| The Mill
May 23, 2017;
I have just one more pipe to post and I'm
finished with this latest case of 12, but I'm too
drained to do more. It's the heat. It's 79 in
here and I'm typing in my shorts. Did those
great Southern writers (Faulkner, Carson
Mccullers, Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor,
Pat Conroy, whom I met and who called the
store at least twice) write in the hot weather
and did it melt their brains? Well, I don't have
those standards to live up to, but I do have to
keep the fingers going on this board. I don't
have an editor telling me that a deadline is
arriving (or come & gone) but I feel an
obligation to fill up this page. (Does not
nobody, then, feel an obligation to fill up my
brain with ideas? Apparently not.)
Well, maybe this one last time, I think I have
an idea for this section. It comes from an
e-mail exchange with one of my good
correspondents, who is also a customer (one
thing is not dependent on the other...I am an
equal opportunity communicator. I would stop
this kind of democratic behavior, but clearly,
as the girl once said, "I just can't help it." )
He's a Professor at a major university (no, I
do not know what that means, but it was a line
that cheap, & sleazily covered paperback
novels used in the 40's & 50's and I always
imagined that the school I went to was one &
was peopled with those "easy" girls who went
to "a major Eastern university." Nothing was
easy. It would have been a lot easier if they
gave courses back then with titles like "Major
Detective Fiction in the U.S.," as they do today.
Can you imagine what that would have done
to my GPA? I was reading that stuff anyhow.
I coulda been a contenda.) and we recently
had a discussion about the quality of today's
youth...not a rare topic among people who are
not among today's youth and probably a bit
sore about it.
The issue must have been brought up by me
at this location, and seems I said something
mildly derogatory about the quality of writing
by today's youngsters. My Prof. friend, while
also asking to buy a pipe included this in his
e-mail: "By the way, your 4/10 column was
right on the mark. There is little reverence for
the written word. Should we blame our
penchant for texting, tweeting, and emailing? I
really don't know."
Knowing, by now, that I'm usually wrong
about 95% of the time, in everything, I tried to
stick up for the young generation and
responded with, "it's my understanding that
every single age/generation, has scolded the
succeeding generation for being responsible
for a deterioration of the language. That's
probably what prompted the French to
establish their Academy, which is an attempt
to prevent poisonous influences, such as
American English, from destroying their
wonderful language (and Prof. Henry Higgins
was not far off the mark when he said that the
French don't really care what they do, as long
as they pronounce it correctly). Thus, I can't
answer your question except from the
perspective of a 74 year old who does revere
our language and the best use of it's 500,000
That said, I am not a fan of emojiis and such
and the incompetence of so many when it
comes to writing a complete, comprehensible
sentence. On the other hand, there appear to
be a great number of really good writers out
there today. I can't possibly read 1/100 of what
I'd like to get to.
I'll just bash the offending individuals and try
to stay away from a general disparagement.
What's your take on this? You probably have
to delve into many painful reports all the time."
The Prof. wrote back: "I take your point
about the generational censure of the young.
That is just human nature and the aversion to
change. And I apologize for my over-broad
But really, you don't perceive a change in the
last twenty or thirty years? And isn't it
prompted by a technology dedicated to
spontaneity and speed? To immediately
express the inchoate as it brims from our
I don't mean these questions to be rhetorical. I
am jaded by years of student essays, I admit. I
am not claiming that they are unintelligent; on
the contrary they are very bright (by the way,
there is social scientific "evidence" that
average I.Q. has been rising slowly in the last
sixty years. This is the so-called Flynn Effect).
They just don't read. In my humble opinion, if
you don't read, you don't write well.
Certainly there are great America writers.
There are many. I have recently been reading
Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian. It has been
described as an "anti-western" and by others
as a novel that stands next to Moby Dick! It is
epic and extremely violent. But the man has a
real gift for imagery and metaphor. He stirs my
dull imagination at least, in the way poetry
does sometimes. "
To which I said, " In fact, I was thinking of
writing back even before your e-mail. I do
think there is a deterioration in standards, and
it hit home this morning when I bought my
coffee for the melitta. I only had a C-note
and the clerk (in dyed, garish colored hair, but
that's beside the issue) took a long time to
change and then just handed it to me in a wad,
not only failing to count back, but neglecting to
it at all. I'm a retailer. I know how it should be
done, and it is rarely done properly any more.
Blame always starts at the top, in my
estimation (hence the United Airlines kerfuffle
happened because the way the passenger
was treated is how the employees are treated
by their superiors...a funny word for
management, "superiors" when they are
hardly, and only rarely, superior.)
Rarely, maybe never, it seems, is a
cashier/clerk taught how to count back. That
is a deterioration in society. Minor? Sure, but
a sign of 1,000 other deteriorations, none of
which immediately come to mind, but we all
absorb the little indignities every day. (There's
this 8th or 9th grader at our local Sunday
Farmer's Market, assisting her parents, who
counts back change properly. You can be
sure I have praised and encouraged her every
time. She, and many of the other farmers, also
to say "thank you" at the end of a transaction.
How quaint. Most often I get a "no problem,"
when I say 'thank you.' I'm tempted to ask,
"why, might there have been a problem in my
placing an order and giving you money?" Is
that just a grumpy old man talking or is it an
example of lowered standards?)
I was trying to be nice when I typed my
earlier reply. But I am not nice and it pains me
to see what I consider to be lowered standards
and values. Certainly, there appears to be a
lowering of what is valued. Is it the technology
...the phones, for instance? Yes, I think so.
You say they don't read. You are closer to that
scene than I am, but no, I rarely see a book in
the hands of a younger person...maybe as
often as I see a pipe in their hands. In short,
"never" is barely an exaggeration.
On any trip, other than a short, designated
errand, I always have a book with me. Who
else does that anymore?
Reading is the key, or was my key, at the
least, to what I feel was a rich life. The stories
and insights of good and great writers provide
grist for a huge part of my communications
with others. It's an integral foundation. If that
foundation were, instead, 40 spaces as in
tweets, I'd be a mental cripple.
Is that world of readers just about lost? Might
well be, huh? I'm not sorry I'm old. (I'm not
even factoring in the simplification of the
language used. Think of the nearly Baroque
sentences of the 15th, 16th ,17th, 18th, & 19th
centuries that were employed all day, every
day by all levels of society. We'd none of us
comprehend 1/2 of what quickly came out of
people's mouths and pens.)
As for Cormac McCarthy, from everything
I've heard and read, he is an excellent writer.
He just seems too dark for me. I know there is
a lot of violence in the world; I'd rather not
delve into the details. I'm weak that way. I do
read fiction, as much as I can, being a slow
reader. There are so many good authors
today. David Mitchell, Michael Chabon,
Jonathan Lethem, Hilary Mantel, just
to name a few that are current, plus old timers
like Robertson Davies and then going back to
the hundreds that I've not touched. I'm
somewhere in the middle of "The Iliad," which
allows me to say that I'm 3,000 years behind in
my reading. I'll plod on.
Thank you for reading this, if you did. I
apologize for taking up this much of your time.
At the end of our inquisition, I guess the
question is, 'have we, as a specie, peaked? If
so, when?" (Makes me think of the leader of
the rats of the world, addressing their annual
congress in his/her stump speech: "We rats
are at the dawn of an even greater world of
possibilities. For us, the best is yet to come."
The dirty rat is probably right.)
The last e-mail in this series then came: "You
read Davies! I love that Deptford trilogy.
Yeah, I guess "no problem" is the new
"thank-you". What can you do? But I will say
this for the millennials
on my campus -- they always hold the door for
me! When that began, I knew I had finally
achieved true senior status. Don't get me
wrong, these are nice kids.
I concur also with your point about returning
change. Counting back was the first thing I
was taught when I worked at a bookstore
several years ago. It did not have a cash
register, so you needed to.
I have four different translations of the Iliad.
Now that is a dark and beautiful tale . I admit to
only reading it through once - and I skimmed
some of the battle scenes and the genealogies
(my reading is pretty spotty, by the way. I tend
to find something and read it again later). A
game a school friend (also retiring) and I play is
to recite the titles of "Great Books" we never
read! He is trying to do something about it ( he
is reading Zola!!), but I am reading old science
fiction novels from the fifties. I just finished
reading "Forbidden Planet" and "Day of the
Can I suggest another novel? Since you can't
say no here it goes. A River Runs Through It.
Norman Maclean, I think. This one will lift you
up. And these days, we need it.
Human progress? I ask my kids about that
every semester. If there is something called
"human nature" it is slow to change.
Cheers and Be Well,"
Once again, I managed to fill in a lot of white
space. I think there should be a medal for that.
Posted were a large Tao on the Danish page,
an Ascorti/Radice Caminetto on the Italian
page & a Julius Vesz on the U.S. page.
I should have put a Sam Learned on the U.S.
page, but it looks the same and costs the
same sitting on the German page, so live with
it. Two Ingo Garbe pipes, one unsmoked, are
also newly there.
Pease Southlinch from 2002 NASPC show. $90
Friedman & Pease Winter's Tale. $100
Balkan Sobranie Virginia # 10 50 grams. 4 tins.
New Tins arrived, including
Mephisto, Blackpoint, Abingdon, and a bunch of
others from 2003 and starting @ $40 a tin.
More old, collectible tins from the 1990's:
McClelland Mixture #1 (2000?) 100 grams. $50
McClelland Virginia Woods. 1997. 100 grams. $50
Ashton 1997 Old Church 4 oz., $125
Ashton 1997 Celebrated Sovereign 4 oz., $100
Esoterica Pembroke...2 oz., 56 grams. $80
Davidoff Royalty 50 grams. $30
Davidoff Danish 50 grams. $25
Dunhill Nightcap from Lane Ltd. 50 grams. $85
Dunhill Std. Mixture Mile from Lane 50 grams. $65
Butera Matured Ribbon 1996 & '97 50 grams. $50
Benjamin Hartwell Pvt. Reserve 50 grams from
Consolidated Cigar (thus from mid '90's) $30