Saturday, July 31

Chapter 3:

"Pipe Dreams"

I never liked cigarettes. The smoke makes me gag. I can’t breathe around the smell -- I think it’s more the idea of inhaling smoke through burning paper and a wad of foam supposedly filtering out the “bad stuff.” But wasn’t it all bad? Being raised in a religious home, I had grown up with the concept that our bodies are a temple, and that we shouldn’t dirty up the walls with smoke – “get your fire insurance now.” Seeing the smoke damage in my grandma’s house, and seeing what it did to the walls and ceiling also made me wary of smoking cigarettes: the idea that it would happen to your lungs as well.

I almost bought a pipe in London. We were in a gift shop on that Sunday afternoon. We were... far from where we wanted to go shopping, but we happened across a nice little store selling touristy stuff: it was only a block or so from the underground and the British museum. I noted the shop as we headed from the underground to the museum to see the Rosetta stone, and on the way back, we went in. There were souvenirs galore, and I bought my brother one of those “my brother went to London and all I got was this lousy T-shirt” shirts: he liked it. As I looked around, I saw the pipes sitting there behind the glass. There were plain pipes -- the English equivalent of the American “corn-cob” -- sitting next to one those was a pipe that, in American dollars, would have been about as expensive as a used Cadillac. I thought about buying it, and bringing it home to shock my parents -- “look ma, I took up the pipe!” -- but thought against it, and simply got the T-shirt and some nice post-cards.

I never liked cigars either -- the pungent aroma filling the air with its putrescent vapors, causing me to gag. I only really knew one person who smoked a cigar: that guy in Montana who told me his plan to take out all the dams and towns between where we were in Montana and the ocean. I wonder whatever happened to him? Maybe one of his conspiracy theories got him... or maybe the cigars. For some reason, I never connected cigars with lung cancer though... only cigarettes. I guess my logic was that not as many people smoked cigars, therefore it couldn’t be as bad for you, as if only that which is bad for us actually appeals to us.

To be honest, except for on TV, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone smoking a pipe in my entire life. I can picture it, and can imagine how to hold, fill and tamp it -- though the lighting part has always been a bit iffy to me. But I have never seen any of it actually done. It’s as if it doesn’t really exist -- pipe smoking -- and it is only done in films; sort of like aliens, dinosaurs and Michael Jackson. Maybe that’s the pull for me: doing something which can’t be done...

Maybe it was because I didn’t know anybody who smoked one; maybe it was because Sherlock Holmes did. However it got started, I just know that I have always wanted to have a pipe. I wouldn’t smoke it, I’d simply have it -- let’s face it, lung cancer is nothing to sneeze at -- I’d buy a smoking jacket and have my pipe ready to show people how intelligent and respectable I was: common people don’t smoke a pipe.

The closest I have ever come to seeing somebody using a pipe was in Ashland. We had gone up to see The Tempest at the Shakespeare festival, and were walking back to our hotel late into the evening after it was over.
“Hey, any of you guys got a light for my bong?” A man passing in the shadows asked, holding his pipe up for us to examine.
“No, sorry.” We said and kept walking.
I guess crack and meth would be the far opposite extreme to what I wanted to accomplish with a pipe, but even so... at least he had one.
Now the movie industry is trying to crack down on smoking in movies by making any story where smoking appears prevalently an "R" rated film... so "Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang," and many Disney classics would automatically change to "rated R" just because of people smoking cigarettes, cigars, and pipes.

I may never actually get a pipe. The logistics of it and all: cost, time, matches, lung cancer... but still, there is a pull on me to take it up -- if only for the idea of it. That’s really all it is to me: an idea. That’s probably all it will ever be.
This is a re-print of this article from July 2003


At 4:56 PM, Blogger Chris said...

pipes and cigars do not give you lung cancer, as you do not inhale. the purpose of both is to taste the tobacco, not to kill your lungs. so you dont get lung cancer, but jaw and mouth cancer. i suppose its a lesser evil...more refined at least. c'est la vie


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