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.


Who is Jennie, and why does everyone want to kill her? It is a question that has haunted me for decades.

As to my post before last, I am not (normally) a vicious person. Just don't rob, cheat, murder, rape, or torture, me, my wife, my cats, or anyone else, and we'll get along. If this is too much to ask, what am I to say? That you get a pass to bring misery into the world because you had an abusive childhood or inherited bad genes? Let me ask you, if if you're really and truly THAT fucked up, and you really and truly CAN'T do better, why shouldn't society kill you? You're no better than a rabid dog in that, while your depravity is not your fault, the world shouldn't have to put up with you. The man who, after two DUIs, ran his car through Times Square this week and killed one person and injured a lot more, is it really kinder to give such people chance, after chance, after chance, than it is to euthanize them? Or take the pregnant addicts that Nurse Peggy used to treat, how many children must such losers have taken from them by the government in the name of compassion? I would say one, maybe two, but how many would you say? Five? Ten? Any number? And does your imagined compassion cause you to feel morally superior to me?

Liberals would say that capital punishment and forced sterilization are wrong, regardless, while conservatives would say, kill the assholes, and, on this, I'm more in line with the conservatives, yet I'm not a conservative. I'm not anything. I wish I could be, but nothing fits. I just think there are people whose claim to compassion has expired.

Another week of Trump

Yesterday, our Republican led Congress lowered the cost of health insurance by lowering benefits and by allowing insurers to make insurance obscenely unaffordable to anyone who isn't young and healthy. This is expected to leave 24-million people without any insurance due to age and pre-existing conditions. After passing this law writ in blood, Republican Congressmen took a bus ride to the White House to drink beer with the president, their happiness undiminished by having caused the suffering and death of millions with act that was vigorously opposed by every single healthcare related professional group. America can always find trillions of dollars to kill people in war, but it regards every cent that is spent on such basic needs as education and healthcare as another cent closer to bankruptcy.

Trump expressed anger that he lacks the dictatorial power of Russia's Putin and Turkey's Erdogan. He praised the Phillipines' Duerte as a strong leader based, it would appear (due to the lack of other possibilities) upon Duerte's contempt for Obama (whom he called "the son of a whore") and his use of lynching to resolve his county's drug problem. Finally, he called North Korea's  Kim Jong Un "a pretty smart cookie," and said that he (Trump) would be "honored" to meet him. On the homefront, he continues to blame Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for all of America's problems.

Trump became so outraged by lawmakers who dare to oppose him that he said, "Our country needs a good government shutdown," implying that will refuse to approve a new budget in October.

Trump vowed to "Make School Lunches Great Again" by replacing former president Obama's healthy food initiative with all the white bread and sugar that America's overweight kids and can stuff down their diabetic gullets. He also overturned Michelle Obama's initiative to provide academic encouragement and validation to girls.

Trump signed yet another executive order (he's ahead of Obama by nearly two to one, although he called Obama a "weak president" for relying on executive orders). Today's executive order will allow tax exempt churches to give both verbal and monetary support to political candidates. There was no word as to whether the the fact that most Christians voted for Trump (he won 81% of the evangelical vote*) was a factor in his decision, and no explanation for why he even bothered to eliminate a requirement that the government ignores anyway. Christians are now asking Trump to sign to sign an executive order allowing them to violate the civil rights of gays, atheists, women who use birth control, and transgender people, all in the name of Jesus.

The Republican Congress repealed internet privacy protections so that big business can make more big money.

Trump started eliminating banking laws that were implemented to prevent big banks from the kinds of reckless behavior that led the country to the brink of financial collapse in 2008.

Trump announced plans to deregister more than 24 national monuments. In my view, no president during my lifetime deserves high praise for protecting the natural environment, however, Trump exceeds the others in his callousness for the environment because while doing nothing to preserve it, he has gone to pains to hasten its destruction in the name of greed.

Finally... More than 53,000 people have signed a petition that was targeted at mental health professionals, stating Trump should be removed from office because he is insane. Yale psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton warned against creeping what he calls "malignant normality" meaning that under a malignantly narcissistic leader like Trump, "alternate facts," conspiracy theories, racism, science denial and delegitimization of the press become the new normal." I consider the truth of this to be obvious. When our president demonstrates persistent and far reaching suspicion regarding his own investigational agencies, has no consistent set of values, praises murderous dictators as examples of effective leadership, never admits a mistake, and clings tenaciously to easily disprovable lies, he has a serious problem that I would to grow ever more serious under the demands of the presidency.

I have tried to keep an open heart to Republicans, and I have tried to believe that there is surely some limit to how far Trump can go without losing their support, but I have found it impossible to do either. It is my sad conclusion that the Republican Party is dominated by two kinds of people. The first are devoid of  environmental concerns, couldn't care less about civil rights, and don't give a fig how many lives they wreck--or even destroy--as long as it puts money in their pockets. If a Congressman doesn't kowtow to them, they'll use their riches to defame and replace him or her, and thanks to a ruling by the Supreme Court, no one outside of Congress will even know where the money came from. 

The second kind of Republican is a conman's wet dream. As long as a candidate says he loves guns and Jesus, detests the least hint of liberalism, and shares their abhorrence of abortion, gay rights, and even birth control, then that person will have their vote. These people are SO stupid that they accept the lie that the best way to help themselves out of poverty is to make rich people richer so that  some of the wealth will "trickle down" to them. The majority of these Republicans live in the most ignorant, religious, and impoverished parts of the country (the parts known as the "Bible Belt") which happen to be the very parts of the country that are the most dependent upon government welfare programs. Some of these states are SO dependent upon the federal government that they get more money back from the government than they pay into it, and this makes them every so much as like a dog that bites the hand that feeds it, the conclusion being that they're only stupid, they're malevolent. I know much of this due to having spent 37-years in Mississippi, a state is near or at the bottom in regard to every measurable standard of living unless you count religion in itself as a standard of measurement, in which Mississippi is at the top. Of the ten states that have the lowest standard of living, all but one are in the Bible Belt.*** 

Just as the gun lobby cite deaths from gun violence as proof that the country needs more guns; the citizens of the state with the lowest standard of living and the highest incidence of church attendance, argue that what will correct the former is more of the latter. While these citizens parrot their leaders in extolling private enterprise--while deprecating government--they overlook the fact that, even if those leaders force the government into default, they will continue to enjoy a singular benefit among government employees, namely that they will to draw their own government paychecks even while the rest of us go into the hole They also forget that when those leaders insist that government health insurance sucks, and that the private sector will do an infinitely better job in providing us with health insurance, is is never their own government financed health insurance they're talking about because like that very much indeed.

* http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/09/how-the-faithful-voted-a-preliminary-2016-analysis/ 

** https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/05/04/trump-malignant-narcissistic-disorder-psychiatry-column/101243584/