St Nick Redux

Twas the night before Christmas, I sat with my pipe,
The hearth log was burning, I had not a gripe.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
My sweet wife was sleeping, yet I was awake,
I pondered my plan as I rubbed out a flake.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
With his pipe clenched alit, it must be St Nick.
I’d hoped while I sat of inviting him in,
For a bowl, and a chat, and a wee splash of gin!

To smoke with St Nicholas when Christmas comes ‘round,
Was a pipe dream I feared, but a pipe dream profound.
More rapid than eagles his reindeer they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the reindeer they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I put down my pipe, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his beard, like my own, sported ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

Some pipe smoke curled ‘round him like clouds on a peak,
“It’s a fellow pipe-smoker!” St. Nicholas did speak.
“Have you any Virginias by Ratray or by Pease?
I’ll sit here awhile, and we’ll smoke, if you please.”

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The clay tavern pipe held tight in his teeth,
Issued smoke that encircled his head like a wreath.
He pulled out some matches and tamped his tobacco,
“I haven’t relit since I sat down in Krakow.”

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

We shared a few tales, then I helped with his work,
We filled up the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
My wife had appeared at the foot of the stairs,
“You’re smoking indoors!” she abruptly declared.

My guilt overcame me. St Nicholas blushed.
I stammered and stuttered. “I’m sorry,” I gushed.
He picked up his pipe, then tickled his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good pipe!”


Cuttying to the Quick

For pipe smokers, especially among those who feel a strong connection to things nautical or historical, the cutty is a beloved shape,  perhaps because the shape’s roots are thought to emerge from the earliest of smoking pipes: clay tavern pipes that preceded briar pipes by almost two centuries. You see at the top of this post a rare Comoy Blue Riband Shape No. 347, a briar pipe with design elements that echo its tavern-pipe predecessor: forward cant, casting nipple, and egg-ish bowl shape.

Given how the pipe’s look seems so proximal to its clay pipe origins, one might assume that the Comoy’s 347 shape is the oldest of the cutty shapes the company made, but that’s not the case.

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On Being Cavalier

Updated on Friday, June 26, 2015 at 5:01PM by Registered CommenterNeill Archer Roan

Cavalier (Extraordinaire) by Comoy’s

The classic cavalier by Comoy’s that you see depicted above is a rare bird, the only version I’ve ever seen of the shape by Comoy’s. An Extraordinaire, it is a large pipe that is beautifully grained and impeccably made. I acquired the pipe from the Bisgaards, hitting the buy button the minute I saw the pipe. It was only upon receiving it that I realized that it was likely made in the 1950s. It has the old, arched, serifed Comoy’s type stamp.

As with other consumer products, fashion flexes its muscle in the pipe world, too, especially with respect to the waxing and waning of pipe shapes. For example, for a number of years nosewarmers have been fashionable. So have chubby rhodesians. As a result of this year’s Kansas City Pipe Club’s North American Pipe Carver’s Contest, interest may be renewed in the cavalier shape.

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The Beautiful Stranger

There are some pipes the impact of which I feel so much that they are imprinted indelibly in my memory, I want them so much. Worse, they are the persistent ghost–the unbidden visitor who strides into any moment, however inconvenient or distracting a presence they may be.

And when the owner refuses to part company with the pipe? Does this settle the matter? No. If, anything it’s worse, akin to the beautiful stranger who, once seen, cannot be unseen nor forgotten. The indelibility of these memories astonish me. When there is so much I struggle to remember, these things I cannot forget. There is more than a little truth to Buddha’s admonition that the root of all suffering is desire. Such was my experience of the sandblasted bent bamboo apple depicted above.

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The Crap Shoot

A Perth-blended, cutter-top tin of Rattray’s 7 ReserveWhen it comes to vintage tobaccos, most people seek out the marquee names–the vintage tobacco equivalents of Bogart, Bacall, Flynn, or Davis. The hunt has led to prices spiraling into the stratosphere for tobaccos like Balkan Sobranie, 759, or Sullivan and Powell’s Gentleman’s Mixture. No doubt in the future we’ll see the same scramble for G.L. Pease’s Stonehenge that we see for his Bohemian Scandal. People seek out the legendary.

Me? My tastes run to the more obscure. Personally, my favorite vintage tobacco is Rattray’s 7 Reserve. My love is as blind for this tobacco as Bogie’s was for Bacall in Casablanca. A mature Virginias-based blend with condimental latakia, 7 has that tangy sweetness with just a trace of latakia’s signature herbal smokiness, and the fairly recent is almost good as the original, Perth-blended version. I know that because of the lucious leaf from the tin you see at the top of this post.

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