I feel so much better today. I have been sick for the past three days and today, finally, my sinuses have begun to clear. Yay. I began a new weight loss program of my own design last week with a goal of losing 5 pounds a month every month until I drop 81 pounds. (If you’re curious, you can follow my progress on my other blog: 81 pounds.) Anyway, the cold has been interfering with my program a little, keeping me from working out when I get home from work, but now I can start the exercise portion tomorrow.
I felt so much better today that I was able to enjoy my new pipe at lunch. I rarely—almost never—smoke at work. In fact, I rarely smoke at all anymore. It aggravates my wife’s sinuses, and I don’t like going outside to do it. I have a collection of around 15 pipes that I have been collecting over the years. Most of them are briar, but I have one Meerschaum and one brass (an art piece—never smoked it). I started my freshman year of college in Nacogdoches.
By 18, many young people start habits that they think make them look cool. Most start smoking cigarettes since they’re cheap and more common and easy to get. Well, I didn’t want to be common. Besides, my parents and sister all smoked cigarettes and my grandfather died from lung cancer, so cigarettes just weren’t an option for me. Nope, I wanted something that made more of a statement. I wanted people to notice my singularity. I wanted to stand out. Problem was that at 18, I was terribly self-conscious.
I was shopping at a Grocery store—one of those big ones with a courtesy booth, a deli, and everything—and at the courtesy booth, I spied a spindle display of Doctor Grabow Yellow Bowl pipes for sale next to the Prince Albert and Captain Black tobacco packages and the cigars. I spun the spindle and eyed the different types of pipes, and it occurred to me that these pipes were for sale at a grocery store…how good could they be? No, these wouldn’t do at all. You don’t buy a Cadillac from a Yugo dealership.
When I was younger, there was a store in the Greenspoint mall called the Tinder Box that sold pipes and cigars and such and I figured maybe the mall in Nacogdoches might have a similar store. I was right and found a place called the Pipe Pub and the proprietor was quite helpful. He educated me about pipes to include looking for the grain and the thickness of the bowl and the styles from bent to straight and, of course, the perennial Calabash pipe that featured prominently in the Sherlock Holmes movies.
After buying my first (by the way, pipes are not cheap) I found myself too self conscious to smoke it in public. I also found that smoking it made me dizzy and light headed. I also found that inhaling the smoke made me sick. I think I got three or four pipes over the year I was in Nacogdoches, and I learned how to stuff it, light it and—most importantly—how to keep it lit (a real challenge for the novice leading to burning up books of matches or emptying lighters relighting a burned-out pipe).
As I got older, I got more pipes. I bought one at every place I was stationed in the Army and every place I moved to when I got out. I have two pipe stands (and I need another) with tobacco jars. Why so many? Pipes are carved from the root of the briar plant and they are (or can be in the right hands) works of art. The stain, the grain, and even the carving can be quite beautiful. And each one smokes differently. There is something calming about a pipe. The flavor of the tobacco is much fuller and richer and more flavorful than any other kind. It is like savoring the bouquet of a fine wine as opposed to chugging a wine cooler. I have left work after a stressful day and lit a bowl, put Tchaikovsky on the stereo and mellowed on the drive home.
But as I said, I don’t smoke as much these days because it irritates my wife’s sinuses. However, with my diet, I need something to keep me from shoving food down my throat and chewing on the pipe stem seems to help, even if it is not lit. And if I light it at work or maybe on the drive home, so much the better. Besides, I just bought this pipe over the holidays and I need to break it in. So, I hang out with the smokers at work once in a while and while they pollute their lungs with their cancer sticks, I enjoy a bowl of something much more than just burning leaves.