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.

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 Past, The Present, The Future of Prohibition

I’m driving the red pickup truck through the snow. It swirls around and it is so cold that it just blows off the road like dust. Sooner or later I know it will start to stick but I don’t care. I’m sick. That’s an understatement. Tears spill from my eyes and my nose is running.

I don’t know if it is because I am crying or just afraid of everything. My wife Sascha and my fair-weather friend Richie are in the truck and we’re all in bad company. My stomach is cramping from the lack of heroin but that’s just the way things are.

No one in their right mind should be on the road in this storm. On the radio they are telling everyone to stay home and there are only fools, police & junkies on the road right now. We ride the back highways from New Hampshire heading for the Great Brook Valley Projects in Worcester. It takes an hour on a good day doing about 75 miles an hour but today it will take an hour and one-half.

I want to turn the truck around and just go home because I’m sick and scared. I lost my license to drive last year in November; just about the same time of year it is now. Thanksgiving is right around the corner but that doesn’t mean much to Sascha or me right now.

The storm rages, the radio is blasting, the truck holds the road well weighted down with sand bags in the back. No one speaks. There is nothing more miserable than a truck full of sick junkies.

We hit the main highway now, Interstate 290, and within twenty minutes we are coming down the exit ramp by Great Brook Valley. The road is slippery now and I’m trying to use caution, but God, I’m in such a hurry. I just want to get well and feel that heroin coursing through my veins.

It won’t be long now. I know the snow won’t keep the dealers in; their sickness drives them to work too. I’m thinking that on the way back Sascha will fix up my hit and bang my big vein while I drive. No sense stopping anywhere. The bathroom we used to use in the McDonalds is too dangerous and you can’t just sit still on a side road. It’s much too dangerous.

There are only two roads into the Great Brook Valley Projects. You’d think they could keep the dope out if they tried but that would put them out of work. Ever since Prohibition for alcohol ended the police switched jobs. This is the new prohibition and it’s 1987 and nothing has changed.

The roads in the Valley are snow-covered and I slow a little but not too much and then all of a sudden this dumb cat who wasn’t looking opens his car door right into my path and I try the brakes but I’m losing control and I take his door right off.

“Jesus”, Richie says, “we have to stop.” But I see the dope man just up the road and we’re holding needles and hypodermics so if we stop we’re screwed anyway. I say we go for it and pull right up to the guy with my hand out the window holding five fingers up with the money showing.

The dealer waves to a little kid and the kid comes running over and hands him the dope—he hands it to me and I give him the money and we take off in the big red pickup with a smashed right fender.

Sascha says, “Go, go, go” and I do, whipping out the other road to get free from the Projects. Two blocks away I see a shopping center and I don’t want to wait anymore. I pull in between two cars and we all get out our gear and pour water and there are three spoons cooking with Bic lighters filled with dope and a bit of a cigarette filter to draw up the stuff.

And then it happens. There are blue lights all around us and I whip up my sleeve to shoot before they can grab me because there’s nothing worse than going into the holding cell dope-sick.

But I’ve run out of time and they’re on us like blue pit bulls—Richie got his shot in and I drop mine still full and we have one extra bag that will be the coup de grace.

They pull me out of the truck and slam me against it while they use those nasty plastic handcuffs and crank them tight. My hands will be numb from blood loss and we’re all down for the count.

I can’t believe that guy opened his door right in front of me but that’s a whole different story and this is just a bad memory now. It’s November of 2013 and everything has changed.

I’m coming out of a meeting, and I’m talking to a friend of mine who works Worcester as a Probation Officer. Just for the heck of it I ask him about Great Brook Valley Projects. He says, “It’s still the same. People coming in and out to cop and now they are all young white kids. It’s hard to believe that nothing has changed but, for me, it’s just job security.” And I laugh. Because I can laugh now; the old days are just nightmares and stories to tell.

I’ve been abstinent a long time and instead of living on the streets, where I wound up after doing some time in prison, I’m happily married and I treat my illness with meetings, a social worker and an excellent psycho pharmacologist who prescribes Suboxone for me.

I’m a member of the Board of Directors of the Spare Change News, the paper I sold when I was on the streets—my first honest job that helped me straighten out my life. One of the other Board members, Bob Woodbury, sent me an article about Suboxone from the New York Times that focused on much of the negatives about the psychiatric medication and he had this to say, “Suboxone (like methadone) is a miracle drug for people who want to get off heroin or other opiates — and, like methadone, it’s subject to abuse by physicians looking for a buck and addicts looking for money or a high.

I think the [date] “New York Times” article takes the therapeutic benefits for granted (limited news value there), and focuses on the abuses. But I read the message not as “this therapy is bad” but “we should manage distribution of this potent drug better” — a concern I believe you’d agree with.”

I did agree, to a point, but I had this to say,” I think we should manage all potent drugs better–including alcohol.  I don’t know if you saw the movie Traffic, based on a European series called Traffik, but you see all these hotshots of the drug war drinking like crazy while their children do drugs.  And everything goes bad–except for one Mexican cop who sets up a deal with America behind the scenes–a great actor named Benicio Del Toro–and makes it work for his people.  The U.S. drug czar is Michael Douglas who always has a drink in his hand–while his daughter gets hooked on chasing the dragon(smoking heroin).  Great movie.

Prohibition is still with us–and it’s getting worse all the time. They are even selling drugs on the internet on sites like Ebay—one of them is called The Silk Road, which was shut down for a short time when one of it’s founders was arrested for conspiracy to murder. But that’s the rarity when it comes to the internet. Opiates, steroid, and other drugs are available and one one site goes down, others go up.

I’m just glad that I’m treating my illness and I don’t have to be afraid anymore.