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.

Monday, July 31, 2017

New Shoes

I tend to be very frugal in most matters in my life.  In terms of my running, I splurged last year when I started and bought what was an outrageously expensive running shoe.... they cost $85 dollars!  I was embarrassed in some ways because they were so damn expensive.  So, I made sure I got my use out of them.  Most things I have read suggest runners get new shoes every 500 or so miles.  I could not fathom spending that kind of money that often.  So, I used those shoes through a bit more than 1500 miles.  They really were shot to hell.  The heels were ground down, the insides torn apart and basically gutted like a fish.  I really did need a new pair.  So, I grudgenly bought another pair.  This pair again was outrageous.... $83 dollars.  I hope they serve my feet well.  Today was their virginal run, and I have to admit my feet felt good in them.  

I am still working on my action plan for the damn pipe too.  During the weekend I became more cognizant of the fact that damn near EVERY male individual I looked upto in life smoked a pipe.  Of course my father...  but also three uncles, my science and education and literature heros (Lorenz, Dobzhansky, Darwin, Bell, Hemmingway, Faulkner and others).  And, BOTH of my research mentors (for my Masters and for my Ph.D.) were both pipe smokers.  

Not much more to say at the moment, but I am going to head to the U and get a coffee and get to work.


Friday, July 28, 2017

So.... Now?

Now that you have been able to see the first time I have tried smoking a pipe, there are several different things I was also hoping to state as well:

1.  If you think it would be helpful, I could also try to post some of the writings I had about when my father eventually figured out I was smoking a pipe. 

2.  Please remember that the tone of the writing of what I had posted the last several days is a tone that reflects my thoughts and memories of the experience from when I wrote them down several years ago.  Many of the essays felt more "jovial" about the story than I actually feel today.  Yes, the memories are accurate.  But, as I am now wanting to figure out how to successfully stop smoking a pipe, there is a melancholy aspect to my feelings about these memories. 

3.  From the reposting of these memories, I do believe a) that there is (of course) a component of my fondness for nicotine in keeping me from quitting, but that b) other factors also make this effort not as straight forward as just quitting and dealing with the lack of nicotine.  There are significant aspects of my history that makes me specifically smoke a PIPE and pipe tobacco, as opposed to other forms of nicotine consumption.  These seem to be a) memories and associations regarding my father, and b) memories and associations of who I saw myself as in terms of becoming a "professor" back when I was a teen. 

So, I am working on trying to figure out my next step. 


Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Memory Revisited (Part 6)

[Please note, if you have not done so, and wish to read earlier parts of this essay, please scroll down to the first entry where the essay begins. Subsequent parts occur in reverse order.]

It was disheartening to me to find the pipe so very dull. To me, at that age, I called things "dull" when they were boring, unexciting, and very different from what I had hoped. And this certainly qualified. There had been no amazement, no feelings of relaxation, no vibrant flavors, no anything of merit to the activity. I could not understand why it was so clear that my father relished this activity and yet for me it was nothing but DULL.

Yet, the day was still young, and I wanted to explore the fields for new creatures. I left the platform of the treehouse and went toward the creek. Very quickly I spotted a very large walking stick (insect) and a praying mantis. I was already fairly eagle-eyed about seeing these creatures in the woods and saw them more readily than others in my family. Since they were not new creatures to me, I did not bother to collect them, but instead went to the edge of the creek to look for any salamanders and amphibians that I could find. Although I worked for probably two hours or so, I only found two yellow spotted salamanders and a bunch of bullfrogs... nothing new, as these were the most common varieties in our area. Likewise I did not find any amphibian eggs (they are a helluva lot of fun to watch develop, and even to this day I enjoy watching the process and have included it as part of the work my students study in lab).

Without much success in finding anything new to examine, and having left my insect net back at the tree house (platform). And also being that I was hot and muddy from all my efforts, I decided to head back to the tree house and eat and read for a while before returning with my insect net later in the afternoon.

By the time I walked back to the tree house, I was powerfully thirsty... but then I remembered that I had left the soda-pop in the creek to cool off. I raced back to the water, scooped out the bottles and raced back to the tree house. This added activity only exacerbated my thirst, and when I finally got back up on the platform of the tree house I immediately opened one bottle and gulped it down in less than 30 seconds. I didn't even bother to open my sandwich, and opened another bottle of soda-pop and drank half of it at an equally fast rate.

I had just unwrapped my sandwich when (as my mother had warned me about), I started to have strong hiccups from having consumed the drink too rapidly. Even to this day, if I "guzzle" any carbonated beverage (soda-pop, beer, etc) too quickly, it will cause me to have hiccups. These hiccups are very strong and usually last 20-30 minutes. It was very hard to eat when having a strong hiccup every 15 seconds or so, I knew I needed to postpone my sandwich and decided to pick up my book to read (hiccup). The book layed next to (hiccup) my father's pipe that I had "borrowed" and again I remembered how dull the experience was and felt somewhat sad. Why was it that my father found pipe smoking so enjoyable (hiccup) and yet I could not find anything exciting about the activity? I decided to try it one more time, to see if I could figure it out.

Striking the match (hiccup) was a little bit easier this time around. Fairly quickly I was able to draw little puffs of smoke from the stem. Again, nothing very interesting about the activity. "Perhaps," I wondered in my mind, "I needed to take lots and lots of puffs quickly to make it more fun?" I decided to try this, even though in the back of my mind I did not anticipate much as this was not a behavior I had seen my father engage in while he smoked his pipe.... his manner and behavior was always very methodical and patterned when he smoked his pipe. But, by this time, I figured I might as well try.

Puffing more rapidly on the stem (hiccup) did little to improve the experience. I did notice, however, that I was able to pull thicker, denser clouds of the smoke from the stem. The rapid puffs had apparently pulled the ember deeper into the leaf, igniting more of the bowlful of tobacco. I had just drawn another large puff of the smoke into my mouth when I hiccuped again... (hiccup)... the hiccup caused me to involuntarily breath the puff of smoke into my lungs, which felt an odd thing to do, but not unpleasant. Suddenly, I started to feel quite different. There was a tingly sensation that began to spread throughout my body. My mind also felt this tingle, but also I started to feel a bit dizzy... not unpleasantly so... in fact it was rather pleasant. It took me a few moments to realize what I had done... I had inhaled the smoke into my lungs. All of the time I had spent observing my father, and yet I had not quite realized the mechanics of what he was actually doing when he smoked his pipe. It was more than just puffing the smoke out of your mouth, you also would inhale the smoke.

Now, I deliberately tried to inhale another puff of the smoke, and more of those feeling washed over my body. The additive effect was a bit strong for me, and I layed back on the platform of the tree-house and stared up into the leaves and sky. The dizziness was a bit stronger, and yet it was very pleasant as long as I layed down. I set the pipe aside and simply continued to experience those feelings throughout my body as I layed there. It was truly beautiful. As I looked up through the leaves of the trees towards the sky, the colors seemed more vibrant and vivid than they had only a few moments before. I felt much more aware of and more a part of my surroundings. My body felt both stimulated and relaxed simultaneously. This was what my father felt! I knew this was the magic, and I could imagine that my face must have held a similar relaxed expression on it as I had seen in his eyes and face so many times. The total even was blissful, and peaceful, and exciting all at the same time.

I layed there for a while and I eventually dozed off for almost an hour. When I awoke, the feelings were (sadly) gone, yet their beautiful memory remained. I looked around for a while, ate my sandwich, and drank the last of my soda-pop. Then I struck another match and tried the pipe again. This time, I inhaled one of the puffs shortly after I had the pipe lit. Once again, the beauty of the leaf did not disappoint me... I felt that utter magic, that blissful relaxation that I had wondered about for all those many weeks after becoming aware of the expressions on my father's face as he indulged in his briar pipes. The day, the experience, the whole series of moments are seared indelibly into my neurons, and it was a beautiful, wonderful, life changing experience. From that moment on, I knew in my heart, my mind and my soul, that I was a pipe smoker, and from that moment on, I was.

The date of the above grand day was the 17th of July. It is a vividly magical experience for me even after all these many, many years. All those decades ago, when I was but a kid, and yet, at the same time, I was finding one aspect of my destiny. I cherish the memories.

*     *     *     *     *

So, now you see a historical side of me from when I was very young.  I believe this is a *part* of the reason I fail at getting rid of the pipe smoking that I do to this day.  Re-reading these writings and your comments have given me a lot to think about, and perhaps I can enact a better plan for the future. 


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Memory Revisited (Part 5)

Please note, if you have not done so, and wish to read earlier parts of this essay, please scroll down to where the essay begins. Subsequent parts occur in reverse order.]

*     *     *     *     * 

The sadness that enveloped me and the frustration that gripped at my soul was enormous and I cried for a long, long time. However, after a while, the frustration dissipated and I needed to figure out what my next plan would be.

I had several options but was unsure which to select. One, I could simply forget the whole thing, knock the untouched pipe tobacco out of the bowl of the pipe and carefully sneak the pipe back into my father's den. Two, I could go sneak out a few more matches from the kitchen. Or, three, I could hide the pipe and tobacco and try again when the opportunity presented itself. Option one was quite distasteful to me and I quickly ignored that option. Likewise, however, option two... trying to immediately get matches from the kitchen, was also unlikely. I knew my mother would be spending a great deal of time in the kitchen for the remainder of the day. Because of this, I knew it would be nearly impossible to obtain matches to try the pipe. With the previous two options unworkable, option three seemed the best bet.

Luckily, as I had been building the platform that was to become the tree house, I had found a small cubby hole in one of the nearby trees that I had been using for storage of various asundery items. I had paper bags, nails, a book and a few magazines as well as other things in the cubby hole. I pulled out one of the brown paper bags... lunch bag sized and carefully placed the filled pipe into the bag. Additionally, I took the remainder of the tobacco leaf I had obtained onto a small piece of paper and folded the edges to keep the extra leaf contained. I also put this into the bag, and then proceeded to crumple the top of the bag closed. I placed the bag back into the far reaches of the cubby hole and then left and went back home.

* * * * *

The pipe sitting out in that cubby hole was just about the only thing I could think about that afternoon and evening. I was concerned that my father might notice it was missing. I was worried someone would find the pipe and steal it. I was fearful an animal might find it and chew it to bits. And finally, I was utterly anxious to be able to go back out there and try it out.

As I sat around, waiting for my chance to grab a few matches, I continued to watch my father engage in his own beautiful dance/battle with the pipe. Shortly after dinner, my father, still dressed in his work clothes from the day's teaching, would go out into the backyard and loosen and remove his tie, unbutton his collar, roll up his shirt sleeves and take off both his shoes and his socks. A rope hammock, strung between two large oak trees, was my father's destination. This was my father's favorite spot to read the paper on dry Summer evenings. He climbed in to the hammock and said back comfortably, the newspaper that was tucked under his arm, now resting on the white linen of the shirt, near his stomach. I and most of my siblings (those that were old enough to walk, anyhow), were playing in a rather raucous game of tag, and my mother was still in the house, mostly likely nursing one of my younger siblings.

My father gently unfolded the newspaper, and with his knees bent, propped the paper against him as he lay in the hammock. With unconscious precision, he reached into his shirt pocket and removed his pipe and lighter. Reaching toward his back pocket with his other hand, he removed his leather tobacco pouch and opened it with one hand and proceeded to guide the crumbles of leaf into the bowl of the pipe he held in his other hand. Again, without glancing up from his newspaper, my father filled and tamped the pipe, and brought it up to his mouth, his bushy moustache and beard enveloping the stem as he gripped it between his teeth. Using his lighter, he melded the flame into the leaf in the bowl and took large, rapid puffs from the pipe to get it going well. Finally, with the pipe well lit, he took a large draw from the stem and inhaled it deeply into his lungs. Slowly he exhaled the rich smoke, and I watched it curl slowly from his nostrils. Again, the sense of relaxation and contentment was on my father's face.

A few moments later, my mother, as was her custom, came out of the house carrying a glass filled with a beverage for my father. The drink was beautifully cold, and today it happened to be lemonade. Other times, my mother would bring my father iced tea, or sometimes a tall glass of beer. As she brought the drink to him, he grinned a broad grin, and removed the pipe from his mouth, took the proffered glass from my mother and took a drink of the lemonade, feeling refreshed. He then reached over to my mother and brought her face close to his and gave her a deep, prolonged, furry-faced kiss of thanks. My mother always appreciated my father and he appreciated her. Their love and kindness to each other and to us children, was a wonderful model for us to wittiness as we grew up. I think it helped each of us make wise decisions in the course and development of our own marriages and ensuing families.

Returning the pipe to his mouth and the half empty glass to his side, my father again began to read the newspaper as my mother went back into the house. After only a few moments, my mother came out with a tray with a pitcher of lemonade and glasses for us children and we also had the wonderful, refreshing drink. My mother went and sat in a chair that was near the garden, very near the hammock by my father.

I realized this was likely my best chance, so I put down the lemonade, and informed my parents I needed to go to the bathroom, and proceeded inside and immediately pocketed at least a half of a dozen matches. I then went into the bathroom and quickly flushed the toilet before heading back outside.

The rest of the evening was spent having fun with my family, but in the back of my mind, I was eagerly awaiting tomorrow, so that I could once again go out into the woods to try out the pipe.

I awoke at my usual time the next day, roughly 6am. I could already hear the hustling and bustling in the kitchen. Because it had been warm the previous evening, I had left my bedroom door open just a crack so there could be an exchange of air. I could see my parents through the slight opening of my door. My father had just sat down at the table, his fresh, clean work clothes... especially the vividly white, starched shirt and his richly-colored, dark brown patterned necktie, made him appear even more awe inspiring and worthy of my respect. My mother displayed her typical serene beauty in her simple white smock and beige, ladies pants. My mother had made the two of them breakfast. It was their typical toast and very strong coffee for. Additionally, my mother had opened one of her home grown and canned jars of peaches and placed a peach half in a small bowl for each of them.

My parents both enjoyed and relished each other's company, and they quietly chatted about their goals for the day as the consumed breakfast.

As for me, as it was still early, I decided to plan out my day. First and foremost, I would need to pack some essential items for the day. I brought along a book I had been reading and several jars in case I found some interesting specimens in the woods. I also dug out my insect net from the closet and placed next to my russack. I made a mental note, to ask my mother to make me a sandwich and also to ask for two or three orange and grape sodas to tak along with me for the adventure. Of course, I also had my small handful of matches with me, wrapped in paper and placed deep in my pack.

My father finished his breakfast and proceeded to gather the accoutrements he needed for the workday. As he started to check to see if he had everything, my mother stood up... and with her hand reached up to my father's face. She gently brushed off a few toast crumbs that were clinging to my father's moustache and beard. My father grinned, and thanked her by kissing her hand. He then proceeded to gather his briefcase of papers and books, his pipe, pouch, and matches and lighter, and finally the lunch my mother had packed. After another brief kiss (this time on the lips), and wishes to have a great day, my father was off to work. My mother started humming quietly to herself as she tidied up the kitchen. I finished straightening my room and then went out into the kitchen.

My mother had warming on the stove the oatmeal we older kids were going to eat for breakfast that day. As my parents were not particularly strict about timetables for us children during the summer, I was the only one awake, and hence I was the first one up and out. My other siblings were still sleeping. My mother and I chatted a bit while she prepared a bowl of oatmeal for me, putting raisins and slices of the canned peaches on top along with a large spoonful of brown sugar. Then she poured a little bit of milk onto the oatmeal and also poured me a glass of milk as well. She sat these before me with a spoon.

I heartily began to eat the oatmeal, it being one of my favorite foods. My mother came and sat beside me and we talked. I told her I had planned to spend time out in the woods today searching for things and asked if she would make me a sandwich that I could take with me. My mother, who also tended to naturally awaken very early had already made sandwiches for me and for my siblings that day and simply gathered one and wrapped it individually in waxed paper for me. I also asked if I could take one orange and one grape sodapop with me, and she smiled and said yes. She reminded me that I should drink the sodapop slowly as it often gave me hiccups if I drank it too rapidly. I promised her I would. With that I finished my breakfast and finished getting ready for the day of exploration. I waved to her as I left and she smiled and waved back at me.

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. It was an unusually cool and dry morning for the start of July and I relished it greatly. Once out into the woods, I first ran to the edge of the stream and put my two glass bottles of sodapop into the water to get them cool, and the I immediately raced back to the platform of my developing fort. I climbed the latter and immediately sat down. I could hear many different, quite sounds from birds and insects as they too were starting their day. Forgetting for a second, I then raced down from the platform and went to the nook of the tree and reached inside and pulled out the bag with the pipe inside. Heading back up the ladder I sat down and opened my russack and pulled out the matches. I was terribly excited and nervous and anticipatory all at the same time. I gripped the stem of the pipe between my teeth and proceeded to strike the match against the rough surface of the rock. Again, just like in my initial attempt, the first match I tried broke off at the tip.

Fortunately, this time I had several matches. However, I could tell this lighting of a match was a more difficult task than I had first anticipated. I took the pipe out of my mouth and laid it on the plank floor, and proceeded to examine the match more closely. I kept trying to figure out what it was I did incorrectly. Thinking back to how my father lit matches, I kept looking back in my my memory at what he would do. I slowly recalled through deep thought about how my father held the match differently than I had been doing. He would hold the match between his thumb and index finger... near the head of the match, and then use the rest of his fingers to steady the back of the match. He then swiftly rubbed the head against a brick or a rock.

All right. "I can do this." I thought to myself, I slowly positioned the match between my index finger and my thumb. It felt very awkward. Then because my hand was so much smaller, I basically rested the stick end of the match in my palm. To me this seemed so strange and it did not feel natural. Previously I had simply grabbed the wooden end of the match with my fingers and rubbed it around on the rock. With the match in this new position, I tried again, but lost grip on it and it fell to the ground below. By this time I was very frustrated. I was bound and determined to do this correctly. Using a third match, I held it in position and rubbed it swiftly against the rock. Suddenly, the match flared into life! But at the same time, my fingers were VERY CLOSE to that flare! The heat seemed intense, and I involuntarily shook my hand and the match dropped again through a crack between the planks and fell to the ground below. I could not tell if the match was still lit or not, and I feared that it could cause the forrest to catch fire, so I quickly ran down the platform and looked at the spot until I found the match. Even though it WAS out and not lit, to be safe, I rubbed the ground and the match with the heel of my shoe to ensure it was safe.

Back on the platform, I positioned another match in my hand, this time not holding so close to the head of the match, and tried again. This time, while the flare startled me, my fingers were not too close and I did not drop it. I quickly repositioned my hand so that I held the wooden end of the match and reached for the pipe. Quickly, I put the stem of the pipe in my mouth and brought the flame of the match to the bowl. Pretending it was a drinking straw, I sucked on the stem and the flame was pulled into the bowl. It looked just like how my dad did it! I sucked in on the stem of the pipe a few more times and soon there was a little wispy smoke that was drawn into my mouth. It was not very flavorful, and did not taste as good as it had simply smelled when my father was smoking his pipes. Do not get me wrong.... it was not horrible, but it was not nearly as exciting as I had anticipated. I puffed on the pipe a few more times, but all I could think of was that this was.... DULL. Not only did the pipe not taste as amazing as I thought it would, but also, I did not feel any sense of relaxation from the pipe like my father did. What was going on?

I was discouraged and sad at my findings. The pipe, which seemed so utterly magical and beautiful for my father, seemed to be dull and even boring for me. I was completely disappointed.

I sat there for about 15 minutes wondering about why I did not find the pipe as exciting as my father did, and feeling quite "gyped". I sat the pipe aside, and decided to go hunting for insects and amphibians for a while. I did not know what I was going to do about the pipe, but I did not feel like thinking about it anymore, it was so... DULL.

*     *     *     *     *

Enough of this reminiscing for today.  Tomorrow I will post the conclusion of this series of writings.  Please remember that these are what I had written several years ago and reflect both the memory and the time (several years ago) in which I wrote them.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Memory Revisited (Part 4)

[Please note, if you have not done so, and wish to read earlier parts of this essay, please scroll down to the first "A Memory Revisited!" essay. Subsequent parts occur in reverse order.  Please remember that I wrote this several years ago, so it is in a voice of my own past about a far long ago memory of childhood.]

*     *     *     *     *

Fortunately for me, my father had numerous pipes in his collection. In his den, in fact, he had one pipe rack on his desk that was filled with his most frequently used briar pipes, and he had another drawer in a cabinet that had many other, more worn, less frequently used pipes. I figured this would be a good place for me to look and perhaps "borrow" one for a while. Additionally, while my father carried a tobacco pouch with him at all times, he also had several cans (canisters) of his favorite pipe tobaccos on one shelf of his several bookshelves also in his den. It would be fairly simple to open one of the canisters and to remove a small pinch of the golden brown crumbles of leaf.

On a day much like today, cloudy and threatening rain, I did just that. My father was beginning to teach summer school for those students who did not pass one or more of their courses during the regular school year, and so he was away most days. I was just at the start of my summer vacation after third grade (I started school young), and my mother was quite busy with household work (laundry, keeping up the house, etc) and taking care of my younger siblings, so I had a great deal of flexibility and free-time to explore and have fun.

As I stated earlier, the woods way in the back of our property were a true joy for me and I often spent hours and hours out there searching for various forms of wildlife. But today I had a different mission in mind for out in the woods.

While my mother was in the nursery, I quietly snuck in to my father's den, and opened the drawer and withdrew one of the pipes. It was a bit dusty, the walnut finish was quite dull and rubbed off in spots where my father had held it numerous times, and the edges of the opening of the bowl were battered and rounded from hundreds of times my father knocked out the ashes either into the large glass ashtray on his desk, some other ashtray elsewhere, or if outside, on the heel of his shoe or onto the palm of his hand when he finished. The bowl must have become somewhat brittle and weakened from use as well, for on one side of the bowl a small section of the rounded opening was missing, looking as if it had broken away giving the bowl a crooked, askewed countenance. However, to me, the pipe seemed majestic and beautiful and utterly amazing.

I slid this beautiful beast of a pipe into the pocket of my dungarees (jeans for you younger folks) and then quickly went to the bookshelf lined with various pipe tobaccos. Having always been partial to the colors of orange and red, I quickly gravitated to the canister of Sir Walter Raleigh pipe tobacco... in an orange & black canister, and grabbed a small pinch of the leaf and gripped it tightly in my small fist.

As I quietly ventured out of his den, I hollered loudly so my mother would hear "Im going to go to the woods to play!" and I heard a muffled, but positive reply from my mother in the nursery as I went into the kitchen. I reached up on the wall by the stove and withdrew one of the wooden kitchen matches and slid it also into my pocket. I then bounded through the door out into the backyard.

It took me only a few minutes to reach the woods at the far back of the yard. I then took one of the several paths I had made over the years, this one ended deep into the woods at a small tree platform I had been working on most of the Spring. It would over subsequent years become a fairly grand sized and entertaining tree house that I and several buddies of mine built together. But this early summer day it was simply a comfortable platform about 15 feet off the ground. I climbed the wooden boards I nailed to the trunk of the tree and was soon comfortably seated on my platform.

As I looked at the pipe, I grew more excited and nervous with each passing moment. In my eyes, that decrepit, battered beast of a pipe was majestic, beautiful, and utterly impressive. I uncupped my left fist and held the small pinch of tobacco in my palm. With a nervous and shaking hand, I took some of the leaf out with my fingers from my right hand and dropped it into the bowl of the pipe. I was sitting in such a way that I could hold the bowl of the pipe between my feet, my tennis shoes gently holding the bowl in position. I kept adding leaf to the bowl until it seemed full enough. Luckily for me, the pinch of tobacco leaf I had grabbed was rather small, so I was able to put all of the leaf into the bowl.

It was so beautiful looking, I was truly in awe of the pipe and leaf. Slowly and carefully I brought the stem of the pipe to my mouth and gripped the stem with my teeth. It felt rather hard and cumbersome, not with the comfortable, contented look I saw on my father's face as he gripped the pipestem between his teeth. But still, it the feeling, though strange was wonderful to me. The stem itself, slightly beige at the tip from use, had a slightly acrid flavor that I did not recognize at the time but still I enjoyed its texture.

I likely sat there for the better part of a half hour looking at and touching, smelling, and experiencing the look and feel of the pipe. Finally after a bit of my nervousness subsided, I withdrew the wooden kitchen match from my pocket. Having watched my father use a similar kitchen match out-of-doors frequently, I knew I needed to strike the match against the side of a rock. Luckily I had been carrying many different rocks up to the platform of the last few weeks so that was not a problem.

The weather had started to grow a bit cooler and I could feel a gentle mist starting. I thought to myself that I had better hurry, for it was going to rain heavily, very soon. Growing nervous again, I held the match up against the rock and slid it against the rough surface as I had seen my father do countless times. As I slid the match, I expected it to fire to life quickly, but nothing happened. Perhaps I needed to do it more strongly? So using more force, I slid the match against the rock again. This time the head of the match snapped off the matchstick and fell between the planks of the platform to the ground below.

I cried.

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


Monday, July 24, 2017

A Memory Revisited (Part 3)

[Please note, if you have not done so, and wish to start reading at part one of this essay, please scroll down to the first "A Memory Revisited (Part 1)" essay.  I am seeing while re-reading these words myself that I appear to have a three-pronged reason for the pipe having such a strong grip on me.  One is the nicotine, another is association with my father, and the third is how the particular pipe habit is ingrained in my own understanding of myself.  No wonder it is difficult to refrain.]

*     *     *     *     *

The observation I made of my father when he smoked his pipe made me quite curious. Up and until that point, my father's pipe smoking had always simply been a part of who he was... I never thought much about it, other than finding the aromas reassuring that all was well with the world. I had never given any thought as to why my father indulged in the pipe hobby... again it just seemed a part of him. But to notice the visible sense of relaxation/contentment in my father's face.... the gentle drooping of his moustache, the relaxation in his mouth and chin that quieted the bristling nature of his beard. Additionally, I could see in his eyes and eyelids, even behind his owlish glasses, a perceptible change, a greater sense of serenity, his brows became unfurrowed, his forehead relaxed.

Never having noticed this, obviously never having paid attention in my previous eight years, I found it very curious and interesting. I continued to watch him every time he pulled out one of his massive pipes and began the ritual of filling the bowl with crumbles and igniting flame and leaf. Each time, the same indicators of calmness and relaxation washed over him and I found it amazing.

After a few weeks of observation, curiosity got the better of me and I began to contemplate trying out one of his pipes myself to see more precisely what was occurring with my father during indulgence in the beautiful briar.

The challenge was.... how?!?

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


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. 


Thursday, July 06, 2017


Ok.  I have felt ashamed to blog since my last post.  I let go of my goal to stick to one ounce of pipe tobacco a week, and in that way, I guess I have let the plant win.  I am still trying to figure out how to wage a successful battle so that I can get some sort of victory over this issue.  But, it is damn, damn hard.

But, to try to get back to blogging (which I have greatly missed), I thought I would write about my current state of exercise.  Today marks the 3,211th day in a row that I have walked each and every day for at least 5 miles.  In the last year, I have converted to running as well.  My current stats for running during this last year are that I have completed running 1,500 miles (2,415 kilometers).  And in timing myself today, I ran 5 miles (8 km) in roughly 49 minutes.  This means I am running at a pace of ~6mph (~10 km/hr).  I realize that REAL runners will go a helluva lot faster than this, but for me, I am feeling it is pretty damn good.  Please remember that I was (roughly 10 years ago) weighing a little less than 300 pounds (136 kilograms, 21.5 stone).  Yesterday, I weighed in at 169 pounds (76.5 kilograms, 12 stone).  My resting heart rate was at 54 bpm this morning, and after I finished my run, I was at a nicely aerobic 150 bpm.  My Body Mass Index (BMI) is now 21.7 (normal). 

So, even though I have a lot of failure concerning pipe tobacco, I am going to think more of my hard work on exercise today.  I know I still have a helluva lot of work to do.