Sunday, January 27, 2008

This is where it all started...

It was cold, I remember that. I was in tech school, so it was in either 1991 or 1992, in January or February. On the other end of the strip mall from the school there was a Walgreens. We often walked down there during breaks to fortify ourselves with junk food and Mountain Dew to keep from going to sleep in classes that ran until 11:00 at night.

And yes, they had a shelf of cheap Dr. Grabow pipes.

Ever since I had been a little boy smelling the sweet scent of an old farmer's rum-flavored pipe tobacco, I had wanted to--someday--smoke a pipe. It looked good. It smelled good. There was an unassuming, quiet dignity about it. So one night I purchased the pipe shown above and a pouch of Captain Black Whiskey.

Oh, the junk I put through that poor pipe. Several varieties of Captain Black, Borkum Riff, and who knows what other brands that I've forgotten by now. This was before internet access became widespread, and I had no one to go to for information about pipes and pipe smoking. I was a rank newbie with no mentor in sight, and everything I learned, I learned through bitter trial and glorious error. It was my only pipe for several weeks, and it didn't get nearly enough rest between loads of gunky drugstore aromatics. It's a wonder I didn't throw it in the trash and never think about it again. But I persevered. The entire process of smoking this cheap pipe still greatly appealed to me, and I knew instinctively that the experience should have been even better.

A simple straight apple filter pipe, there is nothing great about it. It is a thin-walled, poor quality pipe with a heavy finish that smokes hot no matter what goes in it. As soon as I had built up a rotation of four or five pipes, it became semi-retired and seldom-smoked. Within a year or so of its purchase, I cleaned it up very well, polished it, put it on the rack, and never smoked it again.

It is a worthless pipe. I wouldn't be able to give it away on eBay. I now have probably a good 30 pipes that are better than this one. But still it stays on the rack, because it was my first, and one should never lose track of one's roots.

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