Furthest Right

Pipe Meditations (May 3, 2023)

People smoke pipes for a variety of reasons, but it seems to me that with most things, there is a spirit to the activity that is more important than the mechanics or social aspects. That is, pipe smoking is a solitary activity good for thinking without intending to do so.

That is, when you smoke a pipe, you are in theory thinking or at least focused on the pipe, since this is the publicly identified activity, like a job, hobby, or ideological commitment. You intend to smoke that pipe and anything else is extraneous detail.

Luckily, this allows the parts of the mind that are concerned with peer pressure and anxiety to disconnect because they are busy smoking the pipe, which means that the inner self steps free of the body, mind, and memory and is able to woolgather, imagine, and synthesize on its own.

For me, some of the best activities for thinking are the mindless ones. Mow a lawn, fix a toilet, smoke a pipe. The brain delegates its public persona to manage the socially-accepted activity, and detaches its inner turbulent and formless core to meander through some ideas floating around.

Creativity seems to be of this ilk. It is one-half grueling analysis, and the other half a playful comparison between unrelated things based on their subtler traits being similar in shape but not appearance. That is why you can compare some idiot to the QE2 full of lobotomy patients and chuckle.

To get to that point, however, we have to escape the self, and that means finding something sticky to which to attach all of those parts of our minds which are concerned with the external world. This exposes our inner life dialogue to some silence and peace, and perhaps a good English blend.

Filling the pipe today is Brexit, an aromatic light English from The Briar Shoppe here in town. We should unpack that jargon first: an English is a mixture that blends Latakia with Orientals and Virginias, a light English is heavy on Virginias, and an aromatic has some kind of flavoring added.

Putting all that together, an aromatic light English has less Latakia than your average English blend and some flavoring, although generally a light one. The Briar Shoppe makes their blends by combining a few off-the-shelf varieties, and this one is no different.

A penny guess would say that this has Peter Stokkebye English Luxury, a Cavendish-based aromatic like Creme Brulee with some berry notes, and a nicely fermented Virginia like Mac Baren Virginia No. 1. The result is not too Latakia-heavy and has a nice top note.

In all fairness, this one has been mixed with a little cube cut Gawith Hoggarth Dark Flake because it is strong but a bit brackish in flavor. The Latakia easily absorbs the dark fired Kentucky Burley flavor and gains a little intensity as well as strength to the whole blend.

This follows up an old favorite, Irish Flake, which I defected to earlier this week after hitting smoking doldrums. Sometimes, everything at hand is just not right and you seek a new experience or at least a different one to clear the head.

The newer Irish Flake is not as strong or full-flavored as the original and has a light amaretto flavor to it that makes the whole thing taste like a smoky Dr Pepper. It is quite good and reminds me of why I love flakes, which is that they burn slowly for a nice long tasty smoke.

Switching to Brexit — they specialize in vaguely ironic names — made for a sudden jolt, leaving behind the UK plug genre which has dark fired Kentucky Burley and light Virginias pressed together, and going into the wild, herbal, and spicy realm of Englishes.

Maybe it was the jolt I needed. Life is a moving target. What is new now becomes old and then something old must become new again to refresh the mind. Perhaps dedicating most of the brain to tasting interesting tobacco blends frees up the rest to wonder about the Big Things in relative radio silence.

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