"I suppose that it must be even more unusual to see a woman smoking a pipe". Upon reflection, I had to agree. It probably isn't a question of preferences quite so much as societal pressures and attitudes. Women with pipes or cigars are frequently patronized by male smokers, and hanging out at the tobacconist or cigar bar makes them a target for the cruising missiles among the menfolk there. As well as subjecting them to the plethora of 'F' bombs let loose when sports is on the telly.
I imagine the woman pipe smoker rather preferring to watch 'Pride and Prejudice' or 'Brideshead Revisited', in lieu of beefcakes pounding sod.
For all I know, there may be tons of women out there who love nothing more than a jolly good smoke. Except that they have total invisibility.
Most of the time they take pains to remain unremarkable.
I could certainly give them lessons; there is nothing quite so unremarkable as a Caucasian gentleman wandering around Chinatown. Even with a pipe in his mouth. All white people, of whatever age, look rather alike.
No matter that there's wood coming out of an orifice.
[Women, of whatever age or ethnicity, stand out with pipes. And could even excite comment.]
Over the years I've grown to recognize several of the people in the neighborhood, but the only ones who actually recognize me are the folks who have heard (and understood) me speaking Cantonese.
If they didn't, my features will not register.
Well, except for the few who might think "oh lord, here comes that smelly kwailo again with his frightful tobacco". There are one or two of those, but they cross the street so that they don't have to suffer.
Which leads me to believe that among the people who do NOT dive through traffic to get away from me, there must be several who like the aroma. Even a few who would take up the habit themselves, except that they don't know how to go about it, and their nearest and dearest would probably have something to say.
One or two of them might even be women.
Or students at a university.
Of either gender.
YOU TOO COULD SMELL LIKE YOUR FAVOURITE PECULIAR UNCLE. OR A GRUMPY BADGER.
YOU'VE ALWAYS WANTED TO!
There are no good tobacconists left within San Francisco city limits, the best tobacconist that the San Francisco Bay Area can boast is over in Marin County. But it is a very good tobacconist; you will seldom see such an extensive selection of cigars, tobaccos, and pipes.
It's easy to reach by bus -- the 70 and 80 bus lines go right past; the 18 leaves from Sansome Street during rush hour. Get off at Seminary Drive, there's a bus pad there, and walk north past the gas stations, car wash, junkfood establishment, and convenience chainstore.
$4.75 each way, $9.00 round trip.
TELFORD'S PIPE & CIGAR, INC.
664 Redwood Highway
If you go, be sure to say 'hi' to the crows. There's usually a small flock of them perched on posts and street lights around the Seminary Drive area, waiting for the pigeons to do something stupid. Like play in traffic.
In a different universe, they might be cigar smokers.
Yes, you'll find mostly middle-aged dudes at Telfords, and there is far too much about pipes and tobacco to absorb in one trip. Plus a pipe can be a somewhat expensive indulgence (*), though well-treated it will have made the price worthwhile within a year. But Telfords is a safe place to smoke.
If you're at the table near the Perdomo cigars or Joya De Nicaragua, you won't hear the hooting and hollering from the members lounge, and if the day is warm you can sit outside in one of the rocking chairs on the porch. Getting back to the city is a cinch; there's a bus at the pad across the street every half hour, at approximately ten past and forty past. It will drop you off on Van Ness, at Union Street, Pacific Avenue, or Sacramento Street.
[ (*) How much will it cost to start? A perfectly decent pipe can be found at around one hundred dollars or slightly more, which, if properly treated, will endure for decades. On a daily basis, that pipe will cost mere pennies, even though the initial outlay was as much as half a dozen cigars.
One tin of pipe tobacco will be around eighteen dollars, and provide thirty bowls, more or less. Packet of pipe cleaners and a tamper, less than five dollars. The persnickety person will now do the math and realize that TWO pipes (so that one can rest), will cost perhaps 70¢ daily, or around five dollars a week, for the first year. Over five years, those two are only fourteen cents per day. Over an entire life time, it's almost nothing at all.
Each bowl full will use 60¢ worth of tobacco. Which is more expensive than cigarettes, yes, but cigarettes are for addictive types who huff a pack a day, so they're spending five dollars daily in addition to ruining their lungs and their social life. And when compared to cigars, pipe smoking is amazingly affordable, as well as far more civilized.
Without all the bad language that comes out of cigar smokers' mouths.]
Both going to and coming back from Marin will take about 40 minutes each way, Van Ness to Seminary, Seminary to Van Ness. That's plenty of time for the smell to dissipate. Your housemates won't even notice.
Telfords has numerous house blends that you are welcome to sample, as well as opened tins of other tobaccos, some of which are very nice as well as some that are exceedingly peculiar. So it's worth heading over there when you have some time.
Saturday and Sunday are perfect.
Yeah, bit of a hardship only smoking on weekends, but during the cold season there's not much other choice in SF. The only place where you can indulge indoors is the Occidental, on Pine just below Kearny, but there always seems to be a game on. And it's a bar. One cannot constantly combine nicotine with alcohol or middle-aged rowdies.
By the way, I've got a pipe in my mouth as I type this. During the day, till three o'clock, my apartment is a smoking zone. My apartment mate is a non-smoker with a weak sense of smell, so if I allow the place to air out before she returns, it isn't a problem. Weekends, of course, could be sticky, even if she does go out with her boyfriend.
So I enjoy heading over to Marin.
I get to fiddle with pipes for several hours.
Tiring a bit of boy-people gazing at ball games, though.
They're not gifted conversationally.
And altogether loud.
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