Having a baby is supposed to make you think about your own maturity. Many expectant parents of my acquaintance decided to put away childish things – they cut back on the drinking, cancelled their bimonthly order for a quarter of Moroccan, and started going to bed at nine thirty to examine the footnotes to What to Expect when You're Expecting. I was vaguely looking for a quicker, less strenuous way of growing up, and after considering lots of self-improving options it finally it hit me.... I would get a pipe.
What could be more grown-up than that? Right?
I said all this to my friends before Christmas, and one of them took the hint. He sent me one. It's shiny and wooden and you assemble it like the Man with the Golden Gun building his golden gun. I got incredibly excited by this and went round the corner to the Tabac du Dôme (where F. Scott Fitzgerald used to buy his tobacco) to Get Supplies. It's a whole new world. I came back with coconut tobacco, pipe cleaners, weird matches, and a retractable implement called a reamer. ‘What the fuck is that?’ Hannah asked me. ‘It's a reamer!’ I boomed, making a gesture. ‘For goodness sake, if you're going to smoke a pipe, you have to have a reamer!’
(While I was in the shop, incidentally, the guy behind me had come in to try on some pipes. They gave him this little plastic thing that goes over the mouthpiece, and he meditatively popped a series of briars between his teeth, nodding his head, and assaying their heft and balance. It was awesome.)
So next time I had the flat to myself, I tamped in a bowlful of rough shag and fired her up. ‘Just firing up a bowlful of rough shag,’ I texted to about a dozen people. Wasn't it Schopenhauer, I reflected, who said that smoking a pipe dispenses with the need to think? Well maybe not exactly that, but he did say something remarkably similar in German, and his point was not lost. Puff puff puff. It went out pretty quickly, but I relit it. Puff puff. It went out again, and I relit it again. Then it went out, so I relit it. The pipe went out again; it was again relit by me. It went out. I relit. Out. Relit.
By now hyperventilating slightly, I leant on the kitchen work-surface and took stock of my supply of matches. It seemed to me that I would need approximately two boxes per pipeful. No wonder this is such an expensive habit.
Eventually, I got some kind of steady combustion going. I was standing in the window because I didn't want too much smoke in our flat, but I did get a few strange glances from people in the courtyard, squinting up at me, red-faced in my dressing-gown wreathed in coconut smoke. The flat smelled like an arson attempt on a Bounty factory, and I looked like Sherlock Holmes's idiot brother. I wondered if it was time to use the reamer.
When the smoke alarm went off, I decided to call it a day, feeling happy that I'd mastered the technique well enough to be able to pull it out on the next special occasion. The problem now with this habit is that, living in France, it's incredibly difficult to discuss it. Une pipe in French, as well as the obvious, is a slang word for a certain popular non-procreative sex act, and my language skills have so far been unable to get over this obstacle. Too few people talk about pipes, whereas popular non-procreative sex acts are the subject of most everyday conversations here in Paris, so that the slang meaning is basically now the primary meaning. For me to tell people at work that my best man got me a pipe for Christmas is to announce that I was festively sucked off by a sales manager from Maidstone, which, granted, may add a certain rakish charm to my otherwise bland persona, but isn't necessarily how I want to make smalltalk.
Basically, I'm starting to suspect this present is more trouble than it's worth.
- Current Location:paris