The Shoe Pipe
At the very end of last month, on the Wednesday before the Chicago pipe show, we bought an estate of over 500 pipes. Actually, it was more like 600, but there were around 500 that mattered. Plus two. Most of them were top quality English made pipes; but, like most of us as we pursue this passion across years and decades, there was quite the assortment of oddities. And I don't mean oddities in an 'oddities and rarities' sort of way. More in a "why would anyone have made that?" or, perhaps more to the point, "why, indeed, would anyone have parted with hard-earned cash for it?"
One of those 'oddities' was this brilliantly articulated interpretation of, yes, a shoe. Sykes and I were handling this estate together: it takes a long time for two people to work through that many pipes. Sykes, for reasons that continue to elude me, negotiated for the deal to include this little wooden shoe and an absurd cast brass pipe of some sort of Belgian general. Sykes gets rather punchy after ten straight hours of cataloging pipes, so that might have played some role in his sudden predilection towards the absurd.
Far be it for me to argue if he wanted to add it to his collection of Danish and Japanese high grades, so into the box with the other pipes went the little shoe.
Fast forward to Sunday evening in our pipe room. After a long week, the show crew is gathered to pack up the pipes for their trip. From among the pipes from some of the greatest pipe makers in the world, pops up the little shoe, and I go into my standard routine talking about the drilling, the grain and so on. The rest of room comments on the pipe and its design. It is then I realize and announce "what makes this pipe truly special is it has soul...or at least a sole...". That solidified it as some sort of office mascot.
Fast forward a week and back to the Smokingpipes.com conference room, located in the main building of the Smokingpipes.com campus (which, granted, only has two buildings, but we're working on it). We're unpacking pipes in there. Sykes, Alyson, Pam and I have hundreds of pipes arrayed on the table, sorting and organizing, and up, again, pops the shoe pipe. Alyson, the keeper of the new pipes at Smokingpipes.com, so the one who keeps track of, oh, about 2,500 pipes at an given time, and also a woman who, we believe, also goes by the name Imelda and might secretly be married to a Philippine dictator, immediately claims it, indicating that this was the first time she'd been able to, with one item, add to her burgeoning collections of each, at work and home, respectively.
Sykes, no longer quite as punchy as he had been, happily gave it up. But then Susan and Pam each tried to claim it. Then Mark, for reasons I still haven't determined, got into the fray. Alyson emerged victorious, pipe/shoe in hand, but I had long since abandoned that particular battleground, as either a participant or a spectator, so I can't relate exactly how that happened.
Of course, no one wanted his silly Belgian general guy, so he got to keep that. The top row of his pipe rack at work now looks sort of like this: J. Alan, Gotoh, Tokutomi, Tokutomi, Silly Brass Belgian Guy, Teddy, Peter Heeschen, Paolo Becker, Smio Satou. He's happy though. Apparently, even in a more sedate mood he still likes the Belgian dude.