The NeatPipes/Radice AeroBilliard
    September 23rd, 2014

G. L. Pease
This little review has been a long time coming. Too long. I have my reasons, my excuses. And, this time, they’re actually pretty good ones. Mostly, it’s because, in order to do the pipe justice, I felt it important to do more than just smoke it a few times and scribble down some sketchy impressions. There’s enough different about the AeroBilliard, and enough good about it, that it deserves a little more thought than that. So, I’ve been smoking and thinking about it. For months. Finally, prompted by a question in last month’s Ask G.L. Pease column, I’m ready to share some of those thoughts, even if it almost seems like old news now that the pipe has been on the market for over a year.

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The Irony of Tolerance
    August 4th, 2014

G. L. Pease
"A pipe is the fountain of contemplation, the source of pleasure, the companion of the wise; and the man who smokes, thinks like a philosopher and acts like a Samaritan." -Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton (19th C)

I grew up with the notion that other people’s views, no matter how different from my own, even if those opposing ideas were completely unsupportable, often have nuggets of gold buried within them that we can mine and learn from. It was one of the best lessons my dad taught me, and even though he didn’t always follow his own advice, and I certainly don’t, his instillation of the value of tolerance has served well.

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Looking In Mirrors
    June 16th, 2014

G. L. Pease
Some years ago, a certain tobacco, one that was evidently quite popular,
highly regarded, and fairly readily available, routinely found its way into my pipes. I bought and smoked tin after tin, and stashed away more than a few in the "cellar" for aging. This is no shattering news, until the dropping of the other shoe. Wait for it …

Here it is. One day, I woke up to face a sudden bold self-admission that I didn’t actually like the stuff, and really never had. I’d wanted to, because so many others did. Maybe I had suffered from some sort of eternal optimism, just knowing that one day, it would all come together, and I’d have the smoke of my life, but this never happened.

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Three By Three
    April 15th, 2014

G. L. Pease
Some months back, I embarked on a little experiment,
smoking three recently opened tins, and for reasons I can’t really explain (because I haven’t a clue), I alternated those three tobaccos in three different pipes. Despite the fact that I’ve always been a champion of seeking out those special pairings between a pipe and the tobaccos with which it performs best, I decided to try something different, and was a little surprised by the overall experience of this triple-triple-threat.

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Ashes to Ashes
    March 6th, 2014

G. L. Pease
Over the years or decades that some of us have been pipe smokers,
we’ve seen blends come, and more often go. For a variety of reasons, many great, and many more not-so-great blends have disappeared from the market. Some of these, the best, or best known, have been subsequently replaced by a parade of mass-produced caricatures of their namesakes. Or, they’ve served as inspiration for newer, craft-blended products that endeavor to stimulate reminiscences of days past by capturing some of their ancient alchemy. The rest, the more obscure majority, have quietly fallen into a dark pit of oblivion, leaving only their names remaining in the collective history of pipedom.

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Beauty and the Billiard
    January 8th, 2014

G. L. Pease
In the (somewhat more than) three decades I’ve been accumulating pipes
— I choose the word purposefully to distinguish the briar aggregation that currently shares my residence from the purposeful, themed groupings curated by more deliberate and true collectors — I’ve found myself attracted at various times to many different shapes, at one time chasing Princes, another bent Bulldogs, or Apples or Blowfish. You get the picture; my tastes are capricious. There have even been moments of attraction to wild freeform pipes that do not adhere to any prescribed taxonomy, though I rarely admit it in public. The result of all these years of accumulation with abandon is that my “collection” is a motley crew of shapes from traditional to modern, the only threads running through it from one end to the other being the word pipe, and that, at least at one time, I was attracted enough to each one to acquire it. If I wanted to elevate it, I suppose I could call it a collection of collections, but even that seems overly lofty.

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It’s Not That Simple
    November 25th, 2013

G. L. Pease
After a few hundred years of people smoking pipes, you’d think we’d have figured it all out. It seems a simple thing: Choose a pipe, fill it with tobacco using whatever well practiced technique is currently in fashion, properly apply the preferred source of flame, and sit back to enjoy a lingering, fragrant smoke. Pipes have been figured out, and we’ve got tobacco growing and processing well sussed. There really should be few surprises left.

This morning, as I filled my pipe with the tobacco I’ve been smoking almost exclusively for the past couple months, certainly long enough to understand how it behaves, how it tastes, I was prepared for nothing more or less than a great smoke, and that’s just what I was having for the first third of the bowl. Then the bells rang. It’s happened to most of us. We’re peacefully smoking away, enjoying the experience well enough, when something changes, calling out for our attention, shaking us from our quiet reverie.

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Creatures of Habit
    October 4th, 2013

G. L. Pease
What sort of pipe smoker are you today? Do you like to play the field, constantly trying new blends, endlessly seeking the next great pipe? Or are you happily a creature of routine, finding satisfaction with a single tobacco and the same few pipes you’ve had for years?

Yes, it’s reductionistic, and most of us probably fall somewhere on the continuum between the two extremes, but there are more pipesters at the ends of the spectrum than we might think. I’ve met some of them. I’ve read their posts on blogs and in forums. On one extreme, we have the pipestser who asserts that there’s simply no reason to go beyond his chosen Gramp’s Mixture, bought in five pound bags, stored in recycled jam jars and smoked religiously in one of his handful of well-worn Mystery Briars; on the other, the tobacco Lothario with hundreds of open tins, and a seemingly endless supply of exotic pipes with unpronounceable names, rarely smoking the same tobacco or the same pipe twice in a year. (Sorry. My hyperbole is showing again.)

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Nothing Endures but Change
    August 27th, 2013

G. L. Pease
Decades ago, a talented blender in a small town Tobacconist’s Shoppe, in a land known for its fragrant and delicious blends, produced a magnificent mixture of such unique characteristics that pipe smokers in the town were soon belting out its praises. Stories of this special tobacco spread, and pipemen from neighboring towns were soon found visiting the shop to experience the tobacconist’s fame-gaining smoky elixir. Its popularity rapidly grew.

One day Nigel, a passionate pipeman who had been living across the ocean for many years, discovered this marvelous mixture on a rare trip back home. Smitten, he bought as much of this new blend as he could stuff into his luggage for his return journey, and arranged, at some expense, to have his brother send him four tins each month so that he would never be without his new favorite.

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Indulge Your Pleasure
    July 22nd, 2013

G. L. Pease
I knew a guy whose pipes all had little grey,
rectangular tags dangling from their shanks by thin white strings, each one showing the date of the last smoke, what was smoked, and a number and letter grade reflecting an overall rating of the experience. Once he’d hit upon the "right" mixture for a given pipe, it would be dedicated to that blend until either eternity’s clock stopped ticking, or the world ran out of the tobacco. There was a little notation on the hanging tags for that, too. It was a strange and almost macabre scene, like a gallery show of the tags encircling toes of the most recent unknown members of the choir invisible, having anonymously checked in at the county morgue. Something about it, too, seemed clinical and overly forensic. Dunhill LB Shell #3, laid to rest after a bowl of Stonehenge, 13 November, 2002, B+4.

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