If Only I Could Worry…
I know that I have either made it in the world or need to repent when I have to worry about the price of vintage pipe tobacco. I’m not saying I don’t want to try a thirty-year old tin and if a lovely reader happened to want to send me some then I would absolutely love it. However, to worry about such a thing seems about as natural to me as worrying about the price of that bottle of Dalmore 62 I’ve been having my eye on; that is, my reader, these are the problems I could only wish to have but to even think about it makes my inner Marxist want to set fire to the few luxury items I own in Red Night of Books and Booze.
However, I think even my most revolutionary reader will find the following link of interest. Mr. G. L. Pease writes at Pipes Magazine’s blog about the price of vintage pipe tobacco and how it has been going up faster than my stressful puffs of smoke. Noting that there are some tins of vintage English tobacco going for around $400 per tin (averaging to about $20 a bowl), Mr Pease goes on to defend the price and specialness of these tobaccos, even if some can’t afford such a luxury. In fact, he gets close to how I feel about this whole thing:
Most of us, I’m guessing, are not in the position to spend such astronomical prices for these rare and vintage tins, but for those who are so blessed, I say, “Bravo!” and can I be your friend?
One final note is that our connoisseur features an image of the Three Nuns blend, a tobacco I’ve wanted to get my hands on for some time. If you look very closely at this blogs banner, squint, and let your vision be guided by imagination then you’ll see a tin of Three Nuns on the desk. Though this was not the first I heard of the stuff, I was surprised to see that it was a favourite brand of C. S. Lewis, a discovery I made when photographing the great-man-Clive’s restored desk at The Kilns, Lewis’ home from 1930 until his death in 1963. The experience of seeing Mr. Lewis’ home was itself a great joy, but it turns out that the gentleman leading our tour (I believe his name was Kim, but I can’t recall) had smoked some Three Nuns and spoke at length about the shocking amount the Lewis brothers and Mrs. Moore smoked. When I asked him about the tin his simple response was,
“Awful.” The consensus seems to be that Three Nuns is either something you enjoy or something you detest, with reviews ranging from discussions of the great nicotine high to the comparisons of meat loaf and vinegar (perhaps an explanation for its popularity among our English cousins?). Still, I want to try it for the experience and to see if I might get that much closer to having Lewis’ writing ability, which is otherwise doubtful without a miracle.
Like many Christians who take up pipe smoking, it was largely in imitation of men like Lewis, Tolkien, and Chesterton and then later reinforced when the Iron Lady of the Inklings was also revealed to be a smoker. That spark that Lewis gave me as a child by planting Aslan firmly in my imagination is something that turned into a raging fire that burns brightest in my darker nights. The images I had of Christ growing up were either the Amerievangelical images of “Christ the Saviour/My Boyfriend” in every pop worship song or my grandmother’s scary icon of the Sacred Heart that to this day I swore the eyes would follow me across the room.
Thus it was Aslan that gave me the first images of power, majesty, grace, and all other paradoxical images that are associated with Christ, and it was this image of Christ that led me to the Catholic Church. With such a high influence, I become like every annoying Lewis fan who insists on reading him even to the exclusion of the Bible or Patristics and probably gives him much more credit than he deserves. At the same time, I can’t help but to feel that I owe it to him for challenging the assumptions I had growing up and planting the seeds that first made me want to be truly educated and then further showed how far I will always be from that. Yes, we American C. S. Lewis fans are truly the most annoying, but closer readings of his work should even that out especially after we realize how ill-read we are compared to him.
So perhaps my desire to smoke an outrageously priced tin of tobacco is like when I purchased first editions of his absolute greatest novel Til We Have Faces along with Broadcast Talks, and when I first began to spell thing with that extra “u” in words that looked wrong to most Americans. I do these things as hero worship and compared to what this particular hero was pointing towards it all seems about as strange as $400 smoke. All the same, count me in if any Windy City folks would like a new friend over drinks and said vintage.