Tag Archives: Norman Skiba article

Pipe Meditation


Blog by Norman Skiba

As someone with a long history of Zen meditation practice in my younger days called zazen, there is also a moving/walking/working meditation called kinhin.  I find myself doing kinhin autonomically while working in my garden.  Whether picking weeds, hoeing, or planting.  Call it ‘In The Zone!’  It appears to be a non-focused ‘focused’ experience for me at times; even though it probably should be a focused dynamic.  When you have a large bed of serious weeds it is daunting; but you put your head down and you start at the beginning and somehow work your way to the end.  Your back and hands suffer tremendously – yet you get it done.  You cannot think – Oh my God, what a nightmare – it is a nightmare, but you tune it out and you focus on the here and now and it all works out.  Your Mind tends to ramble on into many thoughts and for me that is good since it is not after the formal Zazen focused mind thing I am after, rather than trying to do a tough job and not being worried about the actual hassle of the task.  I get the same thing driving the garden tractor cutting grass or driving my farm tractor moving chips and firewood etc.  Though with the farm tractor you have to be a bit more diligent as such.  This non-focused focused meditation is another type of meditation and it can get creative and also very deep in pondering many different things in your life and also in your head.

Well similar processes go on while I smoke my pipe – usually in the early A.M. with a pot of good coffee!  It gives me some time to be peaceful, listening and watching the birds, listening to other ambient sounds, and to enjoy a pipe and think of things I need to do for the day, and also just random thoughts that appear.  Once you light the pipe and start to enjoy the pipe and the tobacco, your mind seems to open up to a myriad of thoughts and observations.  Nothing else seems to matter in the moment.  Very early in the morning, most people are not even awake and this is my time.  I do feel guilty not getting a jump on stuff early in the morning with so much to do here on the small homestead; yet the idea of some peaceful time to enjoy a bowl or two seems like a worthy act and a nice way to get the day started.  More guilty when it gets unbearably hot – one needs to get stuff going early on before the old body poops out and the heat wastes you and the mind away.  Winter does get cold in the shed so it can be a bit trying, but it is nice to enjoy a bowl with coffee and get back in to throw more wood in the woodstove and warm up a bit before going back out to get work done.  In my old age guilt seems to way heavy – just too much to do with one person (and my best friend, my dog).  Heh! Heh!

In another sense – after 50 years, I am starting to learn to be a more calm puffer and trying to not rush through bowls. I have always been a faster smoker, but I have finally begun to learn about the ‘Art of Pipesmoking’.  (Can I help I am a slow learner…)  Many thoughts about this ‘Art’ too, also come into being while smoking and actually is the stimulus for the few short little articles I have written which Steve has posted here on his Reborn Pipes site.  I am not a writer and do not pretend to be.  These articles or little ditties as Frank Zappa would say are from my ruminations while smoking my pipes.  They are a result of the various meditations that occur in my head/Being.  Probably 99% of the time I smoke alone in these 50 years.  So it is not a social ‘thing’, rather than a personal thing.  In the past with 2 huge pipe collections I find I probably got caught up into the acquisition of pipes – and that ‘keeping up with the Jones’ mentality was unsettling , uneconomical in my situation, and a distraction of the actual enjoyment of pipesmoking.  I also have found that the various forums online are also a drag to my economic state, and also sidetrack one from the actual pipesmoking dynamic.  The various people and their trips and their egos and psychological agendas were a letdown.  Sorry for my critique and honest thought. Staying away from such environments also gives me more time to smoke another bowl or two and to get my work done.  As I said to Steve a while back – I smoked alone before there was an internet and there is no need for me to have to be a part of some smoking group to be able to enjoy my pipes and tobacco.  Lastly, I also have totally downsized my extensive collection to 5 and may get a 6th; but that is all I need.  Each one is unique and special and each one smokes wonderfully, with a new meer from Steve blowing all others out of the water.  I really can enjoy the extra time per pipe and I also can only work on decently coloring so many meers in the little time I have left on Mother Earth.  In addition the limited supply of tobacco is an issue and having more pipes and no tobacco seems a bit like ‘peeing in the wind’ as the expression goes.  So I enjoy the pipes and tobacco and the special time I have in peace smelling the Latakia, admiring the pipes – both briar shapes and grains and meer carvings – and see what evolves in my head in the form of various thoughts, observations, and ideas, letting my Mind wander on the Journey into Bliss!

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What Is It About A Preben?


Blog by Norman Skiba

For 50 years now I have been enjoying and observing that there is something special and magical about Preben Holm pipes. I have always loved his pipes.  Looking back, I can say that I have owned more Preben Holm pipes than any other pipe maker – period.  Overall, they are unique; some wild and some are quite tame and reserved, by his standards.

To me – there is something that I have struggled, and still fail, to describe regarding the overall smoking experience of a Preben Holm pipe.  I have mostly had fine to superb smoking Preben’s, and I have had a few that were ok, and also a few rare ones that just had issues: predominantly a bad gurgling.  Yet even the few bad or not-so-good ones all had this Quality and taste and smoking experience across the board with the best of them.  There is a consistency there that I struggle to explain.  This character/taste/sensory experience that makes it a Preben.  After a week of straight meerschaum smoking I had a bowl this morning in a Preben and it was marvelous.  I look forward to another bowl out of the Preben tomorrow before I head out to the top vineyard to get my nets on.  (I did the side vineyard after the bowl this morning.)  So, again, these experiences make me wonder and question just what it is that makes the Preben’s so unique?  What is it about the nature of the briar he uses that are so different and special unlike any other pipe maker.   And no, I am not just talking about Danish pipe makers.  I mean all others that I have ever smoked or owned.  There is something about his pipes that make me still love the pipe and pipe smoking (with my favorite tobacco as a partner in all of this), and briar.  After all of these years I still cannot put my finger on that special dynamic.  Yet I am in awe when I light up one of his pipes.  They are not only beautiful in so many ways; but they smoke so sweetly and with a subtlety to them.  So, what is it about a Preben?

Unorthodox Thoughts and Actions on the Care and Waxing of Meerschaums


Blog by Norman Skiba

This is written with all due respect to the late Meerschaum master Fred Bass.  I have tried to read all I could by Fred, and I have learned a lot; however, some things are maybe a bit over the top for me and my life.  His knowledge and skill about caring and reworking meers is also most impressive, and again, way beyond my means and knowledge and needs.  So after recently picking my way through more than half of the stuff I have collected by Fred (writings, thoughts, and comments he has made in relation to others on a smokers forum), I have been pondering as well as observing what I do when smoking and caring for my meers.

At the outset, I must say that I am quite anal about my meers.  I never touch the bowls – hot or cold – and I handle them with an old clean piece of white t-shirt that is multi folded so it is not just single thickness.  When cleaning or filling the pipe I always touch the pipe with this material.  I use as many cleaners as I need depending on the bowl, the pipe, and the fact that my tobacco of choice is a very heavy English Latakia blend.  I use a clean pipe cleaner after the bowl is emptied.  I smoke anywhere from 2-4/5 bowls before they are taken apart for better cleaning. Again it really depends – I am being generous in my 5 bowl total. I usually smoke 2 bowls back-to-back.  Then maybe another bowl or two the next day. I then would clean it.  Between the 2nd and the 3rd bowl I usually run a clean pipe cleaner with the end dipped in vodka to clean the funk out of the stem. Makes the next bowl or 2 a nice smoke – not from the vodka, but from the light cleaning it offers.  A tasty smoke as opposed to a funky off tasting smoke.  I then take the pipe apart and clean it out. After I do a bowl or two in a day I also twist a paper towel into the bowl chamber to wipe out the remnants.  I also do this when I do a good pipe cleaning.  I use regular pipe cleaners and maybe a heavy pipe cleaner for the actual shank along with Q-tips.  I Have never used a shank brush but have thought about getting a few, but after 45 plus years of meers it seems to work for me  the way I have been doing it so why change. As an old deceased friend of mine used to say re: Linux which we both run – ‘If it is not broke then don’t fix it; and if you can’t fix, then don’t break it!’  So once again, this seems to be the original premise behind my thoughts on this little bit of prose.  I never used Everclear even though Fred and others use it – it always seemed to me that a cheap vodka worked nicely, so why change it.

I learned and practiced 45 years ago to hold meers by their stems and not touch them.  I have pondered just handling them in various ways; however, I never made the plunge.  With good waxing they are sticky.  I also am ‘into’ the coloring of the meer.  So why taint it with my fingerprints and smeers.  It makes it tough as an old fart with 30 yrs of crippling arthritis throughout my body and with fingers and hands that are all bent out of shape – literally.  And swollen.  So I am so very careful and have come close to an accident or two.  (I actually dropped a beautiful fine smoking Preben years ago – lucky – no dent at all on the briar, but the stem snapped.  It hit a clump of grass and dirt.  Mike Myers of Walker Pipe Repair did a super job in replacing the stem with a similar or same stem – I do not remember the specifics now – and it also was a very speedy job too.  He expedited the fix for me.)  So they are more fragile as such.  When tamping the tobacco and especially when cleaning the ash and funky tobacco out if that be the case at the end of a bowl – be very careful to not hit the edge of the bowl when tamping or use the edge of the bowl to pry the leftover tobacco out.  I accidentally hit the edge ever so lightly with the tamper on a signed I. Baglan Bacchus I had years ago and a chip was out of the rim.  I cried!  Man I did not want to do that.  I was so upset and eventually just went with the flow.  So – Be Careful!  Aesthetically – that just blows it.  The smoke will still be whatever the smoke was before the nick happened.  Just been there and done that!

In regard to waxing: I do not and never have melted wax and plugged the bowl’s airways and dipped it.  For me; not going there.  I have also read numerous times that wax, and I guess they are all different, have certain flash points that will become flammable.  I am not sure how many people have had such a negative experience, but i do not want to go there either.  Some never apply wax or rarely.  I apply wax quite a bit and as Fred says it becomes a ritual in a sense.  Wax protects the block of meerschaum as well as aiding in the coloring.  CAO in the 1970’s used to sell a whitish wax in a lip balm applicator.  I now use 100% pure beeswax that I get from Mohawk Valley Trading Company in Utica, New York.  https://www.tenonanatche.com/beeswax.htm The olfactory Quality is wonderful and when you apply it to the pipe the aroma is really nice.  I have bought from them 2x and no problems ever.  I used to apply it from the bar; however, I recently read that Fred pours his own and he then cuts the thinner small sheets into diamonds or triangles.  So I recently just randomly cut them into various triangular looking pieces and found that the edges and the pointed areas can aid in applying was to complex carved pieces — like eyes, beards, nooks and crannies, and florals and lattice work unlike the bar. (So you see – an old dog CAN learn a new trick.)  I am glad I read that.  It makes a big difference.  Fred tends to rub off the excess wax and maybe even pick out the excess wax from places; and I have done, and still do the opposite.  I tend to get wax chunks into the eyes and beards etc. and as I smoke and warm the pipe – especially after a couple or few bowls – the wax starts melting and running down into other areas.  I leave what I can and after numerous smokes it soon is absorbed into the block.  Since I smoke Latakia – you do get black particles and dust on certain places on the top of the pipe from filling.  Some gets wiped off with the white cloth and other I just let go.  I may try a soft toothbrush in the future but maybe not.  Fred also uses Everclear on the outside of his meers.  I never have.  But he knows what he is doing, I am just trying to take care and use and enjoy my pipes and be as diligent as I can.  Maybe if I was younger and know what I know now, and had a cheaper pipe to experiment with I would develop more aspects to care and cleaning and maintenance.  But that is the way it goes.  I also have not painted wax on a pipe either.  But as Fred says, on 3D complex lattice pipes that seems to be a good way to apply wax to the intricate hard to get areas.  I also have read about smoking chambers.  Not for me. Why make it more complex?  Smoke the pipe, and clean it, and wax it, and let the pipe color as it is going to color.

Years ago I also heard of blowing the smoke onto the pipe to aid in coloring.  I used to do it, but now I smoke it and that is it!  Lastly – one overlooked aspect of smoking a pipe – briar or meer – is admiring and looking at the piece and studying and taking pleasure on what the pipe maker/carver has offered for your pleasure.  I think many people look at the beauty of a pipe and that is that.  It seems as isolated from the actual smoking experience. Pipe is empty and you like at and admire it.  You purchase it because it is so nice.  Others see it or you show it off and that is just what it is. But it is an isolated experience that is fine as it is, but it is not integrated into the actual art and experience and pleasure of smoking that pipe with your favorite tobacco.

So sit back and light up a bowl and enjoy the complete experience of a pipe. And don’t forget to wax.

Addendum: I wanted to add that I, and Fred also smoke the pipe and apply wax to it as the pipe is smoked and warm. As the pipe warms the wax will become soft and easier to apply, even to the not so warm or colder areas. He also cold waxes it too from what i have read. I have tried it a couple of times but hesitate to do that. At the end of the bowl(s) he empties the ash and residual tobacco and then he uses the warm pipe to keep applying the wax while it still is warm and you can then tip the pipe – clean of ash, etc. – and wax the underside areas of the pipe not easily done while the embers are still in the pipe and burning.

Wow! – How Sublime


Blog by Norman Skiba

In a way, this is a tale of 2 pipes.  A somewhat synchronous event possibly.  At the outset, I must say that this is based on my experiences, observations, and opinions.  Others will have theirs.  I am a huge Preben Holm fan.  Period.  I have owned more of his pipes than any other pipe maker.  I also have had a number of Celius and P. Holtorp fan pipes – also from the Danish School.  To me, there is just something about the old briar that Preben used that offers this warmth and taste that so many other pipe makers cannot come close to.  What kind of briar and the age of what he used I have no clue, and maybe his old workers and Poul Winslow may know.  But to me, there is just something about that ‘gestalt’ if you may, that just makes it for me.  I also love meerschaums and have had a number of nice meers over the decades.  It turns out that I now own 2 briars and 3 meers  – nowhere near as extensive as in the past, but just a perfect number for my later years’ needs.  I now have more meers than briars.  I love meerschaums more now than ever before, but I love the briars too, so I am not exclusive.  I sincerely believe that they both have a ‘warmth’ in their own unique way – and I do not mean ‘heat’ – I mean a personal, almost friendly or intimate sort of dimension to their smoking Quality.  Some pipes have that Quality and others do not.  That is a main characteristic, to me, of a great smoking pipe and experience.

Yesterday morning I had 2 bowls in a new estate Preben Holm that is ghosted with possibly a Virginia of some sort.  Nothing I would smoke and there is a taste I am not into, so I wanted to smoke a couple more bowls to try to get that taste out of it.  I think maybe another 20 bowls of a heavy Latakia blend and that will start to evolve to what I like.  I tend to smoke more meers than the Preben, and they too are new pipes, so that is the reason I am still working on that extra taste in the pipe.  Well despite a bit of that extra taste from a previous owner and tobacco – I had 2 really nice bowls in that Preben and the smoke was great – it smoked nicely and the taste generally was nice.  No re-lights and just a smooth smoke.  2 bowls back-to-back was an extremely pleasurable experience.  I then proceeded (after about a 10 minute break to swap out the pipes and make another pot of coffee) to smoke 2 bowls in a new meerschaum Bacchus that I have smoked more than the Preben.  So it is going through the ritual christening, if you may.  It has been smoking quite nicely and sometimes really nicely.  However; today, both bowls were just wondrous!  What a smoke!  What a taste and aroma.  An interesting note was that I did notice that I got more taste and more aroma that was more true to the tobacco when I smoked the meer right after the briar than what the briar had to offer.  And as I just stated, the smokes out of the 2 bowls of the briar were also wonderful.  Just different in many ways.  Getting back to the meer – the experience was so beautiful that it was hard to believe that 2 different pipes – 4 bowls – back-to-back – and they were all wondrous!  What are the chances?  The 2nd bowl also had another rather unique experience: toward what was normally the end of the bowl – it just kept smoking and smoking and smoking.  I thought – man this should have finished a while ago – when will it be done?  (Not that I wanted it to end; one just kind of knows the bowl and the length of a pipe and tobacco.)  Anyway, this just seemed like the never-ending bowl.  I got easily an extra 20′ smoke on that 2nd bowl of the meer.  Again, as in the briars, no re-lights were needed.  The experience I had yesterday morning was just so magical I was in awe of the experience.  Maybe unconsciously I was transported to the magical world of The Shire and puffing on Longbottom Leaf or Old Tobey of the Southfarthing.  How Sublime Indeed!

Briars vs. Meerschaum:  Right Brain – Left Brain – I Choose the Middle Way!


Blog by Norman Skiba

I have seen this discussion and argument in the past and even in the present on various pipe smoking forums.  New threads, old threads – they are all the same.  Personally I am kind of bored with the various arguments.  I have smoked both briar and meerschaum’s pretty much from the start.  In the 60’s and 70’s there was a lot of myth about pipes, briars, tobacco, and meers.  And there still is a whole lot of myths about these various things.  Many people that contributed to this plethora of facts, and opinions, and just downright incorrect information were either ignorant of the information, ego-driven to show their pedanticism, opinionated with an enough-to-be-dangerous knowledge, and people that in this case never smoked either briars or meerschaums, or smoked briars or meerschaums that were of decent smoking Quality to even begin to make a comparison as to the briar or meerschaum discussion at a credible level of discourse.  The creation of myths and biases still continue to this very day.

As stated earlier, I have been fortunate to have smoked both briars and meerschaums pretty much from the beginning of my pipesmoking journey.  Most people, if not all of the people around me were briar smokers and briar master pipe makers.  Most probably never smoked or owned a meer, and if they did, they never smoked it enough to make an educated opinion – just an opinion.  A lot of the myths and information that I learned, and I bet, most people in similar situations have learned are biased and twisted information,  some true – some partially true, and some just off the wall in any sense of possible truth.  As neophytes – how do we know what is credible.  The blind leading the blind.

As an old guy who has been around this journey into pipes and tobacco, I have to say that I have worked hard and went broke to have 3 nice pipe collections in my life.  2 of the collections were extensive and the last in my close to the end of life is extremely modest, but exquisite.  The first 2 collections had both briars and meers, but the predominant pipes were briars. (The types and kinds of pipes are a whole ‘nother story that may be pursued in another little blurb.)  I have always loved the meers – for aesthetical reasons, smoking Qualities, and the artistic carving and coloring experience for example. (Just like the shape and finish and grain of briars) They were nice pipes and smoked wonderfully.  I did notice a difference, yet I could not at the time explain it as such.  Again being surrounded by briar people I may have had some slant on that – i.e. an opinion or observations of this briar vs. meerschaum dynamic of the smoking Qualities that they offered.  This last tiny collection is predominantly meerschaum at the moment – 4 meers and 2 briars (I may get 1 more briar in the future due to my love of pipes and the briar made by a deceased famous pipemaker.)  But that would still make:  meer 4 and briar 3.  I have understood late in life during my sannyasin period as espoused in Hinduism, that 5 pipes are nice – 6 – 7 OK – and No More.  Now you may ask – ‘Why do you go from 5 – 6 or 7 pipes?’  Due to my love of Latakia and a wife who has asthma – I am forced to have to smoke outside and when raining or cold/very cold in my cold small shed.  I need some briars to smoke in the freezing cold where meers are technically possible to crack or shatter so the need for an extra briar or two.  I must say that the briars that I do have are wonderful pipes and wonderful smokers so I love them and do smoke them in the summer too.  Even if I lived in Bali where the weather is pleasant all year, I still would own my briars.  I love wood and I love grain.  But I have fallen deeply, in my old age like never before, for the White Goddess!  I have always had, and smoked, and loved meers; so this is nothing new; however, the Passion is just so Intense at this stage I cannot explain.  The meers I am smoking more during the summer/warmer weather because I love smoking them, and not just because of the weather.  Today for example, I had 3 bowls in the morning in a meer and later on when I took a break after working all morning outside, I smoked an old relatively conservative Preben Holm.  It was wonderful.  There is a difference, in a sense, in the briar experience and meer.  I have struggled to define it for decades and I just cannot.  However, the difference is not ‘a one is good and the other bad’ sort of difference that one thinks exists.  Maybe the term is characteristic(s)?  Maybe it will always be elusive and not definable.  It is so abstract – yet one knows it when it is understood/experienced.  It may just not be graspable in an ideational way or in word play.  It just must be experienced and appreciated each for what they have to offer.

In a post I made on an old thread on a forum recently regarding the briar vs. meer argument (edited and expanded here):

I do say that the meers do smoke drier and cleaner in many respects. I have had some meers that were sweet as in smooth and easy to smoke and enjoy and a few that were maybe a bit brutal if that be the word. Some had a warmth and a dimensionality to the smoke and the taste. I have had some briars that were – yech!  I have also had some briars that have that warmth that I mentioned for the meers.  Again – maybe the meers take a few bowls of a tobacco when new to achieve a warmth that is inherent in it – the pipe itself.  Even briars need to be broken in as such.  Again, each pipe, whether briar or meer can be special or a loser. I find the more I smoke the meers and they develop and are good in their way – the warmth and the taste of the tobacco opens up and improves tremendously.  Funny – similar analogies to briars.  No real answers here, just observations.  It boils down to a good pipe is a good pipe and one that isn’t may not ever be!  Briar and meer!

I choose the Middle Way of Buddhism.  Briar AND Meer.  Enjoy!

 

 

Mystical Magical Latakia: A Journey Back to the Old World


Blog by Norman Skiba

Norman is a new contributor to rebornpipes and I welcome him to the blog. He is a member of the Meerschaum group on Smokers Forum UK and trying to add fresh life to it since the death of Fred Bass. I have enjoyed our emails back and forth over the past week and when he sent this second piece I really appreciated his thoughtful reflection on his favourite blend of tobacco. I invite others of you to write your own and add to the sense of community we have.  Thanks Norman. – Steve

If it were not for Latakia, I never would have stayed with the pipe.  I never liked cigarettes, even the Indonesian Djarum’s and Kretek clove cigarettes.  The Bidi’s of India are just plain nasty!  The Turkish were still not even close.  But there was and still is something about Latakia and the heavy English and even Balkan blends that intrigue me to this very day.  To me, the aroma is just wondrous!

When I first started smoking a pipe it was in my mid-teens.  I tried the (Palladin’s?) Cherry Blend, Borkum Riff, Sail, and two sips of Sir Walter Raleigh – yech!  Then one day I walked into this tiny smokeshop and pipe maker – Smokestacks it was called – which I had been to before and bought a nice natural finish prince he made that was a very nice pipe and my first decent pipe, and I  fell in love with what I smelled.  I asked him what it was that he was smoking, and he said a new Turkish blend he had blended, and it was Latakia that I was smelling.  I knew right there and then THAT was for me.  And to this day it has ever been, although in various manifestations.  Looking back I can say that maybe the first phase of what used to be called drugstore pipe tobaccos lasted a month or two.  I then found Latakia.  So I feel I was fortunate in that case.  I bought an ounce of this stuff to smoke and went through that rather quickly and then bought a 1/4 lb. of it.  I then saw this tin of the White Label Balkan Sobranie and bought that and loved it even more. Within a couple of weeks or so I found the tins of Balkan Sobranie Black Label No. 759 and that was history.

I started to buy really nice pipes that were made by the late Milt Kalnitz using 100 yr. old Grecian briar that he made for me and also some pipes from his personal collection.  I also had gotten a nice meerschaum or two from him.  All this time I was smoking the 759 Mixture and he had the larger round cans of it and not just the thin round tins.  The smoke shop was called Bellezia Tobacco.  They also had Bengal Slices which I also smoked as an adjunct to the 759.  That was all I ever smoked until one day I stopped for reasons I no longer recall.  Then 759 was no longer available.  It still isn’t. This blend was so funky – in a good way – to me – but people around you would wonder if you were smoking your underwear or your socks.

A funny ‘true’ story: In 1972 I used to have to fly a bit for school and also as a professional musician. I had to put up with all that cigarette smoke in the cabins or even next to you – which at that time you could smoke on planes. Well I was smoking Balkan Sobranie Black Label #759 then, I had this huge free-form Danish Preben Holm – I mean a huge bowl. So I lit it up and smoked the whole bowl – people looked at me rather strangely and some thought I was smoking my socks – but no one said a word. But later I thought they must have thought I was nuts and also could not wait for the plane to land!  I still have to laugh!

Anyway, when I got back into my pipes I knew another famous musician from California that I played a concert with and he had some wild Danish free-forms too and I smelled a wonderful sweeter Latakia English blend and he said it was a Dunhill custom blended My Mixture – No. A7859 – soaked in Jamaican rum.  I had Dunhill in New York City auto ship me a pound every month.  It was actually a very nice blend and unlike 759, but Latakia.  Life moves on and I took a hiatus again. When I started again briefly it was impossible to get any of my former favorites so I stopped.  I did try the McClelland’s Oriental Mixture #14, but that was just Ok and had changed from the earlier ones I tried years before. But it never wowed me like 759.  I later found Greg Pease’s Abingdon and found that to be the best at the time and still believe it is a great tobacco, and if I had to – I would smoke it.  However, The Dark Lord came up with Gaslight!  And that was it after all of these years of searching. The Holy Grail! (To me and my likes.) Yes I have tried some others; even a half pound of Penzance was acquired but never finished it because it just didn’t do it.  Gaslight was the Magical Mystical Wondrous blend that is so superb in my Mind that I see no reason to smoke anything else. It IS Special; yet I see no need to have a bowl on a special day and the rest of the time smoke other things.  Every day and every bowl is special so why not smoke it every chance you can in a nice pipe.  I think of it as analogous to a nice bottle of pinot noir which I love – some people say I am going to put this away for a special day.  I have no problem laying stuff down to age and save; however, what I say is that you take a nice bottle of wine and open it and enjoy it and it can take an average day and make it extra special and magical. The day does not make the wine – the wine makes the day Special! That is what Latakia and Gaslight do for me.  Now to sit back and have a bowl in my floral meer.

Addendum – I like Greg and he is a master tobacconist/blender/creator; however, it is not my intention to use this little text piece as a means of offering free or hidden advertisement for his blends. They are mentioned in context to the actual relevant info in this short piece.

 

Why Do We…?


Blog by Norman Skiba

Norman is a new contributor to rebornpipes and I welcome him to the blog. He is a member of the Meerschaum group on Smokers Forum UK and trying to add fresh life to it since the death of Fred Bass. I have enjoyed our emails back and forth over the past week and when he sent this I thought it would be a great intro to him and a thought provoking piece of writing. Thanks Norman. – Steve

I have smoked a pipe for about 50 years now and have had a few hiatuses over this lengthy period. In addition, I have been fortunate to have had a rather extensive pipe collection over these years and various periods of my life. The collection transformed and morphed into a new set of pieces turning into a somewhat different collection over these many years, and which has morphed again. Basically – zero – to a small nice little handful of a collection, mostly meerschaum. I have always had and smoked meers and I find them fascinating and beautiful to see the exquisite carvings transform over time in their coloring and the actual smoking Quality – chronotransduction – change over time. I have spent a small fortune for briars and very fine briars and commissions. I am a huge old Danish fan, especially Preben Holm. Many of the pipes were gorgeous; however, a lot of them smoked great. Some smoked OK. Some were terrible – even the high end pipes and commissions. No offense to the fine pipe makers that made them; but some were a waste of money. I always kept that to myself and never hurt anyone’s feelings or reputation. I also bought a number of so-called ‘Estate’ pipes that were by major makers mostly Danish, that had issues with the smoke – could not get a pipe cleaner through it, and tons of gurgle. I realized ‘late’ that in most cases instead of someone chalking the pipe up to experience and maybe just trashing it or trying to get it properly fixed, they passed on the problem to someone else – me the sucker. I am not a neophyte, but these are chances one takes. Aesthetically, they were beautiful and unique in my eyes. The maker was reputable. But the pipe was what it was – sometimes wonderful and sometimes sour/bitter, and just plain funky.

I have spent decent money on meers too in the past and most were from reputable carvers. a few unknown, yet nice – carving and block and smoke. I was fortunate early on to have one briar master pipe maker and his son who had some nice meers at a reasonable price. Then, for me, it became harder to find. Most meers were bad block quality and the carvings nothing to write home about. Even after years – not knowing about certain carvers or especially the sellers – left me in a quandary about purchasing a nice pipe. I know people who deal on eBay and craigslist with stories about scams locally and within the U.S., let alone, other countries, and in this case Turkey. I also saw some of the prices that were more than I was used to paying for some nice meers long ago, and the combination of dynamics – price, seller, country, etc. made me wary about taking the chance. As I grew older I learned more and acquired more meers. I never could drop a huge sum on a nice meer that was high, high end; however I did try to find amazing carvings that spoke to me and that were more than I could afford. But recently I started asking myself – why do we spend so much on a briar pipe ,and some people I know spend 5x the amount for 1 pipe almost weekly, than I could on 1 pipe? Why did I not go the same route for meers and just know at the end of my life finally ‘Get It!’ The answers are varied, and factual/real, and also speculative. The answers themselves seem a bit amorphous even. I still have more questions than answers. I do find that few briar people do not want to try or never liked smoking a meerschaum because they too – did not get it. They never had a good pipe, or they never gave it a chance to achieve the warmth that a nice one offers after it is smoked for a bit. Initially the meer can seem cold and sterile and that initial dynamic makes people run to their briars. But once the White Goddess speaks to the Soul and the Being and the Spirit within- then one Gets It! But, Why Do We…?