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.