Ask Hank 19

A. Miller
It’s late. The fire pit is going full force, I have whiskey in my hand and a pipe in my mouth.
My family is growing increasingly agitated with me because I’m writing this instead of making smores, but they can wait. This log I put on the fire has a guaranteed chemical burn time of 4 hours. So I’m pretty sure we’re good.

This week there were a whole slew of questions, but I stuck to just two of them for the sake of time and space.

I hope you enjoy.


I’ve layer caked a latakia, a Virginia, a burley, and an aromatic. Actually this has become a normal smoke for me. Yes, I’m pretty sure the pipe-smoking world will ostracize me for it, but I’ve been smoking a pipe for so long sometimes it’s really nice to be reminded that I’m smoking. With this kind of layer cake, when I drift in to a daze or get caught up in whatever I’m doing, the change of flavors sort of snaps me back in to enjoying the moment.

That said, there is a nagging feeling I’m doing something I shouldn’t be doing.

Am I doing something I shouldn’t be doing?

William is not my real name but I don’t want to use my real name because what if my friends found out I layer cake this many different tobaccos?

Dear William is not my real… erm… et al.,

It’s a dirty secret of the pipe world that we all layer cake sometimes. Some have a deep philosophical reason like you do—wanting to stay in the moment, not forget the joys of smoking. But the truth is, most of us just get stuck sometimes.

Picture this: Your boss tells you there were budget cuts and you have to choose who to fire—so you work through a list of ten and finally narrow it to two but now you have to make a tough decision between Steve and Lionel (both of whom were there when you wrestled that moose at the company party)… Lionel is “let go” (there are tears involved). And later that evening you have to choose what’s for dinner next Thursday with your old roommate Steve, and you get stuck for at least a few minutes between carnitas and steak tacos. Then you finally come home and your wife asks you to pick out your outfit for the big event the next day and the choice between blue and black just starts to feel like too much. The whiskey selection that night then becomes downright overwhelming even though you only have three options to choose from. And then choosing whether to bathe or not just flat out causes panic. You know how it is.

So when you’re standing in front of your cellar at the end of what turns out to be a really long day and you’ve got about fifty different tobacco options…. well… 

Well the answer is simple, you don’t make another tough decision. Life is full of those, and smoking isn’t supposed to be tough.

Layer cake yourself.

Yes. We all do it. Pushing four in a bowl isn’t even uncommon. Why do you think they make Chimney shaped pipes? So we can fit more of the same tobacco in the bowl? No, it’s so we can fit 6-8 different blends in there.

The ability to break the rules is the bedrock to mastering any art. And like it our not, our hobby is an art. It never was a science.

Smoke on, and on, and on, and on, and change it up a bit throughout,

Dear Hank,

I’m really good at what I do. I’m tired in fact, because I’m good at it, and the people above me are wearing me out. Well, there is no reason to sugar coat it, not here amongst friends—my boss is making me batspit [sic] crazy.

Every night I come home I light up my pipe and try to forget the foolishness I’m dealing with at work. My pipe is great and it calms my nerves. But I need a more permanent solution. Suggestions? Is it time to move on?

Just sitting here wondering,
Nix in um…. let’s say Vancouver

Dear Nix in Vancouver,

The boss thing is a tough thing. Folks think the gig economy is a fad, but the only folks who think that are the folks who have never had a boss. Because having a boss is hard.

You could work for yourself, become an Uber driver and when someone gets in your car, you kindly ask them to step out if they’re not okay with your smoking a pipe while driving. The problem with this is Uber will likely not let you drive for long. ASK ME HOW I KNOW.

Working for yourself seems like a great idea until you consider the fact that everyone hates their boss, and now you’re your own boss. If you’ve never experienced self-loathing you’re in for a real treat. It’s sort of like that feeling you get when you choose a tobacco but know almost immediately after lighting it that you’re not in the mood for this particular tobacco, but you’re a cheap bastard and the idea of dumping out that $0.10 worth of tobacco feels so wrong that you smoke it all the way through at a nice slow cadence (because you’re not some rookie pipe smoker) for the hell of it, but you hate it the entire time even though it’s one of your favorite blends. You know that feeling? It’s kind of like that.

So forsake the self-loathing and find someone else to loathe, like a boss. What you need to do dear Nix (what the hell kind of name is that anyhow?) is spend your evening smoking time dreaming of your dream job. And then you need to go out and try to find it.

And then once you realize no one will pay a 40 year old overweight male any money to run 2 kilometer races twice a year, you can give up and move on to applying to be a substitute bus driver. You cant smoke a pipe while driving a bus full of children, but you will be done with your work by 6am. ASK ME HOW I KNOW.

Okay okay this particular question has gotten terribly out of hand and depressing, so lets see if we can recover here.

Nix, you should um…. you should definitely do something. But if your boss is paying you enough that you have a tobacco allowance, don’t leave. Stay there forever. Or don’t. You can move on if you’d like to a place that pays better and can offer better morale. Really you can stay, or you can go. Those are your two choices.

Whew. For a minute there I was fearful I was about to be not-very-helpful for the first time since this column started, but….


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