Marshall “Butch” Armstrong
Getting in touch with people who enjoy the same things you do has been made almost effortless these days because of the internet. Those of us who where born in the dark ages before the time of computer enlightenment know that this wasn’t always so easy. Today there is an online group or website for virtually anything you’re interested in from dating services to cooking websites to politics and religion. Not only websites but groups and forums too, where the average person can get involved in asking questions, offering their own viewpoints, and giving and receiving new and old ideas. The entire world lies just at your fingertips provided you have an internet connection and a computer or smartphone.
Obviously, this includes pipe smokers. In as little as five minutes I compiled a list of over thirty websites, blogs, forums and groups devoted to all things pipe and tobacco. And that’s just the start. There are many more than thirty, but those alone would keep anyone busy for a lifetime. As I said earlier, this wasn’t always so. In the days before the internet you got your news and information from television, radio, newspapers and magazines. You may have known a few other pipe smokers in your area and possibly found an ad for a pipe club in a magazine or your local paper. But beyond that, it wasn’t easy to connect with others in the pipe smoking world. All that has changed. It is so easy to connect these days that it’s almost unreal. And for me, it makes smoking pipes and collecting so much more enjoyable. It’s great to be able to go online and see what kind of pipes people have and what they’re smoking. Finding all these pipe makers online has also been fun and adds to the excitement of pipe collecting. The passion and work they put into their pipes makes them real works of art and to be able to share that with them is a real treat. Reading all the comments people write on the groups and forums makes it obvious that it’s a treat for nearly everyone else as well.
Logging onto the Pipes Magazine forum page I found twenty separate forums listed, and in the General discussion forum there are over 12,000 topics and almost half a million posts! That’s incredible! And that’s just one forum page on the net. Quite a few pipe makers have their own websites where you can see and buy their work. It was a lot of fun to discover Rich Lewis’s website (http://www.lewispipe.com/) and then go and visit his shop. He put a new stem on my Meerschaum pipe and we talked a bit about pipe making. His shop is in Minneapolis so it was easy for me to check it out. I was able to see his photos online before I went so I had a good idea of the work he does before meeting him. The same goes for Kris Edwin Barber, a great guy and pipe maker whom I met at the Great Northern Pipe Club. He’s got a website (http://edwinpipes.com/ ) and I was able to see some of his work in person and talk to him at the pipe club. I have interviewed pipe makers such as John Hines, Josh Whitehead and Jonathan Lavezzo online. All great guys and wonderful pipe makers and I would never have been able to know about them, let alone "meet" them if not for the pipe groups and websites on the net.
Say what you will about Facebook, (and people have a lot to say about it) one of the aspects I really enjoy are the pipe smoker groups. I belong to a few different groups on Facebook and though I rarely get time to post on them it’s nice to know they are there for those who do have time to enjoy them. One of the groups, “Briar Nation,” started by Jeremy Feliciano, now holds regular “video chats” where you can connect up online with other Briar Nation members. I was able to get in on a couple of them. It was a lot of fun meeting the members who joined in. All of them were very welcoming and we had good conversations about pipes and tobacco, and other things as well. It’s the next best thing to meeting in person. It is nice to know that we can all have our differences in life but are drawn together by the enjoyment of pipes and tobacco and for a time, nothing else matters.
Of course there are plenty of websites devoted to the sales of pipes and tobacco like Pipes and Cigars and Smoking Pipes.com to name just two of them. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention PipesMagazine.com. Kevin Godbee does an excellent job of bringing us all the latest in pipes, tobacco and accessories, news of the pipe smoking world and who can forget the Pipe Babes! Now some of you younger readers may think the internet is no big deal because you’ve had it all your lives, so I’ll tell you a little story. When I was a kid I got a pocket size transistor radio. It had a telescoping antenna and picked up AM radio stations from 50 miles away. 50 miles away! It was the coolest thing anybody in the neighborhood had. And the really cool thing about it was that late at night, if you moved the tuning dial real slowly you could pick up stations from all across the country. So yeah, being able to access all these great pipe and tobacco websites online is a pretty big deal to me. It helps to bring people together who would probably never have known of each other and makes you feel like you’re a part of something much bigger than yourself. So stoke up that pipe and get on the “information super highway” as they used to call it in the old days!
Marshall Lee Armstrong enjoys camping, fly fishing, kayaking, painting, drumming and writing. He has published two books of poetry and writes a blog called "The Window". He is 58-years old, and has worked as a Rock Band Drummer, Electroplater, Chemical Process Technician, and Circuitry Manufacturing Supervisor. He is currently a Medical Lab Technician. He started smoking pipes in 1980.