PSA: Final Call for CPG Dubliner Donegal Tweed Cap
(see end of blog)
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
–Tennyson, In Memorium 106*
Do you remember that line from the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movie where the little guy says, with justifiable pride, “I’m a collector, you know. And a collector buys but never sells”? It’s in Dressed to Kill (1946), and he’s talking about his music boxes but he might be talking about pipes. I know there are a good number of Pete Geeks who fit this description, and my hat goes off to them. But then there’s the rest of us.
Badkarma even struck the Great Detective
There’s the dedicated collectors. Each of them might tell you he has a small rotation and a larger collection. Then there’s the dedicated smokers. They might say they have a large rotation and a smaller collection alongside it. For both groups, however, there’s usually an occasional glance at the pipe racks to consider whether it might not be time to let go of a pipe no longer appreciated or no longer smoked, as the case may be. Which to keep? Which to let go? I sent my good friend Charles Mundungus a number of questions on how he handles the issue, from which the following interview has been edited.
Mark: Where would you place yourself as a Pete Geek on the spectrum from “collector” at one end to “smoker” at the other?
Charles: That is a rather specious way of looking at things, especially if we recall Bill Unger’s words in The Pipe Collector that if you own one pipe, you’re a pipe smoker and if you own two, you’re a collector.
Mark: All right, let’s skip that and go on to my original question. I know you sell off pipes you’re no longer interested in and have done so for years and year. How do you accomplish that?
Charles: I imagine the same way everyone else does. I look at them and categorize them as “that’s got to go,” “don’t know about that one” and “I love this pipe.”
Mark: Short interview. Thanks so much!
Charles: Would you like me to elaborate?
Mark: If it’s not too much trouble.
Charles: Certainly. Whenever the mood strikes me (which is usually when I’m considering buying a new pipe), I classify my pipes under three headings:
- Badkarma pipes
- Blessingway pipes
- Blurry pipes
Let me begin with a quote from Tolkien to frame our quest: “Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway.” (The Hobbit, 61).
Mark: Your point being?
Charles: We’ll begin with pipes that in certain moods we might be inclined to pitch into the fireplace or toss into the wood chopper. From there we’ll look at those that we can’t quite figure out what to do with, which often give us the most trouble. Then we’ll look at those we wouldn’t part with under any circumstances—at least, not today.
Mark: I’m ready. I think.
3. BADKARMA PIPES
Charles: A badkarma pipe is what I call a pipe that’s bought or acquired under fraught conditions or becomes enmeshed in those at some point. “Karma” is the universal understanding that we sometimes seem to reap what we sow and to get back what we give, but a badkarma pipe isn’t quite the same thing; it’s a pipe that, while it might smoke well, carries a negative freight for the pipeman smoking it.
Mark: Can you give me an example?
Badkarma isn’t something you can typically see in a pipe (POY John Bull Homage)
Charles: I was at a show in Europe once and did a presentation for a pipe maker. Afterwards they said they had a pipe for us and I thought “How nice!” the way one does when anyone says thank you. It turned out after I’d picked up the pipe they wanted me to pay for it. I was embarrassed, totally mortified. That was a badkarma pipe. I took it home to Geneva and tried to smoke it, but after a year or so I gave it up. It couldn’t be done.
Mark: Once I gave a pipe to someone I hardly knew, but I really admired him and wanted to put the action to the belief. He accepted it, then a few years later asked me if I wanted a certain pipe he was getting rid of, as he knew I liked Petes. When I opened the box, it was the same pipe! It was funny because he didn’t realize I’d given him that pipe years before, but you know at some level I couldn’t enjoy that pipe again and traded it off.
Sometimes a gift can boomerang in badkarma
(1996 Captain Warren Calabash by Paddy Larrigan)
Charles: I worked with a famous English company at one time, helping them source their old shapes. I found one they liked and sent it to them. About a year later the reproduction came on the market and I thought, “Finally. I’ll get my original pipe back.” I made the mistake of thinking they’d send me one of their reproductions by way of thanks.
Mark: They didn’t?
Charles: No. I did finally get my original back, three or four months later. And I did buy one of the reproductions, but you know—
Mark: Badkarma pipe?
Charles: Yes. I traded it with some others at the shop here in Lake Geneva.
Mark: The business world isn’t made up of the Brothers Cheeryble, is it?
Charles: You mean in Charles Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby, right?
Mark: Right. The Brothers C. seemed as much about the Golden Rule as they did about business.
Charles: A Dickens fantasy. . .
Mark: Is it? I wonder.
Sometimes a great pipe can be irretrievably infused
with bad karma (POY 9BC)
Charles: Of course. If we don’t do the right thing, who will? Anyway, it’s always easy for me to pull the badkarma pipes when I get ready to weed the collection because all I have to do is look at them and there’s this negative energy that radiates from them.
Mark: The bad karma doesn’t have to just be from a bad deal, though, does it? It can be anything extremely negative that happens and somehow gets transferred onto the unsuspecting pipe.
2. BLURRY PIPES
Charles: The most difficult category to deal is the blurry pipe. I call it that because its merits just won’t come into focus for me. Do I like it or not? Does it smoke well or not? Should I keep it or not? Often this is a pipe I haven’t smoked for a while, or maybe didn’t smoke much and so don’t know much about. Sometimes the first few smokes weren’t anything memorable and so I just forgot about it. I just get a tepid, lukewarm reaction to it, almost but not quite a passionless experience
Mark: Ha! As in, “Because you are neither hot nor cold, I’ll spit you out of my mouth”?
Charles: I see you know your New Testament.
Mark: So how do you deal with these?
Charles: First of course by identifying them, which usually isn’t too difficult because they’re dusty, and if they’ve got sterling bands or ferrules they’re tarnished, letting me know I haven’t smoked them for at least a year, maybe two.
Mark: You keep your silver shiny?
Charles: Of course! It’s my Benedictine background, taking care of the tools that take care of me, like the monks take care of the vessels on the altar—everything’s sacred, you know. It’s just that sometimes, as Wendell Barry writes, we let them become desecrated.
Mark: Sometimes if I dust off or clean up a pipe, I’ll know it’s a pipe I want to smoke. Sometimes, though, the pipe still doesn’t come into focus, something that happened not long with my Writer’s Collection, which I’d kind of forgotten about–one clue that for me I might want to consider trading it or selling it. Even though they’re eye-poppingly grained, a set that was matched up from several available ones many years ago by my friend Kris Perry, I just don’t smoke them. I suppose I’ll eventually have to find a home for them where they’ll be smoked and not just admired from afar.
Sometimes even getting a pipe out and dusting it off doesn’t help bring it into focus.
Charles: And then there’s pipes I’ve sold off and later regretted.
Mark: Oh boy. This has happened to me more times than I care to think about. At the moment of crisis I thought the pipe in hand wasn’t worth nearly as much to me as the one in the bush I wanted, then a few weeks, months or years later I wake up and think, “D’oh! You fool!”
Sometimes you sell something you later regret (2017 Amber Spigot 999)
Charles: Well, at least there’s always another pipe!
Mark: Just not that one! [Laughing]
1. BLESSINGWAY PIPES
Mark: So that leaves your final category. I assume “blessingway” means these are pipes you wouldn’t trade, no matter what?
Charles: Yes, I’ve taken blessingway as a code—a respectful one I hope—from an important Navajo religious rite. It is a complex idea. Father Behard Haile, O.F.M., distills it by saying, “In the Navajo language the term encompasses everything that is interpreted as good – as opposed to evil, [everything that’s] favorable for man. It encompasses such words as beauty, harmony, success, perfection, well-being, ordered, ideal. The intent of this rite is to ensure a good result at any stage of life, and therefore the translation of Blessingway.”**
A Blessingway Artisan Gift (313 System Rua Spigot)
Mark: How does that apply to something as insignificant as weeding a pipe collection?
Charles: Nothing is insignificant. But to answer your question, when I think of a blessingway pipe I think of one that bestows or reveals or transmits all the things Fr. Haile says, which for us could mean
- it might be beautiful,
- it might be aesthetically perfect in my eyes,
- it might deliver rich and satisfying smoking experiences to me on a regular basis,
- it might be the ideal of a particular shape or style,
- it might embody itself as the gift from another person,
- it might have been received as an act of kindness by another person,
- it might be associated with an event looked back upon with a grateful heart.
We don’t do this much anymore at pipe shows, but there was a time in the not-too-distant past when it was common practice to swap one pipe for another. We couldn’t simply send unwanted pipes out on consignment or trade-in, so we took what we had to the show and often came away with something we were excited about. A friend of mine, for example, swapped me for a 2005 Limited Edition that I’ve always thought of as Peterson’s ultimate Pipe of the Year, one I never thought I’d actually see in person, let alone companion:
A Blessingway Swap (the 2005 POY)
Mark: I’ve never been to a show where I saw guys actually swapping pipes, but it sounds fantastic—maybe that’s an idea for the Pete Geek Meet in Chicago this April.*** I have had experiences of generosity, though, like when the Sherlock Holmes Iora dropped at Smokingpipes Europe last February. There were only 47 pipes in the release and I totally missed it. One of the finest members of our community, reading in a later post that I wished I’d acquired one, offered me my choice of two usmoked ones he had at the price he paid, when he could certainly have resold it for a great deal more.
A Blessingway Act of Generosity (SH Rathbone Iora)
I know another old sailor, a guy who meets on a regular basis with a sort of book and philosophy club comprising all sorts of characters from all walks of life. They share an interest in pipes, bourbon, and sometimes even books. He’s given away a number of restored Petes to friends, acquaintances and almost anyone he comes into contact with who expresses interest in taking up the pipe. He sent me this one not long ago, a real rarity, the 11 shape in its Grade 3 numbering as the 362 with the almost never seen “s” stamp, Made in England:
A Blessingway Gift (362s MIE)
Charles: You showed me another one last year, a gift from someone who knew you liked to restore pipes.
Mark: Yes. His love are the Peterson House Pipes and he sent me a DeLuxe 11 to finish restoring with a HAND MADE stamp on the stem and bone tenon:
A Blessingway Gift to Restore (11s Early Republic)
Mark: Any conclusions you’d like to draw about all of this?
Charles: Yes. Take care, take care, take care. Take care of your pipes. If you no longer value one, see that it finds a home where it is appreciated, if at all possible. Remember that just because a pipe was a “bad karma” experience for you, when it leaves you that negative energy will fall off of it, whether it simply didn’t smoke well for you or whether you had infused it with bad associations. Be grateful and generous with your pipes, with others, with yourself.
THOUGHTS FROM FELLOW PETE GEEKS
Chris Tarman: I definitely fall into the “large collection, small rotation” camp. But a fun thing about that is that the small rotation is always fluid and evolving. As new pipes arrive, they’ll be in the smoking rotation for awhile and something will drop out for a while. But now and then, I’ll spot an old friend in the collection that I haven’t visited with in a long time, and it will come back into the rotation for a while.
For example, I have a very large collection (close to 100, but at one time slightly over 100) of Bill Taylor-era Ashtons, which I displayed one year at the Chicago show. I knew Bill pretty well and had visited him in England. I used to smoke five Ashtons for every non-Ashton I smoked. I bought most of them while Bill was still alive. After he died in 2009, I bought a few more, but didn’t smoke any of the Ashtons very often, especially after I did the display on Chicago. Every now and then, there were a couple that might get some action. But then, last week, I just suddenly felt the urge to smoke one that I probably hadn’t smoked in ten years or more. It was great! I smoked another one just the other day. It was also great! It made me remember something my late friend George O’Belmito told me when I was in the long-gone Churchwarden shop in Boulder Colorado when I was in college. I told him that I had some pipes that I didn’t smoke much, and he said “The thing about pipes is that they don’t go bad if they just sit there, and one day you might rediscover one that you haven’t thought about in ages and realize that you really like it”. I do occasionally sell a pipe, and sometimes regret it. I have a hard time letting them go, just in case…
Ken Sigel: The three categories are a great way to think of one’s pipes. “Blurry” is wonderful term for those pipes in the middle. Sometimes I light up one of those and find it belongs in one of the other two categories. However, for me there is also a 4th category. These are my “project pipes”. I find that bringing back the tired and beaten up pipes gives me real pleasure. It is a relaxing, a time to focus on the small issues (scratches, dents, dings) which I can solve versus the big ones that are best pondered during a good smoke. Better yet is knowing that some tired old pipe gets new life and becomes something that brings pleasure to its’ new owner. I recently did the best I could on an early republic 307. It was in tough shape and took much work to make it a nice solid pipe. My buyer told me he was thrilled with the refurbishment. We exchanged a few more messages, and then he lit up a bowl. His last message was “Smokes Great, thank you” along with a selfie of him puffing away.
John Schantz: I’m definitely in the collector side of the column. I buy pipes because of their aesthetics. If they don’t smoke well, I fix them!
With thanks to Paul Combs, Ken Sigel, Bob Cuccuro, Jack Wilson,
Sykes Wilford, Tom Palmer & Kris Perry for their
and to Chas. Mundungus for his time.
LAST CHANCE TO ORDER!
The CPG 100% Donegal Tweed Black Herringbone
Dubliner Flat Cap
We’re sending in the order early this week. I know it was poor timing to pitch the event right at Christmas. Hindsight 20/20, right? Anyway, with Epiphany just a day gone by, everyone’s back and work or getting back to whatever normal means—and that means if you haven’t ordered a Dubliner Flat Cap your head’s gonna be cold! And it’s just a short step from cold head to head cold to “Dang, I can’t smoke because I’ve got a cold.” You see how important the correct head gear can be in this season, am I right?
Everyone knows Pete Geeks are the black sheep of the pipe community, so if the hat fits—wear it! Sourced from 100% sustainable Black Irish Sheep (LOL) and woven in County Donegal in the traditional Irish herringbone for Hat Man of Ireland.
While all the men’s fashionistas will berate you for wearing your flat cap backwards, don’t forget other pipe smokers are probably already berating you. There’s nothing wrong with being an outlier. As Major Winters says during the Siege of Bastogne in Band of Brothers, “We’re paratroopers—we’re supposed to be surrounded.”
Hat Man’s description reads of the CPG flat cap: “This Dubliner is a contemporary version of the traditional Irish Flat Cap. With its curved peak, quilted lining for extra comfort, double stitching at the seams and a strap at the back for added style this expertly tailored cap can be worn with pride anywhere around the world. Made from 100% Donegal Tweed.”
Cap sizes are as follows:
Medium – 58cm
Large – 60cm
XL – 62m
XXL – 63cm
If you’re between sizes, GO UP:
Hat shims, aka hat reducers and hat tape, are readily available and can easily be inserted behind the hat liner inside the hat to make a comfortable fit.
- We need a minimum order of 50 caps to make our order
- The “Pete Geek” logo (seen in its digital approximation above) will be embroidered along the right side of the cap
- This is “the Dubliner” Contemporary Irish Flat Cap made from 100% Donegal Tweed
- Individuals are responsible to correctly measure and order the right size (a video is found in a previous post for directions on determining your correct size)
- If you’re between sizes, go UP; special hat shims will slide under the brim in front to make it just right
- Price is $65, including shipping in the US
- Price is $75, including shipping internationally FedEx International Connect where available, otherwise US First Class Intl (this does NOT include any customs/import fees)
- Deadline: Tuesday, 9th January, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. CST (GMT-6)
- You will invoiced through PayPal when the caps are ready to ship
- Estimated to ship middle February 2024
- Questions? Send email to email@example.com
- Order by filling out this GOOGLE FORM
Our friend Linwood Hines, CPG, has a spectacular 4AB Birdseye Natural POY 2019 for sale. Smoked twice; sanitized. $400. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*”In Memoriam A. H. H. OBIIT MDCCCXXXIII: 106″
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
** See Leland C. Wyman, Blessingway (U Arizona Press, 1970).
*** Chicago Pipe Show is April 11-14. The Pete Geek Meet will happen Friday afternoon. Please think about attending & bringing some of your great Pete companions. We may even have our own swap & sell!