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Comments (9) Posted 06.18.11 | PERMALINK | PRINT | SINGLE PAGE

Adam Harrison Levy

A Tattoo, A Toothbrush and A Pipe


A Pipe



My father kept his pipe in a tall wooden cabinet with beveled glass doors. The cabinet resembled a Victorian display case except that instead of stuffed animals it held treasured books and objects. Inside were the complete works of Joseph Conrad; two Meissen tankards; the catalogue from the Museum of Modern Art’s 1957 Picasso exhibition; a pre-Columbian ceramic bowl with a disturbing face on it; a book (I don’t remember the title) that contained May Ray’s “Rayographs” including one of a spinning top; a magnifying glass and a small nail; a third porcelain tankard (there was a pattern here) of a skull that looked so real, including yellowed teeth and empty eye sockets, that I convinced my best friend that it was the skull of my deceased Uncle George and that my family drank wine from it once a year at Passover.

There was also a Modern Library edition of the complete writings of Thucydides. Inside was a clipping torn from a newspaper or magazine. It was a passage from Show Me The Way by Leslie Waller. It read:

The word seemed to swell inside her, grow huge and overwhelming as it fought to the surface. It pressed against her tongue, driving ahead with a terrible force. It was almost, nearly ready, growing, looming up and welling larger, almost ready, almost uttered, almost told and almost spoken, growing till it filled her with a reckless, fierce and savage sudden…. “Ah” she said.

As a teenager, in the late afternoon when no one else was around, I would open the doors to the cabinet and inhale the sweet musky smell of tobacco that wafted out from the pipe. It was the smell of looming adulthood, the smell of art, sex and words.

This is what my father gave me.
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Comments (9)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT >>

I rarely comment on these things but I felt the need to say how much I actually enjoyed this one. It has such a wholesome and grounded quality about it.
James
06.18.11 at 08:44

Pipe smoking is having something of a comeback in the US among a younger generation. A friend in the cigar industry told me sales of briar pipes and tobacco actually are up for the first time in decades. It's one of those below the radar nostalgia moments.
Sam
06.18.11 at 11:58

He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.
~Clarence Budington Kelland.

http://thegreatquotes.com/2011/06/fathers-day/
Quotes
06.19.11 at 06:50

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!
: ) ===>DO<=== ( :

Carl W. Smith
06.19.11 at 11:02

And what of the toothbrush and the pipe?
Dan Lewis
06.20.11 at 09:47

excellent read, this reminds me of a book by Alexandre Najjar, I believe it was called 'The School of War'.

Dan their are 3 pages to this article, the toothbrush and pipe stories are on p2 and p3.
je
06.23.11 at 02:50

Of course he could have grown up, decided to be part of age old art of skin decoration, and gone to a clean well lit friendly tattoo parlour. where he met like minded people who were talented artists and into similar stuff as he was.

when he met he his new girlfriend, perhaps there was a sense of regret – but no more than all the other things that had happened to him in his twenties.


davo
06.29.11 at 12:00

These are lovely. Mind if I file away the tattoo story in my memory for future reuse? I have a three year old son, and I dearly hope that he will never succumb to the fashion of getting himself tatted up.

Instead, I hope to instill in my son the confidence and self assurance to remain an individual, to not succumb to some superficial (yet tragically permanent) fashion trend just so he can look like everybody else. It's one thing to buy a plaid shirt when they are in fashion, but it is a whole other order of magnitude to modify your body just because that happens to be in vogue.

Alas, if the instill confidence approach doesn't work, I'm not above scaring the bejesus out of him, at the appropriate time, with a story like this.
Rob Henning
06.29.11 at 01:24

Thanks for your comments everyone.

Dan, as je mentioned, if you click on "next page" and you can read the toothbrush and the pipe.

je, I'll look up the Najjar book, thanks.

And Rob, I hope it doesn't come it, but if you feel that you need to use the story don't hesitate!
Adam Harrison Levy
07.03.11 at 08:36



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Adam Harrison Levy is a writer and freelance documentary film producer and director. He specializes in the art of the interview. For the BBC he has conducted interviews with a wide range of actors, writers, musicians and film-makers including Meryl Streep, Philip Glass, and Paul Auster. He was the U.S. producer for Selling the Sixties, a cultural history of advertising in New York and Close Up, about the artist Chuck Close. He is the author of  essays for Hiroshima: Ground Zero 1945, an exhibition at the International Center for Photography, and Saul Leiter: Retrospective. He teaches at the School of Visual Arts and in the Film Studies Dept at Wesleyan University. In 2012 he was a Poynter Fellow at Yale University.


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