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.
Yes, yes, I’m making another promise that I am unlikely to keep, but I love writing too much to let this blog go. So it is that I’m introducing a new feature on this blog to compete with one of my four readers and fellow Catholic curmudgeon and to force my hand to be thankful for the small things in this world. Like Mr. Chesterton’s book, I want this to be a series that sees God’s extradornary grace and the great adventure that is in everyday, ordinary things. “For this purpose,” to quote GKC, “I have takenthe laziest person of my acquaintance, that is myself; and made an idle diary of such odd things as I have fallen over by accident, in walking in a very limited area at a very indolent pace.” Let Der Wolf have his grandeur and vast galaxies, but I shall be wowed by the simple observations in my own small life.
Think of this series as a call to relax and happy with what we have at the end of the week. Alternatively, you may also think of it as stress relief from a narcissistic grad student who wishes to have his poorly scribed thoughts read. Either way, I welcome you dear reader to brew a cup of coffee and think with me about one small grace we take for granted every day. I am of course speaking of nicotine and caffeine.
Do you ever wonder what people did before coffee became widely consumed and almost universally available? It would seem that in those dark days if one was tired but still wanted to work and think, they simply went to bed. Alternatively, all those great scholars who endured the life of the mind simply relied on sheer force of the will to read one more page or write one more sentence. Yet, dear reader, we take this stimulant so lightly and can push our minds ever further in order to find to get more done. Now, as this post is about the relaxation and the wonder of substance I now must move to what delights me to pair coffee with.
The few people familiar with my person and my writings are aware at how much delight I take in smoking. I’m no longer a cigarette smoker, but the pipe and the cigar I find to be a defining point in my time to relax. Since I was 18 and lit up my first El Rey del Mundo on that joyous Christmas eve I have had cigars as my muse. Chesterton himself had said, “Some men write with a pencil, others with a typewriter. I write with my cigar.” While I do not write by cigar light, as much as I would enjoy it, I do find that cigars have led me to more periods of contemplation than I can count. When I first considered the Catholic faith I was smoking an El Rey with a cup of Lions coffee on my front porch on a warm summer evening and I think it was then that I decided that the Catholic faith would be my home. It was a silly reason, and one really devoid of the logic I wanted to understand so badly, but I came to the idea because the only thing that made me happier than that evening with all its trappings was the idea that God could create the universe and become human for no practical reason whatsoever. If I could be thankful for such things like a good Havana cigar, could I not also be thankful for that very gift of life and the five senses that made such a small thing like a cigar so wonderful? Finally, if there was a promise of something even greater as a result of this God acting for love of it, would I not want that so much more. So it is that I resolved to become a papist and have been stumbling on the road ever since.
My final reason for advocating the pairing of cigars and a good cup of coffee is the most serious one of all; I advocate such leisure because we in modernity have forgotten the serious work of relaxation. We are so serious about politics, theology, and economics but we lack the seriousness to be at ease and even find a reason to be festive. Cigars–those small, brown items that have remained unchanged for over 500 years–are our ancestors gift to us because they force us to slow down. In an era of fast food, instant communications, and point-and-click pleasures it is the cigar that forces us to sit down and not move for a good duration of time. In this they are the secret to forcing one to sit and
contemplate or gather with a crowd of friends and enjoy unrushed conversation. No one smokes a cigar in a hurry and I have yet to meet a person who runs with a cigar burning, for such an act is both sinful and impossible. I have smoked with people of different faiths, nationalities, political views, and generations and that slow burning tobacco is the social bond that makes us sit and enjoy each other’s company. To my knowledge, few things are able to make us sit and enjoy ourselves and that is why I think we should fight for the cigar room as diligently as we fight for the courtroom or the voting booth.
My cheers to you, dear reader, as we light up this ordinary time and prepare for Lent. Might I suggest a good smoke and a cup to get us through the winter and think more of these graces the Creator has bestowed on us for He love all men and women! Oh, and if you are in Chicago, I recommend stopping by Iwan Ries for as many hours as you can with new and old friends in a place where the City That Works sits down for a few hours to enjoy itself.
Dear Reader, my apologies for the stream of consciousness which follows in this post. I wished to announce a change in program and a new direction in my blogging but found myself bearing a lot more of my heart than I generally like to do on the internet. That being said, I hope you can forgive an amateur author on the Digital Vanity Press for his sudden outbursts.
I am sitting in my room suffering from the most severe writers block with regards to everything I’m supposed to be working on. The University of Chicago is a wonderful school that demands much and I am sometimes afraid that I fail at answering the call. All the same, I know that it is my vocation to write in whatever capacity I can and to share in whatever minor truths that I find cause a cause to rejoice. No doubt, my most endearing reader, you have noticed a lot of changes to the layout of this blog; these outward signs are quite indicative of an inner change that I’ve been going through the last year and a half. Insofar as I remain the Catholic Coffee Drinker and a man driven to madness for love of the truth, I have also begun so many new things since I started self-publishing over three years ago.
In 2007 I was still a new convert to the faith and my zeal could not be contained. A convert to any grand idea will tell you of the excitement of unburying an ancient truth and of parading that long-known truth around as if it was the most grand and revolutionary idea that any person has ever come upon. When it came to Catholicism, especially of the orthodox variety, I was just such a convert and I found myself quoting Chesterton, St. Paul, Elijah, and Augustine as if they had just written me letters on a new way to be human and this excitement drove me to read and write like no other time in my life. A few things have changed. I am a Catholic, but now I see that I suffer with–and perhaps, though indirectly, from–the Church Militant that truly is one great family with all the love, joys, pains, and awkward conversations that come with every family. I need not tell you of the crises of faith and praxis which have taken hold of the Church these last few decades, and, even less so, do I need to tell you of the power and the glory that comes with being part of that very Church.
Further, I have grown up considerably and am no longer the bright-eyed child of the Liberal Arts who is rediscovering eternal truths. I still look in wonder at the volumes of wisdom contained over the thousands of years but am now in grad school and find myself needing to remember the joy I feel after long study. A friend of mine once exclaimed, “I wish I could remember how I felt after I went for a run,” and I too need to remember the joy I feel after completing my studies, saying my prayers, and jotting down a few hasty notes on the experience. In all of this, I realized that my blogging needed to be reprogramed and thus my announcement to the handful who still read this blog.
A few changes you will see or have already seen:
- A new look and a slightly more diverse set of subjects.
- My posts need to become a little more honest while not falling into the folly of keeping an e-diary. Language is given to us by God to make our thoughts known to one another, but I am rather certain there are still a few things I will keep private.
- With regards to the previous point, I am also determined to tackle the hard subjects of life and faith. These subject cause me a lot of anxiety, but they are the anxiety of many of us and only by talking about it do we begin to renew the things that matter most.
- I am also taking the time to go through my years of postings and deleting the ones that were rather unkind or unconstructive. As well, I am trying to be better about my editing.
- Finally, I am going to put a pause on my Best of Chesterton blog. I would like to undertake the project again, but will need to be better disciplined about two blogs before I undertake a wholly different venture. That said, do feel free to contact me if you should like to help with such an adventure and perhaps write or edit the blog.
I thank you for reading this and do ask that you return as I start my new project. As well, if you have any ideas of what you’d like to read on this blog or see more of than do please contact me or leave a comment. My warmest gratitude to you, my constant reader.
“Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice.” -GK Chesterton, ILN
I begin to wonder about a nation which has decided that consenting adults smoking tobacco of their own volition is a greater evil then any other possible act. Coming from Oregon I like to tell people that my state is such a place where you can take your sixteen year-old girlfriend to get an abortion without parental consent then later in the day take your grandmother for euthanasia with the family physician and end such a hard day with a live sex show. You cannot, however, under any circumstances smoke a cigarette in a bar. Likewise, a few years ago we witnessed a great out cry against the behavior of James Bond and the example he set for children everywhere, never mind that children should never watch 007 anyhow. As it were, do you suppose that the out cry was against his excessive drinking, his womanizing, problem gambling, or senseless violence? Well, no, those things are necessary functions of MI6, but everyone wondered if he had to smoke after doing it.
Recently the modern idolatry has demonized President Obama for his occasional use of cigarettes. In all honesty, I wonder how serious the media wants me to take them when this is the only issue they can take with our President. The President smokes and, certainly, we ought to be bothered that he punishes smokers everywhere with legislation, but his own legal and private vice is just that: a vice that is legal and quite private. This is truly modern madness at its finest: society is more perturbed by responsible adults using a legal substance than by any sign of weakness or corruption of the soul. Do not be surprised, my dear reader, if it turns out that tobacco becomes the new prohibition and you find the timeless insanity of idolatry failing the test of time once more.
My coments to the Nashua Telegraph regarding graduation were selectively quoted to be quite negative. I’ll admit that graduating in this economy has me and many other graduates quite frightened, but I also hold out for a lot of hope that the future of any grad from TMC will be something beautiful. In many ways I enjoy the economic woes simply because every other college graduate finds their degrees as worthless lacking immediate value as much as most liberal arts majors have. For far too many years we have had to endure a lot of sneering from Marketing and Business majors about how we Philosophy and Lit majors would never find much value for our degree once we were in the real world. Now, those same Marketing majors are finding their struggle to be as great as mine and I meanwhile have had plenty of practice defending my degree as worth it for the life of the mind. Pardon me, dear reader, if I find this more than a bit humorous.
As for the article, the folks at the Cabinet publish some thoughts of a silver lining for many of us graduates who are going to graduate school to deal with the economic woes. “That’s great for them,” we are thus encouraged, “and it might also be, in the long run, good for the nation.” The lining looks silver to these good writers for the simple reason that they see a population of well educated men and women in this generation being beneficial for the broader community. With that, dear reader, I’m going to beg from you in the great Dominican tradition for money. However, this wannabe barking friar shall do it in a fashion more befitting of the modern era for now you can do it by paypal! Your donation will ensure a little extra help while I try to catch up on my finances to go to the Divinity School at the University of Chicago and further discern a vocation to my beloved Order.
I will promise to not use any donated money for coffee, cigars, or beer (unless the donor wishes it were so) but promise that every donation will enable me to make a happy face similar to this:
The Dutch have banned smoking. Well, sort of…
” Patrons of cannabis cafes will still be allowed to smoke marijuana as long as it is not mixed with tobacco.”
I’m used to this attitude in Oregon, but it still perplexes me. Why is it ok to put Ol’ Mary Jane in my pipe but no ol’ Dunhill? Truly, if anyone can explain, I welcome it!
That Dover continues to put out Chesterton and that some folks still read my blog. Give up hope not yet! After some cigars and a cup of coffee, tis time for a nap and blogging will commence again!
Well, I promised that I’d try to blog before leaving, and I seem to have trouble keeping said promises. As anyone who has ever attended a liberal arts college knows, the junior year is quite a pain. In fact, I have ceased tracking days by month, day, or even the day of the week and now judge days by what is due the next day. Wednesday is no longer Wednesday, it’s “Hegel-Paper-Is-Due-Tomorrow” Day. That all being said, I hope to get a chock hold on my work (please pray for me!) and get back to writing my stupid thoughts on at least a weekly basis.
Here’s some things, however, I wish I had found time to blog on.
- The Archbishop’s homily at TMC’s convocation. We might be good people, but you are an awful public speaker.
- The cigar tax that passed in the House. Knock it off already!
- The smoking ban in New Hampshire. So much for “Live Free Or Die.”
As alway, I also wished I could write about how much I love my school but feel like I’m missing a few too many important events in the “real world”.
The purposed $10 per stick cigar tax is set to be the best example of legislative puritans ruining the fun for the rest of us. For one, the bill forgets the fact that cigar smokers are not like cigarette smokers in that we don’t necessarily smoke them everyday and will simply quit buying them if the price jumps up 40%. The senate is hoping that such a ridiculous tax on fun will raise money for children’s health care, which it would if it weren’t for the fact that puritanical taxes rely on us to continue using the taboo substance. Even with cigarette taxes, most state governments will need the same number of smokers in 2017 as they have today in order to continue programs that heavily rely on smoking taxes. Given the anti-smoking climate that the puritans have created, it seems unlikely that they’ll have these numbers.
The other impact that many considering this tax forget is the impact on peoples of developing nations that manufacture and import cigars. The Chicago Tribune reports the impact it may have on Nicaragua, which last year exported 56 million cigars to America. The fear among Nicaraguans is that the loss of such a market may very well cause a massive loss in jobs. Such a scenario has been seen before, namely in the distilling and brewing industry of Ireland which took a massive hit during America’s prohibition. Maria Jose Morales, a Nicaraguan cigar maker, echoes a wish I share, “I wish we could bring those senators and congressmen down here to tell them that it’s nice to help the children of the United States, but look what you are doing to the people here.” The problem with the men of capitol hill is just that; when they get a crusade in their heads they blaze on and forget the global impact they might create from ridiculous legislation. In the end, tax gouging cigar smokers will not hurt the tobacco corporations people hate so much, but the farmers and manufacturers that politicians claim to love so much.