Smoking

It’s an ancient practice. I will bet anyone who wants to bet. I bet that in 200 years, long after governments who band smoking fade away, people will still smoke.Image

 Tobacco has been around and through so much persecution, most would have thought by now it would have disappeared. From the time smoking was stumbled upon in Egypt 6000 years ago, to the tobacco of the Native peoples of the Six Nations, to when it was taken back to Europe by Columbus, tobacco has been a part of human experience. All these anti-smokers of our day think they are winning some heroic battle against the evil weed, but they are just one more buzz kill in the long history of smoking. Long after corporations like Phillip Morris are gone, long after conservatives and liberals are gone, long after the lobbyist and special interests are gone, somebody somewhere will roll a cigarette, fill a pipe, or light a cigar. 

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My other favorite pipe.

I told you about the Peterson, my “favorite pipe”. It still is. But this Mastro De Paja I bought in 97 just before recording in Vancouver is a close second. It’s a Pesaro Media 1b. I’ve never seen one quite like it. Whenever I load it with Penzance, I am back in Vancouver walking by the boats of the quaint fishing village. The view of the restless ocean reminded me of a Bruce Cockburn song, “Salt , Sun, and Time.”

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Van Gogh Pipes

Pipes. These ancient reminders of man’s need for pleasure. I walked into my study a few minutes ago. I call it “my study”, but really it’s just a small bedroom where I have a desk, my books, guitars, and pipes. So yes, it is my “study”. It’s where I sit and smoke, read, and write songs. I have numerous rosaries hanging on the wall. I love the rosary. I went without it for 42 years. Now, I can’t go anywhere without it. 

I polished my Ser Jacopo Van Gogh “Picta” pipes today. Beautiful work. Jean Carlo Guidi is truly an artist. Van Gogh is my favorite painter. He was the Bob Dylan, the Leonard Cohen, the Luciano Pavarotti, the Jim Harrison of his time.

Here’s my favorite Van Gogh Picta:

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More from Turkey…

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One of the most intriguing places in Istanbul is the Blue Mosque. No matter how many times I walked or drove past, it demanded my attention. The stone wall in this photo is from ancient times, back when it was called Constantinople. Istanbul is an amazing city with an even more amazing story. From Crucifix’s to the Crescent Moon, so much of who we are today plays well with how this city became what it has become. 

One night I was walking near the Blue Mosque and smelled a familiar scent. It was latakia. I walked toward where I thought it was coming from but never saw anyone smoking a pipe. I did notice many cigarette smokers. I kept walking and came upon some Bavarian tourist. They were waiting in line for coffee. I decided to have a cup of this very strong muddy liquid so unlike Starbucks. By the time I left Turkey I had grown very fond of it. After a bit of small talk over our steaming brew, I pulled out a pipe and loaded it with my recently acquired Balkan Sobranie, Joseph, from Bavaria, asked to smell the tobacco. “Ahhh, this is very much like what my grandpa smoked.” I lit up and they all lit up their cigarettes. If I recall correctly, they were smoking Dunhill Reds. A young Turkish man walked by smoking a hand rolled cigarette and it hit me why I was smelling Latakia, it was in the Turkish mans cigarette. At least, it smelled very much like it. 

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We finished our coffee and they invited me to join them for dinner. We had a wonderful time eating Lamb Kabob, drinking Raki, and smoking the Hookah. 

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Playing the new tunes..

My band played a few tunes this past Saturday at a little gathering of friends here in Oxford. It was good to be playing with Jeff again. One hour of mostly new songs, with a few from the album thrown in. We like playing the new ones..

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There was a friend of mine at the gathering who collects Jody Davis pipes. We talked about some of Jody’s latest work. “He’s simply amazing”, said Corey.

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Finding Tobacco in Istanbul

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I always travel with several pipes. On my journey to Istanbul I took two J.Davis’s, one Julius Vesz Zulu, a Lars Ivarsson, a Peterson Emerald rustic, and a Mastro De Paja two tone sandblast. I didn’t take any tobacco. I usually wait to see what I can find where I’m traveling. This is an adventure for sure. The other reason I don’t take any is the bizarre ever changing rules about carrying tobacco on  flights to certain places. It seems odd that one can take a baseball bat and not a 2 ounce pouch of tobacco.

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Istanbul is a mesmerizing city. Bordering Asia and Europe, the only city in the world to do so, it has exotic sounds, smells, and brilliant architecture. I spent any time I had alone walking the narrow cobble stoned streets of the old city. The Bizarre, their version of a mall, is enormous! Surely I could find some pipe tobacco here. As I walked the maze of shops I stumbled upon a vast array of Hookah pipes. So beautiful in color and design. Oriental rugs covered the ground in many shops, hung from ropes, hundreds of them. Near the rugs was a coffee shop with small round wooden tables . I sat down and ordered. As I was waited I read from Leonard Cohen’s book of poetry, “Book of Longing”. I had found an English version in a book shop near the Blue Mosque the day before. Suddenly I smelled it. Latakia! I looked around and saw a tall blonde haired man smoking a Meerschaum. He was approaching my location and as he passed I asked him where he bought his tobacco. He was German, from Frankfort, and was very happy to meet another pipe smoker. He spoke very good English and I asked him to sit down. I ordered him a coffee and found out he and his family holiday often in Istanbul, as do many Germans. He reached in his jacket pocket and pulled out a very well worn leather pouch. He offered and I accepted. We smoked and drank coffee like two old friends. He directed me to a very ancient smoke shop not far from the Bizarre. Don’t you just love the pipe smoking fraternity?

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I found the shop. Part cigar shop, Hookah shop, and a small but encouraging pipe tobacco selection. I was floored to see they had some old 2 ounce Balkan Sobranie!! I bought the two boxes they had and felt good about life. I walked back to the Bizarre hoping to see my new German friend to share some of my spoils. Sadly, he was gone.

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I have numerous estate pipes for sale. Please email me if you are interested. moorkeith@gmail.com

Peace.

Grant Batson Interview

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1. Where are you from?  I’m from a small town North of Austin, called Taylor, Texas 
2. What brought you to Nashville?  I came to Nashville in 1993 to go to College.
3. When did you start making guitars? Do you play?  I started playing guitars at the age of 13.  A couple of years later, we were required to build a project in “shop” class at school.  I made an electric guitar.  That was my first.
4. Your a very serious cigar smoker, what’s your favorite right now?  Well, this changes often, but I’d have to say that my favorite Cuban, at the moment, is the Vegas Robaina.  Favorite non-Cubans, currently, are the UF-13 by Drew Estate and the Daruma by Room 101.

5. When did you first become aware of pipes?  Well, it’s honestly hard to say.  I remember, as a youngster, seeing several family friends with pipes but I didn’t really engage with them until College.  I began collecting as many as I could.  They were almost exclusively, hideous, cheap estates, but once in a while I would end up with something nice.  I only have a few left from those first days of collecting.  One is a Barling Meerschaum nosewarmer that I love.

 

6. When you left Batson guitars were you already committed to making pipes?  It wasn’t even on my radar.  Although, you (Keith) had been telling me for years that I would be a good pipe maker, it really was never an idea that I allowed to stick.  So, I left the guitar biz with no idea as to what I would do next.  In months previous to my leaving the guitars, Todd Johnson had found me and commissioned me to build a pipe case for a 7-day set he was working on.  In the unfolding months Todd would convince me to give pipe making a shot.

 

7. Who has the first pipe you made?  If he still has it, a doctor in Houston named Spencer.

 

Grant Batson

The first pipe I made.

8. Who is your inspiration as a pipe maker?  Oh my.  This may sound contrived.  Only on rare occasion do I look around at other makers’ work.  In my mind, a pipe is a series of connected holes that allow the functional passage of nicotine-rich smoke into the pie-hole.  What one surrounds that system of holes with, in my humble opinion, is called art.  I’m probably no different than most pipe makers.  I endeavor, with each pipe, to create something that is unique, attractive and comfortable, but also “makes sense to my eyes”.  (With that in mind, I also truly believe the veracity of the words of King Solomon, “There is nothing new under the sun.”)  I’ve been told my shanks are too fat.  I’ve heard that I use too much wood embellishment.  My buttons are this, I leave too much plateau, etc, etc.  I really try to make stuff I’m happy with.  I’m pretty hard to please.  Just ask my wife.  I figure, by the time I’m done with the pipe, if I’m happy with it, there might be, at least, one other dude on earth who will be.  This is not the basis for my pricing structure, but on occasion, my prices might reflect just how happy or unhappy I am with a pipe.  If you ever see a pipe that you think is “cheaper” than you would expect, there’s a 95% chance that I just wasn’t happy with it for some reason.
While I don’t look around often,  I truly find inspiration in almost everyone’s work.  From Balkovec’s tough, rugged, manly pipes to the whacky, artful originality of Shekita (Revyagin, Yashtylov, Negoita … heck name a Russian and I’m probably inspired by his work).  I love Tokutomi, Teddy and all the Danes.  Probably, the two guys that currently inspire me the most are Peter Heding and Konstantin Shekita.  I admire their style and originality, but also I guess I identify with bits of their stories.
9. Where do you get your briar?  Mimmo, of course.
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10. What are you working on right now?  Right now, I’m gearing up for Chicago, working on a stand for a set and making a box for a collaborated set of Gracik/Manz, which Jeff Gracik hired me to do.
These three pipes listed below are for sale! Contact me at moorkeith@gmail.com for more information. Peace!
The Tormented Blow FIsh—$750.00

725.00

Lays perfectly in the hand. Incredibly light.

The Regal Egg–$825.00

$825.00

Beautiful Birdseye. The weight and balance in the hand is remarkable.

The Smoking Duck–$875.00

$875.00

Unique design by Grant Batson