Peak Pipe

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“What do you want for Father’s Day?” my wife asked, as if she had to. I’m easy to shop for. There’s always a reliable go-to, if all else fails: get me a pipe.

My pipe collection is more humble than some but grander than many. And each of them has a story. One is from landing my first full-time job, another was an anniversary gift from my wife (third anniversary). One was given to me for Christmas, one was a gift for officiating a friend’s wedding. A couple were the product of me haggling down a guy at the brick-and-mortar tobacco shop to make me a deal on some pipes that had been in his glass cabinet for more than a year without any takers.

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A portion of my humble, yet hardy, collection.

I treasure each of them and value each for various qualities, whether for their beauty or the quality of the smoke. (A couple are even good at both.)

So, when my wife says to order a pipe, my tablet is quickly in my hand and the inventory of my favorite online pipe retailer, www.PipesAndCigars.com, on the screen.

But this time, I just didn’t find anything that impressed me. Not as much as the pipes already in my stable, at any rate.

What did impress me was the fact that I had a tablet on which to look at pipes at all. Or a comfortable chair on which to sit while I searched the Web for pipes. Or a big-screen television blaring in the background.

Every now and then, I’m struck by just what a lucky bastard I am.

True, life hasn’t always been fair or easy, and there are many of whom I’m envious and many for whom I have no pity because their plight is the product of their own decisions. I’m not above being on a high horse from time to time. But I’ve been damn lucky, too. And I realize I don’t always stop to appreciate how good I have it in spite of everything.

Months ago, my wife perpetrated one of the most sincere acts of kindness I’ve ever experienced. As I sat on one end of the couch, endeavoring to mend the most expensive pipe in my collection — a calabash, which I’d had my local tobacco shop order for me when I was a single man and which I’d saved for a year to purchase — she went online and quietly ordered me a new one.

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My beloved calabash from my, um, truly beloved.

Calabashes are exceptional pipes. They’re heavy and ostentatious, but they smoke like a dream. Their meerschaum bowls mean you can smoke one repeatedly, and the chamber beneath the bowl allows for the smoke to cool so it doesn’t burn the tongue or mouth. My beloved calabash had been left atop my desk at home, however, dangerously close to where my young daughter plays, and I’d discovered it shattered on the hardwood floor behind the desk.

To take the initiative to go online and purchase me a new one — for no special occasion other than, perhaps, pity — touched me deeply. My wife is a nurse practitioner by trade, and that she tolerates my peculiar propensity toward pipes at all is a bit of a wonder, but to hold her nose and even support it in a way that would mean so much to me was beyond all expectations.

And so, when she said “order a pipe,” I paused. I thought of my dozen or so already treasured implements of briar and meerschaum, the ones that tell little stories to me each time I light them, the ones that remind me of past glories and the achievements they signify.

And instead, I ordered an ass ton of pipe tobacco.

Happy Father’s Day to me.

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