The Thoughts of a Frumpy Professor

............................................ ............................................ A blog devoted to the ramblings of a small town, middle aged college professor as he experiences life and all its strange variances.

Friday, July 21, 2017

A Memory Revisited (Part 2)

[Please note, if you have not done so, and wish to read part one of this essay, please scroll down to the first entry where the "A Memory Revisited (Part 1)" essay begins.  Again, please remember that these words reflect my mindset from several years ago.  They were my views, but are not wholly reflective of me today, although they show both the memory and now also a memory of sorts of how I wrote several years ago.]

*     *     *     *     *

As I continued to talk with my father about my school day, I also continued to more acutely watch my father's actions as well. After he had filled the bowl of the pipe with the crumbles of leaf, he (again not diverting his gaze from me or our conversation) used tactile sensation to gently tamp the leaf a bit more firmly into the bowl. He brought the curved black stem of the pipe up to his mouth and gripped it between his heavy and very white teeth. The grip was a gentle and loving one, and I noticed how the heavy hairs of his moustache and beard encircled the stem of the pipe, his moustache cascading over and around the top.

Striking a match, my father brought the flame up to the bowl and began to draw the flame into the leaf, melding the two together and causing thick, rich, grey plumes of smoke to be emitted. Only after the bowl was well-lighted, and after he responded to another one of my statements with a question of his own, did my father slowly draw on the stem of the pipe, and inhaled one of the great plumes of rich, vanilla tinctured smoke deep into his lungs. As he slowly exhaled, I watched in amazement as I could notice very perceptible changes in my father's facial features. His furrowed eyebrows seemed to grow less intense, the bristling of his moustache and beard quieted and seemingly relaxed, and even his eyes seemed to grow softer and more contented. His grin became broader and more gentle.

I found watching this process very interesting as a youngster of eight. I kept trying to figure out what had happened. My father is and always was a kind, attentive man, but there was a perceptible change I could see in his whole demeanor in just the span of perhaps 10-15 seconds, where he became EVEN more himself, and less affected by the work he had been engaged in. His face grew even more kindly and more the father I was used to interacting with.

It was surprising and interesting to see these changes, but what was the cause? To me, this was many years prior to my becoming a scientist well-versed in the scientific method, but even at that young age, I believe I enjoyed and appreciated order and began to look at the situation as systematically and logically as an eight year old could. After bypassing a few other possibilities, I concluded that his pipe must be the likely source.

As you would expect, my father was a venerate pipe smoker for decades before I was even a twinkle in he and my mother's eyes. It was always a friendly companion of his, emitting a variety of pleasant aromas with vanilla-tinctured, whiskey-tinctured, cranberry tinctured, and apple-tincured being his favorites. While I was always aware of the site and odor of my father and his pipes, I had never really examined he and his pipe smoking behavior in any depth. It simply seemed to be a hobby or avocation he enjoyed. The reason for his enjoyment was not particular understandable to me, but neither did I think about the issue all that much.

Seeing that change in his expression was interesting, and noteworthy, however. When my father inhaled the tobacco smoke, he became MORE his happy, contented self, in ways I could easily, visually discern. To me, linking his pipe smoking to his demeanor was the first clue I had about why he enjoyed his pipe. To understand more, I decided to watch him more closely and carefully.

That is what I did for the next couple of weeks.

[Another good stopping point for now. Comments or suggestions are always appreciated.]


Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Memory Revisited (Part 1)

As I mentioned, I thought I would start to replay a series of essays I wrote several years ago that involved my first foray into the world of smoking a pipe.  Please keep in mind that the voice in these essays was a voice from me several years ago, but I am posting these verbatim so that you can a) read these thoughts if you desire, b) comment on them (I *do* desire comments and suggestions as always), and c) to hear my "voice" on the matter from the many years ago when I wrote these.

*     *     *     *     *

There are many days in a man's life that are remarkable and sear themselves into a permanent circuitboard in your mind. They are often called milestones, and a lucky man has many positive milestones. Each time he becomes a new father, his wedding day, the purchase of a home, the first copulatory activity, the first new car, his first time getting drunk, the first day of school, the first home run he has hit, earning his Ph.D., these are but a few of many such milestones I have had the pleasure to experience. They are all wonderful, vivid memories in my mind. The same is true for the memory I am about to share:

The day itself was sunny, yet pleasantly cool and dry. It was perhaps 60 degrees and virtually no humidity marred the texture of the air. The woods had always been a fun and enjoyable playground for me to explore and feel excitement. Being only eight years old, the woods seemed vast and unadorned by any trappings of any other human. It was, I thought, a virgin forest that only I had explored, and yet it abutted right on the edge of our family's two acre parcel of land... how lucky was that? Suffice it to say, I felt these woods were my own personal space and I relished spending hours looking at various bugs, plants, twigs, salamanders, frogs and other ascundry items I could collect, examine, and learn to identify. Yet, this day was to be even more special and amazing in its effect upon me. As I sat in the small clearing in the middle of this forest, I gripped the magical beast and proceeded to...

The start of this adventure could be said to have been a part of me my whole life, perhaps it was genetic? But I only became cognizant of my interest in this adventure roughly 4 weeks prior to this monumental day. This start occurred, as I recall, when I was walking home from school and I met my father sitting on the rickety, old picnic table in the back yard, concentrating very heavily on a stack of papers he was grading. My father was an English teacher in the public school system and was busy making comments on the senior's final project, a 20 page paper over some topic or other that I do not recall. His brow was furrowed, his eyes squinting through the owlish lenses of his glasses, and his moustache and beard bristled from the intense concentration he was engaged in. A red grease pencil was poised in his right hand as he quickly made marks about poor grammar, incoherence, etc on the essays.

"So many mistakes!" I heard him mutter under his breath as I approached.

He must have heard my footsteps as I neared the picnic table for he glanced up and beaconed me over to sit at the table across from him. As I sat, I could see more vividly the concentration, tension, and focus his efforts in grading had on his facial expression.

"How was your day, my boy? Tell me what you learned in school today." said my father. He was a very focused man, and I could see I had his rapt attention, but I could also still see the furrowed brow and other facial features that belied how he was intently concentrating on work only moments before.

As I began to talk about and describe my day to my father, he reached over to the side of the stack of papers, and picked up his tobacco pouch and pipe in the nearly innate manner I had seen him do many times before. Using only tactile stimuli from his fingertips, not diverting his gaze from me and the details of my day, he proceeded to gracefully and with skill fill his pipe with the gentle brown crumbles of tobacco leaf that were in his pouch. Even though I had seen this process thousands of times before in my young life, for some reason this day I was more acutely aware and attentive to these actions than I had been before.

*     *     *     *    *

I think I will make a break in the writings here for today.  It sort of sets the tone, I suspect.  My father was a remarkable man in many ways.  He was for many years a teacher, but he also was a very strong, laborer and builder.  He was always working to try to make things better in life.  If he were alive in 2017, he would be 94 years old in November. 


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Plan....

Ok, I have returned home from the meeting.  All seems to be going relatively calmly again at the U and I feel I have the "lay-of-the-land" again so-to-speak.  I think I *will* begin to post some of my writings from several years ago when I tried to put down on paper the memories I had about the starting of my smoking a pipe.  Some of you may find this interesting.  Some of you may not.  But, I think in the posting of these memories, I will be able to better understand some of myself and (perhaps with your comments, which are greatly appreciated) learn and grow and be able to figure out a way to truly move to refraining from the pipe.  I shall begin these postings starting tomorrow. 

*     *     *     *     *

I wanted to give a special mention today, however, to the many comments I have received and how much I do appreciate all of your willingness to read and also to comment on my blog:

Forsythia and her blog are always a delight to me.  I have found her insights to be helpful and joyfully received on numerous occasions over the years. 

Gorilla Bananas and his blog have been a relatively recent find for me, but I must say I have enjoyed his blog, and I have also greatly appreciated his comments and insights about my musings.  I have been meaning to let him know this for quite some time, but I have to apologize for my lax indication of my very sincere appreciation for your friendship.  In one comment to me that I have been meaning to reply to, I must say that I have indeed tried a hookah, and perhaps I will write about the experience here very soon.  It was a very interesting and enjoyable experience.

JACKIESUE and her blogs are also must reads in my book as well.    I do not know how she finds so many wonderful images and comics.  But, I know that every day I will be surprised and delighted.

Sharon Qualls and her blog is also a must visit daily destination for me.  I am very disheartened that she is feeling quite blue at the moment and has decided to take a break from blogging.  I hope that it is a very short break. 

Jane and her blog are always a breath of fresh air to me. 

BBC and his long-term friendship have also been very helpful to me in more ways than I can mention.

There are many other folks too that I should mention.  I will do that soon in another post. 


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Talk Went Well

My talk when the very well.  There was a lot of interest in my findings so that is good.  It is a weird feeling of sorts in regards to my pipe and the meeting.  It felt so very natural to do all the typical science meeting things a this conference.  I learned a lot, and I saw a lot of good research.  I ha a lot of fun, in typical conference fashion... a lot of nice food, beverages and pipes and talk and joviality.  I also kept up all my exercise as well, and in face ran a total of 33 miles this past week.  Tomorrow I head home, which will also be wonderful.  But, I am more lost than ever about how to proceed in regards to my pipe smoking.  It felt so natural and normal to indulge in the pipe.  But, still at the heart of the matter, I know I need to figure out how to stop.  Why do I stay with this?  It is a conundrum that has so many factors that I am pulled in so many directions.  A part of me feels like this is who I am, a part of me feels I should be better than this.  And a part of me also grows tired of thinking about it.  

I may post some writings I have from the past that I think I need to reread and contemplate.  Maybe with rereading these and also your insights, perhaps I can find clarity of how to proceed.  I will start these posts in the next day or two I think, after I return.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Nice, But Probably Not Good

At the meeting last night, after the sessions were done, the conference provided us with refreshments of all sorts including some very nice IPA beers that were enjoyable to sample.  As is fairly common still even in 2017, at a meeting of this sort, I found a small cadre of four other pipe smoking fellows to talk science with late into the evening.  It felt very nice to be amongst other pipe smokers as in normal day-to-day life back at the U we are not so common and are strewn across wide expanses of campus.  It felt "homey" and good.  So, the ample beer and pipes were much appreciated, although I felt a bit meloncholy about the evening as it is not where I want nor should be with my pipe.  I know I should refrain.  I know it is something I should give up.  

The talks were inspiring, and I gleaned a few ideas for my own research, which may help me continent to strive to discover new knowledge in my work.  This morning I ran from the hotel into St Paul and back.  The morning weather was perfect for running.  It was 63 degrees and lightly clouded at the start of my 6:15 am run.  Tonight is my talk.  Hopefully I will go smoothly, and then I will likely indulge again in beers and pipes.  


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Research Conference

I am currently in Minneapolis attending a research conference.  There is a talk today on inter uterine brain development affected by prenatal exposure to environmental contaminants that I am looking forward to.  My talk on my research is tomorrow and I feel ready to make a good presentation.  I just finished my morning run, which is always fun in a new city because I get to see the layout of the city better that way.  I now am sitting at a Caribou Coffee Cafe, having my morning pipe and then I will walk back to the hotel.  It should be an interesting day.  

I am still not sure what to do to get success getting rid of my pipe.  It should not be this hard.  There must be a very strong psychological aspect for me to overcome in addition to the nicotine.  I really want to figure this out.  

It is 62 degrees here, and it is beautiful as I sit drinking my iced coffee (black and strong) with my pipe.  


Monday, July 10, 2017


The image above is the chemical structure of nicotine, which apparently is my arch nemesis.  Nicotine is the chemical component of pipe tobacco that keeps me desiring to smoke.  But, I am not sure if it is really the nicotine that is the whole reason for my difficulty in quitting. 

Once, when I tried to first quit about 3 years ago, I thought nicotine was the sole reason for me to be smoking.  I tried to test that by switching to cigarettes instead of a pipe.  I have NEVER regularly smoked cigarettes in my life, and prior to this one attempt, I had perhaps smoked 10-15 cigarettes my whole life.   My thought was that perhaps if I could simply get the same nicotine, but in a way that was foreign to me, and one that I did not typically choose or enjoy, it might be a way to begin to break the habit and to quit.

But, I did not last more than about 3 days in this attempt using cigarettes instead of a pipe, before I was smoking my pipe again, and had thrown out all the remaining cigarettes in that one pack. 

A while later, I thought, if I could break the pipe habit with something else, perhaps that would be a start on the right path.  So, I decided to smoke only cigars.  Now, I do smoke a few cigars a year (perhaps 5-6 a year).  But, just like with the cigarettes, I quickly gave up the cigars and went back to the pipe within a few days. 

One time, I started to use nicotine gum, but that too did not stick more than a few days before I was back smoking the pipe. 

My most successful attempt (which was not successful, since I am still smoking a pipe) was two years ago when I refrained from smoking my pipe during Lent.  The way Lent is structured, Sunday technically is not a required day of refraining from whatever you give up for Lent.  So, during the seven weeks of Lent, I was able to very dutifully refrain from my pipe on 6 of the 7 days.  And, I would smoke my pipe the one day each week.  I admit it was hard.  And, I also realize that I was eagerly waiting for my "day off" each week to again smoke my pipe.  And, I also admit, with much chagrin, that I began smoking my pipe back at my normal levels the day after Easter Sunday.

So, I keep wondering if there is something besides nicotine that I am so very deeply addicted to within pipe tobacco? Or, is there something else about pipe smoking that makes it so much more difficult for me to refrain from? 

I feel like a damn fool and an utter failure.  But, I am still trying to think and reason through some sort of battle plan that will work for me.