Guest post: Why I smoke a pipe – Eric Boehm


Here is the first of Eric’s pieces of which I hope to be allowed to share more .– this one is a great essay on why he smokes a pipe. Thanks Eric for letting me post this here.

I routinely use this missive as a broad sheet to answer the question of “Why I smoke a pipe”. A question so often asked by many of my anti-tobacco friends. Friends, I might add, that give me a hard time whenever I light up my tobacco pipe. You see, I’m a reader, and my heroes are those I read about. And usually they involve men who smoked a pipe.

Run your eyes down the list below of names and see how many you recognize. Collectively, I would argue, these men actually made the 20th Century, both literally and figuratively. To a man, all avid pipe smokers, each and every one. Moreover, many lived well beyond the average lifespan of their day, many passing in their mid to late-eighties.

Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Norman Rockwell, Orson Wells, JRR Tolkein, CS Lewis, Douglas MacArthur, Admiral Arleigh Burke, Stanley Baldwin, Neville Chamberlain, Bing Crosby, President Gerald Ford, Carl Sandburg, Harold Macmillan, Konrad Lorenz, Errol Flynn, Edgar Rice Burroughs, John D. MacDonald, Warner Baxter, Thomas Selfridge, Charles Nelson Reilly, Ossip Zadkine, Max Frisch, Paul Casals, Jack Lynch, Patrick Moore, Anthony Hulme, Ronald Colman, Alexander Kent, Jacques Brel, Lino Ventura, Alfred Wainwright, Rudolph Bultmann, Philippe Sollers, Jean Gabin, Leo Malet, G.E. Moore, Gilbert Ryle, Edmund Husserl, J.L. Austin, Lalo Schifrin, James Whitmore, Anthony Quayle, Ralph Richardson, Bernard Grebanier, Jean-Paul Sartre, Stanley Holloway, Carl Jung, Paul Kruger, Curd Jurgens, Gerard Walschap, Trevor Howard, Tony Benn, Rod Hull, Trevor Baylis, Joss Ackland, Frank Muir, Manny Shinwell, Jack Hargreaves, Warren Mitchell, Rupert Davies, Russ Abbot, Van Gordon Sauter, Walter Cronkite, Robert Fulghum, Milorad Pavić, Glenn Ford, Erwin Shrodinger, Moustapha Akkad, Evelyn Waugh, Harold Wilson, Bertrand Russell, Alf Landon, Edgar Buchanan, Dean Jagger, Edward G. Robinson, Rudyard Kipling, Aaron Spelling, P.G. Wodehouse, Allen Dulles, Otto Klemperer, Henry Fonda, Lee Van Cleef, Jack Lemmon, Peter Cushing, Barry Fitzgerald, Hume Cronyn, Graham Chapman, Nigel Bruce, Bennet Cerf, Raymond Chandler, Alexander Graham Bell, Arthur Frank, Richard E. Byrd, Gregory Peck, Albert King, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Edward Abbey, Juan Trippe, Frank Sinatra, General George S. Patton, Jacques Derrida, Hurbert Hoover, Sid James, Fred Trueman, Vincent Schiavelli, Eric Morecambe, Stephen Fry, Fred Thompson, Roscoe Dickinson, Guy N. Smith, Gunter Grass, Sean O’Casey, A.A. Milne, Sir Compton Mackenzie, Laurie Lee, W. Somerset Maugham, J.B. Priestly, Andre Dubus, Gordon Parks, F.A. Mitchell-Hedges, W.W. Denslow, William Conrad, William Gillette, Edwin Hubble, Rober Oppenheimer, Niels Bohr, Robert Young, Clark Gable, Fred MacMurray, Ralph Bellamy, Cary Grant, David Ogilvy, Sir Winston Churchill, King George VI, Arthur Miller, Ernest Hemingway, John Ford, Shelby Foote, Herschel Burke Gilbert, Thomas Johnston Taylor, Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), Sir John Mills, Owen Barfield, Alan Christopher “Al” Deere, Elliot Harold Paul, Healey Willan, Harold Tucker Webster.

After perusing such a list, I ask: Can it be that the greatest minds of the 20th Century were all common miscreants, who did not fully fathom “what they were doing to themselves”? Are we, with all our advances of modern science, more intelligent than they were? How many men today can you count that can measure to the list above? I am hard pressed to find a handful, if that.

We current tobacco pipe smokers actually represent the historical legacy of a community of world pipe smokers, a community which, in the not too distant past, encompassed some 35% of the adult males in the United States. Lest it not be forgotten, these anonymous pipe smokers were our grandfathers, and allowed for the freedoms many of us enjoy today. Although far fewer in number today, we nevertheless still hold the candle to the memory of these men and the deeds they accomplished, with, of course, a pipe in hand.
Thanks everyone for your positive comments. Whenever I catch flack from anti-tobacco folks, friends, wife & children included especially those do-gooder “soccer moms” driving minivans, who quickly shield their children’s eyes when they see me – I go to length to point out just exactly who historically smoked a pipe. If Albert Einstein saw the sense to smoke a pipe, just to name one – or Shelby Foote, one of my favorites – then who in blue blazes are they to question my choice to smoke a pipe in public? (I started this thread after coming home from a 4th of July picnic, where it was clearly intoned to me that pipe smoking was not allowed in a NJ public park! On account of the kids).

Everyone says they miss the America depicted by Norman Rockwell, or reminisces fondly on the “greatest generation” who fought against fascism in the Second World War. Well, nearly all those joes smoked a pipe! And I don’t mean hidden away in their man caves, but out on the street, holding their kid’s hand, or carrying groceries home. That’s why I like reading Marc Munroe Dion so much. Smoking a pipe in public puts the brakes on society’s mindless, head-strong rush into an uncertain future. In short, it puts the mute button on our infotainment world. Which is something I like. Thanks for letting me rant. I’ll get off the soap box now.
If I’m ever in London, I think I’ll go to the Speaker’s Corner – that point where Oxford Street and Hyde Park meet, in the shadows of Marble Arch – and carry on an oral tradition that is becoming somewhat lost to a modern culture of email and online chat rooms. For over 150 years, Speaker’s Corner has been one of London’s most eccentric attractions. Soapbox central! There, with a large clenched Dunhill group 6 billiard, containing smouldering Pirate Kake, and reeking of 70% Latakia – my chest festooned with a large placard bearing the likeness of Alfred Dunhill – there I shall read out the proclamation entitled “Why I smoke a pipe”. Should be able to get through the first several paragraphs before the Bobbies cart me away in a white coat!
Parting thoughts –
My comments were: “Wow! I am dumbfounded. Personally I don’t give a hoot how pipe smokers are perceived by the wider society. I smoke a pipe throughout the day because I am a pipe smoker. Period. I smoke in private and I smoke in public. I also smoke in the can. If someone has a problem with it, they can contact my lawyer. Really, I could care less what others think of me and my pipe. Life is short enough as it is to worry about what the neighbors think. Get a life. Smoke a pipe. And let’s try not to think too deeply about it. Eh?”

I met Eric online and we have communicated in IM on several occasions. He has given me permission to publish some of his pieces here for our enjoyment.
thanx Eric..

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