Meet the newbie
Hello fellow pipe smokers! I'm new, both this forum and to the wonderful world of pipes. I am glad to find this oasis of smokers amidst a world gone mad in abstinence.
I have spent half my life smoking, of course the "other" mainstream tobacco product. The early years were spent hiding from rabid anti-smoking parents and sneaking puffs, the later years hiding from my rabid anti-smoking wife and sneaking puffs. But, corny as it sounds, I always smoked for the flavor - not the addiction. I smoked when I wanted to (and could get away with it), rather than the usual I-need-a-hit routine.
By some strange alignment of celestial objects, the wife suggested I try smoking a pipe last December. The words had hardly left her pretty lips before I was tearing down the road in a cloud of dust, and screeched to a halt in front of the local tobacconist - which by some fluke happens to be right around the corner.
Now this is a not a small town, but apparently there are only two such stores here - both owned by the same guy (and therefore have identical stock). But in any case, there I stood in awe afore a wall filled with wondrous looking pipes. Over trots the young sales-kid, probably not old enough smoke himself, to show me the wares. Now I happened to know a little about these things, with ol' uncle "V" who was a pipe smoker who taught me how to clean a pipe when I was a wee pup (so he didn't have to). "These are made from mahogany and oak ..." he begins. Huh? Aren't pipes from the briar patch? "No, they are briar coated, the black stuff inside". Oh dear. He moves on the pretty white pipe carved like some Greek-God head, "Ivory ..." he quips.
Yes I did roll my eyes and asked for a beginner pipe, read, cheap. So I end up buying a Medeco acrylic bent pipe with its quasi-wood finish. And I did remember the tobacco, which by some fluke turned out to be a decent Cavendish/Burley blend. Home I go and I can see wifey already regretting her words. Scan the Internet for pipe smoking instructions, ah, need a tamper. Find a nice fat headed nail, good enough. Grab the brulee mini-blow torch off the kitchen counter and head to the yard - I was already banished to the great outdoors before the baccy had even been filled. Stuff stuff stuff, pack pack pack. Light, puff, pure heaven! Pipe goes out. Relight, puff, heaven again! Pipe goes out. After a few tries and almost setting my hair on fire, go back inside to revisit the fountain of knowledge aka the Internet.
To cut a ridiculous and long story short, finally figure out how to smoke this thing. Awesome, I loved it. So a couple of weeks of practice and I could tamp it well enough, light it and smoke it through for an hour. That Medeco is cheap, but I'll give it credit for taking my beginner abuse. Learned not to use a blow torch (rim scorch). Learned how NOT to clean the bowl (don't ask). Learned to balance a pipe in the mouth, after dropping it a few times and watching it bounce down a flight of steps head first like Q'bert. Learned about tongue bite, drool, tobacco types, cleaning, sweetening, and so on. Meanwhile the wife seemed to have accepted the pipe, even though I am still banished outdoors - and she sweetly bought me a pipe tool and pipe lighter. Which cost three times what that pipe cost to begin with, but that's love I suppose.
Anyways, it comes into January and I am itching for a "real" pipe. Con the mother-in-law into buying me a good pipe, wife is once again anti-fun and grumbling. I can't buy a pipe here, by now I knew what to look for and all they have here is cheap no-name or defective stuff. Drive to the neighboring state where I find someone who actually knows what a pipe is made from! So I end up justifying the gas and tolls by buying two pipes (see wife grumbling above, multiply by two).
Number one is a Jirsa No.29 bent rusticated horn-like shape. Slightly tapered bowl but the hole is almost dead center at the bottom. Nice light weight, balanced nicely between two fingers (lip simulator). Vulcanite stem snug and perfect fit, but the top half was oxydized green with the bottom half shiny black - but I figured for the price it wasn't bad (about $60 I think) and I could just clean it. I'm still breaking this one in, just went from small loads to a full bowl. A very rich, thick and satisfying smoke (at least on the lower half of the bowl which seems to have broken in better so far). Letting it rest for a day or two is a pain, but until I get another briar ... (see wife grumbling above).
Number two is a small meerschaum classic shape bent. I can't decipher the manufacturer name printed on the fitted case label, but it claims to be solid block. It felt right, very light, surface looked reasonably waxy and slimy on a wet fingertip, no powdery residue, air hole was reasonably centered, and the lucite stem was a perfect fit. This one was about $90 - and boy am I glad I got this! I can't believe the taste, and it really burns perfectly. In two weeks this one has started to color already - since I can smoke it more often than the briar, I'll try to get some pictures up here.
Well its good to be here, and I'll be out in the yard enjoying my new hobby. I have since discovered that I can sit in the shed to smoke so I don't freeze to death waiting for spring to arrive. All I need is to move the TV to the shed and, oh well.