In the backdrop of what was an unbelievably grueling week with minor failures sprinkled into rousing successes, sometimes a man needs to have a talk with his pipe, with the tobacco acting as mediator. Learning how to communicate with your pipe takes time. We start and read all the literature on how to smoke a pipe correctly. The 3 step method, the Frank Method, the Bob Method, the upside down method, the Old Codger Scoop, sip...do not gulp, don't smoke too fast, you want to tease the tobacco with the flames, be sure not to load the tobacco to high...you'll damage the rim, make sure the bowl doesn't get too hot, you haven't smoked until you've had a bowl of Cater Hall in a Cob, you want to start out with Aromatics... you're not ready for the good stuff yet, you're not a real pipe smoker if all you smoke is aromatics, Latakia is for real pipe smokers, English blends are where its at, you can't say you know what the tobacco tastes like until you've snorked, you're smoking a cob?....Psshhhh, Forget cobs...and Briars...you have to get on the Meerschaum train, you haven't smoked until you've tried a Meer, ...yeah all I smoke are Clay pipes now....they offer the coolest purest smoke of them all, .....AAAAARRRRRHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! Damn it, let me just smoke the damn thing. It always starts this way doesn't it. We learn how to handle a women through whatever delivery mechanism was available to us at the time as young men, we get her primed and ready, going solely on what we've read, seen or heard, we jump in and go for it. The initial light is always a violent affair. We tease her with the flame, take those initial 5-6 deep puffs, gently tamp, another 5-6 puffs, the smoke is heavy in anticipation of the dance, flavorless and hot; sloppy and impatient. We start out eagerly puffing away, focusing on our technique, trying to force an experience that we've seen or heard, trying to get the rhythm just right; and she lays there taking your lead, with the full understanding that you are not ready to listen to her...but it's ok. She'll be there for the duration of the bowl, should you ever catch a glimpse of the frustration/boredom in her eyes, as she waits for you to learn the lessons needed to release her secrets. She says nothing, but her actions melt with frustration, heating up the bowl to where you could barely hold it in your hand, alarmed, you pause..."Oh no, I'm going to fast, I have to slow down, and why does my tongue burn, I thought this was supposed to last at least an hour....this only took 30 minutes?" You are confused, conflicted, frustrated that it isn't going the way you hoped, so you start blaming her. "Clearly, the tobacco was too moist, next time i'll leave her out for a little bit, give her time to build up some anticipation, that'll teach her. Or maybe she just had too much make up on, and it distracted me, the casing was way to heavy on that aromatic. Or, you know what, come to think of it, she just didn't have much to say. If I had to classify her, I'd say she was bland, dull, flavorless, boring...just not my thing. On to the next..." I imagine there comes a point in every pipe smokers life when something happens where the man is ready to hear the tobacco; the moment of inspiration where he asks the woman what it is that will make her sing. Everything is different. Sometimes it takes a little pain to set the backdrop just right, to really feel out the tobacco, to intuitively pack it just right, to listen as it tells you precisely how to light it, to learn how to make the tobacco sing....and the conversation begins. He handles the woman differently, running his hands through to get a feel for the texture, the cut, the aroma, the moisture. He handles her softly, ignoring all methods that flooded him in clumsy anticipation. Instinctively, he loads the bowl, gently, loosely, gently, tamp, teases the flame just the way she likes it, not to aggressive, just enough to get her going, until finally she gives her first orders. The first notes of subtle almonds tell him to slow down. She's lit. Oh my God! Time slows, your brain chemistry changes, for the first time in your life, reciprocity has developed between you and her. You keep her on the edge, constantly threatening to let the flame go out, knowing intuitively the rhythm to keep to maintain the embers. She sings....Almonds graduate into a subtle mocha with a hint of her leather boots, married to a single faint maraschino cherry, under the back drop of a marshmallowy camp fire topped with brown sugar. (Solani Silver Flake) She has more to say...though it has nothing to do with tobacco. She counsels you on life, you talk about whatever's been on your mind, problems at work, problems at home, philosophy, religion, sometimes nothing at all...the flames go out on occasion...but no big deal, a simple relight and it doesn't have to be anybody's fault, the dance continues. It is at this moment where you realize what this journey has been about all along. It's not about your pipe packing method, or your pipe selection, or your tobacco selection, or the drink you've pair the tobacco with; pipe smoking is a communication. If you pay attention to her, she will take care of you. Give your copy of the Kamasutra to some other unsuspecting new smoker. It's not that hard when you learn to communicate. You've graduated and no longer need it.