A Trip Downtown

by Flynn Washburne, September 20, 2017

In keeping with the current trends of health and mindfulness, I try to be careful about what I put into my body. After all, it is the only one I’ve got, and though it seems to me that a society that has perfected hoverboards and personal drones not having made greater strides in the fields of modular organ replacement and brain transplants just smacks of laziness, I shall continue to behave as if I will not, as previously imagined, be clanking along mid-century in cyborgian splendor.

Sometimes I wonder about the priorities of the scientific community with their outdated concepts of prevention and repair vis-a-vis the human body. Have we learned nothing from the late 20th century consumer goods paradigm shift where we stopped making things to last or fixing them if they broke? How is that not a more effective and elegant model for people and their various traumas and diseases?

Say, for instance, that I contract some form of ass cancer. Best case scenario, with modern medicine throwing their best stuff at it, I suffer a lot of pain and embarrassment and maybe even end up with some internal ductwork being publicly rerouted. Not so in the brave new world of disposable bodies and transferable consciousness where we just rip out all the bum parts and replace them with stronger, more efficient synthetics, or, worst case, download your data onto a thumb drive — I doubt most folks would amount to any more than 2 or 3 gigs — and transfer it to some kind of robot. This is the future, and the sooner the eggheads get it all worked out the sooner we can all stop exercising and denying ourselves bacon and donuts. As things are though, I, in hopes of having some quality of life in my golden years, maintain a fairly scrupulous dietary regimen, keeping to a minimum such elements as are deemed insalubrious by the nutritional nabobs and drinking plenty of water.

Even in the past, when I of necessity was forced to regularly poison myself in service to my addiction, I strove at all times to militate the damage to my system by selecting the lesser of whatever evil I happened to be indulging. I drank only the freshest wines, securely sealed with sterile screwtops. I refused to introduce into my temple something that’s been sitting around collecting bacteria for years, and stoppered with a piece of tree to boot. What are we, cavemen? I understand the tradition aspect, but as some point you’ve got to evolve and move on.

As to drugs, some people feel that using professionally manufactured and legally dispensed chemicals is preferable to making furtive purchases of unknown compounds from shady characters. I say what do we really know about the composition of a pill manufactured in a lab in Switzerland? Trying to figure it out will only lead you down a rabbit-hole of molecular chains requiring a chemical engineer to unravel. You could read the enclosed consumer information, I suppose, if you had the eyes of an eagle and an intellect capable of deciphering the most diabolically obfuscatory language ever put to paper. I have neither and can make no more sense of it than Sanskrit, leading me to believe they definitely have something to hide.

Meth cooks on the other hand, are like the family farmers of the pharmaceutical world. I feel good knowing that my drugs have been specially curated using locally sourced ingredients and compiled by artisans employing inherited lore. It’s like the difference between buying vegetables form the back of a truck on a county road or from some ConAgra-supplied grocery chain. Their uniformly large and vivid produce may be pleasing to the eye, but the science that went into manufacturing that aesthetic doesn’t bear thinking about. If I ask my local crank craftsman what ingredients went into his latest concoction and he says, “I don’t know, whatever was under the sink,” at least I know that good American companies like Dow and SC Johnson are providing the raw materials and that’s good enough for me.

I also never cared for any drugs of the nodding variety, those on the lower, enervating end of the spectrum, the ones that make you drooly and  phlegmatic, for a couple of reasons. Number one is that the simple act of trying to innocently enjoy some recreational pharma automatically criminalizes one, and I have always preferred to put as much distance as possible between the law and myself rather than take my chances with the legal system. Being “on the nod” on smack or opioids makes this difficult if not impossible and as the junkie is grinning idiotically up at the inquiring lawmen, the tweaker is already in the wind and blocks away. A second and very good reason is that every shot of heroin or fistful of pills is a dice roll, and coming up craps means you’re finished. Say what you will about speed, and there’s plenty to say, at least it doesn’t kill you right away.

Still, there are times when my condition demands something in the bass register, usually when I’ve either wound myself so tight I’m vibrating at ultrasonic frequencies or am in an untenable state of sobriety and unable to locate my preferred intoxicant.

It was the latter that led me to the dope house one brisk autumn day. A “dope house” is not just a place to buy dope, but to do it — no product leaves the premises lessening the risk of patrons being pinched and revealing their source. You go in, pay your money, do your dope, and toddle on home. Usually restricted to heroin sales, dope houses are primarily an urban phenomenon, but I knew of one operating on Waugh Lane in Ukiah.

As I approached the house, an ambulance was pulling away and when I got inside, Payoso, who ran the place, was filling the number on the “____ Days Without An O.D.” sign back to zero.

“Lost another one, huh?” I asked.

“Yeah, goddamn lightweights,” Payoso answered.

“You know what your problem is?” I asked.

“Yeah, people whose appetite exceeds their tolerance.”

“Nope. It’s your product. It’s a basic fact of commerce that killing your customers is bad for business. Repeat customers are the key to real success, and the dead can’t come back. Whereas if you marketed to tweakers… They’re like robot cockroaches. You literally can’t kill a tweaker, except by attrition. All those toxic corrosives they shove into their system mithridate them and render them immune to normal poisons. They just gradually wear away, y’know, pieces drying up and dropping off until they’re finally so depleted they just blow away. Nobody even notices they’re dead when they do eventually cash out, there’s so little left of them. And the process takes year and years, during which time you cash in. No potential manslaughter  charges, no comatose bodies impeding commerce or traffic flow.”

“No, but you know what I do have? Tweakers crawling all over the place all hours of the day and night. I run a tight operation here, man. Noon to eight, every day, no exceptions. You think a tweaker will respect that? Hell no. And they’d never leave once they got high, either, just sit around jabbering and rooting and trying to fix things that aren’t broken. No, thank you. I may lose the occasional junkie to overdose, but at least they’re easily manageable.”

“Hmmm, I see you point,” I said.

“Whoops, there goes another one!” I indicated a young woman who’d tipped over and gone prostrate on the carpet.

“Nope, that’s my sister. She’s a narcoleptic.”

“Ah, you see how that could be confusing around here.”

“You don’t have to tell me. Last week some helpful customer jabbed her with one of those adrenaline thingies, like in Pulp Fiction. Woke her right the fuck up. Now, what can I get for you today? I have black-tar heroin and OxyContins.”

“I believe I will have a $20 portion of the sticky stuff, please. I do not trust those pills.”

“I don’t blame you. Here take this in to the kitchen and do not attempt to take any of it out of the door or you’ll be beaten and banished. Enjoy.

“Thank you kind sir.”

A little while later, having administered the goods and enjoyed a 30-minute grace nod, I oozed back out on to the street and hoped for clear sailing without cops or anyone else antagonistic to my mission, which was simply to locate somewhere soft to relax and conduct a thorough examination of the backsides of my ’lids. Maybe not as much fun as dismantling electronic equipment and connecting the dots between the illuminati, space aliens, the CIA, sentient robots and Orell Massey, but it’ll do in a pinch.

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