Friday, March 07, 2003

Smack me


I was listing my laundry with Dad on the phone: The fruitless job hunt, the shitty neighbors, the rotted ceiling that just caved in over the kitchen sink, and the landlord who won't do anything about it, the chest cold that refuses to go away, the poverty that stops me from seeing a doctor, the filth and garbage and decay that surrounds me, the war, the bills, fucking... I don't know, Ashcroft. He agreed things had become unbearable and suggested, as he usually does in times of crisis, that I go get some Heroin.

"Easier said than done... " I exhaled, "I don't even know anyone who KNOWS anyone who does drugs, haven't for ten years." Probably more, I thought. "But I live in New York City, right? I mean, it couldn't be that hard to find a connection."

He chucked, "Certainly not after this war gets going...there'll be oil and smack for All Americans." He said 'All Americans' in the curling drawl of a Texan, like I was on the phone with DubbleYa himself.

Yeah, it's strange, a father suggesting Heroin to his daughter as an answer to her problems, more strange if you don't know my family (which I would not recommend to anyone). What's even more weird is that, for us, it was a completely legitimate conversation. We talked about how the Taliban put an end to poppy farming after decreeing that it was against Islam, and how quickly that reversed after the Taliban was removed from control. We discussed Iraq and Saddam and shifting economies during and after war, how creative farming might be all the Iraqis have after we go over and destroy whatever is left over from our first attack in '91. Dad talked about the 70's and Vietnam and Opium, and how it wasn't a street drug at all until the 'conflict', how after which it flowed like water through the Lower East Side, slipping down the steps to CBGB's and into Lou Reed's big toe. Dad and I discussed the upcoming Heroin Boom like Wall Street inside traders planning our big rake.

And I'd like to say we're kidding, we were in part, but not totally. It's a shorthand for us. It means we understand hopeless places, when you've tried all the rational, pro-active solutions to remedy the situation, and have hit a brick wall anyway. It means that pep-talks and pearls of wisdom would not only be useless but offensive. Sometimes things just suck, and they are going to suck for awhile. During those times the fantasy of completely opting out of it all is dammed delightful.

The whole idea started with Dad's best friend Ted. Well, long before that for dad (he did survive the 60's and 70's after all) but Ted was the one that started the whole drugs-as-solution thing for Dad and I. Ted's story begins with a car accident, when his wife careened into a Dodge. The circumstances of the crash were typical, the Dodge slid on some ice, she rear-ended it in an attempt to swerve around. The impact was minor, but evidently forceful enough to propel seven liter-size bottles of Stoli out from under the driver's seat and into her heels. She tried to explain to the cop who arrived on the scene that she was sober (which she was), and that she did not drink (which she didn't), and the bottles weren't hers (which they weren't) but he wrote her up for open containers anyway. Her drive home was intense. Her brain raced. She'd cleaned the whole car out only a few weekends ago, those bottles had to be new, had to be her husbands. What kind of man drinks vodka while driving a car? What kind of man can consume seven bottles of vodka, while driving the car, in less than two weeks? An alcoholic man, she guessed. However as it turned out Ted was not exactly an alcoholic. Ted, instead, had an eight-ball-a-day cocaine habit he financed by embezzling $157,000 from the insurance firm where he was employed, his wife's father's firm, to be specific. The booze was just what he used to come down from his coke high. He wasn't an alcoholic, he explained, he never even drank and drove. He'd polished off each one of those bottles in the driveway before coming inside for dinner.

Ted lost everything shortly thereafter. His wife, his job, his house. He avoided jail because his father-in-law took pity on him and settled for restitution instead of pressing charges. Ted paid the money back by purchasing, cutting, and selling mass quantities of cocaine he bought with the firm's checkbook. Understandably, his wife and her entire family never spoke to him again.

And Ted couldn't have been happier.

Dad and I, in contrast, lived in misery at that time, Dad had a wife who was sick with illnesses the doctors could not explain, a business that was on the brink of failure, a brother who was in jail for grand larceny and fraud against his own parents (for the third time) and parents who lived so deeply in denial of their son's misdeeds they spent each penny he didn't steal from them on lawyers to get him off the charges. My husband had just left our home for good, the woman who I called "Mom", my grandmother, was slowly dying, I was losing my house, my car, I was miserable.. experiencing total emotional and economic disaster. Not to mention that since Dad and I are related our problems were each others...his brother is my uncle, my husband is his son-in-law, his parents my grandparents, etc... Everyone's life was hell then. Except for Ted. Ted was great. Well of course he wasn't really, his life was a fucking nightmare, but HE didn't know that. Ted was oblivious. We envied him that.

"It's like the mother of all consolidation loans." My Dad said, leaning over the cutting table, punctuating the last word with a stab of an Exacto knife. "Think about it...the whole grind, each tiny annoyance rolled into one big problem. No more phone bills and mortgage payments and car loans. You wouldn't have family trouble because they would rightfully abandon you, no relationship trouble because no one would be stupid enough to be with you. No job, no pets, no material concerns, well, after you've sold everything. You'd get rid of everything. Everything."

"I know." I crossed over and leaned on the other side of the table, facing him. "Your life would get a completely screwed up, but strangely effective focus. You'd have one job only. Find the drugs, do the drugs, find the drugs, do the drugs..." Then we talked about the movie Trainspotting for a moment. We talked about how you could look around the theater and know by expression who had delved into the world of drug addiction, and who had not. Those who had not looked horrified, disgusted. Those who had looked wistful and hungry. Jealous. Then I went on about how a Scottish accent really does it for me, and how listening to Looper is like ear-porn, but I digress.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003