Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Glimmer of Hope

First of all, a delayed Cherry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Safe Solstice to all. May your days be merry and bright. Now, let’s jump back a couple of weeks.
Sunday morning on December 2nd. It was a beautiful day; 70 degrees outside. As I put on a short sleeve shirt, I temporarily thought about global warming, but decided just to enjoy the side effects in my Led Zeppelin shirt.
Around noon, I strolled into The Scottish Arms, a pub where I worked for four years and my fiancé, Lauren, still works as a hostess. Kissing her on the cheek, I settled into a corner booth with an Irish Coffee and papers to grade.
*thud* Lauren drops a local magazine in front of me, open to a specific page with the title “Holiday Gift Guide”. I sighed as I waited for her to point out the item that had caught her eye and prepared for mental calculations of how much of my holiday budget I currently had remaining.
Despite my initial cynicism, my eyes fell on something beautiful, though I did not fully appreciate it at first: a picture of six Vauen pipes from a local pipe shop.
I don’t know if it was because I was too focused on all of the grading I had to do or if I was simply groggy from the previous evening, but my first reaction was simply to say: “Yeah, those are pretty good pipes.”
Lauren looked at me with surprise and I stared back at her with what I am sure must have seemed complete idiocy.
“But it’s a pipe advertisement in a magazine.”
She was right. The beauty of this advertisement was not the brand of pipes being advertised, but the fact that pipes were being mentioned at all. I had not seen something like that outside of specialty shops, hipster-style “ironic” stores, and old, faded catalogues.
Feel free to read my complete analysis over at Quality Briar, a wonderful website where my blog is now hosted! The website is listed here: Pipe School.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

On Santa, Censorship, and Pipes

So, did you know that there is a publisher in Canada who is releasing an updated copy of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas? There is only one change in the entire edition: the removal of Santa's pipe, both from the poem and from the illustration. To read the entirety of this lunacy, feel free to check out the whole story on my new blog location: Pipe School at Quality Briar.

Thank you and keep on puffing!

Monday, May 7, 2012

In Case You Didn't Know...

Just a reminder, since I still see a good deal of traffic coming to this site, the blog is now located at www.qualitybriar.com/blog

I am still working on getting as many of the old pieces over onto the new site as possible, but all new stories will be posted there.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My First Pipe: Reborn

It was a slow evening at the pub. Through the blue and grey smoke diffusing through the room, I smelled something familiar. It smelled like my music teacher’s leather jacket; it smelled like his trumpet and my piano and avoiding my lessons.
Four, college age men sat at a table and one of them was holding a long, clay pipe. Like some sort of mystic ceremony, they passed it around the table, taking a puff, savoring the flavor, and passing it to the next.
Within a week, I found myself at a small, old tobacconist with a statue of an Indian chief standing on a block with the word “TOBAK” written on it. I remember circling the tourist area a number of times before I even worked up the courage to park. It took me even more time to walk inside.
I was completely out of my element. Large glass jars were filled with different types of tobacco, all of which looked so similar, aside from the one in a porcelain jar with a portrait of a Middle Eastern man painted on it; I later discovered that this was the one English tobacco that the establishment offered.
I am sure that I lingered too long in my attempt to blend into the woodwork, but I eventually asked to purchase the same pipe that the guys at the pub had been smoking. I work at a Renaissance Faire during the summers – yes, I’m lame like that – and I justified the purchase to myself by thinking that, if I didn’t take to the pipe, I could at least use the clay one as a prop.
I remember taking the long box that contained the pipe and my two plastic bags full of bulk tobacco back to my dorm room and hiding them in the bottom drawer of my desk. I wasn’t hiding it from my roommate, since I didn’t have a roommate. Perhaps I was hiding it from the memories of my parents telling me how evil tobacco is. What I could not hide, however, was my excitement: a slight feeling of butterflies in my stomach, smiling like an idiot, and anticipating my first experience.
To say it was not the best of experiences might be an understatement, and, much like most bad first-pipe-experiences, it was entirely my fault. I was trying to use flimsy matches to light a pipe that was poorly packed and around a foot-and-a-half long on a cold, windy night, while perched on a ledge of a dormitory building. I think it might have been easier if I had been trying to juggle eight rabid pit bulls while trying to light my pipe.
Eventually, however, I got my pipe lit. I liked it. I lit it again – not too surprisingly, my pipe went out continuously – and I liked it even more. Every time I lit my pipe, I burned away my hesitance and realized that this was going to be a passion. I had been baptized by fire.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Transforming Stereotypes

We all use stereotypes. Every single one of us, every single day. For example, someone at a restaurant hands you something in glass that is liquid and perfectly clear, has no aroma and no fizz. You assume that it is water based on your stereotypes of the world. Some stereotypes are useful; some are harmful.
One particular stereotype out there concerns our hobby, my friends. For an example, take a look at this picture:
This is clearly a phenomenal photograph displaying a pipe smoker who has many stories to tell. However, it is also the image that most people get when they imagine pipe smokers. This is the pipe smoker stereotype, specifically a white man over the age of fifty-five (if only he would have had tweed on!). In fact, this stereotype was recently mentioned on a pipe forum that I frequent. Its validity was questioned, along with whether or not it was a helpful stereotype and, if not, what can be done about it.
This stereotype does not actively work towards changing the demographic of pipe smoking, which is a necessity if pipe smoking is to survive. What we need is a stereotype that moves us progressively forward.
To read more, check out my blog's new location here.