Get ready and towel your door for one of the greatest privileges of parent-free livingbong ownership. Don't bother with the fake ID cards at WHATEVER (329 Sixth Avenue, 229-0687), as flashing them to a bar bouncer should pretty much guarantee exclusion. You only have to be 18 to pick from the wall of water pipes "strictly for tobacco use," including plastic ($35) or glass ($120) one-footers. While the prices are a little steep for the 'hood, the salesgirl is knowledgeable ("this one's sturdy, with a Pyrex slide") and quick to haggle. Similar fare at slightly lower prices is available at MODERN AGE (184 West 4th Street, no phone), but the standout here is a rather sophisticated eight-inch stainless-steel binger ($80). Across the street at upscale smoke shop SHISHA INTERNATIONAL (171 West 4th Street, 229-0562), they specialize in communal hookahs ($40 and up) and, for the younger set, a Krusty the Klown bong ($49). For smokers on the go, opt for the glass bowls and chillums ubiquitous at many Soho vendors; THE GUY OUTSIDE 169 Spring Street has a solid selection for $12 while the OUTDOOR MARKET on Spring and Wooster streets hawks chintzier merch ($10 to $25).
Try the handy plastic-bottle dish brush ($2.95) at THIRD STREET BAZAAR (125 West 3rd Street, 673-4138) for scrubbing out the hit-clogging residue that will undoubtedly muck up your tube. As for the budding entrepreneur, the 150-watt indoor plant bulb ($5.99) should outfit your closet nicely; if you want to feel like you're at a rave, there are black-light bulbs ($2.99). The Bazaar has aisles and aisles of party paraphernalia: multihued paper globe lanterns ($2.50 and up), strands of plastic-parrot lights ($6.95), red-and-turquoise lava lamps ($20), a pack of 12 umbrella party picks ($1.49), a pack of six plastic champagne flutes ($2.99), and white plastic patio chairs (four for $35). The goods at SURPRISE! SURPRISE! (91 Third Avenue, 777-0990) are a little cheaper, but the selection isn't nearly as fun and tacky. Still, they've got cushy purple beanbag chairs ($39) and, for dabblers in home videos, a tall red-and-black director's chair ($69.95).
The funkiest stuff of all is to be had at INDUSTRIAL PLASTICS (309 Canal Street, 226-2010). You can score a 20-inch mirror disco ball ($135; a more modest eight-inch version's a mere $19.95)they'll even outfit them with motors at the front counter. They've also got cool amber or pink plastic box containers (60 cents)akin to those used by delivery servicesthat are great for holding your stash. Other assorted bric-a-brac include giant plastic bananas ($4.99), clear plastic tubing (starting at 15 cents a foot; great for homemade hookahs!), rolls of sparkly holographic paper (about $5.50 per yard), and a 16-inch inflatable globe ($10.75). It's not entirely clear how much on offer here is truly usefulthey've got baskets and baskets of assorted bingo chipsbut it sure is trippy to look at. Also worthy of your attention is PEARL PAINT (308 Canal Street, 431-7932), where you'll find six floors of arts and crafts supplies, and the outside thoroughfare of CANAL STREET, which has cheap incense sticks (20 for $1) amid all the designer knockoffs.
Don't write off standby KMART (770 Broadway, 673-1540) in your quest for savvy wares. They've got a whole department on their top floor dedicated to "Back 2 School" stock, including a leopard foam recliner ($34.99), attractive low-pile five-by-seven rugs ($16.99), and a 4.4-cubic-foot white fridge ($159.99) that'll fit a forty, a six-pack, and a bucket of Atomic Wings. For a hipper, pricier selection, try an URBAN OUTFITTERS (various locations, www.urbanoutfitters .com) near you. There's functional CD wallpaper ($20; holds 24 discs), full-size batik throws ($32), and, our personal favorite, a pack of magnets featuring partying children who exclaim things like "We're not leaving till we're heaving!" ($12). A taste of what's to come, to be sure.