essays

Federal Threat to Marijuana Sales in Massachusetts

The people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts voted to legalize marijuana but now Attorney General Jeff Sessions, one of Trump’s appointees, threatened to arrest the suppliers who are gearing up to sell marijuana in our state.

Our state’s top federal prosecutor, Andrew Lelling, has threatened to move on suppliers, according to the Boston Globe. Lelling said, “I cannot provide assurances that certain categories of participants in the state level marijuana trade will be immune from federal prosecution.”

Already, banks from Colorado, where recreational dipensaries have been selling weed for four years and were ready to expand into Massachusetts, are now in a state of wait and see. The Medical Marijuana outlets here have been forced to stop accepting debit cards from patients on Tuesday after the federal threats surfaced through US Attorney Andrew Lelling.

A majority of Massachusetts’ Medical Marijuana dispensaries had to cease accepting debit cards from patients on Tuesday after threats of a federal crackdown scared a key payment processing company to pull out of the Massachusetts pot market.

It seems that Medical Marijuana is being forced to go cash only here in Massachusetts. Lelling said, “Congress has unambiguously made it a federal crime to cultivate, distribute, and/or possess marijuana. As a law enforcement officer in the executive branch, it is my sworn responsibility to enforce that law.”

Our own politicians, such as Governor Charlie Baker, stepped forward and and attacked the federal stance on marijuana prohibition. He pointed out that our biggest public health crisis in the Commonwealth is heroin addiction and other street drugs such as fentanyl.

It’s a shame that the federal opposition is making it difficult to carry out the people’s wishes. It brings me back to the time when I sold marijuana for a living during the 60’s and 70’s. I loved growing it and selling marijuana. I felt as if I had my own liquor store.

As a matter of fact, in the small town of Hillsboro, New Hampshire, my place was known as “the store.” On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights I had a line waiting in my house as if it was a delicatessen. In my living room people would sit and wait while I took care of my customers in the kitchen.

I had an assistant at the house who would let people sample the different types of weed that I sold. I usually had at least 3 or 4 strains, based on smell and potency. I had home-grown, Mexican brown, Columbian gold, and sticky skunk weed which was the strongest of them all. We called it skunk weed because the odor of it wafted out of the bag as soon as you opened the seal.

Downstairs in the kitchen I had two scales set up to weigh the grass in front of the prospective customer. I loved the business and the hardest drug I sold was hashish. I supplied people by the joint, by the 1/8th of an ounce, the 1/4 of an ounce, half ounce, and the full ounce. I had special customers who had their own business; they would buy quarter pounds to five pound lots. From late afternoon through 10pm my business would run non-stop. My suppliers were varied and I would usually meet them early in the morning during rush hour, driving my pickup truck so I fit in with the rest of the travelers in the country.

My house was on a back dirt road and I was the landlord of seven apartments that were built in the barn that was next to my house. Marijuana is safe and none of my customers ever died from an overdose. I’ve never heard of anyone dying from an overdose of marijuana, which is not the case with alcohol.

My business was great. I did pay a price for it. In 1980 I was arrested traveling with 15 pounds of pot and a number of other things that I used for personal use. After two years living as a fugitive in Oregon, I was picked up and brought back to Massachusetts where I served two years in the Worcester House of Correction. After the two years I was worse than when I went in so correction was a misnomer indeed.

I find it ironic that alcohol is legal and marijuana is regarded by some as a dangerous narcotic. As a matter of fact, marijuana is not remotely connected to being a narcotic. When it was made a crime to possess and sell marijuana, it was because of a man named Harry Anslinger, who was a racist with a giant police force he used to arrest people using drugs after Prohibition, and alcohol during Prohibition.

If it wasn’t for the criminalization of marijuana, Harry Anslinger’s troops would have had to go on unemployment. Now we have finally come to a reasonable solution to the marijuana controversy and the Federal Government is making it difficult by blocking the will of the people. Do I still smoke? Not at all but it is only because I don’t care for the high. I find it ironic that when I did smoke I was considered a criminal and now I can smoke without fear of arrest but I don’t care to smoke anymore. I don’t even like to drink alcohol. My addiction is reading and writing. My wife would verify that.

I hope that the federal government backs off from its outmoded stance of regarding marijuana as a dangerous drug. I hope the federal government backs off on a lot of things it has threatened to do in the climate of ‘ours is bigger than yours’ politics.

The Opium Doctorate

 

My quest for the opium kingpin was finished. Through subterfuge and the help of corrupt officials, I had reached the village of Mae Ark, deep in the Heart of the Golden Triangle. I was surprised at the level of poverty that surrounded me.

I found myself in the small village, home to 48 families, all farmers, surrounded by fields of poppies. Ar Lain Ta, to my surprise, met me in the middle of the village. He did not need to identify himself. I had been studying his face for years in my quest to bring him to justice.

It was both mystifying and surprising that, no matter how long our powerful organization had searched, trying desperately to bring him in, with attempts to intercept him in airports, at meetings with other crimelords, at lavish hotels that he had registered in under assumed names, and conferences with corrupt government officials, every attempt to capture him ended in failure.

He had mocked us, leaving trails that ended in frustrated dead ends, and even was rumoured to dine with the highest officials in their own palaces while at the same time periodically drifting into dope infested slums of the city. There were common street junkies who had claimed to meet him, have coffee with him, even swore that they had scored small quantities of powerful heroin directly from him.

Ar Lain Ta was everywhere and nowhere, a brilliant man with two doctorates from Harvard University. There were those students who claimed that he still visited professors and attended colloquiums at various times to keep up with his two specialties, ethno-botany and international relations. All these stories were told after the fact and his professors had no comments, other than to say that he was a brilliant student. None of them admitted to any direct contact with him other than in a professional context and they all denied any dealings with him since his graduation despite evidence to the contrary that our organization managed to uncover. All our evidence, unfortunately, was circumstantial. None of it would aid us in his capture and some of the evidence would only hurt professors who were quite famous for their works, yet even those trails were not substantial enough to follow through on. In fact, there was no doubt that what we could show might even backfire on us and make our quest appear fascistic in nature.

And now, here I was, face to face with him, in the small village that was his home. Not only that, but I had assurances from various official power figures that they would not interfere in his capture and transport and I was free, if I could, to bring him to western justice. He was at the very top of our agency’s most wanted list and he had been wanted for many, many years.

“So,” he said, in perfect English, “you are the expert agent who has finally come to take me back. You may put away your weapon. I can assure you that I will share with you the ultimate truth as I know it.”
How he knew was beyond me. Up until the time that I had taken out my gun my mission had been totally covert and I had established myself as a buyer of opium. For some reason I felt compelled to listen to him and holstered my weapon.

He held out his hand to mine and I found no reason not to clasp it. So we shook hands.

At that moment, there was a rush throughout my body, my head spun, and all my tension left me. It was similiar to the feeling that I had when I was shot in combat and they administered morphine to me, yet it was even more powerful than that.

“Walk with me,” he said, “into the fields and I will show you the truth.”

The fields. The fields were full of flowers. As we walked I noticed shreds of colour spinning from Ar Lain Ta’s body. Petals falling. The words rained from his mouth and he grew smaller as he spoke.

“Soon the fields will be filled with men and women, many of them. These flowers you see, they are larger than them, they diminish us each day. It is necessary.

“This is just one of Nature’s strategies; no, not a strategy; Nature is not like that; It thinks God’s thoughts after Her. Strategies are made for men, for things with minds like men.

“All of you, wild to get the Kingpin, the master mind (I laugh at that word) of the drug trade, chasing yourselves like dogs after your own tails. I tell you this. No one will believe you. No one.”

He spread his arms wide, they spread and expanded like wings over the miles of poppy fields, sheer miles of them.

I could not speak. Oh, I would tell the truth. Maybe someone would dare to publish it. They’ll call it fiction; maybe science fantasy; maybe merely a fairy tale with a twist of lemon.

Ar Lain Ta turned to me and smiled.

“After all,” he said, “to believe, to understand, you would have to think like a plant.

“You should see it when the fields are filled with humans. How hard they work. The sweat pours from them like water.

“Balance. When any species upsets the balance of nature, the natural way of things, other forces work and swing them back. You want to bring them the Kingpin?

“Bring them this, all that surrounds you.

“I am not the Kingpin. Not even human. I exist at their bidding. At their bidding I cease to exist. You cannot take me, bring me back. I am only the physical manifestation of their minds.

“And they, the plants are only one of the forces that work, that work right now to set the balance right against a species that lives under an illusion that has made them into destroyers of the diversity, the life, the balance of nature.

“Look to yourself. You have met the enemy. He stands alone, alone in these fields.”

Ar Lain Ta reached out, touched me. I fell to the ground, deep in dream, opiate dream. He became a poppy plant; he flowered, then he was gone.

Since that moment, ever since then, the only peace I have is when the fruit of the poppy fuels my soul.

For a while I wandered, from place to place. Then I met a woman. Her name was Ron de Veux. She took me here, to the house of the Troll. I have never left.

There is nothing more to tell.

The Legalization of Marijuana

The legalization of marijuana has brought back many memories. Let me tell you a story about my life in 1967. I was struggling with heroin addiction and finally swore off the stuff. But back then being clean meant just not shooting heroin.

Marijuana was a nothing drug. Everyone smoked. When I kicked heroin, my parents let me move back into their house and 3 or 4 friends and I would play the stereo in my bedroom and smoke joint after joint to the music of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Leon Russell, God rest his soul, and all the psychedelic sounds that were popular in the 60’s. I had a steady job and was getting promotions.

Yeah, I remember the 6 I was there. My parents were thrilled that I had stopped shooting heroin and it was a no brainer that they could keep me safe from the police by having us smoke in my private sanctum instead of driving around in the car where we were at risk of getting arrested for narcotics.

You see, that was the strange double standard of the 60’s—they called marijuana a narcotic and it wasn’t anything close to being a narcotic. You could smoke every day for weeks and then just stop and there would be no withdrawal sickness whatsoever.

Marijuana isn’t a narcotic. Not even close.

There was a group of us who always hung out together and rode our motorcycles, danced with the strobe lights at clubs in Greenwich Village, and did we ever smoke. We’d laugh, we’d eat six donuts in fifteen minutes and we were always having fun.

No junk sickness—I was healthy and, like a racehorse, I would run 3 and ½ miles almost every day of the week. I thought all my troubles were over.

Then one day this chick that smoked with us periodically came to my house with another woman and asked me if I could sell her any pot. I laughed and told her that I wouldn’t sell her any reefer but I would roll a few joints and we could smoke up together.

But they said they had someplace to be so if I could sell them some weed, they would be very happy. I rolled up 3 joints and dropped them into her hand and told them to enjoy themselves—the reefer was on the house.

They said they couldn’t accept the joints for free—like, how much did I want for them? No, I told them to just take the joints and have a good time. It was during the dog days of August of 1967 and it was great smoking weather.

But the chicks insisted and asked how much I wanted. I just laughed and said for them to give me a dollar and we’d call it square. I didn’t want the money but they seemed to feel better if they gave it to me and I didn’t want to be a bring-down so I took the dollar.

Now, it was summertime and the days passed quickly and everyone was having a good time and the grass was always cheap. But it got us high and made the music dance and that’s all that mattered to us.

So, where am I going with this story? Autumn came and the leaves changed color and it was starting to get cold. It was election season and in two weeks people would be voting because it was the third week of October.

I was fast asleep at 5am in the morning and there was a pounding on the front door of my parent’s house. I looked out my bedroom window and the suburban street was filled with police cars and unmarked detective cars.

My father answered the door but they didn’t want him; they wanted me. It was the Sheriff of Essex County of New Jersey and they had a Sealed Indictment for my arrest for the sale of narcotics. They hustled in, picked around my bedroom a little—there was nothing there but some science fiction books—and then clamped the metal handcuffs on me and took me outside.

Flashbulbs were popping and they walked me to a shiny black unmarked Judas car and stuffed me in the back seat. Altogether, that morning, they made 13 arrests for sale of narcotics, to whit, marijuana.

It was old home week at the police station. I knew almost everyone there. My sale was for 3 joints. The biggest buy they made was 2 ounces from one of my friends. They set bail at $5,000 and those of us, like me, who couldn’t make bail were trundled down to Newark Street Jail in Newark, New Jersey.

That jail was so dirty you had to light a piece of newspaper and burn the bugs away from the toilet before you went to the bathroom. Just to let you know the nature of the justice system at that time—there were about 300 people in the jail and more than 280 were men of color. My friends and I were the minority representation but we were all in for the count of down street.

Little by little, we got bailed out. My parents hired a lawyer and he had the bail reduced to $2,500 and my parents posted Bond for me after staying in that miserable hole for 4 days. Remember, this was for 3 sticks of marijuana.

They made such a big deal out of it that we were on the front page of the Newark Star Ledger and the Livingston Tribune, which was the local newspaper in the town where I lived. They even did an editorial about it called “Where There Are Users, There Will Be Pushers.” When my boss saw that, I lost my job.

My police record was minimal before that bust so, at court I was sentenced to 2 years in prison, suspended for 2 years. I had to report to a Probation Officer once a week.

Ironically, that was when my drug use really took off. I was angry and bitter and decided that if they were going to charge me as a dealer, I was going to become one. I had to be really careful for 2 years but after my Probation period was over, I went wild.

But it wasn’t the marijuana that turned me—it was the indignity of being arrested and having to register as a Narcotics Offender back then until that law was overturned as unconstitutional.

When I walked into the voting booth this year, I knew how I was going to vote. Marijuana is legal now and it should be. That major arrest really changed my life and limited the jobs I could find because I was a drug offender. I thank God that marijuana is legal and that people won’t have to go through what I did just because of an innocuous weed. No one ever died from an overdose of marijuana.

Now marijuana and hard drugs won’t travel in the same circles. The legalization of marijuana was the one good thing that came out of this election. I’m not going to deal with the other stuff in this column. Thanks for reading and enjoy the holidays.

“Do Not Resist” – a movie about the militarization of our police force

As I write this the outcome of the election is unknown. Many people will be happy; many people will be upset. The fact that our country could be so divided has brought about a police force that is now being gifted with weapons of war that are no longer being used in the mid-east.

For some reason, Homeland Security has disposition over stockpiled weapons/vehicles of war and is gifting local police forces and SWAT teams. Local police will be able to crush armed insurgency. Isn’t that nice? They won’t wear body cameras, but they will drive tank like vehicles to the scene of a domestic dispute?

In Concord, New Hampshire, a town of 42, 900 people, city councilors actually voted in favor of receiving a 20-ton military vehicle which is a cross between a humvee and a tank as a “gift” from the Department of Homeland Security. That will come in handy when angry citizens take to the street to express their first amendment rights to protest actions by government that they don’t agree with, like police executing young black men.

This gift is a giant war machine that cost the taxpayers of our country $250,000. To call it a “gift” is misleading. Our police are becoming militarized SWAT teams with weapons of war that put the honest citizens of our country under the boot heel of a standing army.

There was never supposed be a standing army in America. A film just being released, Do Not Resist, will be playing at the Museum of Fine Arts from November 3rd through November 26th. . It shows miles of these weapons of war up for grabs by our local police departments. These vehicles are called MRAP’s, which means Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.

These vehicles can spin around town, piloted by the same police forces that refuse to wear body cameras, with weapons designed to blow away heavily armed insurgents thousands of miles away. Is this frightening you? It should scare you silly. Go to see Do Not Resist, and when you see these vehicles, you’ll know that the Constitution is being violated, as it forbids a standing army on our lands.

Dave Grossman, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, is holding classes with police departments across the country, telling them to be aggressive with the “enemy.” The “enemy” is us, folks: the citizens of the United States.

In one town the police raided a house that was called “terrorist based”. The people who lived there were a family of color who had a son in his early 20’s who worked as a landscaper. The police came in, viciously wrecked the house, and the only “crime” that was evident, after the fact, was less than a gram of marijuana.

In good faith, the son gave the police $876 that his boss had given him to buy a few lawn mowers and asked them to give the money to his boss so he wouldn’t get in trouble and lose his job.

The police, instead, confiscated the $876 as drug money. It would cost the family much more than that in lawyer fees to get the money back.

These machines, the MRAP’s, are not supposed to be used for riot suppression in the United States. But they made an appearance in Ferguson, MO, where they were used against the people who protested police brutality.

When Dave Grossman lectures the police about the joys of using these weapons, he tells police that “after a tense, “successful” raid you will go home and have the best sex of your lives.”

Grossman also tells the police that after a “successful” raid, they should pull the MRAP up onto an overpass that looks over the city that they “police” and picture themselves standing there with the capes of superheroes blowing in the wind. That makes me sick.

The documentaryDo Not Resist has won the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival Award for Documentary of the Year.

The Most Frightening Election of My Life

When George W. Bush was running for President, it was scary. I couldn’t think of a worse outcome than having George W. become President. Yet I find it even harder to believe that a man as unstable, dishonest and dangerous as Donald Trump is actually being considered to lead our nation at this crucial time. Donald Trump makes George W. seem like a gem. I’m not saying that Dubya isn’t flawed—I’m saying that Donald Trump—a misogynist, a liar, an arrogant bully—is the worst leader we could ever have for President.

Trump is a racist, a fascist, and his goal is to “destabilize” the election by having his supporters act as “deputized” but amateur poll monitors. The people of our nation, even with all its imperfections, need to really consider whether they want a man at the helm who cares nothing for the country but slavers at the power of the Presidency.

It frightens me to think about what this arrogant man will do if he becomes President. When I watch the antics of Donald Trump, I see Mussolini, Hitler and other maniacal leaders that almost brought the world to the brink of destruction.

When Trump claims that the election is “rigged” against him, he is playing to the worst of the worst of his blind followers, who have already shown that they do not care if laws are broken—as long as it’s okay with Trump.

Trump is destroying America’s political norms by claiming that there is a giant conspiracy between the media and the Democratic Party to elect Hillary by massive fraud. What is worse, Trump’s blind believers follow in lock-step behind his statements, reminding me of Hitler’s Brown Shirts.

I can’t think of anything more ridiculous than building a giant wall between the United States and Mexico. Will this be the new Berlin Wall? Trump appeals to the worst in people—people who want to change the country for the better but are blinded to the fact that Trump is a destroyer, not a builder.
Even worse, just think of the type of person a maniac like Trump will nominate for the Supreme Court of our land. Our next President will probably get to choose more than one Justice for the Supreme Court.

Donald Trump does not want to be the President of the United States—he wants to be the Ruler of the United States and we all stand to watch our country’s values shattered by this political upstart.

This is the first time any presidential candidate has ever complained about the system being “rigged” before the election has even taken place. It’s almost impossible to rig a national election because the system itself is so de-centralized that it would be too complex to rig a Presidential election in America.

Donald Trump is crying “poor loser” before the fact—which shows a total lack of character on his part. This is not a man who should sit in the office where “the buck stops.” If Trump loses, and I, for one, hope he loses, it will be because he didn’t get enough votes to win.

Trump will have no one to blame but himself. Maybe he’ll lose because of his expressed racism. Quite possibly he’ll lose the election because of his misogyny. Maybe Trump will lose the election because he’s been caught in too many lies.

Just recently Trump met with the President of Mexico and they discussed a few things, one of them being the wall that Donald Trump wants Mexico to build. After the chat, while being interviewed back in the United States, Trump said that the matter of the “wall” never came up.

The President of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, when asked, said that the wall was mentioned and he said Mexico would not pay for the wall. So, already, in an international meeting, Donald Trump did not speak the truth.

For the most part, the United States is working towards becoming a free country. It will be a shame if a man with the nature of Donald Trump steps into the highest office of the land and starts to turn the clock of our country back into a place where racism, misogyny, and bigotry reign.

Donald Trump’s instability is extremely dangerous when I think his finger will be so close to the nuclear button. He is not fit, in my opinion, to be President of our country.

If you’ve read this far and are ready to rip my head off, that’s okay. Just don’t forget to vote. I’d rather see you vote for someone I dislike than not vote at all. That’s what makes this country great.

Moving Through Time

The world has changed so much since I was born. Sometimes it feels as if there is an evil force moving against us to keep us from improving the world. We know better but we act as if we don’t.

This is the hottest year on record so far since we’ve been keeping time. We used to talk about Global Warming and claim that we were going to do something about it yet nothing changes. The governments of the world act as if we can keep on building machines that emit fumes into the atmosphere and it won’t affect us.

I can’t imagine how many cars there are in the world. If we took all the exhaust pipes of every car in the world and fused them all together, how big would that pipe be? It’s actually beyond our imagination to picture the size of it and it’s pumping, pumping, pumping, foul stuff into our atmosphere.

Oh, maybe you doubt that? Why don’t you stick your nose into the exhaust pipe of a running automobile and breathe it for a while? Oh, in some places, kids do that to get high, don’t they? When I was young the dumber kids sniffed glue and the smarter kids drank codeine base cough syrup.

But that’s not too intelligent either way. Now we have a massive heroin illness that is spreading all over the world. Everyone knows someone who has a family member using drugs in our world.

What force is it that keeps us from working together to make this world a better place? I’m stymied. I just can’t figure it out. It seems like every time someone has an idea to change the world for the better, someone shoots them.

There was John F. Kennedy. Bang. There was Robert Kennedy. Bang. There was Dr. Martin Luther King. Bang. There was Malcolm X. Bang. There was Gandhi. Bang. I could go on and on, couldn’t I?

What brought this on was watching a movie about someone who goes back in time to stop the assassination of President Kennedy. The name of the book the movie was based on is 11/22/63, written by Stephen King.

One of the things that struck me was how beautiful the old cars looked. You could actually tell the difference between a Chevrolet and a Ford and a Plymouth, just to name a few. The cars had class and there weren’t as many cars on the road then as there are now.

I remember when my father was driving his Buick and someone drove past him going the other way with the same model car and they tooted at each other and waved. It was a friendly world.

Of course, there were exceptions. If you were Gay, forget about it. If you were Black, forget about it. In Germany the ovens were busy burning Jews, Gays, Gypsies and anyone who just didn’t fit in. What kind of power makes humans act like that?

I really believe there is some Force that works on us, tries to get us to do the wrong thing and hurt other people, and makes us continue to damage the only environment we’re going to get. Or is it just that humans are all on the verge of insanity?

I don’t believe in the devil. But there’s something out there that doesn’t want us to succeed. It makes some people so greedy that they want more even if they have billions of dollars in the bank, while others don’t have enough money to buy food or medical care.

I’ll be 71 years old in about 5 months and I really miss my youth. I know, I know, I sound like I’m whining and maybe I am, looking at the world through a fractured prism. But I remember when I ran up a flight of stairs without skipping a beat, and now I trudge up them, one by one, and sometimes I’m out of breath at the top. My doctor is on the 7th floor of a building and once the elevator was broken and I climbed all seven flights. I can’t begin to tell you how weary I was when I hit the top. When I was 10 years old, I could fly up seven flights.

No, I’m not a smoker. Yes, I was a smoker but I quit and I feel a whole lot better since I quit. I had my last cigarette on April 24th, 1999 and sometimes I still miss them. But I know that one leads to another and so on.

Of course, when I started smoking, I could stick a quarter into a cigarette machine and a pack would come out with two pennies taped onto it. That was a long time ago.

I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t miss my youth. I surely do. I miss the fancy cars and now I can’t tell one car from another. But who needs those cookie cutter cars they make now that still spit poison into the atmosphere?

Who would have believed that a man with the value system of Donald Trump could be running for President of the United States, and, of all things, it’s possible that he actually might win! The world is changing; solutions slip away from us; it’s getting worse all the time.

I mean, we have computers and cell phones and people take “selfies”, pictures of their food, and videos of their dogs and cats, but what else is happening? Cops are still killing black kids, black men go to jail, the mentally ill, the homeless, the addicted still don’t have the services they need, and corporate CEO’s salaries and benefits are in 8 or 9 figures and growing all the time. There is no middle class, there is the 1% and everybody else.

But then again, I’m just one grumpy old guy who isn’t particularly sad that he doesn’t feel like he fits in anymore. I probably don’t have many years left. I didn’t particularly take care of myself when I was young. I’m hoping though, that some of you young folks have some ideas to stop the depressing trends in our politics and our economy, cause I’m just putting in my time these days, hoping that my grandchildren will know some of the good things in life that I enjoyed when I was young.

The New Prohibition

I’ve been reading articles in the Boston Globe about the massive increase in overdoses almost every day. Then I found myself reading an article about the giant influx of fentanyl with machines to convert it into pills identical to pharmaceuticals from China.  Everybody used to blame Mexico; everybody blames prescription pills that are diverted; everyone blames the people with the illness of addiction.

I find it very sad that Prohibition has reared its head again, this time in the form of opiates, not alcohol.  I also, as a retired Substance Use Disorder Counselor who spent 30 years addicted to heroin, see that this situation is not going to go away any time soon.  It seems to have an exponential growth over the years since I started using in 1962.  Yes, I’m 70 years old and lucky to be here.

The horror of people dying before their time is caused by the powerful illness of addiction, which was unfortunately criminalized by Harry Anslinger after Prohibition was repealed.  Anslinger inherited a powerful agency as Prohibition was overturned and decided to use that agency to criminalize drugs.  Since then many people have been hurt by the actions of powerful people with similar misguided notions.

The people who use drugs are not going away any time soon. As long as there is such a massive money making potential for people who sell the drugs–they are not going away either.  I’m not talking about the small time dealers who just sell the drugs to cover the cost of their own habits.  I’m talking about the Corporate Machine that sells drugs for profit.

And the poor neighborhoods to which people from the suburbs flock to in order to cop–well, we all know that story.  I lived it.

Addiction needs to be medically treated, not criminalized.  That means, yes I’m going to say the word, legalization with controls. That is a solution which will help those of our loved ones, sick with this illness, to stay alive.  In some places, like Northwest Canada, they actually have places where people can go and shoot up under medical supervision.  The operation is called InSite, which currently serves 600 people a day.

In Vancouver there is a place called Crosstown Clinic where people with Substance Use Disorder go, not only to shoot up under medical supervision, but purchase the narcotic in a pharmaceutically measured dose. Crosstown Clinic has approximately 110 participants in their program.

Programs like this exist in Britain, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. It appears that the United States is behind the treatment curve when it comes to opiate addiction.  

Even during the Viet Nam era, heroin poured into the United States interred with the bodies of the brave men who gave their lives fighting a terrible war.  People of power were behind that operation because there was big money in it.  Some say the CIA was involved–but for me, that’s just hearsay.  Some powerful people were involved.

The use of these drugs has grown exponentially.  Instead of talking about the sorrow of it all, it is time for our compassion to change the laws and the way we react to addiction.  We need to take the big money out of selling drugs and control the purity of the drug by legalizing it.  When I go to a pharmacy, I know that what I’m getting is what it says on the prescription. It is the actual dose.  Not so, for drugs sold by the greedy mobs from Mexico, China, South America, and the United States; they don’t care if the dose is a little off.  But that tiny variation in the dose makes the difference between getting high and dying.

I don’t know what else to say.  I’m glad I survived to tell the tale.  I still have the illness but it is being treated by professionals trained in the field of addiction.  All addicts, even drug counselors who have the disease, need to have ongoing treatment.  I know.

I’m not only a drug counselor; I’m also a client.

A Book Addiction

Instead of writing a novel today I have decided to write to you. Sorry it took me so long to respond but I am basically out of sorts. The emotional windmill has taken me for quite a spin and I don’t know if it is wind-driven or driven by the demons in my mind.

Yes, I have finally gone insane. When I take off my sunglasses I give the impression of a vast emptiness, as if one was peering into a black hole in space, a dark star. Was that a reference to David Bowie? It might well be.

I feel like I fled town safely with everything intact but my mind. I am no longer looking over my shoulder; the ghosts of the past remain in the past but the ghosts of the stories in my head are closing in.

I guess that is what happens when one reaches the age of 70 and develops a full-blown book addiction. Have you ever known something but refused to acknowledge it at the same time? I guess some people call that denial. The heart is a many-tiered bastion of twist. Common sense is eliminated almost immediately upon the first beat and then it’s just blood and fire. Do you have any inkling of what I mean?

When I feel like using, dope that is, I buy a book instead to dispel the impulse. I have quite a collection, and they just keep getting better. I just finished reading Driven by Kelley Armstrong, about a pack of American werewolves. It’s a fantastic read.

Elena Michaels is the Alpha of the pack; her husband Clayton Danvers is the Beta, the enforcer of the pack rules. Katie and Logan are their children, about ten years old but already able to change at will into werewolves.

It’s a love story with bloodshed. But what romance doesn’t have a bit of bloodshed, even if it is emotional spilling? The pack rules the North American area. If a werewolf doesn’t belong to a pack, they call him a mutt. Most werewolves are males; there are very few female werewolves.

In Driven, Curtis Cain, who is from a clan of mutts, calls on the pack for help. Supernatural hunters, one of whom is a werewolf, are hunting the mutts, killing them and taking their pelts. Elena Michaels, as the Alpha of the pack, has to decide what is the right thing to do in the situation.

Even though the mutts are not too nice, and not too bright either, the pack can’t have people killing werewolves in their territory. Malcolm, a new pack member, was a big bad wolf for many years because he killed viscously indiscriminately, doesn’t think they should bother with them, after all, they are only mutts. But he has to learn, as a member of the pack, he has to follow orders or die. So the plot thickens and the hunt is on.

The author, Kelley Armstrong, is a prolific writer. Not on the level of Stephen King, but she has written many books about her world of werewolves and other supernatural beings.

Most of these books are put out by the Subterranean Press, which you can find on the Internet. I own five of the werewolf series and love every one of them. The books come in two different editions.

The classy edition is signed & numbered; signed by Kelley Armstrong and her artist Xaviere Daumarie, with beautiful pictures interspersed throughout. Then there is the regular trade edition, which is half the price but still beautiful.

Subterranean Press puts out many books by different authors. Some of my favorites are Robert McCammon, Joe Hill, the son of Stephen King, Gail Carriger, David J. Schow, another master of the macabre and Caitlin R Kiernan who is one of the darkest writers I read. It’s rumored that her book, The Drowning Girl, which was put out by Centipede Press, will be made into a movie soon.

Centipede Press is one of those special presses that create books that are wonders to behold. Their books are filled with gorgeous art and a ribbon to keep your place, and the majority of them are signed & numbered by the writers and the artists.

Then there are books published by regular presses. An interesting book I have just finished is called The Girl With All The Gifts, by M. R. Carey. This book is dystopian in nature; the world, as we know it, has ended.
A fungus has been let loose in the world. Over 95% of humanity has been infected. This is the story of those who have not been infected and how they treat those who have been infected, especially the children.

One special child is a girl named Melanie who, even though infected, acts as if she is not. How do the infected act? You’ll have to read it to find out. Let’s just say you wouldn’t want to get bitten by one.

This book is also in the process of being made into a movie. M. R. Carey, the writer, has just finished another novel called Fellside, which is the name of a prison where strange things take place. I won’t talk about that right now because, even though I have read it, Fellside won’t be released for a few months.

These books have saved me from a fate worse than death. Instead of scars from needle tracks I have a beautiful set of valuable books and a head full of stories. Books I can always sell if I choose to, but needle tracks—no resale value.

A book addiction is much healthier than being addicted to drugs, but an addiction just the same. Wouldn’t you agree?

The Birth of Ar Lain Ta | a Tale of the Troll: Junkies, Angels & Demons


Everyone gets to pay the gatekeeper. In the end we pay with the only currency that we own. The gatekeeper’s desires are simple. All he wants is all we’ve got.

They call me the Troll. I’m a gatekeeper of sorts and I have my own kingdom. Of course, I have to follow the rules too. He’s always watching me. He watches me through the eyes of the junkies that live here. Who’s he? I’ll get to that.

That’s why I treat everyone the same here in the last dope house on the block. No one gets here without paying the high price. Every one of us has opted out of the world as most of us know it.

Have you ever woken up in the morning at first light, heard the birds chirping and then cursed the sun for burning you out of slumber? Have you ever stumbled to the bathroom looking for the wake-up shot that you hoped was still there, knowing full well that at 3 in the morning you had used it because the dreams in your head had grown sharp with yellow teeth that were ripping away the pieces of what was left of your soul? Have you ever come to in the dark alley between mortar and bricks, behind the dumpster, where you had hidden to protect yourself from the young boys out wilding?

No, maybe you wake up scratching the dead skin on your face cursing the job that you must go to everyday where your essence spills out into the ether as you wait on customer after customer. “And what would you like in your coffee, sir? Who’s next? Just jerk the handle, I’m dying, sir. I could use a drink myself.”

Or maybe you sit in a cubicle, one of many in a giant row of them, staring into a computer screen tabulating figure after figure, maybe checking zip codes hour after hour, pressure building up in your bladder, but “oh my god, I can’t go yet, there’s still so much to do and they never stop coming in. I hope I pass that urinalysis, I didn’t know that they’d pick me today. I don’t want to lose this job and wind up homeless.”

Quite possibly you’re a beautiful woman waking up late in the afternoon. Your body aches from running from the tables to the bar in that costume that always makes you feel like a piece of ground round served up steaming in a hog trough. The bruises where you were pinched dot your upper legs, you still smell the drink that someone threw at you because you wouldn’t give them a kiss. “Better the drink than their breath,” you think as you make your way to the bathroom to clean yourself before you are fouled by life once more. You look in the mirror and see the worry lines starting at the corners of the mouth, sparrow-prints at the eyes that are suddenly very wet and you swallow hard and splash water into your face, sobbing deep in your chest.

Just maybe you are the President of the United States waking to the news that another woman claims to know about the tattoo on your penis and you wonder how George Washington, John F. Kennedy, or even J. Edgar Hoover would have fared in this terrible time when everything is grist for the cows at the public watering trough called television? You roll over to hug your wife; she is crying. An emptiness that is full hurts between your lungs. “Maybe a war is not a bad idea,” is the thought that crosses your mind.

Hey, maybe you’re a writer like the guy in the corner there who is between stories or poems. You haven’t written a word in over two weeks and the worry stomps your mind into its own hellish nether regions. We all have them in our heads. Your mind says, “Maybe that’s it. Maybe I’ll never write again. Maybe I’ll just shoot some dope; I know a place where I can go, downtown where all the lights are bright, downtown where I can die tonight, downtown, everything’s waiting for me.”

I could go on and on and on. That’s how life is. Sooner or later we all wind up knocking on the door of the gatekeeper.

I’m a gatekeeper. My kingdom is a subterranean basement where junkies come to dream about what might have been; what should have been; what could happen if only, if only, if only. Sometimes I tell the stories and he writes them down. I’m not the only one here who tells the stories. Everyone who comes here has a story, maybe more than one. The guy in the corner, the Troll points to a bearded junkie sitting at a typewriter, he writes them down. He never tells the stories but he’s always listening and writing or typing. All it takes to shake him out of a deep nod is for someone to say, “Oh yeah, let me tell you a story about what happened to me.”

There are times, in the middle of a story, that he will stop to fix; maybe his hand has started to shake, maybe he just wants to hold off the cold and the cramps until the tale is over. His memory takes over and he’ll play catch-up while he’s listening. He may get to hear the same story a few times but each time it is a little different, depending on who’s doing the telling. It could be different even with the same teller.

He writes the stories but he always laughs and says, “I don’t really guarantee their accuracy, you know. But I don’t have to, see. No one believes a junkie.”

Call him Seth. Last name Morgan. The writer. I’m the teller but he’ll record it. He promised not to lie or change the facts and to write it just like I tell it. Junkies always make promises.

Let me tell you about another gatekeeper. The one who watches me. The one who might very well have his eyes on you. Some people call him the Dustman. Others say he is the king of the dreams that live between the waking and sleep. Still others say that he is just a man who has chosen a path of crime and that he is nothing more than a druglord. I choose not to argue with anyone’s story when it is about him. The confusion clarifies my beliefs. My beliefs? I’ll tell you this story and let you form your own.

I’ll tell you this story about his beginnings. It was told to me by a Harvard professor who comes here now and then for a bit of a rest. Forget about it. I’m not going to reveal my source. You would probably recognize the name.

In the beginning the Dustman’s only name was Ar Lain Ta.

Ar Lain Ta was a man of humble origins. His parents were farmers from the west bank of the Salween river. The terrorist, but legally sanctioned, army of Burma, known as the Tatmadaw, had driven his parents from their farm. The Tatmadaw used what they called a “Four Cuts Strategy” which meant isolating and controlling sources of food, funds, intelligence, and recruits. His father, a farmer named U Hla Pe, had been meditating and his mother had been in the fields slicing the pods of the poppies when the Tatmadaw arrived and began looting homes, gang-banging the wives and daughters of friends, and plundering animals and the croplands. Instead of surrendering to them and becoming unwilling participants in the construction of a one-hundred-mile-long railroad line from Aung Ban south to Loi Kaw in a slave labor camp where cholera, dengue fever, yaws, blackwater fever, yellow fever, amoebic dysentery, and other antagonistic life-forms constantly raided the camps, U Hla Pe chose to slip through the fields and take his pregnant wife to flee across the Salween into Mae Ark, a small Pa-O village which was controlled and protected by a benevolent lord of the opium trade named Chang Te Tzu.

Very little is known about his mother’s origins. She was named Nang Saeng Zoom, yet it is not known whether this was her given name or one that she acquired later. It is said that she loved the fields and, as she worked, she was known to talk to the plants. There were some that said she was haunted by ghosts of her ancestors.

This story about Ar Lain Ta’s mother was passed on by an old farmer in the opium den that he had retired to after his work was done. One day, when Chang Te Tzu was visiting the village he became very ill with all the symptoms of cholera. The diarrhea came on suddenly and violently and his stools were filled with filled with rice like-particles. He vomited and shat simultaneously and the muscles in his arms and legs knotted and contracted spasmodically, literally appearing to be boiling beneath his skin to all those who watched with horror. The man collapsed and virtually seemed to shrink in size within moments. Other observers said his skin turned to light parchment paper and began to rip in places.
At that moment Nang Saeng Zoom appeared and light seemed to shine from her eyes as she lifted Chang Te Tzu as if he weighed nothing and carried him quickly into her dwelling. His personal guard stood well away and did not interfere for they were afraid that they would be stricken with the strange malady that had infected their Lord. Normally they were afraid of nothing and would charge headlong into battle no matter what weapons their enemies wielded but this was something out of their realm.

Nang Saeng Zoom lit lamps, mixed potions from strange herbs that were hanging on the walls of her hut, and soon alien smells and chants mixed with the sound of moaning and the smell of feces, vomit, and death spilled into the air. At first the smells were weak and the chanting was soft, but like a rising wind, they increased in velocity and power. Suddenly they began to diminish and, within hours, the stench of hell was gone and the people nearby the hut heard the voice of Chang Te Tzu singing in harmony with the sweet soprano of Nang Saeng Zoom.

It was told, and there are no villagers that will contradict this, that in the evening Chang Te Tzu emerged from the hut of U Hla Pe with Nang Saeng Zoom on his arm and he was in such robust health that he appeared to glow. When he asked Nang Saeng Zoom what he could do for her, the only boon that she requested was that Chang Te Tzu take her son, soon to be born, and raise him with the best of educational opportunities. When Chang Te Tzu asked her how she knew that the child would be male, she laughed. He began to laugh also; he laughed so hard that his body shook and the laugh leaped from him to his men and coursed through the entire village like a titanic tide that could not be stopped.
Three days later Ar Lain Ta was born on the day when the harvest was celebrated. It was the largest harvest in the history of the village. Soon after that day U Hla Pe met with an unfortunate accident, the details of which are unknown, while working in the poppy fields. Six months later Chang Te Tzu married Nang Saeng Zoom.

To this day the people speak of the wonder and magic of the times when Chang Te Tzu ruled with Nang Saeng Zoom at his side. There were those that said that she wielded the power during this era in which Chang Te Tzu’s influence spread across the land and even reached overseas to the Americas. Of course, this is nothing but rumor and innuendo. Only the walls of their many dwellings know the truth and they are not speaking. Yet, there still remain servants from this era who might talk if they were so inclined.

However, these servants that still live now serve Ar Lain Ta, the birth son of Nang Saeng Zoom and the adopted son of Chang Te Tzu. It is said that he is everywhere at once. There are many stories told about Ar Lain Ta, the man of many names.

Some say that Ar Lain Ta speaks more than eight languages fluently. He did attend Harvard University and, it is documented, now has two post-graduate degrees: a doctorate in International Relations and a doctorate in Ethnobotany.

There are many stories about Ar Lain Ta yet there are not many people who have specific memories of meeting him. Many students say that he was like a phantom and sometimes they noticed him and sometimes they didn’t. Even the professors have different versions of their experiences with him and their stories are always subject to change.

Me, I met him in a church and I’ll never forget that day. Did I ever tell you that story? I seem to remember relating it to you once. But I feel a little sick right now.

The Troll turned in his chair and called out.

“Veronica! Veronica! I need you right now.”

Ron de Voux came bustling over, pulled two packets out of the Troll’s cracked leather bag and cleaned a syringe that lay on the great table.

“Into the kitchen,” hissed the Troll.

Veronica, as she rolled him through the door to the kitchen, glanced back at us. She gave us a great big grin that brought the dimples out on her cheeks and her pinpoint pupils appeared to spray laser beams of light before they disappeared into the candlelit back room.