It’s a place from a by-gone era: the tobacco and pipe shops. However, they still exist, though many of their suppliers are long since out of business. Today, I went to such a shop. I went to 3 of them actually—well… kinda, sorta, maybe.
My father died over 18 years ago, in large measure as a result of his addiction to tobacco. He smoked cigarettes and pipes before I was born until I was about 8 years of age. He started again when he came to visit me some 15 years later when I lived in Durham, NC. He said the smell of the tobacco curing in the air, which I found irksome, made him long for the “good old days”1 when he smoked.
As a result, he owned any number of pipes. After he died, my mother had them stowed away in a box. She always loved the romantic complexion of a man smoking a pipe. (I don’t get it myself.) At any rate, now that she is also gone, my sister and I have been cleaning out the house. We came across the pipes, and I decided to display them as a memento of my father.
So, today I stopped by a pipe store I had noticed from my frequent drives down that street. Well, ok. Wrong kind of pipe store. However, the guys working inside were very good natured and recommended 2 tobacco and pipe shops that were less inclined to deal in their product line.
The next store was a bust. He mostly sold cigars and had a very small shop. The final shop, however, was a glimpse into a time now long gone: Edward’s Pipe and Tobacco on Roswell Rd. NE. Creig Kelly, the proprietor, is an affable fellow with an ample, neatly trimmed, fully-white beard. His shop is not a business but a lifestyle. He himself loves smoking pipes. He has many in the store along with a significant collection of tobaccos and smoking accessories.
I say his shop is a lifestyle because it has an ample sitting area where men come to harken back to times past. Two such men (one older, one younger than I would have expected to find in such an establishment) were smoking away babbling on about the real meaning of the 2nd amendment, gun control, and liberalism/conservatism. Their conversation was purposeful, thoughtful, even-paced, and relaxed—the opposite of the strident rhetoric I see on Facebook about this topic. These were gentlemen behaving the way real gentlemen behave in public. They had (and seemed to be concerned about) a genuine and reflective sense of how they presented themselves and their ideas.
I talked with Creig about the pipe display options for maybe 10 minutes. He simply could not have been any nicer or more helpful. His shop was once a franchise of Edward’s Pipe and Tobacco, but that company closed, and he has a much more difficult time stocking his trade.
The perfuse smell of the tobacco was rather intense and only offensive because it seemed to permeate everything. Remember, I’m not at all a fan of smoking.
As I left the shop, two other older gentlemen approached the door, tobacco pouch and pipes in hand. The younger, probably in his late 40’s or early 50’s, deferred to the older by opening the door, “After you, sir.” No doubt they too were going to join the fireside chat. Mature men really don’t have a relaxed place in today’s American society in which they can randomly visit with their contemporaries for the sole purpose of chatting. The coffee shops just aren’t the same as they are so crowded and noisy and are filled with men and women of all ages.
As I drove off, regrettably without a display solution, I noticed that I now strongly smelled of tobacco. The dark smell seemed to consume the car. Even though the temperature was in the 50’s, I had to open the car windows as I drove. When I completed my next errand and got back into the car, I could smell the tobacco lingering in the car even then.
But what was more noteworthy to me than the lingering earthy smell was the nature of the men I had just seen and heard, and with whom I had talked. In fact, all of the men I have ever known who smoked pipes manifested an even tempered nature and had a sense of duty, of kindness, of savoring the moment that is their present. They always seemed to speak thoughtfully and never rushed. Maybe it was that pipe tobacco high? Who knows. What it wasn’t: the frenzied, endless spouting of outrage and disdain I see way too often on Facebook. Jeeze, maybe I need to take up a pipe.
Needless to say, I was furious! ↩