It was a strange time for California consciousness. The heaviest cokehead I knew was also the first health-food nut I knew, always going on about organic this and that, while packing his nasal passages with a substance processed with toxic benzene. I lost touch with him after he drove his car through some home's plate-glass window. The cops charged him with all manner of malicious intent, when probably all he was after was a horizontal glass surface.
Some people had a lot of fun on coke, with no downside. Some people wrote some really pompous music (anyone else remember members of the Eagles bristling at interviewers over "Hotel California"? "You don't get it. It's not just a metaphor for California. It's about everything, man!"). Some other people had Poodlies—Permanent Unpleasant Death-Like Experiences.
Eventually, a lot of folks realized that, when the CIA is your pusher, you're probably doing the wrong drug. They stopped, or made coke an occasional treat. If you did keep doing it heavily, that wasn't the pioneer spirit at work; rather, your soul was hunkering down in the drabbest of mental condo tracts.
Crack didn't brighten the prospect. One friend, after kicking a coke habit, started doing it again "to prove to myself I can handle it." Uh-huh. Within a year, her car was repossessed, she was getting evicted, her fiance was in the hospital after a suicide attempt, and she was vividly hallucinating that crack was setting her flesh on fire. Her response to that? Smoke more crack! Another friend quit her public-health job after crack came along, telling me, "It's stronger than the maternal instinct. Mothers are abandoning their babies to look for crack. How do you fight that?"
With such a legacy, you'd think coke would be a dead issue by now. But it's a generational thing: each successive one wants at least the same opportunities to screw up that we had. And it probably doesn't help that since the '70s, the billions spent yearly on the "war on drugs" has only resulted in the price of an 8-ball of coke dropping from $300 to $150, and that's without adjusting for inflation. Sort of makes you think they should declare a war on gasoline, huh?
While my friend at the party was straightening my line with a credit card, he said something to the effect of, "You know how they give credit cards to college kids so they get hooked on immediate gratification they have to pay and pay for later? That's what coke is." Of course, he was much more eloquent because we were on coke.
I could go on at length about individual rights and responsibility and how doing blow is about as moral as supporting Philip Morris or the Guatemalan death squads. I probably will in a future column. But right now, I just spotted this clump of dust on the floor that looks like it might be coke. Whooey, come to Poppa!!