Close encounters of the meth kind

According to recent statistics, there may more than one-half-million methamphetamine abusers hurrying hither and yon through the great state of California at this very minute.

Marvelous …

With those kind of population estimates, one can rest assured that there’s a pretty good chance each and every one of us will have an opportunity to encounter one of these enthusiastic, but notoriously short-tempered stimulant abusers, as we go about our day-to-day affairs.

And virtually anything can happen during one of these unexpected meetings.

Sometimes it’s a long-lost old buddy you never met.

One minute you’re strolling down the sidewalk at one with the blue skies, sunshine and chirping ravens, and the next you’re being bear-hugged by a a skeletal guy with wide eyes and a toothless grin.

“Duuuude, where ya been?! I haven’t seen you since high school graduation when we were in the Navy! Whaddya-whaddya? Still got that Buddha opium pipe? Whadda blast! Yer lookin’ good, buddy! How was Saskatchewan?”

Listen carefully, amigos: It doesn’t matter that you don’t remember this guy from high school. It doesn’t matter that you were never in the Navy, smoked opium from a Buddha-shaped pipe or ever visited Saskatchewan. Whatever you do, don’t try to deny any of this.

If you do, you’ll never get rid of this new meth-fueled friend, because he’ll spend the rest of the day trying to explain, quite vehemently, how you were a chief petty officer aboard the U.S.S. Swampus and both of you got obliterated on primo hashish during a three-day binge in a Saskatchewan trailer park in 1989.

Just keep nodding, smiling and agreeing and, eventually, your new acquaintance will blink rapidly 15 or 20 times and walk rapidly away while humming “Stairway to Heaven” really, really fast.

Unfortunately, your experiences may go beyond the chance encounter with a friend you never had. With 500,000 meth users galloping off in all directions statewide, you may discover that your gardener, physician, attorney or auto mechanic also may have fallen victim to the illegal stimulant.

If your gardener shows up one Saturday morning, promptly mows your lawn 15 times and then asks “Hey, where’s your lawnmower?” it would be safe for you to presume that methamphetamine might be involved.

Just keep him away from the chain saw …

When your normally slow-moving mechanic is suddenly in a big, big hurry and quickly replaces your car’s spark plugs with banana slugs, he also may be powered by meth. And if he insists that those banana slugs are way better than spark plugs, it’s a pretty good bet that he’s had a close encounter with the drug. Thank him profusely and, if your hyperactive gardener is still hanging around, have him help push your car to another repair facility.

Finally, if you go in for a check-up and it appears that your health care provider may have been self-medicating with methamphetamine, remember that surgery is no longer an option for anything – not even a nose-hair trimming.

Really, amigos. I wouldn’t kid you on this …

Originally published on May 6, 2007

Reason No. 347 to avoid meth …

Hey, here’s a swell idea for next weekend: Don’t do any methamphetamine. Don’t snort it, don’t shoot it, don’t smoke it, don’t rub it under your tongue.

Really.

If you can last from Friday night through Monday morning without the slightest smidgen of the junkyard stimulant – no cheating! – chances are you might even last through Tuesday or (dare we hope?) Wednesday.

What a concept, America!

I guess I’m just being ridiculously optimistic, but I think it would be great if all of us could get through just one weekend without turning ourselves into sweating, pop-eyed meth fiends who are just as likely to park our cars upside down in the neighbor’s okra patch as we are to shoot the family cat because it was looking at us funny.

Admittedly, I’m being rather tiresome about this whole methamphetamine thing. But I walk into the county Hall of Justice five days a week and, five days a week, I encounter twitching wrecks who used to be moderately functioning human beings who are trying to explain to a judge why their formerly successful lives spiraled into meth hell in the space of a year or two.

Meth is killing us, it’s trashing our families and it’s wreaking havoc of innocent bystanders.

Plus, it’s making a helluva lot of us look incredibly stupid on a daily – sometimes hourly – basis.

Take the Portland case which I will refer to simply as reason No. 347 to avoid meth.

According to a recent Associated Press report, an Oregon man (who shall remain nameless just in case he ever gets his act together), was chaotically rolling along with a skin full of methamphetamine last year when he was foolish enough to pick up an automatic nail gun.

Then our over-methed hero somehow managed to shoot himself in the head with the aforementioned nail gun – not once, but 12 times.

Repeat after me: Meth, bad. Meth and nail gun, worse.

Not a really tough concept, eh?

On the positive side, our methventurer survived the nail gun fight he somehow got into with himself and eventually made his way to an Oregon medical facility.

The AP reported that the man, who complained of a headache, first told doctors he’d had a nail gun accident (12 times?!), but later admitted he’d taken meth and might have tried to kill himself.

Using a pair of needle-nosed pliers and a drill, doctors were able to remove the nails successfully, and the patient lived through the ordeal.

I know there are a few substance-challenged thinkers out there who already are arguing “Hey, if he hadn’t had plenty of meth, he might not have been strong enough to make it to the hospital to have his nails pulled out!”

Uh-huh.

Let’s try this again: Meth, bad. Meth and nail gun, worse.

Ditto for meth and handgun, meth and chain saw, meth and rattlesnake, meth and gasoline, meth and tambourine, meth and jar full of short-tempered scorpions …

Really, amigos. I wouldn’t kid you on this.

Originally published May 21, 2006

Methamphetamines: Calamity or disaster?

Every morning as I read through the court calendars in the Solano County Hall of Justice, I’m amazed by the number and variety of crimes that have something to do with methamphetamines.

It seems as if every third criminal offense – whether it be fishing without a license or attempted murder – is somehow associated with the use, abuse, transportation or production of the quirky and quite illegal drug.

A somewhat unpredictable stimulant which may or may not contain everything from strychnine to cottage cheese depending upon who cooked it up, meth appears to be the drug-of-choice for anyone contemplating a crime in Solano County.

At least it seems to be a favorite of the ones who get caught, which should tell you something about the overall efficacy of the drug.

Pioneered by the German Luftwaffe during World War II, the drug was supposed to improve the proficiency of their combat pilots. If you remember how World War II ended for the Luftwaffe, that, too, should tell you something about the overall efficacy of methamphetamines.

Red-eyed, twitchy devotees of the substance will tell you it sharpens their senses, makes them more alert and helps them multi-task (you know, like shoplifting while holding up convenience markets on a stolen bicycle).

It’s also a great way to lose weight if you want to achieve that desiccated, socket-eyed scarecrow look which tells the whole world “Don’t mess with me – I might be dead.”

With the right amount of meth you’ll also find that you’re a stunning conversationalist. Just check out the looks of amazement as you rocket your way into the heart of some refined chitchat with “HeyhowyadoingIjustgothereandIsawthisreallygreatlikebirdthingandprogramthatwouldshowpeoplehowtoflywithakiteorsomething. Yagotanybeer, dude?”

Everyone will be fascinated.

So will the judge.

(Believe me, sooner or later, there will be a judge. There always is.)

Of course, there are some drawbacks. You may, for example, get into such a hurry to get to work you may never get to work. Or, if you do get to a workplace, it may turn out to be somebody else’s workplace. That’s OK, though, because then you can become enraged and use your considerable conversational skills to convince everyone that you do, in fact, have a job somewhere and it might as well be right here and right now.

If they disagree, climb into the car you were too busy to register for three years and drive down the sidewalk until you can find somebody who will listen to you.

If you’re anything like the methamphetamine aficionados who seem to haunt the hallways of the Solano County Hall of Justice on a regular basis, the first understanding person you encounter will probably be a cop.

Try to have patience with the officer. After all, he’s probably not used to dealing with the rapier-like repartee you’re capable of laying down…

Not long ago I was discussing Solano County’s methamphetamine epidemic with a young Mennonite girl who sometimes visits our dim and dusty newsroom. She shook her head sadly and suggested, “Maybe they should just go get some ice cream.”

Ice cream?

Hey, maybe she’s got something there.

Originally published February 9, 2003