Deja Vu in Pipes and Life

Have you ever seen a person who bears a striking resemblance to someone else you once knew and inadvertently stirs up all manner of feelings or memories? It’s jarring. My first day at Burris during my junior year of high school, I ran into someone at a convocation who was an absolute dead ringer for a girl I had a major crush on at Concord the year before. Can’t say I remember either of their names now, though, but I recently experienced the same thing with a couple of my favorite pipes. Here, let me show them to you:

Unlike the girls in high school, I actually know the names of these guys: the stubby one is a Lorenzo Imperia rusticated bent billiard in the company’s 8685 shape. The one on the top, also a Lorenzo, is a Stress Matera bent egg, number 8708 on the company’s shape chart. I love these pipes. I got them from my dad in 2009 when I was spoiled by the thirty or so of his that formed the basis of my original collection. It seems that I also had a third Lorenzo -a bent brandy Spitfire- too, though I can’t remember for certain.

Lorenzo got its start in Gallarate, in Italy’s Province of Varese. When it was founded in 1900, the company was called Fratelli Lana. Twenty-two years later, the Lana brothers partnered with the Tagliabue family, wholesalers from Milan. Up through around 1950 when Lorenzo Tagliabue took over the company, Fratelli Lana pipes were generic, cheap, and unremarkable in nearly every way. Lorenzo Tagliabue changed the company’s trajectory. Soon, it began to market pipes that were more identifiable and expensive.

Don’t get me wrong: Lorenzo pipes were never expensive expensive like a Dunhill or a handmade Savinelli Autograph. Actually, after Tagliabue renamed the company Lorenzo in 1969, his pipes achieved a cult-like following at college campuses of all places. Lorenzo produced pipes “made for real men with strong hands,” per period advertisements, up through Tagliabue’s retirement in 1983. Though the brand was licensed by Comoy’s for a while, it eventually disappeared until the Aliverti family resurrected the name about four years later.

These two pipes are probably from the late 70s or early 1980s, around the time my dad started smoking. I’ve always prized the contrast between the Imperia’s dark stain and amber stem, but I think the stem of the Stresa Matera is equally beautiful as paired with the briar’s reddish finish. Whereas the Imperia’s chunky and masochistic with razor-sharp geometry, the Stresa is flowing and organic. Through their differences, they compliment each other perfectly, at least to my eye.

Seeing these pipes and holding their familiar contours in my palm reminds me of a lot of things. Along with my other pipes, I smoked both of them a lot during my college years. I never had classes on Wednesdays during the first semester of my freshman year, so I’d run down to the Scott’s supermarket on North Clinton Street in Fort Wayne and pick up a movie to watch while I relaxed before work. I was smoking the Stresa Matera and pounding cans of grape soda when I abruptly realized that Deliverance wasn’t the movie that I thought it was going to be.

If I did have classes in the morning, I liked to park across the St. Joseph River from campus and cross the foggy suspension bridge by foot. If it was cold, I wore a peacoat that both pipes fit perfectly inside. If I timed it right, I could light one up on my way out the door of my apartment, smoke it through the lack of a turn arrow at Anthony and St. Joe River Drive on my way to the California Road parking lot, keep puffing across the bridge, and finish the bowl before I got to the campus proper where it would go back into the peacoat pocket, none the wiser.

Deciding that the craggy Imperia was a perfect candidate for my first time buffing up a pipe was dopey, particularly since I didn’t know to heat the wax first and wound up gumming it up underneath the bowl’s nooks and crannies. Not long after, I remember packing it with watermelon shisha meant for use in a hookah, probably the result of me hitting that last big branch during my fall from the stupid tree. I can laugh about it today -we’ve all been hard-up for a smoke but too broke to scratch that itch- but the shisha hardened into the bottom of the bowl and it took years to ream it out properly.

I remember watching my roommate slowly turn into a human tree and take big, leafy swings at me after smoking the then-legal psychoactive plant salvia in the Stresa Matera. That memory isn’t so great- it was a terrifying experience! But the photos we took of each other that night are absolutely hilarious. The Stresa Matera features prominently in a handful.

A couple of years later, I was between puffs of Carter Hall in the Imperia when I totaled my car in a funeral procession for a stranger on Highway 1 just south of Ossian. The pipe was fine, but I had the steering wheel’s Hyundai logo bruised into my hand for a month from trying to protect it once I realized a collision was imminent. The car was totaled.

Both of the Lorenzos provided me with some comfort a few months later when my dad died in 2011. I pretty much quit smoking pipes for a decade shortly afterwards. I still have a private Facebook group called The Pipe-Smoker’s Guild. Dad and I were the only two members. It was our shared hobby.

I obviously kept the Lorenzos and, today they’re retired, along with four others of Dad’s I kept. I’ll probably never smoke them again. The Imperia still smells vaguely of watermelon, for starters. But I’ve still got them, and they’re treasured.

The last three or four months have found me in survival mode as I’ve struggled to adapt to a schedule that hasn’t given me much time to breathe, let alone do the opposite, arguably, which is smoking a pipe. Over the timeframe since I’ve last posted here, I’ve bought just one new guy, an unsmoked Boswell bent brandy sitter from 2016. But as I errantly scrolled through SmokingPipes the other day I happened upon something really cool. Recently, the legacy tobacco brand Erik Stokkebye 4th Generation commissioned Chapuis-Comoy’s Antoine Grenard to design a new series of pipes. Available in both rusticated and smooth Rhodesian shapes, the pipes are striking.

Here’s one of them, courtesy of smoking pipes.

I say striking and mean that, to my eye, these pipes are visually extraordinary- not striking like the gut-punch you get when you lose a parent when you’re young. Its been many years since I’ve actively stewed about dad’s death, but I still feel it all the same as an occasional ache instead of the stabbing hollowness I knew during the first couple of years. It took a while to realize that the orange New Beetle I’d see heading down the road wasn’t dad popping down to Muncie for a random visit, or that I couldn’t just call him up for help in extracting a stripped screw from my car stereo or whatever.

Whatever is the operative word there, since I thought nothing of giving him a call just to chat or for some help. I haven’t been able to do that for a long time.

Non-smokers won’t understand, but my relationship dad over the last years of his life was contentious, like lighting a pipe and pleasantly inhaling for a minute, only to realize that I packed the damn thing too tight and that the tobacco was burning at a blistering temperature, stinging my tongue and burning my eyes. After a frantic struggle to loosen the pack with every tool I had, by the time I finally managed to get a cool and even draw, the pipe was empty. And I was out of tobacco.

It was sort of like a dream in that way.

Despite our failings -his as an adult and mine as a kid trying to find my way- we always connected over a pipeful of his Smoker’s Pride Vanilla Cavendish. At any rate, happening across these pipes online instantly reminded me of his two Lorenzos. Of course, that reminded me of all of those memories I recounted, too, which in turn reminded me of him. I was floored when I read what the pipe series was called:

“Fathers, Friends and Fire 2022.”

I guess these pipes were commissioned for this past Father’s Day. The coincidences were too much to ignore, and I’m a weak person, so I bought one of each to serve as the spiritual successors to dad’s Lorenzos, sort of like I might be the spiritual successor to his pipe-smoking, inasmuch as he’s the spiritual predecessor to mine, in that he’s dead now.

Here’s the other

When that Boswell got here, I startlingly observed that I only had two more open slots on my pipe rack. Once these Stokkebyes arrive, I won’t have any, but I think that’s fine: It almost feels like my little collection has come full-circle, even though the new pipes are French instead of Italian and bear little resemblance to the Lorenzos beyond their color schemes.

More than anything, these pipes remind me of how I felt to be out on my own for the first time, sure, with some of dad’s support, but with all the cluster of stress and difficulties change can bring. I’ve been slowly moving to make some uncertain adjustments in my life lately, and as those pick up in speed and intensity it’s nice for some reassurances that draw me back to another transitory period of my life with dad’s Lorenzos.

Of course, I’ve still got my mom here, and she’s provided great support and accountability along with being a fantastic co-conspirator during many of my adventures. But she doesn’t smoke a pipe.

In a way, I’ll be out on my own again soon, but with two new heirs to the spirit of Dad’s pipes. I hope to ignore the shisha, salvia, and car wrecks this time around.

Of course, the new Stokkebyes also might smoke like crap, so there’s that. I won’t know until they get here and I have a chance to run some Smoker’s Pride through them. We will see!

3 thoughts on “Deja Vu in Pipes and Life

  1. You remind me of when I came out as a cigarette smoker to my father. He wasn’t happy about it but for a short while we bonded as we talked and smoked cigarettes. He confessed to me that he knew he would never quit. Then about a month later he had a heart attack at 46 years old. And immediately stopped smoking. So much for the smoker bonding.

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    1. I will probably never quit, but it’s sobering to hear that from a parent, especially one who eventually succumbs to the related illnesses. Dad smoking was, for sure, a part of it. He’d quit cigarettes by then, but smoked a pipe like crazy.

      Dad had a heart attack and bypass at 42. If I live that long, I’m expecting the same thing. I’d love to hear more via PM or any other method about your relationship with your dad. I know bits and pieces from dad and mom.

      Liked by 1 person

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