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    The Mill
April 26, 2015;

How The Smoking Prohibition Helps
Demolish Our Culture
I have one story already written, and another in
the beginning state, but then, while driving, this
idea, as expressed in the title, popped into
mind.  Unlike a lot of other people who type
stories out, I'm happy to tell you the genesis of
my stories.  And we both know how much extra
revenue that kind of disclosure brings in.
Anyhow, here's how it began.  In the Sunday N.
Y. Times Book Review, they
regularly interview an author, asking questions
like, “who's your favorite novelist.”  Being a
typical human, I apply the question to myself
and this past Sunday, rather than answering it
in terms of whose writing I like best, I decided
to answer it as though it asked which novelist I
like best as a person.  That made the answer
easy because I've only met one that I know of,
and that one is Pat Conroy, who wrote The
Prince of Tides and The Great Santini, most
notably, neither of which have I read, nor have I
seen the movies based on them.  
So, what makes him my favorite novelist?  
Listen and I'll tell you.  Some years back, when
Sherlock's Haven was open, one of my
customers, a very sweet man, a local lawyer, C.
D. we'll call him, walked into the store and said
something like, “I'd like to introduce you to my
friend and client, Mr. Pat Conroy.”
The Pat Conroy?” I ejaculated.  “Yes,”
C.D. said.  Quite coincidentally, I had just
finished a book of his, and I'm repeating the title
from memory so excuse any minor mistake,
Losing Season
.  The auto-biographical focus of
the book was Conroy's basketball-playing
years, and especially his years as a Guard on
The Citadel's team, a Division I program.  Not a
Kentucky, but anyone who can play college ball
at that level is pretty darned good.  Conroy had
a rough time with his coach (a jerk...most
coaches, in my experience, are, and I've
coached so I should know.   BTW, let me allude
to Woody Allen again, who, I think, said, “those
who can't do, teach.  Those who can't teach,
coach.”) much as he had a tough time with his
father, both in this book and in The Great
The book was new enough in my mind that I
had a lot of questions for Conroy
and he was impressed, not with my questions,
but with the fact that, as he said,
“in what town other than San Francisco can an
author walk into a tobacco shop
and get grilled about his book?”  
I was exhilarated by the opportunity and he
didn't seem put upon at having to deal with my
gentle hounding.  I thought he should have
been harder on this jerk of a coach when he
and Conroy met many years later.  But Conroy
is from South Carolina and a Southern
Gentleman and I'm just a rude, pushy,
immoderate street urchin type.
Subsequently, Conroy called the store from his
Charleston, S.C. home and bought a box of
cigars that he asked me to take up to his lawyer
friend's office.  That was no problem because I
regularly took cigars up to C.D.'s office.  I liked
getting out of the store for a walk in a city as
lively as S.F.  (No NYC for activity and energy,
but far better than most in the U.S., and far
more livable than NYC, at least for me.)
Then, Conroy called and asked about when I
opened the store and a brief bit of its history
for a book he was writing.  He asked if he could
mention the store in the book.  (Again, the act
of a gentleman.  I certainly have not gone out of
my way to ask him if I could talk about him in
this story.  Pat, I apologize.)  I don't know if he
ever found reason to use the info.  I hope so.  I
believe the title of the book  is Somewhere
North of Broad, which refers to a major artery in
So, that is why Pat Conroy is my favorite
novelist.  I am pretty certain that I would enjoy
spending time in his company.
That does not get us to the subject alluded to in
the story's title, does it?
Here it comes.  None of the above could have
happened if Sherlock's Haven did not exist.  If
all Sherlock's was was a web site, that large bit
of cultural exchange would have been flat out
impossible.  Pat Conroy would not have thought
San Francisco such a sophisticated, educated
city.  There would have been no store for him to
consider using in a novel.  
So, no, I am not talking about Sherlock's Haven
as a single entity.  I am talking about it as a
metaphor and symbol of what human
interaction can be when it is nurtured and as a
metaphor and symbol for what it can not be
when it does not exist, or exists only as a two-
dimensional vision on a computer monitor.  This
is what is happening because of the war, the
veritable prohibition, on one of the old pillars of
our communities, the tobacco shop.   You can
multiply that Pat Conroy experience, in its
various ways, across every city and town in the
nation that should have at least one, and
probably more, good tobacco shops into which
people can pop and confer, exchanging ideas
and friendships.
Where else can all classes of the community
meet and bullshit and  bring their thoughts and
jokes and general bonhommie...the church?  
No, because then you get only people of that
one religion.  The tap room?  No, because that,
too is very self-selecting, not to mention full of
inebriates, who do not tend to make the best
communicators.  The good pipe and cigar shop
is a true community benefactor.  It is a place to
congregate and share and feel connected to
one another.
Nor am I talking, when looked at reasonably,
only about tobacco shops.  Even other, less
community oriented places, like the shoe store,
or the book store, are just about done in.  
People do a huge portion of their shopping at
home, communicating with no one, truly not
one person, on their computers.  
Our culture is changing in mammoth ways.  We
all know that.  Human interaction is alien to a lot
of today's youth (which, what, includes those
into their 40's and maybe their 50's?)  who sit
facing their love interest across the table in a
restaurant and instead of looking into those
beautiful eyes prefer to look down at their smart
phones.  Makes you want to puke, huh?  
I will quit here because you guys and gals are
all smart and can fill in all the gaps left open by
what was said and not said in the above.  If you
think I'm wrong, and have an argument worth
presenting, do so.  I'll listen, if dubiously.  Until
then, I maintain that the dogmatists, in the
name of some smug desire to impose their
vision of health on one and all, are ruining
culture, leaving us with a dismal, cold, distant
and indifferent society.  We are complicit, too.  
We are aiding and abetting the decline, almost
all of us.  We don't have any enemies that could
do us in as a specie.  We don't need any.
P.S.  Just posted were a Bjorn of Sweden (but
placed on the Danish page for convenience) a
Mastro de Paja on the Italian page (very good
pipe at excellent price, I think) a 2 pipe
meerschaum set from around the turn of the
last century, give or take a decade, an Il Duca
Morta on the Italian page and a Dunhill Tanshell
Apple from 1979 on the English page.  OK?
P.P.S.  There is now, as of now, a Lars Ivarsson
posted on the Rare page.  I apologize.  I am just
a victim of circumstances.  Due to
circumstances almost beyond my control, I am
going to be posting nothing but expensive, high
grade pipes for the next while.  How long?  
Well, I go to the Chicago show next Thurs., so
these postings will last, until at least a week
after I get back from that.  
There will be a Former pipe and some Barbis
and an Anne Julie and a couple of Ingo Garbe's
pipes and when that's done, I'll have
a half dozen or more fine old Dunhills to post.
Friends, I promise, I will be working my way
back to all of you with the limited purchasing
power and taste for good, but reasonably
priced pipes.  Just be patient and allow me to
pretend I am an elitist snob for a little while.  I
am a whore and I could not say no to the
opportunity to sell these pipes.  And in case any
of you are wondering, you are correct; if I ever
do make it big, yes, I certainly will forget my old
Quotes & anecdotes from "The Portable Curmudgeon"

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.

Manners are especially the need of the plain.  The pretty can get away
with anything.                                   Evelyn Waugh

He marries best who puts it off until it is too late.  H.L. Mencken

All tragedies are finished by death.  All comedies are ended by a
marriage.                                               Lord Byron

When two people are under the influence of the most violent, most
insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions, they are
required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal and
exhausting condition until death do them part.   George Bernard Shaw

A ceremony in which rings are put on the finger of the lady and through
the nose of the gentleman.                Herbert Spencer

A friendship recognized by the police.    Robert Louis Stevenson

The dread of loneliness is greater than the fear of bondage, so we get
married.       Cyril Connolly

I got married the second time in the way that, when a murder is
committed, crackpots turn up at the police station to confess the
crime.                                 Delmore Schwartz

It is often pleasant to stone a martyr, no matter how mch we admire
him.                                     John Barth

There is a certain impertinence in allowing oneself to be burned for an
opinion.                               Anatole France

Women want mediocre men, and men are working hard to become as
mediocre as possible.                           Margaret Mead

The main difference between men and women is that men are lunatics
and women are idiots.                          Rebecca West

Method acting?  There are quite a few methods.  Mine involves a lot of
talent, a glass and some cracked ice.       John Barrymore

Military justice is to justice what military music is to music.
Georges Clemenceau

Make money and the whole nation will conspire to call you a gentleman.
George Bernard Shaw

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