The Strange Phenomenon of Virtual Social Pipe-Smoking

Hard to believe it’s been six years since I last posted an article on this blog…

I blame it on YouTube. It is so much easier to swipe on your smart phone camera, record something about your pipe and tobacco and whatever other thoughts come to mind, do a little editing and upload it knowing that a larger number of folks will take a gander at your video and leave a comment within a much shorter period of time than the number of those who will ever get around to reading and commenting on your blog post. It’s obvious that for most people watching videos is more fun than reading is. Making videos is also more fun. Moreover, the video-maker more often than not gets to audio-visually interact with other pipe-smoking YouTube creators, making it seemingly more personal. (Indeed, there is at least one, that I know of, legally blind pipester who creates YouTube videos.) In contrast, writing simply takes more intellectual effort. It also doesn’t feel as personal of a connection as does video, as far as I sense it, anyway. So, I got lost in the YouTube Pipe Community (YTPC) and couldn’t find my way back to the blog until now.

There is a strange phenomenon I discovered along the way…

Although we pipe-smokers enjoy our quiet time with a favorite tobacco, we’re also inclined to want to enjoy a bowl or two with other pipe enthusiasts. We like to share notes, show our collections, make trades–as it is with any hobby. Although some of us like to take part in pipe clubs that meetup periodically in person, quite a few of us either don’t have that luxury or find it more to our liking to simply interact through online discussion boards or by posting product reviews on Tobacco Reviews or pipe and tobacco sellers’ websites. Another social option pipe and tobacco hobbyists pursue is to join in with the YTPC.

What I find compelling about participating on a video platform is that when I smoke a bowl on camera, I feel like I’m not smoking alone, but smoking along with whomever might be watching the video. Likewise, when I watch other YTPC creators’ content–even though I might not have lit up, none the less, somehow I feel like I’m sharing a bowl right along with them. This sense of participation seems to me to be the strangest thing. And is, no doubt, a primary reason I’ve returned to virtual social pipe-smoking. You see, not only did I drift away from this blog, but I also left YTPC a few years back, deleting all of my content.

Leaving and returning…

I had come upon a health concern regarding my vision, because of which, my ophthalmologist recommended I give up all nicotine products. So I did. Feeling hypocritical that I had given up pipes, cigars and the occasional snuff while maintaining a channel about such activities, I closed my SoCal Pipester channel. As things turn out, my condition is not as serious as first suspected, so of course, I couldn’t help myself but to little by little indulge in a bit of relaxation by way of pipe and tobacco. I even found myself buying the odd pipe here and there to provide some solace during times of feeling down. Soon I was looking up YTPC videos. And here I am. I do not see my return as a stumbling, but as a sign of recovery–and I want to share it, by golly!

The YTPC phenomenon that lured me away from my blog those years ago has, in some odd way, brought me back to it. Vlogging and blogging are complimentary efforts, I believe. And so here we are.

Hello, pipe-smokers of the world. Care to join me for a little virtual social pipe-smoking? Strange, though it may be?

SoCal Pipester’s 2014 Pipe Tobaccos to Start the Year

SoCal Pipester Tobacco Tins
A few tins lined up for 2014 smoking pleasure

SoCal Pipester’s 2014 Pipe Tobaccos to Start the Year…

If you’ve read what my favorite tobaccos of 2013 were, be assured I’ll continue to load up a bowl or two of those throughout 2014; however, this year I have a hankering to revisit some old favorites as well as sample some new, or new to me, blends – especially, some light aromatics.

Indeed, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, for a number of reasons I count myself among those who generally dislike aromatics. But because of extenuating circumstances, for 2014, I’ve set course for a new mission in pipe tobacco exploration: to find a couple of aromatic tobacco blends that meet my criteria for the spring and summer seasons, and then something for the fall.

Why the focus now on aromatics?

It’s political…

Firstly, although my wife grew up in a household where both parents were lifelong cigarette smokers, she cannot abide the smell of tobacco. And though I do my best to keep even the residual aroma of my piping pleasure at bay, you know how difficult that can be. So I’m thinking maybe I should re-double my efforts to find a smoke that might garner the response, “Hey, that’s almost like incense!” rather than, “At least that’s not as bad as the other stuff I’ve smelled,” which is about the best remark she’s given me regarding my pastime.

Secondly, the anti-anything-tobacco anywhere, anytime lobby is unrelenting in its campaign to eliminate it from our lives. The federal government has been considering classifying and regulating tobacco products in the same manner as they would a drug. The “Tobacco Free” movement in California doesn’t just want to help people to stop smoking but wants to criminalize those who do. In the Los Angeles suburb in which I live, one cannot walk the streets pipe alighted without running the risk of a hefty fine by happening to within 25 feet of a no-smoking zone – whether anybody else but the constable is around or not.

Now, I have always understood the need to be thoughtful about the exposure of others to my secondhand smoke. And I have always agreed with the notion that we should ban smoking from certain public and private spaces as long as exemptions were allowed for taverns and smoke shops and the like. Cigarette butts laying about?  Don’t get me started. But today’s anti-smoking propaganda is going beyond the pale.

So… in the event that I’m somewhere outside of a “safe-to-smoke zone” enjoying my latest pipe or tobacco acquisition, and the fragrance of my activity comes within olfactory range of another person, I’m hoping – as with my wife –  the reaction to an aromatic might be one of, “Wow, such a nice vanilla scent!” rather than, “Off with his head! Off with his head, now!!”

Among the criteria that this aromatic tobacco must meet is that it be of quality leaf, not overly cased or topped, taste pretty danged good, not cherry, be a complete joy for me to puff my way through an entire bowl, burn to a fine enough ash, leave little to no dottle, and present a great smelling smoke trail. Note that, of course, this is fairly subjective, as by nature the entire pipe smoking experience is.

To this end, in addition to settling back with a pipe of 1792, Special Latakia Flake, Brown Flake, Royal Yacht, Bob’s Chocolate Flake, and Drew Estate Meat Pie (oh, haven’t tried Gaslight, yet, guess I ought to pick up a tin of that, too). I’ve also already grabbed a couple of Drew Estate aromatics, Harvest on the Hudson and 7th Avenue Blonde. Additionally, I’ll be loading up bowls of Stanwell Melange and Vanilla, Brigham Ripely Avenue, Peterson Sunset Breeze and if I can still pickup a tin, maybe I should give their Summertime Blend 2013 a go, haven’t heard if they’ve got any 2014 summer blend coming out.

I’ve got a couple ounces of Comoy’s Cask No. 5 lined up, as well as Mac Baren’s version of Capstan Gold Flake.

So that’s what I’ll be up to this year, tobacco wise, so far as I can see for the moment. How about yourself?

If you’ve got an aromatic recommendation I should consider, let me know. In the meantime, I’ve certainly got some smoking to do.

SoCal Pipester Inaugural Post: Favorite Tobaccos 2013

socal pipester top ten tobaccos 2013The SoCal Pipester Inaugural Post: My Favorite 10 Tobaccos 2013…

So I’m sitting in the barrack’s smoking pit, 4th Platoon, whatever training company it was, Harmony Church, Ft. Benning, and a soldier from the Michigan National Guard walks up and sets to packing his left cheek with Redman chew, the front of his lower lip with Copenhagen dip, then between his lips places a Marlboro regular and lights up.

“Holy Hell…?”

I pulled on skunk weed stogies for my nicotine fix, but his tobacco mix intrigued me.

“Give me a pinch of that Redman if you can spare any,” I said.

Placing a modest amount between cheek and gum, I then blew smoke rings as I pondered the juicy qualities of this new found manner of blissful tobacco enjoyment — the marriage of chew and cigar.

Ah, those were the days.

I’d like to think my tastes (not to mention unhealthy practices) have refined some since a few years have stretched out between then and now. I no longer smoke cigarettes or partake of chaw, and haven’t for years, but I am one of those guys who just flat out appreciates tobacco. And so it is that I find myself, in these wizened years of mine, returning to the art of the pipe, after much too long of an absence, with a desire to share this now maligned pastime with the world — or some small portion thereof…

Without further reminiscing or rambling, let me, for my opening post, simply state 10 pipe tobaccos I have found myself happily returning to throughout 2013. You may be the judge if I obtain a hankering for skunk weed. In no particular order they are…

Orlick Golden Sliced — There’s a reason this mild Virginia based flake is a staple for so many pipesters. Great for an anytime smoke and for newbies.

Reiner Long Golden Flake — Another mild Virginia based flake yet somewhat more flavorful than Golden Sliced.

Escudo Navy De Luxe — Yes, another standard, which most of us Virginia-Perique (VaPer) lovers love.

Cornell & Diehl Bayou Morning — A mild to medium ribbon cut VaPer I love to start my day with. Sold in bulk, it offers great value.

McConnell Scottish Cake — A medium strength VaPer variation. I’m thinking this might be becoming my favorite.

Former 50th Anniversary Jubilee — As Former’s anniversary was in 2009, I’m guessing it’s become a regular offering, otherwise I hope they have plenty of this in stock. I’ll be liking this English type blend for awhile.

Brigham Maritime Morning — R. L. Will’s take on Dunhill Early Morning Pipe. Already known in Canada as Rise and Shine, it’s a really nice, mild  smoke for all day or the newbie.

Samuel Gawith Squadron Leader — I find myself easily going back to this familiar standby when I’m wanting a touch of that Lakeland floral/herbal English blend.

McClelland Frog Morton Cellar — Yepper’s, I’m on the froggy’s cellar bandwagon. It’s just a nice, mellow tasting Latakia blend and different from aforementioned Squadron Leader.

Ashton Artisan’s Blend — Rumor has it there actually may be no more Syrian Latakia in today’s mixtures. Yes or no, I’m still diggin’ this “almost everything but the kitchen sink” kind of blend.

Obviously, we all have our own particular likes and dislikes when it comes to just about everything, including pipe smoking. But…if I’ve noted a tobacco blend you haven’t tried yet, load up a bowl and see what you think.

In my next post, I’ll tell you why I have no holiday spirit or Christmas cheer when it comes to special seasonal blends.

Till next time… I’ll keep some ‘baccy by the doorway for ya.