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.