Ask Hank 20: Chemical Responses to Other Chemicals, and Cheating

A. Miller
I had a ton of a Virginia/Perique I particularly love that I may or may not have neglected and which eventually ended up dried out. Rather than try to rehydrate—with water I’m never sure is pure enough—I decided to blend it with McClelland 5100, an old staple, and to throw in some Old Joe Krantz for a good kick in the pants (not a coincidence the two rhyme).

I’m now surveying my perfectly mowed lawn (a first for me to complete to this high of standard) and enjoying a bowl of it in a pipe I made myself. The combination makes me feel like a big deal except that I’ve never grown a tobacco plant and might never be competent enough to do so myself (read: exceedingly brown thumb). But a self-made blend in a self-made pipe is a glorious thing. Both taste better in the presence of one another.

And this lawn looks really very good, I don’t care what my neighbors report to the HOA.

Now, on to the questions.

Dear Hank,

I use Bic lighters for my pipes because I’m lazy, matches are hard in the frequent wind I experience, and I feel like a pipe lighter is just an expensive way to buy a Bic lighter. I’m a huge fan of Bic pens. But are the fancy lighters all they’re cracked up to be? Am I missing out?

Fear Of Missing Out—John on Long Island

Dear FOMO John on Long Island,

Have you ever used a really expensive pen? Have you ever noticed that both are capable of writing?

There are three kinds of people in this world:

1) Those that purchase affordable items so they can own their things.

2) Those that purchase outlandishly expensive items so they can be owned by their things. (This isn’t inherently wrong mind you, just a different worldview).

3) Those that want to feel a tinge of guilt when they spend the weekend at their friend’s cabin in the woods and only notice after they drive several hours back to their house that they left their lighter at said cabin. Also those whom want to experience an emotion when they realize they just backed their car out of their driveway and smashed their favorite lighter with their brand new tires.

Since I fall neither in to category two or three (there are enough um… darn emotions in life to manufacture them over foolishness in my humble opinion), I am a Bic man, through and through.

That said, yes the fancy lighters are better.

Using the second or third best as long as I can remember,

Dear Hank,

I’ve recently moved from cigars to pipes and found the change to be quite enjoyable, though not as much easier on my pocket book as I had expected. But this weekend I ignored a new expensive artisan pipe I recently purchased and chose to enjoy an Arturo Fuente [a cigar] of which I’m quite a fan tonight.

When I do this I feel like I’m cheating. Am I cheating? Are there any pipe blends that have a true cigar-like taste?

Francesco in Rome

Dear Francesco in Rome,

I would like the be the first to call you terrible names and mock you mercilessly for your lack of faithfulness. While most of the people who do so are just doing so to make themselves feel better, I do it for the same reasons. So… stop being a cigar-sucking son of a motherless goat.

Now to move on, maybe you’re cheating, but the only way to truly know if you’re a cheater is to look around your home for regular household items and roll them in roll-your-own-cigarette paper. I suggest starting with the contents of a Lipton tea bag. If you find yourself coughing and dragging yourself across your kitchen floor screaming, “I just want my pipe back,” then you’re not a cheater. If you escalate to pieces of paper towel mixed with your dried tamale leftovers from your uncle’s retirement party, and then moving on to rolling the filament from that broken fluorescent lightbulb in your basement, then yes—you have a problem and your cheating knows no bounds.

One option (to be perceived as a pipe smoker instead of a scummy cheating McCheater) is to just buy a few cigars and use your cigar cutter to make small slices which you can either pack directly, or rub out before you stuff your pipe. To carry this out to its full effect, purchase a rope of Gawith and Hoggarth’s Happy Brown Bogie—just enough you can peel off the outer layer or two of it and wrap your pipe bit in the leaf. Otherwise you’ll find that little in the pipe world quite correlates to the feeling of chewing on the tobacco directly. But when in a pinch, you’ll find this is a good workaround.

Keep in mind, all of us occasionally partake of a cigar, nicotine patch, or tobacco flavored sunflower seeds when we’re incapable of finding the real thing.

Chewing on some of my favorite flake because…. well why the hell not,

Dear Hank,

Sometimes I eat a little too much for dinner and I smoke my pipe late in the evening to help with digestion. Is this normal? Are there others that do this too?

My wife says I’ve lost it,
Bloated Aubrey in LA

Dear Bloated Aubrey in LA,

It’s actually a long-held belief that a pipe helps you digest, and I think you’ll find it widely practiced amongst those of us who love briar (or cob, or clay, or… whatever). Actually I feel like most of my life is using chemicals to control the feelings I’m experiencing as a result of other chemicals.

Just the other night I decided to treat my kids to a 1/4 pound of candy from a fancy candy store and thought I’d stock myself up on Spree and Runts while I was at it. I devoured them constantly on the way home and found myself done with both before we made it back. I almost never eat candy and the sugar high was making me uncomfortably twitchy. To offset this I headed to the porch with a full bowl of Five Brothers, a long time favorite for when I need a serious kick of nicotine. I find a pipe hastens the spike and then subsequent crash of my blood sugar—which, obviously, is what I was going for. Unfortunately the brothers proved slightly too potent and I found myself walking in to the house sweating and feeling almost dizzy from such low blood sugar.

This led to my pouring myself a tall glass of bourbon to even things out. Eventually my body breaks the alcohol down to simple sugar (probably not much better than the Spree and Runts of earlier in the same evening), but first it causes a tremendous calm to come over me. Then to avoid waking up in the middle of the night with a sugar high, I simply drank much more bourbon.

This meant the morning started off slow. I’m old enough to know how to supplement my alcohol with water so I never have a headache in the morning, but I still found myself groggy and anything but quick. Nothing a little dip in to my kids sugar stashes (while they were still asleep) couldn’t solve….

Anyhow. Yes it’s normal. I’ve heard the digestive aid is as simple as swallowing the extra saliva your mouth produces while smoking. But don’t believe that hogwash. Never try to understand our mythical leaf or it will lose its mythical powers. I simply choose to believe that the solution to almost all of my life’s problems can be solved with a little burning of gloriousness in a bowl.

Not at all hopped up on anything at all right now, I swear I’m completely feeling fine and mellow and relaxed and everything right now, I swear it, not hopped up at all,

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