Ask Hank 21 – Fidget Spinners, Mosquitos, and Artisanal Blends

A. Miller
Having just got back from a family road-trip and, as a person who lives in Denver,
I’m always surprised at how different my tobaccos taste when I step in to a humid environment. Things just burn differently when there is water in the air, which makes sense as I say it out loud, but the subtleties in my tobacco never fail to surprise me. The grass of a Virginia transforms in to a subtle swamp-grass flavor, and the smokiness of Latakia to a swamp-smoke. A burley’s earthy flavor becomes a swamp-earth flavor. Really the complexity the humidity provides always keeps me on my toes.

Anyhow, on to questions you lovely folks sent in.

Dear Hank,

Fidget spinners have taken off around the office as a thing that everyone must have. They’re loud, and when people drop them they can bounce all over the floor and become an actual safety hazard. Then last week I was meeting a millennial pipe-maker to commission a new pipe and he showed me how he’d created a fidget spinner pipe.

I feel a bit at a loss.

Too embarrassed to just walk away, I commissioned the pipe I came to have commissioned anyhow, but I left with a horrible taste in my mouth. And it’s not from the overly-topped cherry blend he shared with me.

How do I, as a codger, come to terms with the way my hobby is changing with a changing world?

Maybe I’m getting to old for this,
Luke in Indianapolis

Dear Luke in Indianapolis,

One of the beauties of our hobby is that you can never be too old for it. You also never have to accept the winds of change. You are welcome to join the ranks of smokers who prize freehands that look like bugs, or join the youtube channels that have contests for just about everything pipe related. But you are also welcome to ignore it and stick to your clay pipe and Half and Half without any disgrace.

I find a particularly helpful tactic to take with millennials is to mock them for things that relate to their stereotype. For example, when you pick up the pipe you could say something such as, “I saw you’re making a fidget spinner pipe, is that to distract yourself from the sad reality that you still live with your parents?” Or, “So you’re making pipes for a living for basically zero money, clearly that’s a model that will work well for the long term. I commend you for your foresight and planning”

This tactic works best if they’re an incredibly unsuccessful millennial. Sadly many of them are doing better than me. And if this fellow is making a fortune on fidget spinning smoking devices, I would love his contact info so I too can belittle him to make myself feel better.

Our generation could still beat theirs in a fist fight,

Dear Hank,

I was in [redacted] recently and found a nice small community pipe and cigar shop. Always interested in what folks have, I stopped in and talked to the owner and found they were selling about 10 of their own blends. I smelled the first one and could immediately note the presence of lots of Lane tobacco. I don’t mind Lane tobacco when I want a simple aromatic, but I get tired of it when people throw together 1-Q and a few other random things and slap a name on it like “Deer Prancing in the Raining Woods” or “Hobbit’s Blend.”

My question is, is there some way to stop this madness? Small-batch blending is amazing if done well, but people need something more than heavily topped tobacco to pull this off well. How do we stop the madness? Hank, will you please stop the madness?

Bitter and Mad at a B&M

Dear Bitter and Mad at a B&M,

You are correct that this is a terrible tragedy. Lucky for you, overly convoluted solutions to simple problems are one of my things. Here is my proposal.

First we notify everyone on the forums of our diabolical plan so as to recruit as many henchmen as possible. Next, all those willing to participate will make their way to their local B&M and purchase small batches of the most obviously terrible blends they can find. We will collect the names for a wall of shame during this process, “Purple Cavendish”, “Mountain Afternoon”, and “A Dragon Once Smoked This” will become huge inside jokes that we all refer to regularly with great amusement.

Then each pipe-ninja (as members of our horde will henceforth be known) will take copious notes about the blandness of the tobacco. It can be difficult to be verbose about blandness so here are a few ideas:
– “This tobacco was as uni-dimensional as my uncle’s political views.”
– “The blandness of ‘Steve’s Best’ was so astounding that after smoking this I found myself in awe at the exhilarating experience that is drinking tap water from my Chicago bathroom sink.”
– “At first I was excited by what was clearly an attempt at an orange flavor, but then I realized my tongue was experiencing a chemical burn inflicting worse damage than anything I have witnessed in my 35 years as a firefighter. That wasn’t orange, it was napalm. I’m saddened and disgusted that this is marketed as a small batch artistry when it was clearly blended by a four year old llama lacking with an olfactory disorder.”

These reviews will be stapled to the bags of tobacco that we’ve all purchased as well as some suggestions for better blends. We can remind the world that McClelland and C&D sell bulk tobaccos, as well as MacBaren. We will also subtly remind people that adding in a bag of a Wal-Mart blend does not
make an artisanal flavor make.

Each of these bags will then be returned to from whence they came. But, being good supporters of our local B&Ms we will not ask for our money back, we will simply demand better tobaccos.

This is how a grass roots movement is formed. This is how we take back our artisanally
blended tobaccos. This is our stand. Who is with me?

Pipe-ninjas unite,

Dear Hank,

For years I’ve used OFF! Deep Woods to keep the mosquitoes at bay on my back porch. I live in mosquito country and it’s truly terrible. Recently, rather than continue to shorten my life with deet that must be downright awful for me, I’ve decided to smoke stronger blends for a larger percentage of my waking hours.

I find a good strong Burley or Latakia helps keep the bugs at bay around my face and arms, but it doesn’t do enough for my legs and feet. Suggestions?

Bugs, Horrifying Bugs,
Roy in the Midwest

Dear Roy in the Midwest,

I don’t write this column so I can offer obvious answers and move on. I write it so I can berate the question askers and make off with every last ounce of their dignity before making a total fool of myself and dragging my own name through the mud. So! With that in mind….

Tomorrow morning right after you wake up, mix a quarter ounce of three of your favorite blends and three cloves of garlic together and toss them in a coffee grinder. You’ll probably want to do this after you make your morning coffee, but given that I have you pegged as more of a Folgers kind of person, a separate grinder may not be necessary.

Anyhow, after you’ve ground your tobacco and your garlic down to a fine powder, you’ll want to lay it out on a cutting board and using a knife or a credit card, spread this out in short skinny lines about 3 inches in length. Then, using a rolled up dollar bill, (or a piece of printer paper if cash isn’t readily available) snort it up through your right nostril only. I cant encourage the use of both nostrils as there is a good chance the right nostril will close entirely from the irritation. Remember I may or may not be a medical doctor (we’ll never know for sure).

The garlic and tobacco absorbed thoroughly in your sinuses will create a dependence
that will make it difficult for you to simply “forget” your “bug spray”. And as your body absorbs more and more nicotine and garlic, you will begin to reek of the mixture from your pores and the bugs will be reticent to get near to you. It will also have the added benefit of keeping away the zombies (and maybe even your loved ones).

Then again, pants and shoes are thing. But, you know, up to you.


5 Responses

  • The chap on the left in the black and white photo bears a remarkable resemblance to member Duane aka Chasingembers!

  • thank you a lot, I had a good time reading this! My first “Ask Hank” I’ve read, hopefully not the last!
    Oh…and get me some of the “Bag of Crap” Blend…it sounds delicious! 😀

  • I believe you’re right, Jay! A very striking resemblance.
    Hank, I empathize with smoking in high humidity. My smoking activity drops significantly during our Deep South summers.