A Pipe Smoker’s Inquiry

Preparing for My First Pipe Show

One week from today I will be doing something I have never done before as a pipe smoking enthusiast.  If you guessed attend a pipe show, you would be correct.  I will be attending the North American Society of Pipe Collectors (NASPC) annual pipe show in Dublin, Ohio next weekend, and yes, it will indeed be my first pipe show experience (que audience gasps).

NASPC Logo

I have been a member of the NASPC for over 5 years now and enjoy reading and contributing to their bi-monthly newsletter entitled The Pipe Collector.  In fact, in my humble opinion, it is the closest current publication to the long-lost Pipe Smoker’s Ephemeris.  This timeless publication, produced by the late Tom Dunn, was a quarterly print that allowed members of the world-wide snail mail pipe club to contribute pipe and tobacco related material for publication in a newsletter.  Several of these quarterly newsletters were hundreds of pages long and can still be found for sale on eBay and other collector websites.  As stated early, much of the content in the Pipe Smoker’s Ephemeris newsletters was valuable information and stories regarding pipe smoking from a generation of individuals who lived the true pipe smoking lifestyle. Nevertheless, if you have not heard of, or are not a member of, the NASPC you are certainly missing out.  And with membership dues being only $10 per year (this gives you electronic access to The Pipe Collector newsletter) you can’t beat the value this offer holds.  For more information on the NASPC and membership options visit their webpage at: http://www.naspc.org

Over the years, I’ve read and followed several other pipe smokers and their attendance to the various pipe and tobacciana shows around the world.  Each story of these tobacco and pipe related excursions has done nothing but peak my interest and innermost desire for adventure to what I can only imagine as a Heaven on Earth encounter.  However, I must admit that my mind is running ramped with questions and concerns in preparation for my first every pipe show trip.  Therefore, I feel the best way to focus my thoughts and concerns is through sharing them with you.  Any insight and/or advice from those of you who have participated in a pipe show is very much welcomed and appreciated.  The following are some of my concerns for the upcoming weekend.

Q:  How many pipes should I take with me?

Pipe Collection Pic

For some people this may seem like a simple problem with a simple solution.  However, my mind continues to over analyze and question itself. To narrow the question even further, how many pipes should I carry on my persons during/at the show?  As far as I know, smoking is indeed allowed at the show and I guarantee I will want to partake with other brothers of the briar. So, how many pipes should I take and how many should I carry while at the actual show?

Q:  How much tobacco should I bring with me?

Pipe Tobacco Collection Pic

Again, for some of the more veteran show goers, this may seem to be a simple question, but remember, I’m a newbie at this.  I have several pipe pouches I intended to fill with my favorite blends, but should I also dig into the depths of my cellar to bring some unopened aged tobaccos? Is it weird to carry around a bag with unopened tins of rare tobaccos to share with others?  I’m assuming there will be tobacco vendors on-site selling a wide variety of hand crafted blends, but should I still bring my own and if so, how much?

Q:  If I have pipes I want to sell or trade can I do so?

Pipe Show Picture

There are indeed a few pipes I am looking to part ways with.  Although I typically put pipes I am ready to relinquish on eBay for auction, would it be frowned upon if I took them to sell or trade?  Further, how do I go about doing so?  Are vendors open to trade or are they only looking to sell the pipes they have for cash?  How do you know if they are open to buying or trading?

Q:  How do you determine a budget for the show?

Money Pic

Yes, I have already found quite a bit of advice related to pipe show budgeting such as only using cash (this will help you stay within your budget range and once you’re out of money you can’t buy anything else).  However, what should this amount really be?  I reflect on my current collection and think “do I reallyneed another pipe?” and the answer is no. But this is my first pipe show and I would really like to get at least one pipe to mark the occasion.  Also, can I expect to get a better deal on pipes for sale at the show or is it the same deals I find online, I just get to look and feel the pipe before purchasing?

Please know these four questions are only a fraction of the conversation in my mind but I want to ensure this is a memorable experience and that I don’t look/act like a complete moron at the show. No matter what, I will be surrounded by other people who enjoy the hobby of pipes and tobaccos just as much as myself and that has to count for something.

If you plan on attending the upcoming NASPC show send me a message through this webpage or via email and maybe we could meet up to share a bowl.  I will certainly report back with pictures and stories in the upcoming weeks and look forward to sharing my first pipe show experience with all of you.  Until then, be well.

Cheers!

Dr. Kyle Andrew Signature

A Pipe Smoker’s Inquiry

Pipes and Paintings

I’ve always had a very keen interest in art, especially paintings.  With my personal artistic background focusing more on the music discipline rather than a visual art specialty, I have always envied those that have the natural ability to paint, draw, and sculpt.  No secret here, I can’t draw or paint…  However, this does not negatively influence my love and appreciation for great art, more specifically, historical works from centuries past.  And for me, there is no better way to take the time for analysis and appreciate of a historical masterpiece than with a great pipe and tobacco.  I love intentionally planning moments to examine fine masterpieces of the past and do so by letting my imagination drift in tandem to the artist’s brush strokes, all the while, accompanying my imaginative playground with the wonderfully aromatic clouds of smoke as they drift into the heavens above.  Essentially, that is what this segment, Pipes and Paintings, will focus on.  My annotations, stories, questions, and thoughts related to paintings and artworks of days gone by.  I hope you enjoy, as I share a small part of my imagination and love, for both pipes and paintings, with those of you willing to adventure into the vast mind of a fellow pipe smoker.

Smokers in a Turkish Coffee House

Painting by: Joseph Nash (1809 – 1878)

Smokers in a Turkish Coffee House Open

I always love people in paintings.  When done well, each carries their own unique personality and identity that either helps or hinders the story being communicated. Smokers in a Turkish Coffee Houseis a prime example of how an artist can utilize facial expressions and focus to communicate a story.  Before we go any further into facial communications of the artwork I must point out the monkey in the room.  What am I referring to you may ask?  Obviously, it’s the oversized churchwarden pipe held by the gentleman wearing the dark clothing in the front right portion of the painting.

Smokers in a Turkish Coffee House Pic 1

I mean, my lord! There are several questions as to the actual functionality of that smoking implement.  First, how the hell does one light a pipe that large (assholes are saying, “with a match”)?  I understand that practice used to be one of the owners/proprietors of the establishment typically would keep a customer’s pipe lit throughout their visit.  But what if this individual was busy and your pipe continued to go out?  Or, what if this extraordinarily long tavern churchwarden pipe belongs to the gentleman in the dark clothing…. how would he light it at home?  Further, what type of draw do you think the pipe has?  Cigar aficionado’s love to boast about the tight draws that most Cuban cigars have.  Well, let me chime in a moment, Havana lovers.  You haven’t experienced a tight draw until you have smoked the above pictured behemoth of a pipe.  Anyway, I digress.  Back to the story being communicated by the characters in the painting.

Several expressions indicate that whatever the gentleman (red circle) is saying, or has said, is not liked by the ‘regulars’ (blue circles).

Smokers in a Turkish Coffee House Pic 2

I use the adjective ‘regulars’ as both the grouping of individuals in the full-scale work, and the use of a hookah, indicates to me these people are friends or acquaintances. Further, the positioning and lighter colors/shades of the messenger (man with a red circle) indirectly confirm his status to be an outsider.  Quite possibly, the men are discussing politics?  Maybe the guest gentleman (red circle) has come in and made comments about an ugly female tavern winch he encountered earlier in the day.  It just so happens, the winch in which he is detailing is the wife of the white turban hookah smoker in the front.  I image the conversation to be as follows:

Red Circle Man: “Wow gentlemen!  Have I had a most unusual experience with the most absolutely horrifying woman I’ve ever encountered.  I mean, seriously fellas, telling this lady she was ugly would be a compliment.”

The gentleman’s comments draw some chuckles from individuals around the room.  Some of the patrons continue minding their own business and conversations while a few have now turned their attention to the newcomer. 

Long Churchwarden fellow: “I beg, who is this you speak of and where did you meet her?  I can assure you, not one of us wishes to fall ill to this terrifying woman you describe.”

Turning his body to address not only the individual who asked the question, but the entire room, the foreigner continues his tale through the wafting clouds of aromatic smoke filling the room.  Now with several individuals paying attention the man speaks in a louder and fuller voice.

Red Circle Man: “Ah, yes!  I will gladly disclose my encounter to you as I would not wish this beast of a creature on the worst of my enemies.”

He takes a long draw from his tavern churchwarden before continuing.

Red Circle Man: “You see friend, I am currently lodging at the Iron Rose Inn, however, found myself at the Pewter Pot Tavern last evening for a drink and possible a turn at the dice tables.  Aside from a good pipe and tobacco, I’ve always found pleasure from a hearty ale and a small amount of gambling.  But woe to me, as upon calling to the bar maid I was greeted by a swine of a human being.”

Blue Circle Man Wearing a Black Turban: “Tell us, was it a bear of a man?  Grizzly and unkept in nature?  That is Pots, the owner of the establishment.”

Red Circle Man: “To my regret no.  Although I do recall seeing the gentleman you are describing, the individual I am speaking of was a woman and would have benefited from such a description as the one you have giving.”

As more heads have now turned to listen to the visitor’s story, the tavern foreigner gains an air of confidence in himself and his tale, being the focus of attention to most patrons. 

Red Circle Man: “My friend, what I tell you next is but a nightmare to say the least.  The woman turned and asked what I’d be having, and I surely shrieked aloud in her face. The sight of such a ghastly individual I’ve yet to encounter in all my journeys.  Her eyes were but remanences of a dark endless well.  Her nose and mouth looked as if to had been flattened by a forty-ton ship. And her hair!  My, my, that unkept, greasy heap of string would have made even Medusa look as though she were but a spring of beauty to be had.”   

Blue Circle White Turban Man Holding the Hookah Handle: “Pray, do tell me, what did you say the color of her hair was?”

Red Circle Man: “Ah yes!  I do understand that you too want to make sure you never have to see such a hideous sight as I.  Why, it was red. As the fires of the devil himself.”

There is a slight pause as the visitor laughs aloud not sensing the awkward silence that has befell the room, accompanied by stares of shock and concern. 

Blue Circle White Turban Man Holding the Hookah Handle: “I beg your pardon ‘friend’ but that would be my wife you are describing.”

This is where the painting displayed above picks up the story.  The stranger is now turning to address the angry gentleman and his friends, while onlookers wait to see how the situation resolves.  You may be wondering how I came to know the story from a single capture of time in ink?  Well, there are several other facial expressions and clues that confirm the truth behind my prediction.  Let me explain.  There are two other expressions that can be disseminated from the painting that help provide evidence to the accusation that the visitor has insulted the hookah smoking gentleman. These expressions are symbolized through worry (yellow) and joy (green).

Smokers in a Turkish Coffee House Pic 3

As we see in the snapshot above, the gentleman identified by the yellow circle is likely the proprietor of the coffee house.  Although he has been tending to guest and working hard to meet their demands, he has also monitored the conversation taking place (eavesdropping).  As soon as the gentleman in the white turban, who is smoking the hookah, announces to the visitor (man with the red circle) that he is aggressively insulting his wife, the owner turns his attention to the gentleman displaying a look of panic and concern.  What possibly could the proprietor be thinking?  Maybe, “Oh no, please don’t fight”or “I hope this resolves better than last time”or “Ouch, Gustav will not be easy to calm after those comments.”  No matter the circumstance, his job from this point on will be to keep the shop calm, ensuring a scuffle does not occur disrupting the relaxing smoking pleasure of other guests.

Smokers in a Turkish Coffee House Pic 4

Now, there is not all doom and gloom to come from the story.  Last, and certainly not least, we see the green circle individuals, most of whom are young children/youth.  Keen observers will note their expressions to be happy and almost playful in a manner. Why, we may ask?  When reflecting back to my own childhood and youth, if I were to be a spectator of such a scene, through my immaturity and youthfulness, I too most certainly would have found the scenario to be funny.  In all honesty, the male child standing next to the visitor is probably an employee of the smoke/coffee shop who is looked down upon and mistreated on a regular basis from the clientele.  For him to experience such a scene would certainly make his day better.

Further, I assume the two young girls in the lower right corner of the painting are the daughters of one or two of the patrons.  As they mindlessly wait in boredom for their father(s) to enjoy smoke and small talk with other men in the shop, they become very amused with the insults being disclosed by the visitor.  For them, this is drama at its best.

In reality, I have no on earthly idea what the artist, Joseph Nash, was attempting to display in this work.  Although this is one of the stories my mind likes to tell, it may be nowhere near the original intention of the artist.  This is one of the beauties of art, especially historic paintings with people in them.  We get to create a story, therefore, allowing our mind to become a piece of the art. And there is no better way to do so than while smoking a treasured pipe with an exceptional tobacco.

Dr. Kyle Andrew Signature

A Pipe Smoker’s Inquiry

Happy Father’s Day

What does it mean to be a father?  Depending on which era or generation this question is posed, we would certainly find significant variations of responses.  I have always loved the image of a middle-aged male coming home from work, dressed in suit and tie, welcomed by a well-groomed house wife (typically adoring an apron of sorts), happy child, and obedient family pet.  All excited that the ‘man of the house’ has returned from a hard day’s work.

oldpipe Father's Day

As this story plays out in my mind, the husband is greeted at the door by his loving wife, who takes his gloves, hat, and overcoat, while handing him the afternoon paper for his reading prior to dinner being served.  The gracious husband and father returns his wife’s greeting with a quick smooch and confidently retreats to his most comfortable chair to enjoy an early afternoon pre-dinner pipe while reading today’s local newspaper.  After picking up his favorite, well-loved Dr. Grabow pipe, and loading a bowl of his favorite OTC blend (Granger or Sir Walter Raleigh) the father sits as his son approaches stating, “Here dad, let me light that for you.”  The father graciously allows his son to provide the first match charring light while inquiring as to what he learned in school that day.

Knowingly or not, this is one of the many crucial lessons the father is unintentionally teaching his son in the scenario above.  No, it’s not that smoking is bad and anyone who does it is a terrible and dirty individual who is sure to be damned to hell.  Actually, it is very much the opposite, in that conversation, reading, and relaxation are all good practices and very much necessary in order to live a successful, fulfilling life.

Pipe Smoking Dad

Home Sweet Home, by J.C. Leyendecker. Detail from The American Weekly – June 15, 1947 (retrieved from Eric Boehm’s Facebook account).

Obviously, the picture and scenario above represent a time from previous generations.  However, the conversation, bond, love, and respect for dad was evident with the outcome being a family that worked together and depended on one another in order to live a happy, successful life.

It could easily be argued that this interaction and loyalty have been overshadowed, and for the most part lost, due to our current fast paced, greedy, self-fulfilling society.  The now obstructed and overemphasized view of equality, rights, and free-speech have given way to the ‘new family’ where most of the values learned in the scenario above, have evaporated like ice in the dessert, or are no longer considered priorities at all due to political correctness (whatever the hell that is…).

For me, I am both blessed and grateful to have a loving family where we still value each other through conversation, relaxation, reading, and the enjoyment of various hobbies (such as board games).  It is well known by my amazing wife and kids how much I enjoy smoking a pipe and reading a multitude of literary genres.  Therefore, I must admit I was completely shocked when I was gifted a new pipe for Father’s Day this year.  Because of our interaction and frequent conversations with one another, my wife was very ‘in tune’ to a specific pipe brand/model I had been stalking lately.  To my surprise, and delight, my kiddos gifted me (at my wife’s discretion) a brand-new Stanwell Hans Christian Andersen pipe today.

Stanwell 1

Stanwell 2

I mean, wow, what an amazing gift!  This only confirms that I am blessed and appreciated by those around me who I value above anything else.  Further, this pipe now holds a special place in my collection and heart.  Even if it proves to be a terrible smoker, which I am betting it’s not, there is no way I would ever sell or trade this beautiful trinket.  In fact, I hope that one day after I’m long gone, one of my own sons will look back at the pipe and remember the joy and happiness it brought me on this Father’s Day. Although it’s not one of my own children lighting a match to provide my first charring light (as seen above), I hope my kids have been able to witness, both today and in the future, the many joys this pipe and others in my collection have brought me.  Further, the most valuable lesson to be had is that of making time for relaxation, conversation, and family.  By far, these are the keys to being successful in this overopinionated, fast-paced world.

To all the father’s reading this, I hope you have a wonderful and blessed Father’s Day.  May your day be filled with pipe smoke, food, family, and libations to celebrate your amazing role as dad.

Cheers!

Dr. Kyle Andrew Signature

A Pipe Smoker’s Inquiry

Reflecting on a Tragedy

As most pipe smokers would agree, the news of The McClelland Pipe Tobacco Company shutting its doors was both tragic and discomforting.  I specifically use the adjective tragic as McClelland had been in business for 40+ years.  The company was built on what most Americans describe as the ‘American Dream’.  Therefore, witnessing this 40 years of hard work and dedication from both Mike and Mary McNeil virtually crumble to pieces in a 60-day time period, is certainly as I described…tragic.  The pipe smoking community has certainly taken a negative turn because of this misfortune.  With one of the largest portfolios on the tobacco market, McClelland is now but a pastime that smokers from this time period will share with those entering the hobby 20 years from now.

McClelland Pipe Tobacco Logo

We could get into a rather deep discussion regarding the outlying factors for the company’s closure, and yes, it is concerning that such a ‘giant’ in this market melted down so quickly; however, I would prefer this piece focus on the other word I used to describe this downfall of Rome – discomforting.

What does it really mean when something or someone is discomforting?  According to the Oxford Universal Dictionary (1955) discomfort is, “to make uncomfortable or uneasy” (p. 520). To most people this does not sound appealing or pleasant in the least, but maybe it is exactly what the pipe smoking community needed [que audience gasp].  Like many others across the globe, McClelland was one of my favorite brands of tobacco.  I could have easily rushed out upon the announcement and speculation of the company closing and purchased up every available tin of McClelland tobacco to be found.  Believe me, there were several individuals who participated in such nonsensical behavior.  Instead, I chose to catalog what tins I had remaining in my cellar and establish an informal schedule of how to smoke the McClelland tobacco I have remaining in order to enjoy these tobaccos for years to come.  So, what did this endeavor teach me?  Well, I have taken this opportunity of discomfort and used it to learn, grow, and expand my pursuit of other pipe tobacco blends.  In fact, I am now somewhat thankful for the tragedy.  Let me explain.

Man Smoking A Pipe Picture

I am very much a creature of habit.  When I find something I like, I tend to stick with it and am hesitant to make any type of change or adjustment.   Because of my love for McClelland tobaccos, in the past when making a pipe tobacco order, I typically would order those tobaccos (McClelland blends) I knew would provide me with the enjoyment and comfort I seek in pipe smoking.  The closing of McClelland, and disappearance of their products from the market at reasonable prices, has forced me to change this habit and further restart my exploration for new tobacco blends currently available.  When exploring what change means, I am reminded of Marris’s (1975) point that all types of change involve loss, anxiety, struggle or a combination of the three. My discomfort, experienced from circumstances in which I have no control, has forced me to change my behavior, and I must admit, for the better.

Some of the blends I have explored in lieu of this tragedy are proving to be absolutely outstanding tobaccos, providing me with even more enjoyable smoking experiences than I have had in the past.  The following blends are some of those I have recently explored and am currently enjoying.

Boswell’s Titus

Screen Shot 2018-03-18 at 10.46.15 PM

I would describe this as a mild, light English blend.  Easily enjoyable all day, this blend offers the smoker a creamy, naturally sweet experience.  The tobacco burns well and does not overpower the palate.  For me, this is an excellent tobacco to start the day with.  Not too powerful, but still a tasty treat.

 

G.L. Pease Westminster

Screen Shot 2018-03-18 at 10.47.26 PM

Where have you been all my life!?  Westminster is certainly a hidden gem.  With medium smoky notes that lead to a musty book (well-aged tobacco) room note.  The tastes hint at a figgy/raisin characteristic with further notes of rich molasses and sweet cedar.  This well-crafted English blend has quickly made an appearance in my regular rotation.

 

Sutliff’s Blend No. 5

Screen Shot 2018-03-18 at 10.48.08 PM

Yes, I was hesitant to pull the trigger on this blend as I typically associate Sutliff with lower end aromatic tobaccos.  I stand corrected.  Blend No. 5 offers the smoker a smooth and simplistic smoking experience.  There is a nice initial spice to the tobacco that quickly melts into a solid earthy, nutty taste.  The blend is mild to medium bodied and can be enjoyed at any hour of the day.

 

Cornell & Diehl Star of the East Flake 

Screen Shot 2018-03-18 at 10.49.01 PM

I had read several places online that this blend was a great substitute for the ever so difficult to obtain Esoterica Penzance.  Let me be the first to say it is not.  In my opinion this tobacco is even better than Penzance (and believe me, I have smoked my fair share of Penzance).  With aroma notes of musty, old book, and smoky campfire remains, the blend is very complex. Its tasting profile offers the smoker notes of sweet and sour earth, leather, spice, and wood.  This blend is certainly in the full-bodied range and carries a noticeable nicotine punch if not respected by the smoker’s cadence.  Very well crafted and highly recommended.

 

In the end, I am indeed saddened by the loss of a great tobacco company.  However, to think I would have never expanded my search to find these amazing blends because of my loyal dedication to one specific company, and a few specific blends, is almost more concerning than the quickness in which McClelland left the market.  Overall, I encourage my fellow pipe smoking friends to not be scared, upset, or anxious at the current discomforts we are experiencing, rather, embrace them as an opportunity to change and grow.  An opportunity for us to explore other fabulous pipe tobacco offerings.  After all, sometimes it takes discomfort in order for change to occur.  And most of the time, it is for the better.

Dr. Kyle Andrew Signature

A Pipe Smoker’s Inquiry

A Few of My Favorite Things – 2017 Edition  

Favorite Things opening Pic

As we approach the finale of 2017, it makes sense to take time and reflect back on the things that brought us both joy and happiness over the course of 2017.  Although it may be easy to allow the negative, less than desirable, events to creep into our memories, I would rather reflect back on the things that helped ease the way through 2017.  There truly is no method to this madness, rather, just a list of things that I have enjoyed over the past 365 days.  I hope you enjoy this catalog of favorites and if you haven’t experienced the items discussed below, give them a try.  You never know how they may influence and even support you through 2018.

Favorite Beer of 2017

MadTree Lift

Madtree Lift Beer Can pic

I was introduced to this beer at a small Cincinnati, Ohio bar in July of this past year.  A group of friends and myself attended the Incubus 8 concert and decided to pre-game at a local hang out.  With the heat of summer in its prime, I was craving a pilsner/kolsch style beer.  The bartender inquired if I had ever tried MadTree Lift.  I replied no, and he smiled, left, and returned with what I classify as a piece of heaven on Earth.  From that moment on MadTree Lift has been my go to beer of choice.  Creamy and crisp with innocent hop notes and tastes of citrus and wheat, Lift is truly a choice you won’t regret.

Favorite Bourbon of 2017

Knob Creek Single Barrel Small Batch Reserve

Knob Creek Single Barrel Small Batch Reserve Pic

Being a native Kentuckian, bourbon runs in my veins and has simply become an everyday part of life.  It truly is second nature to most of my family, friends, and acquaintances.  Similar to cigars, I am always on the hunt for that perfect bourbon.  This year there were several contenders for top bourbon, however, in the end Knob Creek Single Barrel Small Batch Reserve came out the winner. With a nose showing notes of vanilla, caramel, brown sugar, and candy the smell alone is worth the $40 price tag.  Tastes are rich and sweet, mimicking the profile found on the nose with an added maple syrup characteristic.  Tasters will easily note the 120 proof, however, the bourbon is well balanced and the heat of the alcohol is in no way overpowering.  If available in your area pick up a bottle of Knob Creek Single Barrel Small Batch Reserve and enjoy with your favorite cigar or pipe tobacco.

Favorite Wine of 2017

Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir

Au Bon Climate 2015 Pic

No, not all of my favorite things in 2017 were alcohol related, but I figured I would let the best go first.  Aside from beer and bourbon I highly enjoy wine.  Without a doubt, I am the furthest thing from being a master sommelier, however, I do enjoy tasting and pairing wines and typically try 15 – 20 new wines every year.  The front runner this year was the Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir.  Being produced in the Santa Maria Valley of California, this wine is bold and vibrant displaying a smooth balanced taste of plum, sweet berries, chocolate and earth.  At $25 a bottle this wine is worth a try by those who can appreciate a quality handmade adult beverage.

Favorite Board Game of 2017

Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition

D&D 5e Player's Handbook Pic

Yes, it may seem extremely nerdy to play board games, further, admit that my favorite of the year was Dungeons and Dragons 5e.  However, this game system is truly a ton of fun if you enjoy adventure and role playing.  I actually started playing D&D back in high school under the 3.5 system but my real-life adventure to college meant my D&D days were put on hold.  Fast forward 15 years, 3 degrees, 4 children, 1 spouse, and a mortgage later, and we have my restart into Dungeons and Dragons with the most recent 5th edition rules.  I currently DM for two different groups, that convene once a month to play, and have been doing so since December 2016.  Cheers to friends, fun, games, and lots of laughs with a little D&D 5e!

Favorite Book of 2017

Finders Keepers by: Stephen King

Finders Keeps Cover Pic

I’m a sucker for a good fiction novel, the only problem is finding one that doesn’t a.) turn into a sappy soap opera love story, b.) have a predictable outcome, and c.) lose momentum during the story.  Finders Keepers certainly avoids all three of these issues while maintaining a constant crescendo of suspense and surprise.  I am not a huge Stephen King fan but must admit that he created a brilliant piece of work in Finders Keepers.  This novel is the second in the Mr. Mercedes collection, however, having not read the first or last books in the series, I was still able to completely understand the story while relating to each character’s background.  Be warned, if you dare to give this book a read, clear your schedule because you won’t want to put it down.

Favorite Music Album of 2017

Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau (2017)

Chris T and Brad M Album Picture

I was first introduced to this album through the Pipes Magazine Radio Show as Brian Levine showcased the duo during the weekly music segment.  With my roots being grounded in bluegrass music, and jazz holding a close place to my heart, this album proved to be an absolute perfect balance of each musical genre.  Both Chris and Brad have work together flawlessly to create a musical masterpiece that reflects a rich bluegrass heritage while interweaving unpredictable jazz functionality.  This album is sure to keep your ears busy while helping your mind relax.

Favorite TV Show of 2017

Game of Thrones Season 7

Game of Thrones Season 7 Pic

Let’s be honest, if you haven’t been participating in the Game of Thrones rave, you are truly missing out.  From the beginning the show has been action packed, gruesome, and unpredictable.  With season seven premiering this past year, many Game of Thrones junkies, like myself, are preparing ourselves for the final season which is set to debut in 2019.  I must admit, however, that this past season (seven) has been my least favorite thus far.  Although still a damn great show, those who have followed the show religiously can easily note that the original creator and author of the book series, George R. R. Martin, has stopped writing the show episodes.  Martin was famously known for his impulsive demise of characters and sudden plot twist, which is one of the many reasons the show is enjoyable to watch.  This past season presented ample opportunities for major characters to meet their end, but they didn’t.  Is it because the viewership has grown too fond of the main appeals, I don’t know, but I hope the eighth and final season brings back the capricious suspense that hooked so many people to the show in the first place.  Winter is coming, I hope you are ready!

Well that does it.  Thank you for taking the time to read through a few of my favorite things this past year.  I hope you have enjoyed my list and feel free to post a comment sharing some of your thoughts or favorites from 2017.  Stay tuned as I will be posting both my Top 5 Pipe Tobaccos and Top 5 Cigars of 2017 in the coming weeks.  As always, be well and cheers!

Dr. Kyle Andrew Signature

A Pipe Smoker’s Inquiry

My Tobacco Cellar: How much is too much?

I started my pipe smoking journey in 2012, thus some may consider me still ‘green’ when it comes to the topic of pipes and pipe tobacco.  However, I have always lived under the mantra that experience isn’t built in the number of years you do something, rather, the number of things you do in those years.  I have met some pipe smokers who have only owned 3 pipes their entire life and have puffed on the same Over the Counter (OTC) blend for 50 years.  This isn’t a bad thing, but does it make them more of a tobacco and pipe smoking expert than the individual who has only smoked a pipe for 5 years, has a 100 + pipe collection, and smokes just about every blend the market has produced.  No.  In fact, they both have an expertise and background that would be helpful to anyone looking to get into the pipe smoking hobby.  I only bring this up because there are indeed individuals on the greater world wide web who would argue otherwise.  If you are one of those individuals please understand….I don’t care what you think.  Anyone who actually knows my background would note that I started smoking a pipe in 2012 but was a cigar smoker long before I ever picked up a pipe.  In fact, I started smoking premium hand rolled cigars in 2006 while still pursing my undergraduate degree in college.  Without a doubt, this was my gateway into pipe smoking and remains a beloved enjoyment of mine.

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So now comes the big question.  How much is too much?  As a hobby, is there ever a true finite beginning and end?  Furthermore, what qualifies someone as owning too much tobacco?  Maybe there isn’t such a thing, however, I am probably close to owning more than I will smoke in my lifetime.  This reality doesn’t upset me.  In fact, I find it enjoyable that I have so many options to choose from when smoking a pipe.  I like to think of it as similar to dinning out.  I don’t know anyone that likes to have the same meal, from the same restaurant, over and over again.  I would be willing to bet that as time goes on, that meal and venue begin to lose their appeal and wanderlust.  Instead, I prefer not just options, but a buffet of choices when it comes to food and tobacco.

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If we dig even further into this analogy we could argue that not only are there several buffets to choose from but different options within each of these establishments.  I attribute my excessively large tobacco cellar to my ever changing and somewhat indecisive personality.  I have always liked options, and although it’s healthy to establish a routine, this is a place in my life where exploration is always welcome.  As stated earlier, I don’t claim to be some tobacco aficionado or expert, but I do value exploration and options, hence why I own so many blends.  Therefore, in my opinion, no, there is never an ending to our hobby or a point where you can own too much tobacco.

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With the constant overreach of federal governments, and frivolous anti-smoking laws, I suggest more people work to stock up your cellars and prepare for the worst.  No, not Armageddon, but when the day comes where we as pipe smokers and tobacco enthusiasts can no longer purchase our beloved leaf, I am confident my own collect will cover my needs until my days on Earth are complete.  So, if you chose to not stock up, sucks for you!  However, you’re always welcome to come share some of my stock.  I don’t think I’ll be running out anytime soon.

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For more pictures and details of my tobacco collection/cellar, visit my YouTube channel at:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCz6BRWRb44QouItmvlhDxQQ?view_as=subscriber

Cheers!

Dr. Kyle Andrew Signature