West Coast Pipe Show 2010
Alyson and I arrived fairly late on Friday in Las Vegas, at the Palace Station Hotel & Casino, site of the 2010 West Coast Pipe Show. This was the second year of the show, and the first time I'd attended, since Tony and Bear went last year. New shows are always a challenge, both for organizers and attendees. While we had high hopes for the show, we didn't really know what to expect. We attended, in part, because we think that the western half of the country desperately needs a good show, and any serious effort in that regard is worthy of support. The show far exceeded our expectations and we had a wonderful time.
Our table was back to back with Rex Poggenpohl and Steve Leader, two gents I've known for some years and always enjoy spending time with. Rex was, as he tends to do at pipe shows, selling off small bits of his vast collection. The show was very well attended by pipe makers. Jeff Gracik, Brad Pohlmann, Tonni Nielsen, J. T. Cooke, Todd Johnson and many others, including some impressive younger pipe makers, were there. Our tables were almost right next to Rick Newcombe's, who had a couple of examples of the new edition of his book, In Search of Pipe Dreams, available for perusal, though it won't be available for sale for another week or two (yes, we have hundreds of copies in route). We had much on offer, from lots of great pipe makers.
The variety of vendors, pipe makers and collectors displaying at the show was impressive, especially given that it was just the second year. Over a hundred tables were sold for the event, with a rather striking variety of pipes, pipe tobacco, accessories, and pipe related books for sale. Perhaps best of all for us was meeting so many pipe collectors and smokers who are customers and fans of Smokingpipes.com, but that we'd never met in the flesh. Person after person came up to tell us that they were long time customers and after some conversation, it became apparent that these were folks we knew well, but that we'd only gotten to know by phone or email. With our regular trips to shows in the East and Midwest, the attendees of which know us pretty well at this point, this was a really special experience for us.
Adam Davidson was there with his wife Lera, too. While Adam is an integral member of the Smokingpipes.com team, he's also a very talented pipe maker and usually does shows with his own pipes, independent of Smokingpipes.com. Still it's always nice having him around, as an emergency Smokingpipes.com backup person, if needed. Lera (as Adam shared in a recent newsletter intro) was particularly excited about the Vegas trip. I'm not entirely sure why, but she was rather more delighted at the prospect of a weekend of shopping and eating in Vegas than she was about the prospects of the pipe show.
Satuday night saw a surprisingly tasty dinner, plus speakers and awards event. Kevin Godbee, my good friend and owner of PipesMagazine.com, spoke about a subject near to my heart, the attraction of college age and twenty-something folks, especially cigarette smokers, to the joys of the pipe. Kevin and I have spent a lot of time over the past few months talking about this. We hope that the recent influx of newer pipe smokers that we've seen is a harbinger of a trend.
After Kevin finished up, Fred Hanna, noted pipe collector, author and PhD psychologist, offered up an excellent talk on pipes, managing stress, and recent research on nicotine and neurochemistry. While all agree that inhaling tobacco smoke is a distinctly unhealthy practice, it seems that there are a number of benefits of nicotine, given its unusual properties as both a mild stimulant and a mild depressant.
An awards ceremony followed the talks. J. T. Cooke, Michael Parks and Kurt Balleby won much deserved awards for their pipe making. Much to my surprise, I was honored with an award for Outstanding Contribution to Pipe Collecting, though that award rightfully belongs to everyone here at Smokingpipes.com. Sunday was quieter on the show floor and we enjoyed having the time to catch up with folks that we hadn't yet managed to see. That evening, having lost just a little on slots and won just a little at craps, we headed to McCarran for our flight to San Diego for the next leg of our trip, to visit Jeff Gracik's workshop, and go to see Rick Newcombe in LA.