I like holidays as much as the next chap, but some call for more preparation than others. For example, Independance Day may call for me to practice my scowl and locate a good pair of earplugs while locating my largest Union Jack for display, but all in all, these are relatively simple tasks. Now don't go getting me wrong, I love Americans with their wild cowboy ways, I'm just not so sure that they should have gone off not paying taxes and severed themselves from their great Mother. And where is the tea? It's been a good spell since that whole Boston Tea Party fiasco, can you not get back to your daily tea once more? At any rate, loss of tea aside, preparing for Independance Day is all relatively simple when compared to something like Christmas, which involves purchasing the right gift for the right person, finding appropriate wrapping items, deciding which parties deserve my attention, locating my many and varied recipes for Santa Hot Toddies and Yule Yummers, the list seems entirely unending. 

Saint Valentine's Day is one such complex time and this past year was even more complicated than usual. You see, there is always some dear girl awaiting a meaningful and sincere card coupled with a gift of chocolates or roses from yours truly, and depending on how lengthy the list is, I do my best not to dissapoint. 

This year produced one such lovely who stood head and shoulders above the rest. Not that she was amazonian, her stature was more of an average height. What I'm getting at is that her ways and demeanor were exemplary. Her meaningful stride was coupled with a firm chin that cut the air ahead, the way a smart ship might. Her choice of words were sparse and to the point, as if the best ones had been hand selected, thumped, squeezed and then carefully offered up as if they were beautiful blue plumbs from the grocer. Her economy of speech whenever I was near might have given some the idea that she was cold or pompous, or possibly, that she despised not only all of the bones in my entire body, but all the other things that come with a fine British specimen such as myself, like a fine writing pen, or bow tie for example. This fanciful thought of Beatrice hating rather than adoring me is the silliest of notions. A notion, however, that may happen into existence only from the untrained ear of the most naive of souls. This is a notion whose validity is as far from the truth as I am from one of those dispicable disposable writing pens, you know the kind. Beatrice was a young woman who indeed deserved a slice of my attention. Oh, to woo a lovely woman. I have to confess that this is a thing that I am particularly good at. 

I first crossed B's path when at the local delicatessen. I was about to order a smart ham and provologne on marbled rye with light mayo, brown mustard and a dash of oregano when she piped up with her order of a chicken salad on a croissant. How trite, I thought. Then, she says, "...oh, and hold the lettuce." Of all things to say, hold the lettuce! Why in the world would you hold the lettuce on such a sandwich? There is no wisdom there! I decided in an instant that some guidance was needed for this poor wayward dear. "You'll want that lettuce." I said. She gave me a questioning look followed up by nothing less than a question. "Really?" she said. I explained, "The lack of a crunchy consistency in that sandwich will leave you less than impressed. If the staff here decided to add almonds or celery to this brand of chicken salad, you may scrape by, but not at this deli." I sensed that she was thoroughly impressed, but simultaneously, not wanting to show it. The counter help looked at her, and then me, and then her again awaiting a response. "My order stands." she said. And then, in a most coy way, she allowed the counter help to call out her order by her first name as a cute introduction. Suddenly, the angelic name "Beatrice." was called out, serving a double duty as introduction as well as signifying the completion of her order. On her way past me, I said, "Karl E. Stanwell, a pleasure." She made a barely audible "hmmf" sound, turned on her heel and left, but not before "accidentally" dropping her address written on a napkin on the floor in front of me. This was the beginning of our relationship, and while we have had no other meetings or conversations to date, her playing it cooly was a blatant testimonial to her interests in yours truly. 

So, what to give a lovely lady who occupies such a special place in my life? After much deliberation, over the course of three pipes, half of a morning, and a scotch, I made my decision. A poem would be my vehicle of choice to deliver the notions of love and caring to this darling girl on this Saint Valentine's Day. Even the name Beatrice brought to mind many lovely things and a good number of them even fancied themselves into rhyming with one another. I was sure that a poem written most eloquently by myself, would do the trick and make the day a special one. The event would be a moment that she would certainly hold dear in the banks of her most beloved memories for years to come. I speculate that at some point, she will most likely look over at her future husband, shake her head with something like disgust with a dash of shame, and remember my glorious words. She would probably then recite them in her head from memory and consider, what if? It is precisely these moments that I aim for. My job then, in situations such as this, is really one which is geared to the future more than anything else. With that in mind, I dipped my quill, approached the page and began to work. 

The words began flowing like the sweetest of nectars. Beatrice would no doubt be overcome with feelings of adoration when experiencing the prose. It was difficult to remember that a lovely girl such as Beatrice is a fragile creature, and if I were to put the gusto to this one, it could have caused a fainting spell, or worse. Therefore, it was very important for me to weigh and measure each word and line so that the balance of the poem was just right for her constitution. This, I found, was much more difficult than I imagined as my abilities in the area of writing poetry are very strong. In this instance, I was but the rider on a great stallion attempting to pull back the reigns on a powerful force, and let me admit to you right this moment, it was not a simple thing. 

About midway through this great work, I came to a very special place wherein I was making some amazing comparisons to her graceful ways and a panda's climbing abilities. While I don't expect the average layperson to understand just how ingenious this particular path was shaping up to be, let me assure one and all that it was beginning to form into a multifaceted gem of a section, and quite possibly some of the best writing I had ever set to page. 

Something was missing though. Something scientific. A bit on the real science behind the panda. This would have certainly rounded the thing out in a fine way. This called, I thought, for a pipe. As always, the selection of a pipe is one of the most difficult parts of any one of my days. Each pipe is an absolute beauty and each has its own story and character. With so many choices in such a fine collection, what is one to do? At one time, I had a regular rotation to turn to, but really, we're not robots doling out measures of this or that, so why force the free form of the pleasure of pipe smoking to such rigors? It is an art handed down to us by the Gods no doubt, or at least, The Nephilim, therefore, it is our instinct, our intuition that must guide us in these most important and lofty matters. 

Clearing the mind and waving the hand, my gaze fell upon the Bjarne six panel beauty sitting near a can of G.L. Pease Blackpoint, a fine English blend tobacco. They would prove a fine coupling as they had so often in the past. It is difficult to find a pipe as lovely as a Bjarne. It was not long ago that Bjarne Nielson, the founder of the esteemed Bjarne Pipe Company himself, graced the doors of our pipe club bringing with him the fruits of his labors all the way from Denmark. It was that night that this six panel beauty whispered in my ear and I had nothing to do but obey. 

The dense smoke from this fine English blend sat heavy in the air, not wanting to stray far from its pipe. The slow process of taking in a pipe correctly, has a way of clearing the mind and setting a right head between the ears for thinking. The name came from the ether as I waited for it to do so. Dr. Clemence. This was the name of the fellow who had done so much work with the pandas at the big zoo that I read about not four months back. If there was more insight to be gained on the breed, the gleaning of such insight could surely be done from conversations with this man. Rifling through old articles that I keep for interests sake, I located the exact one I was thinking of. One never knows when they will need reference on recently viewed items such as this. 

The Foxberg Zoo, which was the largest zoo for many miles and was a right decent place, was the spot this chap had worked with the pandas in question. Within something like minutes, I was ear to ear, with the lovely folks at the zoo. I explained that I was in dire need of the Doctor's assistance, which moved everything along at a good clip. This was not entirely false, mind you, I simply know from past experience that the things which I deem incredibly important, like a good handkerchief on hand at all times, can often be seen as silly, or even eccentric by the thoughtless. Therefore, it's important to understand who one is speaking with, and know what points and pieces are to be left, shall we say, confidential. 

With Dr. Clemence's phone number clearly written on a small square of Cranes Crest, natural white, eighty pound cardstock paper, in a lovely emerald green ink given to me by a certain Miss Austin some time back, I decided that nearly half of the job was done, and as such, I needed a much deserved hiatus. To the cupboard for a splash or two I went, and while enjoying my beverages, I thought about how delighted Dr. Clemence would be. Here he was, a science man, a man of hard figures and rational thought. And to his boredom I would bring an absolute boquet of interest, a feast of romantic words. No doubt, my including him in on this journey would certainly be one of his professional highlights. "What is more than love?" He would probably ask between explaining the daily migratory aspects of the pandas. "Oh to be a romantic like you." he would most likely confess after pausing mid translation of a difficult pandacentric term. It is only fair to help folks like this out who can not quite see the lush forest of life for all the trees of daily work, just in front of their nose. That, however, is who I am. Karl Eric Stanwell exists to give. 

In a matter of moments I had the honorable Dr. Clemence on the phone. I don't exactly recall how the chap did it, but before I knew what was happening, he had already given me a brief synopsis of his al ma mater as well as his varied professional accomplishments. Very quick he is, I thought. Soon he meandered around to asking me how his years of expertise could assist. "Well, there's this girl." I waited for what seemed an eternity for a response. Nothing. I continued. "The dear is expecting something fabulous from yours truly and after much thought, I came to the conclusion of a poem. Your help is required where pandas are concerned." I said. Again, I allowed a pause for an interjection of some sort, but not a one came out of hiding. I explained what kind of scientific information I required and how it related to warming the dear's little heart. "That's about the length of it." I explained. "I have a pen and paper at the ready for your words of panda wisdom." I reassured the Doctor. It was this very title that he decided he wished to talk about next. 

"Do you realize that I am a Doctor? Do you know what is involved in getting a PhD? Do you realize that I am a professional in the field and that numerous areas of current scientific research depend on me and my decades of experience to further the specific science to which I am tethered to?" Apparently, it was the good Doctor's turn to pause. I thought about his questions and answered, "To answer your questions in turn, yes, vaguely and sure. That is to say, of course I know you are a Doctor good Sir, I have been calling you such since we met moments ago. I once knew a bloke who was going out for one of those PhD bills and the best I can say is that it seemed like a good amount of running about for a handful of know it alls. In the end my fellow ended up half crazed and craving nothing but cheap coffee and cheap beer. Incredibly sad. I wouldn't recommend it based on what I've seen." I'm afraid my answers were confused for a slight on his person. 

Just before hanging up in my ear, an action that is near unforgiveable, he squeezed in, "The very idea that I would use my decades of expertise (I got the feeling he was fond of these three words) to help you write a love poem is absurd! Sir, have your mind checked as quickly as possible!" Then sounded the click, which was louder than I remember a hang up click sounding. Then again, it had been a good many years since Uncle Frenchy's old girlfriend took me to task and then clicked me out after I happened to offer her, as any good friend would have done, some wardrobe tips and secrets for women who insist to wear clothing geared towards a younger crowd. 

My panda idea was dead in the water. Like a half finished castle, I was forced to walk away from all that could have been. I was not the real victim here, however. Consider Beatrice. One of the best things in her entire life would be kept from her, and only I knew of it. I may not have been able to deliver the ultimate word weave of love and compassion, but I would be able to send the next best thing. I have a certain kind of indescribable insight where the opposite sex is concerned. I can climb into their heads, take a good look around, find what desires are present, and work with those items. It is truly a gift. 

Nothing, but nothing speaks volumes of real compassion like a tin of quality pretzels. With note enclosed, the gift was sent in perfect time to arrive on the special day. I have no doubt that it was just the thing to do since, as I suspected, the dear girl was so receptive to the token that it left her completely and utterly speachless. I never did hear from Beatrice. I suspect she decided it best to play it as coy as humanly possible with a catch as large as KES. 

—Olie Sylvester 
Baron, International Oom Paul Society of Non-Typicals

AuthorOlie Sylvester