When writer Steve Martin started collecting antique pipes and related ephemera from the age of opium dens, he began a journey that would end with a full-blown addiction to a drug most people thought died away in the 19th century. Martin discovered a hidden world where opium smoking still flourished and soon found that he had difficulty leaving it. Check out a fascinating interview with Martin at Collectors Weekly.
“It took a while to really understand what I had. At first, of course, there were these opium dens in Laos that I could get to quite easily. Vientiane was an overnight train ride from Bangkok, where I was living. I would take tools up to the opium dens and see if the old smokers there knew what they were. Often they did, although they hadn’t seen some of the pieces in years and years.