in, and suggested work for certain faculties which slumbered in him. They gently did away with the street, and the village, and the state in which he lived. A voice said to him—Why do you stay here and live this mean moiling life, when a glorious existence is possible for you? Those same stars twinkle over other fields than these.—But how to come out of this condition and actually migrate thither? All that he could think of was to practise some new austerity, to let his mind descend into his body and redeem it, and treat himself with ever increasing respect."

If life doesn't contains more than what we find here, maybe death does. Who is to say?

About the photo: My Dr. Grabow is up-front. The other pipes and the pipe stand are a $21.50 acquisition from Ebay. Why, yes, the wall really is pinkish/lavendar, pink being my favorite color.


Emma Springfield said...

My grandfather smoked a pipe. I have vivid pictures of him sitting in his chair relaxing after supper. He actually had smoked a pipe for so long that his teeth had worn down where he clasped his pipe with them. It fit perfectly. When Grandpa died my mother said he didn't look right. I said it was because he didn't have his pipe in his mouth.

G. B. Miller said...

55 degrees you consider to be cold? Wow. Here in CT, cold is when it gets below 20.

Anywho, the only smokers in my family were my grandparents, and they smoked cigarettes. I equate pipe smoking with cigar smoking, in that they have good aromas that bring back fond memories of my childhood/adolescence.

I Are Writer!

Kranhu said...

I packed away my husband's pipes, he will never use them. If you would like a few more pipes I would be happy to send them to you. Kris

Snowbrush said...

“When Grandpa died my mother said he didn't look right. I said it was because he didn't have his pipe in his mouth.”

I’ve read of people with being buried with their pipes, so maybe that would have made your grandfather “look right.”

“55 degrees you consider to be cold? Wow. Here in CT, cold is when it gets below 20.”

I’m from South Mississippi (latitude 31-degrees) but moved to Eugene, Oregon (latitude 44-degrees) in 1986, and was surprised to find that while it doesn’t get much colder here, the cold certainly lasts longer. In 1988, Peggy and I moved to Minneapolis for two years, and I got to learn what -35 was like, and it wasn’t for me. It was SO cold that when we took our dog for her daily walk, she would try to get inside every house we passed. Yet Minneapolis is called the “Banana Belt of Minnesota” to contrast it with hellholes like Duluth and International Falls. I soon came to think of a day that was sunny with no wind and a high anywhere above zero just wasn’t that bad. However, to sit still on a narrow porch on a drizzly 55-degree day in Eugene, Oregon, feels cold enough to me, the moreso, perhaps, because the weather “is supposed” to be warm by now.

“If you would like a few more pipes I would be happy to send them to you. Kris”

I can’t tell if you’re kidding, but if you’re not, just be sure it’s okay with him. I used to have two pipes, but the one I liked best, I couldn’t find when I took up pipe smoking again, my point being that people sometimes change their minds about an activity and then feel bad that they got rid of an object that was crucial to that activity. And if there’s anything worse than feeling bad that a person got rid of something, it is probably being angry that his or her spouse got rid of it without asking. I’ll put my name and address in a separate comment, and then delete the comment.

PhilipH said...

I also tried pipe-smoking for a few months ... many moons ago. My wife detested it. She didn't like the squelchy-sucking noise she accused me of.

My favourite brand was "Gold Block". It was so fragrant, to my olfactory sense anyway. I used to open the pouch and breathe in the scent of this lovely tobacco. It also had the best smell when smoking it.

I've just looked up the current price: just under £12 for 40 grams! I would love to have a sniff or two of it right now, but at THAT price? Hmm ... I'll have to find somebody who smokes it and just beg a little sniff.

Kranhu said...

I have permission to send pipes, all I must do is locate the box. My husband thinks the pipes were given to the Goodwill. I hope not. Kris

Charles Gramlich said...

I used to rather wish I was a pipe smoker, but smoking in general just does nothing for me.

Strayer said...

I think I'd like to try a pipe. My grandfather smoked one and even as a child, despite his presence, which excuded an invisible negative shield, that kept we children from approaching him, without great fear of being repelled simply by a glare, I liked to peek at him from behind, and smell the aroma from his pipe. It permeated the house and his chair and clothing. My grandma, who was blind by the time I knew her, loathed the smell.

Snowbrush said...

“I also tried pipe-smoking for a few months ... many moons ago. My wife detested it.”

Go down to Strayer’s comment and the Cowper poem that I used in my response.

“She didn't like the squelchy-sucking noise she accused me of.”

Is it possible that you packed the bowl too tight and had to draw too hard?

“My favourite brand was "Gold Block". It was so fragrant, to my olfactory sense anyway.”

It still exists, and if I can find it locally, I’ll buy it in honor of you. Here’s what one site says about it: “Gold Block from Ogden's of Liverpool was known for being one of the most widely available pipe tobaccos in the UK. This smooth and relaxing blend of sweet, bright Virginia and mellow white Burley is treated to a pleasant top note which allows the user to get real tobacco flavor, while delivering an enticing room note. For anyone who is looking for an all-day blend, or for a lightly flavored tobacco for earlier in the day, Gold Block is certain to please.”

So far, I’ve been buying whatever aromatic (flavored) tobacco is on sale in the bulk section (bulk is way, way cheaper than canned), but I’m ready to go to non-aromatic because Peggy doesn’t like the smell of any of what I’ve gotten, and since I can’t actually taste the flavor myself, why bother? I am coming to regard flavored tobacco as a little like flavored vodka in that it’s fine for those who want it, but if a person wants to smoke at all, there’s an appealing purity about the straight-up stuff like Gold Block.

“I used to rather wish I was a pipe smoker, but smoking in general just does nothing for me.”

I think you would need to work at it for awhile, but then again, why should you? As I see things, snuff and chewing tobacco are unpardonably nasty, what with all the spitting. Cigarettes are low-brow, trashy, tacky, and all around obnoxious. Except for the little ones, cigars contain the nicotine of a whole pack of cigarettes and are altogether too weird looking (I know that sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar, but that’s not how they appear: “Cigarettes and cigars can symbolise the penis. They are cylindrical and tubular. They have a hot, red end. They emit smoke that is fragant ( = flatus = semen).” —Eric Hiller, 1922, as found on the following site: http://quoteinvestigator.com/2011/08/12/just-a-cigar/).

Snowbrush said...

If it is possible for any use of tobacco to make one look like other than a fool, I think pipes and small cigars would qualify, although if a large cigar looks like a dick, then surely the case could be made that pipes, cigarettes, and small cigars are reminiscent of nipples. In the early days of tobacco use by Europeans, pipe smoking was strongly believed to be health-promoting; men fell so in love with their pipes that they wrote of them as a superior form of womanhood; and smoking was described as being spiritual, philosophical, and a comfort when all else had failed. Here’s an example of what I mean:

“He who doth not smoke hath either known no great grief, or refuseth himself the softest consolation, next to that which comes from heaven. What, softer than woman? Yes, for the woman teases as well as consoles. Woman makes half the sorrows which she boasts the privilege to sooth.” —Edward Bulver Lytton (1803-1873)

And again:

“Let others fret and fume with care,
Tis easy finding everywhere,
But happiness is rarer;
And if I find it sweet and ripe,
In this tobacco and my pipe,
I’ll count it all the fairer…” —Anonymous

And finally, here’s one on tobacco itself:

Sacred substance! Sweet, serene,
Soothing sorrows saddest scene.
Scent suffusing silvery smoke…
Softly smoothing suffering’s stroke;—
Solacing so silently.
Still so swift, so sure, so sly;
Smoke sublimated soars supreme,
Sweetest soul-sustaining stream!” —Anonymous

I have found out-and-out love letters that men wrote to their pipes (after all, a man can control his pipe, but controlling his woman is another matter indeed)! Even back in the 1970s when marijuana was believed to be the gateway into a higher consciousness, no hippie wrote so lovingly of pot than the men of the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries wrote of tobacco and of their clays, briars, meerschaums, calabashes, and corncobs!

Snowbrush said...

“I think I'd like to try a pipe.”

Women pipe smokers often appear in histories of the pipe (you might enjoy Googling images of women pipe smokers). Something to be aware of is that if you buy a pipe dirt-cheap off Ebay, it might need a little work. Of the four that I ordered, one came with a cracked stem, and the others with built-in metal filters in the stems. These filters were popular in the ‘30s, but are generally regarded as worthless today, and since they get in the way of cleaning the pipes, I plan to buy new stems. I have looked in St. Vinnies for pipes, but haven't found one yet.

I’ve never smoked a corncob (most of them come from the same factory in Missouri), but they’re supposed to produce a cooler smoke than a briar, while the traditional clay pipes smoke hot, and are too fragile for long term use. You can also get some types of meerschaums about as cheap as briars (in the $20s in "The Briar Shoppe" in Valley River Mall), and these cheaper meerschaums are said to be harder to break, although they aren't said to be as cool-smoking as the expensive ones. I even came across a section in one book about how to choose a pipe that matches your face!

“It permeated the house and his chair and clothing. My grandma, who was blind by the time I knew her, loathed the smell.”

Here’s a poem by William Cowper (1731-1800) in which he appears to regard smoking as a form of joyous rebellion against what he saw as the constraining presence of women:

“The pipe, with solemn interposing puff,
Makes half a sentence at a time enough;
The dozing sages drop the drowsy strain,
Then pause and puff, and speak, and pause again.
Such often, like the tube they so admire,
Important triflers! have more smoke than fire.
Pernicious weed! whose scent the fair annoys,
Unfriendly to society's chief joys,
Thy worst effect is banishing for hours
The sex whose presence civilizes ours.”

PhilipH said...

One of the UK's most well-known pipe smokers was Harold Wilson - Prime Minister in the 60/70 period.

Have a butcher's (look) (Butcher's Hook:Look Cockney slang) here: http://bit.ly/2qXeGEX

All Consuming said...

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) - more well known as a composer than a poet, but poetry he did write and here's one he wrote on the subject of pipe smoking that you may find interesting dear;

Edifying Thoughts of a Tobacco Smoker

Whene’re I take my pipe and stuff it
And smoke to pass the time away,
My thoughts as I sit there and puff it,
Dwell on a picture sad and grey:
It teaches me that very like
Am I myself unto my pipe.
Like me, this pipe so fragrant burning
Is made of naught but earth and clay;
To earth I too shall be returning.
It falls and, ere I’d think to say,
It breaks in two before my eyes;
In store for me a like fate lies.
No stain the pipe’s hue yet doth darken;
It remains white. Thus do I know
That when to death’s call I must harken
My body too, all pale will grow
To black beneath the sod ’twill turn.
Or when the pipe is fairly glowing,
Behold then, instantaniously,
The smoke off into thin air going,
Till naught but ash is left to see.
Man’s frame likewise away will burn
And unto dust his body turn.
How oft it happens when one’s smoking:
The stopper’s missing from the shelf,
And one goes with one’s finger poking
Into the bowl and burns oneself.
If in the pipe such pain doth dwell,
How hot must be the pains of Hell.
Thus o’er my pipe, in contemplation
Of such things, I can constantly
Indulge in fruitful meditation
And so, puffing contentedly,
On land, on sea, at home, abroad,
I smoke my pipe and worship God.

Johann Sebastian Bach

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

So is it helping to get rid of axiety? Have you ever tried to find a cause for tension? Did the idea that orher life forms inside your body might be at play? Have you ever tried a parasight flush? Seems our MD 's over the years are telling us we are not likely to be cursed by those but the truth now is we are ingesting larva from water and raw foods more and more. The buggers leave a lot of mess inside us causing all kinds of distrubances. Tension and pain are tops. You may find getting rid of some freeloaders will give you some peace.
You will be shocked at what comes out . We have done this and it helps.
Hubby used to smoke pipe for years he loved Erenmore mixture pipe tobacco and still has his various old treasures.
He is currently on a low med for ED that is helping with memory loss. Ciaslis is being studied for this purpose as it changes blood flow in the entire body. So far he is showing a slight positive mood change.
He smokes outdoors. I had cancer and refuse smoke inside our home or car. And he is banned from pubic places as we havevery strick antismoking laws in our province.

Kranhu said...

Found some pipes! What is your email address? -Kris

Snowbrush said...

“Have a butcher's (look) (Butcher's Hook:Look Cockney slang) here: http://bit.ly/2qXeGEX"

He looks great with a pipe. I’ve read about the importance of having a pipe that looks good with a person’s face, but the only one I smoke is my old Dr. Grabow. The ones I bought off eBay all need new stems, so I’ll be taking them to The Briar Shoppe today, and I’m incredibly excited that Kris is going to send me some pipes. I was watching the old Ronald Howard Sherlock Holmes’ series last night, and noted that Holmes had a pipe rack that hung on his wall. I had never imagined such a thing.

“Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) - more well known as a composer than a poet, but poetry he did write and here's one he wrote on the subject of pipe smoking that you may find interesting dear…”

I had no idea and am very pleased and delighted that you shared it. I’ve read quite a lot of pipe poetry by now.

“Found some pipes! What is your email address? -Kris”

I’ve once put my mailing address in the comments section to this post, and twice put my email address; both times deleting them as soon as they went up. I had thought they would reach you this way, but if you didn’t see them, please let me know because I would to have your pipes…I’ll just go ahead and put my email address here again, and leave it up: tabbyofdarkness@gmail.com

“Have you ever tried to find a cause for tension?”

Pain in shoulders, knees, and back, are part of it. I take a lot of drugs, and drugs come with side effects, so that’s another part. A long-term tendency to depression is another factor, as is ever growing cynicism, pessimism, and social isolation. Finally, I’m fifteen pounds heavier than is good for me.

“Have you ever tried a parasite flush?”

I googled it, and found that the supposed symptoms of parasites are so vague, numerous, and frequent, that everyone on the planet could surely be so diagnosed. As for flushing parasites, I understand that most of the bacteria in our bodies are either benign or beneficial, so how do you identify and target the bad stuff without killing the good stuff too?

Snowbrush said...

“You will be shocked at what comes out.”

Well, tell me, what is it that comes out? Intestinal linings, perhaps? You’re old enough to remember Paul Bragg. When I got into his writings, I started fasting for an entire day and night each week, and I lived for several years on a juice diet that consisted of stuff that I would puree in a blender. Whatever I wanted to eat, I put it in that blender, and imagined that it was a healthier diet than cooking, but now I don’t know. I do know that I felt really good back then. Anyway, Bragg talked of the colon as if it were a longterm storage area for filth, and that, even years into a proper diet, a person would pass all manner of gross things—he said he passed a lot of mercury—but I’ve observed that every time I’ve had a colonoscopy, the colon was a healthy pinkish color and, whatever was there, the laxatives had eliminated.

The following is NOT related to parasites except in a metaphoric sense, and because both it and what you’re talking about are outside the medical mainstream, and probably don’t have much, if anything, in the way of hard evidence to prove or disprove them. That’s where the comparison ends, and so I ONLY present the following because it and many other experiences, has skewed my thinking against alternative medicine so strongly that I’m not terribly open to it (I heard a doctor say that there’s no such thing as alternative medicine; there’s simply medicine that works and medicine that doesn’t). Again, what I’m about to write has NO bearing on whether your thoughts about parasites is true.

Years ago, I got heavily into re-evaluation co-counseling (RC). According to what a lot of my fellow RCers thought back then (and might still believe for all I know), ritualized abuse (by Satanic cults) is commonplace as is sexual molestation. The latter is true, of course, but RC went further than that in its insistence that people all over the country are having screwed-up lives due to abuse that they don’t even remember. My best buddy in RC was a professional counselor who informed me that I showed every sign of having been sexually abused (her symptom list was so vague that it could apply to a lot of ailments and to most people). When I said I didn’t remember it, she said that my memories were so horrific that I had repressed them, but that they could be retrieved and treated through counseling. When I said that, after a whole of soul-searching, I simply didn’t believe that I had ever been sexually molested, she said that my “denial” represented strong evidence that I had been! All over this country back then, shrinks were helping “restore” people’s memories of sexual oppression, the end result being that families were torn apart and at least a few shrinks successfully sued for alienating people from their families. They did this without a smidgen of evidence that their patients had the ability to repress memories and then retrieve them. I knew a woman who became completely consumed with dredging up her “memories” coming back because they enabled her to take everything that wasn’t working in her life, and blame it entirely on her father. All she wanted to talk about were her imagined memories. She would even wake her husband up each night to tell him more of the horrible ways that her father had molested her. I came to regard her as a one-track pony whose days were spent wandering about her imagination. I also became so disgusted with shrinks (of whom I knew several either professionally or as friends or lovers) that I would now run from the room before I would allow some shrink to “help me with my issues.” Issues indeed! I’ve witnessed far too much broken trust on the part of shrinks that I don’t ever consider psychology as a branch of medicine, but rather a load of crap like astrology and palmistry.

“He is currently on a low med for ED that is helping with memory loss.”

I picture him stating obscure facts and personal memories in enormous detail while walking about with an erection!

Kranhu said...

Ok, got the email address.