The Pipe Pundit

As Time Goes By

Okay, here is the scoop, just in time for Thanksgiving and bird-carving: My opposable thumbs have become opposing digits. Imagine!

In other words, after years of typing on everything from an ancient Underwood the size of a modern-day airplane carry-on bag and advancing all the way up to nano-sized smartphone keyboards, my thumbs have decided they’ve had enough punishment.

So, what, you might ask, what has this to do with pipe smoking?

Excellent question.

I mention this to explain a dreadful condition, or my definition of frozen thumb syndrome: “thumbritis.”

This is my version of a malady that affects those who use their thumbs in critical motion to (1) type stories for a living or (2) pack a pipe bowl with a favorite tobacco blend using aging and decrepit thumbs.

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And, yes, I like the Frank Method or something I have used for a long while akin to the air method, whatever.

This means I must employ the use of my thumbs, either to manipulate a computer keyboard or to gently pack tobacco into a pipe bowl.

My thumbs have more miles on them than 40-acres and a mule.

Now for a quick review.

My family-oriented trip to Colorado and a side visit to Havana Manor Cigars and Pipes shop in Longmont was pure joy with my eyes wide open.

Honestly, I resembled a wide-eyed barn owl as we motored about the Rocky Mountains.

What’s not to like: Drive north and behold, you are in the land of Aspens brilliant in a flood of yellow, running like streaks of gold up the side of an outrageously majestic evergreen jagged mountain?

Longmont’s Havana Manor Cigars and Pipes Shop highlighted in last month’s episode of As the Pundit World Turns, was a delightful discovery.

Tom Bliss, manager of the smoke shop/cigar/pipe lounge and Alayna Myers, Havana Manor assistant manager, were open, friendly, accommodating, and so helpful, answering a blizzard of my pesky questions.

Myers knows her cigars and what she likes to puff: Drew Estate’s Deadwood, “The Sweet Jane.”

That’s a new cigar on my stogie bucket list for the future.

If you happen to be in Colorado in August, you might want to check out the Rocky Mountain Cigar Festival.

It is scheduled to take place Aug. 29, 2020, smack dab in the heart of the Colorado Rocky Mountain Front Range, a serrated slice of high mountain beauty.

The festival convenes in the Omni Interlocken Resort in Broomfield, Colo.

Broomfield is a little over 18 miles northwest of Denver and about 13 miles southeast of Boulder.

On another front, I have refrained from approaching this subject, but it’s been gnawing at me lately.

We pipe smokers can be a fickle lot.

One day we rave about a new blend of pipe tobacco, and the next, we are off to something new and exotic.

We are always on the hunt for the golden fleece of tobaccos. Seemingly, we are rarely satisfied, or just plain hard to please.

Now, before you get out the pitchforks, torches and tar and feathers, let me explain.

Recently I tried a blend of burleys and “a whole bunch of aromatics” tossed in like a garden salad.

I was once an aromatic sort of pipe guy. In fact, if the Edwards Pipe Shop in Atlanta, Ga., had a new aro in a jar, I was among the first to give it a go.

So, it’s not that I shy away from aros. I still get a sweet tooth now and then in my long-in-tooth days.

I find aros relaxing and easy on the mind and emotions.

I tried the blend (which will go unnamed to protect the innocent) in a cob. The cob is always my go-to with any new tobacco.

If the blend makes it through the cob test, then the tobacco gets a whirl in a meer.

If the blend makes it past those two taskmasters of taste, it is a winner and joins my cellar.

So, to finish this saga, the aro blend did not quite make it past Cob No. 1. Next came Meer No. 1.

The aro failed both tests. Back in the day, this blend would have been just right.

But either I have become a picky pipe puffer, or my taste buds have moved on in another direction.

As we age—gracefully, we hope—our tastes do change.

A dim light bloomed in my aging brain: why not give the blend a try in one of those darling Danish pipes.

Neerup Classic Pipe
Neerup Classic Pipe

Out comes a Neerup by Peder Jeppesen. The petite Danish pulled the new aro blend right to the front of the palate.

The triumph of the Danish was puzzling since the cob-meer tests scored the blend two thumbs down (joke intended).

I thought it was a tasting mirage.

Voila! I filled the Neerup with another bowl, just to make sure.

Same tasty experience, returning me to memories of a brash and squandered youth.

So, cutting to the chase, I have added a Danish pipe to the tasting table. And, I ordered more of the aro blend.

And as Bob Dylan, Bard of my youth, sings, things change.

But we pipe smokers can take solace in the knowledge that even though the world transforms around us, we abide.

Pipes and tobacco will prevail in our ever-onward quest to find perfect blends, while smoking some of the best pipes the world has ever produced.

And why? Well, I think it’s like Dylan says in his haunting song about change, we are pressured by the vagaries of time.

Over the years transformations in our lives roll in like building waves in an ocean, just to wax philosophically a moment.

Time changes. We change. Our hopes and dreams are altered as time goes by.

Perhaps the best medicine is to not let our pipe smoking selves become too locked in, too rigid, too fickle.

Over time, that will change as well.

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  • Well said, Fred. Thanks.
  • Mitch Michelson was a pipe collector from Texas who passed away last summer, but I thought of him, Fred, when I read the opening of your column about thumbs. Mitch and I were annoyed that so many of the newer pipe makers were making pipes with very narrow diameters in the tobacco chamber. Mitch devised the "Thumb Test," which meant that if he couldn't stick his thumb into the bowl of a new pipe, the tobacco chamber was too narrow. I thought you would want to know about this -- another use of the thumb for improving one's pipe smoking enjoyment.
  • I enjoy these articles so much. They seem to always include an observation to which I can relate. As Time Goes By I have become increasingly frustrated, struggling with arthritic hands that stubbornly refuse to manipulate pipe and tobacco and matches and tampers and pipe cleaners, with the dexterity I simply took for granted before entering my codger phase. Thanks, Fred, for reminding me that I'm not a lone pipe smoking warrior.
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      seakillerrocketry
    • November 9, 2019
    Nice writing.
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