Hard News by Russell Brown

Bong Joy

Once again, the readers come through. Yesterday's appeal for DIY bong stories drew a torrent of tales that may or may not keep Jim Anderton awake nights. It seems clear enough that Mr Anderton's retail ban on pot-smoking paraphernalia will have to contend with Kiwi ingenuity. And it will lose the bout.

A definition issue first. Damian points out that a smoking device crafted from an apple or other fruit is not technically a bong. A bong, as Wikipedia notes, involves water. But I'm calling a special exception in this one, because "bong" is such a good word.

But just to keep him happy, here's an actual bong that uses an actual apple. The recipe for the "winter bong" is quite charming:

The rastafari often ad a mint leaf or two to their chillum to gently flavor the smoke, but we're going to use cinnamon, in keeping with the wintertime theme. Stir about a half of a tea spoon of powdered cinnamon into the icy water contained by the flask. Perhaps a stick of fresh cinnamon bark could be added, but be careful not to go overboard. Carefully fit the apple, pipe and all, onto the mouth of the flask. For holiday parties, I like to pin a sprig of holly to the apple …

Wintertime is a wonderful time of year; the ground is covered with fresh snow, giving a feeling of recreation to places we normally see as familiar. The time we spend alone in the winter makes those special get-togethers that much more memorable. With your new Wintertime Centerpiece Waterpipe, you'll create memories that will last a lifetime.

Anyway, I'm sorry if your story's not here, but this post runs to nearly 2500 words already, and I have actual work to do. So here we go …

Bob has a story of some magnificence:

So it was a fairly standard Saturday of my misspent youth, with four of the lads cruising round, doing nothing in particular in Marks Toledo. Well, as was a fairly common occurrence we were, in due course, pulled over by the constabulary - not for anything in particular (I cant even use a couple of choice quotes from NWA here, given that none in the car at the time were in fact brown) so, it was basically just a "shake down" pull us over and see what fell out.

This would have been fine except for two things:

1) Mark had a fairly impressive array of allergies (eg. allergic to different 7 types of grass) the practical upshot of which was that the majority of the time his bloodshot eyes looked very much like he had rounded off a morning of tending his plantation with a nice hot coffee and a foot long Marley.

2) The car at that time had, wedged between the front seats, a champagne magnum, which spent much of its time on duty as the reservoir for a gigantic bong.

So, we were pulled over and asked to get out of the vehicle, somebody piped up and asked the cops whether they were intending to enact section 17? (I used to know) of the misuse of drugs act if they did indeed intend to search us / the car because we weren't going to consent to said search. This however only served to piss them off and conduct a more thorough search. This eventually led them to the boot... and in the boot, was of course, the head of the bong.

Now, the bong head was really something to behold. In keeping with the scale of the champagne bottle, it was a titan amongst bong heads. It had a cone (this was a while ago remember) that with a little effort, you could have packed a 50 bag into, joined to this was a large two foot long aluminium pipe. The seal to the magnum was achieved via a large copper reducer (the pipe passed through the middle - really needs a picture but try to imagine), padded with foam rubber on the inside so as effect a good seal. Further to this, the copper reducer had 4 plastic tubes coming out of it (to accommodate all four vehicle occupants) a bit like a hookah. Seen in isolation, the bong head was a little weird looking, and perhaps its function might not be immediately apparent - it did, however really, really stink.

The cops knew they had hit pay dirt and went away to have a wee conference on the appropriate course of action. We had a wee conversation about how screwed we were.

At this point the officer comes striding back, a smirk on his face "We know what this is!" he proclaimed. We mumbled back, looking at our shoes.. "...it's for siphoning petrol... isn't it?!".

- Cue stunned silence -

"...yee ee es... you've got me, it's for siphoning petrol alright." replies Mark...

And with that, the siphoner was confiscated and we were sent on our way... this is only one of many times Mark had one of his contraptions confiscated by the local constabulary, we are pretty sure they have still have a cupboard full of his inventions that they haven't entirely figured out yet...

Juliet reported that "a friend made the best pipe I've ever seen out of an old wooden golf club. Ingenuity at its best."

Michael said: "Remember glass milk bottles? Masking tape and a bit of garden hose or any flexible tubing. My parents would from time to time wonder why there was a milk bottle missing ..."

Angus offered: "I was introduced to bongs in Scotland by an aussie. It was simply a plastic bottle and a bit of hosepipe with a cone fashioned from a drinks can. Passing smoke through water is limited only by one's imagination; something Mr Anderton seems to be lacking on this issue. Perhaps we need to take the concept of a hosepipe ban to a new level!"

Ian's contribution: "My water bong of choice (renewed every couple of months cause it gets a bit dirty) consists of a plastic juice bottle with some garden hose and a metal or tin foil cone with a gauze filter all held together with blu-tack. I would like to see Jim ban that! In my younger days bongs were made from anything available - coke cans, match boxes, bits of bamboo, buckets (the infamous bucket bong)."

Noizy had this story about someone from the telly:

While flatting in Christchurch, we had the 'good fortune' to be the crash-pad for a former Shortland Street 'star' spending doing a season of theatre in the garden city (never paid rent, ate plenty of food, played pearl jam very loud in the morning).

Anyway, someone had procured a gigantic whiskey bottle from some garage sale somewhere, which had one of those pourers that had two holes: one to let the whiskey out, the other for letting air out so as to allow for smooth pouring.

Our shorty star decided that with some minor modifications to said bottle it would make the perfect bong. After an afternoon of pipe bending and bowl afixing, we gathered around to try out this wonderful looking contraption. Unfortunately, due to physics I still don't entirely understand, the actual effort of sucking the dope-smoke through the 20 or so litres of water in the bottle proved too much for even the most strong-lunged amongst us (the scene in the Simpsons where Bart and Milhouse attempt to suck pure squishy through a straw always comes to mind when reminiscing the scene), and we were forced to revert to an off-the-shelf model with a more modest bulb size. Still, it looked great sitting in the corner there, with another flatmate's carefully cultivated plant growing next to it.

DC_Red reported on how it's done in Vancouver ("something of a home to cannabis culture"):

"Retailers get around the legal ban on the sale on bongs by marking them as "decorative vases" in their displays.

It always amused me to think that some innocent senior citizen walking past a hempshop might think "that's a rather nice vase" and pop in to buy one.

So is the honourable prohibitionist from Wigram going to ban multi- functional "vases", along with apples and empty plastic coke bottles too?

Rich had a bong story from his travels in India:

Up in the Manali area, very north, very cold, and very nice hippy hangout.

Went out for an evening with some friendly locals, and they took me to their own special smoking room in an old sandstone temple.

Carved straight into a rock floor was an underground pipe.

Popped a plug of finest Manali hashish into one hole, and then one by one, with great ceremony, we kneeled down and sucked hell out of another hole in the rock floor some 3 or 4 metres away.

They swore the 'pipe' was hundreds of years old. Dunno about the truth of it, but a memorable night nonetheless.

Tony had this: "I was once doing some sort of maintenance on something mechanical, when I discovered that the 8mm socket was missing from my socket set. I searched the workshop for days looking for that damned thing. I eventually found it, two weeks later mind you, near my flatmate's favourite spot on the back porch. It was wedged into a hole punched in the side of a very grimy 1.5 litre Coke bottle."

Jimmy Jangles recently spotted Wellington's 'Blanket Man' getting busy with a V can.

Miriama was wistful: "It seems to me that most of the DIY Bongs of my misspent youth now appear for sale at certain outlets that used to be known as'"head shops' in Europe. A favourite usually being the styley, shaped like a franciscan monk, Frangelica bottle."

Brian had a report from the slammer:

"I had the wonderful opportunity to spend some years at Her Majesty's pleasure and being vegetarian was allowed a special ration that usually included a carrot - which was quickly tunnelled with a teaspoon handle - and a bowl from the bottle top lid was always good.

"I got stopped for pat down going through the dome one day, the screw felt the bulge in my top pocket and looked in saw the carrot. Luckily the foil was down, made some comment about we sick vegos and off I went. Phew. With more time and for a major session, an apple: two tunnels intersecting in the centre, a playing card rolled into a cone into one with a foil bowl and a ball point pen bottom into the other and wacko. Not true bongs but, with fresh fruit, quite cooling."

James got the physics: "Freeze a coffee mug, then get a lit roach and blow smoke into it. The smoke will cool to be heavier than air, allowing you to have a cool cup of smoke. Now, where's the sugar?"

And someone calling themselves 'Oh no, Mum might be reading' offered yet another travel bong story:

About 8 years ago, I left on my OE to travel Europe and the Mid East. I eventually made my way through Turkey and Syria to meet up with some mates of mine who had been press ganged into indentured labour on a Dead Sea kibbutz. We busted out and headed to Egypt. Now these to friends had been overseas longer than I had, and lived in Scotland for a while. Result: they smoked like a Soviet Five Year Plan and drank tea so strong and sweet it dissolved spoons ... so they'd feel right at home in Egypt.

Like everyone who passes through the Luxor region of the Nile we sought out a charter falucca to sail up the river to Aswan Dam and to see the sights/sites. We spent an afternoon strolling along the Luxor river bank, carefully listening to all the touted offers of yachting paradise offered to us. We turned down many approaches, including the ANZAC appeal of a certain Captain Kangaroo ... eventually settling for a vessel skippered by the intriguingly named Captain Ganja. Arie!

Now along with transport, a place to sleep, guiding us to sights and cooking for us, Capt Ganja also procured us some 'fingers' (ancient Egyptian bullets) of local weed to smoke. To help us relax and digest, eh. Trouble was, I was a FOB (Fresh Off the Boat) and did not smoke tobacco, so the ole' 'spliff' was out of the question.

We would need to fashion an elaborate water bong.

Cue the A-Team theme: We unleashed a frenzy of creativity not seen since NASA in the early 60s - we WERE Howling Mad Murdoch and BA Baracas, it felt like we were axle grinding and welding all day on that Nubian tub. We must have missed at least 2,500 years of Upper Nile archaeology while we carving up plastic water bottles, melting wax, moulding the metal casings of tea lights, sawing ballpoint pens into tubes and generally forging this contraption that was starting to look like the thing they come up with in Apollo 13 to save Tom Hanks et al choking to death on their own deep space farts.

The sun was dipping below the desert dunes out in the Western desert and birds were settling into their nests as Ganja began looking for somewhere to anchor for the night. The onset of dusk was only being pierced by us still cranking our lighters to finish melting wax to seal this baby ... and the Captain's toothy grin as he laughed at our foolish post-colonial idiocy. But, oh, it was gonna be sweet: Puff, puff, puff on the Nile, have we earned this, we really are the new Da Vincis.

Five hours from drawing board to launch. Bloody thing didn't work. Idiots. We had to roll spliffs in the end, with Cleopatra cigarettes (the WMD of fags) no less. By the time I got to the UK four weeks later I was smoking tobacco like a trooper.

I guess pot does lead to other vices: tobacco and DIY.


It seems only fair that I should cough up, so to speak, a bong story of my own. The one that stays with me is the vacuum cleaner bong. Many years ago, bored, with a big bag of leaf 'n' tips (older readers will know what that means) and seized with the intellectual curiosity of youth, I decided to see whether it was possible to mechanise the "shotgun" concept using common household objects.

I retrieved from the bathroom an old rubber shower adapter, and cut off one of its stems; fitting the tap end over the mouth of our vacuum cleaner tube, which I re-affixed to the "blow" part of the cleaner. The other end went through a hole in the bottom of a large plastic bottle, sealed around with gaffa tape and blu-tack. The cap of the bottle was pierced to make room for a joint.

I rolled a fattie from the leaf 'n' tips, lit it, and placed it, facing inwards, in the cap, which I screwed back on to the bottle. Then, with a couple of friends and flatmates looking expectantly on, I hit the button on the vacuum cleaner.


The pressurised smoke gushed out in volumes far too prodigious to inhale, the device spraying wildly around the kitchen before spitting out the still-burning roach. It all happened in a matter of seconds, and we were left a bit stunned by the spectacle. Further experiment determined that a rapid-fire on-off on the vacuum cleaner button produced a more manageable stream, but in truth, it wasn't something you'd want to do every day. But, you know, we weren't doing it for ourselves. We were doing it for science.