A new year and a brand new canvas! Thank goodness. It is time to move on and look toward a brighter time.
And with that, how about some New Pipe Year Resolutions straight from the Pundit Resolute Desk!
Although these are Pundit Resolutions for the New Pipe Year, feel free to claim as your own any that suit your fancy.
Resolution #1: I promise to make more pipe purchases, of course. But with a twist. Hopefully, this New Pipe Year will bring one of the big names to the rotation, say, a Castello or a beautiful production from Claudio Cavicchi, the Italian farmer-turned artisan pipe maker.
Resolution #2: More tobacco blends to try, searching for newer and fresher tastes. I’m thinking more aromatics this New Pipe Year. It’s a kind of search for my lost youth.
Resolution #3: Time to clean old pipes and give them the TLC they so richly deserve. Where would I be, or any of us who love our pipes, without these dear, treasured friends? Each one, dented, scratched, stems chewed or with tooth holes as if chawed on by a tree-gnawing beaver, evokes fond memories. Can’t do without my racks of old pals, just waiting to be fired up again, only much cleaner.
Resolution #4: One more serious attempt to catalog the Pundit Tobacco Cellar. That may take something other than a spreadsheet. See, the Pundit began cellaring more than two decades ago. The mantra was to buy two tins, cellar one. Buy four tins, cellar two. Buy bulk, jar it all. So, it is time for a toting up of what’s there and how the tobacco treasure chest is faring.
Resolution #5: I promise to take time to reflect more fully on the rich talent our hobby possesses. We have pure artistic achievement in tobacco blenders, world-class pipe craftsmen, and the best manufacturing structure in any economy. This modern-day collection of artisans and producers are utterly amazing in how they continue to perform at the very pinnacle of attainment.
I like to think of our hobby as an art form of its own, built around architecture, artists, atmosphere, adventure, and aroma.
Take a good look at your pipe. If it is handmade, it has all of the Five A’s mentioned above.
In the early days, the Pundit could little afford the handmade pipes. But, as things moved along in life, as they do, English and Italian handmade pipes were worked into the budget. Later came some exquisitely carved meerschaums, white beauties of extraordinary sculpting.
Over time more handmade artistic and elegant pipes arrived.
I have heard the arguments: does an expensive pipe smoke better than a cheaper model?
I happen to think so. The structural tolerances of the higher end pipes, usually created by a very experienced artisan, are much finer and more elegantly formed. The briar is of a better cut and quality. The curing process is most often applied with greater care.
So, yes, I love our hobby, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the gorgeous.
And, finally, this is not necessarily a resolution but a recurring feeling of gratitude. Gratitude for the little things, like rekindling a friendship with an old blend like the aforementioned aromatics of yore resolution or the long-forgotten burly.
If 2020 taught us anything, it is that we should be grateful for the days we have and that we are able to continue to enjoy this priceless hobby.
With those thoughts on the tip of the frontal lobes, the Pundit has been looking back at some of our past greatness and some of the things we have lost over time.
The Pundit has been fortunate enough to live in an era when tobacco curing barns were prevalent. Just being able to observe long stems of tobacco leaves drying from barn rafters was a learning experience.
Or driving past tobacco farms with tripod-shaped leaf drying in a field before heading to barn rafters for more drying and aging.
And then, visiting a tobacco auction barn, once a significant part of a small town America’s economic heartbeat.
Today, sadly, tobacco farms are shrinking or being incorporated into large agri-firms. Tobacco barns are becoming scarce in farm country, and auction barns are practically extinct.
The Pundit has enjoyed seeing first-hand many of these pieces once so necessary to the sustainability of our hobby.
There was even an occasional visit to Tennessee tobacco country to find tobacco being infused with smoke from an ancient family recipe of curing tobacco leaf.
That was a rare privilege to see smoke rising to the rafters, wafting over brown tobacco stalks, hanging like large hams in a smokehouse.
These scenes are passing from our local landscape, which is sad. Of course, tobacco production and its many curing processes continue on a worldwide scale.
But something has been lost in the small-town tobacco-growing culture. Old tobacco farmers have told me that their “tobacco allotment,” the acreage they could legally use to plant tobacco, provided money for the kids’ new shoes for the next school year, or an added piece of farm equipment, or an addition to the house or barn.
Sadly, that way of life is giving way to the relentless development of surrounding farms, which grow subdivisions rather than tobacco.
Don’t take this the wrong way. The Pundit is for progress, but there needs to be a better balance, perhaps so that old ways and methods have a place with the new.
Losing our large, picturesque tobacco barns is a real loss to the romance of farmlands everywhere.
Okay, the sermon is over.
It’s time for Pipe Smokers of the Past: William Somerset Maugham, born Jan. 25, 1874, died, Dec. 16, 1965.
Quote: “Life isn’t long enough for love and art.”
The British author, playwright, and short-story writer was one of the most popular writers of his era. His novel, “Of Human Bondage,” is considered a classic. During World War I, he was too old to enlist, so he joined the British Red Cross and was in the ambulance corps, later known as “the Literary Ambulance Drivers” (check out the Wikipedia biography on Maugham) since it had a fine crop of well-known authors driving the ambulances, including John Dos Passos, E. E. Cummings, and Ernest Hemingway.
Here’s is to a better, safer, and healthier New Pipe Year.
Pipe Smoking lifestyle meanderings