The Conspicuous Nature of Being a Pipe Smoker
A few days ago, my wife and I were sitting outside of a restaurant in downtown Wilmington, NC just having finished our dinner. As we enjoyed that sense of ease and contentment that follows a properly lovely meal (which it most certainly had been), we each turned to our own favorite gustatory epilogues, she slowly sipping a glass of wine as I puffed drowsily on a pipe. (Both quite old-fashioned, I suppose, but therefore all the more perfect in a city with a historic district like Wilmington’s.) A few minutes later, a friend of ours, a local contractor who had been doing work in our neighborhood, came up to say hello. First thing out of his mouth: "I saw the pipe from across the street and figured it had to be you guys." Frankly, my reaction to this is a bit mixed. Are pipes really so rare that, even in a metro area of 300,000, there are so few pipe smokers who might enjoy a pipe on a Friday evening downtown that I'm instantly recognizable for doing so? That's kind of sad, really. On the other hand, a few more years of this and maybe I'll become a Wilmington institution of sorts-- that one fellow that smokes a pipe almost everywhere he goes.
Still, I think it must have been really nice to have been a pipe smoker in 1960, even if it would have negated my anachronistic path towards becoming a noted local eccentric. Other pipe smokers abounded. Men walked down the street with their pipes completely inconspicuously. Yet on the other hand, as pipe smokers today, we have the finest selection of the best made pipes and the widest selection of pipe tobaccos of any era ever. It's surprising that while pipe smoking has fallen by 90% compared to generations past, we've simultaneously enjoyed this remarkable profusion of pipe makers and tobacco blenders. Frankly, I don't think I'd give up the remarkable choices that we have as pipe smokers today just to live in a world where it was popular to smoke pipes. Of course, the best option would be for both more widespread enjoyment and appreciation for pipe smoking, and the sort of breadth of selection and quality we have today.
While a certain amount of individual notoriety is never a bad thing, this is obviously a city (or perhaps a world) in need of more pipe smokers. I dream of a day when I walk down Front Street in Wilmington to see three or four people leisurely enjoying a pipe on each block. And while I would no longer claim the apparently singular status that my pipe seems to buy me (for good or ill) at the present, I would surely feel in good company as I strolled through town.
And to that end, you'll find a bevy of briars for your perusal this lovely Monday afternoon. My friend Gregor Lobnik from Slovenia is back with a great little batch of his impressive pipes. He's joined by Radice, Castello, Savinelli Peterson, a great batch of estates, and so much more!
Sykes Wilford: Founder/President