Monday, July 17, 2006

Gotthammer's Apologetic Part 4: "Certain Dried Leaves"

I am not technically a “smoker”. I’ve asked my doctor about this. The number of times I smoke a cigar, pipe or hookah in a year does not classify me as a smoker. I smoked cigarettes from time to time when I was younger, but I don’t much like the taste of cigarettes, so I don’t smoke them.

That’s why I smoke, by the way. Because I like it. I like the smell, and with the stuff I smoke, I like the taste, or the combination of tastes when I smoke while drinking Earl Grey Tea with lots of sugar in it, or a good glass of Port.

Smoking is a great excuse to just sit around and talk. Some people use coffee to achieve this goal, and while I like coffee a great deal, I also enjoy a good smoke.

The cigars I smoke are generally rather expensive, the kind that are actually nice to smoke, unlike the smelly little units you can purchase at the local gas station. You know, the Old Port cigarillos which were my introduction to smoking, in a hotel parking lot with my friend Danny when I was around sixteen years old. Cigars are a funny thing amongst Christians. Most Christian guys will reveal that they smoke cigars “at bachelor parties” or special occasions. It’s a way to be edgy without being “bad’.

My dad once showed me “what to do with cigars.” He had been given a box for Christmas one year at work and brought the box home to show the children. He opened the box, and then proceeded to grind the cigars up over the garbage can. I remember being disappointed; I had fully expected Dad was going to show us how to have a good smoke.

I prefer Dominican cigars to Cuban, and my favourite is the Ashton Maduro. Sadly, cigars make me stink to high heaven, and I awake the morning after a fantastic cigar with a bad case of trench mouth. So I don’t smoke them often; I can’t justify burning up 30 bucks all that often, nor do I like having to clean my mouth out with bleach before Jenica enjoys kissing me again. To my wife’s credit, despite the fact that the smell of cigar smoke prevents her from wanting to be within 10 paces of me at any time, she picked me up a humidor while on vacation in San Antonio.

I smoke a pipe more than cigars, because I own two of them. The first one I owned was bought for me by my parents when I was in grade five; I dressed up as Popeye, and being a perfectionist when it came to Halloween costumes, my parents got me a real corn cob pipe. I was ecstatic about this purchase; it was on a par with getting my first knife.

Pipes have always had a mystique for me, beginning with my grandfather. He took a real shine to me; my mom said I was “grandpa’s boy.” I loved him a lot, and he died when I was only 6. He smoked all manner of tobacco, but I mostly remember him smoking his pipe, and the smell of that pipe. I loved that smell.

The next time I was exposed to that scent was in the office of my principal in elementary school. Larry Henderson was a wonderful man who encouraged his students in all manner of things. I was reading Lord of the Rings in grades four and five, and I think I considered Mr. Henderson to be somewhat like Gandalf. He once came on a hike with myself and a friend, and along the way he smoked his pipe. That picture of Mr. Henderson sitting by a coulee creek bank smoking his pipe, the scent wafting through the early summer air is one of my fondest memories.

When I was in my twenties, I went and bought my first bag of tobacco, “borkum riff” – cherry flavoured (I have since learned that the people who run smoke shops think poorly of this particular tobacco, but it seemed a good place to start). Because I didn’t know to clean the bowl out properly, the corncob cracked within a few years, and I had to replace it. So I went and picked out my own pipe; grooves in the bowl to allow the heat to dissipate, curved at the stem like Sherlock Holmes. I’ve thought about buying one of those long stemmed units like the ones in Lord of the Rings, but I’ve smoked a peace pipe, and the longer the stem, the more work it is to pull the smoke through.

Most recently I’ve been introduced to smoking the hookah. Fantastic. All the joys of smoking with none of the bad side effects. With tobacco flavours such as ‘mixed fruit’ and ‘double apple’, I was very excited to try smoking a hookah.

Like so many things, of all the things I could smoke, this is the least dangerous to me and the most pleasant to be around, but it is also the one that raises the most eyebrows, because the hookah is the same thing as a bong, or a water pipe. You could smoke hash or dope in it if you chose. You could do the same with a regular pipe though.

When a friend of mine and I were smoking a hookah at Co Co Di’s (A Restaurant in Edmonton specializing in Lebanese cuisine), we asked our waitress if Christians in Iraq smoke the hookah. She laughed and said, “Of course! I am a Christian, and it’s the priests who smoke it more than anyone else.” We were dubious that Lebanese Baptists smoke the hookah and get away with it, but I’m convinced that as cultural norms go, this one is pretty normal for Lebanese.

Shisha, which is the proper name of the tobacco one smokes in the hookah is also the least dangerous of all tobaccos; hardly any nicotine or tar in this stuff, which looks like jam or shredded prunes. If you enjoy smoking, I highly recommend the hookah; if you live in Edmonton, the place to buy is El-Saffadis Bros. lebanese grocery in the North End.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:46 PM

    Where is this Co Co Di's you speak of? Is it still around? Seriously, I've been dying to know where I can smoke sheisha (hookah) in Edmonton.

    - K