Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hall of Justice

by J.S. Holland

Carter Hall was the secret identity of the golden-age DC Comics character Hawkman. Carter, an archaeologist, was studying ancient Egyptian artifacts when he suddenly had a past-life regression to a previous existence as King Khufu. Seeing the knife that killed Khufu restimulates his past-life memories and brings it all back home to him.

Using lost technology involving something called "Nth Metal" that originally came to Earth from an ancient saucer crash, Carter Hall resurrects the Egyptian secrets of anti-gravity flight, and becomes a hawk-masked superhero. (Years later, KISS experimented with drummer Eric Singer being a very similar Egyptian hawk-faced character as well, but never went through with it because it just looked too darn silly.)

In 1951, Hawkman is brought before the U.S. Congress at the height of the anti-communist hysteria, and refuses to reveal his identity as Carter Hall. He subsequently retreats to a series of complicated alternate-universe versions of Earth and after that, well, it gets to be like explaining Mongolian trigonometry. Somehow, during all this time, Carter Hall also manages to maintain chairmanship of the Justice Society of America.

Oh... wait. Wrong Carter Hall.

Start over.

Carter Hall is a grand plantation located in Millwood, Virginia and built on a 5,800 acre estate in 1782 - that's when a smoke was a smoke. It served as headquarters for Stonewall Jackson during the Civil War, but was raided and sacked by Union troops.

Not only is Carter Hall the only plantation I know of to have not one but two Navy ships named after it, it's also the namesake of here this fine, fine pouch of golden goodness brought to you by those geriatric gents at John Middleton, Inc.

Carter Hall, like Half & Half, is one of those stately old-codger boxed terbackys you've seen all your life at Walgreen's, gas stations, the bottom shelf at tobacconists, and on the dashboards of the trucks of retired railroad engineers, and wondered. Plunk down two and a half bucks and sniff for yourself - it's the next best thing to a time machine back to 1792. And I should know, 'cause I just got back from 1792 myself and everybody there is smokin' the stuff like it's goin' out of style. (Which, of course, now it is, two hundred years later.)

To open the pouch and breathe its powerful aroma, you'd think you're about to smoke a rough-and-tumble ramblin' rounder rag like Half & Half. But to my surprise, it's astonishingly mild. Tame, even. Almost too tame. But it's tasty and goes down easy like Sunday morning. It's an excellent compliment to my morning coffee, and is so soft-spoken that I can easily puff it in between bites of my breakfast. How many backies can you say honestly that about?

The yokels over at Tobacco Reviews are largely on the money with this one, with most voices rallying to its defense and championing it as a solid stalwart entry in the much-maligned "drugstore tobacco" genre. And I can testify that the "Kiowapipe" gentleman is spot-on when he says:

"...this blend is famous for building cake. The stories are true, CH is a cake-making monster. I don't know what it is about this stuff, but if you want to build some cake, a few bowls of this will have you on your way. Surprisingly, it's also pretty good about not leaving a ghost."

"Cake", for the novices (I was a novice myself just three months ago) is the tar residue that builds up on the interior of your pipe bowl. Just as you want a wok to be "seasoned" and just as you want a Griswold skillet to be "blackened", you want a briar pipe to be "caked". Once you get a good layer of that natural protective coating on there, it protects you from smoking the acrylic sealant that lines the bowl fresh from the factory. Yum! Next pipe I get (you're really supposed to have a whole armada of them and rotate them, actually) I'll break it in from the start with good old Carter Hall and get it cakey in a shakey.

Now that I'm cellaring tobacco as well as wine, C.H. will surely be a leading staple in my collection. Reports are that it cellars very well - one guy on Tobacco Reviews said he opened a box he'd bought thirteen years ago and it was still moist and delicious. Truly, a timeless taste that stands the test of time, for the end times.

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