Tuesday, January 09, 2018


Babysitting the stogey-huffing weasels had been exhausting, I needed a drink. Around ten o'clock I headed into a local bar where less than half a dozen people were engaged in karaoke, paid for a Scotch and water, and informed the bartender that I would be outside smoking. Meaning that I wished him to keep an eye on my coat, and not throw out my drink.
Pipe smokers cannot speed up like the cigarette crowd.
It might take a while, and one should not hurry.
A pipe smoked too fast will bite.
It isn't worth it.

Because it had rained all day the bar was nearly empty. The street outside was not entirely deserted, but very few pedestrians passed, and the sound of water provided a backdrop of moodful drubbing and splashing. In the empty open portico the aroma of my pipe tobacco was more noticeable and more dreamshaping than that same product had been while at work.

Because so many people there smoke cigars, you will understand that after only a few hours one's sense of smell is no longer pristine, and by no means acute. But it had been a while since returning home.
And I had finished my previous pipe before five.

[CLARIFICATORY INTERSTICE: No, this pipe tobacco is not a flavoured or aromatized product. Clean, not mucked up with fruit; just Virginias with a minor addition of Perique. Steam-pressed, then aged to further the interplay of leaves. There is some Burley in it, but not too much. Added, I presume, to provide body. Many good American blends of a certain era had Burley, and because of that there is something about the room note which prompts recollection. A time, a place ...
Several places and times. The basement lounge at school, the hamburger joint on Sutter Street which is no longer there, a lunch counter in Chinatown, trees on the campus one particular Berkeley summer, bookstores on Telegraph Avenue, a coffee shop with an extraordinarily high ceiling on University Avenue. And, well over a decade earlier, friends of my father from Los Angeles whose faces are indistinct, who happily spoke of engineering issues I was too young to understand, and old classmates of both my parents discussing dead European languages. Almost all tobaccos stimulate deep-seated memories, but moods and images are different.]

Every time I headed upstairs into the bar to revisit my drink the bartender and a not particularly intelligent friendly local person were discussing religion and cocktails. While I was there he went from an Old Fashioned through Rum Punch to a Manhattan. Mention was made of a Rob Roy, a Champagne Cocktail (with a dash of brandy added), Gin & Tonic, Fireball, Catholicism, Islam, Scientology, and Dutch Reformed. He seemed surprised to hear that the Dutch were very quarrelsome, albeit not disagreeable. Conversations with tiddly folks are a strain, and I can't talk to juveniles anyway, so after each sip I went out again to continue my pipe.

Many of the people I encounter while at work are very stable geniuses.
I am quite happy that they do not mention G_d or booze.
It's bad enough that they talk.

After a long three days in Marin, any conversation must be short and to the point. Precisely what this essay isn't.

Do not describe your personal belief system to me in great detail.

A quiet portico for shelter while smoking a pipe on a rainy night, good flake tobacco, and cheap Scotch whisky in lieu of the buckets of Pu Erh tea I had been swilling all day would be infinitely more satisfying than almost any human contact anyway. I was pooped, and I needed down-time
Religion and alcoholic ramblings weren't it.

I would've liked to have had more time with several people. Neal and Martin (who are in a friendly rivalry over Oom Paul pipes at present), the chap who dropped off for cleaning a very cohesive and carefully chosen collection of briars which showed that his heyday was late fifties through early eighties, Sam who comes to read his book with a cigar late in the afternoon, Vadim and his vast knowledge of seedy Ukranian or Russian politics and social environments, the professorial fellow who is enthusiastic about Germain tobaccos, the estate jewelry seller (his doctor ordered him to stop, just stop, no more cigars; a dictat he disobeys), and, at the bar, the Vietnamese, a few ex military types, and the hotel staff coming off the late shift.
The latter are more intelligent than they need to be.
It probably helps though, given their jobs.
They are sane when they get there.

The Fillmore mixture is finished and fondly remembered; it carried me through New Year, and I have one tin in reserve. I am currently smoking Stonehenge Flake, and eyeing the tins of Regents Flake, though I wonder if the next thing to open should be Montgomery or Telegraph Hill. All of these are Greg Pease products, nice, mostly Virginia leaf.
I went through several tins of Montgomery in Summer and early Autumn during the heatwave, when the bathroom was being rebuilt and we used the facilities in the empty apartment next door.

It has been a few years since I last smoked Telegraph Hill.

The Saint James Flake (Gawith) is also entirely smoked, by the way.
Started during the rains early last winter.
On and off since then.


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