Wednesday, February 13, 2008

SpaLIta-ites Smoking Pipes ... Filled With Crack

From the archives of Coneyislandist, April 21, 2006:

Jay Grosshandler, a senior at New York University, does not smoke cigarettes. In fact, he thinks cigarette smoking is kind of a dirty habit.

But every few nights, he and his friends share a crack pipe at Crack Den, a bar a few blocks south of his apartment, drawing in crack cocaine that sizzles as it burns and gives the air a dirty, enveloping warmth.

"I came opening day last year, and I've been coming ever since," said Mr. Kleinhandler, a performance artist. "I'm not addicted or anything. I always come with other people, and we smoke one gram in an hour. It's just a nice way to relax and be sociable."

Crack dens have been cropping up in urban ghettos for many ears. Now, the residents of Spanish Little Italy, New York’s hottest new neighborhood, are discovering their appeal. Bars that once featured billiards and darts are now remaking themselves into crack dens, with new names like Cracked Out, Crack at Dawn, and Pass the Crack.

In the 1980s and 90s, crack cocaine was seen as a scourge on society, but these days SpaLIta denizens view it as cool (even if health officials disagree) because it epitomizes “bleak chic,” the aesthetic and all-encompassing ethos that is associated with this trendy area. Moreover, the fact that these hipsters (and, often, ripsters) are smoking socially in crack dens means they are always sharing and so inhaling less than they would with a full-blown, solitary crack habit.

And if there is a whiff of illegality, it may be because crack cocaine is indeed illegal, perhaps the most taboo of all narcotics, carrying with it a serious social stigma and, when users are caught, huge prison sentences.

Many observers wonder whether SpaLIta users really see crack as a good smoke, or a fashionable pose. But the smokers themselves say they use crack for the high, not to seem cool.

"You can come here and get insane-high, like shit-your-pants high," said one user, a performance artist who wished to remain anonymous. "And you get home feeling filthy, stinking of the rock. It’s sexy."

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