This Passion of Ours
Once each month, Tuesday evenings at Florio’s Restaurant in New York are magical times for me. I look forward to those evenings for weeks, beginning from the moment I leave the restaurant at the end of the evening of the previous month. Hungry for the passion, I am. Thirsting for the joy those evenings’ affairs quenches. No mere possibility of a fanciful tryst is it I anticipate. A congregation of believers gathers from the far corners of the metropolitan area to join in a rite of reaffirmation of who we are and what we hold dear.
The New York Pipe Club unites men and women who find beauty in what is created from briar. At these dinners, members break out the latest tobaccos they’ve acquired and generously offer them around the tables. If the leaves are kisses to caress our waiting lips, then the pipes we smoke are sensuous channels to accept them.
How those pipes call to us! Each member brings a few of his choicest little wooden darlings to lay before the others. Oohs and ahhs punctuate conversations. Heads bend forward and at every imaginable angle as onlookers shower admiring glances and conduct studious examinations. Eyes squint to read the markings and follow the winding grain flames around the pipes’ bowls and shanks or dizzily lose themselves inside the labyrinthine birdsyes.
As I watch my fellows at each meeting, I cannot but be struck by the pride they show in their pipes. Just as parents parading their children at a public event, we pipe owners outwardly show humility in the appreciation of our briar babies, indeed a careful and dignified restraint in our display of their fine qualities. Inwardly, however, the glow of self-satisfied happiness warms our briar-loving souls.
Our president, Vernon Vig, poignantly summed up our feelings as we were leaving Florio’s the other night. We had been discussing this and that carver’s pipes, and how very many each of us owned and enjoyed, when he exclaimed, eyes brimming with the excitement of the faithful whose conviction is eternal and unwavering, yet constantly being rediscovered and reaffirmed, how we all need to feel passionate about something in our lives, and how wonderful it is to be passionate about these beautiful creations. This is the inspiration that we pipe collectors and smokers feel, and it’s a passion that makes us the richer for sharing it.