If you’re going to do a drug that can kill you, shouldn’t its effects at least feel exciting enough to kill you?
Last time I scanned the list, I’d tried every illicit drug that The Man’s Chemist has concocted to keep us all craven and drooling and compliant, and nearly all of them were more enjoyable than heroin.
I’ve never been that keen on ups and downs, on so-called “drugs” that only key you up or softly cocoon your nerves. I don’t even consider it a “drug” unless it’s a hallucinogen, unless it makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a waking dream. The only intoxicant on the whole up/down spectrum I honestly thought was fantastic was the one that killed Michael Jackson.
Not that hallucinogens have always been a Louisiana Hayride for me either, considering I once got the shit kicked out of me while on acid and once did enough ketamine that I played slot machines with aliens in hell’s funeral parlor.
Still, William S. Burroughs did what Keith Richards and Johnny Thunders were unable to achieve—he made me want to try heroin. Just like 700 million other people, I read Naked Lunch and Junky while in college, but it wasn’t until much later that I finally chased the dragon’s tail around a Walmart parking lot.
I’ve done it twice—once in New York and once in Chicago—sniffing it both times. In Chicago it did little more than make me feel warm and queasy, while in New York it actually made me, of all people, feel for a fleeting moment that maybe there wouldn’t be a World War III after all. But I didn’t laugh my ass off like I was on mushrooms and I didn’t want to eat tall buildings as if I was on meth. It was no more or less nice than a slightly agreeable cup of tea on a pleasant afternoon. Even some of its legal equivalents such as Oxycontin, Percocet, and codeine felt better—but still, not by much.
I hate, hate, HATE (H-A-T-E) the word “meh” and will often punch people who use it, but that’s the best word I can use to describe how heroin made me feel. It didn’t feel like I was stepping into an everlasting DayGlo fantasy cartoon arcade and it didn’t terrify me so much that I started believing in Jehovah God. All it did was make my soul shrug its shoulders and think, “THIS is what makes people sell their parents’ record collections to get more of it?”
Heroin is like cigarettes—I realize that it’s addictive, but I have no idea why.
William S. Burroughs takes a peek at The Redneck Manifesto shortly before his death in 1997. Photo by Rod Pitman.