Ask Hank #4

A. Miller
I was taking a nap on a lazy Saturday and woke up to the sun shining through my windows. Given the 18 inches of snow we had on the ground from the previous week this was a welcome change. While it was warm outside, there was still a lot of snow in my back yard. I packed my pipe with some Luxury Navy Flake and headed out in to the snow.

I built a huge bottom section, and then wrestled the middle section for all I was worth on to the top (causing some muscle spasms in my back) before my son came out to help me roll a head for my snowman.

When all was done I lectured him on making friends, and the importance of making the right kind of friends. At this point I went in to grab a pipe for our new friend. Because the best kind of friend, smokes a pipe.

Sparing you my lecture on friendship … here are answers to your questions this week.

Dear Hank,

I finally have a smoking room in my house that I’ve dedicated to the hobby. There I have a cabinet for all my tobacco, racks set out with my pipes prominently displayed, a nice leather chair and some ash trays, etc. This has been my life dream for about twenty years and I finally have it just the way I like it. So now I’m wondering, what should I dream about next?

Easily Satisfied in Long Island

Dear Easily Satisfied in Long Island,

Setting your bar for happiness lower than most will prove to be a great asset for your life (not to mention save you a kid of money with PAD and TAD). That said, a great smoking room is beyond the grasp of a good many in the pipe smoking world, so congratulations. To answer your question, there are the obvious answers like, you should buy that artisan pipe
you’ve been eyeing for a while. You know the one, just pull the trigger.

Alternatively, I would like you to consider thinking bigger. Like a smoking room at your office. Or perhaps you work at home, in which case I could point out that while a room is nice, a smoking hallway to a smoking toilet is a surprising improvement. The thought of having to set your pipe down just to pee seems rather horrifying to me.

Since we’re dreaming, let’s throw toilet paper made of tobacco leaves in there, and a candle made to burn the blend of your choice as an incense. And… and… Well, you get the idea.

Smoking toilets for the win,

Dear Hank,

My family, caring and all that as they are, keeps telling me that smoking a pipe isn’t good for my long term health. I tried to argue the finer points of organic tobacco, clean burning smoke, and how I smoke my lead pipe only a few times a week, but these arguments aren’t good enough for them. So, naturally, I’m turning to you. What are the health benefits my pipe brings me? And how do I relay those to my family?

Healthy Piper

Dear Heathy Piper,

I’m sure nearly all of us have our reasons for smoking a pipe. Like those articles that come out every few years about the health benefits of wine, beer, and other alcohol. We read those and feel justified in our habits. I’ve never known anyone to read about the health benefits of wine and then decide to start drinking, but that’s something else entirely.

You could always point them to the surgeon general’s report about pipe smokers living longer than non-smokers on average. However, I have found this to be rather ineffective at convincing people that I’m only doing this for my health.

That said, I do have some great health reasons for smoking my pipe. The first is that a pipe aids my digestion. I am lactose intolerant, and I seem to have a strong reaction to leafy green vegetables. One piece of lettuce on a hamburger can have me running off in the middle of otherwise engaging activities to handle digestive distress for weeks at a time. But when heartburn, or indigestion start to creep up on me I find my pipe moves everything along and helps me process even the most fibrous of foods.

The second, starts out food related. About 8 years ago I was eating with some friends at an Indian restaurant and I became terribly sick. Suffice it say my wife found me passed out in the corner of the bathroom in less than perfect circumstances. After that nearly every time I felt even slightly light headed from low blood sugar, I was sure I would pass out and I fought a persistent-oncoming panic attack. Years later, I realize what helped me overcome my fear was a pipe.

Pipe smoking spikes my blood sugar and then tanks it in the ground. I get shaky after one bowl of just about anything. However, this low blood sugar dizziness feeling is now associated with something I love. My fear is gone, and light headedness is now nothing but a reminder that whiskey helps my blood sugar return to normal.

Every time my gut is uncomfortable I’m thankful for a hobby that solves my problems as a side benefit. And knowing that some people pay for expensive medicines to manage their anxiety or their blood sugar encourages me that I can handle both with my pipe.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, since my wife’s first pregnancy she hasn’t been able to get within rock-throwing distance of my breath. That is, unless I’ve recently smoked a pipe, then she doesn’t mind it. I think the health benefits afforded therein can go without saying.


Dear Hank,

I have tried just about every method of pipe packing I can imagine. I’ve watched youtube videos about how to cut, roll, slice, pack, and even different methodologies for lighting my pipe. I have chewed a bit on my tobacco before I smoked it, just to get a feeling for flavor intricacies. And lately I’ve been blending some of my favorite blends down to a snuff.

Are there other ways to enjoy this leaf that we love so much?

Expecting even more from Price Albert in London

Dear Expecting even more from Price Albert in London,

Oft overlooked is the fact that tobacco is very similar to tea in the sense that both are made of leaves. If you don’t mind the fact that it might kill you, it’s always a possibility. Toss some tobacco in a cup and steep it for a few minutes. Alternatively, if you’re more of a coffee person, grind it up in your coffee blender. Then you can use the leaves in an Aeropress, drip machine, or French press. You also have the added benefit of then re-using the coffee grinder for your coffee and getting a little bonus Latakia in your morning coffee.

While it’s less about enjoying the taste of your tobacco, I’ve also found that making a hot compress out of tobacco and applying it to open wounds does…. well, it does something. I’m not sure I have the medical language to describe exactly what’s happening, but I don’t think the boils which tend to then form around the wound are related.

Tobacco ice-cream for everyone,

Dear Hank,

My local brick and mortar pipe shop has incredible atmosphere. The lights are perfectly dim, the leather couch is always clean, and there are more tobaccos available for the tasting on the coffee table than I ever imagined would be possible.

I’ve made friends with the people who frequent the place and it’s become an all-around great place for community.

There’s just one problem. The guy who runs the place is a total jerk. He’s rude to customers, and screams at his employees in front of everyone. Thankfully he doesn’t come around very often, or I wouldn’t be able to go back. Do you have any suggestions for what I can do about it?

Wearing out in Wisconsin

Dear Wearing out in Wisconsin,

Pack yourself a bowl of Peterson’s Irish Flake in your favorite billiard and get comfortable in your best smoking chair while you memorize the details I’m about to lay out for you.

First you’ll need to swing by your local drug store and buy a badass Dr. Grabow, one that makes you look intense, probably a straight bulldog or something similar. You want, “can stand up to a fist fight”, but also disposable. Something a Grabow can do well.

Next, while you break in your new pipe, study the movements and patterns of this owner’s lifestyle until you can plan around a time you know he’ll be in the store. On the night you’ve pre-arranged, pack your new Grabow with either some C&D Pirate Kake, or some Daughters & Ryan Cockstrong—either will work. Stand outside the store and light your pipe (bring a golfing tee for a tamper and a disposable lighter for the evening). After you have the pipe going pretty well throw the doors open with gusto, and while everyone is looking around, slip in the door and immediately slide through to the humidor. Make your way along the wall to the Arturo Fuente section and pick three out (preferably Cañones).

When the owner comes in the humidor looking for you, be ducking low, summon your strength from the Grabow and issue a roundhouse kick to the owner’s jaw. As he begins to fall backwards from the surprise, slip the first cigar in his left nostril to further disorient him.

By the time he stands back up you should be behind a pipe display case in the main room. If necessary make a motion to shush your friends smoking on the couches and watching the game. When the owner stands back up, and comes out of the humidor you make your final move, two punches to his gut, one to his left ear, and then poke him in the eye with a second cigar. As he doubles over in pain keep that cigar in your hand until you’ve shoved it up his right nostril, take the third cigar and shove it in his right ear.

When he’s finally stood up, but before he has had the opportunity to remove any of the cigars, take his photo with your phone and post the picture to the forums for us. I can assure you the humiliation will be too great for him to continue being an jerk.

At that point, nonchalantly wander over to the register and pay for the three cigars, perhaps then put down $300 for your tab, as you’re going to be back a lot given your new celebrity status.

There, fixed it.
Hank Bourne

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