All posts by committingsociologyanonymously


Sleeping in one Tuesday morning. There’s someone moving around in the house. Someone big. Someone noisy. Maybe a lot of someones. Open my eyes. Five someones crowded into my bedroom. They all look like Darth Vader. They got the helmets and the black armored suits, the breath masks and the trademark breath mask noise. So they all sound like Darth Vaders. And guns. Nothing Space Age about the guns all five are pointing at me. One M-16. One submachine gun of some kind. Possibly an MP-5, I don’t know. I’m not an expert on submachine guns. They all look like MP-5s to me. Three of those ever-more-stylized 9mm and 10mm automatics the industry likes to market to the army and police forces. Oh, fuck. OhfuckOhfuckOhfuck!

Where’s the shotgun? In the closet. I’d have to climb over Carla’s sleeping body to get there. It’s only got three shots in it. The rest of the shells are in the other room. I’d have to get past two guys who already have the drop on me to get there. Batman could do it on a good day. I’m not going to try. Crap. The next few minutes are going to be very interesting, and the next few days are going to be very boring… because I now realize we’re going to jail. I look to my left and see Carla’s awake now. “What is this?” she asks in bewilderment. “Just what it looks like,” I tell her. “We’re going to jail.”

Not immediately, though. First, we went out to our front lawn. Cops start taking off their raid gear… Which now apparently includes scuba tanks? What’s that for? Were they expecting my house to be underwater? The old joke pops into my head, and I crack an involuntary smile – “How can you tell when someone used to be a Navy Seal? Don’t worry, he’ll fucking tell you!” I turn toward Carla. She’ll read my idiot grin as reassuring. She loves that shit.

And under his helmet, one of these Nebraska SWAT-pigs is wearing a Mets cap. That’s even weirder than the scuba tanks. In Nebraska, baseball is considered a fag’s game. Men watch football. Hell, even gay dudes watch football. Fags watch baseball. And if there isn’t even a high school game on, and you absolutely must watch baseball lest the idiot box actually be turned off for a moment, Omaha’s a suburb of Kansas City. Not a suburb of whichever one of the outer boroughs Shea Stadium is in. So the hat’s a prop. Has to be. He’s going to refer to it in the next few minutes. He’s going to play the “Us New Yorkers” card. Holy crap do I hate that!

Now, let’s get one thing straight. It doesn’t actually mean that just because I’m from New York, I hate the other 97% of the country. As long as they don’t pretend they’re New Yorkers, I don’t mind them that much. Somebody has to raise the cows so we can have Omaha steaks in Peter Luegar’s after the Yankees game. Somebody has to grow the corn so we can eat it popped at Yankee Stadium. Somebody has to provide baseball teams who lose to the Yankees, you know, like that white team that lost 13 thousand games to the Harlem Globetrotters. Yeah, if pretending to be from New York was fuck-up number one, fuck up number two was not knowing that New Yorkers watch the Yankees. People from Jersey and Connecticut watch the Mets.

Back in 2004, when Abu Ghraib was the top story on the news, I made it my business to learn everything there was to know about interrogation. I’d read Nazi Interrogator in high school, but I went through it again just in case I had missed anything. I scanned a thousand pages of The Reid Technique, and developed strong opinions on whether police should be able to use it all (They shouldn’t. It produces too many false positives.) I read the old pre-Gitmo Army Field Manual FM34-52
until I knew the difference between Futility Technique (“You know that at the end of the day, we’re going to find it”) and Fear Up (Mild) (“Tell us where it is and we won’t have to trash your house searching for it”).

I knew their most likely play was going to be Pride and Ego Down, so I was preparing myself for that. I mean, obviously, right? (“You’re not as good at this as you think you are. We got ten dead bodies in the morgue right now from hotspots in the shit you sold ‘em.” And then I’m supposed to jump out of my chair, “Not MY shit. My shit doesn’t HAVE hotspots.” Clang. One year mandatory minimum and the sentence can go as high as 50 years.) I’m in my late forties now, and my lifestyle isn’t the healthiest. I don’t HAVE another 50 years. So, the primary track running through my brain was me mentally preparing myself to not take the one kind of bait I have the most trouble letting lie – insults to my intelligence. A second track was keeping an eye on the pieces of evidence that were coming out of my house, and trying to guess if any of them added up to a manufacturing charge or an intent to manufacture. I knew there was enough in the house that, if put together correctly by a reasonably intelligent prosecution team, would be enough to put me away forever regardless of actual guilt or innocence. I just wasn’t sure if they knew it, or would know it when they saw it.

“Listen, you’re obviously a smart guy. You obviously know what you’re doing here, I mean in terms of handling fentanyl safely and all. I read your Wikipedia Page. Hey, you know, I was a rookie cop in New York when you were leading the squatter revolt in Alphabet City…”

When I was WHAT? I might talk about that one year of my life the way Navy Seals talk about being Navy Seals and vegans talk about being vegans. But I never once claimed I was LEADING it. I had so much respect for the guys who were; Frank Morales, Jerry the Peddler, and a few others. I learned so much from them that to this day, thirty years later, my father still can’t say their names without spitting.

Speaking of spitting, Carla sounds like she just tried to swallow a sewer rat. I flash her another idiot grin. In Married-Couplespeak, her throat clearing was actually her nagging me not to take the bait, and my grin was assuring her I had this. Thirty years ago I’d also have tipped my hand to the cop that I knew his playbook far better than he did, because he just fucked up again. That’s now three times in four sentences. That’s gotta be a record. I turn to look at Mets-Boy and briefly picture myself castrating him. Unfortunately, I try to avoid hurting women when I can, even in inappropriate revenge fantasies, and this one would have involved kicking his sister in the mouth. On what planet would my service in the War in the Neighborhood (as comic book artist Seth Tobocman called his graphic novel about those events endear me to a New York City cop? What color is the sky in that world? Shit, I’d wash bedpans in the cancer ward just to watch a New York cop die. Anyway, dig it, Seth! You created me as a supporting character in War In The Neighborhood. Thirty years later, I’m spinning off into my own series. Dig that!

Mets-boy is using Pride and Ego Up. That only ever works on the dumbest guy on the team, the guy who’s so starved for a word of praise he’ll talk his way into a life sentence just to hear one from the pig putting him away. I’ve been getting “You’re a smart guy” free with my breakfast cereal every day since I was three years old. Under normal circumstances, I don’t much value it unless I have the same level of respect for the guy praising me. Pride and Ego Up is also a closing move, not an opening one. It’s like a Big Con that relies on fast-talk rather than a well-thought-out confidence play. The target eventually figures out he’s been had, and then you can’t do anything else with him.

I let part of my brain replay the conversation from last night where I’d heard the kind of praise from the kind of people that actually does mean something to me. I was showing Rick and Matt an idea I’d had for tweaking the Birch Reduction (what meth cooks call “the Nazi method”) by swapping the anhydrous ammonia solvent for one with the same properties that was much easier to get and much easier to work with. Half the risk in doing the Nazi method is getting your hands on a couple of pints of anhydrous ammonia. Legal risk if you steal it. Every farmer in town uses it as fertilizer, but it’s now a federal offence to steal it from a farmer’s field. Five years mandatory minimum, fifteen years mandatory minimum, something like that. Physical risk if you make it. The fumes from that shit can pull every drop of water from exposed soft tissues. You can lose your eyes, your mouth, your whole sinus cavity to ammonia fumes. It can turn the fat under your skin into soap. This ain’t like the cleaning product you make high-quality crack with (Or is it low-quality free-base? I guess that’s a matter of opinion). If you think you know how to work with anhydrous based on that, you don’t. Half the rest of the risk is the fact that the fumes can be smelled a mile away. Everyone in town knows when a major cook just got done. What if we could just sidestep all that, and still have the basic idiot-proofness of the Birch? I did a series of literature searches, and it turns out we can. There’s another solvent that should do just as well, that’s not even watchlisted. I could go to Midland Scientific today and buy a 55 gallon drum of it, and pay with small, circulated, non-sequential bills and nobody there or at the DEA will care. Well, I can’t TODAY. Today, I’m sitting in the one shady patch of my lawn with flexicuffs cutting off the circulation in my fingers and a cop in a Mets cap blowing smoke up my ass. You know what I mean, though.

I was showing Rick and Matt all the reasons I had to believe this new solvent would work. Rick and Matt are like the reigning aristocrats of the local kamikaze chemist scene. Rick was doing Birch reductions in the back seat of a moving car when he was in high school. And Matt doesn’t quite go all the way back to Silk Road One, but he does go back as far as Agora Marketplace, and that’s impressive enough. Rick’s been hanging around a lot lately, because he’s sweet on the ice-cold killer who normally sleeps in between my front door and my bedroom. Now that I think about it, the two of them took off at dawn looking like they had a bedroom of their own on their minds. Ahhhh… Let ‘em do it! It’s been way too long for both of them, and they are so adorable together. I’d never got a chance to talk shop with Rick or Matt before, and it did kind of feel like passing an audition. Rick was doing Steve Wozniak to my Steve Jobs. He had his mouth open and all he could say over and over was “This will change the world.” Hearing that from him, knowing who he is in this town, that meant something to me. A cop in a Mets cap blowing smoke up my ass, not so much.

Mets-boy wants to know if there are dangerous chemicals in the house that can hurt his men, now that they’ve taken off the scuba gear. That stuff is heavy, and if they have to walk in and out of my house in the sun wearing it, they’ll be wiped out in an hour. So if I could just tell him where the really dangerous stuff is now, he’d never use that against me. And then it clicked. Buddy here doesn’t know what he’s looking for. He busts meth labs all day long. He thinks a fent lab is more of the same. And he’s heard all the “one grain’ll kill you” stories. He doesn’t understand that my solvents and carrier medium are both food-grade, so I store them on my kitchen shelves. He’s already walked right past them twice. My “lab equipment” is a couple of pots and pans from my kitchen. When I’m done with them, I wash them and put them back. That’s the reality of a fent lab.

I probably shouldn’t have said ANYTHING, my lawyer will definitely kick my ass for this, but I told him (and told him again, and told him, at least twenty times, in response to twenty different versions of the same question), “There is nothing in the house that can hurt your men.”

And then the cop went into this long-winded explanation of how he doesn’t hate me, he’s just doing his job, see? And part of that job is writing “Cooperative” or “Uncooperative” next to my name on the report that the judge will see just before passing sentence. What I really need to understand, see, is just how brutally overcrowded the county jail is right now. (That’s the one part of this particular serving of pigshit that WASN’T a lie. County really is brutally overcrowded. No shit.) And so the judges understand they got no room to lock up guys who showed co-operation with law enforcement, who were willing to answer questions, and so on. Why, it might even be that I get released right there, with no charges at all, as long as I give him enough information to charge me with something right now… This is the Reid Technique, and this is why it needs to be banned. It’s World-Turned-Upside-Down and it’s based on a total lie. Confess the crime and you’ll go free, but ask for your lawyer or insist on your constitutional right against self-incrimination, and we’ll lock you up forever.

I shouldn’t complain too much. Two minutes later Mets-boy Mirandized me, I asked to talk to my lawyer, and that was it. Real Reid Technique is never over that fast. Real Reid Technique doesn’t end, ever, until it produces a signed confession. If it takes 50 hours of bouncing a suspect off the walls, then it takes 50 hours. The interrogators will sleep in shifts. The suspect won’t sleep at all. If it takes 100 hours, it takes 100 hours. Most guys, most physically and psychologically strong guys, can’t take 4 days and 4 nights of no food, no sleep and constant threats and intimidation. After 4 days and nights, they no longer know they’re in a police station and the men talking to them are police officers. All they know is if they sign the paper in front of them, they’ll be allowed to sleep.

There’s a wonderful little video that makes the rounds on Facebook every so often. A mile-a-minute-talking little Boston Irish lawyer gives a law school class his Ten Reasons Not to Talk to the Police.
(1. It can never help you. 2. If you do admit guilt, it will be with no benefit in return. Etc.) Take an hour and watch the whole thing and then finish reading my story. It will not be a waste of your time. And if you can’t remember all ten, just remember this one. “Boy, am I glad I told the police everything before I talked to my own lawyer!” said no defendant ever. I didn’t think I was likely to be the first.

Like I said, Track A was Interrogation 101. Track B was Wow, Rick and Matt Really Think I Could Be Good At This. How Cool Is That? Track C was “OK, what do they actually HAVE? And do they know what it is? And do they know what charges it can be used to support?” Carla was doing the same. And was already way ahead of me because she’s a much better jailhouse lawyer than I am. She’s got the functional equivalent of three years of law school and seven of working as a criminal defense lawyer’s junior partner. I could maybe pass for a paralegal, in New York and two or three other states (not this one) and even then, not if the light was any good. We both had a short list of smoking guns; objects that if we saw them coming out in a cop’s hands, we knew we’d be going away for a very long time. And to our surprise… none of them did.

In addition, Carla wasn’t just looking for her smoking guns, she was also mentally cataloging every object that came out and trying to reason why, as well as simultaneously keeping a mental inventory of what they were missing. Despite our different routes to get there, we got it at exactly the same time. My mental exercise was easier. There was one item, stored in one particular room that I was more worried about than any other. Alone, it was nothing and of very little consequence. Combined with other items in a well done display of circumstantial evidence, it would be my downfall. As other objects from that room came out, I was paying very close attention. As soon as I saw they’d moved on to the next room, I knew they missed it, and it was time for another Married Couple Conference. As I turned to make the eye contact, slight nod, wink, and look away, I saw Carla throw her head back and that million dollar smile flash across her face. She wasn’t even trying to hide it as her eyes flashed in joy. I saw her look up at the crystal clear sky and silently mouth the words “thank you!” She noticed the cops turn to look at her, and said “at least the sun is absolutely beautiful today!”

My slight nod and wink to her may have been more subtle, but in the end we were speaking the same language, and mentally high-fiving one another. “Do you see it, Baby? They got *nothing*! We’re going to jail today, it’s going to be a big drag, but in the long term, I ain’t worried because They Got NOTHING!”

High Crimes and Misdemeanors — The Further Adventures of Greg and Cindy Markowitz

I had the most bizarre experience last week.

Cindy invites her Trusted Lieutenant Smith over to the house this afternoon to talk business. There’s a strange woman with him. MUCH hotter than he usually manages.

I’ve always been a bit suspicious of Smith. You know when someone’s just too good to be true? That’s Smith. He’s WAY too good at this stuff to be working for a couple of amateurs like us. I had her ask him where he picked it up and he told her he’d worked for other dope organizations for the last 15 years. This is his profession. Actually money-laundering is his profession. And even though that’s not what we need right now, he also has the skills we do need.

Cindy: “Who’s she?”

Smith: “She’s my boss.”

Cindy:”Whaddaya mean *she’s* your boss? I’m your boss.”

Smith: “Mmmm… Not exactly…”

At that point I figure we’re both about to get shot. I’ve seen all those 1970s dealer movies. I know what the Godfather does when the Plucky Independents start cutting into his bottom line. He sends his Trusted Lieutenant to shoot them in the head.

But no. Smith’s purpose with us really is what he says it is. He really is helping us out. He’s just doing it on someone else’s orders. I never heard of anything like this. We eat into the mob’s business and they send one of their top guys to *help* us? I’m still processing this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m real happy I didn’t get shot that day. But still, this *is* weird.

I found out why they’re so interested in us. They’ve never seen a panic like the one that hit when our stuff ran out. Apparently nobody has. I just heard of somebody’s last gram (that I sell for $500 an ounce) going for $300 and somebody else’s going for $50 a tenth.

Also really cool watching Smith’s hot boss tonight calling other dealers and telling them, “Whaddaya mean you can’t tell me exactly which fentanyl analog is in your China White and exactly how much there is? This is 2017! You HAVE to give the customer that information!” We started that a few months ago, it’s now officially become a thing.


A couple-three days ago, Cindy’s former Trusted Lieutenant, Mark, shows up on our doorstep with this guy we’ve never seen before. This was exactly the behavior that made Cindy fire his ass in the first place. Anyway, he presented Sam as being in the landscaping business and we talked about that for a bit. I only ever worked at landscaping for one day, but even that was enough to get that Sam didn’t know the first fucking thing about it. Next day Sam comes back on his own. There’s no pretense about landscaping this time. He’s a smack dealer (Big surprise there, I don’t remember the last person in my home who wasn’t. It may have been before moving out here.) and he operates in the burbs. He really thinks we’re wasting our time in the hood selling to Mexicans, meth-heads and bikers. I noted that he failed to mention “niggers” in his list of undesirable clientele when the guy he’s trying to be without a doubt would have said it, filed that one away for later and kept listening. In fact, he says, we really ought to relocate and set up shop in his territory.

Wait, what? Who in the fuck invites the competition into their turf? Especially when we have (hope to have again, anyway) a product better than his that we can sell for a third the price. We can eat his lunch and he knows it. There’s got to be another shoe about to drop. A few more minutes, the big reveal comes out. He’s passing. His father is black and he’s passing. This is supposed to throw us off balance and if we were from here, it would have. While we’re pretending to process it, he gets his ask ready. Directing to me he says “It would really be for the best if you prepared Mark a hotshot. Would you be willing to do that?” I just growled at him “I didn’t hear that and you didn’t say it.” Then, the absolute gall of this guy, he directs the same question to Cindy sitting two feet away, like it hasn’t just been asked and answered. Cindy won’t cut me down in front of a stranger (Nor will I do the same to her) so she repeats what I said, word for word.

Then he says “You’re leaving me no choice. Is it OK with you if *I* cap him?” Now while neither Cindy nor I are murderers by nature, we’re also not going to stand in someone’s way unless we like you at least a little. That’s just… not our business. And the truth is, I never had any use for Mark, and Cindy has given him every chance in the world. So we both assured the guy we sure weren’t standing in his way. “Do what you need to do,” we both said. “That’s your thing. Now don’t get us wrong, it wouldn’t break our hearts if this happened, but we do not want anyone to do it for our benefit. That said, again, we’d shed no tears if it did in fact happen!”

Next morning, Cindy’s whole crew is here. I’m lying in bed trying to decide which end of it to puke off of. That’s how dry it is these days. I don’t know a single dealer in town who’s even able to feed his own habit right now. Anyway, yeah, my wife has a crew now. She never lied about what she was before I married her. First movie we ever watched together was Johnny Depp playing George Jung in “Blow”. She needed me to understand who I was getting involved with.

Then Mark shows up at the door. I have to figure at this point, he’s either clearly trying to goad me into fucking him up, or else legit does not have the basic social skills that say “You don’t show up unannounced at a woman’s door after sending them angry texts, nasty crank calls, and talking shit all over town about her.”

Panic ensues. If he sees the crew here he’s going to decide he was right all along that this was a big huge fake drought we’re pulling to try to cut him out. I get up slowly, open the door and tell Mark “you wait right fucking there I’m getting my boots,” and then bark at Cindy, “Get me my boots, wallet and car keys! I’m going to fix this once and for-fucking-all!” At this point I have to do the fake badass routine. This is the midwest. If I let another man disrespect my wife like this, nobody here will take me seriously. Ever. I’m furious he’s put me in this position and feel like death warmed over at the same time. But in a few seconds pissed off at this asshole wins out over sick, so I get my boots, keys, and wallet, and walk out.

I stagger outside and lead Mark to my car. Predictably, he starts spewing his schizo-paranoid bullshit at me. Usually I got no patience at all for that shit, but today it’s going to lead Mark right where I need him to go. So I play right back at him. “I’m taking you someplace safe. I’m parking you at Frank’s place for the day. You got a kid in Portland you never saw, right? In a couple of hours, someone you thought you could trust is going to give me a one-way bus ticket to Portland and a wad of cash to get you set up when you get there. Now, do you understand what happens next if you don’t take it?” He says yes.

I tell him, “I’m not sure you do. I know you’re a tough guy. You’re not afraid to die. It only hurts for a minute. But think about me. I’m a fucking amateur! I’m a little rich-kid pussy! I just wanted to sell some dope and make some money. I never cut up no dead body before! I never drove around with fucking body parts in the trunk of my car before! I know *you’d* never run from a fight, but think about me!”

Frank was none too happy when I showed up on his doorstep and even less happy when he saw I had Mark with me. Frank is a bigtime importer. None of these little street pissants want to get on his bad side. But how he maintains that is by not letting the street into his home. I’m asking him to change what’s worked for him for years. I begged, he agreed — until sundown. And ‭I owe him a big one to be claimed later. Ha! Six hours? My dog could pull this off in six hours. Nothin’ easier! Before I drive off, I shout to Frank “Don’t let him make any phone calls. I don’t want anybody to know he’s here.” More to the point, I want him isolated so he can’t check my story and find out what a line of bullshit I just fed him.

I get the bus ticket. One way to Portland, as promised. Mark never told me his last name, but I overheard it once, so I got it printed on the ticket. Back to my place, tell Cindy’s crew what I’ve done, pass the hat around. Or try to anyway. But imagine this, the elite of the Midwest’s dealing scene is assembled in my home and not one of them has two nickels to rub together much less one to give me. Myself, I got maybe 20 bucks left on my card.

Alright, no cash. Pigfuckers that they are, I will remember this. I’m taking a man who never asked for a chemical timebomb to go off in his head, and I’m sending him to a city where he’s never been, where there’s exactly one person who knows his name and exactly zero who want to talk to him and I’m sending him there with lunch because that’s all my card will handle right now. Three granola bars, an apple, a banana, two bottles of water, a pack of cigarettes and a mickey of Southern. I asked the cashier to put the booze through separately because I wasn’t sure I had enough to cover it.

Take him to the bus station. Departure minus 45 minutes. If he’s going to have a brain-blow, now is the time. I’ve been keeping his ticket in my pocket as a mind-game. I made it something he has to want and ask for instead of something being forced on him. Now the whole fucking crew shows up, minus Cindy. Cindy could forgive Hitler, once, if he begged and was super sorry and sincere. But there’s a reason her favorite t-shirt reads “Sweet as sugar, cold as ice. Cross me once and I’ll shoot you twice!” So I’m not a bit surprised she didn’t show up.

Now everybody wants to be my best friend and Mark’s. Fuck ’em in the ear! If they can keep Mark distracted for 45 minutes until final boarding call, I’ll take it. But by no means will I confuse that with doing the heavy lifting where they left me on my own. Tick, tick, tick, and finally it comes. Final boarding call for Chicago, New York and points east. I put my arm around Mark and start fast-talking the busdriver. “My friend’s been on the street for a while, he hasn’t got ID but the ticket is legit, I myself paid cash for it, paid it to that woman behind the counter, she’ll remember me…” Driver buys it. Lets Mark board the bus. Then there’s a half hour delay for God knows what. I plant myself against the window looking out at the bus, and brace my arm against the sill so I don’t fall down. But I need to see it. This ain’t done until the bus pulls out of the lot with Mark on it. And I need to see it happen.

The station security guard doesn’t like what I’m doing. I’m not breaking any rules, but it’s still suspicious as hell. I give him the Manson stare and he finds pressing business in a back room. Finally, finally, could not have happened at a better fucking time, the bus leaves. I walk out with it, just so I can see it disappear into the distance with our problem on it.

Back to the house, they tell me I saved Mark from another hit, besides Sam’s threat. Maxie — the horse veterinarian chick with the horse-sized habit — has money, and she paid some meth-head to cap Mark. Note to self: Maxie needs a talking-to if she wants to keep hanging around my house. I bet she never even looked at what the murder clearance rate in this town is. It’s 86%. And what characteristic do the other 14% share that she doesn’t have? I’m going to guess the ability to threaten a shooter already in police custody with a fate far worse than lethal injection is part of it.

The truth of it is I was told Mark was greenlit three times, not twice. It just so happens I know a bit more about the third story than the guy telling it to me. Yeah, we sold some dope to a Son of Silence, yeah, they probably got a “no hypes, no pipes” policy like most bikers do, yeah the guy was found dead with a needle in his arm and our dope in his bloodstream. All of that’s true. But he left a note. “Goodbye cruel world! I don’t want to live after my girl left me. And so I’m deliberately slamming my entire supply. Right now.” Couldn’t have cleared me better if I wrote it myself. I let it be known I was ready to go talk to the Sons and explain myself. But they already had the note. His handwriting, his signature. They accepted it at face value, didn’t think I could tell them anything they didn’t already know.

All our dealers have strict instructions to report even the slightest health problem of any customer up the chain and if one of our customers dies — of any cause whatever — no detail is too trivial or extraneous for me to want to hear it. We’ve reformulated our carrier medium twice, just to help the IV users avoid skin infections. We tried telling them to just snort it but realized in a matter of weeks that once people get used to needles they inevitably go back to them. It’s this bizarre thing where they basically forget there are other ways to get dope into your bloodstream.

I found a scientific paper from 1914 that cross-indexes all the common bugs, including staph and aureus, the two worst skin infections, with all the common sugars, and I picked the one that no bug you’re likely to find in your skin can eat. It’s an obscure wood sugar, similar to xylose, but Wal-Mart sells it as an artificial sweetener under the name “Truvia”. Much safer than the lactose/mannitol cuts the industry has been using since forever.

We’ve had three false alarms, including that biker. We got one late night report from an hysterical woman that we’d poisoned her brother. The morning paper gave the cause of death as multiple gunshot wounds. The truth didn’t make her happy, and I never thought it would… but it got her to stop talking shit about us. We got another saying Mark had called 911, and then bolted when a cancer patient overdosed. Not cool in a state with a Good Samaritan law. The guy who phones in the overdose is un-fucking-touchable, no matter what he sold to who. We were able to establish that the building doorman saw cancer guy walking around the lobby six hours after the supposed overdose, so that one’s not on us either. We’ve had two overdose incidents that should not have happened, that are going to force some more changes in the way we do things, one where the guy was tagged and bagged before he woke up. But both times, the guy came all the way back. We’ve sold 2-3 thousand grams without killing a single person. We are on our way to proving what we set out to prove — that supernarcotics can be sold without killing anybody.

Does Life Imitate “Breaking Bad” or Does “Breaking Bad” Imitate Greg and Cindy Markowitz?

I bought some carfentanil on the darknet a while ago, decent quantity too, 200 milligrams, about the size of a bar-quarter of coke. I diluted it down using the procedure in “My Near-Death Fentanyl Experience” except I used a ratio of 1000 milligrams of sugar to 1 of carfentanil. Straight fent gets cut 100-to-1. Carfentanil, W-18 and alpha-methyl-fentanyl get cut 1000-to-1. There’s this new stuff, it’s not on the market yet but it probably will be, 4-carbo-ethoxy-fentanyl, another order of magnitude stronger, that’ll need a 10,000-to-1 cut. A 20 pound bag of sugar for a single gram of the drug. I wouldn’t begin to know how to handle that shit safely. Mask and gloves won’t do it. I’m guessing Level 3 Center for Disease Control protocols, maybe even Level 4.

I also added a few drops of blue food coloring, partly as a hat tip to Breaking Bad, partly to make it impossible for anyone to mistake it for heroin — or worse, to try and pass it off as heroin.

At or around this time I was whining to Cindy that I wanted to get some meth but I couldn’t afford to buy as big as my usual darknet vendor insisted on. There was a moving job we did a while back, it took me a week to do half of it, Cindy and a three man crew took another week to finish the other half. I needed to undo it all by myself in two days and I wanted my redneck rocket fuel to power through it.

She said she’d try to find something locally. And she did. From a fellow patient at her methadone clinic. The guy shorted her. I won’t say “burned” or “ripped off”. Those are strong words implying a degree of premeditation that I can’t prove. But I’m on 100% solid ground with “shorted”. She got exactly half the meth she paid him for. She ran into the guy again the day before I got back and his story was almost worth the amount of money that went missing. Almost.

Cindy and I are always on the lookout for people willing to try carfentanil and give us feedback on it. The stuff is new and there’s very little solid information out there about how it works. There’s no history of legitimate use on humans and most of the illegitimate use is as a heroin substitute/adulterant. We don’t really know that much about carfentanil as a recreational drug in its own right. See? We’re not asking people to get wasted just to get wasted. This is for Science. This is for expanding the scope of human knowledge. So when Cindy gave her clinic buddy a wad of cash to pay for my meth, she also gave him a quarter ounce of carfentanil cut down to the strength of high-quality heroin. Gave him the whole list of safety rules (snort bumps not rails, wait a good 20 minutes before taking more, etc.) and instructions to share it with his friends. Yes, she handed out wholesale quantities of supernarcotics in a methadone clinic. That’s the bit that makes it art.

Her friend didn’t have the best experience. One line knocked him flat on the floor, he grabbed onto a dresser to pull himself up and managed to pull the dresser down on top of him. He spent the evening lying on his floor underneath a piece of furniture. But that was Okaaayyy…

His friends were a different story. I don’t know what they’re used to getting around here, Mexican black tar kind of came and went a few years ago and I don’t know what’s around now. My wife goes to a methadone clinic so I suppose she could find out. But whatever it is, it don’t compare to carfentanil. This stuff blew them away. In my experience, needles are a one-way trip. Once a user starts injecting, they never go back to sniffing lines. For some reason, injecting carfentanil doesn’t seem to work so all these hard-core decades-long IV users are sniffing lines off a mirror like they were 16 again and loving it. One guy described sitting on the floor sniffing half-matchhead-sized bumps and drooling on his shoes for four hours. Shit, if I’d come up with this stuff in the 1980s when IV drug use was the most efficient transmission vector for AIDS — they’d have given me the Nobel Prize. Or 25-to-life. Not sure which.

These guys are begging for more of it. They’re telling their friends about “Blue Moon” and the new Heisenberg who makes it. It’s become a local dope scene legend. All of which means Cindy has the upper hand getting the short from the original deal fixed. She tells the guy, “The next thing that’s going to happen is you bring me what you owe me. After that, other things will happen but first you need to make this right.” In other words, she promised to wholesale carfentanil to him, let him be the guy who can meet the demand for this legendary new Blue Moon. I was out of town for a week. Imagine if I’d left for a month?

Shared Language

13923512_10157167362285532_6410432123883132113_oI planned to sit and think about us
To decide if what we’re doing is right or wrong
And words like patient and nice and kind came to mind
Words that tedious people use as map markers
to plot a life that’s good enough
And I hated them all
I hated them and I buried them in a dark place
where they would all quietly accept their fate
because they would never think
to scratch their way out,
never think to clench their fists and batter reality
screaming and screaming “what about me”

My mind reeled in modern dance
Spinning, kicking, grasping, landing hard on my knees
hoping the world would give up and let my need for you
stop time long enough for me to see you see me one more time
See me ice-skating with my red scarf flying,
my heart wild with possibility as I crashed
into the snow-walled edges
and got back up for another go
See me negotiating the passage from girl to woman
too fast, too soon, and all the years it took the girl
to finally catch up
See me crying on a hotel bed, curled up in a heaving ball
knowing my father would forget who I was one day
See the depths of me coming for you, for me, for us
again and again, showering us with everything that I am,
our bodies making the past and present sticky sweet

Except I can’t dance well enough to stop time

Oh, but I have words, lover
Words that can shimmy honey onto your tongue
Words that can tap into a bass line so you feel what I feel
Words that can dance all night long steaming up the place
because you are happier when you are warm
My words — I’m yours
Your words — Stay with me
Our shared language of not letting go,
of claiming time in our own way

So I don’t want to decide if we’re right or wrong
I don’t want to be fair
I want to be demanding, selfish, wild, free
I want to scream and scream “what about me” as I drip
my greedy lifeblood into your waiting wanting mouth
And then I can let the nice words live another day
Let them breathe in our poetry so they regret
— just a little —
how fucking patient they’ve been

—Shannon Wand

Everything I Needed to Know About Kicking Junk, I Learned From Trainspotting

2ee2f574e2d4971c3e5a224d86f78b98A few months after the events described in “My Near-Death Fentanyl Experience”, I left Montreal. New town, new job, I had to decide what to take with me and what to leave behind. One of the things I decided to leave behind was a multi-gram a day heroin habit. Two grams a day, minimum, just to maintain an even strain and three or more if I actually wanted to get high. I bet most people, once they found out their smack habit dwarfed their smack dealer’s habit, they might think that was cause for concern. I’m not most people. I didn’t get it until my dealer expressed that concern, clearly, directly and to my face. When my own smack dealer tells me I’m overdoing it, I have to allow for the possibility she might be right.

OK, so decision made. I am going to quit. But how to do it? No shortage of God and group therapy where I was going, but that ain’t me. There’s methadone clinics too but that ain’t me either. I’m from the generation that was taught methadone was the instrument of the Devil. It only prolonged the agony and made the problem worse. There’s this new stuff, buprenorphine, supposed to be a one-shot cure. There’s like a hundred doctors in all of the United States allowed to prescribe it and they’re only allowed to have like a hundred patients each. The waiting list is a million years long. What am I gonna do? And then it hit me. I’ve seen Trainspotting (1996). I know EXACTLY what to do. I know Ewan MacGregor’s speech from that scene almost by heart.

“Relinquishing junk. Stage one, preparation. For this you will need: One room which you will not leave. Soothing music. Tomato soup, ten tins of. Mushroom soup, eight tins of, for consumption cold. Ice cream, vanilla, one large tub of. Magnesia, milk of, one bottle. Paracetamol, mouthwash, vitamins. Mineral water, Lucozade, pornography. One mattress. One bucket for urine, one for feces and one for vomitus. One television and one bottle of Valium.” Every item on that list serves a purpose.

In other words, mostly what I was going to need was time. I looked up the figures in a quick consultation with Doctor Google and understood that I needed to give myself a minimum of a week before I’d be anywhere near capable of showing up for a job. And out of that week, I could expect the first three days to be the worst. In the end, that was the key. Knowing the timeline and knowing to the hour exactly where I was on it. It is a quirk of human psychology that a man can endure quite a lot if he knows exactly when it’s going to end. The sharpest stomach pains, the inability to keep even water down, the constant vomiting of yellow-green bile—that ends after 72 hours, give-or-take. In that time, dope has to be impossible or at least very hard to get. I do not advise trying to do this part with dope in the house, chances are you’re going to reach for it. The next bit, the inability to take solid food (this is where you’ll be glad you laid in the ice cream), the desire to claw yourself out of your own skin and the generally being too weak to get up out of bed and do shit, that ends in another three days, four at the most. Non-narcotic tranquilizers and sedatives won’t help you to sleep, don’t hope for that, but enough of them can put you in enough of a fog the hours go by a bit faster. I’m not going to say how many heavy-duty tranks I took or how much whiskey I washed them down with to buy six hours of almost-not-misery on the last day. Some fool will try to replicate it and die in the process and I’m not having that on my conscience.

Distractions are the meaning of life in those last three or four days. Binge-watch that eight season TV series you were always meaning to check out. Play an audiobook or better yet, a whole series of audiobooks, the cheesier the better. Anything to knock out one painful hour after another after another.

After that, the last two lingering effects—and these last a month—are that during the day my brain and body were running at a fraction of normal clock speed. By taking lots of amphetamines, I was able to boost that to a higher fraction. Half. On a good day three-quarters. Never full speed. And at night, I was never able to sleep, not one minute, not for a month. The morning I opened my eyes, realized I’d slept four whole hours for the first time in a month, I shit you not, I got up and did the dance of joy around my bedroom.

Fuck Bullies

black yeeYou always remember your first. Mine was a brawny six-year-old named Stuart.

The scourge of all the first-graders at Herbert Symonds Elementary, he’d had it in for me since the day our teacher, Mrs. Sehon, praised my reading ability in front of the entire class. Several weeks into the school year, I’d rarely made it through a day without being grabbed and slammed up against the lunchroom wall, or wrestled into a headlock and forced to confess that yes, I was indeed a stinky poo-face. In our most recent encounter, he’d forced me to my knees and dragged my face along the chain-link fence that bordered the schoolyard while several of my classmates cheered him on.

To avoid being beaten and humiliated I’d developed a strategy that involved staying out of Stuart’s way as much as possible in the hope that he’d find someone else to pick on, and on those occasions when our paths did happen to cross, running as fast as possible in the other direction.

My mother, still the best male role model I’ve ever had, was fed up of me coming home with my school clothes ripped to shit. She knew that complaining to the principal would only make me look like a sissy, so she asked her boyfriend Jimmy to give me a few pointers.

I went over all the stuff he’d told me as I walked to school the following Monday. Forget all that John Wayne bullshit. Those wild, looping haymakers might look good in the movies, but they were useless in a real fight. You had to punch straight from your shoulder and get your weight behind it, goddamit.

Stuart spotted me the minute I stepped onto the schoolyard. I could see the sneer curling at his lip as he headed toward me. My legs were trembling but I was determined to stand my ground. I swallowed hard and dug the toe of my sneaker into the asphalt.

The kids around us stepped out of the way as Stuart approached, grateful not to be targeted, but more than willing to stick around for the show. I turned my body sideways, shifted my weight to my back foot, and curled my hand into a tight little fist. When my nemesis reached for the collar of my jacket, I stepped up and smashed my knuckles into his face.

I’d never punched anyone before. I didn’t know what to expect but I had a sneaking suspicion that despite Jimmy’s little pep-talk, my fist was going to bounce off Stuart’s face like when bad guys tried to fight Superman, and he would then proceed to actually kill me.

Everything that followed seemed to happen in slow-motion. Stuart’s eyes opened wide as my punch landed. A look of fear and confusion—not unlike that on a bull when the matador drives the estoque between its shoulder blades—spread across his features. He raised a hand to his face and actually whimpered as blood began to spout from his nose. I waded through the pack of kids who’d gathered around us, their mouths hanging open in stunned little O’s, headed up the school steps and never looked back.

The moral of the story? Give a man a fish and someone will beat him up and take it. Teach your kids to fight, and they’ll never have to eat anybody’s shit.

—Robbie Dillon

p.s. For more on bullying, see “Do Bullies Lack Self-Esteem and a Capacity for Empathy?”

p.p.s. See, too, Dr. Kwame Brown’s response to Hamer’s piece on bullying.

My Near Death Fentanyl Experience

article-0-00031A9000000258-799_468x360Generally, when a woman comes to my house bringing narcotics, I’m going to be happy no matter what she looks like, but when she looks like she stepped out of the early 90’s golden age of video porn? Well, that’s just gravy now, isn’t it?

And Jade was bringing me the narcotics of the gods.

I should explain. Fentanyl takes me back to my mis-spent youth, to another city and another decade when I used to buy it on the street. They called it “China White” then, after a particularly clean and pure variety of heroin, but that fooled nobody. I used to go looking for it because it compared to ordinary street heroin the way heroin compared to prescription cough syrup. I had a foolproof way of telling the difference too. I’d do a line standing up and if I was still standing up a minute later, I’d been burned again. They’d sold me heroin instead of the real thing.

blow-blow-the-movie-12435035-960-414I’d just been introduced to a new dealer. If you live in the country, friends are the people who lend each other a cup of sugar. In the big city, they’re the ones who introduce you to their dealer when yours stops taking calls.

She listed off her inventory of rare herbs and proscribed pharmaceuticals while I’m trying not to react to how insanely, ridiculously attractive she is and then when she said “Fentanyl” my eyes had an excuse for lighting up. “Bring some of that over next time!”

And so she did. Unbeknownst to either of us, it was uncut Fentanyl. Now what in the fuck is this? In the old days, no one could get their hands on uncut Fentanyl. Nobody let that stuff out of the labs unless it had been whacked 100 to 1; that was the rule. You bought prepackaged single dose bags for ten bucks each. You were never told the exact weight, but it didn’t matter. Somebody smarter than you had calculated and measured out a dose that usually, probably, at least not on most days wouldn’t kill you. Now? It’s amateur night. There’s a million Russian mob labs in Estonia churning the stuff out by the pound, selling it by the gram on the internet, and people are buying it and have no idea what they’re doing with it.

mia-finds-heroin-vinces-jacketThis is the part that’s missing from all those scare stories in the press last summer. The problem isn’t people scraping patches, or otherwise diverting fentanyl from the medicinal stream to the recreational. The little old lady dying of bone cancer isn’t causing four figures worth of overdose deaths by selling half her script out the back door. It’s the bulk powder making its way onto the retail market.

I thought I was being so clever. “I’ve never dealt with this stuff before, you cut me out a line, you show me what a safe dose is.”

Jade took a fly speck of white powder out of the bag and set it out on the glass. On second thought, she took a knife and cut the fly speck in half.

I smirked. “Oh, so you do realize if I die, this cuts down heavily on your opportunities for repeat business, right?”

I wanted to remind her I was trusting her with my life. I was putting my life in her hands. But I didn’t want to say it in so many words.

“Oh God, don’t say things like that!” she said.

I sniffed up half the fly speck, waited a few minutes, didn’t feel a thing. I sniffed up the other half. Waited a few more minutes.

“Oh. I think I’m starting to feel something.” That’s the last thing I remember. After that, the lights went out.


I was doing dishes. I didn’t like to interfere when he did business because well, that was his business. It’s not like I didn’t do a line of smack and coke here and there, and it’s not like I don’t ingest a less than healthy quantity of (prescribed) amphetamines every day, but when it came to doing the actual business, that was his job.

“Hey, buddy, you’re freaking me out. Come on, talk to me!”

I walked into the living room and saw my boyfriend looking like he was asleep on the couch. I’d seen this before, with another friend. He’d taken too much heroin with too much booze, and basically was sleeping. I monitored his heart rate and breathing all night, and made sure he didn’t ever stop breathing, and that he didn’t throw up the wrong way… and he was fine. I figured this would be the same.

I was wrong.

“Hey can you come in here and help me?” Jade asked in a panicked tone from the other room. I shook my head with a grin and came into the living room with arrogance masked as a comforting sense of calm. You see, I couldn’t possibly be too worried. Without getting into too many identifying details, Greg is the kind of boyfriend a woman sleeps next to at night knowing that absolutely nothing is going to happen to her on his watch. He has an uncanny knack for getting himself up shit creek without a paddle, and then seemingly magically fashioning himself one out of last night’s condom and a cigarette butt.

So I rolled my eyes patronizingly at Jade, and sat down beside Greg and began to shake him gently.

“Babe, hey are you in there? You’re really freaking Jade out. Come on. Wake up.”

He was breathing, but it wasn’t a regular in and out breath. He was wheezing to force air out, and I couldn’t hear it going in whatsoever. My brows furrowed. I started to be slightly concerned.

“This isn’t good, his lips are fucking blue!” Jade said, shaking with fear.

I waved my hand at her and went to the kitchen to get a jar of ice and water. “He’ll be fine” I assured her. “Greg is always fine. He scares the ever living shit out of everyone all the fucking time, and then comes out fine. Watch, in a few minutes he’s gonna jump up and shout ‘ta dah!’ and make us both want to kick his ass into Ontario.”

I held the jar to his lips trying to get him to drink. I was unsuccessful; it simply dripped down his chin, onto his shirt. I was worried he didn’t start automatically drinking, but what concerned me even more was that not only did he not drink, the icy cold water dripping on him didn’t even make him flinch.

I took out a wash cloth and filled it with ice cubes to rub on his neck. A few months previously, I had snorted (Greg and I are both extremely averse to needles) a line of heroin, and promptly felt faint, sweat pouring from every gland in my body like a sponge wrung out. Greg had picked me up and had my ass in the bathtub with a cold washcloth filled with ice on my forehead and neck before I even realized my feet were off the ground. I felt immensely better almost immediately. While the two of us have a combined case of curiosity some would call a death wish, neither of us are stupid, and we had talked extensively about harm reduction and safer use practices. For example, we always took a small dose, one of us at a time, and then waited a solid 20-30 minutes before the next one took a turn when sampling a new batch of anything. I had asked him what to do with him if he ever overdosed, and how to tell if something was wrong. He was the one who had explained to me about breathing and heart rates, how to monitor them, and when to call for help.

“If I can’t talk, there’s a problem,” he had told me repeatedly. “Can’t talk – get ice. Can’t *breathe* – get ambulance. Don’t try to deal with ‘can’t breathe’ yourself.” I had always nodded solemnly, letting him know I understood. Greg could make Noam Chomsky look like the quiet type when he got going, so this was no joke.

And I couldn’t get a syllable out of him.

“Do you think we should call 911?” Jade asked.

“Yes, yes I do.”

I ran in the kitchen to get my phone. Jade was practically screaming at this point from pure fear. “I have to get out of here!” she said, which sounded incredibly self-preservatory but was far from it. “Listen to me, listen to me!” she implored. “You call, you take all this shit, you get it the fuck out of here, you got it?! And you call me the second you get to the hospital and let me know what the fuck is going on okay? You got it?” she insisted.

“Got it! Go!” I told her. She ran out the door sobbing.

Writing this out, it sounds awful… but she was right. Once first responders got there this was just going to look weird, and detract from getting Greg the help he needed. We don’t look like the type who would hang out together. Plus it would put her at risk. Her day job is a business where if she has a record, she’s fucked. And in any case, there comes a point in almost any partnership in crime where your partner can’t save you, but they may be able to save themselves, and they’re not a bad person for doing so.

This would be a good time to mention that for the most part, like the overwhelming majority of recreational drug users, Greg and I pass as perfectly normal average people living paycheque to paycheque regular lives. Because, again, like the overwhelming majority of recreational drug users, that’s precisely what we are. He doesn’t even drink during the week. Our house looks like the place you let your elementary schoolers go play after school, because it is. We have an over-abundance of kitchen gadgets (cooking is our other passion) and toys strewn about, more than a handful of pretentious academic political science tomes, and pictures of our family and travels adorn the walls. We drip with normal. I tell you this so you understand this isn’t like the scene in Goodfellas (1990) where Henry and Janice are trying to hide all the coke. I grabbed the glass tablet, the razor blade, the drugs, and had them in our room in my dresser under some tampons and other shit no cops want to look under before I had even finished telling the 911 operator our address.

“I just walked in from walking my dogs and found my boyfriend passed out on the couch. He’s having trouble breathing and I can’t wake him up. I need an ambulance right away!”

I had made a conscious decision that until I found it was necessary, I was not going to tell the first-responders what he had taken. This is a very personal decision to make and some would find fault with it. My reasoning was as follows: First responders are trained to figure out what happened with very little information. After all, often times no one knows why the person is passed out. I knew that the way he was presenting, they were going to check for overdose quickly. After all, we live in a neighbourhood where there are occasionally posters put up warning people about overdose and what to do about it. And this isn’t the hood. It’s a nice family neighbourhood. But overdose has moved into the PTA crowd and the public health authorities are aware of it.

Like many recreational drug users in our prohibition culture, I didn’t want to get into trouble, and I certainly did not want to get Greg into trouble. I knew the second I said he had done Fentanyl they would grill him when he woke up and that I would probably be taken in as well for questioning. They might search our home. Our neighbours might notice. The whole situation would go from the medical emergency it was to a legal persecution and prosecution. So I said I came home from walking the dogs, found him like that, and I stuck to it. I remembered one time Greg and I had a philosophical conversation about the concept of “unnecessary information” and I recounted how if someone asks me “do you know what time it is?” I don’t say “four o’clock” I simply say “yes,” and that is all, because that is all they asked. Greg replied “fuck that, I say ‘it’s 7:30, asshole’ and keep moving.” I felt confident he would approve of my withholding at this time.

The 911 dispatcher asked me if I knew what was wrong. Seeing his inhaler on the coffee table I blurted out “he has really bad asthma!” Yeah. That was it. A super terrible very bad asthma attack. Yeah. There we go. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The dispatcher walked me through getting him on the floor safely and beginning chest compressions to keep him breathing and prevent oxygen deprivation. Every bit of me wanted to freak the fuck out and scream, because I was terrified, but that would simply not do because if I did that I wouldn’t be able to take care of things.

I had two huge fears running through my head. The first was, obviously, that Greg was either going to die or end up severely brain damaged. The dread of seeing the man you love and have a life with in that condition, that close to death, is pretty horrible. I have held two older relatives as they died and I know what near-death looks like. Greg had that look. I kept whispering “no no no, not yet baby, not yet” because it felt grotesquely unfair. We were good to each other. We were happy.

Oh yeah, family. That was my second fear. Greg and his brother Sam are fiercely protective of one another. I’m pretty sure they love each other more than any woman either of them has ever been involved with. I am completely okay with this. I grew up in a house full of brothers as the only girl, and find their testosterone laden brotherly bond familiar and comforting. I knew that while Greg loves me deeply, his brother does not any further than I am important to Greg and therefore important to him in a very general and vague sense of the word. Any grace I earn from Sam would be on my own, and calling him up with some cockamamie bullshit story that his brother croaked while I was walking the dogs was not going to be the way to earn Sam’s favour.

And so, I kept my shit together by chanting in my head as I gave compressions “Sam is going to kill you. Sam is going to kill you. Sam is going to kill you” reminding myself what would happen if I stopped or paused. Utter relief swept over me as the first responders came in roughly ten minutes after I called 911. I backed up letting them take over. Our small living room was engulfed with medical and law enforcement personnel. I stood in the doorway between the living room and the rest of the house, creating a barrier so the cops wouldn’t go snooping. I knew if he could see me, he’d be proud. I hoped I would get to tell him as they loaded him into the ambulance a few minutes later after stabilizing him, me sitting in the front seat as we drove off to the local hospital.

Once there, they placed me in a private waiting room. The nice kind with chairs and a telephone usually reserved for families when shit is getting very real with their relative. And I waited.


Next thing I know, I’m lying down and there’s a blinding overhead light in my eyes. I sit up and my head is spinning and my vision is blurred. There’s something sharp stuck in my arm so I pull it out. A couple of vague, fuzzy figures rush up and try to grab hold of me. I swat one away. Hard. I can feel the back of my hand connect solidly with what feels like the side of someone’s head. It’s strangely satisfying. The world comes into focus. I see a room full of people in masks and gowns. One’s a little-girl nurse holding her jaw in pain. Oh. Not cool. Shouldn’t have done that. Need to talk to her later. There’s medical equipment everywhere. One of the masks wants to know if I know where I am.

I take a wild guess. “In a hospital?” Wait. What am I doing in the hospital? Last thing I remember, I was getting high at home. Oh. I see. I see now. Fucking Jade! I *told* her I was a lightweight and I wanted a lightweight dose. I’m curious her idea of a lightweight… What must have happened? Let’s say she gave me 5 milligrams, one percent of what was in the bag. Shit, what if it wasn’t cut 100-to-1? Then I didn’t take 50 mikes of the drug, I took like 5000. That’s a fatal overdose several times over. Shit, talk about dodging a bullet!

The doctor told me later I’d got a shot of Narcan. Yeah… He didn’t buy the “asthma attack” story for a second. But bless Cindy for trying. Lying to your doctors is childish and stupid – but so are the drug laws. That Narcan stuff is magic. It doesn’t actually neutralize dope in your body – but it feels like it does, and instantaneously at that. What it does, it grabs hold of your opiate receptors so aggressively all the dope gets squeezed out. Then the dope just waits around while your liver and kidneys metabolize it away. Narcan is getting cleared for over the counter sale in more and more places, including BC, but not yet Quebec. I also found out when I got the shot I’d sat up, ripped out my tube, and got pinned down a first time without being conscious of it. I flatlined again when they did that. Apparently, I’d been flatlining on and off for 20 minutes in my apartment before they’d let me in the ambulance. Anyway, they gave me a second, larger, shot of Narcan and that was it. Back on like a light switch.

That’s the cliché: Overdosing is like flipping a light switch off. Clichés are clichés for a reason. It really is like that. No fear. No pain. Just… nothing.

I suppose some people would have thrown the dope away after that. But partly as a public service, partly because of my own psychological need to get back on the horse – partly too because I have a reputation to uphold as the conqueror of all substances – I took on the project of figuring out how to dilute the stuff and make it safe to consume.

Here’s the problem other people run into and the reason we’re getting all those adulterated heroin overdoses. When you mix a tiny amount of one powder with a much larger amount of another powder, the result isn’t going to be perfectly uniform. And fentanyl is particularly unforgiving that way. The difference between an enjoyable dose and an overdose is much smaller than with most other drugs, like a factor of less than three. Three times a strong but safe dose can kill you. So if overall, your mix is supposed to be 99% cut but one little area of it is only 97%, that’s a 911 call that hasn’t happened yet. The first procedure you’ll find on Google is going to tell you to mix dry powder with dry powder and I don’t recommend following it for exactly that reason.

What I did was to mix my fentanyl with an inert carrier medium in liquid solution. Second Law of Thermodynamics – it’s impossible NOT to have a liquid mixture come out perfectly uniform. Think about it. When you go to a public swimming pool at the end of the day, is all the children’s piss restricted to the shallow end of the pool or is there just as much in the deep end too? Same rules apply.


I added 49.5 grams of glucose tablets to a mickey of Alcool 94. Glucose won’t actually dissolve in ethanol, but it’ll make a good-enough suspension in which to mix the fentanyl. (I’ve since made a larger batch using methyl hydrate. The solubility stats are comparable and it evaporates much faster. Fumes are nasty and need to be fanned away, though.) Then I added the .5 grams fentanyl (which does dissolve). I used a dust mask and rubber gloves while handling raw fentanyl – you can absorb a fatal dose through your skin just touching the stuff. A Montreal drug cop nearly did that a couple of years ago.

I ran the mix in a kitchen mixer for a few hours and then let it sit for a few days to evaporate off the ethanol. The result is 50 grams of sugar that’s perfectly uniformly 1% fentanyl by weight. As a plus, my glucose tablets were bright red and raspberry-flavored. Impossible for anyone to take the finished product and mix it up with or pass it off as heroin. And if dabbing at brightly-colored fruit-flavored sugar doesn’t sound sufficiently bad-ass, note that the special forces issue fentanyl laced lollipops to dull the pain of battlefield injuries. If Navy SEALs don’t find their masculinity threatened by that, I suppose I don’t either.

Next, I got a headshop scale (precise to 1/100th of a gram). I started measuring out doses beginning with 10 mg (100 micrograms of fentanyl) and slowly, carefully, incrementally, worked my way up. It’s also important to know that how you take the stuff makes a big difference. Letting the sugar melt in your mouth requires twice the dose that sniffing or shooting does to get the same effect. Swallowing the sugar requires three times as much.

For a hundred years, the single most significant characteristic of narcotics has been the artificial scarcity caused by law enforcement – with consequent high prices, lack of quality standards, control of the market by antisocial criminals, etc., etc… All that is now changing. I can now buy a year’s supply of narcotics off the internet (or at one remove from the internet) for less money than I’ve been known to spend on a single weekend’s entertainment. Law enforcement will have a much harder time interfering and driving up prices. No one criminal gang can declare and enforce exclusive “turf” on the internet – the concept has no meaning anymore. Narcotic sellers are going to have to compete on price, quality, transparency and customer service, just like the sellers of everything else.

When I was a legalization activist 30 years ago, all this is what we said would happen if you took law enforcement out of the equation. We didn’t yet have the term “harm reduction” although we were groping toward the concept. And we are going to get there, it’s just going to be a whole lot rockier than my 19-year-old China White sniffing self ever imagined. First rule of activism: Be careful what you ask for, you might get it.

—Greg & Cindy Markowitz

EDITOR’S NOTE: If this was a New York story, it would end in death. If it was an L.A. story, it would end in a Twelve-Step Program. But since it’s a Montreal story, it ends in human ingenuity and technological innovation.