Operation Pipe Dreams

Operation Pipe Dreams

To be completely honest, politics never really interested me. I never paid much attention to presidential elections or any political matters. However, everything changed when George Bush Jr. was elected and appointed John Ashcroft as the United States Attorney General from 2001 to 2005.                        

      It was February 2003, and Wonderland had transformed into a thriving headshop and functional flameworking studio. It was a result of maxing out six credit cards and dedicating countless hours to learning the ins and outs of running a small business and becoming a successful flameworker. Unfortunately, I had paid $2000 for a glass apprenticeship that never materialized. It was supposed to be with a local flameworker whom I had been purchasing glass from. As many flameworkers know, apprenticeships sometimes fall through, just like many business partnerships in the glass industry. So, I had to teach myself everything after attending a weekend class with the accomplished flameworker, Milon Townsend, at Glass Craft. He introduced me to a whole new world of flameworking beyond just making pipes. That weekend made me realize that no one was going to make it easy for me. No amount of money could buy the experience and muscle memory required to succeed and create beautiful glass pieces. This realization only deepened my love for glass, and by the beginning of 2003, I was able to make basic color wrap and rake spoons and beads. 

       During those two years, I sourced glass from various local glass blowers and well-known companies like Jerome Baker and Chong Glass. The glass industry was rapidly evolving and advancing, which was incredibly exciting. However, everything changed in February 2003 when operation pipe dreams unfolded. The reorders we had placed with Jerome Baker, Chong Glass, and others never arrived. We were left wondering if the DEA would raid our shop, confiscate our inventory and equipment, and throw us in jail. It was an entirely new level of stress and panic that haunted us every day for months, even years. Despite the uncertainty, we refused to close our doors. We persevered and continued to push forward. During those challenging times, I was grateful that my best friend had become my business partner. The relationships I had built with local flameworkers and other shops became even more valuable. We all shared a newfound determination to prove that we were doing nothing wrong and to never give up. It was disheartening to see Tommy Chong, a glass business owner, being imprisoned, along with over 50 others whose lives were being ruined legally. After operation pipe dreams, I realized that it was more important than ever to never quit and find a way to survive and keep Wonderland open.

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