Ah, Addictions. Gotta love ‘em. Gotta hate ‘em too, sometimes. But first, gotta love ‘em, or we wouldn’t have ‘em in the first place. Addictions are the spices of our lives. Of course, too much spice spoils the enchilada. But without a little salsa, it’s just beans and dead meat.
Without our addictions, our obsessions, our manias, we wouldn't even just be animals; we'd be plants. Not even plants. We’d be machines. Our addictions are woven into the fabric of the human condition. They give us a taste of paradise. It may be a temporary paradise, it may be an artificial paradise, it may be a dangerous paradise; it may even be a doomed paradise, a paradise that turns into hell. But the pursuit of paradise—ecstasy, bliss, happiness, nirvana, heaven--is one of the great natural drives of humanity, maybe even of all intelligent life on earth.
Then there’s passion. Judging from history, my own, as well as the world's, it seems to me that the only way to truly master something is to become passionately, obsessively addicted to it. Without the driving vigor of our addictions, we surrender to mediocrity, bureaucracy, being "functional." The world’s greatest artists, many of our greatest statesmen, even some of our greatest scientists, and certainly our greatest lovers have been notoriously addictive personalities, all living and dying in overheated pursuit of paradise, pleasure, power and love.
Everybody’s addicted to something, even if it’s just the idea of not getting addicted to anything. Some of us channel our addictive drives into stuff that society deems safe or constructive, like work, even though the heroes of our culture, the work-driven, successful businessmen and stock traders, are more likely to die young of a heart attack (or jump out the window when the stocks crash) than the pot-smoking slackers. Shopping is another socially sanctioned narcotic, until your Visa’s maxed out. Then there’s prescription drugs, an all-American addiction with friendly celebrity-studded ads all over late night TV, and you don’t even have to worry about Visa if you’ve got the insurance.
Some star-crossed folks, due to chemistry and circumstances, happen to get addicted to things which are not blessed by Wall Street or the FDA, NBC, CBS or AOL, but have been deemed to be "bad" for us, and are therefore illegal in America. Most of these individuals get by all right, obtaining their little fixes and ounces from discreet underground sources. Some, with the right connections, may even go on to become President of the United States. But many, usually those less well-off or well-connected, get arrested, thrown into jails, sometimes beaten, shot and killed by police officers, most of whom are extremely addicted to caffeine and sugar, substances that have been deemed "bad," abnormal and illegal by other cultures at other times in history.
Here’s the situation in LA, CA, USA: Every night, we've got hundreds of police officers hanging out at Winchell's or 7-11 virtually mainlining coffee and donuts. Then they go out onto the streets high as kites on sugar and caffeine, eager for action but scared shitless of some maniac they just saw on TV. They're buzzed, they're high, they’re fully armed and paranoid. Then they mount their copmobiles, ready to shoot any poor witless junkie who reaches for his or her ID the wrong way.
The only way to stop, or at least decrease, the drug-related killing in America, is to end the War on Drugs. It's like some of those other wars we never really won that went on and on against exotic enemies we didn't quite understand, only this one's not being fought in Southeast Asia or the Middle East or even Europe! It's being fought at home against our own people, a war against ourselves.
Not that we don't have drug problems; of course we do. Every society does, just as every society has sex problems. But outlawing certain drugs in order to solve drug problems is like outlawing sex in order to solve the problems of AIDS or infidelity. Although some puritanical fanatics might like to try, you can't get people to stop having sex. And you can't get people to stop doing drugs. UCLA psychopharmacology professor Ronald K. Siegel calls the urge to intoxicate ourselves "the fourth drive", as natural and persistent as our drives of thirst, hunger, and sex. Modern laws against drugs are as futile and incendiary as Prohibition Era laws against alcohol when gangster bootleggers ruled urban America. When we repeal the War on Drugs, just as we repealed Prohibition, when we treat addicts instead of jailing them, then we’ll go a long way toward learning to deal with all of our addictions.
It’s inevitable that some vice officers will get involved in the business of vice. It’s just too tempting. So, we get scandals like LAPD Ramparts CRASH Division with officers selling drugs and using hookers. As those of you who know us know, members of the LAPD pretending to be a SWAT team busted into our (totally legal) art galleries and broadcast studios, saying they were looking for gunmen, then started looking for "vice" when all they really wanted was a good time.
Dutch police aren’t involved in the drug trade. Why should they be, anymore than they’d be involved in selling, well, coffee or herring or aspirin?
The only thing that irked me about this capitalist paradise was the virtual ban on photography. What about photographer’s rights? (Yo, what about tourists’ rights?). Photography is a kind of vice. I must admit to sneaking a few shots here and there of hookers in the window and cannabis being sold (to me). Once I thought a lady was going to snatch my camera and cut off my hand. "Bitch!" hissed the hooker in the window. I felt my face grow red with shame in the cold Dutch rain. Somebody spank me! I did get some cool shots.
Willem couldn’t play tour guide with us all day and night (he did have a life he needed to get back to), so he left us, whereupon Max and I checked ourselves into Palmer’s Restaurant and had a magnificent ultra-juicy burger, plus a nice little broccoli dish. Then we stopped at the Baba Coffeeshop on Warmoesstraat 47, got ourselves 25 guilders (about $12) worth of pliant, dark green hash from Manali. This time, I knew what I was getting. I knew Manali, a beautiful, very green area of northern India near the Dalai Lama’s headquarters in Dharamsalla. I had spent about a week in Manali when I was 19 on summer vacation in Asia between my freshman and sophomore years at Yale. I have a photo of myself rubbing hash plants in the field outside our hotel.
We’d get our palms all gooey with resin from the plants, then scrape it off with a knife, roll that into a ball or log and smoke it. Hopefully, there are easier, less painful-to-the-palms ways of harvesting hash, though I’m not acquainted with them. Hm, maybe if I lived in Holland, I would be.