Home from Chicago

9th May, 2008: Posted by glpease in Pipes, Enjoyment

After a fantastic weekend with far too much fun and far too little sleep (my dear friend Tom says, “You can sleep when you’re dead”), and an amazing thunderstorm, I’ve returned to the slightly more mundane California sunshine. Monday night, I couldn’t sleep at all, so I went down to the shop to restore a pipe that I’d gotten at the show. Yesterday, I napped. Twice. Today, I begin to feel human, but only just, so it’s time to share some thoughts from the show, beginning with a single word.


Really. The show was great. When I checked in, I engaged in some short-lived grumbling, after being greeted with a nastygram indicating that we would not, after all, be allowed to smoke in the MegaCentre. “Bloody hell,” thought I. “Miserable bastards are committed to using their Super Nanny powers to make our lives miserable.” Well, yeah. Sort of. Fortunately, whilst they may have succeeded in keeping us from smoking in the convention hall, they failed dismally to ruin our good time.

It turns out they (the Nannies) had managed to get an injunction precluding us from lighting up at what was basically a private function, staffed by volunteers, and attended by club members. Had we lit up on Saturday morning, we were assured that the authorities would pull the plug. Of course, their injunction rests on very shaky legal legs, but appeals take time, so it was better to be safe than sorry.

Frank and ‘da Chicago Boyz had, fortunately, alaready arranged a 4000 square foot big-top to be installed for the event, complete with heaters, ventilation, carpeted floor, tables and chairs, not to mention a bar. The thing was constantly mobbed with celebrants sharing their tobaccos, having show-and-tell sessions with prized pipes, swapping stories, and just enjoying themselves. The tent was a success.

Of course, it was great to see old friends, and make some new ones.

From what I could tell, Key Largo was well received. Whilst in previous years, people could fill their pipes and light up, giving me the delightful opportunity to share their first experience with them, this year, they had to go into the tent, and I had to settle for the vicarious thrill of delayed reports. Not everyone who took samples got to them - there was much tobacco to be tried, but those who did told me they really liked it. I’m expecting everything to be ready for a release in eight weeks or so.

As usual, there were more beautiful pipes than anyone could possibly see in such a short time. I spent a significant amount of time with Adam Davidson, a relative newcomer whose work is innovative, and outstanding. I first met Adam at last year’s show, when Will Purdy introduced us, and what I saw showed tons of potential, but who’d have thunk he would have come so far so fast. He’s already showing signs of serious aesthetic maturity in his work. He’s an industrial designer by training (Purdue), and talking with him about the design process in general, and its application to the world of the briar was one of many high points of my weekend.

I got to see very little of the show, but a few things stood out for me. Rolando Negoita’s artistry is scaling new heights. Darius Dah, maker of GRC Pipes, is producing stunning work that is priced far too low for its quality, including a straight-grain poker with horn applications that was expertly crafted from the single most beautiful piece of briar I’ve may have ever seen, and ridiculously under-priced. Will Purdy continues to impress and amaze with his unusual shapes, and exquisite craftsmanship. Tom Eltang continues to be Tom Eltang - which means that he is still wonderfully imaginative and completely incapable of producing anything that is less than breathtakingly beautiful. Paolo Becker showed a wide selection of his spectacular pieces. Paul Bonacquisti is doing some new techniques with his sandblasting, and results are gorgeous.

I could go on for days, and would still leave someone out, so I’ll stop here, with apologies to those not mentioned. My mind is still a little fuzzy from the four daze of too-little sleep, and too much fun.

I did manage to score a lovely little Charatan Special in a small cutty shape (pictured above). Despite my exhaustion when I arrived home Monday night, I couldn’t sleep, so I went down to the shop to do a little restoration on it and snap a quick photo. If it’s acceptable to think of a pipe as adorable, this is one that wears the adjective well.

There’s one more bit of news, but I’ll put it in a separate entry on the News page later. (That’s what’s known as a “teaser,” I think.)