In the 1980s, I frequently came home to spent whippet* cartridges on the stoop of my building. In the parks, used needles were not an uncommon sight.
Most activities have their requisite equipment. Users range the gamut, from those who take a strictly utilitarian view, often fashioning their own tools when possible, to those for whom the tools can become an end in itself, some taking on a near fetish quality.
Most users strike a middle ground - buying a reasonable number and quality of tools, typically without the time, interest or skills to enter the world of DIY. Some pursuits lend itself to the do-it-yourself or makeshift approach, other fields such as photography being near impossible to fashion one's own equipment, barring pinhole cameras. Photography is a classic field for equipment hounds, aka "shutter bugs" or "camera bugs."
There are other activities where the coveting and collecting of tools rarely becomes an end in itself, i.e. where the pleasure in use vastly outweighs any possible pleasure of ownership, such as the world of hedonistic indulgences of sex, drugs and food. Cameras maybe purchased, admired and unused, and books maybe collected and unread, but I have never heard of anyone buying scales or bongs to sit idly on a shelf.
New York City, particularly the East and West Village, has been home to the head shop for as long as I came remember - many decades. Head shops carry all manner of drug paraphernalia, such as bongs (water pipes), roach clips, glass pipes, coke spoons and mirrors, pipe screens, vaporizers, rolling papers and machines, scales, and legal substances such as whippets.
Head shops have varying legal statuses worldwide. In the United States, they exist in a gray area, since the items sold can be used for illegal and legal substances. In the 1990s, the Giuliani administration made efforts to crack down on these shops with numerous raids and confiscation of goods. However, with a mix of merchandise and many of the items not specifically drug related, this was a short lived campaign.
The ones in today's photos were taken in the West Village on 8th Street and on 6th Avenue. The names of the stores themselves often obfuscate or hint at the real uses for the products sold. In the photo, you can see Two Toots, a play on a cocaine user's word toot, while Good Sense is a play on sensimilla - a very strong and high quality breed of marijuana that produces no seeds.
With the decriminalization of marijuana in many states, head shops are making a comeback. Like alcohol, drugs are here to stay, and for those that indulge, there will always be sellers of tools of the trade...
*Whippets are nitrous oxide cartridges used in refillable whipped cream canisters. They can also be used as a drug for getting high through inhalation.