WitchDoctors Medicine by Jonathan D Rapphahn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
So this is where shit starts to get raw. This is all the gumbo I’ve been brewing from overdoses, crusted blood, scarred brain tissue, broken souls, scattered brains. The lost scallywags and blundering idiots, take heed: I do not endorse or recommend anything that I do here on Planet Earth during my visit. You are all free to pollute your bodies and minds as you please, but I didn’t tell you to go for it. If you can overcome the senses, you can overcome addiction (or manifest addiction). This is the story of how I created and dispatched a 5 year addictive habit. Do what you will with this information. I’m just reporting experience. The *******’s mark each new/old addition.
This thing will be messy at first glance, and I’ll have to reconstruct and reorganize. I will add as I go and come in contact with my other journals. This is written in the past from a present perspective. Recovery-friends, have no fear. I’m just as clean and crazy as I’ve ever been.
Love & Light,
***I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories of them. In order to maintain their anonymity in some instances I have changed the names of individuals and places, I may have changed some identifying characteristics and details such as physical properties, occupations and places of residence. Jon D Rapp ©2015***
So… here we go.
Sometime in 2012. VT
There is something haunting and comforting about waking up sick in a warm bed during Winter. I look out the window and see icicles protruding from the gutters, like lost spikes looking for an arm. The frost on the window usually reminds me of how brittle my bones feel. I need to “get well” as the kids say, meaning I need a fix-up. “Diacetylmorphine” to the pharmacist, “smack” to the gutter dweller. Oh lord, just give me something beautiful to shake off this cold wind from the inside of my bones.
Now when I say need, I don’t mean it in a whiney-privileged way… like “I’m tired, I need a Redbull.” When I say need, I mean that I will throw myself among any amount of peril regardless of the unrelenting odds (paying NO MIND to the effects of the repercussions) in order to get what I seek. I will smash windows. I will steal change. I will forge checks. I will beg, borrow, lie, steal. You know, that old fucking junkie cliché. But I have “rules”. I won’t steal from friends & family (nothing beyond the odd handful of change here or there). I can’t put myself before them, no matter how sick I am. But, I will do anything short of sell my veins or my ass to get a piece of that sweet brown sugar. I will smack your grandmother out of my way and grab her purse if she makes me miss my ride. I’m not kidding. If you hate me, all the better. I need as much fuel as I can muster to keep this steam locomotive moving.
When you coalesce into a state of self-loathing and self-destruction, you can go through a few different mediums. I think of it as the exact opposite doctrine of the “Word of Christ”, or whichever religious pariah you wish to infer. Take all that acceptance and love, and turn it to the opposite end of the spectrum. You can hate fully, with an open heart. With heroin I learned to fully accept my own demise. I came to a pretty comfortable realization that my life consists of nothing more than my own fool-hardy pursuits at forced evolution through much loathing and destructing.
If you want to take your shitty car and fill the gas lines with vinegar and fire, heroin is the best fuel I can think of. It is literally a *perfect* drug. It does exactly what it says it will do. It will destroy your external environment while subsequently creating a “Dead Sea” inside you… everything becomes flooded with saline water and you grow thick, cold, and callous. It sells itself. It doesn’t lie, cheat, or steal. Only people can do that. Heroin is exactly what you want it to be, and it will give you exactly what you wish for.
So why am I still here?
I really didn’t want death all that bad, I guess. I just wanted to chip my teeth on the fine line. And if you don’t like what I have to say, you can fuck right off and go read some other junkies shitty story.
I fumble around for my backpack, and crank the heated blanket up a few notches. There’s a fresh syringe just waiting for me in there. I have three wax bags of “91 South” certified Massachusetts skag, and my receptors are just begging me for some. You never feel sick when you have some nearby. It’s all pure psychological wiring with our dear mistress. If you can overcome the senses, you can overcome addiction. Or you can manifest addiction.
I’m in the process of living out my foolish fantasies for torment and anguish. I never felt deserving of a “comfortable reality”. My lifestyle growing up was comfortable. I had always felt the small inkling to just burn myself again and again, until self-immolation became imminent. I felt undeserving of my place on the American throne. Since I was a young boy, I felt that if there was suffering in the world, I needed to have some, too. Maybe that’s why the first needle didn’t sting. I’m just another confused glutton for punishment, searching fatefully for his final void. I didn’t find it in psychedelics. I couldn’t find it in pills. I hadn’t found it in meditation.
When I picked up my first sincere opiate habit, something just “clicked”. I realized that living any other way was just a huge inconvenience. I enjoyed the singularity of function it created in my life. I only had one means & ends for life. One focus. One problem to solve every day. That’s it. Don’t tell me you’re not interested. You’re lying if you say you aren’t. Every man wants to search long and hard for God’s breath, and I sense that opium is closest to the dark side of that breath as you can get. So dark that many never see the light again for several lifetimes. This is no way to live. It is a way to die.
I mix in 10 units of water into one of Mom’s spoons and heat it lightly (for sanitary purposes). I splash the tan powder in and mix the paste with plunger. It turns into a nice amber elixir after I filter it through with cotton; laxatives and non-agua-soluble additives are left behind like loose coffee grounds from a French press. I jump out of bed and do maybe ten push-ups to get my boys popping up off my arms; awaken the Vermont pipelines for a sure-fire hit. I aim for my “morning shot spot”, the easy big vein on the inside of my left elbow. The cocktail is still slightly warm which I notice immediately as I let my blood pressure delegate the speed at which I push the plunger… it feels so automatic and natural. Like that space in between breath. That first shot in the morning is like communion; like Brahma and Ohm’ing, the troubles of existence are tossed away into some infinitesimal domain that nobody ever gives a fuck about. It’s holy all on its own, but without church or prayer… sacred still the same.
I feel my stomach drop within two seconds, then it tightens as if some hand were twisting it into a cigarette and lighting my head with pleasurable flames. Tingling sensations from the tip of my scalp run down like crackling tinder, all the way to my feet and I bask in the awe and glory of feeling the most un-holy a man could feel. Closer to death (or being a ghost) than I could ever conceive of. And in this moment, nothing exists. Neither me, nor man, nor the universe. It is all just… faded.
There is something I hate about romanticizing drug use… it is a fallacy in & of itself. But to be honest, when you’re stuck on something like this, it becomes your all. Your ace in the hole. It is life-giving as much as it is life-depleting. When you are sick from a lengthy habit, that transition from “shitting-your-britches-dopesick” to “The Golden Boy” hits faster than you can say “needle exchange”. Any old junk bag will tell you they think a shot feels better than an orgasm. And have we any reason to doubt this? The chemical registers on the brain indicate more than enough intensity. Reality: subject to interpretation.
I let the friendly baby-blue tourniquet go slack and hit the floor as I bask in the amber glow of my own narcissism & euphoria. There is nothing psychedelic in the immediate process. Getting high is sensual bliss, but the eyes seem to become dull and light doesn’t get through as well. It could be pupil constriction that causes this dimness of the eyes, or perhaps it’s just the nature of the drug itself. All I know is that I was a junkie two thousand years before I ever even put a needle into my arm. It’s like finding this long lost “something” that you’d been looking for. Have you ever fallen in love? It’s kind of like that… at an instant you find yourself beholding the omnipotent headlights of something intrinsically beautiful, the next moment you’re being blindsided by some bigger truck on the highway. Enchantment & disenchantment. And then… blotto. I openly accept this reality. I’m just waiting for the right batch of dope to make its way into my sticky hands, and then I can take a good long nap and think about what I’ve done.
I’ve talked to the “experts” in this field, and found no such solace in their answers. Sure there’s a lot of “science” behind their “methods”. But if you really ask me my God’s honest opinion, I think we are in the chemical dark ages and our society is as barbaric as it’s ever been. Addiction is a real shit stain on the President’s chaps though, so they send most of us to fuck off somewhere in jail, rehab, mortuaries, methadone & suboxone clinics. As we should. We are creatures evolved of our own devices. We deserve to die in this trap if we can’t find our way out, according to Darwinian theory. This is a harsh prescription for many. But it’s reality. The only places on that list I’ve been are rehabs, so far. I haven’t caught too bad of a rap (yet). But I’m going for broke.
I’m mulling all this existential bullshit over a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, wondering how I’m going to make it through until payday. I’ve sold all my extra suboxone, and actually don’t even have enough to make it through until the next refill. They have me on 12mgs a day. One and a half of these orange Listerine-looking strips every 24 hours. They taste like oranges & bad chemistry. Oh, and don’t forget the crowd-pleasing side effect of “unyielding constipation”! I have my weekly bowel movements on Wednesday. Sometimes I get a second one in on Sundays, if the good Lord is moving with me. It’s really not all that exciting, unless you’re interested in the biology & anatomy of particularly depraved bodies.
Time to the daily search. I send out a few text messages… classics like “Any bags of dogfood around?” or “You seen my James Brown CD?” and everyone’s favorite “I need to get well! My nose is running right off my face… any ideas?”
It’s pretty early in the morning, I have to go run a few deliveries up to the job site. I’m working for my Dad, doing some bitch work around the carpenters. Picking up their messes and wrapping my scraggly junkie arms around large loads of lumber. I am a product of nepotism, go figure. My Dad, bless him, has not a fucking clue of what to do with me, thus resorts to keeping a close(d) eye on me by having me work (and sometimes) live with him. He has an idea, but he isn’t even close to the reality of what I’m doing. He’s offered to take me out back and shoot & bury me. I called his bluff. It’s selfish. It’s disgusting. And I just don’t give a fuck.
I hop in his truck that he let me borrow for the night. I stayed at my Moms last night. She is about as clueless to my “tells” as my dad is… but her boyfriend is like me. He can see it because he used to be it. My folks have been divorced for a few years now, and my Dad is just getting his feet back on the ground. He was wallowing in the darkness for a while. I really thought the old boy was gonna stub himself out before he burned out. Not the case. I guess I come from a long line of hardheaded dipshits, drinkers, thinkers, & livers (not the organ).
At this point, I’ve put back enough coffee to keep my head from bobbing too much into my opiated haze… I flip the radio on and roll the window down to light a cigarette. The cold air feels fucking fantastic when I’m numb, it’s almost like it replicates the cold reptilian blood that courses through my veins. The drive goes by like everything when you’re high, and time just kind of slips through my fingertips like loose cigarette ashes and I find myself waiting impatiently behind some railroad tracks in the Manchester trailer park for my bag-handler. He comes up late as fuck & right on time, serving me a bundle and a half for a pretty good deal. I can’t complain when the quality is this good.
I’m eager to do another shot; it’s almost noon now. I’m starting to feel way too clairvoyant and alive. Like a plant painfully turning to a man, I search out some brown chlorophyll to help me shift shapes back into a garden variety vegetable. I pile on half of the first bundle (five bags to the layman), because I decide I’m about to have a bad day and need to immunize myself against it. All this gets done inside the truck, somewhat discreetly… yet I still blow my own cover about half an hour later after I wake up and realize I’ve been nodding and idling and half-hanging out the door of the truck. Held in by the seat belt. I see the missed calls on my phone from Dad, and call him grumbling about losing my phone at the lumber yard and having to go back to find it.
I need to get some more coffee before I drag the heavy truck back up the mountain towards Stratton. I don’t really want to eat a guard rail today, especially with all this fire-white China in town. We’ll save that suicide trip for a day with all pain and no relief. There always comes a drought, lest we survive our feast. It’s just the way it is. Like there is always somebody that fucks up and gets themselves booked or dead. Nothing lasts, here. Sometimes I feel as if I’m just painting this great, elusive skag mandala… it’s beautiful to me, but an eyesore for everyone else. And I keep adding to it, waiting faithfully for Gods janitor to come and sweep it all away.
That’s enough existential thinking for right now, too much whiskey and junk; sorry ’bout it.
McDonald’s has some dollar cups of coffee, which I gratefully toss into my stomach, finding out later that I burned my mouth pretty bad. When you’re in a consistent state of numbness, it’s easy to end up with mystery bruises and marks. Any alcoholic knows this very, very well.
My stomach isn’t liking the acidity of the coffee combined with whatever is in this dope. There is definitely something bothering my belly. I pull over on the way out of Manchester into the paint store parking lot. I have to grab a few cans for the jobsite. I park around the side of a dumpster and open the door to empty my stomach into the cracked pavement. Bioluminescent ribbons of bile-enriched coffee fall down like that Nickelodeon slime everyone was so fond of back in the day. Some mother with her child gives me a dirty look, and I just smile, taking drags from my Newport in between heaves. This is my favorite time; post-vomit nods are the crème de la crème.
*Notes on menthols: I usually hate them (when I’m off dope). My brand is Marb Reds. I just fell into this weird trend of buying only Newports or Kools while I’m getting high. I could never figure out why they satisfied me so much. Then I did some research. It turns out that Menthol is a weak “kappa opioid receptor” agonist. This means it potentiates the effects of the opiates already in your body, however slight. This added a new method to my madness. Try to tell me that I wasn’t built for this.*
I saunter up to the paint counter, after throwing a tea tree toothpick into my sour stained mouth. These things must be the reason I don’t have any cavities yet. I eat so much Ben & Jerry’s and sour patch kids and heroin and tobacco and *nothing else*, only to wretch it all up hours later after I get too high. Consistent opiate use interacts with your glucose receptors. It makes you crave sugar as if you were in a consistent hypoglycemic state. That’s what ultimately killed Jerry. It wasn’t just the junk, it was the diabetes. And it was the Haagen-Dazs. It really hits the spot. So much so, that sugar, heroin, and the occasional Metamucil/coffee combination is all you need to live comfortably.
I joke about disillusioned tourist millionaires with the guy behind the counter as he brings the paint out for me. People in stores and gas stations seem to really like me, unless I’m occupying their bathroom with my unconscious body, or puking onto their parking surfaces. I get pretty enthusiastic and start blowing social bubbles when I’m high. My jokes get laughs. My stories get gasps. Most people either like me, or I just don’t care what they think and I pretend they like me. I can never really be certain, but the end result is the same. Often, while in Burlington, I’ll be walking down Church street just radiating because I’m going to get fixed up. People will stop me, much to my annoyance & displeasure, to tell me they haven’t seen me in a while, they miss me, and I look good. I can never figure this out. I have been turning my arm into an everlasting shiskabob, not eating for days, not showering for much longer, avoiding the sun & society like a leper. I find it hard to believe that I “look good”. My only explanation is that sometimes, I am a Jedi. “This is not the junkie that you are looking for.” Then we make plans to hang out, which I have no intention of following through with. And hopefully, I’ll be taken to a place where I can die & nobody knows my name. Or at least that’s what I tell myself, because it sounds poetic and fitting to my current disposition.
I hop back into Dads Ford and make my trek back towards the mountains, ready to get another shot in when I get to the jobsite. Each bag of dope I purchase contains a few hours worth of Nirvana. The east coast heroin as a rule, has a better rush when taken IV, which means it has a faster peak & less plateau. Most of it leaves the body of a well-conditioned addict within 6 hours. He will develop small withdrawal mannerisms between the 6-12 hour mark, and within 24 he will be creeping up on the worst physical symptoms. By 48 hours, he should have shit his pants at least once, and thrown up & cried on the floor of the shower twice. It’s an entirely different formula for the west coast black tar, because that stuff “has legs” meaning, it lasts very long. An average 10 hours between sickness, but the come up isn’t nearly as euphoric as the fine China White (fentanyl) concoctions we get on the eastern seaboard. We get the real rocket fuel, the obituaries can attest to this. And the westerners get mexi-cali shwag that rarely kills anybody.
Combining basic math with biology, I can usually predict how long I have until the awful withdrawal process begins. It allows me to make preventative measures. As a master of becoming sick, you learn how to find wellness inside everything. I am an optimistic junkie, in comparison with the rest. I will be the first to jump out into the cold winter air to scheme up money and dope, no matter how bad I feel. Pursuit makes for a nice distraction. Meanwhile the apathetic, pessimistic, whiney sick-puppies sit around and mourn the loss of their voids, doing fuck-all to improve upon their circumstances, waiting on a phone call from somebody like me.
I started with a bundle and a half this afternoon. That cost me $225, or $15 a bag. Not bad for Vermont standards. I can get $30 for a bag, when supplies are limited. I prefer to go visit places like Hartford, CT and Paterson, NJ for the real savage deals. But that’s a story for another time.
A bag of heroin on the east coast usually arrives in this nice glassine package, slim & slender like a jewel CD case, like “This hit’s for you, baby”. The west coast needs to step up it’s standards. They just put their tar into balloons like a bunch of piñata-worshipping immigrant pilgrims. Anywhere on the block you’ll see these Mexican guys with their mouths full of balloons. I proposition them, “Any Chiva, man?”. They gargle some words at me, resembling “How many do you want?”, and then they’ll miraculously spit out the exact number that I’ve requested while simultaneously storing another 35 or so balloons in their cheek like a squirrel. They do this because the latex will survive stomach acid, and because stomached junk will usually survive police interference. Usually. The balloons are colored, but the glassine bags are stamped, which can distinguish your brand much better. It will have some kind of logo or trademark on it, similar to ecstasy pills. Things like “Rat Poison” or “Body Bags”, to well-known logos like “Pedigree” and “Best Buy”. It is supposed to contain .1 of a gram, but rarely does. Once in a while there will be some fat bags from the city that local VT junkies can split in half, sell one to the disadvantaged faders, and still get high for free.
Since I’ve done the half bundle off the top as a treat to myself, I have to do my best to conserve (ha!) the remainder until I come into more money. I need at least two bags in the morning to get started at all. From there I can survive off one bag every 5 hours until bed, when I’ll need another double shot to fall asleep. There are 24 hours in a day, so sayeth the 12 Steps; I can get through 24 hours on 7 bags. That’s with a basic(ally minimum) level of comfort. It’s all about peaks and troughs in this life.
So when shrinks & counselors & mothers ask me, “Boy, Simon, you seem really intelligent and committed towards this awful thing. What’s the deal?”. Depending on the day, my response will vary, but it usually comes out like, “Because in reality, this is all there is. You have your job, television, processed food, religion, rent, family, society. I have me, opiates, death.” It’s awfully dramatic and morbid for me to put it quite so blunt, but that’s more or less the gist of it. Then they ask, “And before that?” to which I usually will reply, “Nothing made as much sense before this.” Then there’s, “But don’t you care about your family? Don’t you care about making a positive impact on society & government? Don’t you care about love and free will and Jesus?” to which I remain silent and muse to myself: Care…? My family is busy destroying itself from within. Society wants me dead or in jail anyway, because I’m not made of the same fabric they prefer to weave. Government is *truly* better off with me in a body bag, and I’m sure they’ll marksman my words on that one. I have love; she is dark and deadly and sexy and she’s the best fuck I’ve ever known. I chose to do this, on some level, so free will can (and will) go fuck itself. I’m told that Jesus died for our sins so people like me can stick ourselves and repent, getting into Heaven anyway, so I’m not trippin’ on him either. This world I live in wasn’t built on “cares”. No magic. No romance. No mysticism. Just stimulus. When I only have one thing, I realize that I have every thing and no thing, all at once.
I make it up the hill, and stop at the 711 for sustenance. I’ve burned up all my EBT money on ice cream and candy already, and all the liquid cash I have is certainly not going towards food. I learned from an early age that I was pretty good at exposing opportunities for shoplifting. I’m fairly versed in non-verbal communication, verbal & non-verbal manipulation, getting into character (dressing the part). I have my hands ready constantly, all I wait for is the right moment. It always happens on instinct and I’ve only been pinched once (to date), and he just told me not to come back. Actually, that was in this very same 711 a few years ago. A bottle of Vodka and a sweatshirt. I was cocky and drunk. I clinked the bottles and he made me, I tried to act coy but he forced me to produce the object from my pocket. And then I left.
I was able to snatch a couple Snickers bars and a BIC lighter as I asked for a pack of cigarettes. This is the perfect time to swipe. You have to be nebulous about your request. Make them search for your selection, while you are busy silently stuffing what you can into shirt sleeves beneath the guises of itching your nose, combing your hair, tying & untying your boots, adjusting your belt, etc. You get the idea. Anyone can do this. I’m not saying they should, but I’m certainly not special for being good at it.
I jump back into the truck and light a cigarette, making my way to drop off this delivery. I serenade the gravel with rubber crunching as I meander between forklifts and pallets of this large driveway to the larger mansion on the hill. Nobody is pleased to see me. I am perpetually late and nodding/vomiting. I get the feeling that most of the carpenters kind of hate me. Perhaps it’s because I couldn’t be further from what my father represents to them. Perhaps I was just too obvious about what I was doing. You could find me nodding out in the porto-shitter or the attic fairly regularly. I’m just the snot-nosed spoiled waste-case son of some asshole who can swing a hammer and draw a few straight lines. Sorry ’bout it.
I unload the boxes and say a brief “Howdy” to my dad, and make my way to the big green plastic poop-house, the only concealed structure with locks that I can access easily. I have my travel works stashed in a secret pocket I fashioned into my flannel hoodie. This is just my work outfit. You should see what I’ve engineered for long weekends in the gutters.
I begin this shit shack enshrined ritual that has become as profound to me as the Mayans were with sacrifices. Junkies & Mayans share a certain zeal for blood. I even say a prayer before I draw the red stuff out of me. I’ll tell you someday, if you play your cards right. The elixir is loaded in that little clear tube etched with the unit markers, as the fresh tip slides between the pores and into the vein. I pause for a moment to savor this, like all eternity is a spinning wheel that I can just *stop* with a small pull and a big push. Small pull brings blood into the barrel, indicating that you are in the right place, big push feeds the habit.
And then… I slip into a 20 minute nap. I try to fight it, because I need to start working. But I… just. fucking. can’t. This dope is like molasses, it’s strong and so good. It’s not perfect though. It’s like a sexy lady that has a little bit of cellulite on her thighs. She’s thick and bangin’, but not quite perfect. Cellulite can bother my stomach.
I come back to life all at once as someone pounds on the door, which is supporting my forehead. It rattles me enough to stir up some of my adrenaline reserves and I am out and running around the jobsite, playing catch up. I am always having to lie about how much I “take shits”. I have them convinced that I drink so much booze and pop so many pills that I have IBS. Might as well.
I close out the day with minimal efforts, and somehow find myself at Moms eating dinner with her and Nick, her boyfriend. Time goes almost wholly unnoticed when you’re this high most days. It really “puckers my butthole” because I start to feel as though I’m spending more time sick than I am well, until I fixedly gaze upon a calendar and ascertain that six months has been shot right through me.
This realization will leave you feeling pretty aired out. I don’t ever go to sleep, yet somehow I always wake up needing more dope. I get high so I can sleep, but I always fade out. One bag in the barrel, along with a milligram of klonopin put under my tongue. It tastes like a numb Altoid. Reality closes out and I find myself lost again in the Twilight Zone. I am a rogue satellite gazing lavishly upon my eternal void as I circumnavigate my aspirations, desires, goals, and dreams. I never touch down on those rocks. With nothing to do and nothing to feel, I avoid all temptation to get off my ass and fix this damn thing. Is it even broken? Was it ever fixed? No, I’ll just smolder and burn ’til I’m gone.
Sometime in 2014. Fall.
I can always feel something calming contained within the gentle deaths of Autumn. There is an undeniable something that sustains the dark thoughts in my head. It’s all part of the process, of course. Decay feeds life. Old growth becomes new growth. The snake sheds his skin. The leaves all come down. Wet, slimy, slippery old rot. I can accept this as part of natures cycle. But what of my own cycles?
I could try to explain them to you, but unless you understand what it means to die, I’m not sure it would ever make sense. I don’t want to go over anyone’s head. So stop me if I’m not making sense.
My ally, Morpheus… God of dreams, calls me back to sleep. When my soul gets twisted into a knot of endless pursuits and desires, I find myself being called back to the cold corridors of collapse. I no longer seek my own ruin here, quite the contrary. This place is a refuge during times of weariness & unrest. What it really comes down to is: fuck a spa when you’ve got skag. She no longer keeps my Ace in her hole, because I deny any responsibility for sexual innuendo. Innuendo is just a promising euphemism anyway, right? We can share love, but I now live a polyandrous existence. I once lived in a world of singularity of function, one girl, one drug, one God, one prayer. Then came dualism: Good & Evil, right and wrong, black and white. But recently my eyes have been opened much wider. I have learned about respect. I have learned about medicine. I have learned about true love. I have learned about the true nature of my spirit. So when I have that old voice call me, who am I to not pick it up? I know where my downfall lies. I see where I can go wrong. But I pray for guidance, and I ask to receive this power as medicine. No longer must I consume myself with desire and resentment. I just need to be. Hear the call and answer it as best I can, paying mind to sober consciousness as the end of means.
It’s all experimental. I am keeping my notes tight to my chest.
I find myself in Portland, OR. This place has some memories. It’s been 4 years since I last roamed these streets, high and depraved. I hitched up here from Grant’s Pass, OR on Saturday. Destination in mind: Reiko’s apartment. She flew to California from Kaua’i in July. She made her way north with her brother. With Cotton Jones on the radio and Portland on the GPS, they made their way towards a certain kind of libation. Except in Portland, the Gods pour drinks for man. It’s in the form of rain. Lots of water. Today is Tuesday. It’s sunny outside. I’ve been sitting in Reiko’s basement bedroom all morning. The iMac clock reads 12:31. I’ve got to get myself my own typing machine. These ones are nice. There is a six year old Toshiba Satellite in my car. It should be in working condition, but the Volvo (aka Stormtrooper) is all the way down on the south shore of Lake Tahoe at a friend(brother)s house. The car should not be in working condition. I have come up to Oregon to make money for the road. I use the library computers and the laptops of those I spend time with. Thank you, Reiko.
Overall, my health has been good. My visit to Vermont proved to be a learning experience, indeed. I circled the drain on a couple occasions, but I never got flushed back into the septic. I’ll speak more on this later. I am just grateful for the grace that has kept me somewhat preserved and sustained. I’ve been preparing for an Oregon winter. I’m taking St. Johns wort (for the blues), Ashwagandha (for the nerves), Gotu Kola & Ginkgo (for mental clarity), Pedicularis (for sore muscles), Eleuthero & Rhodiola (for energy, vitality, & stamina), all matter of tea through the day (well-being enhancers), and tobacco + cannabis (for overall merriment and relaxation). I’d have to say that I feel pretty balanced. My chemistry is being regulated with herbs in hopes that it will become strong enough to flawlessly self-regulate. I don’t seek control over my senses. I just wish them to merge with my awarenesses. I’m working to link the mind, body, and soul with superior cohesion. Spiritual practice keeps my days open, humble, and meaningful.
All this travel has got me thinking a lot about the nature of symbols and “cause and effect”. As I chalk my experiences up to simple highway miles, I see trees and skyscrapers alike. Are they reflective of one another? Are they pure phallic representation? Nobody has an answer for me yet. So I roll a spliff, which creates another effect born from a cause. It’s easier for me to listen for laughter when I stay “irie” (see: feeling good, implies marijuana consumption in this context). I take myself too seriously for half of my day, and then I smoke the evening out and it’s all jokes. I lust for the transitions.
My friend, Gaelic, loaned me a book about Pythagorean theory. It covers Cosmology, Numerology, Geometry, and Music. Some may know it as the “Quadrivium”. It’s going very slowly, to say the least. It’s a road block challenge of a book. Seemingly dense linear wisdom proves difficult for an abstract thinker. If I dare call myself such things. I am also a prowling rambler, prone to dipshit tendencies and nostalgic whims.
I wonder about the origin of “all things known” and how to bring about the origin of “all things unknown”. It makes me think about love. Love makes me think about smack. It just doesn’t compare. Love is a much cleaner drug. And it’s free (in the sense that it doesn’t have to cost any money). All things come at some sort of cost, however. The cost is usually suffering. The reward is growth & the abolishment of fear.
Portland is the city where I really found it. I found “getting lost”, big time. It’s a long story, so I hope you don’t mind if I spin my wheels for a while. I’m going to jump into that crazy head from here and see how it goes. Like a circus troubadour swan-diving into a tea cup, I attempt to be graceful. I cannot guarantee that I’ll survive, but I can promise it will be interesting.
Sometime in 2010. Fall. Decay is in the air.
I’ve got this backpack with everything I think I need. Loose lives in the northwest part of the city with his girl, Rainy. They’re both doing real well, Loose has been clean for almost a year. He’s “thuggin’ it out”, like a true New Jersey OG. Rainy is clean, too. She hasn’t put as much dedication into her habits, so her recovery reflected an ease that only a light user knows. No suboxone, no methadone, no bullshit. Just occasional beers and consistent weed. You can see the light in their eyes. Loose has salt & pepper hair. It used to be as long as Charlie Manson’s, with a beard to match. But he cut that off so he could get a better day job. He looks like a pretty regular guy these days. Rainy has the “rich trust-fund hippie from Long Island” look perfected. It’s because that’s what she is. Loose got himself a bratty little golden-haired cutie, and he was ecstatic.
They said I could crash there when I needed to, but I’m not sure how it will go. I made it through a week of being clean before I got high again. I stayed at Ulysses & Eden’s apartment in Beaverton. They seemed to be happy with their move out here from Vermont. Ulysses has chef skills and gypsy intuition. He’s good with most things magic & money, and he’s deadly with a knife. He had this young pitbull, Rufus, grown to full size. Rufus tormented me. He would keep me up at night and eat my luggage when nobody was home. I admit that it irritated me at the time. But it’s not their fault, it’s just their nature to fuck shit up. Eden is a sweetheart, a true gypsy with the soul of a medium. Still young, innocent, and seemingly misguided by her sense of clarity. Her hair is blonde, with a white-lightning tone to it. Less gold, more electricity. Beautiful friends, I have.
I take a bus in the wrong direction, ending up on the northeast instead of the northwest corner. It’s pretty late, but Loose said he would leave the door unlocked for me. I have a long walk in front of me. I got high with Indigo early today. He’s alright, I guess. A typical flower-power junkie. The flower of power being the poppy, of course. He has mangy dreads past his shoulders and a greasy goatee on his pale mug. He has this “Frankenstein-on-meth” way about him, often resembling an insatiable birdie as he pecks at cigarette snipes across the city sidewalks. He manages to sustain his nicotine habit much in the way that low-income Americans sustained during Reaganomics: off table scraps and leftovers. At the overripe scabby age of 31 (21 in junkie years because smack is a preservative), Indigo’s childhood knew a tale or two from the Reagan administration era. So we talked about that while we walked. He talked about his Hell’s Angel dad. He talked about his prostitute mother. The whole time, I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was either lying to me, himself, or everyone. I didn’t care, though. I was just using him as a dope source. He was using me to get an extra bag. It was just coincidence that we also happened to become “friends”.
Indigo shoots his tar. Every skag head could use a corporate sponsor. His are Easy Touch brand Syringes, handed out to him freely from the local needle exchange. Mine being Reynold’s Wrap brand aluminum foil (or any foil I can find on top of a trash can). In desperate times, the foil inside a cigarette pack. I wouldn’t advise the latter method. It doesn’t work very well. But I get it all free. Five-fingered or scavenged.
We met up with the Mexican who had our balloons in his mouth. Like a gang of deviant squirrels, most of the dealers load their cheeks with their product. They gulp their felonies down if they get into trouble. These balloons were big, coming from the source. Almost a quarter gram for $20. Mexican “chiva” is much better than the bullshit Honduras is sending up. The Honduran dope is cheaper, but it’s soft and weak. The tar from south of the border smells strongly of vinegar. It’s brittle like the candy coal Mom put in my Christmas stocking when I was young.
We get our colorful assortment of gift-wrapped apathy and head off to find a gutter to melt in, like dirty snow during a warm winter day. The late afternoon rays glow like rusting copper, with patina foliage speckled throughout. It’s not quite winter yet. Today, we find an unoccupied establishment with side steps to a back patio. It’s hidden from view.
So begins a ritual that goes on throughout every moment of every day somewhere on the map of humanity. Social stigma would have you believe this is depressing and tragic. Perhaps it is. This beautiful bluegrass song I know poses a great question: is it a sin to want something better than the shape you’re in?
Indigo pops open a few balloons, still damp with saliva. Inside each one is a square shred of a plastic shopping bag. These bindles hold the black medicine we intend to abuse. Black represents the absence of all color. The difference between the east and west heroin is white and black. China White on the east. Black Tar on the west. Yin and yang? Not quite.
He throws a fat chunk into his cook cap he got from the exchange. The cooker resembles an aluminum liquor bottle cap. He heats it tenderly, like a dessert chef glazing sugar onto an upside-down creme brûlée. His cottons plop into the hot smack bath, immediately staining them armor-black. I can smell the vinegar vapors, like some sour soup you can’t eat with your mouth. It fills half of his syringe. He lets it cool behind the needle notches while he probes for a vein. The stuff out here is murky when it’s in a barrel. Indigo’s veins have a darker color in them. Most of the junkies out here have stained veins, if they aren’t already collapsed. Collapsed veins are common. When your arms and legs are tapped, you’re left with neck veins. I once shared a “family bathroom” with a fellow fader who was wearing a burgundy tie. He secured it around his neck. This got his roots popping our like an oak tree while he hit the left jugular vein with a shot, all the while staring intently into the mirror. He told me about the times he had to do the same without a reflective surface. It sounds difficult and messy. I hope to never find myself with that problem.
I watch Indigo pierce through with a fresh tip, his saggy flesh didn’t even resist. It looked as if the point were pulled inside his arm, the way esophagus muscles bring food in for digestion. He gently lifts the plunger; no bubbles come in. Just blood. You can see what is known as the “red flag” when injecting China White. On the west coast, there are no flags. Indigo looks like a shredded jolly roger while he feeds his arm. And then he is home.
My methods aren’t quite as dramatic, but are more motivated in the artistic direction. One balloon can draw a lot of things onto foil as you roast it. It slides and bubbles while smoke erupts from underneath, like magma touching the sea. I follow it with a rolled-up paper tube, my every action is synchronized to the flicker of the BIC fire. I start with a line, catching a full hit on the first try. I hold it tight, intent on holding my exhale until I see stars. I feel a warm rush of blood to my face and a tingle in my legs. I exhale a thin wisp and catch my breath. I make a curve to the line and catch another full breath of thick combustion. My eyes relax and my lungs seem to expand. I can hold my breath much longer this time. I exhale no smoke whatsoever. I repeat the process from here, and take some artistic liberties. The curved line winds into an entropic spiral which becomes a triangle. I live my strung out junkie Bob Ross fantasies as my eyes tuck themselves inward and all feeling is parlayed into a floating fog of no-feeling. It all seems quite zen.
No things care/nothing
does not care about itself/
nor anything else.
There is nothing wrong with my actions, here.
Some might call it selfish to feel this good,
but I just call it getting through the day without jumping in front of a bus.
There’s something nagging at my waking hours.
I can’t run it through my head without breaking some antique furniture.
Lyla, you bitch. How the fuck could you keep this shit up for two years?
What am I doing here?
I can’t bear to be with you, but I want to die without you.
You fucking whore!
What kind of person am I for doing all of this?
I should be put down. I don’t deserve to walk this planet, but I’m too much of a pussy to kill myself.
How did everything get this way?
My Dad is going to be bankrupt soon.
My Mom isn’t going to have any alimony to live off of.
I’m a broke piece of shit.
War in the east. War in the west. Nothing is sacred.
We’re all fucked, miserable, and most of all: doomed.
So smoke ’em if you got ’em.
Why haven’t you picked up a needle yet, you scumbag?
Because I want to make this thing work. I’ve gotta take it easy.
Flip a coin. See what it says. Indigo will give you some clean rigs.
Tails. Not today.
I get plenty fucked up smoking this shit.
I was born with enough holes in my body.
I don’t want my tolerance to skyrocket; I’ll get really sick.
You’re wasting it, though. You could get so much more for your dollar.
But that shit is dirty. Once you go that far, you can’t turn back.
Who knows where it’ll take you.
We’re all fucked. I don’t much care. Take me all the way up the River Styx.
I’ll burn in Hell while I’m on Earth.
You give in too easily, boy.
And the moral of the story is…?
I pull my head up from my lap. It’s getting darker. Indigo and I were having a nodding contest. He won. I shake him awake and hand him a half-cigarette from the ashtray. He lights it and springs to life, like the bolts on his neck received a nicotine charge. Indigo is wearing an olive drab army jacket and dirty patchwork pants. He carries a drug rug sweatshirt over his shoulder. This guy always wears the same stupid hat; it looks like something Janis Joplin would wear. I love Janis, don’t get me wrong. But she’s a woman. Indigo would make a very ugly woman. Hell, he’s not even a very handsome man. His face is gaunt with a wide nose that gives it muppet-like dimensions.
Indigo smiles with his jack-o-lantern mouth, full of cavities. He outstretches a ghostly arm and gives me a good-bye exchange, containing a hand slap, my balloons, followed by a fist bump. Junkies move like raccoons sometimes. We’re quirky and aloof and rabid, but sometimes smooth and stealthy. I say my goodbye and head to Loose’s place. It’s past midnight.
I call Loose Juice several times, with no answer. He told me the door would be unlocked but I have a feeling Rainy locked it. She has made it passively clear that she doesn’t want me around. I love Loose with all my heart and I would never do anything to impair his recovery or his life. That is my word. But she doesn’t seem to trust my word, although I’ve given her no reason to doubt it. I try to abolish the “lying, cheating, stealing” stereotype when it comes to friends and family. Some groups (Mom & Dad) have been made exempt from the truth for obvious reasons, but where no judgement exists I always freely dispense the truth. I sure feel morally ambiguous, lately.
I get to Loose’s door and find it locked. I’m high, so I am okay with this. I knock for a while with no response, and decide to lay down on the floor of the hallway in front of his door. I smoke cigarettes and nod out, knocking every so often. It isn’t until the sun rises that they let me in. Loose is not impressed by my tactics. He verbally scolds me for being a sloppy flop, and shows me to the couch. I catch a few hours of rest and then it’s back outside to look for a job, a hustle, a panhandle, a con, a boost, a way to get high. Good thing this city has enough cheap dope and enough residual cash to keep the customers satisfied. Who knows how long I’ll last here. It seems like this could last forever, with or without me in the picture.
A Christmas Junkie Story
Christmas Eve 2011
My waking brain had etch-a-sketch remnants of some redundant nightmare. I couldn’t lay in bed any longer. My head told me of sour prophecy. It said: your bad blood will not mix; you’ll need to conjure a remedy soon.
Which was just as well because I knew half as much about medicine as I did about being sick.
My Dad was flying away for Christmas. He needed a ride down to Hartford. His flight was out of Bradley Int’l airport. I obliged to drop him off and pick him up upon his return the following week.
I had arranged to meet with my Uncle Odie in the city. There was one thing on my mind, and it was not red or green. It contained no sparkles or sleigh bells, yet it would bring me some solemn sense of yuletide joy just the same. I am the ghost of Christmas Death.
The ride down to CT went slowly, as I was eager with anticipation. I had been paying Vermont premium smack prices for what is known as “maintenance dope.” It will maintain your wellness, but won’t get you very high if you have any length of habit. Luckily, I was still exclusively snorting and smoking chemicals, so my tolerance was relatively low. I would catch a nod after a few bags ($75). In Hartford, I could get the same quality for a minuscule fraction of the price. Suddenly, four bags became three bundles; a true testament to the magic of the interstate.
We rolled onto the airport road after a few hours of pavement scuffling. Helping him unload at the check-in area, I couldn’t get my dad out of the car fast enough. I wished him a safe flight and we agreed that we loved each other. I may not have meant it at the time (and vice versa), but let the record state that I do love him. And he loves me. Perhaps it’s out of recognition of the same sort of twisted soul material shared between us, or perhaps it is out of necessity. You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.
Which brings me to Uncle Odie. We became acquainted sometime in 2008. I remember all the details, but for the sake of continuity, I’ll spare them for a later time. He was tall and gangly. If I had to give a designation, I’d say his is a mix between Deadhead and gutter punk, covered with biker ink. He was brought up by an authoritarian/military father until he was 16 or so. He told me that he made a choice one day. It was between a military life or an outlaw life. He started doing push-ups every day because he knew either one would require physical endurance. He made his choice and left home. He was raised by Hell’s Angels for a little while, until he became one of Jerrys kids. The Grateful Dead has family for the lost and lonely. He learned how to obtain material excess through entrepreneurial endeavors. Some legal, most others not. He did this through communication, force, and stealth. He was taught about trust, respect, and love. He may have forgotten these lessons along the way, but they were always nearby. As the song goes, “Some folks trust in reason, others trust in might. I don’t trust in nothing, but I know it’ll come out right.” The Grateful Dead is not just music to us; it’s an improvised road map of manifest destiny.
I made the call and Odie said he couldn’t make it to the city. He had some friends for me to meet that lived 20 minutes outside of town. We all needed to cop. They needed a ride. So it was a win-win.
We made the usual chit-chat that smack heads make when they’re on the way to the block: silence, directional information, and little else. I was driving a joke-of-a-vehicle for the neighborhood we were headed to: a bright blue compact car with green VT plates. They shone like a pine tree in the desert. My hair was short and my face young, so I opted for the “well-to-do college student, lost in the city” persona if we got stopped by police along the way. Let me do all the talking. I’m good at that.
I took an exit, went to their block spot and waited. No Christmas lights strewn about here. No wreath, no mistletoe. Santa skips this neighborhood.
My associate made a phone call and gave a description of our vehicle. In the name of modern convenience, we got window service that day. I grabbed the money for our bricks and rolled down my side. A kid came to serve us. He looked like he should have been watching the “Charlie Brown Christmas Special”. He was no older than 14. I understood the logic behind the courier. Kids don’t do time.
I handed him the roll of bread, he handed us life for the next day or two. I took off, determined not to get pulled over and focused on finding a restroom with a locking door.
Half of the bags were stamped “Diesel” inside a small picture of a gas pump. The other batch said “Avatar” with a picture of the alien from the James Cameron movie. I can understand the relevance of the first logo. The latter was lost on me. The quality was decidedly “maintenance grade”. There must have been a large pile of heavily chopped dirt circulating the northeast.
I brought my new acquaintances down the highway toward their home. We spoke every pleasant and light-hearted word which mumbled forth from our altered minds. They left the blue clown car with holiday-themed goodbyes, on their way to fade or fuck or fry.
I took to the interstate, filled with holiday cheer. I felt like Black Peter, the folkloric opposite of St. Nicholas. Black Peter dealt with the naughty part of the list.
I kept the clown car between the lines, making my way up some crusty chimney full of fire, brimstone, and apathetic vision. I made it home after dark. A few calls were made upon returning. I invited a few faded friends over to my Dads empty home for a pre-Christmas celebration. We spent the night split between smoking cigarettes on the porch and sniffing lines off the kitchen counter.
The next morning I woke in the empty house, still feeling high. I made a cup of coffee after lining up five bags on the granite counter top. I put the powder in my nose and the coffee down my gullet. I was late. My brother and I were headed to Moms house for the ritual of present-swapping and company. Her boyfriend, Nick was joining us, which posed a minor threat to me because he can tell when I’m high. He knows a thing or two about that lifestyle.
When I got there, I headed straight to the bathroom for two more bags. I wasn’t feeling very merry yet, but those two got me off the ground. We took family photos, as I tried to muster up a genuine “Christmas cheer smile” behind my liar’s eyes. We exchanged some trinkets wrapped in colorful wax paper. The day was left to us, so I went back to my Dads house to get high with anyone that would share my Scrooge-like company. Only one would join.
Later, I returned to my mothers abode for grace and dinner. I was feeling ungrateful and scorned at the time, but I buried it beneath layers of faux-sincerity and formulaic behavior. I had my act figured out. I knew how to be someone else; how to dwell within the person I was expected to be.
Nick never called me out that day. I suppose it would’ve made for an awkward scene. I would’ve left, naturally. But I didn’t. And I am thankful for that.
I’m going to lay all this hard-hitting junkie talk aside for a moment. It’s said that life is fleeting. I am glad to spend time with family, no matter how sick I may be. I am grateful to share humanity with these people, for better and for worse. I wanted to die that year, but I still had much to learn about how low the bottom could go. No matter how reckless I became, the sun still came back to haunt me as a reminder of my own endurance. Today I am cognizant of how blessed I am to be here, and to be writing these stories. I am nowhere near “figured out” but as long as divine inspiration illuminates my mind & soul, I will be here, burning. My ticket will get punched, and I’ll get what I deserve. Until that day, I’ll continue to share my experiences. Hopefully they are well-lived through me. I would hate to see you go where I was. Merry Christmas fellow folks and freaks. Don’t be too hard on each other. Powdered drugs and well liquor are hard enough.