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        The Mill

March 30, 2015;
I was going to tell the story about the guy who
brought a bag of pipes into the store, believing
that he would sell them to me, but I'll hold that
in abeyance for my Brakner story.  A fine
Brakner Antique was just posted on the Danish
page, and that reminds me of my meeting with
the importer of these early and distinctive high
grade pipes.
The year must have been about 1997 or '98
because I remember I was in the last iteration of
Sherlock's Haven, into which we moved in '96.
I went to visit my mother on Long Island, where
I went to high school, and was, of course,
bored.  I didn't believe there were any good pipe
shops around, but one never knows, so I picked
up the Yellow Pages and under "Pipes" I saw a
listing for somebody in a town not too far
away.  Most likely, it said something about
importing and distributing briar pipes, so I
called the number.
The man who answered was not too happy at
having to answer his phone and couldn't wait to
dismiss me as an annoyance, and an ignorant
one, at that.  "I don't do business any more.  I'm
retired," he growled.  "I used to be the pipe
importer/distributor for all the Navy PX stores."  
(Maybe they called them canteens in the
Navy...I was an Army guy.)  He might have
explained that he still had a bunch of pipes but
he wasn't interested in selling them,
particularly, and what could I know about
pipes.  But he couldn't help but brag, "I also
imported the Brakner pipe from Denmark.  Sold
them mostly to a shop in Seattle, but you
wouldn't know about them."  
"I do know them," I said, "and you didn't sell
them to a shop in Seattle, but to Leonard's in
That stopped him, and changed his tone, too.
I was right, of course, and now he didn't think I
was such a complete idiot when it came to pipe
We got to talking, he invited me over to see his
remaining pipes and I accepted the invitation.  
He was right, he clearly did sell to the Navy PXs
because the garage was filled with a lot of low
grade pipes that I could not use, at almost any
price.  But, he had something over a dozen
Brakners left and a good number of old, but
unsmoked, Danish freehands of medium quality.
The more we talked, the friendlier he became.   
He had a nice split level home in a nice town on
Long Island, but he was probably lonely.  What
does a man or a woman do when their long time
spouse dies?  That's a rhetorical question, but
it certainly conjures an image of loneliness,
doesn't it?
I bought his remaining Brakner pipes (I think
there were some smooth ones in there, along
with Mr. Brakner's remarkable micro-rusticated
"Antiques) and a few of the freehands.  I didn't
want to carry too much back to San Francisco
on the plane.
We stayed in touch, with him calling me at the
store with some frequency and selling me, in
lots of about a dozen, the remaining pipes that
could be sold in a specialty shop.  
Eventually, he met another woman and they
moved to Florida together, if memory serves, so
he stopped calling.  Being lousy at outreach, I
never called him.  I probably should have...there
is always a lot to learn from people who have
lived long lives.  Still, a certain affection and
attachment developed from that relationship
and I can't help but think of my good luck at
having gone to Portland that time and visiting
with Lou Leonard at the fine shop he inherited
from his father across the street from the minor
league ball park there.  
P.S.  There's a newly posted Eltang
on the
Danish page, and a Peterson on the S
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