First, a few words from the old newspaper cynic, author and official American curmudgeon, H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), the "Sage of Baltimore":: The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out… without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, intolerable. And one more blast from Mencken before we begin in earnest: Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.
Call me an alarmist, but I fear for our future. As I see it, our prospects play out like this: As go cigars, so goes pipes and tobacco.
Notes and things: It’s a jungle out there. We know that, instinctively, but now there is more bad news: I just read in a pipe newsletter that because of something called "net neutrality," the day of ordering pipes and tobacco over the Internet could be over. Really?
The logic behind the article is that because B&Ms are becoming an endangered species, and the Internet is now a more robust source for pipes and tobacco, net neutrality gives the government the right to regulate the Internet as a public utility.
It’s being public, so the thinking goes, there will be those who will want to keep the mention of pipes and tobacco on a planet far, far away from those on the Internet whom our hobby would maim for all time.
I’m not sure where this is going, but I’ve never let that stop me in the past.
The other day, while looking up some statistics on pipe tobacco production (it’s down so far this year), I ran across a website which calls itself HealthDay, News for Healthier Living. Just another one of those zillion of expert sites telling you how to live your life in a more healthful way. Yeah, right. I got it.
There was posted a lengthy piece by a doctor who raged against the evils of pipe smoking–this after having been a pipe smoker himself.
Why, if you buy in to what the doc is pushing, smoking a pipe is the root cause of every heinous health problem since the bubonic plague.
Chicagoland International Pipe & Tobacciana Show is the Super Bowl of pipe shows, the megafauna of pipes and tobacco. Count yourself fortunate, smiled upon by the tobacco gods, if you are a regular attendee. And if you have never been, get thee hence to Chicago so you can say you have been to the mountaintop, where the masters of the universe reside.
The 2015 show, sponsored by the Chicagoland Pipe Collectors Club as usual, is not only special, but also historic. This is the 20th year Chicago has demonstrated how to stage a world class event.
In this, our current winter of storms and tantrums and the solid silence of ice and snow, and as the years advance, it has become more and more apparent to me that my pipes are more comforting than I have ever imagined.
Especially since I have been manacled by ice and covered by weather customary to more northern climes. This New Ice Age has locked me away, unable to smoke my beautiful pipes. Blessedly, spring is not far away. Not all hope is lost through these wicked, cold portals.
When does a fad cease being a fad and become an exciting hobby? And following that line of thought, when does that compelling hobby cease to be a hobby and become an all-encompassing serious obsession?
Personally, I’m at the serious obsession stage right now today. My pipe smoking and collecting began shortly after college, in the 1960s when I came across the old Royal Cigar Store on Forsyth Street in Downtown Atlanta and actually thought I had found heaven.
The appeal of the smells, the tins, the pipes, the cigars, the men smoking both and everyone talking pipes and tobaccos hit me so hard, it was as if I had found the Court of Montezuma and someone handed me a pipe to join in the ceremony.
Not to beat a dead horse. . . . Well, okay, maybe one more time. It’s a new year. Trying to get a read on the Food and Drug Administration is like attempting to decipher one of those post-World War II 10-inch television test patterns: You get a lot of numbers, voodoo math figures, shifting scenes, screen noise (read that as pixels the size of dimes), all in black and white, which is not how the FDA deals. The FDA has never-ending shades of gray produced by a bloated bureaucracy, which eats your tax dollars by the millions.
Several years ago, a sundown farmer walked his fields of tobacco, looking, watching and wondering about the future. His farm, roughly 300 acres, had been in his family for more than 200 years. Many of his ancestors arrived along the Tennessee-Kentucky border shortly after the end of the Revolutionary War and settled upon rich valley croplands to raise crops, especially tobacco.
During the South’s Civil War, the family had to defend the land from marauding troops from both Union and Confederate. Good tobacco was as necessary as food in the war.
In a brief tour, the farmer pointed out a graveyard where the family had buried its dead over the two centuries. They had become part of the soil, he said, just as his soul was also part of the soil.
As I reflect upon our current condition, meaning the fraternity of pipe tobacco smokers, I am concerned that we are running out of sanctuaries, and that we are in some sort of middle earth of dragons and awful flying things. I fear that we will be overcome.
Recently (July 13, 2014), I watched CNN’s re-run of its news feature by Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Weed. I missed the first episode and decided to tune-in to this re-run.
Now, I did not just ride in on the turnip truck, but I was stunned to learn from the piece that the federal government owns a patent on marijuana. Did you know that? Why didn’t you tell me?
Over the next weeks and months, I will endeavor to write a series of essays that will be on a different plane than those in the past. Basically, the Pipe Pundit will attempt to go ethereal.
What has me disturbed and agitated is the state of things in our nation, outside of what is going on, or not, with the political process.
I’m more interested in individual rights than group rights.
Several years ago, I interviewed that great Southern Gentleman, Shelby Foote, the famed Civil War author. He invited me to his beautiful 1927 English Tudor cottage in Memphis, Tenn., to talk of things past.