PAY THE PIPER
Photo by Pamela Evelyn.
Every year for my birthday I buy myself a tobacco pipe. Their was a time, while Swollen was in it’s first years, that I had to balance the weight of two jobs in order to keep the rap dream alive. One was in a high end restaurant, the other was in a cigar shop called, La Casa del Habano. It was during what was known as the ‘cigar boom’ and, people were spending money on boxes of stogies like it was growing on trees.
The staff were mandated to smoke a cigar a day in order to keep the aroma of the store enticing to customers and also so we could brush up on our brand knowledge. Robustos, Corona Gordas, Pyramides, you name it, we carried it and, at one time or another, I smoked it. One day we had a customer come in and asked if he purchased a cigar, could he light up in the back room? Our policy back then was pretty open to staff discretion so I said of course and we stepped into the walk in humidor to select a fine Cuban cigar.
To this day I can’t remember what the gentleman bought, but I do remember the billows of inviting smoke that emitted from the back room as he packed, tamped and, stoked a beautiful handmade Peterson pipe layered with an aromatic tobacco. It was a game changer for me. Later that week was my birthday and I knew what I was going to buy for myself. Tucked underneath the safety of an umbrella, I wove my way to the Gastown area of Vancouver and, walked into R.J. Clarke with a look of wonderment on my face. They were, admittedly, our competition but they carried an entire stockade of pipes, tobaccos and, accoutrements in which we lacked. Jar after jar of Virginia and Turkish flake danced in my nostrils, inviting me to join their soiree, the price of admission was left up to me. I decided to enter into the gala ball with a modest piece, a Brigham pipe which was affordable in price yet had a great aesthetic quality. After a quick lesson on how to pack the tobacco, especially important when seasoning a pipe for the first time, and a tutorial on tamping ( the art of pressing down the tobacco to maintain a proper burning temperature ), I was back into the rainy landscape, a puff of dark grey smoke from beneath my umbrella must have made me look like a human steam engine chugging through the streets.
Since then I have become a member of The Peterson Pipe Club and have invested in a Julius Vesv, one of the most celebrated pipe makers in the industry whose high end pieces are constructed of actual dead briar wood, a rarity no matter what a salesperson tries to tell you, the last stockade was purportedly purchased by Julius’ father years ago. Nowadays the briar trees are grown and become victims to death by buckshot, which kills the tree but the true strength of the briar comes only after it has died of natural causes and this takes many many years hence it’s rarity in today’s marketplace. If you are looking for a device in which to smoke with style, I humbly suggest a tobacco pipe, the range of aromas produced by ignition of the tobacco is vast and, the instruments themselves range from ordinary to ornate. Plus, if you can pull it off properly, you may find yourself pondering the great mysteries of life in style, not unlike that famous character from 221B Baker St and, that is indeed elementary.
“A pipe in the mouth makes it clear that there has been no mistake–you are undoubtedly a man.”
-A. A. Milne
FOR ADDITIONAL WAYS TO SMOKE UP CHECK THESE OUT: