Category Archives: Appreciations

Music is a Time Machine

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I am highly susceptible to suggestion.

A smell, the hue of the light can transport me. But nothing seems to relocate me like a song.

Knox Hamilton’s smooth, upbeat tune “Work It Out” plays, and zaps me back into my fear and determination of getting back into school to pursue my degree last year. My toddler grabs a particular toy that makes a rattle like the beginning of the Diamonds’ hit “Little Darlin,” and I’m back in the basement bedroom of an old girlfriend who had the song on a CD of oldies that she often played for me, knowing my affinity for the older tunes. Anything Billy Joel comes on, and I’m in the front seat of my old Cutlass Supreme, trying to not make a complete ass out of myself in front of the girl who’d eventually be my wife.

Speaking of my wife…

She loves the 90s. She loves the music of the 90s. This did not used to pose too much of a problem — there are songs from the 90s that I, too, enjoyed. Not many, but still.

Recently, a local radio station turned what was the occasional treat into a regular thing: the “Big 90s Weekend.” Every weekend, they dig up their playlists from about 20 years ago and broadcast them once more.

For her, these are just the pop hits of her adolescence. But I find myself clawing desperately at the present, trying to remain where I am (and who I am) while the Smashing Pumpkins and the Blessed Union of Souls try to drag me back through the years. Suddenly, I’m in the back seat of my mother’s two-door Pontiac, wondering how many of my grandfather’s “headache pills” she took before dragging me to her friend’s house (where I would be instructed to wait outside with the copy of “Goosebumps” I brought along with me), or walking across a high school parking lot toward my junker Plymouth with no radio while the music blasts from a passing Mustang that roars uncomfortably close to me because, why not?

I wonder if it’s a type of PTSD. There are sounds that I can’t stand because of things that happened before. I have to leave the room if someone breaks out an emery board.

Patsy Cline Maybe that’s why I enjoy listening to new music so much — music that has no meaning except what I’m experiencing right now. I wonder how these songs will be pressed into my mind in the years ahead. Some already are leaving their dents in my psyche. SomeKindaWonderful’s “Reverse” drags me back into the past summer, when my son was just a baby. Mumford and Sons’ “The Cave” reminds me of the economic collapse of recent years, and the uncertainty of so many. “Two Heads,” by Coleman Hell, is shaping up to be my song of this summer, with its banjo blowing in and out wistfully carrying the song, a bit like the muted banjo in Herman’s Hermits’ “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.”

Time rolls, music flows. Miles Davis and Dexter Gordon pull me back into college, sitting in my best friend’s driveway in a folding camping chair, my feet propped on the back bumper of by Bonneville, alternating draws from my pipe and the straw of my QuikTrip cola. Garth Brooks is dark, off limits. Garth Brooks sends me to middle school. No well-adjusted individual has fond memories of middle school. “Big Bad John,” by Jimmy Dean, sends me back to my grandmother’s kitchen, listening to it play from the small radio on the counter while she baked a cake. Patsy Cline puts me in the front seat of my dad’s ’72 Eldorado, heading home from an evening at my cousin’s house where he played Risk with his brother for hours. “Fame,” by David Bowie, sends me driving through the hills of southern California, heading into Los Angeles.

I can go wherever I’ve been whenever I like. As long as I can find the CD.

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In Like Flynn: I’m Back in College

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I’m a college man now. Again.

This week draws a close my first frenetic week as an online student at Georgia Perimeter College, where I am taking two classes and endeavoring to elevate my GPA to reapply to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

I’m so moved at how much different this is than the first time I tried to go to college. I have reliable transportation, suitable technology and, more than anything, support. My wife has been up with me nearly every night this week, trying to help me hobble through my algebra assignments. It must be maddening; and honestly, it’s pretty hopeless. My brain isn’t wired for algebra. But I’m determined to make the most of this.

My Study

Where I’ve been toiling late into the night.

Yes, it’s tiring spending every evening poring over text books and fumbling through the online learning module. But I’ve kept the Braves games on the office TV, muted in the background, and I am actually learning some things.

I enjoyed being a college student my first time ‘round. I enjoyed watching lectures and participating in class discussions. I enjoyed the reading assignments and epiphanies. I enjoyed the study groups that I hosted periodically in my basement, which came to be known as my “Basement Lecture Series” as I endeavored to master the material enough that I could speak on it to some end. So while the nights are late and my mind wanders, it’s great to be learning again, enriching myself, making nightly discoveries. I’d even go so far as to say I’m blessed. I know how hard it can be to endeavor to earn your education with no one on your side and no one who understands the necessity of having time to study and learn.

It may take years to get through this. But I have resolve and patience. I know this is a rare chance to prove myself. And it is my obligation to make the most of it.

I’m Bad at Math

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I’m bad at math.

Unequivocally, wholly and completely terrible at math.

I have to use my fingers to figure out what my total at a restaurant should be after I add in the tip. I had four years of algebra in high school because I had to take Algebra 2 three times.

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How I've been spending my evenings -- when not dicking around with this blog.

It’s one reason I’ve put so much effort in being successful as a man of words. History, writing, social sciences — these things have long come very naturally to me. I’ve been unfortunate in many things, but I’ve been blessed to have had a way with words that has enabled me to make a living not by the sweat of my brow alone.

Math is mysterious, and the mystery is compounded by my perception that it’s a mystery that doesn’t really require a solution. Like hearing a thud somewhere in the house while watching TV, it raises questions but I’m not inclined to put in the effort to find the cause. Very seldom in my professional life have I had to solve for x. Only once have I even had to use height-times-width to figure out an area, and then division to determine that it was going to be cost-prohibitive to build a retaining wall near my front walk.

When I was very young — kindergarten age or so — I was given the gift of a small calculator with my name on it. It had a very small LCD screen and a small keypad of tiny rubber buttons. The device was no larger than a credit card, but it could add, subtract, multiply and divide.

Later, by first grade, I had a teacher who had an unorthodox way of teaching math. She taped a “number line” across the top of each of our desks and instructed us to add and subtract by counting the distance from one number to another. For eight minus five, for instance, count how many numbers you hit between eight and five. Seven (“one”), six (“two”), five (“three”). The solution is three. Easy enough. But the number line only went up to about 16 or so, which made it virtually impossible for me to factor any figures larger than that. And by second grade, they had us stacking the figures and adding them out, borrowing from the tens column to subtract, etc., and I was completely lost. Then by third and fourth grade, I began trying to memorize multiplication tables, which seemed a very silly endeavor since I owned a calculator the size of a credit card that could multiply damn near anything.

(The necessity of multiplication was suspect, anyway: it would be clearer and simpler to just list out the numbers and add them. Why are we doing 6×3? Just do 6+6+6 and quit trying to complicate things.)

On top of it, I had my grandmother as tutor. She was a sweet, Christian lady who meant well, but her hobby was “cyphering.” Cyphering, as my grandmother did it, involved sitting in an armchair with a ballpoint pen and adding and subtracting a long list of figures on the back of an opened envelope that came in the mail (it would’ve been wasteful to just throw that away, I guess). What she was figuring and from where those numbers were derived, I have no idea. She could’ve been figuring how global grain prices were going to impact her grocery bill, less her senior discount for all I know. But her incessant cyphering meant that she knew addition and subtraction the way most people know their multiplication tables. So at a glance she could solve a math problem, and often did, instructing me to write the solution and move on to the next.

By the time letters were introduced to the math problems, I was hopelessly lost. I had no idea what I was doing. Order of operation seemed stupid to someone who read as much as I did. You do things left to write. Why would I start doing a math problem in the middle? Exponents were even more bourgeois than multiplication tables. Just write it out and quit trying to be so fancy.

In high school, I had become a hopeless case. I passed Algebra 2 after my third try with a 70 — the lowest score I could get and still pass. I was obviously the recipient of a teacher’s sympathy. I’d already been accepted to a good college pending the passing of the math class (and completion of my diploma), and the teacher was kind enough to just let me go.

My one and only college algebra course was the professor’s last. He was a tall, thin, old man who would be retiring at the end of the semester. Since his class was for freshmen — 18-year-olds who hadn’t quite made the transition from high school — the class was often boisterous when he entered. His expectation that everyone should be silent when the instructor entered the room (and rise, maybe? call him “your honor?”) was never met. So, rather than try to get the class to simmer down, he’d leave. Once or twice, he didn’t even enter the room; just stuck his head in and went back to his department.

Being without a scholarship and well aware of what college costs, one day I followed him back to his department. “Hey!” I shouted as he walked along, ignoring me. “Hey, professor! Hey!” In the lobby of the mathematics department, as my stalking created a scene, he finally turned to address me. “I’m paying you to teach me algebra!” I shouted. “I paid for gas to drive here, I paid the MARTA fare to get here, and I paid my tuition and student fees. I paid your salary. I paid you to teach me. If we need to go back to your office for instruction, fine. I’ll be quiet. But I’m not going to learn this on my own.”

“Son,” he said, “I’ve done this too long to care if you learn anything here or not.” And he walked through a door near the reception desk and locked it behind him. I looked at the work-study student behind the desk, told her the professor was a dick, and left.

Now, for the past two weeks, I’ve been trying to teach myself math.

I’m trying to get back into college. I need to take a test called the “Compass.” It’s made by the same people who did the ACT and it’s designed to determine which classes I should be placed in. I have enough English classes that carry over from my first foray into college (more than 10 years ago) to exempt me from taking that portion of the test, but I must take the math portion, and I must make at least a 20 out of 100.

That sounds easy enough. But the test ranges from pre-algebra to trigonometry. And the computer-based exam shuts off once it’s clear the test taker has no idea what he or she is doing. So, since it’s obvious that I’m not going to get any trigonometry or calculus questions right, my strategy is to do well enough on the introductory questions to get the necessary minimum that would allow me to even be considered for admission.

So, for two weeks, I’ve been sitting in front of my laptop, watching videos on Georgia Perimeter College’s Web site and taking notes, trying to solve my way into college. I took a practice exam last night, and missed six out of 30 questions. That’s good enough for an 80 (don’t pat me on the head — there are calculators on the Internet for this kind of crap), but only on those earliest questions. I can’t say that I feel totally prepared, but I’m ready as I’m going to be. And this morning, I’ll find out if I’m ready enough. So any prayers, happy thoughts, good vibrations, etc. that you want to send my way are very much welcomed.

I feel I understand math better than I ever have, however. I’ve focused, realizing and appreciating that math does indeed have a use for me.

Even if it is just being the hurdle I must jump to be considered fit for college once again.

Four Reasons I Don’t Gripe about Laundry

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Most people hate doing laundry. Admittedly, there are things I’d rather be doing than laundry, but it’s far less taxing and laborious than mopping the floors or cutting the grass.

Here are four reasons laundry day doesn’t give me the denim blues.

1. It’s mostly mechanized.

My grandmother told me about how she had two dresses the whole time she was in high school. This was in Georgia in the 1940s, when the way people kept cool wasn’t by sitting in an air-conditioned classroom, but by sweating. Her lack of a sufficient wardrobe meant doing laundry was a nightly affair — and it wasn’t as easy as throwing a shirt in the machine.

And it wasn’t just her dress that needed washing, either. She had siblings and step-siblings who also dirtied clothes that needed to be washed.

Old fashioned washing machine

Are you washing your clothes like this? Then shadup.

Laundry meant scrubbing stains with a bar of soap and rubbing them on a washboard, sloshing the clothes manually in a sudsy tub, rinsing thoroughly and squeezing the water from the garments, then running them “through the ringer,” to remove as much excess water as possible before hanging them on the clothesline.

That’s why I don’t make such a fuss about having to wash clothes. All I have to do is throw them in the wash. The hardest part is hanging them up or folding them when they’re done in the dryer — I don’t even have to hang them on a clothes line and check them until they’re dry. It’s not like I have to haul them down to the creek and rub them on a rock until they’re clean. Machines do the hard work. All I have to do is put them in a machine and turn it on, then move them from one machine to another and repeat.

2. It’s not as easy for everyone.

It’s easy to take for granted having a washing machine in your home. But consider the abject panic that ensues when the machine abruptly stops. As with the failure of any major appliance, its restoration to service becomes one of life’s priorities.

But think about not having one at your personal disposal at all. Think about the investment in time involved in schlepping those several loads of laundry you must wash each week to a laundromat, paying by the load to wash the laundry and haul it back to your abode.

Laundry Love is a charity movement that started in Ventura, Calif., and has spread to more than 70 houses of worship throughout the country. The charity takes over a local laundromat one day a month and provides free laundry services to those who need it most — the elderly, the out of work, the working poor, etc. For many, this once-a-month washing is the only opportunity they have to wash their clothes, sheets, children’s clothes, etc. They wait in line for hours to get their clothes clean. That should put things in perspective and make logging a little time in the laundry room (where you don’t have to wait in line) a little more appealing.

It’s not just the poor who struggle to clean their clothes. Only recently in major metropolitan areas like New York have architects began allocating a little precious square footage to cleaning clothes. In 2006, the New York Times reported that only 17 percent of current listings had washer and dryer connections. By 2010, that number had risen to only about 20 percent as the Times continued its coverage of New Yorkers waxing wistful for a washer and dryer. Many buildings have communal machines in the basement, consuming quarters and doing the work. Other residents rely on “wash and fold” services, which sound lovely if you’re willing to pay strangers to handle your … unmentionables.

3. It’s almost alchemy.

My daughter’s laundry presents the ultimate challenge.

At 6, her clothes are usually all wadded up in her hamper (and we’re just lucky she actually uses the hamper). Panties are still stuck in her pants, and in the winter, it’s not unusual to find that her socks are stuck in the pant legs as well. How she manages to get pants, panties and socks off all at once is quite a skill. I’m so impressed, I don’t really want to correct her. And also because she’s 6, the clothes are always spotted with a sundry of inexplicable stains.

Spending as much time with her grandparents as she does, I often don’t know what these stains are. (Is this ketchup or blood? Her blood or someone else’s?) Either way, I’ve got to salvage those shirts and dresses, so into the wash they go — sprayed with some chemical that pretreats the stains, with a “boost pack” that enhances the power of the detergent to strip the stains (why isn’t the detergent already “boosted?” how does it know the difference between the stain and the pattern on the shirt? magic!) and set the washer. Should I wash it on hot and chance shrinking the load? Will the steam-based “deep clean” cycle ruin the adhesive holding the frilly parts on her nightgown? Who knows? Let’s find out!

Did you know that the way that stuff you spray on stains is based on the way your saliva works? The enzymes in your saliva start digesting food even before you swallow it. Similarly, the enzymes in the pretreater also “digest” the stains on your clothes, dissolving and loosening the stains from the threads of the fabric.

Mixing these ingredients together, choosing how the machine will apply them and waiting to see if the concoction and equipment cause the clothes emerge clean, bright and un-blighted is exciting to me.

4. What if something happened?

Our world is full of fragile things that we take for granted. Electricity and water, for instance.

These are things that are delivered to our homes by wires in the sky and pipes in the ground. Pipes that are old and brittle, that can be dug up or rupture on their own, and wires that can be brought down relatively easy by wind, trees, reckless drivers, etc.

Imagine that happening when you’re wearing your last clean shirt.

Having the ability to keep a steady supply of clean clothes, enough to last a few days if something happened, is something you won’t value until you’re wearing your last clean outfit and you come home from work, sweaty and tired, and find out your water’s been cut off. But then, that basket of clean clothes won’t seem a chore, but a blessing.

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.

The Search Results that Bring Us Traffic

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I don’t know why you’re here.

I don’t know what you’re looking for, what you expect to find, how you think anything said here is useful, relevant, insightful or entertaining.

And I don’t know how you washed up on this site.

But I am curious.

Top search terms for squad-blog.com

This is why you’re here: the top search terms bringing people to our site over the past 30 days.

It’s that time again to drop another $18 to keep this blog around another year. And since I’m essentially alone in its maintenance, upkeep and contribution because my one-time peers (I guess) have better things to do with their lives, I’m thinking about making the place my own a bit more. Maybe redo the curtains. Hang a couple of Steely Dan posters in here. Shoot the cat.

I never liked that cat.

As a lark every so often, I take a peek at the search terms that are bringing people to squad-blog.com. To be honest, they’re not bringing many of you, and as I stated before I don’t know why you’d want to come (even I don’t come around that much, and it’s my damn blog). But the search terms always provide an interesting glimpse at what Google thinks we can offer — if you go about eight pages deep through the search results or are foolish enough to push that “I’m feeling lucky” button.

So, since there’s no one here to stop me and since the content on this site is, admittedly, pretty… eclectic… I’m going to start periodically posting the search terms that are bringing people here.

And I’m very sorry to say that “burt reynolds on a bear skin rug,” “burt reynolds sexiest man alive” and “hairy gay man” are not in the top results for the past 30 days. But there is a curious fascination with cedar waxwings out there. Hmmm.

I guess I really am going to have to do something about that.

Burt Reynolds on Bear Skin Rug

MOAR BURT!

For Love of Briar and Stone: A Fascination with Tobacco Pipes

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My grandfather kept his pipe under the eve of the smokehouse. Standing well over six feet in height, he could easily reach under the edge of the tin roof and retrieve his pipe while out on a jaunt, along with a tall, rounded tin of Prince Albert. He filled it, lit it with a Bic, and stood looking at the old pasture as he puffed.
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I remember the smell. I remember the routine, watching him gently shove the finely shredded tobacco into the bowl with his thumb and even it out with the Parker Jotter pen from the bib of his overalls. I don’t recall why the pipe was kept concealed beside the smokehouse, nor why the spent tins of tobacco were discarded in the disused and rotting rabbit pin on the old farm, but I remember noticing how the pipe seemed to soothe him. It made him contemplative. It was altogether different from his cigarettes, which he sometimes hastily rolled himself but mostly bought and smoked by the carton. The cigarette was a need – it was smoked like that first breath that one inhales after a long, deep dive under water. The pipe, however, was a leisurely walk along the banks of a pond where the cattails thumped against one another in the breeze.

Later, my heroes smoked pipes. James Qwilleran was one. The protagonist of Lillian Jackson Braun’s “The Cat Who…” series, “Qwill” was a hard-drinking, pipe-smoking, coffee-loving crime reporter. About the time he gave up the pipe and alcohol, however, I lost interest in the books.

Another, and by far the most influential on my pipe-smoking, was of course Sherlock Holmes. As he sat up through the night watching the smoke swirl from his bowl, laboring over some problem or another, so did I, clutching my dog-eared paperback edition of the complete stories. He was partial to “black shag” tobacco smoked in a briar; and never, to my recollection, sported the calabash with which he was so often portrayed. (Indeed, I was grateful that pipes were not omitted from the recent Robert Downy, Jr. series of films, but rather were used liberally throughout as they were in the stories.)

Sherlock. Qwill. My grandfather. Michael, the jovial, bald and bearded local tobacconist who sold me my first pipe – a hardwood – for $10 and threw in an ounce of his “Jeffersonian” blend tobacco so I could see if I liked it. That first bowl, sitting on the brickwork outside my dad’s house in the sideyard, clumsily filling and lighting and relighting the bowl.

Now, a pipesmoker is as essential to the way I identify myself as is my religion and income. I’m a middle-class, protestant, Caucasian pipesmoker.

The drawer in my office at home contains about a half-dozen decent pipes. Each has a story. One I got when I began my first full-time newspaper job, editor of a weekly newspaper north of here. Another when I moved to a staff writer position at a local daily paper. There’s one I bought with the money I was saving to pay my student fees after the university kicked me out because I still didn’t have enough to cover my fees (might as well buy a pipe, right?), and one that was given by a dear friend before I officiated his wedding. My wife has given me two pipes – one for a birthday when we were living in our second apartment, before we built the house, and one for Christmas last year. And I have about two or three others that also were nice but have encountered damage that I cannot repair myself.

I always insist that I’m incredibly easy to find a gift for: no matter the occasion, I would love to have a new pipe.

There is a time in the evening when I wish I could retire to the porch – no matter the weather – and light my pipe. Twilight, just as the sun creeps beyond the razor’s edge of the horizon for the day. Yes, to sit outdoors then and light a pipe, there at my favorite time of day is magical. It lets me recall all the days I couldn’t do that. A prisoner of employment that kept me confined at that hour, in restaurants or retail stores, newsrooms or over my own desk reworking someone else’s writing on deadline.

Even now, however, there’s no chance for that. There’s always something – the kid’s homework or bath, the dirty kitchen or the unprepared dinner, something – that seems to require my attention.

Recently, I joined a group on Facebook – The Gentleman’s Pipe Smoking Society – where members routinely post pictures of their “pipe porn”: tables and shelves overflowing with all manner of pipes in stands, fancy tins and humidifying jars of various tobaccos and more. Massive collections that I must confess, I do envy. But alas, in my life, the time I began to encounter a steady income also coincided with my courtship and marriage, and though I’ve advanced my career and accordingly my income tremendously since she and I began cohabitating almost a decade ago, there still has never seemed to be enough money left at the end of every month to spend on something as frivolous and selfish as a new pipe.

And so the pipes are gifts. They are rare treats that mark milestones, and with that I’m OK. As has been noted at times by members of that Facebook group, you can smoke only one pipe at a time. Recently, my wife found a pipe I had thought lost in a box of old stuff from her desk, and I had the occasion to work on my beloved meerschaum until a bit of pipe cleaner fuzz was finally cleared from the stem. Ah, it’s been like Christmas! Two pipes added to the collection once more.

My wife asks if ever I’ll quit my pipe. I tell her that I will, one day. But then, I also think of the days when the kids are moved out on their own, the house is paid for, the bills more moderate, and hope then that I’ll have the resources to buy myself a pipe every now and then. I look at the Web sites, like pipesandcigars.com, almost weekly. I marvel at the styles, the colors, read the reviews. I have brands that I love – GBD, Comoy’s of London, Chacom – and I treasure those pieces of my modest collection, which also includes its share of Dr. Grabows and basket pipes. I wish I could replace the pipes I’ve lost – the ones that dropped and shattered, the beloved calabash I found broken in two beside my desk after my 5-year-old spent a day in the office watching shows on the computer – but pipes, like friends, come and go in life. I like a straight-stem with a large bowl. I like little rings of nickle around the stem. I badly want a poker pipe – one with a barrel-like bowl and flat bottom that sits on its own. I had one once. It’s one of the friends I’ve lost when it fell from the pocket of my jacket while I was getting something from the trunk of my car. I mourn it still.

I’ve spent more than a little time at my grandfather’s house, peering beneath the eaves of his smokehouse. I don’t remember him throwing his pipe away. I don’t remember it getting broken.

I would love to find it, to put it in the drawer alongside my own.