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.