Ask Hank 5: Neener Neener Neener

A. Miller
About eight months ago I took a new job working at a small tech startup.
It’s been absolutely nuts and I’ve barely been able to keep up with my more important hobbies—like writing. But I’m doing what I can.

There are some nice perks though, like the fact that I get to work from home, and therefore smoke my pipe throughout the day—sometimes even on calls with my co-workers. I would have never believed I would be so lucky as to have a job where I can smoke my pipe during a team meeting.

That said, while video calls allow me to interact with my co-workers while smoking a pipe, I don’t get the opportunity to hand them a cob stuffed with 1Q and lure them in to the dark side.

Thankfully there are other ways to find good pipe smoking community and it never fails to surprise me how many of us are out there if you just dig a little. If or when this gig ever caves in, I plan on buying a lathe and learning the trade (or at least continuing to tell myself I someday will).

As for this month’s questions, let’s dive in.

Dear Hank,

I recently began blending a small batch of tobacco I thought should make waves even against the big names in the industry. I figured my blend was going to be the Trump of the tobacco world: unexpected, difficult to ignore, and even a little in-your-face (at least in it’s tin note). This beast is a Burley, Virginia, and Latakia blend. It’s delightful, fragrant, and won’t bite for even the most sensitive of smokers. I’ve canned it, named it, and even found a distributor.

The problem is, no one seems to be buying it. What can I do to make people realize that I’m the best blender in the world, and the professionals are not all they’re cut out to be?

Delusions of Grandeur in Kentucky

Dear Delusions of Grandeur in Kentucky,

All things considered, it sounds like you have a marketing problem. Perhaps, you should define your blend as against the establishment. Out to change things for the better. Or at least you should talk about it by name. I mean goodness, you submitted this question and had an incredible opportunity to brag about your blend by name, and you missed it. What were you thinking?

For now, you need to get your message right. What makes your blend unique? What makes it better than all the other blends on the market today (and there are a lot of great ones)? Does yours offer a bigger buzz than any nicotine hit since Five Brothers? Does your blend leave an aftertaste of morning dew, cause hallucinations of wing-suiting through the alps, or taste like bacon-wrapped chocolate cake (because really it should)?

Maybe the flavor of your blend really is just mediocre. In which case, one thing to consider is modifying it to affect the ease of packing and lighting. Perhaps you could consider mixing in a little sawdust at 10-20%, then again, this has been done (I think we all know what blend I’m talking about).

Whatever you do, don’t settle for mediocre, break new ground, try something new. Perhaps like a
kerosene top dressing. When that first bowl lights up, I mean, really lights up, people will know it’s your blend.

You can do it,

Dear Hank,

I’ve been a pipe smoker since before I could buckle my britches, but something terrible has happened in just the last week. I’ve noticed my right elbow is beginning to show signs of repetitive stress syndrome (RSS) from raising my arm to hold my pipe. Apparently this is more common among young computer users than it is for someone my age (68).

I’ve tried using my left hand, and I’ve tried smoking extra long churchwardens. Nothing seems to be helping. Are you the right fella to ask for help?


Dear Bob,

I had a bout with RSS during a brief phase where I was obsessed with straight billiard shapes. That additional travel distance up to the straight-stemmed pipe seemed to push me over the top. While I thought clenching would solve the problem, it seemed to have little impact either.

Have you heard of essential oils? They’re all the rage amongst the mini-van crowd in my neck of the woods. I thought it was all foolishness until I realized our magic leaf has essential oils itself.

The only trouble is, most of the big brands don’t sell tobacco essential oil anymore. Thankfully, your local home-brew store may carry distilling equipment (depending on what state you live in). For clarity, Pipes Magazine does not, to the best of my knowledge, in any way condone home distilling of alcohol for consumption without a license (in the United States). However, it does condone using a still for extracting essential oils from tobacco leaf.

A little tobacco essential oil rubbed in to the elbow and the bottom of the feet each night will do the trick on your RSS in a matter of days. Likewise, the oil makes a great addition to beard oils, and massage oils. Your significant other will thank you when you rub lavender and tobacco oil into their back at night.

Nothing in the world like a massage with a buzz.

Now selling oils in a pyramid scheme you should totally join,

Dear Hank,

There are three pipe smokers in my house. We have a large cellar of tobacco we all share and, while we have multiple mediocre pipes, we recently all pitched in on a very expensive Tonni Nielsen Volcano. The difference in the smoke on this one pipe is astonishing and so we find ourselves unwilling to smoke the others, patiently awaiting our turn with the new beauty.

For a while I’ve been trying to be generous, packing my bowl loosely, smoking quickly, and handing it off for the other two. Unfortunately one of the others is like a champion slow smoker, and what takes me 30-45 minutes to smoke, he manages to spread out over 90 or more.

Have you suggestions for navigating this delicate situation?

Still Learning How to Share

Dear Still Learning How to Share,

As the father of many small children I empathize with you. But alongside of that empathy comes one incredible (albeit short-game) technique I’ve seen from watching my six year olds be selfish.

One day when one of the other two is lying in the hammock on your back yard in the sun, when their hands are folded behind their head and they’re particularly relaxed and comfortable clenching the pipe, poke them in the belly, yank the pipe out of their mouth, then take off in a full sprint and yell, “Neener, neener, neener.” Experience tells me this strategy will work quite well as long as you’re faster than they are. Also, if you slobber visibly over the pipe while you’re running away smoking it, they’re more likely to let you finish the bowl.

If you’re looking for a more long-game approach I have something else to offer entirely. Somewhat visibly in front of the other two, take unusual note of an un-noteworthy pipe of yours. Perhaps a factory made bent apple. Stop as you walk by it, pick it up, move it through your fingers and make loud “Hrmmm” sounds. Wait until it’s been long enough they’ve taken notice and asked what’s going on, make sure you always answer, “Oh nothing,” set the pipe down quickly and run out of the room. After a few days or even weeks of this behavior, stand up one Saturday morning, declare that you’ll be busy for a while and then spend the day out in the shop with the door closed.

While there you can drink a beer, smoke the pipe, and relax. But be sure to regularly turn on a drill, perhaps a saw, and then the drill again, for at least a 4-6 hour period. The point is to be covered in saw dust and looking exhausted when you go back inside.

When you finally come back in look quizzical but have the pipe in your mouth without tobacco. Suck in and blow out through the pipe repeatedly and be focused on the sound. Refuse to answer any questions about what happened but exclusively smoke the same mediocre (and secretly unmodified) pipe for a few more days, turning down your rotation with the Tonni Nielsen (it will be hard, but worth it). A minimum of three days after your time in the shop declare loudly that you’ve found something magical and never want to smoke the expensive pipe again. If you can keep this up for some time, your friends will be begging you for their chance to trade the Tonni Nielsen for your factory pipe.

Whatever you do, do not forget to update your will so that if you happen to die suddenly you’ll leave behind a note mocking them mercilessly for falling for your stunt. That’s what true love is anyhow.

Manipulating everyone I love for a few extra minutes with the pipes I love even more,

Have a good month everyone. Don’t forget to submit your questions below.

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2 Responses

  • The context of this article is broken and even better yet, worth more than a few laughs. Thank you for another expert-level article, Hank. I’ll be coming back to it on gloomy days. =)