Properly Lighting a Pipe

Properly Lighting a Pipe By Good Bad Old Young Mudd

On Thursday night Ronald and I hopped a train to Albuquerque, NM. We were looking for an answer to a question that had been posted repeatedly at pipes.org and later emailed to me with a note that read, “Please, Young Mudd, I’m a young pipe smoker too. But 500 relights later I’m afraid this might not be the hobby for me. I’m a desperate man. How does one properly light a pipe? P.S. My mother loved your story and wanted to know if you’re single again. ”
Two bottles of whisky later Ronald suggested that we contact Dr. Jesse Franklin at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. Dr. Franklin is world renowned for his inability to conduct a lecture on quantum mechanics without dangling a five pound OomPaul from his lips. If ever there were a man who new how to light a pipe once with a vengeance it was he.

But who knew schools closed on Good Friday?

The highway is a lonely place for a twenty-five year old pipe smoker and his cat. After knocking on his office door for a few hours we managed to hitchhike about seventy miles north of Albuquerque on a bobtailed rig headed for Vegas. The driver, a forty-five year old ex-college quarterback, chain smoked Camels and sang along to “Fool if You Think It’s Over,” which he had playing on auto repeat on his tape deck. Perhaps he was no Dr. Franklin, but I was confident that he might well be an expert on the art of smoking.

“If you don’t mind me asking,” I asked anyway, “A young man in San Francisco is wondering what the best method is to properly light a pipe. Seeing that you obviously have no real relationships and aren’t really important to anyone, I thought maybe you’d like to offer your two cents.”

He seemed relieved that I noticed his relative unimportance in the world and pulled the truck to the side of the interstate. After pushing me and Ronald onto the dusty median he yelled, “You might think you’re better than me ‘cause your cat talks, but I don’t have to put up with nothing from no bearded kid and his cross-dressing cat…”

New Mexico wasn’t the Mecca of pipedom that I’d hoped it would be. Without the aide of Dr. Franklin or the lonely truck driver I found myself back at square one. I had only my newly acquired knowledge of pipes and a cat that only spoke when I was drunk. But I knew now what I needed to do. I needed to find the young man who had asked the question in the first place and share with him the wisdom that seven weeks in a steam liner provides for a boy. Perhaps I didn’t know the best method of lighting a pipe, but I did know a thing or two about what it means to be a man.

It has been documented that some of the earliest pipe smokers lived in North America. Long before European settlers arrived they were digging shallow holes along the California coastline and filling them with cured tobacco leaf, then pouring hot coals on top and ceremoniously breathing in the rising smoke. Instead of meerschaum or briar, these pilgrims of the plant used the earth as a pipe and guidance from their Gods as the spark with which to light it. But times have changed. Rarely does one see a man jackhammering the pavement, clearing away the debris, stuffing the sidewalk with Dunhill’s Early Morning Pipe, and breathing away. Modern times call for modern measures. And those measurements were just the measurements I planned to measure for the patrons of pipes.org.

Ronald and I had previously experienced a bout of identity theft and decided not to reveal the identity of the young man who asked for our assistance. We arrived at Thomas Barron’s house, located at 353 Lombard St., San Francisco, CA, 94104, at 8:30 in the morning. The curtains were drawn and lights out, a sign that he wasn’t expecting this altruistic visit. Truth be told, we hadn’t expected to arrive so soon. But by the grace of God we found a running vehicle sitting in the parking lot of a gas station by the highway in San Prague, NM. As we drove away a man in a denim suit ran behind us waving, wishing us, I assume, a safe journey. And a safe journey we had.

The front door of Thomas’s house was locked, as was the garage door and the first level windows. So we climbed over the recycling bins and into the backyard, careful not to upturn a series of potted plants that lined the private walkway. Being a man of the mountains I felt a certain tingling of anticipation at the prospect of meeting this city-dweller and offering him words of life-long wisdom. I imagined how it might transpire:

“I am Young Mudd. I am here to teach you. This is Ronald Livingston. If you get drunk with me you will hear him talk.”

“Thank you, Young Mudd, for breaking into my house and sharing with me your limited knowledge. Your cat is adorable. I’d have named him Coco Puff but…”

An alarm sounded as I broke the window of the back door and stuffed Ronald through to unlock the deadbolt. After a bit of quick maneuvering we found ourselves in a dingy kitchen surrounded by bowls of dried macaroni and stained glassware. Ronald darted up the stares and I followed, stealthful in my approach. A sign affixed to a door at the top of the stairwell read, “Britney Spears Rocks Out!” I hoped that this was not the bedroom of Thomas but feared the worst. Do men of the pipe listen to contemporary music, I asked Ronald? But I was not drunk and Ronald did not answer.

Yes, I know that doors have knobs, but I thought it would be more theatrical to kick in the door. And boy was it ever! Thomas sprang from his bed like a cornered camel spider and grabbed a gun from his dresser drawer. As he *censored*ed it and violently cursed I chuckled warmly and gathered Ronald into my arms.

“Not so hasty, my friend,” I said. “My name is Young Mudd and I’m here by your own request. You asked for my advice at pipes.org.” Thomas looked confused.

“Pipes.org?” he asked. “I’ve been there, like, once. Jesus, are you the guy I emailed? What the hell are you doing in my house? I’ll shoot you if you don’t leave.” He was clearly awed by my presence, as any man would be.

Petting Ronald I answered that yes he had emailed me and no there was no reason to shoot. Although my expertise was in demand internationally I had made a special point of traveling this country to answer his important question.

“The powers that be have spoken,” I said. “I, Young Mudd, know how to properly light a pipe.”

“Couldn’t you have just posted it?” he asked nervously, shaking his gun. I laughed again.

“Could Nancy Kerrigan just skate on her broken ankle?” I responded. He had no idea what I meant. And neither did I.

We had pretty much cleared things up by the time the police arrived. Thomas gave Ronald a bowl of water and we sat in the living room discussing toasted Virginias and handmade briars. In brief, we’d become very close friends. I told him the secret of properly lighting a pipe and he gave me his mother’s phone number.

“Does she really like me?” I asked. “I mean, will she respect me for who I really am, a young alcoholic who lives with a cat in a poor neighborhood of Los Angeles and pretends he lives in the mountains chopping trees and dancing with squirrels and whatnot?”

“Oh, she’ll like you,” he said. “She hasn’t left her house in years.” A rush of relief swept over me.

But just what did I tell Thomas, you ask? What is the secret to lighting a pipe?

Simple.

Whether you smoke from a hand carved briar or a factory second, a drug store pipe or a Turkish meer, a nickel plated hookah or a hastily dug hole in poor soil, to ensure a proper smoke every time use one powerful, glowing, hot, effective tool:

Fire.

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