I’ve been watching Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia. Hamilton is cool, if you need a guy to lick a toad, investigate zombification drugs or get fucked up on hallucinogenic truffles in Amsterdam, he’s your guy. Hamilton is totally down for hallucinogenics, psychedelics and even a little dissociative action. Every psychonaut has their ‘bag’, their ‘deal’, their drug of choice. The hallucinogenic crowd are spectacle-up-nose shifters, pseudointellectual drug pushers, nose-looker-downers, and gaslighters for the most part. They will tell you how much better they feel for the trip they just took, when you have spent all evening listening to them puking, howling like a wounded dog and stopping them from trying to eat the carpet whilst screaming for their mamas….We all pick a team.
Team up, team down, team tripping fucking balls and calling it enlightenment…team roll around on the floor in a k-hole like a demented caterpillar, team “I like to pick the fuzz off wallpaper” benzo enthusiasts. Even within the teams things get tribal. Cokeheads look at meth freaks as their poorer, dirtier, more fucked up cousins with worse skin and teeth, but better septums. The speed freaks sneer at cokeheads, only doing coke if the town is dry, and then they sit at their thirteen buck an hour dream job soldering electrical parts onto satellites, crying like a baby becauses the coke has no legs and the money is all gone….and they are no longer high at all.
Heroin hierarchy is moot. It has all been leveled by fentanyl. The hillbilly heroin pillheads that were on their grandma’s neighbor’s scripts before the crackdown are all doing fake pressed oxy 30s that are just fentanyl with a high mark up for the pretty shape. The west coast tar users no longer look with slavering envy at the NY china white shooters, because they are all on the fentadope. Everyone still feels sorry for the mid west/chicago scene. Worst dope ‘someone who is not me’ ever shot, sold as ‘scramble’ and appeared to be a foul mix of fent, sleeping pills and the toenail clippings of a thousand scabrous dogs who have been gathering the toxic excretions from a city that never takes a day off from the war.
I digress. Hamilton, Mr “I expand my consciousness more hip-ly than thou’ wrote a fantastically neat little tweet: “Heroin is the worst drug not because it’s illegal, addictive, or fatal in overdose, but because every story about it has already been told.” Perfect little soundbite, Team Psychedelic propaganda, and demonization of heroin, if ever I saw it. I swear in Hamilton’s neon-drenched mind, he has simply rationalized that because he seeks countries and situations where the drugs he imbibes are legal, that psychedelic truffles, iboga and whatever else he has experimented with, that it is a case of no harm no foul. These drugs are no more legal in our common North American home, then heroin is. Not all of us can get onto medical trials of psychoactive drugs, and perhaps, just perhaps, legalization is the key to fixing the other problems our intrepid reporter mentions – death and addiction. “Illegal, Addictive and Fatal” is the ultimate trifecta of the war against drugs, a war that killed the people it presumed to protect, and made life a living hell for those that survived a war that destroyed our own people from within. In places like Denmark and Canada where there are programs which have, at the very least, partly legalized use, positive results have been seen with each step they took towards safe supply of psychoactive, previously illegal drugs, including crack, meth, heroin and benzos.
The key to winning back people’s lives in a way that is livable for the individual involved was seen to be not in judgement, criminalizing or shaming, but in making the lives of people who find life more bearable high, easier. Helping people become functioning addicts, who are not forced to give up, but helped to maintain as long as they want to, and then provide compassionate exits via detox, when and if the time is right, works. But that doesn’t sound so pithy, or fit into a nice neat tweet. It is much easier to play up to the stereotypes of opiate use, ignore the issues around a variable supply which is mostly fent, and close the door to the bright pink elephant with wings floating in the corner of the room, holding a sign saying “safe supply works, dude”.
Perhaps we need more trippy shit. The fact remains, almost every junkie, crack user, and assorted ‘whatever’ -head, is functional when they have a free and safe supply and easy access to detox, as Keith Richard’s life-arc proves. If he hadn’t been rich and therefore in possession of an endless supply of pharmaceutical grade coke and smack, he would not have been indestructible. As it is he is like the 8th wonder of the world, much loved and cosseted as a rock and roll hero(in) survivor. The trope doesn’t hold for all the 27 club deaths. Brian Jones drowned in a pool, Janis overdosed on heroin in an LA hotel room, Amy Winehouse is forever haunted by her say no to rehab song, and got taken down by the booze…but at least they had a chance, a hope. That chance should not be something that has to be purchased under a capitalist regime of pay-to-play, and a levy to live.
That said, the most blood-boiling part of Hamilton’s dismissal of Team Down was his assertation that Team Down are now boring, irrelevant and that everything that ever needed to be said, everything interesting or engaging that was to be written on the subject of heroin, has already been done. I admit, Team Down has had a spectacular cast of writers, who found inspiration in the petal-less pod of the opium poppy. From Kubla Khan, unfinished because some idiot roused Coleridge from his epic laudanum dream-nod, to Thomas De Quincy’s Confessions of an Opium Eater, and the whole raft of classic romantic poets that were clamouring to put into sweet poetry and prose the power of the poppy balm to ease the mind, ease the pain and free the muse: the poppy has inspired some important art.
Now there is a certain moral element to pain. Doctors tell ya you have to have some of it, and the moral superiority of being in constant and awful agony is a matter of societorial approbation. No one gives ya a round of applause for being out of pain, but watch the happy nods of the heads up and down, up and down, when someone lives with pain but without junk. It was not always this way, Maria Logan (1759- ?) wrote an entire poetical treatise to opium, a cheerful defense of junk, free of shame, and full of the joys of the delights of being able to heal whilst being out of pain – Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”, and also to the artistic benefits of the scentless flower of nod:
Be mine the balm, whose sov'reign pow'r Can still the throb of Pain; The produce of the scentless flow'r, That strews Hindostan's plain .... But shall the Muse with cold disdain, Its simple charms behold! Shall she devote the tuneful strain To incense, gems, or gold! When latent ills the frame pervade, And mock the healing art; Thy friendly balm shall lend its aid, And transient ease impart;
Burroughs never claimed to have had the final say on the matter of all things opiate, yet it is easy enough to read Junkie and Word Virus and simply put down the pen, turn off the computer, and set aside the keyboard. I personally think Jim Carroll was the greater junk-artiste, and The Basketball Diaries surpasses anything the great and insectoid Burroughs ever brought forth from his typewriter.
Bukowski fuelled his art with booze, yet no one suggests that there is barely any point to drinking now that the great and heroically wrecked Buk marked his pisshead territory with the heretofore greatest words ever to be written on white port and bum whine. That is the greatness of human expression. Drugs do not create the words and the art, nor do they create the artist. Drugs can only amplify that which already exists within the artist, or open doors to give their expression full rein. To then say that everything about heroin, or on heroin has already been written, and that there is nothing new or worthy to say, is to deny the infinite variety of human existence. In short, it is lazy.
Back when I was still using opiates all my favorite speed freaks and acid-heads were constantly slapping me round the face to rouse me from the fabled land of nod in order to play with them. They did it under the pretense of ‘making sure I was ok’. It was not true. They spent way too much time awake and involved in their own psyche, and therefore required vast amounts of human interaction. The age old cry of “Boring droolers!” reverberates around the halls of junkdom; however junkies are simply in a symbiotic relationship with the poppy. There is no room for human connection. After all junkies are not the most outwardly active of adventurers, more human personifications of the Dormouse from Alice In Wonderland. Conversely, whilst the speedsters are scrubbing walls and rearranging the fringe on the rug, Team Psychedelic is running around painting the town in daisies and wobbly smiley faces, screaming about the abyss, repeating their own names compulsively and trying to survive high dose ego death. No drug is without a price that has to be paid, it is simply that it is easy to bash the junkie and proclaim the superiority of whichever Team has your own current membership subscription.
Admittedly the price of admission to Team Down is high. Physical addiction manifesting itself as the flu, horrendous nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, with a side order of bone breaking pain, dicing with death every time the poppy powered sailor on the clipper ship of opium haze goes to “dance with Mr. Brownstone”, as Guns and Roses once put it, in what was perhaps their most elegant lyrical moment, and having to cope with a society where even the other heads like Hamilton, look down upon them, is not easy. I am not saying Hell is worth looking around, but for those of us who find ourselves in a hell made not solely of poppies, but mostly of prohibition, and a lack of safe supply, Hell is a daily fight to be battled through. One that is made considerably easier when there is enough dope.
Don’t do it, but if you do, stay safe out there. Perhaps hit up Team Psychedelic, I hear their Iboga can provide quite the trip out of Hell and into a different, less brutal reality….and if you do go dreaming those opium dreams, which incidentally outstrip most lsd or shroom induced hallucinations I have ever experienced, make sure you have a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door and a pen and notebook at the ready; there is still life to be written down, despite what the terminally hip have to say about it all….