Friday, July 31, 2020


He was going on vacation with his girlfriend, off to London for nearly two weeks. In preparation for which he left me a generous purse for the household expenses, and three orders for while he was away. Make sure there is coffee when I come back. Make sure that there is toilet paper.
Don't burn the house down.

Shortly after the car had disappeared from sight I was raiding his desk in the upstairs living room, because I knew where his pipes were. Oh boy.

Some of the household moneys were indeed spent on coffee and toilet paper. Some of it on food (and I ate a lot of sautéed mushrooms that fortnight). And some of it -- more than I normally would have spent from my allowance -- went for tins of Balkan Sobranie pipe tobacco.
For the next several days I was high as a kite on coffee, filled to the gills on mushrooms, and happily puffing good tobacco in excellent pipes.

About as dissolute and self-indulgent as a non-alcoholic teenager with no romantic involvements can be. Read a lot, bicycled a lot, smoked a lot, stayed by myself a lot. I had a wonderful time.

So did my father.

One of his pipes that I "borrowed" was a Peterson System Standard, such as the shape illustated below.

It was my first exposure to the type. I liked it. A lot.

A few months later, when I was sent back to the United States for school, I purchased my own. A slightly different shape. Which I smoked in the student lounge, at a deli on Market near the Embacadero, and at the Caffe Mediterraneum on Telegraph Avenue while "studying".
These are all places where smoking is no longer permitted.

That one I eventually got rid of, likewise the same shape with a gorgeous grain which I had while living on Piedmont Avenue.
Since then I've acquire two more briars of that shape. I've finally faced the fact that while Peterson System Standards are in a way quite pedestrian, I really like them; they look so 'pipe like'.

The last time I visited my Dad before he passed away I bought one at the tobacconist in Woensel, which is unusual because you seldom see sandblasted Peterson Systems on this side of the Atlantic.

The graphic effect above was achieved by drawing the light and shade using the crayon feature of the Paint programme, several different hues, then reducing the drawing for a life like effect.

Spray paint, oil brush, and water colour brush are also useful.
As in the creamy exemplar below.

A few years ago, a friend got rid of some pipes he did not smoke anymore because they were too small. He'd graduated toward big briars, and full Latakia mixtures instead of Virginia Flakes. I have some of his "discards". The meerschaum above and the 314 below.

Here is another one of his pipes.

[The three pipes above (the meerschaum, the 314, and the 305) were often what I smoked in the evenings during the two years when I desperately needed medical attention but had no coverage. During that period I became increasingly ill, often nearly passing out after walking only a few blocks. Frequent excruciating head-aches as well.
In the three months before my insurance kicked in I did not know if I would survive long enough; it was a bit of gamble. But apparently I survived. A coronary stent was put in exactly one month after I stumbled into the clinic. And I'm taking pills. So I'm good for several more years. Thank you, San Francisco Chinese Hospital.]

All three of these pipes are excellent smokes.

Peterson pipes have been around for well-over a century, both pleasing smokers and pissing them off. It's a crapshoot.  Their quality control has at times been "iffy", and they've experimented irresponsibly with weird lacquers and varnishes that are hard to remove, yet bubble and blister.

Evenso, some of their products are considered classics.

Especially their full bent pipes.

And special series items.

I particularly remember smoking the Rathbone above with Mac Baren's Virginia Flake while exiled around the corner from the group with whom I was having coffee. For the benefit of the non-smokers.

Well, anti-smokers. Tobacco nazis.

Nowadays I seldom hang out with tobacco-hating types. They aren't very mellow, and they tend toward mental rigidities in other ways.
Or off-kilter belief systems. Largely not a very flexible bunch.
But I have several Peterson pipes of which I'm very fond.
And I know a fair number of smoke-tolerant people.

One of the remarkable things about many anti-smokers is that they drink too much and are, frequently,  unapologetic pot-heads.
Almost as if they've got problems.
Psychological damage.


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Eurus Holmes said...

Forgive, but when I see "bent like an Irishman" I anticipate a discussion of Oscar Wilde.

The back of the hill said...

A fine man indeed.

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