Monday, June 22, 2009

The Confessions of Saint Allen, No. 2

I smoke Cigars. I suppose I should begin by explaining how I fell into this delightful habit. It all started with C. S. Lewis. Actually, it was more the Inklings [Excuse me while I google Lewis, Inklings, smoking]. OK, I'm back.
Here are the basics (from

The Inklings were literary enthusiasts who praised the value of narrative in fiction, and encouraged the writing of fantasy. Although Christian values were notably reflected in several members' work, there were also atheists among the members of the discussion group.

"Properly speaking," wrote Warren Lewis, "the Inklings was neither a club nor a literary society, though it partook of the nature of both. There were no rules, officers, agendas, or formal elections."

As was typical for university literary groups in their time and place, the Inklings were all male. (Dorothy L. Sayers, sometimes claimed as an Inkling, was a friend of Lewis and Williams, but never attended Inklings meetings.)

A number of Inklings participants were smokers. And drinkers. They smoked pipes and/or cigars. A few years back I began to think about--and envy--the Inklings and their camaraderie. I could picture them gathering, Friday afternoons, at the London pub they frequented, the Eagle and Child (Which they renamed the Bird and Baby). By all accounts they enjoyed brandy along with their cigars, cigarettes and pipes. We live in a much different day and age with a much different set of values.

I had quit cigarettes more than a year before I began smoking cigars. By this time, I had no residual cravings for nicotine whatsoever. What drew me to cigars was the mental image of the Inklings and the camaraderie they shared. I began to wonder if there were, anywhere in all of San Diego, a place where men got together for interesting conversation. I could find none. Still, the picture in my mind remained. It was a picture of men of like mind sharing themselves and their thoughts together in a way which was pleasing to them and fulfilled the need all men have for camaraderie.

As fate would have it, that month National Review (a political fortnightly) had a full-page ad from Thompson Cigars for a sampler pack of six cigars--which came with a free humidor/carrying case. I went for it and ordered the cigars. I smoked them one by one and found one brand I really liked--C.A.O. (Still my favorite: the Brasilia Samba. Ummm...) I was so inspired, I began, in January of 2005, the Chesterton Cigar Club--named after none other than the great Victorian journalist (and cigar smoker), G.K. Chesterton (Seems everyone in that period dropped their first to names to initials. Just call me D.A. Randall)

There you have it--confession No.2. It is 7:00p.m. straight up. I am now going to go select from my humidor a big beautiful cigar and celebrate a day well spent relaxing, shopping, putzing and blogging by lighting one up and contemplating my next confession.

* The Inklings was an informal literary discussion group associated with the University of Oxford, England, for nearly two decades between the early 1930s and late 1949.[1] Its most regular members (many of them academics at the University) included J. R. R. "Tollers" Tolkien, C. S. "Jack" Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams, Christopher Tolkien (J. R. R. Tolkien's son), Warren "Warnie" Lewis (C. S. Lewis's elder brother), Roger Lancelyn Green, Adam Fox, Hugo Dyson, R. A. "Humphrey" Havard, J. A. W. Bennett, Lord David Cecil, and Nevill Coghill.

The Eagle and Child is a pub in St Giles', Oxford, England which is owned by St. John's College, Oxford.

Confession Series Explained

Below begins a new series. It will be an occasional series. That is, these "confession" posts will only appear from time to time. As the spirit leads, I will reveal some aspect of myself/my life that runs counter to something. That something could be the prevailing cultural norms, or current Christian norms (however defined), or it could be some revealing opinion of mine I feel readers might find curious, instructive, entertaining or interesting.

These will be my own personal, particular "confessions" or points of view I happen to hold at the time I express them. Some, even many, of the things I believe are in flux--but this flux is not one with wild parameters. Instead, it is a flux which continues to to be refined by what I discover, with God's guidance, to be true. This, I trust, will be a life-long process of discovery--lead ultimately by the one who some two-thousand years ago said, "I am the way, the truth and the life."

I belong to what is called a, "*confessional church"--the Presbyterian Church (USA). I have come to appreciate this aspect of the church. I don't mind opposing points of view. I like it when people declare, plainly, what they believe. I can handle disagreement and dissenting points of view--this sort of tolerance is a conservative/liberal value I hold dear.

*A confession is a public declaration of what a church believes. Individual Christians certainly confess their own personal faith, but a confession of faith is more than a personal affirmation of faith. It is a statement of what a community of Christians believes. Such statements have not always been called confessions. They have also been called creeds, catechisms, affirmations, formulas, definitions, declarations of faith, statements of belief, articles of faith, and other similar names. Whatever their form, confessions of faith express what a body of Christians believe in common. (From

The Confessions of Saint Allen, No.1

I like to shop. There, it's out on the table. (Oh, about the "saint" business: Since it somehow got applied to my buddy Augustine, then I figured what the h...oops, I almost forgot, we saints have standards to maintain. Ahem, ahem.) Where was I? Oh, shopping. Yes, well I suppose shopping is one of those things psychologists and sociologists [By the by--I'm beginning to think I'd really like to be a sociologist. At least I would if I didn't have to produce any long boring papers with lots of statistics and charts and graphs and things. I'd just want to go somewhere, like the airport or a local park and people-watch for an afternoon. I'd take a little pocket notebook and jot a few observations from time to time. Perhaps get a latte and have a friendly conversation with the the person at the coffee cart. I'd get home in the early evening, pour myself a glass of chardonnay and write a short opinion piece based loosely on my day's experience. That's the kind of sociology that would interest me. I think I'll check it out on Monster-dot-com]. Where was I? Oh, yeah, shopping. Anyway, as I was saying, I'm a shopper. I'm also a guy. I have the impression that guys generally don't like to shop. A guy only goes shopping if he is drug (dragged?) along by his wife or goes dutifully, perhaps resentfully, when sent on out by her on a shopping errand, "Oh, and honey, don't forget the maxi-pads. Thanks sweetie." [OK. I'm an amateur sociologist, you don't have to tell me: I know, I know, some guys have a live-in girlfriend instead of a wife. Also if I were a sociologist, I could do a "study" about this thing of guys not liking to shop. I really need to get over to Monster-dot-com]. Like I was saying, I like to shop. I went shopping just today--at Walmart. I like shopping at Walmart. I like the regular unprofessional looking old folks who greet you at the door. They're nice. I haven't done it, but I bet you could stand there and have a nice ten-minute conversation with any one of them. Do you think a sociologist would do a study of Walmart greeters? I would. [How much do sociologists get paid, anyway? Who in the h... oops. I mean, who in the heck pays them?]

[You don't want to go too long without a paragraph break. People freak out when they see a whole bunch of text with our a paragraph break. That's my theory anyway--as an amateur sociologist] Yes, shopping. Another reason I like shopping is I love bargain hunting and getting a good deal. Man, I'm jazzed if I look at "Your savings today" on my receipt and it is into the 40% range! Yippee--I done really good today! I stroll through the lot to my car feeling grrr-ate. "I bet the best anyone else did today was 34%" Best of all is when (I plan my shopping so this rarely happens, but it still does sometimes) we are out of something and have to get it and--it's on sale! Yes! I suppose the feeling I get then is the same as the one regular guys (Ones with the "sports gene"--which I don't happen to have) get when their team scores. I am a big comparison shopper. I love to evaluate things and figure out the best deal. Most evaluations are based on the two main factors: price and quality. There are also other factors which can come in to play, such as: desirability, ease of use, name brand, storage, calories, recyclability, etc. It is a game of sorts--a game I find both rewarding and relaxing.

Well, that just scratches the surface of why I like to shop. I could go on and on I suppose, but that's enough for one post. Sociologist have studied people's reactions to long posts and...