The Very Best Worst Pipe Ever

I have a weird pipe and don't know what to do with it. I like it because it was carved by a pipe maker I like a lot, and he went to enormous trouble to make it. His skills are impressive. But I despise it because it's a pipe sculpted to resemble someone whose image I avoid: Me.

I don't even look in mirrors, because, well, look at my photo above and you'll know why. For 21 years at P&T magazine I never published a photo of myself, despite pressure from my superiors, and the folks here at Smokingpipes had to tackle and bind me and hang me up on a coat rack to get my photo on my first day. That's why I look a little hunched over in the photo. It took them an hour to get a shot without revealing my spitting and snarling while I threatened Biblical-level retribution. I've been tricked or blackmailed into a couple of other photos here, but I'm determined that it won't happen again. Whenever I see three or more of my colleagues gathering duct tape and tranquilizer darts and eyeing me from a distance, I fortify a defensive position in the warehouse.

When I review my posts on the Daily Reader, I quickly scroll to a point where my photo is obscured. It isn't because of self-hatred; I like myself fine, occasionally. It's more like self-neutrality. I can take me or leave me, and I see no reason for images of me to exist. I am uninteresting, and I try to make my posts interesting, so those posts are better off on their own.

I have no desire to see myself in the form of a pipe bowl, let alone smoke such a grotesque instrument. It would be far from a relaxing experience. But Bartlomiej Antoniewski (everyone calls him Bart) made this pipe for me and it has profound sentimental value. Because of that I can't get rid of it, and I'm very anxious to get rid of it. I never, ever want to see it, and I desperately dream of it going away. I keep it double-bagged in a locked drawer so I won't accidentally catch a glimpse and recoil onto the floor in paroxysms of profanity. Even knowing it exists is painful, but knowing it exists also fills me with joy because of the kindness of such a special gift.

This pipe has been torturing me for 20 years and I'm no closer to a solution now than when it first entered my life. I can't destroy it or sell it or give it away, because it represents the kindness and many hours of skilled workmanship of someone I genuinely like and respect and appreciate. So I keep it and am hoping that one day I'll open that drawer and it will be gone, stolen, perhaps, by some magical being who appreciates human features of vague facial structure and elevated blandness, though I'd be inconsolable if that ever happened.

My travails started at a Chicago pipe show in 2001, when I noticed Marek Lejzorowicz sneaking around and trying to take my photo when I wasn't looking. But I noticed his guerilla maneuvers; I noticed them a lot, and managed to avoid his attempts, or so I thought. Whenever I spotted him I'd quickly duck and tie my shoe, or maneuver whomever I was talking with between myself and the camera on any pretext, sometimes hugging them as an excuse, or dancing with them to the nearest exit, or yanking a tablecloth from beneath a display of pipes and throwing it over myself, all of which caused a series of other problems that I'd rather not elaborate — because of court orders, mainly.

But Marek is a resourceful man and he somehow succeeded, though I suspect he cheated with a telephoto lens. He was the owner of Bac-Art Pipes and distributor for Bart's pipes, and the two of them schemed together for this project. They liked the fanciful essays I was writing for the magazine, particularly one in which I told the story of convincing my wife that no pipe in existence costs more than $10. Bart carved the pipe from memory and from whatever photos Marek provided, and included a $10 price tag rendered in briar.

I wasn't sure what was happening, but I harbored a lingering suspicion. I began hearing rumors that Marek planned a presentation to coincide with the Richmond Pipe show. I love the Richmond show, but I avoided that one because of a euphemism of some sort, a coma or alien abduction or whatever. However, my colleague at P&T, Steve Ross, accepted on my behalf, the traitorous scoundrel. I thought I'd avoided another embarrassment and hadn't seen that coming. When he brought me the pipe the following week, he suspected what my reaction might be. There was much throwing of furniture and profanity on my part, and he fled my office with a little more amusement than was necessary.

Marek would inquire about the pipe a couple of times over the years. He asked if I had smoked it and I lied through my lying, weasley lying teeth, saying that it smoked great and that I enjoyed it frequently. I also said it was among the finest pipes I owned, which was and is true. It's an amazing pipe and I couldn't bear to part with it, but I'd trade my spleen to be rid of the thing.

I saw the pipe again this week when I brought it into the office for photos to accompany this essay. I'm even more dismayed now. It depicts me with the hair I had 20 years ago rather than the random tufts of defeated beach grass that now adorn my scalp. I thought I cut it all off before it started looking like the limp comb over depicted here, but maybe I was later than I thought. So that's an additional bonus, but what's worse is that it still looks like me, which is intolerable.

I bet you have a similar story. Few pipe smokers escape the gift of a pipe they wouldn't voluntarily own. I gave my dad a pipe for Christmas when I was a boy; it was the coolest pipe I'd ever seen, a facsimile of a revolver that was smoked upside down, its handle the bowl and its barrel the shank and mouthpiece. He smoked it once that Christmas morning and said he liked it, but it ended up double bagged in a locked drawer, so I wonder.

Maybe your spouse or your mom proudly gifted such a pipe to you, and you love that pipe for the sentimental value it possesses, but you sure don't want to smoke it. What are we to do? There must be thousands of pipes that hold great emotional value but can't fulfill their smoking potential because we simply don't like them. They're all packed away in drawers, promoting guilt and distaste in their owners while simultaneously filling those owners with pride and sentimentality. Were they all gathered in one spot, their combined conflicting emotional energy could implode into a black hole that compresses the planet into a singularity of infinite dismay. If you find a solution, please notify me. I'm desperate.

Category:   Pipe Line
Tagged in:   Editorial Humor Pipe Culture Pipe Shows


    • Old Timer... on June 4, 2020
    • Great article. That's an awesome pipe there.
      I've got some unique pipes, by unique I mean ugly. For some reason, there was a period when I would see a pipe, an ugly pipe and either through pity or some misguided sense of compassion I would buy it. Someone worked hard to make that pipe that ugly. Most of my ugly pipes are great smokers but so are most of my 10 dollar pipes. I have pretty pipes, some great pipes, but it's the ugly ones, the old ones, the beaters, the misfit pipes that I always seem to have on my desk. I think because they are ugly I don't mind burning them out, which is how you should treat any pipe.

    • Fred Neslage on June 7, 2020
    • Chuck,
      That was a great article, especially the double bagged part. What pipe collector doesn’t have a butt ugly pipe he was gifted, or in an alcohol induced haze he purchased for himself. At least in the later case he can try to sell it or give it away to some other fool. My advice to you is, the double bagged locked in a drawer is your best option. Hey, it could have been Abraham Lincoln or grinning mules head.

    • Rob on June 7, 2020
    • Keep em coming Chuck! Can’t get enough of you 🤣🤣🤣

    • Stephen on June 7, 2020
    • Chuck,
      Great story and a real conundrum. I had a similar pipe and smoked it until a huge hole burned through the side of it. However, you can't do that, because you can't smoke it. How about donating it to a pipe museum in a city you will never visit again. It would be an anonymous donation, sent from a fake address. I know there are such museums in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Paris. Maybe too close to SC. How about Australia? I've been to the museum in Adelaide and this would work because you would not only be rid of the pipe, but have a great excuse to never visit Adelaide! Keep 'em coming...

    • Norman on June 8, 2020
    • Shave your beard and tell people it's a carving of Ernest Hemingway in his 'Cuba' years. Who'll know?

    • Astrocomical on June 8, 2020
    • You might feel uncomfortable because you think you are being used and you have no control over it.

      That is why some societies have certain beliefs, ya know?

    • Byron on June 8, 2020
    • Don't be afraid. I assure you that fantastic pipe doesn't look anything remotely like you. (Since you never look in the mirror how would you know anyway). Close your eyes and fire it up. Let all your adoring fans know how it smoked.

    • Tad on June 10, 2020
    • Solution #1, grow up, that pipes sentimental value should be enough to get you over yourself. Sorry but the truth hurts. You should have that pipe front and center of your collection. My wife bought me a pipe from smoking pipes that bites my tongue badly but when she’s around I smoke the heck out of it. And she is proud as can be, that’s what loved ones and friends do. PS, I do enjoy your writing and knowledge.

    • Pipezilla on September 16, 2021
    • Hey Chuck,I got you beat on the ugly face!Cheer up!

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