I'm here at Gray Manor, back in the West Parlor (my garage), smoking some Dunhill Dark Flake in one of my treasured Neerup pipes. I just can't say enough good things about Neerup--they check all the boxes for me: looks, engineering, and that magical characteristic that I like to call "smokability." For it's part, the Dark Flake is similar to Dunhill's Flake, but is like an old friend you haven't seen in a while. He's changed a bit, has some new experiences to share, and it's a lot of fun catching up. Or to put it another way, if Dunhill Flake is your serene uncle who has a calming effect on conversation, Dark Flake is your sea dog uncle who spent some time in the merchant marines, and has a few more off-color stories to tell. But you love 'em both, and you're glad to spend some time with each of them.
Today, I want to talk about a common complaint from newer pipe smokers. "No matter what I do, my pipe just won't stay lit!" When I got started in pipe smoking some 20 years ago, I had the same lament. I came from cigar smoking, and cigars just aren't as "hands-on" as pipes tend to be. Cigars are designed to continue smoking right to the end, and as long as you take a puff every minute or so, you're good. The occasional cigar may burn unevenly, but it will burn, and keeping one lit is not usually a problem. When I switched to pipes, I had the same mindset, and got frustrated to no end that my pipe kept going out. I attributed it to some sort of failure on my part, and would increase my smoking cadence to "Ludicrous Speed." What I received for my troubles was a mouth full of lava, and a pipe that still would not stay lit!
Through the years, I've learned a few tips and tricks about the art of pipe smoking. Learning to pack your bowl in the "sweet spot" (neither too loose nor too tight), when and how to tamp, and how to navigate several other variables such as wind and humidity have all added to my success at smoking a pipe. But that doesn't mean my pipe stays lit from the charring light to the bottom of the bowl. In fact, that almost never happens without a little boost from a flame every now and then. In fact, I've had to re-light my pipe while typing this several times. And that's okay!
The bottom line is that pipe smoking is not cigar smoking. They are very different things, just as cigars and cigarettes are very different (thank God). I would think the most difficult adjustment would be had by cigarette smokers trying to switch to pipes, since cigarettes will practically burn their way to ash all by themselves, but never really get the chance to burn out because the smoker is constantly and manically pulling that ember towards its final curl of smoke.
So let's take a look at why you've come to the pipe in the first place. Is it because of the enjoyment of smoking? Or is it because you like to come to the end of things? In other words, are you enjoying the journey, or just looking for the destination? Pipe smoking has no destination aside from the relaxation it can provide, and I get there with the first puff! You have to come to pipe smoking with that mindset that the journey is the most important thing. Because the final destination is simply an empty pipe that you have to clean. Let's think about it in terms of eating. If you race through your meal, all you have to look forward to is doing the dishes, and possibly indigestion. But if you take time to chew your food, enjoy the flavors, and sometimes even set your fork down while enjoying some good conversation or a drink, the meal is much more pleasant and enjoyable. But if you're eating in a hurry, it's not nearly as nice an experience. The same with pipes: if you're constantly watching the clock and racing to the end, perhaps that's not the best time for you to have picked up your pipe in the first place.
I can't begin to explain the many ways that pipe smoking has enriched my enjoyment of life. It has been a catalyst for me to calm down, take time out daily for myself, and just enjoy the little things in life. And a pipe that goes out is also one of those little things. These days, I've come to enjoy relighting as just another part of the journey.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to re-light my pipe...
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