By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Waiting to cross the border into the United States with hundreds of pills in a plastic bag in my underpants, I sometimes wonder: What will happen if I'm caught this time?
But not very often.
Mainly I think about snorting OxyContin, about how that coarse, pink powder starts working the instant it hits the back of my throat. Standing there in a line with hundreds of others moving slowly through Customs, I revel in the fast-acting nature of the muscular, manly, crushed narcotic, dreamily pondering how ripped I'll be by Chula Vista, downtown San Diego, the Mormon Temple.
Rarely do I consider the consequences of getting caught, and why should I? Over the past three years, I've transported Soma, Valium, Vicodin, OxyContin and other psychoactive drugs into Orange County at least 100 times with minimal hassle, sharing them with friends whose bottomless appetites for these substances are exceeded only by my own gross consumptive disorder.
I didn't entertain the negative possibilities this last trip, either, though I arrived to find police raiding a quarter of the 200 drugstores ringing this particular area of Tijuana. Instead, I plotted my next moves: snort, stash, drive the speed limit and deliver the rest of the booty to anxious users eagerly anticipating my return.
Because the pills are personal stash, for myself and friends, I've never considered myself a drug smuggler. But walking across the border with narcotics stuffed in my underwear is, undeniably, smuggling; I admit that. It's also insane. Sometimes I wonder: Why do I do this?
But not very often.
Tijuana always brings a smile to my face, especially after a 90-minute ride along the faceless I-5 corridor. One step in, and you're confronted by bright murals, tables and racks of gleaming silver jewelry, gold-plated elephants, Hard Rock Cafť T-shirts, Aztec calendars and poorly constructed musical instruments. Mariachi sounds emanate from passing cars, colliding with the booming American rap and rock pervasive in the city's clubs and cantinas.
A sewer-like stench travels on the thick breeze and challenges the olfactory sense, but it carries with it the delicious scent of onion; pepper; cilantro; charred, seasoned meat and fish; coffee; herbs; and cigars. There is also head-shaking poverty and despair. Decrepit, sun-creased women wearing thin shawls peddle gum, candy and Mexican sweets. There's an abnormal amount of amputees, as well as what you'd expect in beggars; shoeless, tattered children; con men; and whores. I find this adds to the allure.
There are restaurants, bars, liquor stores, strip joints, markets and shops, but after your first few footsteps across the border, you're in Pharmacy Central. Nearly 200 establishments in a six-block area cater to the various desires and needs of the pharmacology-savvy. Many of the stores look the same. It seems every one is named "American Pharmacia," "Border Pharmacia" or "Discount Pharmacy." They soap their windows with their prices, all ridiculously low to Americans accustomed to paying at least four times more. (A month's worth of Prozac will cost the uninsured almost $200 in the States; in Mexico, it's 50 bucks.)
Glass counters line both sides of the aisles; inside are various shampoos, lotions and salves, candy, cigarettes, diapers, cheap booze, and aspirin. On the walls behind the glass are Prozac, Claritin and anti-aging medicines. I've shared the counter with senior citizens filling legitimate prescriptions; a man in a wheelchair on a respirator buying something he hoped would prolong his life; and a couple from Massachusetts blown away by the cheap prices on Valium, Vicodin, Soma and OxyContin. The clerk assures the man there's no trouble getting his stuff back into the U.S. He's not concerned about the Valium and such, but he is worried about the bottle of anabolic steroids he keeps putting into and retrieving from his pocket.
I'm there to buy psychoactive substances, drugs that give you a buzz.
I've loved getting buzzed since I first sniffed glue in 1967. I graduated from that messy venture into acid and pot and a couple of years ago began toying with angel dust, Seconal, Tuinol, Quaalude, Valium, Librium, Placydil, Sopors, Dalmane, Mandrakes, Ts and Bs, loads, Thorazine, and all manner of uppers, downers, screamers, pleasers, sidewinders and flippers. I took Belladonna, mescaline, psylocybin, peyote, MDA, DMT, Ecstasy, ketamine, ether, nitrous and LSD—blotter, liquid, gel and sugar cube. I shot heroin, speed, coke and downers, and I smoked crack and meth. A close friend who became a pharmacist once brought me an opium suppository. Excusing myself to the bathroom, I slipped the silly bullet into my absurdly accepting anus and spent the next three days nodding, drooling, itching and allowing lit cigarettes to burn the space between my fingers.
Yet painkillers, or analgesics, were an acquired taste. I used heroin in the Navy in the early 1970s, when West Coast GIs could easily acquire the great China White, but I disliked the nausea and nodding. I left opiates alone for years. Then I injured my back and quickly discovered the true power of analgesics. Once you get past the nausea and itching, analgesics are some of the most pleasant of all drugs. Painkillers kill pain: physical, psychic, emotional; you can function on them, too, creating a perfect antidote to the bummer job. Demerol, Dilaudid, Vicodin, codeine, Lortab, Norco, Percodan, OxyContin and hosts of less powerful pain-killing drugs are opiates and originate from psychoactive sap found in the poppy flower. In recent years, Vicodin—hydrocodone mixed with buffers—was the strongest opiate pill available by prescription. Then came OxyContin—with no buffers, only the more powerful chemical oxycodone. These are my current analgesic painkillers of choice.