The Mill
Sept. 17,  2014;

     City Mouse/Country Mouse

This is a vignette I probably should
have started writing last week, while it
was still fresh, but the essence is not
hard to capture and anyway, I'm not
sure it will resonate with anyone other
than myself.  The title comes from a
position I've long held, which is that it
is useful to grow up in a city, and learn
city ways, or grow up in the country
and learn country ways.  Both, I think,
have plenty to teach youth.   What is
missing from this analysis are the
suburbs, which, for kids, are the
breeding grounds of boredom and the
various kinds of mischief that ensue
from that condition.  I can provide no
documentation for this contention and
my own daughter was raised in the
suburbs, and is doing just fine,
teaching at an elementary school and
trying to raise three young boys of her
own, but one example does not make
or break a point.  
We live in the suburbs because it was
convenient at the time and is
inconvenient to move now.  Plus, for
all those teenage years, I lived in the
suburbs, too, and while I would offer
myself as a model for nobody, I never
did get arrested (except once, and I
don't think that was for
doing something good, not bad.  But,
to quote Dickens, “the law is a ass.”)  
What is right about country living is
the need to learn basic skills, and
getting the opportunity to apply them,
like fishing and hunting, and what the
flora and fauna are and what they can
do for and against you, etc.  In the city,
you can acquire the trappings of
academic and artistic culture and how
to live with a variety of people.  Having
grown up mostly in the suburbs (with
my first 12 years actually in a city) I was
close enough to that culture to feel its
lure, but not quite close enough to
acquire any of it.  
Last week, though, I got to see some
of it close up and it looked real good.  A
high school acquaintance, a smart kid
who got into Stanford Medical but
dropped out to pursue other interests,
lives in San Francisco and as we have
been reacquainted, he invited Joy and I
to an unveiling at his home (which is a
single floor in an older, two story
building...more like a condo, I suppose,
but not in a new apartment-like
building).  I accepted the invitation
because, as I told Bill, I have never
been to an unveiling before, unless you
want to count the time I exposed
myself to the kids in the park.  
(For the record, and because some of
you may be philosophy teachers or
engineers and take things unbelievably
concretely, I did not expose myself, or
anybody else, to kids, or even adults or
pets, in a park or anywhere else.)
What I had heard is that Bill was a
world renowned documentary film
academic, Professing at a local U. and
lecturing world-wide.  One of his
hobbies, maybe his only hobby (not
counting the acquisition and
divestment of 3 wives) is
buying art.  He has paintings,
sculptures and pictures in other
mediums, like pen and ink, glicee
(please...don't ask) wood block and
lithograph.  When we got to his
apartment, we not only saw that it was
chock-a-block with art work, but each
piece was accompanied by a brief
description and history.  Even the 54
inch T.V....for a comic touch, I'm sure.
Many of the other people attending
were from the San Francisco art
community, whatever that means.  
Well, it means, for one thing, that they
do not hang around with me.  It also
means that they have been to
unveilings before, although as soon as
I saw a cloth hung over what would
have had to be a painting on the living
room wall, I knew what an unveiling
was and relaxed, knowing I did not
have to worry about an unveiling being
the equivalent of an exposing.  At least
one of the women at the party, for that
is how the event was structured, like a
cocktail party (and I'm not sure I've
ever been to one of those, either.  I do
not like mixed drinks.  I prefer a good
craft beer or Scotch or Bourbon.  I
won't say no to a superior Rum, either,
but no Martinis, please) was the author
of some of the paintings on the walls.  
People who can make art, and then
actually sell the stuff impress me.  For
one, in addition to an evident skill, I
also automatically assume that they are
smarter than I am and I will be jeered at
for some act of abject stupidity.  (Why
that should worry me, I can't fathom
because I am well used to that from my
wife.)  (Since I know, from e-mails, that
some of you visit this site frequently,
and read this first-page message, I
concede that I use wife jokes far, far
too much.  It is a cheap and low way to
try for a smile.  Know this: as
hackneyed as Henny Youngman's
humor was, I loved it.  I suppose I
heard him say, “take my wife...please,”
a hundred times, or more.  Maybe it
was the delivery, but I loved it every
time.  I even like it when I say it to
myself.  I am not giving up wife jokes.)
The apartment, or house, or condo if
you prefer, seemed like a salon to me...
like something out of a movie where
they show Gertrude Stein in Paris,
hosting Picasso and Hemingway and
Dali and Fitzgerald and other creative
luminaries.  The people were all very
nice and friendly and I didn't see a
single sign of one-upmanship (except
when I pulled out a 1936 Dunhill Shell
Prince and nobody else could even
match me with a Comoy's Tradition).  
But I did get into a discussion of art
with two gentlemen as we stood in
front of the then just unveiled painting.  
I do like talking about art, partly
because it seems that regardless of
how little I know about it, it's hard to be
wrong when discussing personal
taste.  Hard, but not impossible.  
Personal taste having been brought
into the picture (no pun intended), I will
say that the newly unveiled painting
seemed like the least interesting one in
the house.  
Most fascinating were the two
paintings by an
artist named Sandow
Birk,  who does a fascinating job of
painting the Calif. state prisons.   The
two that Bill has are of Pelican Bay, the
most secure prison in the system...a
very scary place to get sent, I'm sure,
and Susanville, which is for women, I
believe.  But naming them does not do
justice to the perspective the artist
brings to them, and their
surroundings.  From the two that I
saw, I would say that the series
"prisonation," by the artist)
hang together in a museum some day.  I
am sure that in their entirety, they

would provide a lot of ammunition for
reflection and debate, artistic and
otherwise.   And as art goes, they
should appreciate in value.  Money
always does come into it, doesn't it?   
Don't we all imagine walking along the
Seine in 1888, seeing a Manet and
Monet and a Renoir, and recognizing
them for their
genius and picking them up for a few
shekels...I mean francs?  
So that is pretty much it.  I have gotten
this experience with culture out of my
system by typing it out and now I don't
have to pester people by insisting that I
have associated with the cultured set.  
And, should Bill buy another painting
that he thinks is important and wants
to unveil in front of others, I think I
exhibited enough appreciation to
possibly be invited back.  I would go.
P.S.  Posted were 2 Butera Royal
Classics on the U.S. page as well as a
Sasieni Four Dot and three Pre-
Transition Barlings on the English
page.  An unsmoked Grenci is now on
the Italian page.  
Quotes & anecdotes from "The Portable Curmudgeon"

I've neglected this box for far too long.  We are up to the letter
"M."  It starts off with quotes on Man.

The earth has a skin and that skin has diseases; one of its
diseases is called man.    Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Man is a puny, slow, awkward, unarmed animal.
                                Jacob Bronowski

I love mankind.  It's people I can't stand.  Charles Schulz

To succeed in the world, it is not enough to be stupid, you
must also be well mannered.   Voltaire.

Life is a God-damned, stinking, treacherous game and nine hundred
and ninety-nine men out of a thousand are bastards.
Theodore Dreiser

Literature: proclaiming in front of everyone what one is careful to
conceal from one's immediate circle.     Jean Rostand

For certain people, after fifty, litigation takes the place of sex.
Gore Vidal

London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers of the Empire
are irresistibly drained.                               Arthur Conan Doyle

London, like a bowl of viscid human fluid, boils sullenly over the rim of
its encircling hills and slops messily and uglily into the home counties.
H.G. Wells                                                                                      
The monstrous tuberosity of civilized life, the capital of England.
Thomas Carlyle

Isn't it nice that people who prefer Los Angeles to San Francisco live
there?                                                              Herb Caen

A big hard-boiled city with no more personality than a paper cup.
Raymond Chandler

Everything in Los Angeles is too large, too loud and usually banal in
concept...The plastic asshole of the world.     William Faulkner

I figure you have the same chance of winning the lottery whether you
play or not.                                               Fran Lebowitz

Love is the delightful interval between meeting a beautiful girl and
discovering that she looks like a haddock.  John Barrymore

Love is the state in which man sees things most decidedly as they are
not.                                                               Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

A temporary insanity curable by marriage.             Ambrose Bierce

The delusion that one woman differs from another.
H.L. Mencken

In the forties, to get a girl you had to be a GI or a jock.  In the Fifties to
get a girl you had to be Jewish.  In the Sixties, to get a girl you had to be
black.  In the Seventies, to get a girl you've got to be a girl.
Mort Sahl

By the time you swear you're his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying--
One of you is lying.                                          Dorothy Parker

Many a man in love with a dimple makes the mistake of marrying the
whole girl.                                                                       Stephen Leacock

Many a man has fallen love with a girl in a light so dim he would not
have chosen a suit by it.                                         Maurice Chevalier

It is a mistake to speak of a bad choice in love, since as soon as a
choice exists, it can only be bad.                         Marcel Proust

It's possible to love a human being if you don't know them too well.
Charles Bukowski

Love is only a dirty trick played on us to achieve the continuation of the
species.                                                                        W. Somerset Maugham

The only true love is love at first sight; second sight dispels it.
Israel Zangwill

Boy Meets Girl.  So What?                                       Bertolt Brecht
This photo was taken only days before my beloved San Francisco
store, Sherlock's Haven,  was closed for good in June of '06, thereby
diminishing the quality of life on this planet no little and quite some.  
The man to my right was my trusty pipe tobacco and cigar taste-tester,
Johnson, of the sensitive palate.  He is now  plying his trade in
Phoenix.  The tall gent behind him is Jimmy Walker, hand picked to be
my successor until lease negotiations broke down.  The hoodlum
looking character to my left is my good friend and Consigliere, Steve
Brunner.  Among the regulars are a number who are still friends and
with whom I have regular intercourse.  There has never been a more
congenial spot than Sherlock's Haven, the Camelot of tobacco stores.  
As its proprietor is how I'd like to be remembered.
I wanted to caption this photo, "I knew more about pipes when I was
seven than you know now," but my P.R. firm nixed that idea.  So, let's
try, "With the pristine palate that accompanies youth, Marty smokes a
blend without a full complement of Latakia for the first time in his life."
I don't actually know what was going through my mind at the time, but
the photo was taken circa 1950, and probably in Williamsburg, Virginia.
(And no, I did not actually smoke a pipe until I was 18 years old, really.)
Shortly after my mother met my wife, she told Joy that all it took to
keep me happy in the back seat of our 1938 LaSalle during our annual
one week vacations was a pipe in my mouth and a cap on my head.  
Joy responded with the fact that nothing has changed except that now
I'm in the front seat.  
Above is my sister, with whom I contentiously shared that large back
seat, and my father.  The sweater was knitted by my Aunt Rae.  The
site was most probably Niagara Falls and the year 1949.  I'm guessing.
Welcome to Pulvers Briar
This website is devoted to pipes and my enjoyment of talking
about and showing them.  For your part, I hope you derive some
pleasure in seeing and reading about briar and meerschaum
There are plenty of pipe websites and lots of good pipes other
than mine.  What will distinguish my site from most of the others
is the willingness to voice my  opinion in the relatively rare
occurrence when a pipe is not superior, or has a noticeable flaw.
Mostly, I'm pleased with the pipes I choose to offer for sale, both
in pipe quality and price.  But please, look and decide for
You will see new and used pipes for sale, the new often having
been hand picked and the used always having been cleaned
and reconditioned and ready for you to smoke upon arrival.  
Please enjoy your time spent here today, and please come back
I'm almost always happy to hear from you and to field your
questions, concerns, ideas or other input.
Feel free to write.
Marty Pulvers
Pulvers' Prior Briar
P.O. Box 61146
Palo Alto, CA  94306

(650) 965-7403
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