Monday, July 12, 2021


Over in the dark forest where feral pipesmokers roam, there's something called 'the codger challenge', photographs of which are supposed to be posted on Facebook: One pipe and one tobacco per day. Thirty days. Which, to me, sounds absolutely ridiculous. I have five open tins plus my own blend I'm working on right now, and a selection of forty or so pipes in the rotation, that being the jumble on the teatray near my rattan chair. Pipes should be rotated, not smoked twice in a row (unless you only smoke once every four or five days). And having a different tobacco every day (thirty open tins) would be ridiculous.

Did I ever mention the tendency toward neuroses among pipe smokers?

One pipe smoker I know is insistent that pipe racks be aligned with magnetic North. Another folds and stuffs flake tobaccos precisely so, and always with a clockwise turn of the thumb at the end, because if he doesn't do that, bad things will happen and they don't taste right. Yet another one believes that there should be synchronicity between pipe and necktie. I have no clue what that means, but he's always snappily dressed EXCEPT for his rather ugly ties.

One evening nearly a decade ago I listened for forty minutes as a fellow pipe smoker carefully explained to a woman in a smoking bar downtown how bowl shape and specific grain patterns influenced the taste, and determined whether one should enjoy aromatics, Balkan blends, or Virginia-Perique mixtures in that pipe.

It highlighted three things for me:

I'm completely normal, but he's totally insane.
He likes some dreadful products.
Business is slow.

Some people waffle-on about sports. Their favourite teams, players' haircuts, architectural features of particular stadia, and balls. Others talk about motorcars or punk bands.
Man is probably the only animal with obsessions.
Or boring conversation.

I smoke a pipe several dozen times per month, several different fine briars. The primary reason why I post pictures of the pipes and mention the tobaccos in a few blog postings is for titillation of my fellow pipe smokers (because I do like attention within a narrow spectrum of interest), it sets a mood, and as fair warning that there is a reek of brimstone to everything I do (just in case anyone mistakenly thinks that "Uncle Grumpus" might be a suitable baby sitter for their brats; maybe I would).

A blog is, almost by definition, a personal waffle iron.

First pipe today was red Virginia and Perique flake in an older Comoy. It's foggy this morning, the air feels moist. The middle distance is grey and velvety, there is no far distance.
I shan't be able to smoke inside today, because the apartment mate has taken a day off work. So there will be a few more walks, and I think I might head down to Chinatown for lunch and a hot cup of Hong Kong Milk Tea later.
I'm particularly thinking of (鱘龍魚片粥 'cham lung yü pin juk'; congee with flaked fish), around mid-afternoon, and a bowl of Dunhill Flake (now made under the Peterson label).

The proper cup of strong HK milk tea wakes you up while calming you down, and prepares you for work tweny stories up on rickety bamboo scaffolding in a howling gale. You will be filing papers till ten o'clock at night, in between occasional bowls of insta-noodles or going downstairs for fried stinky tofu. It's a time, a place, and a set of old familiar smells.


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