hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

March 27, 2014

Pipe-scented candle gains new 'light'

Tom Vartabedian
The Haverhill Gazette

---- — There seems to be a scented candle for everything. You want a stroll in the forest, there’s pine. How about a walk along the shoreline? Try salt air. Or perhaps you’d like to pop into a pastry shop and fill your nostrils with cheesecake or a cinnamon roll. Those tend to be my favorite scents.

So what did I get at Christmas? There, wrapped in a pretty package with a bow, was a candle that blew my mind: “Santa’s pipe.”

Honest. There’s actually a pipe scent to fill your house with aromatic bliss. No second-hand smoke here. Just light and enjoy. It came with three wicks so the aroma worked quickly.

I’ll tell you how effective it was. I had the thing going for awhile and my wife walked through the door nonchalantly. She sniffed here and there, then groaned with dismay.

“Oh, no! Not again! Haven’t you learned your lesson! Don’t try to hide it. I can smell it. You’re back to your old tricks again, smoking a pipe.”

I tried explaining to her that it was only a scented candle I had received from our daughter at Christmas. Skeptical as she was, it wasn’t until she saw the candle that she gave a sigh of relief.

Maybe it’s just me, but have you noticed a big decline in pipe smokers? I don’t see them as popular as they once were. I noticed one last week at the airport. Another crossed my path in Las Vegas. I had to do a double take to see it.

There used to be a time when pipers were a common breed, a coterie who would sit and talk and exchange tobacco preferences. We would even swap pouches and sample one another’s favorite brand.

The catalogues did a worldly business with me. Unlike my credit cards, my pipe was my friendly companion, especially on a frigid day. I couldn’t leave home without it.

The smoking arsenal was part of my everyday culture. With the pipe came the pouch, my lighter and a tapper to pat the ash buildup. Back in the heyday, I smoked a pipe at home, at work, at play. About the only place it was exempt was the shower.

And then it came to a sad end. I was read the riot act by my cardiologist after a stent operation in 2006. During a post-surgical consultation, he looked me in the eye with a stern message.

“If you want to see your grandchildren grow up, ditch the pipe.”

Truth be told, he frightened me out of my wits. A pipe, I could do without. But my loved ones? There was no compromise. Out went the briars, the exclusive Meerschaums I had collected from around the world, the elaborate corn cobs I had enjoyed. Gone was all the tobacco I had stashed in my humidifiers.

Why I even emptied my closets of clothes that lingered with tobacco odor. Some of my shirts bore the aftermath of an errant spark or two. They had the holes to prove it.

I did keep one corn cob pipe. Don’t ask me why. Perhaps it was for sentiment, like an old pair of dilapidated slippers you won’t discard. About three months later, I got the urge. My wife had gone shopping and I grabbed it from the drawer — like a loaded pistol.

There was still some cherry tobacco left from the last time and I filled the bowl, taking a whiff of the contents as I poured.

On came the lighter and I began puffing away, rekindled with an old … err … flame. I flipped a gasket after coming back to reality. My conscience intervened.

“What are you doing, stud? Are you mad or something? There’s a casket waiting for you at the funeral home.”

I hurried into the bathroom and emptied the contents into a toilet bowl, flushing three times to remove all evidence. When my wife returned, there went her nose again, sniffing madly.

“What’s that smell in here? You got the candles going again. Smells like cherry in here.”

“Yes, you’re absolutely right. New blend of the month. Cherry tart pie. You like it?”

“Smells better than a lot of the other stuff that’s burned around here. Why do you have the fan going? We have central air.”

“Thought I could spread the cherry odor throughout all the rooms.”

Worked like a charm. And that, my friends, was the last encore I had with my pipe. No desire to return, either.

As for Santa’s pipe candle, not a bad substitute. But for mesmerizing scents, I’ll take the butter rum cake any day.

Writer and photographer Tom Vartabedian is retired from The Haverhill Gazette. He contributes this regular column.