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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Take what you need, then divide by two

Moving is a pain, no doubt, and moving internationally is an experience I can't begin to describe, but there is one aspect of it that can be very enjoyable - It has a remarkable ability to pare your life down to the bare essentials, and it is a heartening feeling to know that for just one brief month in your life, your "stuff" consists entirely of what you are carrying on your body and in one tote bag.

Right now we are overwhelmed with things to do, all needing attention immediately (I am sitting down to write this for ten minutes just to have a break from crisis planning). I drew myself a two page flowchart just to help keep the various sequences of essential events straight in my head, so we could follow the next steps as quickly and efficiently as possible. It's quite a rat's nest of coordination between banks, notaires, customs, US accountants, French accountants, US business setup, French business shutdown, mover arrangements, shipping notes, packing notes, flight booking, cat shipping, and organized searches for all essential electrics stateside (The NC place will be a mountain of borrowed gear).

It is strange to think that within a month, all of this chaos will be boiled down to just a few items that I carry with me. Our personal goods will arrive six weeks behind us, so we'll have a long period of time when we will live very simply, off paper plates and cups, in the same few sets of clothes, with a few favorite paperbacks between us. This is not a bad thing. Moreover, the things we take are the things that will get set into memory, welded down as part of the story of our trip. When I think of our arrival over here, amidst all the hell that composed our first year, some of my best memories are of sitting alone late at night, feet up in plastic lawn chairs in the living room, reading old Edgar Rice Burroughs books off our Palm Pilot. Or of the brief interludes of fun I had in the evenings, before there was any television, relaxing with a pipe, the laptop, and a bit of gaming in Baldur's Gate. My companions through all this were a set of eight IMP Meerschaums, chosen for their smokability, their durability, and their meerschaum advantage of being able to be smoked repeatedly without souring like briar would.

I haven't picked my travel pipes yet, but the "moving tobaccos" are already open:



Tragically, I ran out of my favorite, 1792 Flake, some days ago and don't want to bother ordering more till we're moved, so these will have to do. And the funny thing is, I know in future years I'll have fond memories of every one of them - Few things hold memory like scents, and these pipe tobaccos will be forever fused into my memory as reminders of Big Move #2.

How do they stack up as tobaccos? Peterson's Sherlock Holmes has long been a favorite aromatic of mine - It has a distinctive flavor, it's always good, and it's (fairly) easy to find. Penzance is excellent. Some years back (late 90's, IIRC), there was an internet rage over Penzance as the "Flavor of the Month", and everybody had to have it. It was damned annoying, because it was always sold out and I couldn't get any, being unwilling to pay the extortionist prices of tobacco scalpers on ebay. I'm much happier today - The tobacco remains as exceptional as always, but the hype has died down and I'm actually able to buy the stuff again. One of the all-time greats, IMO, for anyone who likes a rich and smokey English flake.

Two GLP's are in the mix, Abingdon and Maltese Falcon. This is my first experience with both. Abingdon has yet to register much of an impact on me, though Maltese Falcon is quite good. Like the Abingdon, the Ferndown Yellow and Brown is good stuff but doesn't give me a particular sense of individual identity, per se - My favorite tobaccos all have very strong and very distinct personalities, and so far it's simply an affable and enjoyable blend.

Then there is McClelland Blackwoods Flake from 2000. Exceptionally nice. I've had a difficult time with McC blends in the past, and have found a lot of them bitey, so some years back I secured a few to put away for long-term aging and this is one. I was fond of Blackwoods Flake new, but aged, it is splendid! It still carries that sweet, sharp, pungent flavor (raisin, to me) that seems a McC trademark, but any acidity has mellowed out of it and left only goodness.

The last tin is a mystery! I picked it up at the Rheinbach pipe show in 2007, and it's simply tagged "Latakia Flake". The brand name logo is so small that I cannot read it! It is "K&K-something". I'll have to solve it, though, because it's delicious stuff and I want more.

So there they are, traveling companions of the moment. At least a couple of them may be exhausted by the time of the flight, others will be replaced after, but forever onwards, to me they will always be the pipe tobaccos of the move.
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