Ask G. L. Pease (Volume 41)
    October 9th, 2014

G.L. Pease
It’s Saturday, 4 October as I sit down to scribble out this rather late edition of this column,
and as I do so, I’m caught up in a mistral of thought blowing loudly through my head, matching its speed with the activities of the previous month. In the small winery at which I am seasonally employed, we’ve just taken in the last grapes we’ll process this year. It’s been exhilarating, exhausting, challenging. Harvest came early for the Pinot Noirs that we do, and the grapes, always on their own schedule, following the whims of nature, came fast. What took place over six or seven weeks last year happened during just under four weeks of September, leaving only some Zinfandel stragglers to arrive on the first day of October. The month was filled with long days of dark to dark early risings (which, as a nocturnal creature, is not in my nature) and late homecomings, sorting, fermenting, punching down, babysitting, temperature monitoring and adjustment, testing sugars, sealing, barreling. I’m often amused by the reaction of people when they learn that I work making wine, thinking it a glamourous thing; the stains on my nails, my hands, my jeans , the aching muscles, the constant fatigue are anything but that. It’s satisfying work, though. At the end of a day, there’s something real that can be pointed to. That. Over there. That’s what we did today.

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Ask G. L. Pease (Volume 40)
    August 21st, 2014

G. L. Pease
Early this morning,
a dear friend packed a hired truck with boxes of pipes, tobacco, books, and all his other important belongings, preparing to set off eastward to make a new home on the other edge of the continent. I know we’ll see each other again, but I’m very much going to miss his company in the meanwhile. We’ve shared lots of good food, good drink, good conversation and laughter, almost always enveloped in a comforting fog of fragrant smoke.

Perhaps that’s the true magic of the pipe; it seems to catalyze fellowship whenever it’s present in the company of good people. Of those I hold close in my life, many have come to that place over a bowl or twenty. The pipe has a way of bringing people together through a common passion, whilst simultaneously creating something of a sacred space in which to discover our overlapping interests, and to peacefully explore both our similar and our divergent views.

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Ask G. L. Pease (Volume 39)
    July 23rd, 2014

G. L. Pease
I’ve been trying to put the finishing touches on a blend I’ve been working on since January.
No kidding. Seven months, and it’s still not quite there. Sometimes, things just fall into place, and it all seems effortless. Other times, every step of the way is like a ball being shot into a giant Pachinko machine, rattling and bouncing about endlessly, until, finally, it falls through the wrong hole. This one has been like that, like being stuck in that Adventure game in the "Maze of twisty little passages, all alike." It can sometimes be a bit maddening. Like barking mad. Like Mad Hatter mad. It takes a certain amount of insanity to do this stuff.

Then, one day, all the hair pulling pays off, which is what finally happened early in the week. Wish me luck. And, believe it or not, that’s actually a pretty good segue to this month’s questions, so without further ado, let’s pull the lever, launch another ball into its chaotic trajectory through Mr. Pachinko, and get to the questions.

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Ask G. L. Pease (Volume 38)
    July 1st, 2014

G. L. Pease
I’m back from Kansas,
and trying to recover from the fun. Pipe shows are great things, but they can be exhausting. Thursday night, after the pipe club meeting, I returned with a friend to his place to learn how to roll cigars. Scratch that. I rolled a few things that to the casual onlooker would have been perceived as alien life forms (who knew a cigar could have appendages?) or sections of branches from gnarled trees littering the ground after a forest fire. One actually did look vaguely like a cigar, if not observed too closely, but one that had been used as a chew toy by a pit bull on meth. I learned a bit about different cigar tobaccos, got to taste a lot of different leaf in its pure state, but the most important lesson was probably that I have no real future as a torceador. I’ll stick to pipe mixtures.

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Ask G. L. Pease (Volume 37)
    May 12th, 2014

G. L. Pease
I hate the flu. Because of this, I’ve done everything humanly possible to avoid it whilst almost everyone I know are beaten down by it. I’ve been successful this year, until last night. It started out as what I thought was just a really bad attack of hayfever. Then, it hit. The aches, the chills, the coughing, a throat that feels like a field of golf balls had sprouted in it, the relentless hammering that makes a head feel as though it’s been attached to the wrong end of a pile-driver, not that there’s a right end, and finally, the feeling that the not entirely unwelcome spectre of death may be lurking alongside a werewolf of London just outside the kitchen door, better not let him in.

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Ask G. L. Pease (Volume 36)
    April 23rd, 2014

G. L. Pease
Another month, another Ask G.L. Pease column, and it seems like I just finished the last one. For that matter, it seems like I just wrote the first one, but it’s been three years. Three years! Where does the time go?

I love writing this column. Every time I think the questions will run out, something really interesting pops into the mailbag. But, there’s one question that I’m asked often, both here and in real life, that always makes me a bit uncomfortable, not because of the question itself, but because of the answer, at least if I’m really honest in that answer.

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Ask G. L. Pease (Volume 35)
    March 26th, 2014

G. L. Pease
Spring is here, it seems.
My chiles are sprouting in my makeshift hot house, though it’s not been warm enough for them, and their growth is slow. I’m particularly excited about a Guyanese variety called Wiri Wiri. I’ve grown these successfully in the past, but it’s been a couple of years. They’re a bit challenging to grow, but well worth the effort. Each little berry, about the size of a small grape, is fiery hot (about like an orange habanero), wonderfully fragrant, and very flavorful. When I slice into these, their perfume fills the air. I can hardly wait for mid-summer when they, hopefully, begin bearing fruit.

But, what the hell do chiles have to do with pipes and tobacco? Glad you asked.

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Ask G. L. Pease (Volume 34)
    February 6th, 2014

G. L. Pease
As I sit down with this month’s questions,
I’m enjoying a wonderful bowl in little sandblasted apple made by one of my favorite makers. While this normally shouldn’t be worthy of mention, really, in this case it is. When I got this pipe in trade from another collector, it hadn’t been smoked more than a few times, and the first bowl gave me a profound sense of why he’d chosen to part with it so quickly. Its smoke was harsh, acrid, in a word, dreadful, and very much unlike other pipes I’ve had from this maker. No wonder it hadn’t made the cut for my friend; when there are so many truly great pipes to be enjoyed, why suffer a bad one? But, charmed by its shape, its size, its balance, its nicely detailed blast, I wasn’t going to be so quick to part with it, resolving, instead, to give it a sporting chance. Choosing a forgiving blend, I vowed to give it a full tin before passing final judgment. I’m glad I did.

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Ask G. L. Pease (Volume 33)
    January 17th, 2014

G. L. Pease
Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that pipe smokers were around even before the interwebs,
and our modern technology-driven ability to communicate with one another effortlessly. There was a time when we congregated in tobacconists’ shops, pubs, bars, and other public venues, but so much of that is gone, now, and our numbers are more sparse. When was the last time you were walking down the street and noticed another pipester, contentedly puffing away on a cherished briar? Even twenty years ago, it was a much more common sight that it is today, yet, by all indications, our numbers are on the rise, once again. Fortunately, we now have other ways of joining together, and sharing with each other our enthusiasm, and the rich history and tradition of the pipe. It’s not the same as it once was, but it’s still a great time to be a pipe smoker.

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Ask G. L. Pease (Volume 32)
    December 19th, 2013

G. L. Pease
Winter burst through the door this year with a battering ram.
Here in California, we’ve seen some record low temperatures. Not that I’m complaining; I realize that a cold winter in the Bay Area is laughably balmy for those in more Arctic climes. Like Minnesota. Still, when we see temperatures below 20˚F this early in the season (that’s -6˚C for the rest of the world), people talk about it.

For me, some of the good things that winter brings are soups and stews, braised meats, root veggies fragrantly roasted in the oven. This year, that last thing would be a bit of a problem, since my oven broke down some time during the spring, and I never got round to either fixing or replacing the thing.

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