Here in the Northeast, autumn has most definitely arrived: leaves are rustling underfoot, there’s a chill in the air, and sweaters and scarves are the order of the day. There’s no staving off the season, so one may as well give oneself over to it and enjoy. I’m drinking my tea hot now, rather than iced, and my taste in tobaccos is veering toward the spicier blends, be they Lat bombs or Perique powerhouses. With the changing of the leaves, let’s take a look at some fall leisure activities that are perfect for maximizing your own piping pleasure.
Ephemeral art of the season from Villafane Studios.
Release your inner artist with some pumpkin carving! Pumpkin carving has probably been around since man first had free time to play with his food, but in the last several years it has risen to the level of high art. There’s an undeniable satisfaction in getting your hands dirty with this subtractive sculpting process, a Zen like appreciation for art that is destined to be short-lived (a carved pumpkin will only last a week or so), and a suitably contemplative pastime to enjoy with a pipe.
Pro tip: this can be a messy activity, so it’s the perfect time for a corncob pipe that you won’t mind getting dirty.
Who can resist a brilliant food pun?
Enjoy the harvest of seasonal foods. Cooking some comfort food at home is a splendid cool-weather activity, and an ideal time to add a new recipe to your arsenal. A trip to the local farmer’s market makes for a fun excursion and will key you in to the freshest produce. It’s a great medium in which to indulge your creative side, and what better way to prepare for a postprandial smoke than by making a wonderful meal? On my own to-cook list are bourbon apple pie, butternut squash soup, maple mousse and bacon-wrapped dates.
Pro tip: awesome autumn-tini recipe!
- 1½ oz pear vodka
- 1½ oz peach schnapps
- 1½ oz apple cider
- 1½ oz ginger ale
- apple slice for garnish
Gussied up or not, a walk in the woods with a pipe is sublime.
Take a walk in the woods. This may seem a no-brainer for those readers in rural areas, but for us urban denizens, Mother Nature is often something experienced vicariously. The changing color of leaves, the brisk air, and the palpable sense of decay and renewal are things that speak to our deeper nature, and cool weather heightens the enjoyment of many a blend. A recent rowboat excursion in Central Park was made all the more enjoyable with my pipe and a Lat bomb unsuitable to be smoked near civilians, and a day trip upstate to the Storm King Art Center made for some refreshing en plein air sculpture appreciation, while the aromatic I was smoking sparked a brilliant conversation with some Dutch tourists.
Pro tip: make sure that your walk in the woods is a safe one—be careful with matches and embers. Only you can prevent wildfires.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with watching 75 consecutive episodes of Battlestar Galactica. Nothing.
Binge-watch your favorite series—all seven seasons in a row! Outdoor activities are well and good, but I’m not above vegetating mindlessly indoors, snug in a blanket as the temperature drops, either. Fall is the start of a new season for your favorite serials, so naturally it’s the best time to lock yourself in the living room for a weekend watching marathon. Just make sure you leave word with friends and relatives to come rescue you if you don’t show up for work on Monday.
Pro tip: lubricating eye drops are your friend for extended viewings.
My fall classics reading list.
If the boob tube isn’t your cup of tea, then catch up on reading the classics. Reading and piping go together like peanut butter and jelly. We pipe enthusiasts tend to be a well-read lot, I’d guess well above the national average, and that’s surely something to be proud of. Delving into a novel needn’t be a solitary expedition, either—reading aloud with friends or family can be a fun bonding experience, sharpening your oratory skills and really involving you in the story.
Pro tip: let go of your inhibitions and try out different voices for characters when reading with a partner or family—bring the page to life!
Are you ready for some football? Not that silly game the rest of the world confuses with "soccer", but real, true, honest to goodness American Football. Fall Sundays mean barbeques, brews and buddies and, above all, enjoying a pipe or three. While smoking at the stadiums is verboten, tailgate parties and Sunday socials at the tobacconist are some of my favorite venues to enjoy a game while having a bowl (or a cigar).
Pro tip: wear natural fibers. They don’t burn as easily as synthetics when you dump a bowlful of embers on yourself while yelling at the ruling on the field.
Don’t let your pipes get this dirty.
Time to take care of your pipes. While not limited to the season, I’ve personally fallen into the habit (see what I did there?) of performing the full maintenance routine on my collection, which now numbers in the hundreds, when the weather turns. While I tend to be a bit persnickety about keeping my pipes tidy on a day-to-day basis—cleansing the airway and bowl after every use, and a quick alcohol swab after several uses—there comes a time when it’s prudent to take the whole lot and give them a thorough once-over, and fall means I have the time and inclination for the task. Thorough cleaning involves reaming the cake back to a millimeter or less, a thorough airway cleansing, possibly an alcohol retort, removing any tar around the rim, attending to any stem discoloration, brightening up any ailing stampings, and a good wax and polish. And yes, I even clean my cobs!
Pro tip: I use a 60/40 mix of rectified spirits and brandy, with a couple drops of honey dissolved in it, as pipe cleaner & sweetener, and pure lemon juice to remove tar from the rim.
Bonfire photo from Arno’s Dutch Pipe Smoker blog.
Build yourself a bonfire and have some friends over. Perhaps Ayn Rand said it best in Atlas Shrugged: "I like to think of fire held in a man’s hand. Fire, a dangerous force, tamed at his fingertips." Fire speaks to us in our most deeply rooted collective unconscious; a hypnotic entity, provider of comfort, and, paradoxically, a voracious destroyer. With every pipe we enjoy, we are harnessing one of the elements, and I am convinced that consciously or not, this is one of pipe smoking’s great appeals. Likewise, a bonfire in the cold weather, and friends to share it with, conjures up a peculiarly human experience. Combine the two for autumn magic.
Pro tip: again, safety first (and bring on the s’mores!).
Freaks come out at night …
Go see a parade—or be in one! Halloween and Thanksgiving mean parades here in the States, and going to spectate or even participate is a great activity to bring your pipe along to enjoy. As pipe smokers, we’re all halfway into our Sherlock Holmes costumes already!
"As my artist’s statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible
and is therefore full of deep significance." -Calvin and Hobbes
Carve yourself a pipe. Yes, I’m pulling a classic bookend maneuver for this article, but it’s completely fitting, not to mention being on my real-life to-do list for this fall. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for years now, and this is the time. Knowing that the real point of the exercise is simply to stretch my creative muscles, and possibly end up with a serviceable tool in the end, makes it less daunting. There is no failure except not trying, after all. If any adventurous readers heed the call, please post pics of your efforts in the forum page!