In front of the Virgin Megastore in Union Square, Andrew and Evan, two enterprising young NYU students, set up a table showcasing ornate pipes, bongs, and other assorted blown-glass gewgaws. You’ll find their movable head shop there each and every night.
Age, occupation, where are you from, where do you live now?
Andrew, 20. I’m an NYU student, majoring in East Asian and cinema studies. I’m from Portland, Oregon. I came to New York for school.
Evan, 20, I’m a metropolitan studies major. I’m from California. I live in the East Village (fuck NYU housing!)
A few for you:
Is this really a mobile head shop?
E: We’re trying to provide utensils for people to do what they want with them. They’re intended for tobacco, but what people do in the privacy of their own homes is really none of my business.
A: And encouraged.
E: Everything here is legal, because it’s intended for tobacco purposes. And for some reason, the First Amendment gives me the right to sell pipes. We manufacture this glass ourselves. It’s called Jedi Glass, but we’ve got a store on St. Marks, called Addiction. It’s a head shop, it’s where all our glass goes, but we sell this on the street. It’s also a piercing/tattoo body shop. We sell rings, gauges, stuff like that. Mostly paraphernalia. They have really good tattoo artists there. But this is the mobile offshoot of the store.
The cops have never bothered you, selling pipes and bongs on the street?
E: The cops have never come by. I’ve seen cops around, but they don’t give a shit.
What’s the glassblowing process like?
E: You burn the shit out of yourself. You breathe in terrible gasses. People are dying so that people can enjoy these pipes. Every one of thse pipes is fumed, which means it changes color. You put a piece of silver or gold into a 5,000-degree flame. It evaporates and recondenses onto this glass. The problem is, all the metal goes everywhere. So you get little pieces of silver and gold in your face and in your lungs. You wear goggles, but you still breathe it in. Glassblowers are getting hurt because if they don’t have enough ventilation and exhaust, they breathe in these fumes. People are literally dying for these things.
A: But if you don’t blow your own glass, if you’re not selling goods you make yourself, you get shut down in New York City.
Where’s the factory?
E: We blow in upstate New York, by Albany. It’s like a hot shop. I learned in California, in the Bay Area, but most of the people up there do this fulltime. They’ve been doing it for a while, and the glass and rent is cheaper up there than in New York. I live in a shithole for $28,000 a month, where am I going to find a place big enough to blow glass, big enough for ten torches around here?
Any glassblowing injuries?
E: They’ve all pretty much healed for the most part. Second-degree burns. Blisters on my lips. Lips are sensitive, but they grow back stronger and quicker than any other part of the body.
What’s the finest glasswork around?
A: Jerome Baker. You don’t need anything over three feet. Usually one-and-a-half footers by Jerome Baker are the best pieces they make. Fantastic. They won’t break.
E: They got shut down though. Because Ashcroft is an asshole. Why don’t they go after crystal meth or something? They’re just knocking over people who make bongs.
A: They’re prosecuting artists. These guys are the best at what they do.
Do you make any non-smoking glassware?
E: I make pendants as well, ornaments, stuff like that. It’s not as lucrative. It’s easier to manufacture these and sell them ourselves than to sell them to a wholesaler.
How hard is it to sell your wares on the street?
E: It really depends. Some days are better than others. Sometimes people are just more into buying, into spending money.
Are your salesmanship skills improving?
E: Yeah. I started to heckle people. I feel like a used-car salesman.
Where’s the best place and time to find customers in the street?
E: Right here. Probably around 4 or 5, people getting out of work.
You do this in broad daylight?
E: Sure. These things sell themselves.
What do you think is going to happen, legalization-wise?
A: It’ll happen. 20 years, tops.
E: It’s kind of a snowball effect. I say within our lifetimes. With the decriminalization in Canada, it’s only a matter of time.
A: After the first ten states go, it’ll just happen.
E: Yeah, you get into federal vs. states rights.
A: Quite honestly, getting paraphernalia, and product itself, it’s much easier on the West Coasg. Better stuff in terms of price and quality. You’re getting ripped off here in New York. What do you expect, it’s New York City.
Wait, you mean someone can get drugs in New York? Really? How?
A: Tell them to go to Washington Square Park and get arrested.
E: Tell them to find an NYU student.
A: Some NYU student was quoted in Time magazine saying "Marijuana falls from the sky here."
E: It’s a dirty lie.
A: I would say more than 90% of NYU, and any college in New York, the student population probably finds it without a problem.
A: Tobacco companies are holding back everything.
E: It’s a conspiracy. They’re totally growing fields of marijuana in Thailand, waiting to ship it here in cartons when it’s legalized--Marlboro Greens. Legalizing would get dealers off the street. I just came from Amsterdam and all they’re pushing is crystal meth and ecstasy.
A: Back in Oregon, you’ve got crystal meth labs in vans along the highway. Those things explode.
E: They’re toxic waste sites.
Um. OK, who’s better, Cheech or Chong?
A: Whoa. That’s a tough question.
E: Free Chong.
Favorite bar or restaurant in New York?
A: I have to go with Café Pick Me Up on Avenue B. That place is awesome. Great whole-in-the-wall place, great coffee. It’s right on Tompkins Square Park. Little busy sometimes, but I can’t complain.
What place or thing would you declare a landmark?
E: Right fucking here. This table.
A: The southwest corner of Washington Square Park where the chess players play.
What advice do you have for Mayor Bloomberg?
A: I don’t like his policy of raising realty prices around the city, pushing out working-class people.
E: I believe judgification is the term.
A: I don’t believe Trump should be able to build buildings and get tax breaks. Supporting people like that, allowing them to run wild in the city. That’s not good.
E: And fuck “The 2wenty” at Regal Cinema.
A: Invest more time and money in education. Even though I’m out of the public school system, I feel strongly about it. The quality of public schools across the country is deteriorating. Mayor Bloomberg should make that a priority, not trying to get the Olympics. And if you’re going to build a new World Trade Center, do not name it Freedom.