Saturday, November 16, 2019


A picture on the internet of a pipe and a book inevitably brought me to a famous manga (Japanese illustrated story or set of stories). No, not as some of you might suspect, Ranma 1/2, which is good reading because of the excellent illustration style of the author and shouldn't be read in public lest people think you a skeevy sort, but Azumanga Daioh.


Written by Japanese author Kiyohiko Azuma, the narrative about a group of high school students is formed by a series of four panel strips. It is funny, occasionally surrealist and off the wall, and insightful as well as gripping. Naturally it appeals much more to a female audience than to the menfolk, and I cannot imagine the typical all-American male finding it in any way exciting. There is no football, there are no great sports praestations, and there is neither nudity nor beer. There are no pipes or tobacco either.

It ought to be required reading.

Pursuant yesterday's picture, one person asked: "when someone posts a pic with a pipe and a book, how many others do a search to see what point they're trying to make ?" Because there were several layers of possible message to the juxtaposition.
Which I hadn't thought about, because I also saw the tin of Royal Yacht pipe tobacco in the photo, and immediately thought two things:

A) That smoker has some "questionable" tendencies;
B) Possibly a fan of Dutch and English princes.

All you need to know about Royal Yacht pipe tobacco is that a well-known member of the pipe aficionado community in Texas once made a group of his friends sick by having it as the tobacco in a smoking competition; the winner threw up before accepting his prize, that being a full sealed tin of the mixture. It is strong and bizarre, and maybe I should buy another tin.
Seeing as I last smoked it over a decade ago.


As a teenager I read all of Rudyard Kipling during my first years smoking a pipe, plus all of Georges Simenon, and all of Vladimir Nabokov. As well as The Merck Manual, thirteenth edition. That last one details the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment, of almost all the diseases known to man.

Yes, there was no television in our house, and video games had not been invented yet. How did you guess?

Now, when I look around the room where I'm typing this, the books that immediately jump out at me are Emes Ve'emunah (by Dr. Nosson Chayim Leff); Culinaria - the United States - a Culinary Discovery; French Consular Dispatches on the Philippine Revolution (Camagay); Age (by Hortense Calisher); and Liefde en Schaduw (by Isabel Allende).
This room is a mess, by the way.

Another thing I notice is a row of dried-out rambutan on a tray.
One of these days I'll put little eyes on them.
Space aliens.

It's rare that I read a book while smoking a pipe. At work I smoke, and on the afternoons of non-work days, when I wander around Chinatown I smoke. In the mornings of my days off I scope out news on the internet during my coffee while waking up, often with a pipe in my mouth. But because I am not a member of the smoking lounge, and do not have a comfortable garage with an easy chair and an up-to-date ventilation system, or a house-mate tolerant of tobacco, I do not laze about with a book while smoking.

One book I did manage to read most of while at work was Head, Eyes, Ears, Nose, and Throat Emergencies, An Issue of Emergency Medicine Clinics. Which someone had left in the back room. It was fascinating.

My job does not involve any of that.

We went to Devon on vacation once. Which, when you really think about it, was an odd thing to do. Normally, people living in Northern Europe prefer a sunny part of the world during summer, given that grey, rain, and overcast, are things they've already experienced fully.

We were in England, and it poured.

For five weeks.

I spent many happy hours in the hotel library with my pipes, tins of Balkan Sobranie Smoking Mixture, and books. It was a wonderful vacation.

[NOTE: The current iteration of Balkan Sobranie is NOT the same is the pre-Gallagher version by any standard. But it is a decent product in the same vein, and the tin-note is recollective.
I have rather enjoyed smoking it, and have stockpiled a few tins for a rainy day.
There are more perfectly calibrated Balkan blends on the market.]

The winter storms are coming soon, but there are few places to smoke indoors in San Francisco, and none of them are book-friendly. So when it's wet, after having a cup of milk-tea and a snack in Chinatown I will seek sheltering awnings in front of closed shops and enjoy my pipe while observing people.
In Chinatown nearly everyone has a relative who smokes.
Or possibly is the relative who does so.

Perfumy matured Virginias.
A thoughtful smoke.


It may be time to open a tin of McClelland soon. That venerable company specialized in hard-pressed aged Virginias, and though they shut their doors in January of last year, I have a fair amount of it left.
Several different blends.
I have always appreciated them and their products more intellectually than in actual practice; much of what they manufactured is good for savouring while bemoaning the horrid state of the universe and the uncomfortable sogginess of one's rear end in inclement weather.

The answer to the question what point someone is trying to make when they post a picture of a pipe and a book is that they live alone.

It's probably not deliberate.


NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

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