He had a bad tooth. It got worse and then it infected his blood, and then his brain.
Soon after we arrived at Original Glass in Skid Row, the boss man Casey told us the story of his friend and fellow glass man Roman Wachter’s bad dental luck. Roman had gone to the hospital. He stayed there for months until his mind and his mouth healed up.
Casey knows everyone. Casey has a lot of stories. They’re raw and skinless and grimey and good.
There’s the story about the guy who came into the shop saying he was with Darby Holm. “’Darby’s my boy. Blah, blah, blah,’” the guy told Casey. And Casey tells me, “I call Darby up. Since back in the day, we’ve been rolling. Not collaborating with us on any projects, just being our friend.” Darby says he didn’t know the dude in Casey’s shop, but he heard of a guy who recently went to a glass supplier and ran the same game, dropping Darby’s name to them too. This guy didn’t really know anybody, wasn’t really about shit. “So I said, ‘Hold on, Darby.’ I go back inside ‘cause he’s still there and I punched the dude in the face.”
“A lot of fake ass fools in our industry, who come from other industries and try to do what they want,” Casey says. “Talkers, con artists, internet identities that aren’t even real people… We see who’s real and who’s fake. Who can hang. You get down or lay down.”
Original Glass is a production line and storefront. They make solid glass pieces in the back and sell them in the front for prices you can afford. Designer and blower Etz One, Casey, and most of the rest of the crew have been doing it a long time. Everyone works together on the “build-a-bong Lego line,” as Casey calls it. “You put everyone together and you get a master glass blower. A crazy Frankenstein collabo.”
They’ve made a trusted brand for themselves over the years, getting to the Los Angeles household point of being on TV shows like Entourage and Ray Donovan. “This is our city. We work with local artists that aren’t assholes, that are about it.”
Casey’s two-eighty and covered in black ink. He combs his beard with a gold comb pendant because it’s funny, and has a tattoo of a woman getting her throat cut by a skeleton on his chest for the same reason. He has a way of talking out of a half smile that makes him seem like he’s fucking with me and completely serious at the same time.
Here’s another good story: how Original Glass came about. Back over a decade ago, there was a shop in North Hollywood called It’s A Beautiful Day. This old timer named Robert owned it. Robert was a known badass in California glass and a sensei to Etz One and a lot of the other key blowers of the generation coming up. “He didn’t let everybody in,” says Casey. “But I had good weed at the time. I started picking up glass and selling it. This sick, heavy, inside-out, filled-up, old-school stuff people don’t even do anymore. We were well in cahoots.”
Robert was also the landlord of a building where the up and coming glass blowers from the shop lived. But then Robert died and all the jobs and homes for a whole group of artists went with him. So they moved into the shop. Casey and some “big name artists – not going to say who – [were] kicking it at the shop, taking shifts sleeping and working.”
Sounds shitty, but I think Casey likes talking about it. Right behind him at the OG shop is a glass case full of especially elaborate bongs and glass figurines. Some of them are from back in the day. Those pieces are not for sale. “I just say that because as soon as you say something’s not for sale, people want to buy it,” he says. But what he means is the time and love it took to craft those pieces makes them worth more than almost anyone would be willing to pay for them. And he’d rather keep them pristine in a glass case forever than let them go for less than what they’re worth.
“Eventually we make enough money to run the shop. Got everyone a place to live.” Those are the old days that everyone remembers. Glass blowers, he says, are, “like carnies, dude. We all know each other… We don’t even talk shop when we’re around each other. We just give each other a hug.”
First OG got up and running in NoHo. Once they were established, they moved south to Skid Row.
We walk past one of the apprentices blowing a piece in the workshop. Casey is not happy with the work, so he asks the kid why he’s doing what he’s doing. “It’s necessary,” the kid tells him. “It’s necessary that you fuck up?” Casey asks. The kid doesn’t answer.
Casey, me, and Devin the photographer decide to go get some lunch. As we leave the store, we walk over a dollar bill Casey Krazy Glued to the sidewalk to fuck with customers and passers-by, then go past the street light that some fiend tried to hang himself off of a few days after OG moved in.
We head to the garage across the street so Casey can check on his rat rod. It’s just half of an ancient rusty Ford right now with no engine or seats, but it will be a souped up monster before long. “We do hot rods, rat rods, low riders and shit on the side. Because this [he means glass] is work, and work is never fun.”
Then we stroll past a block of Skid Row living space – a row of tents and baby charcoal grills and a little dog with red crazy eyes who snaps at our ankles, but can’t get close enough to bite because he’s leashed to a wooden pallet. “Anything you want. Crack, heroin, meth, two-dollar blow job. This is the grimey hood,” Casey says. He greets everyone we pass. “You got to be nice. These are the people who watch your store at night.”
Just another block East and we’re in condo land, stopping in for sushi at his regular spot for spider rolls and scallops and enough food to cover the whole table. Casey insists on paying when the check comes and he lays down some bills.
We walk over to a neighborhood dispensary where we chill out for a minute. A blunt is lit and an e-nail is heated. The young counter girl is about to take a dab and Casey asks if he can hold her hair back for her. Her smile says “okay” so he bunches it up in his palm, which is the size of her head. She leans in and Casey starts laughing the just-took-a-dab-cough-laugh. He let’s her hair free. “No,” he says. “That’s out of control.”
After getting dabbed out and smoked out, then it’s time to go back to work so we return to OG. It’s just a typical day. A dude strolling around the neighborhood that he’s got wired, then settling in at the office that’s a second home. “Glass blowing, rat racing. It’s a lifestyle,” he says. “We eat good. We sleep good.”
Pictures by Devin Roberts