Part 1 is here in case you missed it.
“I knew you would know where to go,” I said to my friend Angie as we pulled into the alleyway behind the boutique pipe tobacco shop down the street from her house. Knowing where to buy a pipe and tobacco is useful when one wants to take up pipe smoking. She grinned. Angie has a massive cache of unexpected information inexplicably quartered in her miraculous brain. It’s a huge part of why I like her.
Upon entering the small, acceptably wood-and-leather inspired shop, we were greeted by a gray-haired, amiable looking man with the biggest mutton chop sideburns I’d ever seen.
“I’m looking for a cheap pipe,” I told him.
“Oh, well I’ve got a wonderful, refurbished Master Craft for $35. Here, take a look at this,” he replied as he removed a small pipe from a glass display case and handed it to me. It was very nice, but not quite what I had in mind.
“Actually, it’s for me, and I’ve never smoked a pipe before. I’m really just looking for something cheap like a corn cob pipe so I can decide if I even like smoking it or not.”
“Oh, it’s for you!” he said. He did not seem to be expecting this and immediately became more animated. I got the impression that I was not his usual demographic. “You can buy corn cob pipes anywhere. Well, except here because mine just sold out.” Not a promising start.
“How about tobacco?” I said. “Do you have Sail?” According to my mother, this was the brand my grandfather used to smoke. My mother does not approve of my pipe smoking.
“Sail! No, that’s horrible stuff, all chemically processed. I don’t carry any of that here. All of my tobacco is organic, and I blend it myself. Here, smell this,” he said as he shoved an open plastic bag labeled “Grandfather’s Blend” in elaborate calligraphy under my nose. “I made this blend myself fifty years ago for my own grandfather.” The proprietor puffed proudly, and the difficulty with which Angie was stifling her giggles at his rapid demeanor change was becoming a palpable threat to my own attempts to remain collected. “This is eight dollars, but if you buy it today with the pipe, I’ll give it to you for six.”
The thirty-five dollars in my purse roughly comprised my pipe experiment budget. Maybe I could just buy the tobacco here and get a corn cob pipe at the smoke shop up the road that had “Pipes Here” emblazoned on the iron-barred windows next to the gang signs. “What’s this one?” I asked, pointing to the bag beside the grandpa one. “And can I smell that one too?” I pointed to the one on the other side.
He seemed rather pleased that I was sniffing and admiring the aromas of his other tobacco blends. “Actually,” he said, “if you buy the pipe, I’ll throw in the tobacco for free. Just for today.” There was my $35! I looked at the smooth, wooden pipe in my hand. It really was beautiful, and it wasn’t too big.
“Okay, I’ll take it,” I said. “Hey, do you have a pouch I can keep this stuff in?”
“A pouch? Hmm, I don’t think so. Let me check,” he said as he began pulling out and rifling through each of the drawers behind the cash register. “I don’t usually keep them, but I might have an old one floating around… yes, here’s one. Here are some matches too,” he said as he threw a small box on the counter, “and you’ll need a tamper. Hang on.” He went back to the display case and pulled out a small metal tool that was flat on one end and tapered into a very thin scoop on the other. I could feel Angie snickering again behind me.
“What is your problem?” I asked her as the man was whizzing around accumulating gear that either wasn’t for sale or that I hadn’t asked for.
“Nothing. Nothing at all,” she said with amused eyebrows and an abysmally stifled grin. I turned back to the checkout counter which now claimed a pipe, a bag of tobacco, a box of matches, a tamper, and a pouch to carry everything in. This was going to be way over budget.
“Soooo… what do I owe you for all this?”
“Oh, you can have it for $35,” he said. I hadn’t told him how much my budget was. I offered to pay for everything, but he declined.
As soon as we got back outside, Angie exploded in laughter.
“I think I just snookered some old guy out of a bunch of stuff,” I said.
“Yeah, I think so.”
The next week my Mom was over, and she wanted to see my new pipe. Grandpa hadn’t smoked since I was a kid, and although I have fond memories of the smell, I had completely forgotten what his pipe looked like. She hadn’t. “This pipe looks exactly like your grandfather’s,” she said. It wasn’t until she brought over the picture of Grandpa two weeks ago for Pipe Dream, Part 1 that I realized just how right she was.
When I was young, my grandfather smoked a pipe. While cigarettes smell like sweaty gym socks that have been lit on fire, pipe smoke is a lovely wisp. It is the aroma of pungent woods and smoky spices and summer and the old man who called me Sunshine because I smiled so much when I was small.
Now I have five brothers-in-law plus my own brother, and out of the six of them, five are pipe men. This charms me more than I care to admit, and for several years I tried to con, cajole, or beguile my husband into smoking a pipe too. “Come on, your brothers all do it. It smells so nice!” Alas, he insisted on being his own man and would not be moved to blithely puff on potential carcinogens even on the very occasional basis I was suggesting. So rude![pullquote position=”right”]My husband has a rather curious code that governs what he will and will not flip out about.[/pullquote]
Last fall I found a picture of a woman I know on Facebook, that purveyor of jealousy and poor habits. She held a book in her hand and a pipe in her mouth, and suddenly I felt very silly. I could smoke a pipe myself! Obviously, I could smoke a pipe since I have this perfectly usable mouth apparatus attached to my very own face. This was worth pondering.
My husband has a rather curious code that governs what he will and will not flip out about. After nineteen years of marriage, I still have not quite figured out the qualifying factors for flippage. This is the list to date:
I haven’t actually gotten to the crazy hair colors yet because by the time I actually wanted to put purple streaks in my hair, I had already hennaed it red, and henna + any other hair dye = not good. Really, his list is pretty short. He’s not usually a demanding or pushy fella, but I’d prefer not to have him look at me and think “Ewwww” if possible, so I try to avoid the very few things on the flip list. A pipe was an entirely new question though, which had previously had no call for list assignment. Which way would that go?
In January we went to Los Angeles and spent the better part of a day driving around the city with his brother (the only non-pipe one). I looked out the passenger window and casually floated the idea.[pullquote position=”right”]”You don’t see a lot of women smoking a pipe.”[/pullquote]
“I think I’m gonna buy a pipe,” I said. [tweetthis]”I think I’m gonna buy a pipe,” I said.[/tweetthis] The bumps on the pavement seemed especially loud. I was sure the locals meandering down the sidewalk were staring at me.
“Like a smoking pipe?” said Mike the Brother.
“Oh! You should talk to Steve [pipe brother]; he’ll get you set up,” said my guy.
“Uh huh. Or Jon [another pipe one]. They’ll get you all taken care of,” said Mike.
Huh. That went better than expected. They both passed.
“You don’t see a lot of women smoking a pipe,” reflected my guy after a minute or two.
“Yeah. I don’t care about that,” I said. “Do you?”
“Me? No, I don’t care. If you want to smoke a pipe, then smoke a pipe.”
Guess I can update the list to this now:
After we returned home, I grabbed my best friend and we went to buy a pipe. You’ll find that story in Part 2.