Sunday, August 17, 2003

St. Pius X Webring

Shawn McElhinney has suggested the creation of a St. Pius X webring for those of us who enjoy pipes and cigars. I heartily agree, and nominate Shawn Grand Maduro of the Order. I suggest that members commit to blogging periodically on the Christian joys of pipe and cigar smoking and related subjects. Herewith my first blog on tobacco, which has to do with selecting a good pipe.

In selecting a pipe, don't overlook your tobacconists' box of old, used, impossible-to-sell, and nameless pipes. Every good tobacconist has one, you know. It's full of trade-ins, odd pieces of briar that never managed to attract a customer's eye, and dozens of flawed "seconds" and pipes he had to take to get the one or two he really wanted. Some of my best pipes have come from that box. I think some of your best pipes will, too.

I don't like finicky pipes, high-maintenance pieces that have stingy draws, precious finishes that can't be seem to be touched without marring their perfection, or that go out the minute you stop staring at them. I like easy-burning pipes with generous draws, pipes that are happy to keep the tobacco lit while you read an interesting paragraph or two, companionable pipes that don't mind riding along in a pocketful of change and car keys until they're needed. Yes, you guessed it -- I don't own a pre-transition Barling, a Bang or a Chonowitsch and I'm not likely too, either. They're beautiful, maybe even friendly to the right owner. But they're not for me.

I like my old knockabout pipes, those rare and eccentric fellows I've befriended in hours of hunting and pecking through the orphanage of my tobacconists' box. They're like old blue jeans (trite but true), or a well-worn pair of good docksiders or cowboy boots. They're more notable for their amiable usefulness than the status they have among treasured possessions. Their humility makes them all the more valuable. I spend more time smoking my oak-colored billiard whose bowl looks like a mushroom cap than I do the fancy-schmancy Meerschaum that came in its own special case. I like ‘em both, but the odd one can go anywhere, anytime, and I like to glance at its undecipherable stamp and wonder who the heck made this thing.

The orphans are cheap, too. I paid $25.00 for ol' mushroom-cap, and $10.00 for a Peterson look-alike with a slightly-off-kilter shank which keeps its origins to itself -- it will only admit to being GENUINE BRIAR. They're both wonderful pipes. They smoke well, and the Peterson look-alike has an unusually large bowl which is just great for experimenting with the various degrees of coarseness for flake and rope tobacco. I wipe ‘em down with some homemade pipe polish every once in a while and they gleam like $150.00 showpieces.

So try an orphan. Yes, you'll buy some dogs. But you'll get to buy 5 or 6 pipes for the price of one chance on a brand-new "name" pipe, and there's bound to be at least one loyal, useful, and worthwhile mutt in the litter. You won't regret it.

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