looking for
special?  Try this
search box.  
          The Mill

March 5, 2015
E-mails have been flooding the in box
suggesting subtly (“you idiot...besides being a
crook, are you also illiterate?” is the general
tenor) that from a low starting point, the quality
of what's presented here has deteriorated.  “No
shit,” I'm thinking.  “I have absolutely nothing to
say.  I haven't even spoken to my wife in a
week...which she appears to find a welcome
 I'm in a typing slump.  The only way to get out
of a typing slump, much as with hitting slumps,
is to keep typing.  That's what I'll do.  This isn't
a typist's block, something similar to writer's
block.  Or is it?  Hard to know.  I'd have to be a
writer and thus have some way to compare the
two.  But it's not a block.  This is more like a
vacuum.  Still, I have to keep typing in hopes of
busting out and banging out a few base hits (or
even one of those crafty doubles I used to hit...
couldn't get the bat around on a fastball and so
the ball went over the head of the first
baseman,  hit barely fair in that opposite field
and then spun into foul territory, with me
landing on 2nd with a cheap two-base hit.  As
they frequently say, it looked like a sizzler in the
box score the next day).  Mixed metaphors are
ok in cases like this.  
  To that end,  let's continue typing away on
the earlier-mentioned subject of government
involvement, or gov't. programs.   What, I ask
you, do we do with the homeless, and who does
it?  I am not submitting that the gov't. take
charge here, I am merely asking a few
questions; if I had any answers, believe me, I
wouldn't be giving them away to you guys.   
Imagine that story...”Wise guy gives away multi-
billion dollar answer to solving the homeless
problem but tries to make a living selling used
Savinelli DeLuxes.”  No, I couldn't allow my
family to be humiliated like that.  
  Homelessness seems like one of those issues
where everybody loses.  It might not be a big
issue in Northern Minnesota in February, but it
is a big issue, big eyesore and big money drain
in many cities and certainly in California's
   (BTW...should we include the runaway kids in
this little quest?  Seems like we should,
although for a few reasons they might be a
different category.  We'll see if they fit any of
the approaches the world might want to take to
alleviate this homelessness problem.)
  Lots of the homeless are not mentally sound,
and if such is the case, they might be declared
not competent to decide for themselves how
and where they should live.  First, of course,
you would have to “prove,” (if such a thing is
possible) that the individual is not competent.  
You can't force them to take a test, can you?  
How would that be legal?  The ACLU would be
all over that case, and justifiably so.  Rather an
infringement on civil liberty and privacy rights,
until you can prove they're incapable of taking
care of themselves.  This is getting to look a bit
like a Catch-22.  If you decide to take the test,
you're sane enough to decide the entirety of
your own fate.  If you refuse to take the test,
you're probably not competent, but we can't
prove it, so you're still the only one who can
decide where you sleep and defecate, etc.
At this point in our deliberation,  I think we still
have about 100% of our original homeless on
the street.  This must be what frustrates civic
politicians, except when they're thinking of
other things, like going up to the North Side to
pick up that bag of money they earned as a
kickback for a vote on a tax-free business zone,
but enough of my cynicism.  
  To be decided, of course, is where the
homeless would be cared-for or housed if they
did relinquish their right to stay on the street
and bedevil the citizenry.  Many cities do try to
provide shelter, especially on cold nights, for
the homeless.  Some even establish long term
housing/hotels, although reliable investigative
reporting suggests that these dwellings don't
come up to the standards of, say, the Ritz
Carlton.  For this reason, lots of the homeless
don't want to go to these shelters.  They feel
unsafe, believe they'll be robbed of the garbage
they've collected and call personal property (I'm
being unkind, but maybe accurate) or worse.  
Maybe, if they're asked to sleep in dormitory-
like conditions, they simply don't want to be
around other people.  I know and honor that
  Since attempts to house and help the
homeless costs lots of money, I wonder, to
myself, if it wouldn't be more efficient, in every
way, including economically, if municipalities
maintained large edifices, and grounds, like the
old asylums, where the homeless could roam
the acreage and function as they like...within
the friendly confines.  This sounds like a
minimum security prison, but we do take some
people away from society against their wills for
the safety of all, don't we?  
  I'm asking all these questions because we
don't want people to live and die miserably and
alone on the streets, do we?  So many of them
are ex-soldiers who really did make a huge
sacrifice...their brains if not their bodies.  
Getting frequently shot at  will do that to one.  
  One approach to getting the resistant
homeless into shelters just came to me.  Have
the aroma of baking bread wafting out of the
shelter.  That might do a lot more than logical
cajoling could to overcoming reluctance.  It
works on me when otherwise intending to pass
by the bakery and not stuff myself yet again.
  If we did, as a nation, agree to deal with the
homeless problem, from a humanitarian point of
view, we come back to the issue of who does
the administering and the paying.  Are we kind
enough to create a tax to raise the revenues?  
Is it a local, state or federal tax and are there
local, state or federal administrators?  
  In this case, I might be in favor of a federal
mandate.  Under the aegis of the federal gov't.,
the taxes could be spread out over the entire
population.   If left to the states, some states
would, inevitably, be more generous than
others and then all the homeless would
gravitate to the generous states.  As crazy as
the homeless might be, they are never that
oblivious to the realities of where the money
flows thickest.  
 Incidentally, I just heard on the radio that a lot
of communities are finding reasons
for jailing their homeless.  Without going
anywhere near the worth of this approach, it
has to be expensive.  If just the food and
housing were provided, without the other costs
of incarceration, money could be used more
  Then, something else I just saw (pretty much
cementing the fact that homelessness is on the
mind of a lot of people, communities and
institutions...not to mention the homeless.  
Tons of homeless on the streets on our
wealthiest cities does not become us) offered
another twist, or direction, to the problem.  
  In Wichita, Kansas, an Inter-Faith program
has taken on the issue of homelessness in that
city.  The churches, synagogues and mosques
of that city pool their resources and if I have my
info correct, they even have permanent housing
for homeless citizens, the upkeep of which is
about 1/10 of what it would cost other
organizations to do the same.  I don't know if
this same method would work in larger, more
populous cities, but it sure is a nice use of
humanitarian religious principles. This seems
like a win-win-win in so many ways...creating a
focus and sense of community among
otherwise disparate groups (or, rather, groups
that think they're disparate; I should think that
people that go to religious services with doing
good on their mind have much more in common
than not), keeping gov't. complexity and
contrivance away from the problem and maybe
even imparting something positive, besides just
a place to sleep and eat, to those targeted for
the assistance.
P.R. Is another aspect to consider, although
mostly a minor one and maybe even self-
aggrandizing.  Other countries, not our friends,
can point to us as hypocrites for being so
beneficial to the rich while we ignore our most
vulnerable...not, they can say, an endorsement
for Capitalism.  
  The issue of youngsters, those under 18
years old, on the streets might be fit for a
dialog of its own.  At that age, maybe the law
provides for them to be sent home...or at least
to have them placed in regulated facilities.  
Maybe they don't have the same civil rights as
adults and can't choose to stay on the streets.  
Regardless of the various laws that might come
into play, it is apparent that municipalities, and
their police, mostly leave these runaways to
their own devices.  This leads to childhood
prostitution and drug dealing and drug use.  It
doesn't lead to much good.  Maybe efforts to
deal with the homeless should focus on these
youngsters, hoping to interrupt the cycle, and
pay less attention to the adults who are
homeless, in an effort to wring the most
efficacy out of an always limited budget.   A
triage.  And imagine the look on the face of the
58 year old when his suspicions are confirmed
by the Social Worker and he is told, “yes, as a
matter of fact, you are being treated as
expendable.  We'd like you to consider
your imminent demise in this 2 degree cold
snap as a donation to the next generation.   
Once you get past the shivers, freezing to
death is relatively painless.  Thank you very
much.  Next.”
  Well, you can see why I didn't last long as a
Social Worker.  Just long enough to ride that
job through two years of the Army in the Mental
Hygiene Clinic while my colleagues were
slogging through the brutally hot and humid
jungles of Viet Nam.  
To paraphrase ex-PFC Wintergreen,  “if the
soldiers in Nam did theirr job as well as I did
mine, the war would have been over, in our
favor, in 6 mos.”  You'd be surprised at how
angry that simple declaration can make some
Post Script:  In the Feb. 25th edition of the N.Y.
Times is an article on a homeless shelter in St.
Louis.  Almost all of the factors that are
mentioned above come into play here, plus a
new one.  Although the shelter has been
performing its charity since 1976 in the same
old building, it may have to shut down.  Wealth,
(gentrification, if you prefer) is coming into the
neighborhood and the new businesses don't
want to be constantly reminded of the have-
nots in such profusion.  The christian group
that houses as many as 300 in a night may only
be allowed, by statute, to accept no more than
32 people per night.  As the article was written,
the outside evening temp. in St. Louis was 18
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