By: Adam Rhodes
Recently, I went on vacation to San Diego California. While I loved walking the boardwalk and enjoying the night life, I have a passion for glass and I really wanted to check out their glass scene. I wanted to have something that I could take home to remind me of the trip. I knew I wanted a piece of glass as my souvenir but the options available were diverse to say the least. My wife and I made several excursions to find the right one. We saw several shops before I decided what I was going to finally purchase.
The last time I had visited a California glass shop was over a decade ago. When I looked for glass then, all I could find was cheap glass made in china. Cannabis culture was not well represented at that time and I wasn’t able to find anything that was locally made. When I went south this time, I was determined to find a quality piece from a local blower that would be a positive addition to my collection. I knew it was not going to be my daily smoker and I had a price point in mind. I wanted to get something that could excite people who weren’t smokers or glass collectors. Outside of those criteria, I was open to all options.
I took several people with me shopping so that I could get their opinions, and hang out. The group represented a wide spectrum of expertise from total novice to enthusiast. I wanted to get input from a few perspectives on something representative of southern Californian culture. Everyone was excited about getting to do some shopping while hanging out. It took us a while to get ourselves assembled and ready since we weren’t in a rush. We also didn’t know where we wanted to go shopping. Once we had assembled and got some directions, we started the adventure.
The first shop I found was just off the Mission Beach boardwalk called the Smoke and Gift Shop. It had some beautiful glass pieces in the window and sold a variety of smoking products. I was instantly drawn in because the pieces they had were stylish and looked like quality construction. The pieces inside the shop ranged from sculptural to functional. Once I stepped through the doors propped open with giant hookahs, I felt like I was back home. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly with the pieces displayed in neat rows all around the shop.
I was cheerfully greeted by Lou, the stores operator. He was professional and made us all feel comfortable while I took my time to peruse his wares. As we chatted about glass, he regaled me with info about the blowers he sourced from, popular culture and the techniques blowers were known for. Lou was obviously as excited about glass as myself and his excitement was contagious. He was attentive and eagerly showed me several pieces which helped me filter through options easily. I love animal pieces and have several in my glass menagerie. There was a wide selection of animal pieces to choose from in a range of prices.
After cycling through multiple pieces and receiving feedback from all my group members on their thoughts I was able to narrow my choice down to two pieces. Both were sculptural frogs blown by a local artist that used to work as a Disney Animator. I felt that the history of Disney and the blowers impressive skill mixed with my love of animal pieces was a perfect match. The choice was difficult to make because both pieces were so exquisite. Lou explained the different elements of each piece and provided background info that was easily understood by everyone present.
My budget only allowed for a single piece so I had a tough decision before me. Luckily for me, I had another day before I had to fly home. The group debated the pros and cons of each piece as they saw them. Everyone agreed that the decision was a tough one. After debating all the pros and cons I was still torn. I knew I needed more time to decide. I also wanted to check out a bit more of the scene before deciding. I Thanked Lou for his time and said I would be back. To his credit, Lou continued to treat me like I was a paying customer before I finally left. I couldn’t get either of them out of my mind the whole night. After sleeping on it, I knew I wanted one of the frogs. Over the next day I wrestled with the choice. I asked everyone what my decision should be. It all came down to personal taste for each of them. After that, I knew I needed to hold them in my hand again before I would be able to make my choice.
The next day, I walked to the shop around noon, still debating which piece I would go home with. As I approached the shop, my heart sank. The place was closed down and had a beefy looking chain on the door. This was my last day in San Diego, I wouldn’t get another chance to buy the frog if the shop was closed. I just knew had missed my opportunity. I would have to find something somewhere else.
After spending some time with family at the beach, I became more determined than ever to find a glass pipe to take home as a souvenir. I did a google search for pipe shops in the area and decided I would make the trip to the next closest shop and so on until I found something I liked better. My wife suggested that we check the shop one more time before we headed out of the area.
I cannot describe the joy I felt as I saw the glowing neon sign flashing “OPEN”. My heart jumped for joy as I walked in and found both frogs still sitting happily in the display case. Lou eagerly welcomed me back and brought out the respective pieces for my final inspection. He sold me a great piece at a great price and wrapped it up for the flight home the next day.
After I got home and smoked out of my new piece a few times, I was able to settle on a name. Given the facts that the frog sits upside down while smoking, is made of glass and hits pretty hard, I settled on Croak. The green slime coloring adds a level of realism and exquisite texture that I get lost in for hours. I am very pleased with Croak. He is beautiful and works wonderfully. I count myself lucky to have been able to add such an exquisite piece to my collection. I’m glad that I took my time to decide. I would have been happy with either choice but I feel I made the right decision. I will remember the warm summer beaches of Mission Beach when I look at or use Croak for years to come. To whomever ends up claiming the other frog, congratulations.