As a child of the turbulent ’60s, I was too young to go to Woodstock, but not old enough to stand up to my father’s recurring insistence that I get a haircut. So I had to bide my time and learn to let my freak flag fly in more subtle ways. I learned patience by waiting for buses. I also learned to love the excessive heat or bitter cold by enjoying the relief of finally boarding an air conditioned bus or returning home to my parent’s warm house after a long walk along the frozen sidewalks of Trenton New Jersey. After the thrill of finally being old enough to drive wore off, I looked for other ways to amplify my youthful eccentricities. My asthmatic history ruled out cigarettes, which I never found tempting anyway, but I did develop the notion of smoking a pipe. It was an instant hit and a perfect fit. There was one tobacconist within a two mile walk, and more to find as I cruised around in my Rambler. A few corncobs, several briars, and a still prized Calabash Gourd later, I was indeed a Pipe Smoker.
It’s ironic to think back to the commonplace smoking environments that disappeared over the years and left us now to look over our shoulders, in almost any atmosphere, to make sure no one is “offended” by the practice. I get a nostalgic kick out of watching the Madmen television series where smoking and drinking is done so openly in the office, restaurants, subways, you name it. It never seemed an option to smoke my pipe in my parent’s house, and I never seemed to want to smoke in my car either. Seems I always liked the idea of puffing al fresco, be it benched in the park, underneath a shady tree, or strolling along the boulevards. So while acceptable indoor venues have systematically disappeared over the years, I miss them far less than the average Brother of the Briar.
And thus to this day, I keep to my fierce weather walks and my periods of “chillaxation”. Those who notice call me crazy for going out in the freezing cold “just to smoke my pipe”. Why they don’t harass the cigarette crowd for their quick huddles of inhalation I’m not sure. But whatever the reason, I for one will not allow the winter’s frost to stay me from my appointed rounds. Perhaps you too count yourself as one of the Chosen who also appreciate the special lure and satisfaction of shielding your favorite bowl from the howling winds, and warming your hands, heart, and soul as you contemplate and navigate the snowy streets and roads. For me, it’s a special glow of thankfulness to know that I can return to the warmth of hearth and home whenever I need to, and always look forward to repeating the process. Cold days, warm pipes, fond memories.