Time travel doesn’t exist… YET! But if it did, and I could give myself a little advice about all the things I’ve learned as a pipe smoker over the last 20 years, it would go a little something like this:
How’s it going? It’s me… YOU! Don’t talk. Just shut up and listen, man. We have some things to go over and our time is limited.
I know you just picked up that pipe for the first time today and you are a bit confused and a vexed by the whole experience. It’s only natural. Most people go through a minor adjustment period when they first start out, and it’s never easy.
Not to mention, a basket pipe and a rum flavored aromatic was probably not the best place to start your journey! You should have listened to the owner of Straus Tobacconist when he tried to point you in the right direction with a beautiful Missouri Meerschaum Cob and a light English blend! But you didn’t. You had to go your own way, right? You thought you knew what was best! You’ll learn to stop talking so much and start listening to others a lot more as time goes on.
First thing’s first, get you pipe out. Let’s look at it. Wow, you hardly made it halfway through the bowl before you gave up! You sure did a number on this thing! Look at that sticky goop and nasty mess in there! You should have at least dried out the aro before smoking it! Also, don’t be afraid to use a pipe cleaner WHILE you smoke. That’s what they are there for! You will have a much better quality smoke and enjoy it! And dang, you packed that thing tight! No wonder it clogged and gurgled half way down! What did you use to light this thing, a blow torch? You’re smoking a pipe, not starting a bonfire! Use a soft flame, hold it ABOVE the tobacco, not in it and let the flame kiss it lightly.
Man, you have a lot to learn, but that’s the fun part!
Ok put the pipe away, I can’t look at it anymore, brings back bad memories. Just don’t forget to clean it! You need to take good care of those things, and they will take good care of you! Get yourself a bottle of Everclear and some quality extra-absorbant cleaners and go to town on that muddy mess once a month!
I want you to go in the bathroom and look in the mirror. See that grimace on your face? That wince of pain as you try to speak? Your tongue hurts like hell doesn’t it? That’s bite! You’ll probably be dealing with that for a while until you get your wits about you, but there are things we can do to minimize it. Listen up!
First off, tobacco selection! Everyone’s mouth chemistry is different and reacts uniquely to varying blends. So try lots of stuff and stick to things that don’t bite you back. Don’t force a blend! If things don’t work out, jar it up and move on! Also, grab a notebook. You’ll thank me later. Start your tobacco diary now and get to know what you are smoking. Note what bothers you and what doesn’t, read about the components and curing processes for the tobaccos you smoke. Keep notes on the quality of smoke, drink pairings, smoke length, time of day and anything else you can think of. You’re a man of details, so you’ll dig it. Soon enough you’ll have an idea of what works for you. (And hey, maybe that diary will become something that other people read in the future?)
Another thing, you need to SLOW DOWN! Smoking a pipe is NOT a race. You aren’t trying to make smoke; you’re trying to enjoy tobacco. In fact, if you are doing it right, you won’t see much smoke at all, and the pipe will likely go out. That’s ok. Just relight it. It’s not a competition to see if you can get through the whole bowl without reigniting it. Just take it easy. This isn’t a vape competition! Oh you don’t know what Vaping is? Don’t worry about it. The point is, you need to sip it like fine alcohol and enjoy it. Pace yourself. Breath. Think about what you are doing. It’s going to require constant correction at first, but after a while, you’ll do it by muscle memory alone. Like any rewarding hobby, there is a learning curve!
You just have to keep adjusting your style and cadence. Make small adjustments and be aware of what you are doing. This doesn’t come easy, you have to put in a little work and practice some discipline, but it will be beneficial for you. It sharpens your mind and teaches you patience, which you are going to need in other facets of your life later on, trust me.
With practice and discipline, you will gain confidence in what you’re doing, and that will lead to enjoyment. Confidence is critical, in all aspects of life. Many people know this, but they don’t realize how to get there. Practice. Discipline. Repetition. Mindfulness. I know I am hitting you with a lot of info right now, but you’ll thank me for it later.
I’m going to honest with you right now: it doesn’t come easy, and it doesn’t happen quick. There’s no shortcut on the road to self-discovery. You have to walk it yourself and find your rhythm. 95% of your smokes are going to be sub-par starting out. But that one good smoke a week will feed the fire and keep you going!
You’ll make mistakes. You’ll remember one thing and forget another. You’ll have to course correct many times, and you’ll wonder why you are going through all this in the first place. The answer is me, twenty years later, sitting here enjoying a bowl of tasty tobacco and a happy life. The tables have switched, and now 95% of my smokes are astounding! Life is good, and I have that confidence we spoke of because I earned it. And I continue to hone myself every day.
So clean your pipe, get out your Tobacco Diary, and get to work. I’ll see you all too soon.
All photos are the property of Justin Day at Photography By Day Studio. You can find more of my work here.