Wednesday, October 12, 2011

From Italy, With Love, Part I

A couple of days ago, I returned home to see a little slip of paper on my porch where my mail normally goes. My heart sank. I knew this piece of paper very well. It was from Tim, my postman, needing my signed permission to redeliver a particular package.

I picked up the slip, signed it, asked Tim to leave the package on my porch when he finally delivered it again, and went inside to sink into a heavy depression on my couch.

“Why?” I asked my wallpaper, “Why couldn't I have been home a little earlier?” If I had been, this whole tragedy could have been averted. Now I was going to have to wait another two days for my new Castello 55!

I had been waiting a week for this package. Ever since I had been browsing one of my favorite pipe forums and found a link to this gorgeous piece of briar, so finely cut that I felt like a dozen hawks were staring at be from the front part of the bowl, I was hooked.

I had been wanting a Castello 55 pot for quite some time. I'm not sure why, honestly. The pipe isn't the prettiest of shapes, nor is it the largest or the rarest. The shape is charming in its own way, however, and it is rumored to be an English smoking machine, turning Oriental and Latakia and Virginia into ambrosia vapors.

Those two days passed slowly, like the clocks were deliberately mocking me.

When I returned home on the second day, at a time that I knew was after the post's delivery, I nearly giggled like a little girl when I saw a tiny, white package on my doorstep.

I brought it inside and slowly went about my other responsibilities in an attempt to delay the torture a little longer – laundry, return emails, etc.

Finally, I knew I had waited long enough because my hands had started to shake a little. I took out a pair of scissors and gently sliced open the tape sealing the tiny white box, a sound that was oddly reminiscent of a choir of angels.

Let me say right now that I love the English language, a love that sometimes results in my using overly verbose and absurdly hyperbolic statements in order to communicate my meaning. With this said, I am not exaggerating while telling this story. There are moments as a pipe collector and smoker when heaven seems to come to Earth and to your doorstop in a small cardboard box.

I finished opening the flaps and cleared out the packing peanuts to reveal a yellow box with golden writing, CASTELLO shining proudly. I could not help but think of the little yellow book that so influenced Oscar Wilde, and thus Dorian Gray, a book that led Dorian into the enjoyment of myriad excesses, later resulting in the distortion of his painted self. Though I don't think that pipes will disfigure my soul as Dorian Gray's was, I do believe that this is an even greater enjoyment than any that Dorian embraced.

Feeling like I was sorting through Russian Nesting dolls, I opened this even smaller box and cleared out even more packing peanuts. Beneath those pesky, static-loving legumes I found the bag containing my prize.

Slowly, I revealed this long-awaited pipe. It was stunning. The cross-grain is phenomenal and the birds eye would make a peacock blush.

Once I had the pipe in my hands, I proceeded to turn it over and examine it under the light from every angle; I held it in both hands in a relaxed position and a smoking position; I clenched it in the jaw; I took a test draw; I ran my finger along the inside of the bowl. I learned every physical detail of the pipe that I could. To say that I was satisfied would be an under statement.

I plopped down on my couch with the pipe in my hand and started thinking about what tobacco to try in the beauty first. An English, I thought to myself, this pipe seems made for it. But which one? Which one? Suddenly, like I had been struck with divine inspiration, I shouted, “Old Dog!”

I rushed to my makeshift tobacco cellar in my basement, where it stays dark and cool and I shoved aside all of the junk that had recently come to block the larger of the two cabinets that I use for this purpose. Once I had the way cleared, I slowly, reverently, opened the cabinet door and located the grey and white tin with a sleeping dog on it. I had been saving this tin for the right occasion, and I knew that this was it.

Right when I was about to open the tin, I realized something horrible: I wasn't craving an English. The weather had changed in St. Louis recently, becoming far warmer than it has any right to be, and my pipe cravings are very weather dependent.

With a longing look at the pipe and the tin sitting next to each other, I placed the pot in the Italian row of my pipe rack and let the tin of tobacco sit next to it, waiting...

...Waiting for the right moment.

1 comment:

  1. The grain is truly to die for. I wouldn't have had the patience to wait to smoke it - that pipe is dying for some University Flake btw!