It Ain’t Easy Being Keen: The Top Ten Problems Faced By Pipe Hobbyists | The #1 Source for Pipes and Pipe Tobacco Information

E. Roberts

Kermit the Frog may seem the unlikeliest of inspirations for an article about the pipe-smoking hobby, but bear with me here. Though Kermit is more of a cigar aficionado than a pipeman…err, pipefrog…he is just the sort of sentimental, soft-spoken character that illustrates the best qualities of our ilk. He’s also very much the sensitive, heart-on-his-sleeve type, not wholly unlike myself, and as I ponder the problems we pipemen, pipewomen and pipefrogs face in these troubled times, I take my inspiration from Kermit’s seminal Top 40 hit, It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green:

It’s not easy bein’ green
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
And people tend to pass you over ’cause you’re
Not standin’ out like flashy sparkles on the water
Or stars in the sky…

Pipe hobbyists do indeed tend to get passed over in the Grand Scheme of Things. We’re admittedly a bit of an anachronism in this fast-paced, instant gratification world. Most of us (*Gary B. Schrier excepted) do not, in fact, stand out like flashy sparkles on the water; we’re the quiet men (and women, and frogs) in the background, pensive and somewhat sedentary. But surely this doesn’t mean we don’t have a bone to pick with The Way Things Are! In fact, I was able to come up with ten particular predicaments that often weigh heavily on my mind, starting with…

1 - Getting lumped in with cigarette smokers. We’re here for the enjoyment, relaxation and flavor, thank you very much. The ever-tightening noose around our personal liberty is a cannon aimed at cigarette smokers, which unfortunately targets us proximally. Increased taxation, unfair social segregation, and outright stigmatization of smoking have pushed this once noble hobby to a practically underground status from which it is only now beginning to recover. Thank goodness for the old guard keeping the smoking lamp lit, and tally-ho to the new wave of pipe smokers resurrecting the passion for pipes, our own Fearless Leader Kevin Godbee chief among them. Which leads us to the trouble of…

Two of the flashiest pipemen around, Kevin and Gary.

2 - Being branded as either an “old fart” or a “hipster”. As a by-product of the crusades against tobacco, it’s been a couple decades since smoking a pipe was an everyman, everyday sort of pastime. If there’s ample grey in your hair, you’re automatically perceived as a grandfatherly relic of a bygone era; conversely, if you’re young enough to have never known a world without email, then surely a pipe is just an affectation chosen to complete your stylistic presentation of self. Why there is no allowance for the epicurean pursuits in gentlemen and women (and frogs) of any age, nation or creed is beyond me. My knee-jerk reaction is to let this sort of broad generalization really get my dander up, shake my fist and yell at the kids out on my lawn, but I must recall that I’m a pipeman; a calmer, gentler soul, one given to contemplation rather than revolution. Still, it makes me mad when…

3 - Folks ask what kind of drugs I have in my pipe (with a knowing wink). It makes me even madder that my stock answer of, “the legal kind” isn’t as conclusive as it used to be. Nothing against other forms of recreational inebriation—but it’s the assumption that makes an ass out of you and…well, just you. Maintaining equanimity and ever the optimist, I try to take these opportunities to educate people about the joys of a delicately aged Virginia flake or creamy Balkan blend, about the many beneficial aspects of moderate tobacco consumption, and about how to make informed decisions based on objective truths. Unfortunately, this tack is on shaky ground when…

4 - Trying to explain how good a Lat-bomb tastes when it smells like I’m forcibly cremating a wet sheepdog that happens to be wearing my old work boots. “No, really, it’s much milder than it smells. Lots of subtle, spicy hints and layers upon layers of complexity. Mm-mmm, this is some tasty stuff; you should really try it! Hey, are you all right? Can I get you a glass of water? Are you sure you just want to lie down on the floor like that? MEDIC!” Okay, okay, so I exaggerate a bit. But so do those…

Gosh I miss the old Balkan Sobranie…

5 - Fake coughers. You know the ones—they alight gaily from a city bus, paying no mind to the diesel spewing in their faces or the plastic candy wrapper they’ve just tossed in the street as they step nonchalantly over a bum, but as soon as they see the cloud of smoke issuing from your lips they turn a practiced shade of green, fix the stink eye squarely around your solar plexus (they’ll never look you directly in the eye), and cover their snouts like they’re about to run the Fukushima Dai-ichi 100-meter dash. And cough. “Ahehk, hehk". Wimpy little coughs that are as barbed as the disapproving scowl of a Chihuahua. If only second-hand smoke would kill them instantly, as they’ve been led to believe…. But then that would take away the challenge of…

6 - Trying to convince women that smelling like their grandfather is sexy. Please don’t take that as an entirely sexist statement; however, women who smoke pipes are so cool that they really don’t have to do any convincing, so it’s mainly a man’s problem. The trick here, gentlemen on the prowl, is to stick with sweet aromatic blends when out and about smoking in mixed company. A solid aromatic turns heads and puts smiles on people’s faces. If she mentions that you remind her of dear old granddad, then offer to sit her on your lap and tell her a story in your suavest Hugh Hefner voice. Just be careful not to be…

7 - Burning holes in your clothes. I know, I know; here I am arguing in favor of the elegance and refinement of pipe smokers, and I have to fess up to one of our (quite literally) dirty little secrets. But really, it’s practically impossible to prevent the occasional stray ember from popping out and landing on your new silk tie, space-age polyester and spandex blend thermal base layer, or technical performance cycling shorts. Good old 100% cotton is your best defense, the thicker the better. And forget it if you burn the lady sitting on your lap; there’s really no advice I can offer you for that, other than running as fast as you can. The only thing more difficult is…

8 - Trying to explain the conditions of PAD and TAD to the missus. It’s time the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders added these two entries to their next edition, if only so we in the pipe community can have some leverage in our next domestic dispute. To anyone so afflicted, Pipe and Tobacco Acquisition Disorders are serious plights. Who among us has not had their sleep precluded due to the visions of vintage Dunhills dancing in their heads? Who among us has not had to engage in some “creative accountancy” to explain away the mortgage payment missed in favor of buying out the entire last shipment of Penzance? In an age when all our personal responsibilities have been coerced, cajoled or otherwise legislated away from us, why should we too not share in the satisfaction that these are disorders before which we are powerless? Why wonder, when I’m still trying to figure out the logistics of…

9 - Living longer than non-smokers. “Death rates for current pipe smokers were little if at all higher than for non-smokers, even with men smoking 10 pipefuls per day and with men who had smoked pipes for more than 30 years…Pipe smokers who inhale live as long as nonsmokers and pipe smokers that don’t inhale live longer than non-smokers.” Granted, that’s from the 1964 Surgeon General’s report, before Everyone in America realized that the tobacco companies weren’t playing fair and decided to crucify them for the next century and ban smoking everywhere. Ultimately it means we just have to put up with the antis longer than they have to put up with us. But that’s still not nearly as bad as…

10 - Middleton’s Cherry Blend. Good god, how can I explain this one away? I try to be fair, always looking on the bright side of the leaf for the silver lining. This stuff is a crime, though, a crime against humanity (and frogs). I don’t care that it’s still one of the top-selling tobaccos of the last hundred years; it’s hellfire and brimstone in a pouch, and is probably responsible for more attrition from the ranks of pipe smokers than cancer, the cigar boom and Sherlock Holmes switching to the patch combined. Strange days indeed.

Yes, these are the things I wonder about when left to my own devices, in between reviewing tobacco blends for But why wonder? Be big like the ocean, or important like a mountain, or tall like a tree—a pipe smoker is what I want to be.

Mr. Subliminal’s Review of Middleton’s Cherry Blend Link

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21 Responses to “It Ain’t Easy Being Keen: The Top Ten Problems Faced By Pipe Hobbyists”

  1. voorhees said:

    great article…loved it

  2. mso489 said:

    The existential moment of the pipe smoker. Really witty and well observed.

  3. hakchuma said:

    Laughed at item 10!

  4. jeepnewbie said:

  5. amiller said:

    Best column ever. Hilarious. Laughed my whole way through it, and I was on the subway, so it was a bit embarrassing. Well played.

  6. trifecta13 said:

    Laughed out loud more than once reading this. Great write up.

  7. virginiacob said:

    Fantastic article! Loved the humor throughout!

  8. allan said:

    Laugh and smirked as I did in this essay, number 8 brought it home for me. It may not be the mortgage payment, but when my wife sees the tobacco shelves filling up and I try to tell her ‘I’m cutting back’-Well, it just doesn’t jive

    Once again, nicely done

  9. Cortez said:

    Entertaining, well written, and nicely illustrated article! Always a pleasure to see your by-line on the home page.

  10. quincy said:

  11. dpj57 said:

  12. tankbuster183 said:

    All truth. As a relatively new pipe smoker, no 8 is becoming apparent daily.

  13. gecokat said:

    As always, an insightful and entertaining article. I always look forward to these :)

  14. romeowood said:

    Glad I seem to have struck the funnybone of a few of you. Please feel free to add your own trials and tribulations to the list, in case there are any I missed.

  15. woodsroad said:

    Just great….thanks.

  16. kerpap said:

    Too true indeed. I also HATE being called “Popeye” all the time.
    I prefer to smoke my pipe in solitude because I also hate having everyone come up to me and ask about it like they’ve never seen a pipe before and ask the same million questions then ask me “if they can have a hit”
    NO, I wont share!

    I definitely have PAD and TAD.

  17. homeguard95 said:

    This was a great article very entertaining.

  18. romeowood said:

    People really call you Popeye? Ah-guk-guk-guk-guk! :D

  19. samkirby13 said:

    This was great! As a young guy on a college campus, I get a good majority of this. But, hey.. They’re missing out!

  20. romeowood said:

  21. grumpy74 said:

    Love this read.