Wednesday, March 06, 2013


Somewhere along this romp through life, people started thinking I knew a little something about drugs.

Perhaps it was the pharmacology class I aced in college, or my encyclopedic knowledge of various substances, both licit and illicit. Or perhaps it's because I happen to know the going street price for things like marijuana, mushrooms, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, GHB, MDMA, ketamine, opium, PCP and the array of pharmaceutical amphetamines currently on the black market. What can I say? I'm a journalist. I read a lot.

As a journalist (and a resident of Missouri) I'm also a subscriber to the belief that you have to do more than simply trust what a source is saying — if your mother says she loves you, check it out. When police in Houston told Dan Rather about a problem with heroin in that city, he decided to do some smack so he could know what he was reporting on.

I've never gone that far for a story. To do so would be mixing business with pleasure, a dividing line that should be as bright and respected as the one separating church and state, or the one that proclaims beer after whiskey is mighty risky. My philosophy has been simple: work hard during work hours, play hard during play hours, and never the twain shall meet.

The news goddess, of course, likes to fuck with that clean division of energy. I remember spending one lazy Sunday afternoon with two media colleagues, all of us getting splendidly tuned up before going our separate, mellow ways. I went back to my office to pick up some mail, just in time to hear the scanner behind me call out for units to respond to the shooting of a police officer. When I got to the scene I was met by one of the people I'd just left, and we gave each other the ah-shit look before shaking the fog out of our heads and getting down to the business of reporting. Pretty soon another scribe showed up, looking quite rough. He'd been smoking a joint and romping in the bathtub with his girlfriend when he got called in. She was not in the biz and did not understand the reason for the abruptus interruptus, or how he was able to snap out of his comfortably numb state in a blink and run out the door, leaving her naked and shivering in the tub. That's one of the reasons true journalists have so few friends and even fewer intimates; when the story calls we answer, even if it means ruining everything.

Maybe that's why so many reporters I know have used, or do use, drugs on a regular basis. Outsiders might call it a habit or an addiction; I prefer to think of it as an avocation, a hobby requiring smarts and careful consideration. You can't just grab an eight-ball of meth or smack and start chasing dragons. A man's got to know his limitations.

(By "drugs" I'm including alcohol, the worse drug ever consumed by humans, one that leads to more misery and death than all of the street substances put together. I've known more reporters who fucked up their lives with the bottle than the syringe or the glass pipe; booze has ruined more friends and colleagues than I care to count. Now that's not to say the non-booze drugs are good, mm-kay? Some of them — especially the pharmaceuticals — come with a one-ton gorilla ready to ride your back. And take it from your Uncle Ron, kids: don't fuck with heroin.)

But there are other obsessive monkeys that climb aboard people and ride them: fitness, exercise, staying slim, religion, AA, politics. They stop smoking pot and snogging speed and start their addiction to being clean and sober and boring. They become nothing better than shoegazers. Such a waste of good people and good times. They have no balance; they can't see you can have both, so long as you don't overdo it.

That's my motto when it comes to drugs and most other recreations in life: just say whoa. If you're going to study the science behind Benadryl, understand what the toxic dose is and stay this side of it. Only idiots dabble in overdose territory, whether it involves smack or coke or Tylenol or vodka.

Then again, only idiots believe that the world is clean and sober and only losers use drugs. Only fools believe the hype — that everyone who uses meth becomes an addict, that all crack babies are ruined for life, that a pull off the bong is the gateway to hard drugs and a life of addiction. Tell that to Bill Clinton, Al Gore, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, or the thousands of successful men and women who used drugs and never became addicts whoring themselves out for the next score.

If people around here knew how many upstanding citizens use illegal drugs and live normal lives — as lawyers, cops, public servants, firefighters, doctors, nurses, teachers — they would choke on their cocktails. The world would never look the same to them again. That might not be a bad thing.

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