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, March 27, 2023

Bon Vieux Temps - E


With all the things that have been going on in my day-to-day life since that trip to Chicago back around December, the memories seem almost surreal now.  Yet, the memories of the trip also still remain extremely vivid in my mind.  With that, I am hoping to below, capture and conclude this memory.  I had actually been planning the end to be "Bon Vieux Temps - D" back when I was writing that portion.  However, I accidentally caused the story to "publish" with some odd keystroke combination I did not know about.... while I was in the middle of a sentence.  So, in the below, the italics at the start is where I had left off in  "Bon Vieux Temps - D" so that there is a bit of context while I continue.  Of course, if interested, you can go back and visit the entirety of the remembrance if desired.  The links to each essay is also listed below:

"Bon Vieux Temps - A"

"Bon Vieux Temps - B"

"Bon Vieux Temps - C"

"Bon Vieux Temps - D"

I walked over to the display of the estate pipes for sale.  There were many beautiful pipes there, several were of a similar brand and style to what I had at home.  Still holding the stem of the pipe between my teeth, I pushed the little blue box open, and saw the matches.  They were rather quite delicate.  Each wooden stick was significantly thinner than the typical kitchen match, and instead of a large red or green head, these matches had a rather small, bluish head on them.  

I immediately recognized that these matches were "Swan Vesta" matches, which are considered to be especially high quality matches.  They tend to be preferred by pipe smokers because they...

...  light quite easily.... and because they have an especially small head, so that when igniting they do not have much, if any, sulfur odor (think of the common kitchen match.... it has a very large head, and when it lights, it takes more effort and it also has a significant sulfur odor associated with it).  While Swan Vesta matches could have any of a variety of head colors, there was really no mistaking the smaller, yet denser appearing head of the Swan Vesta.  I was  not surprised at all that Iwan Reis would choose this brand of match to have its own logo on the striker box..... everything I saw about Iwan Reis spoke of integrity, care, and quality.   

I reached into the box and took out one of the blue-tipped matches, and then slid the striker cover emblazoned with the blue Iwan Reis logo back over the rest of the matches.  I angled the striker plate upwards in the palm of my hand, and started to bring my other hand, gently holding the match towards the striker plate.  

Yet, I paused.

"Should I really do this?" I thought to myself.

Obviously, I truly WANTED to indulge in the bowlful of "Three Star Blue" pipe tobacco.  The aroma of the leaf was beautiful, ephemeral, and wholly enticing just in the jar, and I had also been further enticed by the elevation of that aroma as I had gently pressed the beautiful samples of the crumbled leaf into the bowl of my pipe.  It was THIS vivid and delightful even WITHOUT the flame imbued into it..... just the THOUGHT of actually drawing a flame into a bowl of this leaf sent a shiver of excitement down my spine.  

But.... might the enthrallment I felt at possibly smoking this bowl of pipe tobacco truthfully be the indicator of WHY I had damn well better avoid doing so?  If just the THOUGHT of really indulging again created such a visceral pleasure in me.... I could only imagine what pull, what siren-call I might feel after indulging..... I did not know if I could stop at one bowl.... or would I plunge head-first back into my prior indulgence levels?!?  

At the point of my trip, it had been damn near FIVE years since I had last smoked a pipe.  FIVE YEARS!!!!!!   That length of time sounded BOTH... repressive, shocking, and somewhat disturbing.... but also somewhat of an accomplishment... when I was a young lad, if I would have ever had the thought about this.... no way in hell would I have EVER imagined being able to go FIVE years without a pipe.  

My back was to the fellow who provided me the bowlful of "Three Star Blue" so I could not tell if he was watching me, or if he had gone about some other tasks.  I was holding the matchbox in one hand, striker plate up...... and the match in my other hand.  "What do I do?" I thought in my mind.  In case he WAS watching, I PRETEND to glance upward a bit as if I am staring at a few of the especially pretty Petersons higher up on the wall in front of me, but really I had my eyes shut tight, as I often do when I need to think, need to reason through a difficult question, difficult problem.  I try to negate all other sensory input to just THINK it through.   

.... I think and debate in my mind....

.... I think some more.....

..... And, I think some more....

I reach a point where I feel like a damn fool.  I open my eyes.  I look downward, and I gently squint my eyes until they focus more fully on the task....... I bring the match to the striker plate....... and every so briefly scrape the blue head of the match against the striker....

The head instantly flares.....  but after a brief moment, it quickly settles down to have a gentle, yellow flame rising from the end of the matchstick. 

As the stem of my pipe was already gripped between my teeth, bringing the lit match towards the bowl was actually a reflexive action on my part, it was very nearly autonomic in me. That THIS movement happened nearly SUBCONSCIOUSLY.... without a conscious "decision" from my mind..... unnerved me a bit... well...  QUITE a bit.

I quickly shook the match.  The flame died out.  The wood of the match emitted a wisp of smoke as the flame died. I tossed the match into the ashtray on the counter in front of me. It landed next to a large, grey ash someone must have tapped off of a cigar earlier in the day.

Now I was actually feeling rather agitated at myself. 

"What the hell was I doing?" I thought.  

Part of me was angry at myself for going through the folly of this damn trip to Iwan Reis.  I did not KNOW if smoking my pipe would send me down the "road to Perdition" akin to "falling off the wagon" after all this time, where I would easily and quickly schlump back into all of my old habit, and have a return of the damn guilt, the damn WORRY, the damn anxiety.  But, another part of me was chastising myself, calling myself "a Chickensh*t!" like used to be the common epitaph thrown about in the schoolyard of my youth when you were being goaded by others to do something against the "rules". Both the thoughts of "Perdition" and of being a "Chickensh*t" reverberated though the hollow of my skull traveling simultaneously through the billions of neurons encased in there all at once.   




I grit my teeth... well.... I grit my teeth as best as I could as I was still gripping the stem of my pipe between my teeth.  I am sure I DID add a little bit more "chatter" to my stem from the tight grip of my teeth. 








I slide open the matchbox again, and extract another match.

Just like a few minutes before, I barely had began to rub the head of the match against the striker and it immediately flared.... and quickly calmed to a gentle, yellow flame.  

I then CONSCIOUSLY brought the match to the bowl of my pipe, letting the flame hover a bit above the bowl of leaf.

I paused.

I paused a bit more.

Then I..... 




.... drew on the stem.  The gentle flame inverted and was pulled into the bowl of the pipe and began its magical mixing with the leaf.  I tamped the top of the bowl gently with my fingertip and then brought the flame back above the bowl again, and drew again on the stem.... a few times.

I could taste and feel the gentle smoke enter my mouth from the stem as a "cherry-colored" ember of leaf and flame was created in the bowl.

It was....




..... utterly BEAUTIFUL!

The flavors were vivid!  Like burleys in general, there was a beautiful hint of nuttiness in the flavor,  But it was delightfully complex as well, with an aspect that had an essence that was of the flavor of some sort of fruit, perhaps citrus. It had an aspect that reminded me of nutmeg as well.  And, there was a bit of a peppery bite in the flavor as well.  

As the flavors percolated throughout my mouth with each draw on the stem, I felt more at home, more content, and more at peace than I remembered in quite a while.  Retrohaling a bit of the smoke through my nasal passages and out my nostrils revealed more flavor as well, with a greater presence of the citrus and pepper in ways so very pleasant.  I closed my eyes, this time to concentrate more on the exquisite, yet ephemeral experiences.  

I could feel my shoulders relax, hell my whole body felt calm and serene.  Of course, the gentle effects of the combusted nicotine exerted a little bit of that effect.  And, can freely say I enjoyed that.  But, by no means was most, nor even a robust fraction of the beauty of this experience due simply to a bit of nicotine in my system.  I had tried that route fore a few days when I first, foolishly thought when I laid down my pipes, that one of those damnable "e-devises" would help me wean away from my pipes. It was never beautiful, nor serene.  It was just...... nothing.  

But this, this bowlful of "Three Star Blue" WAS SOMETHING.  It was an incredible synergy of experiences of flavor, taste, olfaction, and neuronal stimulation that  roused my mind, roused my spirit, heightened my senses, heightened my awareness, gave me comfort, helped me feel WHOLE.  

Each draw on the stem was a rich cornucopia of delightful treasures.  My mouth and nasal passages were bathed in the gentle flavors and they lingered and reminded me of so many moments from my youth through a lot of decades.  An analogy that seems apt to me.  If you have ever worn a pair of tightly laced shoes across the span of a workday..... think of the feeling that you get when you untie your shoes and slide your feet out of the damn contraptions.  Think about how free your feet feel, how flexible they can be, and how much cooler and relaxed they feel.  In some ways, that is how my whole body felt during this beautiful, richly flavored, immersion into my pipe. 

At the moment, I cannot describe it any better than this.  It was.... just.... tranquility and contentedness.... but even those descriptors do not do it justice. , wit

I turn around, pipe clenched in my teeth, and head towards where I had left the salesfellow earlier.  

"How do you like it?" he asks, his eyebrows a bit arched.

"Wonderful.... in EVERY way!" I firmly state, with a wide, furry-faced grin splayed across my face.  

I thank the fellow, and pay for the 7 ounce can of "Three Star Blue" I had left at the counter.  I tell him that when I next get to be back in Chicago, I will be SURE to visit again.  

"Great to meet you."  he says.

"Same here!" I reply.  

Although I covered the bowl of my pipe with my palm as I rode down the elevator to exit the building, when I reached outside, the ember was still smoldering, and I was able to happily smoke my pipe all the while as I walked back to the conference center.  

As I approached the conference center, I could tell my pipe had been just about spent.  I looked into the bowl, and touched, and felt the powdery whitish-grey ash collapse to the bottom of the bowl.  Not even a crumb appeared to have gone unsmoked.  When I was just about to climb the stairs of the conference center, I gently knocked the beautiful ash out of the bowl of my pipe.   I put my pipe back in my backpack I was carrying.  

I made it back to the meeting only about ~15 minutes late.  The groups were still yammering about lunch and my lateness didn't matter one bit.   I sat down next to one of the folks in my group, getting ready to begin the next session of work.  

She looked at me.

She sniffed.

Then she asked a bit hesitantly, "Were you.... smoking.....?  Smoking..... pipe tobacco???"

I said, "Yes."

"My grandfather used to smoke a pipe when I was younger." she said.

"Ah." I said, "..... Mine too, and my Dad as well."

Then the conference started back up.

* * *

  • 10.1 miles this morning.
  • SIL continuing to recover well, no sign of infection
  •  BIL seemingly to remain "ok".  Will not talk about whether there is blood in his stool.  I suspect there must be, but he is just thinking about not being in the hospital.




Blogger Margaret said...

What a wonderful post! You enjoyed the moments and the unique experience. Carpe diem!

Monday, 27 March, 2023  
Blogger peppylady (Dora) said...

My dad rolled his own cigarettes', and he use drum tobacco. I don't know if it still on the market.
Coffee is on and stay safe.

Monday, 27 March, 2023  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

That was extremely well told. You should have left it and not added your other notes at the end.

The other day, I looked out my window. A man was walking by in the cold with his hands behind his back. He was puffing on a pipe, hands free. I think it has been decades since I saw someone smoking a pipe. I thought of you.

Tuesday, 28 March, 2023  
Blogger PriyankUnikart said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Wednesday, 29 March, 2023  

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