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I do not approve of the so-called hippies, but I do not approve of any government control over drugs. The government does not have the right to tell any individual what to do with his or her health and life. You probably know that I received a prescription for the stimulant Benzedrine, or “speed.” I can say rationally that it increases my happiness and my productivity. For example, some time ago I went to Studio 54, because I love to dance on speed. I took fifteen speed pills, and I got into a contest with Liza Minnelli over who could roar most like a jaguar. She simply sounded like a stupid lion.
As I write this, I am drinking speed, and you cannot stop me. You cannot stop me, America, with your altruism and your Alan Alda and your Fresca cans biting at my skin. I shall speed across this country like a great high-speed train and the U.S. shall be forever changed in my wake.
Yes, I am both a speedboat and a speed train, and I will mix metaphors if I wish and bend language to my own reality like rails of garbage steel. Because Ronald Reagan has deposed Jimmy Carter, and I predict that by 2013 my influence will be profound, and a new generation of leaders will hallow my name, and devotion to self-interest and capitalism and the free market will not be the exception but the rule, and these leaders will naturally share my disapproval of religion, my support of abortion rights, and my love of Godiva chocolates. I have to stop writing now, because I have chewed through my typewriter.
I attended at a small dinner party over the past weekend in beautiful, liberal Marin County. If you’re not familiar with Marin, it’s where New-Age dynamics meets Hippie aesthetics. The city’s drinking fountains stream coconut water freely. It’s the kind of place where if your back is spiritually out-of-alignment; the local hardware store does chakra adjustments. It has money and charm wrapped-up like a Hamachi-beet burrito from Spago’s.
Most of those attending were of my peer group, early boomers. Over goblets of wine, some cocktails and a little doobage, the backyard talk was pretty standard in this post-modern Obama era—“Climate change disbelievers, even if the Giants suck-in the last three years, we’ve still won two World Series, thank god the kids are out of the house, yoga, yoga, quinoa, Facebook, yoga mats, the Earth’s running out of water.” And then the talk turned very serious.
Apparently the curtain was closing on the party’s favorite TV show. It was the final season of “Breaking Bad.” Holy bananas! You would think an orgasmic bomb had gone off. We went from a mundane resignation of, “Yeah, it a shame about all the shit happening. A real drag,” to an explosion of “Omifuckinggod can you believe what Walt did to that Mexican cooker.”
Then like a cell-block of career prisoners trying to top the other cons with old war stories of their previous capers’ mishaps and homey little anecdotes of heists gone bad, my friends–the suburbanites, rehashed episodes of BB, telling in glorious details of the killings.
Peter, a light designer, spoke about how to transport mounds of meth as if he was enrolled in Walter White Junior College. Sylvan, who manages a day-care center, recounted gleefully the gangland-back-of-the-head executions like she had a Glock strapped.
Amid the banter of brain matter droppings, the Feds crackdown on ephedrine, and the maturation of Jesse–the only line of inappropriateness seem to be talking about current plots. While murder and meth are acceptable, talking about this week’s show is taboo. The shouting alarms of “Spoiler Alert” rang from those present that had their DVR’s holding a treasure chest of past seasons or episodes. For some people, after a hard week of work, the remedy is back-to-back tales of the challenges of cooking meth with a family and a terminal disease.
And don’t forget the DEA brother-in-law, “He’s the best thing in it!”
Two things: My friends are really good people. They’re raising kids or trying to help them financially for college or culinary school. Many had positions that had been downsized or they’ve been aged out. And they don’t give up. They’ll find another job or somewhat painfully go from their dream job to the gig that pays the bills. They’re passionate, some are activists; all care about all the right things, as we say in California, organically.
Second, I’ve tried three times to sit through Breaking Bad. I get to the fifth or sixth episode; recognize it as a good show with fine writing, but not for me. Listen, I didn’t watch “The Wire” or “The Shield” or, god help me now, “Mad Men.” It would be a whole other column explaining why I watch what I do.
And I didn’t watch “Weeds.” Again a funny scripted show (mostly when Kevin Nealon was on) but their weed world and mine were pounds apart. It was Hollywood’s idea of weed, not reality’s. But hey, it’s only a show. Just like Breaking Bad.
But I find Breaking Bad really interesting on so many levels. When the dinner talk shifted to the Breaking Bad hour with me practically the only one not following the series, I started to ask questions.
Me: Don’t you think it’s just an action show with the usual sex and violence and instead of the Jersey Mafia or potty-mouthed cowboys in a Shakespearean western, they’re using meth as the vehicle that titillates and keeps you coming back?
In fact, because of good shows like ‘Dexter’ and a few others, the TV people have to keep upping the ante to keep suburbia tuned. The show is about mouth-gaping violence with the same old racist themes modernized so pop-culturally well that you’re being handed the same ol’ shit in a new package.
The show is about ratings and how to engage the heightened sensibilities of a fickle viewing audience that retains a “been there, done that” attitude when it comes to cable TV. That if the show isn’t extreme in its content, you’re not going to watch. The show’s really about what it takes to excite you, or probably more accurately, the fear that you may get bored and turn the channel.
Them (wife included): No. It’s about meth.
Me: Yeah, it is but it’s not really about meth. It is really good writing and great scenes with relatively unknown actors doing a fantastic job, but it’s about ratings and finding something to replace “The Sopranos.”
Them: That was HBO!
Me: I know. I’m just saying, it sounds like you’re addicted to a show about meth. You’ll watch four or five years of the show, almost with the same passion an addict has on the ride over to score. You guys talk knowledgeably about cooking the shit like your Betty Crocker’s bad sister. I understand it is just a show, but you’re saying it is one of the best shows in the history of TV.
Them (wife leaving grabbing car keys jumping over a nice redwood fence): What’s your point?
Me: I don’t know.
So that was embarrassing.
My friends at this age, pot and alcohol are basically the groups’ predominant drugs of choice. But as I looked around the table, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say most of those present had stepped up to the David Crosby Buffet of Drugs in their lifetime, sometimes for seconds and thirds. We came of age during the Seventies. In those days, coke, mushrooms, acid, speed, Quaaludes, reds, black beauties, MDA, black tar opium, and almost anything that would get you high were acceptable and plentiful. We’re not strangers to the drug culture.
But meth is a different animal. To articulate any kind of positive statement regarding meth in a mixed crowd would be completely asinine. Any kind of argument for the use of methamphetamine would draw suspicion that either you’re a tweaker or you’re screwing a tweaker. Otherwise, why in god’s good name would a person rally for the recreational use of meth?
I tried meth at the end of a long road of despair after a death in my family. The first time I tried it; I didn’t sleep for almost two days. Then on another occasion I did just a few hits. I couldn’t see shooting it or slamming it, no matter how many junkies tell you it’s the only way to go. I smoked it. For almost six months of my life, I took a few hits every day.
I’m not going to say I loved it, but I definitely didn’t hate it, like I was supposed to. During this period of my life, I was getting high a lot.
I would get pissed and yes, dejected at the movie channels on cable for showing the same movie in the morning and then at night.
I was so unmotivated and depressed that when I took those first few hits causing an unexpected all-nighter—I rose like a spun phoenix. I was equal parts cleaning machine and life organizer in one body. In the matter of 10 dark hours until the birdies sang, I had entirely made-over my life and my apartment in a more organized, efficient manner. Knocked out a short story and brushed my teeth 26 times. I got shit done.
For almost six months, I was living life to its fullest. No more chronic-related naps in the afternoons. Tomorrow began today. The days…months, maybe years, of procrastination were over. I wrote just like many of my heroes had done-on speed, late into the night. I went from chubby to a noticeable, “Hey, are you working out or something?”
I didn’t start looking like a hillbilly or get a girlfriend named Tiffany-May from Kentucky or steal from convenience stores. I did meth. And because marijuana is virtually useless on speed, I cut my pot usage by a third.
I don’t know how to tell you this—I felt pretty good once my system regulated out and sleeping and eating became normal again. And the sex is incredible except that you can actually feel the difference in the endorphin release in one’s orgasms. Before meth, a great orgasm was earth shattering and meant a bowl of Wheaties and eight hours sleep. Not necessarily in that order regarding the Wheaties and sleep. After meth, and I’m talking some marathon sessions, orgasms were kind of, “Hmm, that was nice. I’m more worn-out and throbbing but if it works for you Big Guy.”
Having sex on meth is like living in a penthouse and then going away for vacation, only to upgraded to the hotel’s penthouse suite. You become jaded and need more.
That’s when I knew I was going to have a problem with meth. Not that I could see that the beast needs to be fed, but if I wasn’t addicted now, I would be soon. So I would stop because I knew, if I didn’t, according the facts, only 16% of tweakers ever really quit.
And here’s the thing; luckily I’m a pothead. Because like they told me in rehab, marijuana is my drug of choice. It is my one true vice. I’ll stop doing most other drugs before quitting pot. In the end, that’s what saved me.
I was never a speed freak growing up. Didn’t do pills and actually skipped two phases of coke in the Seventies until landing in San Francisco where the Peruvian Marching Powder was the norm of the Eighties.
If someone behind closed doors was to offer a line of crystal to me, and if I had the next ten hours open—I might do it. I’ve done two pops since stopping seven years ago. I’m a poly-drug user. I don’t have judgment on what you do, except if it affects my block or me.
But I still like meth. I guess you can say I’m addicted, but I’m not doing it.
I know heroin addicts who say the same thing. “Heroin’s the best. That’s why I can’t do it. I’m a junky.”
I understand that. This is my problem. We seem to have this subjective hierarchy of stuff. With drugs, I think from the least harmless it goes pot, then booze, then cigarettes, maybe coffee, and then what? Is it pills, coke, opium, heroin, PCP, and then meth? Is meth the worst?
By looking at the emaciated pitted portrait of Billy-Bob you see depicted in the ‘Before and After Meth’ posters on the walls of treatment centers and cop stations, you would definitely think so. Don’t get me wrong, many times after scoring some speed, and seeing the teeth of my dealer, I rushed home and flossed, brushed and repeated.
We know that any mood-altering drug affects us, but how much I think becomes very subjective. It’s easy to say the soused guy falling over is too drunk or the woman biting her lips is a little too coked-up, but we travel among addicts of all stripes every day. From pill-popping bank tellers to vodka-swilling CEO’s to half of our college elite afraid that without Adderall for a study-buddy, they’ll only make $150,000 a year. All I’m saying is, in a group of people who were once familiar with various types of drugs, should one drug should be seen worse or better than another when it comes to personal use?
Could there be such a thing as a functional addict? Or are some drugs thoroughly bad and some, not so bad?
Isn’t the rule of thumb as long as you’re not hurting anyone, what you do is your own business? Yes, many meth users are dangerous and most people can’t handle it. I couldn’t. And I have a lot of gratitude that I got off and stayed off. Not many do.
But of all the drugs users, don’t we see tweakers as the lowest?
On the other hand, if meth is as epidemic as we think, if Breaking Bad is the best show ever, how detached are we from the world around us? How come the police spend so much time busting potheads when meth seems to lead to a life of endless despair except for Walt on the small screen?
I know it’s just a show. The great thing about TV is, it’s an addiction that allows you to drive through a place that keeps you coming back for your hit without ever really having to stop.
* Quote by Rand Paul’s Spiritual guide, Ayn Rand