Normally post-lunch pipe-smoking on weekends counts as a high point of the week, a little golden moment of sheer pleasure.
Nice snackiepoos, a day to putter around, and a bowlful of something stinky.
I rushed off to Chinatown brimming with anticipation.
So, sat down, ordered rice stick noodle soup and char-grilled pork, as well as a nice cold glass of strong Vietnamese ice coffee, and reveled in the prospects.
Good food! Nice drinkie! And then a pipe.
Going to fill up a semi-bent rough root with a pungent Balkan mixture.
The problem was that I had forgotten to pack any tobacco at all.
Not a shred of pipe tobacco anywhere in my backpack.
Pipes: check, four of them (a squat pot, a billiard, and two bulldogs).
Pipe cleaners: check, the bristly kind as well as the fluffies.
Pipe tamper: check, three of them, just in case.
Matches: check. Plus a Bic lighter.
Pipe tobacco? Shoot.
Waited for my food in near-despair. Even considered just going up front, paying for it, and telling them I'd be back in forty minutes to eat it. But no, don't want them to think I'm strange. Besides, don't disrespect the food. NEVER disrespect the food.
Somewhere a rice stick noodle mama lost an entire packet of her sons for my pleasure.
And there was wholesale slaughter among the bean sprouts too.
Plus cilantro and scallion.
Oh yeah, mustn't forget the chicken (broth) and the pig (grilled meaty bits).
They also contributed. They deserve to be consumed warm.
Still. No pipe afterwards.
Across the room a small child was enjoying her lunch. It was a veritable feast! Forkful of noodles. Dab of Sriracha. A fragrant basil leaf. Oooh. Now some milk, glass held with both hands. It's good! Some more noodles. Switch utensils, spoon up some soup. Another blob of hotsauce, directly onto the spoon. Now some more noodles again. My heavens, this is all so wonderful!
An adorable little moppet, maybe no more than three or four. She was the youngest person at the table, and seemed quite utterly pleased with the inattentive presence of her kinfolk, who were also eating. Sitting quietly with the grownups, enjoying real food.
Albeit a far smaller serving.
Her three older sisters weren't nearly so happy or intelligent looking.
Nor were they as enchanted by the food.
Her, I wonder what she'd look like with a pipe in her mouth following her meal. A nice tactile sandblast, black to match her sparkling dark dark eyes. Yes, she'd probably appreciate a nice sooty Levantine haze - Turkish leaf, Latakia, Old Belt, and a touch of Fire-cured Kentucky - and she would smile enchantingly while enjoying every smoke-filled moment. Imagine her tiny fingers deftly holding pipe and tamper, with unstudied skill dapping down the burning layer, ere savouring the next wholesome puff.
Her sisters? Meh, probably cigarette smokers.
* * * * *
The pipe tobacco at my desk is too dry to smoke.
Besides, I have forgotten what I put in that jar.
A blend that I compounded, which one?
It is tarry, but most of them are.
Best just have a cheroot.
I'll probably have a bowl of Virginia when I get home.
Perhaps something with a hefty dollop of Perique.
Late at night, by the window in the kitchen.
Remembering lunch. Noodles. Coffee.
And sparkling happy eyes.
NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.