Alright y’all, just like Jesus took a three day staycation in a cozy cave to get away from the hustle and bustle of the world and came back better than ever, so too have I returned from the wilderness feeling refreshed and full of the Holy Spirit.
DISCLAIMER: If you are either one of my parents, one of my older relatives, someone I haven’t seen since high school, or in any way supportive of the war on drugs I can pretty much guarantee that you are gonna want to skip this installment of Yama Yoga Story Time. Seriously. Stop reading, mom.
For those of you with the moral and intestinal fortitude to stick with the trouble; strap in/on, take some deep breaths, and get your assholes situated because I have got a hilarious, horrifying, horrendous, and true story that may cause some chafing as it goes down.
This all happened in the bad old days, around fifteen years ago. Let me set the scene; I’m in my mid-twenties and hopelessly addicted to oxycontin with a daily habit that would kill most horses, not to mention people. The assholes in charge realized that in their attempt to get the entire nation hooked on pharmaceutical-grade heroin they had overlooked the looming PR nightmare of tons of middle class white kids hooked on pharmaceutical-grade heroin and began pulling back on their campaign of over-prescription. This of course drove the street value of said pills through the goddamn roof. When I first cultivated my edgy, antihero, rockstar, drug-poet habit of snorting 320-400mg of oxy a day, I could get an 80mg pill for twenty fucking dollars. As far as deadly opiate habits are concerned, eighty dollars a day is a steal for the amount of fucked up it got me. I hear that krokodil is equally cheap and similarly intoxicating but the side effects always seemed just a tad over the top, with something like a 90% chance of contracting gangrene, plus, at the time, it was hard to find outside of eastern Europe.
I would highly recommend saving yourself the trouble of cleaning your own vomit off the screen of whatever device you're reading this post on by keeping the word "krokodil" out of your search history.
So here I am with a massive pill habit and all of a sudden my pills cost three to four times more than they did a month ago, from 80mg for twenty dollars to 80mg for eighty dollars. And I paid it, and I sold a few pills, and spent my savings until there weren’t any pills to buy and I started smoking heroin, and then very shortly after that I started shooting up.
I must in(ter)ject at this point a small factoid: heroin, that demonic concoction, is, at its average street purity, much less potent than oxycontin. Take it from someone who has done a shitload of both; heroin is milder by far and is much easier to come off of. As long as it has not been cut with fentanyl or carfentanil which are 100 and 10,000 times stronger than morphine, respectively. Trust me, the shit coming out of those pharmaceutical labs makes heroin look like ginger beer.
The scene is set: tons of middle class white kids are switching from oxycontin to heroin, the drug trade is booming, I know lots of people in said trade, and I myself have a massive heroin habit that I supplement daily with large doses of cocaine, and/or crack cocaine, and MDMA. The streets are flooded with high quality narcotics and affluent junkies, so I did what any lazy junky would do, I started selling drugs. And so, it is on a run north, to a major metropolitan area to purchase an objectively large quantity of narcotics, that our story takes place.
It had been about twelve hours since we started smoking crack. I had arrived at D’s waterfront apartment around 1:00pm, and as soon as I had traded my money for his drugs and shot up in the bathroom to shake off the sweats, he brought out the crack and the glass rose and the steal wool and we got down to business. It was around 2:00am and we were all out of crack.
This, as any crackhead will rapidly and aggressively inform you, is an untenable position.
“You should cook some up from what I sold you”, said D.
“You know that both of us are fucking garbage at cooking crack”, I replied, thinking back to all the times I had lost a gram of perfectly good coke because the shit popped out of the spoon and into the shag carpet when it finally became hydrophobic. (Crack cocaine got its fanciful and onomatopoeic moniker from the sound that cocaine makes when it converts from cocaine HCL [ standard issue powdered cocaine] to a solid, through the application of heat, plus water, and baking soda.)
“Let’s go buy some,” D blurted, after a long and thoughtful pause of 1/3 of one second.
“You know I gave you all the money I had. I’m perfectly happy to just shoot up,” I replied through the violent ups and downs of the narcotic cocktail jitterbugging through my shriveled veins.
After a lot more of this back and forth we both agreed that the smartest way to go about procuring more crack would be to drive downtown at 2:30am on a Tuesday with a guitar hero controller and trade it to someone D said that he knew.
Great. I love it when a plan comes together.
So off I drove into the night with felony amounts of two different narcotics, a scale, a spoon, and a fresh needle in the pockets of my shorts. Not to mention the car full of spent needles and mostly empty baggies barely camouflaged in the sea of fast food wrappers.
We drove around downtown for about a minute and a half before i realized that D did not know anyone down here and that what we were doing was driving around the shittiest part of town looking for a homeless crackhead to trade us some drugs for a guitar hero controller.
“Pull over here,” D shouted excitedly, over the pulsating sound of Justice grinding through the stereo.
So I pulled over and a very large woman walked up to the passenger window and asked what we wanted. D replied that we were looking for “soup”, which, apparently, is what the people in the streets call crack. She said she didn’t have any on her, but that if we waited right there for five minutes, she’d come back with someone who did and we could easily trade our video game controller for a rock. She turned to leave and reiterated that we were not to move until she got back.
“FUUUUUUUUUUUCK THIS. She is coming back with some big dudes to beat the shit out of us and steal everything we’ve got and, if we’re lucky, they’ll let us walk away. I am getting right the fuck out of here,” I said calmly, as soon as the giant woman was out of earshot.
So with much protesting from D, we drove on for another ten minutes until D told me to pull over again, this time in front of a very large, very sketchy looking alley way with two guys leaning on either side of the alley mouth. D rolled down his window and one of the guys ran over to the car and asked what we wanted. D asked for soup again and the alley-man assured us that he had what we needed and asked for money. D and I explained, in rapid fire unison, that we had no money and would instead prefer to trade this shiny and new guitar hero controller for some rocks. Alley-man, unfazed by this outlandish request, asked to see the controller.
And then in lightning fast slow motion, everything goes wrong.
D holds up the box with the controller in it. Alley-man reaches his wiry, monkey-strong crackhead arms into the car and grabs on to the box. D raises his voice and tells the guy to let go. Alley-man wrenches the box out of the frail hands of my companion, all the while reassuring him in a very calm voice for a robbery that if we just follow him to the back of the alley way we can get our precious rocks. D is out of the car at this point and has grabbed back on to the box, wrenching with all 120 of his sickly, fragile pounds, as the alley-man effortlessly pulls him into the darkness.
I finally snap into action and jump out of the car. Grabbing hold of D’s arm, I manage to convince him that getting beat to death for a guitar hero controller is probably not worth it. Alley-man is still beckoning us to join him in the darkness as I steer D back to the car.
Then I hear the single dumbest sentence I’ve ever heard in my life:
“Fuck that, I’m calling the cops.”
“Yeah right,” I laugh, “let’s go home, it’s cold as shit out here.”
But D’s not joking. Oh no. In fact, D already has his fucking phone out and, before i can slap it out of his hand, I hear two sentences that must be high on the list of all-time-dumbest things ever uttered by a junky:
“Yeah, is this the police? I’ve just been robbed.”
At this point my brain is about to explode. I hear D give dispatch the address of the corner we’re on and a brief description of the event and the perpetrator. He hangs up and starts shouting down the alley that the cops are coming and that alley-man is fucked and that he shouldn’t’ve messed with D.
My mouth is open and my brain has gone completely blank. I am standing on a corner in downtown Portland at 3:00am wearing basketball shorts, slippers, and a hoodie, it’s forty degrees outside, I have at least two felonies worth of drugs and paraphernalia on my person, I’m high out of my goddamn mind, and now I have to explain to a police officer how and why we just got robbed at the mouth of this fucking alley looking like we do.
I’m usually great in a crisis but this is a big fucking ask.
The cop car arrives in under five minutes. This is a terrible neighborhood full of junkies and homeless folks, so of course they show up instantly.
The cop asks D what happened and it quickly becomes apparent that I am going to have to do the talking. D, bless his heart, is not a great liar and is too wound up from the robbery and the twelve hours of crack smoking to keep any kind of story straight.
I, on the other hand, am a professional.
“So what, exactly, happened here?” asks the cop, surveying what, in any other circumstance would have been a hilarious scene.
“We got robbed,” I blurt out over D’s inept, cracked out nonsense.
“How?” replies the officer with a raised eyebrow.
“We were at the mini-mart over there,” I stutter, eyes darting wildly in an attempt to Keyser Söze some kind of narrative out of the scenery.
“That mini-mart there?”, asks the officer, pointing up the street.
“That’s the one,” I say, “we were buying cigarettes,” I add, with a touch of pride for the backstory I was improvising.
“That mini-mart that’s been closed since 11:00pm?”
“Yeah, you see what had happened was, we didn’t know it was closed so we went to check the hours on the door and left the windows down while we got out and this crackhead just ran up out of nowhere and snatched it out of the passenger side of the car.”
A very long pause, as the officer digests the strung out, machine gun fast, automatic verbiage that has just exploded through my teeth.
“OK, so what do you boys want to do about it?”
“Well, I don’t know, I was trying to tell D before he called that we should just…”
“We wanna go get that fucker!” Shouts D.
And with those six words I felt every drop of life I had in me run down the inside of my leg as the cop opened the passenger door of his cruiser for D and then, as casually and deliberately as a hangman he walked around the car, each footfall another nail in my coffin, to the back and opened up the door for me.
I stood for a very long time looking at the hard plastic seat with the grooves in the back for arms bound with cuffs and weighed my options: run and get caught and get raped to death in prison, or get in the back of a cop car with a whole fuckload of drugs and paraphernalia willingly and hope for the best.
After what was most likely a very suspicious amount of time, I clambered into the back.
We drove around for a while as D gave the officer increasingly less believable details and odd suggestions as to where “that fucker” could’ve got to. I was in a daze. I was fucked. I was in the back of a cop car with multiple ounces of two different class I narcotics and a scale and baggies and a spoon and a needle, high out of my mind, though, if I’m honest, getting into the back of a cop car is a real bracer and my buzz had been choked to death while shouting it couldn’t breath several times over by the events of the night. Nonetheless, I’m sure I looked the very picture of a junky; track marks, inappropriately dressed, wide eyes, greasy long hair, shifty, twitchy, and also oddly sleepy. I watched the world go by and halfheartedly daydreamed about eating the drugs in my pocket and overdosing before they could put me in jail.
And then a miracle occurred.
“Stop the car, that’s him!” Screamed D with all the fervor and none of the charm of a contestant on The Price is Right.
The cop pulled over next to a homeless camp and put the car spotlight in the general direction D was wagging his finger, got out of the car, and opened the door for me to get out, ostensibly to identify this fucker. I could’ve kissed him. I could’ve danced like a Dervish and slapped God in the mouth. I was free.
And holy shit, it really was that dirty, crackhead, alley-man fuck face that started this whole debacle.
D was incandescent, vibrating with joy and hate and righteous indignation. I don’t think he ever understood how close we were to going to prison that night.
“That’s him officer. That’s the guy!”
The cop swiveled his Mag Light on the crackhead and sure enough, it was indeed Alley-man. Calm as ever, sitting on a milk crate with a blanket over his lap, surrounded by a swarm of other denizens of the homeless drug population all bunched in together, sharing blankets against the cold, and staring at us with disdain.
“You take something from these boys?” the cop drawled.
“I’ve never seen these two faggots in my whole life,” sneered alley-man.
“Bullshit!” screamed D, “He’s got it under the blanket, I can see the fuckin’ outline!”
“What’s that under the blanket sir?” the cop asked as he reached out and, to Alley-man’s consternation, grabbed hold of the box for a guitar hero controller poorly concealed under the blanket on his lap.
The officer handed the box to D who quickly inspected his hard-won prize to make sure the cables and controller were still in there. Everything checked out and I start thinking that I might actually have a chance, a small chance, but a chance nonetheless, to get out of this without getting raped to death in prison.
“So, you got your game back, what do you boys wanna do?” asks the cop.
“I…” is all i get out before D screams,
“I wanna press charges! Fuck that guy!”
Quickly stepping in between D and the cop, I tell him that we are certainly not pressing charges and that, more than anything, we’d just like a ride back to my car and to go home. So into the back seat I climb once more, elated that I have so far beaten all the odds and eluded arrest.
The ride back was mostly quiet. D muttered to himself indignantly, while I tried to look innocent in the back seat of a cop car, my pockets brimming with drugs.
“You boys weren’t out here tonight... (a talented chauffeur could've driven four stretch Hummers through this pause) trying to buy drugs were you?” asked the cop with a slight arch to his eyebrow, as he caught my eye in the rearview mirror.
“Oh heavens, no” I spluttered much too quickly. “Like I said, we were just trying to get cigarettes when this whole thing spun out of control.”
“Uh huh…” was the skeptical reply “Well, you boys oughta get home, I don’t wanna see you down here again.”
“Certainly sir, no problem, we are going straight home to bed, this was more than enough excitement for one night.”
And with that the officer let us out at my car. We got in and drove back to D’s place. At which point I shat my pants in terror, scooped up my shit, slapped D in the face with it, and put a load of heroin in my arm to balance out the adrenaline… and the crack, slept for an hour or two and drove back home at first light.
And that is how the Yama Yoga do.
I would like to point out that if either my friend or I had had even a slight suntan, we would both likely still be in federal prison. The fact that my friend the drug dealer and I (both white, middle class dudes) got a ride in the back of a cop car looking and acting like we did, without so much as a frisk speaks volumes about the inequality present, especially in the justice system, in this country. Obviously I’m not complaining about how it turned out for me, as far as I’m concerned that night went about as well as it possibly could have. Just food for thought.
Gimme a group hug you glorious goonies of goodness! In an effort to avoid yet another post about grief and trudging through it with a sick sense of humor and an air of having been through worse while remembering that nothing is permanent and things tend to change for the better in my life, I am beginning a new series of posts called Yama Yoga Story Time.
“What the fuck is a Yama Yoga?” I hear you ask from the future as I type this at the last minute on a Wednesday. Yama Yoga, or “Death facing Combination” is an aspect in Jyotish (Vedic astrology) in which Mars and Saturn are conjoined or even just in close aspect to one another. If you want to know more, check out this article or this article by folks who knows a fuck load more about jyotish than I ever will. The gist is, when Saturn and Mars are in tight aspect to one another it gives the person the ability to, paraphrasing Austin Coppock, calmly walk through the killing fields. Bruce Lee had it, David Lynch has it, Madam Blavatsky had it, and, incidentally, my dad, both my brothers, two of my best friends, my wife, and I all have the Yama Yoga.
So what does that mean practically? In my experience, it means that my life has been filled with some gobsmackingly gnarly, fucked up shit which is mostly my own fault and, so far, I have strolled through it without losing my mind (permanently) and kept a lovely, gallows sense of humor about the whole thing. The stories I laugh at while regaling customers at the bar with my past exploits often result in looks of dumbstruck terror pimp-slapped across the faces of those within earshot. I know right away who I will really get along with because they’re the ones who will laugh with me and immediately serve up some fresh tales of horror from their own lives. And why not? It all happened, we can either laugh and rejoice in the fact that we’re still here, or cry and lament our past actions. It’s an easy choice for me.
Another benefit of Yama Yoga is the noticeable absence of the fear of death. Neither myself nor the army of crazies to whom I am related seem to fear dying. This is not bragging, not fearing death would be a super weird thing to brag about.
I should point out that I do fear things: large spiders upon my person in the night times, large crowds sometimes, pain, suffering, and shitting myself during an ayahuasca ceremony all rank pretty high on my fear-o-meter. Death, however, just seems like the gateway into the next phase, and a fucking cool adventure to be sure.
The folks I know with Yama Yoga are keenly aware of the impermanence of life and of everything else, they’ve endured pain and trauma that is genuinely shocking to the average bear, and, instead of adopting suicidal, nihilistic, or sociopathic tendencies, most of them choose to celebrate the joy of whatever is happening now and revel in the beautiful impermanence of everything. We’re kind of a fucked up cult of zen junkies making the world brighter and evoking joy in the present, by sharing, with a smile, how much worse it has been and how beautiful it is now. That sounds pretty self-aggrandizing and definitely makes us out to be more stable than most of us are. That said, those who have suffered the lowest lows tend to more easily find the inherent, ecstatic beauty in the mundane.
And then there's Mark Zuckerberg...
But try to imagine how bad it must have hurt when he pulled his own living brain out of his useless, fleshy-fleshy meat body and wired it up into whatever he is now. Or, holy shit, try to imagine how bad just living as a human must have hurt for him to have turned himself into a robot in the first place. I have experienced some very serious pain and trauma but it had never even occurred to me that cutting open my skull, ripping out my brain, and plopping it into a rejected prototype for a real Data-from-Star-Trek cyborg was an option. That’s Yama Yoga.
We also tend to spin a good line of bullshit and are fairly adept at justifying our choices or making the best of a situation that could only be described as totally fucked.
That seems like a solid place to leave it, images of a cryogenically frozen, brainless, Zucker-body floating peacefully in your heads. Until next time when we will likely dive into some actual Yama Yoga Stories.
Be well you crazy fucks. I love you all.