My Soul for Another Pipe

Fred Brown
Notes and things:
It’s a jungle out there. We know that, instinctively, but now there is more bad news: I just read in a pipe newsletter that because of something called "net neutrality," the day of ordering pipes and tobacco over the Internet could be over. Really?

The logic behind the article is that because B&Ms are becoming an endangered species, and the Internet is now a more robust source for pipes and tobacco, net neutrality gives the government the right to regulate the Internet as a public utility.

It’s being public, so the thinking goes, there will be those who will want to keep the mention of pipes and tobacco on a planet far, far away from those on the Internet whom our hobby would maim for all time.

The story appeared in the June 2015 Issue of The Pipe Collector, Volume 23, Number 3, the venerable and much admired North American Society of Pipe Collectors.

I don’t have a beef with either the newsletter or the author. Indeed, I am a subscriber and read it and find Bob Palermo’s story intriguing.

It is Palermo’s contention that one of the unintentional consequences of net neutrality and Big Brother’s regulatory takeover will swallow another element of our lives, which would give the anti-zealots another shot at pipes and tobacco. Therefore, Palermo writes, that with the growing demise of retail tobacconists, we should unfailingly support those B&Ms that remain and our few printed publications. Amen, and amen.

Respectfully, I just don’t see that net neutrality, which is designed to keep the deep-pocket cable guys and networks from charging more and more fees for Internet access as being a threat to pipes and tobacco.

Now, call me naïve (I have been called much, much worse), but the FCC has a lot more to worry about than calling up its friends at the FDA and telling them to put the hammer down on pipe and tobacco e-tailors. Take Reality-TV shows for example. Now, there is a threat to culture, mental health and sanity.

We are already heavily guarded by the FDA, the Center for Tobacco Products under the FDA, and the Centers for Disease Control, and a whole slew of other alphabet soups of initial-defined agencies.

The FCC is after the big boys, the Netflix, the AT&Ts, and the Verizons. And, I know that they own the gateways to much of the Internet, but the Internet is so amorphous, so hack-filled, so wild west-like, that I refuse to believe that anybody can reel it in at this point in time. Not even the FCC.

So, even though, as Palermo says, the FCC has decided the Internet is a public utility, it won’t be regulated like your local water board, or electricity provider. Otherwise, the FCC will just get hacked and sawed into little cubes and bits.

The hack jobs won’t come from the pipes and tobacco front, but will be carried out by real, honest to goodness hackers who have to pay water bills, electric bills and purchase other household goods on the Internet from other entities declared utilities.

See, I think there is a certain built-in protection: it’s called La Cosa Nostra, this thing of ours. We can go along with a little regulation, just as we do in our daily lives. We can also make an offer that is hard to refuse. We are a small, but vociferous bunch.

My faith is in the people, especially pipe and tobacco types. If the regulators continue to squeeze every segment of society, there will come a time and place when those who regulate will find themselves staring directly into the face of an uproar of protest.

It’s happened before in history.

Yes, I’m referencing the birth of America. Taxes going to unseen entities drove a ragtag army to challenge the world’s greatest military force and defeat it.

And now that net neutrality threat has been rendered neutral, let’s move on, shall we?

In the beginning, there was the pipe—the almighty briar, a tobacco-smoking device for the eclectically-minded. And, then, something happened: it became what is called today a hobby.

Some see themselves as collectors, aficionados well above the rabble, while others are simply opportunistic hoarders. (You know who you are.)

Or, perchance you are a refugee from the yoke of cigarettes and have sought to change your life, as well as your lifespan. You reach out to something you saw your grandfather or grandmother do. Or maybe the pipe sirens called you sweetly to the shores of peace and calm, and you responded.

Whatever the reason, you became hooked. The hobby, like stamp collecting, grew and grew and before long, it was consuming.

In a very short time, so it seemed, you were buying not just another pipe, but a one-of-a-kind artisanal pipe with perhaps a one-off price tag.

Your wife or girlfriend thought you had shopped for a new sofa. It was difficult to tell her that you were smoking the sofa money.

And then one day you take a realistic look at your collection/hobby.

My, how it reproduced. One day there was only one pipe from a drugstore or pipe shop counter basket, and now there are 100, maybe 200. Who knows? Who is counting?

Pipes are not the end of it, either.

Next comes the tobacco—a lot of tobacco. You have purchased pounds of it, and stored the evidence away in tins, jars, pouches, boxes, closets, trunks and drawers. Looking at this cache of leaf, you are reminded of a tobacco storage bin you once saw at Cornell & Diehl’s Morgantown, N.C., office before the whole operation moved to Little River, S.C., as part of the operation.

The bin was a shaggy mountain and smelled really good, so good that it would be emptied in about a day, said the late Craig Tarler, founder of C&D.

Wow. That was impressive. Is it possible for a man or woman to smoke up a cellar of tobacco in one lifetime?

Apparently so. Can one have too much tobacco stored in a cellar? Is there ever too much of a good thing? Do you write what’s left into your last will and testament?

Pipes and tobaccos are not the end of it, either.

There are the leather pipe bags and pouches. The plethora of pipe tools, knives, day tobacco pouches, candles to eat smoke, and entire worlds of trees have been destroyed to produce wooden racks to hold all those pipes.

Pipe accoutrements are not the end of it, either.

There are the pipe books and pipe magazines, both print and digital. Then add pamphlets, essays, blogs and online forums.

Books and magazines are not the end of it, either.

Next come the tobacco tin collectors, looking for the old art that now seems to carry prices of one of the French masters. You would think that Monet painted some of the tin art based on auction purchases.

And tobacco tins are not the end of it, either.

Now arrives the most deadly of all these maladies and maladjustments—collecting pipes of another era, time, place, maker, style, stain, or theme, a celebration such as Christmas, or just simply a Pipe of the Year, or a certain other holiday.

That’s not the end of it, either.

There are the lapel or hat pins, hats (one size fits all; you can even carry your loot in some after going to a pipe show), smoking attire (jackets, anyone?), tees and shirts.

Nor is that the end of it, either.

There are the ever-popular pipe lighters that provide a warming glow on a moonless night.

This is not just a hobby! It is a way of life! It’s like riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle: You know who you are and are proud to let others know as well.

Pipes are infinite. Pipe smoking is forever, a beginning with no end.

We are powerless to the lure of the pipe.

We live in the world of briar and leaf.

Please support us when you see a pipe smoker standing on a busy street corner holding a cardboard sign reading:

"My soul for another pipe."



Fred Brown
is a journalist who lives in Knoxville, TN. He will write this column for monthly. He can be contacted at


9 Responses

  • From one Fred to another, thanks! You’re quite right about Palermo’s speculations – that’s not how Net Neutrality works (what we’ve got right now is what Net Neutrality is trying to preserve, as opposed to letting the Benevolent Corporate Overlords start imposing toll lanes on the Information Highway – as you correctly point out).
    As for the rest… I tend to be a Periodic Obsessive. A new hobby or interest attracts me, and I get really, really into it (at least for a while). At one point it was firearms; at one point, comic books; right now, it’s pipe tobacco and old-school cocktails. I’ve got four pipes right now that have not been entirely broken in, and yet I find myself checking my mad money account balance, wondering if I can squeeze in just one more… I’ve got at least 10 unopened tins of tobacco that I’d love to try out, once I’ve worked through the 4 open slots in my rotation (the ones reserved for trying new blends, as opposed to the ones that I’m beginning to hoard). I haven’t yet dared try buying an old pipe to restore, just because I know there’s not enough room in my garage for the additional tools I’d find myself purchasing…
    Still holding out, though. Thanks for documenting the process.

  • Great article, Fred. I don’t quite discern how net neutrality as a principle would be brought to bear on pipe smoking specifically, but accept that it could, along with many other activities. So I propose a little quiet “public relations” effort. We each need to send a nice MM cob and small bag of good bulk tobacco to our state’s U.S. Senators and our Congressional Representatives, in the hope that at least a few will try a pipe and like it. Then when these questions come up, there may be a certain lack of enthusiasm for suppressing pipe smoking and a glimmer of interest for sustaining it. Friendly persuasion.

  • @phred: From one Fred to another: it never ends. Run away now while you still can. Be afraid, be very afraid. This hobby will consume you, your days and nights. I know dream about my pipes and the tobacco I’m going to purchase the next time I awaken!
    I need help!
    @mso: I’m not at all sure our Congressmen would know which end to put in their mouths, they have so many feet there already. I like the idea, though.

  • If I told you twenty years ago the EPA was going to be controlling and possibly taxing CO2 emissions you would have laughed me off. Surely the only thing they would go after were all those harsh cancer causing particulates Big Oil was poisoning our air with. These days we’ve pretty much accepted it as fact.
    I foresee the same sort of thing happening with tobacco purchasing on the Net in the near future. It will be in the interest of public health and of course, for the children. It’s the nature of government agencies to expand their scope of influence and control. Which agencies brought to life by a President’s pen stroke has ever lost power or gone away? None that I can think of.
    As for net neutrality itself, I’m not sure anyone has actually read the law. If it were all about letting Netflix hog bandwidth you would think Netlix would have been a supporter of the law. They were at first but changed their tune when they saw what was in the law. They quickly realized that private settlements were better than government mandated ones under Title II.Too late for that now.
    On the face of it I’d say it’s patently unfair. Why shouldn’t a provider be able charge based on usage volume? The government itself does this. You can pay a low rate to get a packaged delivered via US mail in a week or you can pay more to get there overnight. A light package is cheaper to send than a heavy one. If you build and maintain a digital network you should be able to charge whatever the market will bear. This is assuming governments local and Federal don’t encourage monopolies to exist.
    I just can’t see how government involvement in anything tobacco related is going to come out well for any of us. To say the FCC has bigger fish to fry ignores the fact that someday all the big fish will be fried and they’ll come after the rest of them!

  • I am compelled to offer my 2 cents (oh look, no “cents” sign on the keyboard) worth whose moral should be self-evident and the death of which certain other formerly self-evident rights are now not only being infringed, but obliterated. Father’s Day this year (2015) was also my son’s 25th birthday, a son who has already served an honorable hitch in the United States Marine Corps.(just incidentally)
    Our family loves the “minions” from the Despicable Me movies. We also love silly humor and have a great time together. We bought said Marine rifle-certified son a genuine official minion-character “fart blaster” and proceeded to laugh ourselves silly with it for several hours. When things were settling to more mellow and classy humor, my son found a print-dense insert in the fart-blaster box. It was a regulatory note from the same FCC mentioned in Fred’s article above. He began to read it to us… terrible concerns/warnings/codes/violations and potential violations about RFI issues, antenna and signal infringements, areal communications contamination, causing cancer in lower food-chain invertebrates in subequatorial New Guinea, etc etc etc. (Ok… exagerating about that last one or two) Eventually we become so disgusted at the extreme silliness and galling offense of the further totally ridiculous wasting of our tax-dollars, we stopped reading further. FYI: Fart Blasters ONLY emit sounds, not aromas… and certainly not dreadful radiations of unknown and spurious origins. And you know what?? If they did, I, for one, wouldn’t give a flying duck at the moon! Holy Mother of Dog, brothers and sisters… UncSam/BigBro are ALREADY regulating children’s toy fart-blasters!! Those of us happily addicted to “hobbies” are surely doomed. We are already considered pariahs and pea-wits by the people whose salaries we pay and whose agencies ostensibly exist by our consent. Ain’t nobody ever asked me. But miss a penny from any of my abundant taxes and the response is instantaneous and ominous. Look! No cents sign on the keyboard! No sense either. Hmmmmm… I thought writing this would make me feel better. It didn’t.
    PS The Governor of the great sovereign Commonwealth of Pennsylvania now also wants a 40% additional tax on premium tobacco products.

  • Government will never do away with tobacco, to much tax revenue in it. They will postulate about its evils and tax it even more but I doubt there will be any real effort to impede its sales. In spite of near $10 a pack cigarette prices they still sell them in big numbers. After all the litigation of a few years ago and the heavy fines the government imposed on tobacco companies they still didn’t ban or significantly control the sale of tobacco. The only real threat we face is higher prices. If you want to know what’s coming take a look at the EU.
    This article was great fun to read. Many of us can probably see ourselves walking that path. I know I can.

  • Excellent article Fred. I’m not familiar with net neutrality, but if the U.S. government manages to find a way to control the Web, then I’m damned sure the UK administration will follow. The second half is funny and – unfortunately- all too true.

  • Another good article.
    I now buy more tobacco than pipes as the price of tobacco continues to increase for various reasons.
    I call my cellaring a method of price control.
    I’ve tobacco prices double over the last few years and cellaring at least makes the price increases a little less painful.