A Summer on the Cours Gambetta

In the summer when the trees are full the sunlight falls in mottled dabs upon the Cours Gambetta. The Cours Gambetta is a long straight road which runs the length of two entire boroughs. For some way along it is lined on both sides with tall Plane trees which branch out and meet in the middle overhead. Beneath this leafy canopy, cafés, patisseries and fabric stores lay open in the dank shade of day. If one walks far enough down the Cours Gambetta the road transforms: the ornate architecture of the 6 storey apartment buildings modernises; the cafes drop away; the people become less chic on less money, and the trees spare out until, after a moment, they are not there at all. Here the sun is always high and blisters down so fiercely that the further distance ripples through the waves of heat and looks like the white dusty home-front of a desert town. It was that walk I made, most days, to score heroin during my first summer in Lyon.

To enter you had to push forward the loose wooden hoardings and slip in through the scissored gap. There inside was another world: a forgotten courtyard strewn with debris under the husk of a condemned and partly demolished building. It looked like Nuremberg just after the second world war; like you could find body parts poking out the rubble. The air stank of ulcerated dogs and dried excrement. Just outside the back entrance of the building, where the shade kept the moisture, clouds of black midges hung about in the stagnant air. 

It was Mamms who first pushed me through into that hidden world. He was a smack sculpted beggar I'd collared one afternoon as he left the Devil's Rest needle exchange with a rucksack full of clean works on his naked back. Abdomen scooped out, round military cap on his head and a rag out his back pocket I followed, the musty smell of stale body odour drifting back my way. He pushed the boarding open and shoved me through so suddenly that I thought he was up to robbing me. Biscuit, his mongrel street hound, wriggled through behind, its large face and body emerging like it was materialising out a time-warp. 

“Voilà!” said Mamms, throwing his arms out to present the derelict skeleton of the building in front of us. "La REAL France." 

"I hope so," I said, looking up and nodding in approval, half an eye still on Mamms. But Mamms wasn't out to rob me; he was too far below the poverty line for that to have helped any. Of greater significance, his shot of choice was subutex not heroin, and subutex came free, courtesy of the French state. Mamms beckoned me on, bouncing over a discarded mattress colonized by black spores. From the building two male junkies, both in their early twenties, came trundling out. They shoved and jostled one another in fun, getting rid of the surplus energy that flagrantly breaking laws and moral codes excites. They had just scored; I could tell. On seeing me they stopped. They were street addicts like Mamms - hair shaved and grown and coloured randomly, cut-down military bottoms, boots held together by various straps and laces and anarcho political messages on their t-Shirts. The first had arms covered in a thousand fresh needle marks and cutting tattoos. They slapped hands with Mamms and calmed down to a serious stance. They spoke words I didn't understand but knew were against me. I'd been around the junk scene for so long that I didn't need Mamms' lies to convince me afterwards that it was nothing. They suspected me of being a cop, and if not a cop, certainly someone there under false pretences. As they left they shot me a squinted hostile look. 

"Cest bon!" said Mamms, once they had gone. "It is good, my friend. Alors, one gram?"

"Oui... and une gram for toi, " I said. 

Mamms repositioned his rucksack on his back, slapped the outside of his thigh and whistled. Biscuit pulled its nose from out a bag of rubbish and shot up the stairs ahead of him. I was left to wait in what was once the back entrance, but had since been turned into a communal toilet. The space to the left of the staircase was full of turds in various stages of dehydration. Sticking out of random shits were old syringes. Flies buzzed around. I stared at the turds and the needles, and in my first French summer, so far away from the rotting bedsits and hostels and junkies of London, I waited for my score and knew that drugs and blood were back on the agenda

I woke in a panic. I had momentarily lost all notion of time and thought the half light outside was that of a new morning. God, Mary must be frantic with worry, I thought. The last thing I could remember was sitting on Mamms girlfriend's sofa and unloading a shot into my ankle. After five months clean it had laid me out good. I squinted the room into focus. Mamms was across from me, on his knees, shooting his girlfriend in the crux of her arm as she sat on a wooden chair turned away from the table. Her face was gritted in a mixture of apprehension and fear. It told me she was new to the needle. On the wall was a clock. It was almost 9pm. The second hand ticked on incredibly slowly. 

Mamms said something which I didn't understand. Then he made a gesture of his eyes closing over and let his head slump forward. It meant I had gone out like that. It made him happy. His girl stirred besides him, itching the side of her face. The shot had worked its magic; she had acquired a delayed response to the world. She looked quizzically at Mamms, her eyes imploring him to understand what was going on. Then she somehow understood and turned slowly and gave me a weak smile. Where her pupils had shrunk I got the impression I was staring into a deep tunnel, at the distant point of a vanishing soul. Her smile flattened out and now her face looked traumatised, like she was trying to communicate an unspeakable horror. Her eyes closed over. Mamms stroked her back tenderly. I knew then that she had a huge tragedy lying host within her.

“Is that the correct time?” I asked, pointing to the clock. She tried to open her eyes but the heroin was too strong in her. She gave up and nodded, made some kind of a sound. 

“I must go,” I said, “my girlfriend will be dying with worry.” I collected my affairs, slipped my shoe on and left.

When the evening comes down on the city and shadows stretch and fall in every direction it's a beautiful thing. Some roads are a blur of red and blue and white neon signs, and others are tall and narrow and run along with tall, Haussmannesque style apartment buildings. There are smaller roads too with maisonettes and antique streetlamps and still others which turn and crawl off into holes of impenetrable blackness. To a dark sky and history's echo I walked my way home, through the fragrances of the urban sprawl, back down the Cours Gambetta. On this return journey the world was suddenly alive. I once again felt the strong, unmistakeable presence of existence. In a foreign town, shot full of heroin, the streets were awash with drama and danger and sinister, toothless criminality. 

The stairwell of my apartment block seemed lonely in its artificial light, like a cave with a single stalactite dripping water. I knew what likely awaited me. As I entered the apartment Mary came out the salon with a frantic look on her face and her phone to her ear. "Yes, yes it's him," she said, closing the phone. I lowered my head, so my eyes were hidden, and guided her back into the salon. 

"Where have you been?" she asked. “I was worried and didn't know what to do." I laid my cards out straight, placing what was left of the smack on the table in front of her. It was in a bag much larger than what she was used to seeing in London. It took her a few seconds to realise what it was. She looked at me like it was a joke; hoping I'd save her. But I'm no saviour. I looked into her eyes and she looked at mine. What she saw was the conspicuous regard of heroin, the pinprick pupils and distraught look of love that sometimes creeps into the mask of heavy sedation. She put her hand over her mouth and her eyes widened. 

I wasn't going to fight. I had told her that this would happen. The only help I could give her now was to make the nightmare real. I sat down, my emotions steeled against hers. I took out my syringes and, like she had seen hundreds of times before, I cooked up a shot. 

“Do you want one?” I asked.

She didn't reply. Not in words anyway. She sat down besides me, looked at the heroin in the bag, then unpacked a little aluminium cooking cup, measured out a dose and cooked a hit up too. And like that the summer darkened over and our days took on a vitality that had been missing since we arrived. 

We ended up on the Cours Gambetta most days, making the 30 minute walk from the mottled sunlight into the derelict end of town. Mary became friends with Mamms' girlfriend, Céline, a young first year philosophy student. She had met Mamms during the fortnight he had spent begging outside her student lodgings. From a family with money, she spoke good English and in that first month was still going horse-riding in the country every weekend. Her father was American. He wrote cheques in place of love. Mamms was obviously her very real rebellion against that superficial way of life which had left her with everything yet wanting so much. What she was to him I have no idea. All I know is that he loved his dog and gave himself wholly to his canine confidante like I never saw him give to any human being. 

As the summer wore on so the Cours Gambetta wore on through our lives. We woke and showered the sticky night from off our skins and fresh and spright we hit the streets, winding our way on to the Cours. For me there was an attachment to it that was more than just heroin. It was a road which called me, made me want to rise and be out on it as soon as possible. I felt at home on the Cours Gambetta, felt like it spanned nations and culture and language. It was one road that I needed no direction or translation on; a road in a foreign country which I knew more integrally than the locals themselves. And as the Cours Gambetta cut through my days so too it came boring through my dream world. In deep sleep I would have hallucinatory visions of it, a letterbox view of my feet, walking through a night that wriggled like a Van Gogh painting, all the people of the junk life coming and going, hanging about in dark doorways, coughing up black blood into handkerchiefs and laughing, having found some deeper understanding of the human condition through the sheer horror of it, through the harshness and the struggle for survival needed to sustain chronic addiction. It was a road where death and life shimmered atop of one another, where the two were quite indistinguishable. In the quiet hours of the night I would wake and see the moon out the window. I could feel the Cours Gambetta in the milky light, nothing going on, the sleeping squat and the dogs in the dark, curled up with their jaws on their haunches, ears pricked, eyes open to the static silence of the night.

Mamms became less reliable as his relationship with Céline deteriorated. She would no longer allow him to stay over and so we'd turn up at hers in the afternoon and wait for Mamms to put in a show. Céline would shoot a shot and become manic, enter into a strange fantasy world of theatre and personas, in and out her bedroom changing into different outfits. One moment she'd appear as a hippy chick in dress and bandanna, then as a cowgirl in tan suede skirt and jacket, then in ultra small denim shorts and a top cut just below her breasts, galloping around the room like a ballet dancer with coloured ribbons of fabric flailing from her wrists. It wasn't madness, just another way of being somebody else for a while. When Mamms finally arrived she would greet him in the character of whoever she was dressed as. She thought that getting high and acting completely deranged was what drug people did. 

Leaving Mary and Céline in the safety of the apartment, Mamms and I would head over to the squat. Scoring was rarely quick anymore. If we returned within an hour we were lucky. Most days we'd arrive to be told that the dealer (Julien) was out, somewhere across town reloading supplies. Mamms and I would divide our time between sitting in the shade of the stairwell, alongside the basement of excrement, or slowly circling the dusty yard like prisoners. We could be there for anything up to 6 hours and sometimes Julien never came back at all. On such occasions Mamms and I would return to Céline's and inform the girls that we had nothing. Where the girls had shown a burst of excitement on our entrance we then had to slunk down, feeling guilty, as it registered in them that there would be no fix that night. Everyone's nerves and patience would be exhausted. We'd sit around in the gloom of the bad news, staring at the floor and knowing it would be a long night into tomorrow. As this happened more and more Mary and I began heading into the city centre where I'd go junkie spotting amongst the homeless and find a score for some ridiculous price. Often we'd miss the last metro and have to walk 5 miles home. 

After not even three months on the Cours Gambetta our finances were in ruins. The payments I'd been receiving from London got stopped and the small amount of money we had arrived in France with had dwindled away to nothing. My bank card hit zero and then minus 500 and then stopped working at all. I tossed it in the river like an old playing card. Mary took out a bank loan. To keep as much cash as possible for heroin we walked the roads poor, scrimped on food and tobacco and in just about every way imaginable. We began spacing the heroin out, limiting ourselves to just three shots per day. Sometimes, halfway through another long wait, knowing we didn't have the finances to carry this on much longer anyway, we'd make a sudden and brash decision to cancel our order. With the money we had saved we'd buy fabulous cups of crushed ice drinks, bubblegum and raspberry flavour, and sit in the evening square sucking and munching on the sharp crystals so as our tongues turned bright blue and pink. Then we'd slope off home, proud of ourselves and feeling safe in the knowledge that we still had our bedtime shot to get us into tomorrow. 

October. Trees still full; days shorter. With the evenings came fresh winds that cooled the colour out of the leaves. From all the heroin activity in the squat news started circling of an imminent police raid. We took such murmurs as overly cautious fears until one evening when the anti-crime police stopped and searched Mamms as he left the squat. Mamms had felt something untoward in the air and managed to dump the heroin. When he returned and told us what had happened I was highly suspicious, especially as it had occurred on one of the rare occasions I had not been with him. We waited an hour and then deemed it safe to go out and search for the smack. I was sure it would not be found. To my surprise we recovered it just where Mamms said he had dumped it. It was a relief but it proved to be the last. That evening the squat cleared out, a group of 15 new age punks with dogs and stereos and boxes of CDs, traipsing across town in search of a new place to set up. We watched them go, Julien tall and stooped, weighed down by multiple bags slung over each shoulder, a shredded armless t-shirt and silver bangles hanging loose around his heroin scarred arms. As he crossed the road he lowered his head to the side, pressed a thumb against his inner nostril and blew out a thick slob of mucus from the other. Where he stumbled doing that his dog got caught up around and under him and let out a wild yelp in through the dying evening. We stood watching the troupe cross the road and continue on straight, taking a little through road and leaving the Cours Gambetta behind. 

"Where will they go?" I asked Mary to ask Mamms. 

"They'll find somewhere," he said, "they always do." 

Far far down and away we could still make out the punks. It made me think of a scene from The Grapes of Wrath, the Joad family with their loaded truck heading off to California. We watched the punks for a good few minutes more until suddenly they were out of sight and gone. “Voilà!” said Mamms like it was the end of an era. “Voilà!” 

On the walk home that night the Cours Gambetta seemed sad and quiet. We walked without talking. The night was in and the cold breeze gave us skin bumps. As we approached the oncoming mottled end of the road and readied to turn left onto the Rue Marseille I turned and gave a look back down the Cours. "It's goodbye to an old friend," I said, sadly.

"Who? Mamms?" 

"No... The road." 

"The road? It's just a dirty old road. There's many more." 

"It's autumn," I said. "Can you feel it? Oh God." 

Mary looked up and around. It was like she was looking for autumn. But all she would have seen were the bright and gaudy lights of the Rue Marseille, the red signs of the Kebab houses, the flickering white windows of the five Euro Chinese buffet places and various small shops and neon lights advertising internet cafes and cheap international phone calls. It's true, they are many and all over these dirty roads and none are as filthy as those full of commerce. I breathed in a lungful of poisonous air and lingering two steps behind, reeling on the fumes, I followed Mary home. 

- - -

Thanks as ever for reading, Shane. X

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Unknown said...

shane, you find beauty (and write about it) in a place where one would think no one would find beauty. to me, the subject matter would tend to be gritty, but the way you write, no, it's not. it's honest. it's real. there's also no glamourization of the life led. you truly have a wonderful gift. thank-you for sharing it.

Maria Demadam said...

Amazing, your intoxicating description had me seeing and smelling all you described.....my feet hurt from walking that road.Maria

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey Cindy... Thanks for taking the time to comment here rather than a quick 'like' on FB. Comments here and links and word of mouth are about the greatest help anyone can be.

I think many people who try to write about this life think that realism is being as vile and as scummy as possible. Sure, that side does exist and it should be documented, but for me it'd be a very shallow world if that was all there was or all anyone saw or felt. I think people try to gain an audience through shock, but if that is all there is, with nothing to measure it against, then like everything it becomes pretty boring and we become desensitized and it means nothing.

I remember Howard Hughes having the problem in his film Hells Angels of showing the speed of the aircrafts. In blank sky, with nothing to measure the planes against they looked like they were hardly moving at all. He found that to represent speed you needed an opposing factor, a stationary object in the background.... a cloud against the stationary cloud you could suddenly see the real velocity of the planes. My writing is like that. Beauty can only truly be appreciated when there is an ugliness to measure it against, and vice versa, ugliness and depravity become even more shocking and effective when they are contrasted against beauty when you're not expecting any beauty to be. It's that dualism of opposing factors. Like tragedy is never so tragic than when it follows great happiness. I also don't like this myth that heroin addicts are living zombies, so strung out that they not only have numbed their pain but have also numbed everything else as well. Or this myth that all addicts are so depressed that the only sky they ever see is a grey one and the only weather they ever feel is rain. So I think to read such soft and whimsical descriptions of the world and seasons and light surprises many people as it's the last thing we've been taught to expect from a chronic drug addict. X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Thank You Maria... it's not a good road to walk in heels that's for sure. X

Anonymous said...

I wait for your posts.. They're my heroin. Please keep them coming and not so few and far between!

Anonymous said...

r u gonna give us any more about that american kid? i hated him but found his character study fascinating!

Anonymous said...

Hiya Shane, I really enjoyed this, it was like I was there walking down the road, absorbing the sights and sounds. L x

A. Hussey said...

Excellent writing. I knew Cours Gambetta way back in the 1980s, lived in rue de Marseille. Tough place but always something....

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey Andrew. The rue de Marseille is even better now. I often go there just to loiter and watch life and take hidden photos of the Romanians who swamp the Guillotiere end now, all their gleamed and stolen wares laid out for a couple of euros a piece - blowjobs even cheaper. it's like falling into an early Kusturica film. That end is a traditional Maghrebian area and so it's always fun watching them two communities spit and fight it out. The Romanians usually come off best, which is really a victory for cheap alcohol over cheap mint tea. They're two communities which are often mistaken for the other, a fact which only further deepens hostilities between them rather than unite the two in a common struggle. Though I guess there is no common struggle when people are separated by different gods. It was on the rue Marseille, around the metro and tram staion, where I first ever tried scoring in Lyon. For all its vibrancy you can get nothing but hash there. And knowing the place as i do now it's incredible I didn't get into a whole slew of trouble waving the hash away and saying, "Je cherche l'heroine... tu peut m'aider?" I lived at least a life on the rue de Marseille and watched so many more. X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Anon... I think you'd prefer them occasionally rather than every other day but rarely with anything to say. I post when I feel I've written something worthy of being posted here. Such writing also takes a while to write. But having said that I've been posting much more frequently lately and have other texts already written. X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Anon... More about Trey? There will be more sometime in the future but I got a little bored writing of that shit and had many other texts which I wzs eagar to post ahead of more writing concerning him. He actually turned up here a month or so back and though I only saw him that once his vile presence has still imposed itself in my life due to certain things he has done and only a week ago he pulled another vile lowdown trick which backfired and left him stranded a little here. In fact it was funny because his latest antic was a direct result of him reading what i had written and following a certain piece of advice I had given in the text. I had written that to get the respect of a dealer you do not plead poverty (like Trey always did) but you pretend you are rich and have bottomless funds. So Trey, having read that, made the huge mistake of thinking he could just turn up at my dealers (without me) and be taken in but spinning that story. It didn't turn out well for him... what did happen and why he then had to leave Lyon so suddenly will be covered in the texts. X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey ya L... whoever the L you are? Thanks for your words and I'm sure you've absorded some real Cours Gambettas in your time. X

lucky said...

As always a pleasure to read - you do have a knack of capturing the atmospere of a place and a natural way of writing that seems to link to every other piece you have done.
Looking fwd to your return to London and what you find to to write about.

Jeef said...

Indeed you could have got the shit beaten out of you for asking "de la rabla s'il vous plait" in that sort of place. For some reason they really hate being mistaken for H dealers, especially in the southern half of the country, where using H is quite frowned upon - unlike in the north where it's easier to find gear than weed. Anyway brown is known for being shitty south of paris, you're more likely find people that bang up Skén/Subu.

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

hey Jeef... cool name! A lot of people say that about france "Oh you'll get good heroin in Paris!" but if you look at national seizures (you can find statistics online) the quality of heroin seized, in all cities in france, is very poor (average strength between 1 and 4%! ) Paris is only two hours away from here and if good heroin was to be found there every other junkie or dealer would take a drive down . The tile would be nothing as we often wait two hours here to score shit.) Junkies here in Lyon travel to Holland or Switzerland to pick up some good heroin. Why would they travel all the way to Holland if they could get good stuff from Paris, just down the road, for the same price? It's all a bit of a myth. It makes me laugh. No matter what city you are in they always tell you that the great heroin is somewhere else. Here they say "Oh, but it's different in Paris!" In Paris they tell you that "It's different in Marseilles!" You get to Marseilles and they send you to Montpellier. And in Montpellier they tell you, "No, if you want good smack you need to go to Lyon!" I can get good stuff here (as some will be able to get in Paris) but it's very hard to find a supplier with good stuff, and many dealers, even if they have a batch of good heroin, learn that french addicts are so used to crap that they can cut it to 8% (twice as strong as most heroin here but still pathetically weak) and not only gain ten times as much profit but also be regarded as having a strong product! I did start doing research on why it's like this in france (spain too) but never had time to really look into as i wanted to X

Jadamiak said...

Thanks for bringing me along to cop with you! Metaphorically speaking, of course wink emoticon

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

'twas a pleasure me ol' mucka.... just don't fuck my missus while I'm not around! X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey Lucky... Yeah, i think London will be good for my writing at this stage. Before a return there wouldn't have worked out too well for that, but I feel just being back there, able to walk the roads I've not walkd for years, will bring out some very special words. Though I may be wrong. I was wrong once before... it ruined my life! X

(PS: anyone who comes across that last line and gets all excited that they've finally found proof that I hate my life and fucked it up, please don't bother copying and pasting it to me in an email with a a sarcastic question marks attached: it's just a joke!)

Lease said...

Dear Shane,

I haven't visited you in a while but its great to see you again. I say see, instead of read or hear because you words are so evocative, i feel like I've walked with you. I've also enjoyed the Trey chronicles, i've met a few Trey's in my time, I shudder to admit I might have slept with one, once.

I first came across your work in WHACK Mag and I loved that piece, fiction? About a man getting tested for HIV and his inner thought process over the days surrounding it. It was a very astute snapshot. It was unlike anything else I had read in such a long time, probably since I read Burroughs work.

I'm also a user of heroin and I too feel that we are trying to hold onto life in any way we can. I feel a debate on opiates vs anti-depressants would reveal the hypocrisy, they are both addicting (physically) cause other side effects and opiates actually work. I should probably email you rather than clogging up the comments with massive screeds but thanks for sharing your craft with us, I feel your destined for greatness and I hope you are recognised in this lifetime. Finally, I just want to ask if you have access to Narcan? It's available here (Australia) on prescription now for self-carrying and I would like to help you get some if you can't. I would be devastated to lose you when its preventable and your massive talent. Best wishes always.

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey Lease and welcome.... 'tis a pleasure to be sure to be sure! (No I'm not high unfortunately! Just testing my irish out.)

Ah, A Test of Time. Yes, is a fictional piece (the HIV scenario anyhow). Loki who gets my stuff published for WHACK told me that it was a special edition for the Worlds Aids Conference and asked if I could write up a piece using that as my pretext. I immediately wanted to do something about needle exchanges and how they have or haven't helped. I never like writing up straight journalistic pieces and so I thought I'd put a very real debate about needle exchanges and practices into this scenario where a young man is waiting for the results of his HIV test. But the actually conversation I i used about needle exchanges (how it is now and how it was 25 years ago) was based on a very real conversation i heard one week while waiting in the methadone clinic for my script. So yes fictional, but as with any good fiction it's often more truthful than the truth.

I think people misunderstand what kind of a drug heroin is. Because it's clumped together with all the other street just and people poften talk about being 'high' on heroin, it is still regarded by most as a recreational drug... something one takes for fun/to have a good time (like weed/speed/coke, etc) only to enjoy the 'fun' too much and get addicted to that. But heroin is a drug aside from all those other streets drugs. Heroin is not used to enchance our life experience but to numb it... numb it to an acceptable level where we can accept and maybe even enjoy it. There are consequences that come with numbing life, but maybe not as severe as the consequence if we had not have done that. So heroin is misrepresented as a good time drug, when really, as we all know, it has more to do with stuff like prescribed tranquillizers and anti-depressants, etc and is not about partying or getting off your face. I've never seen anyone 'off their face' on heroin yet. It's strength is in its addictive qualities not really the effect.

(cont'd below)

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Lease 2


No, I've no access to Narcan but as I'm totally alone here, even if I did, I'd have no one to save me with it! But I've very certain thoughts concerning fatal heroin overdose, namely that it is mostly a great myth. There are deaths, many deaths in the drug community and they're all mostly ticked off as overdose. That's just become the norm and a way around paperwork and post-mortems. A little research amongst emergency paramedics and doctors and specialists of heroin addiction will reveal just as much. I can't recall his name now, but there is a great Australian specialist who holds exactly that same view but can back it up better than i can here. So there are deaths but they are being caused by other things: cocktails of downers and alcohol; poor health; underlying lung and heart problems, etc. If I recall correctly, a research of heroin OD's (accidental) actually revealed something like only 3% could actually be classed as real od's. It's also something like you'd need to misjudge your dose by 20 bags to incur a fatal overdose! So these other excuses about strong batches and cooking up too strong a hit are nonsense as well. You can overdose like that... I have, but overdosing and fatal overdose are two very different things. So in many I think Narcan just wouldn't be of any practical use because in reality, what you're watching isn't actually a person dying from a heroin overdose (though I don't know much about Narcan so maybe it counter-effects other downers, not only opiates and so may still be a worthwhile friend to have around). I'm just now wondering if it could be dangerous at all, administering it to someone who wasn't OD'ing? It's sometimes very hard to tell if someone is just heavily out or dying, and if narcan was dangerous outside of someone having OD'd just at what point would you decide to use it on someone? And imagine the fucking riot you'd cause if you use it on someone who wasn't od'ing. Not only would you have ruined their heavy nod but would also bring them around straight as a judge and sick as malaria! Imagine just what thanks you'd get for saving someone's life in that instance! I will have a little read up about Narcan though as maybe i'm well off there. X

Dave Haze said...

Yeah its always interesting to hear about foreign scenes and the gear here in south-east England isn’t much better

Shane Levene said...

Your gear would be a lot better. Average daily intake of a French addict is 5 grams! I could easily do 15 and still not get a nod as strong as two uk injections. X

Padraig said...

I got great stuff in Paris tbh....But the person i was getting it off was traveling to Holland to score!

dave haze said...

5 grams... damn that is a lot.... I would be breaking it down into solution and then basing the heroin back out... then you would have something a lot more concentrated.... I get a 50mg/1ml phy amp once a day which costs about the same as 10 cigarettes and I would probably need to spend £40 on street gear to even feel it so I’m luckier than most but I will post a link to a site that you can send samples to and they post the results online....One sample of white they analysed was a mix of lidocaine and naloxone....!!! So you go home do a pipe... start too cluck and then go back for more gear and probably more white too... the scene is so fucked up.

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

5 grams is the average... So most long term addicts are on double that. This stuff you can't cook as we do either... It just crystallizes and blocks the barrel if you do. You must boil your water first and then stir your shot in. Whatever doesn't dissolve you leave (but can recook it later). I've some photos of French filterz and cups where you can see the shit which is left. When I've a moment I'll shoot a PIC across. X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Padraig... I get good stuff here also... In from Bulgaria. Weird looking stuff: almost the colour of slate. It's so weird looking I had to advise the photographer Karolina Urbaniak not to publish some pictures she took of it as noone would believe it was smack and would then doubt her credibility. But this stuff is a good 60% pure and as good as anything I ever had in the UK. But even this dealer sells three different offerings of it: uncut for 80€ a gram, cut once for 50 and cut twice for 30. Most buy the cheapest (I do sometimes depending on the strength of the uncut... You can gain by taking the cheaper if the starting quality isn't so pure.) But he is the only dealer in 10 years who has ever had stuff like that here. Paris, you must've got lucky. If you look at Parisien seizures they are weak shit in quality too. And the addicts here tell me it was even worse 15 years ago... Probably why so many here are shooting subutex and enter rehab for that rather than heroin. X

Padraig said...

Yea it was Dutch gear with out much of a cut, i only ever smoked or snorted it when i was there, but it was fine to snort, which i wouldnt even bother doing with the stuff here as you would need loads of it!

Dave Haze said...

I once got some gear that was orange and I walked a couple of miles home thinking I had been ripped off and when I did the first line and exhaled I could feel a warm sensation spread through my body and had to lay down lol..... only had .2 but it lasted so well I still had a tube in the morning....!

JoeM said...

I knew then that she had a huge tragedy lying host within her.

That reminds me of Tennessee Williams' description of his boyfriend's brain tumour:

A terrible flower grew in his head.

I think this is a great description of (good) numbness:

The shot had worked its magic; she had acquired a delayed response to the world.

But of course ironically 'numbness' can be energizing:

And like that the summer darkened over and our days took on a vitality that had been missing since we arrived. 

I thought that sentence was the heart of this: something was missing from sobriety. I think you described it as the missing 4th leg of the chair.

I've always wondered why some entrepreneur doesn't hire someone to manufacture the Perfect Drug – one that wouldn't harm you in any way (like alcohol/nicotine/injecting) but would keep you comfortably stable all the time and that maybe you could use to get 'higher' every now and then with no hangovers/withdrawals.

I remember they said Prozac was that. But then a huge number of users started committing suicide!

My brother took it once and all it did was make him 'speed' high.

Unfortunately we were on an eight hour bus ride to London at the time...

Shane Levene said...

Hey ya Joe...

a brother? Maybe you've mentioned that before... but don't recal. You still in contact Have a good relationship? Even if you do, 8hrs with a sped up version of him I'm sure tested it to the limits. That's absolutely the worst thing: being straight or sober around someone who is off their face.

"And like that the summer darkened over and our days took on a vitality that had been missing since we arrived."

Yeah, that is maybe my pick of the lot too. I like how it starts with a very negative observation and finishes talking of the same thing as being positive. It's a weird sentence and reads as if it's somehow wrong. as if the writer has made a mistake and said the opposite of what he wanted to. Good choice again!

I know what line you're on about (chair 4th leg) but can't quite remember it myself. i think it was more something about the "missing inch of an unbalanced chair" or something. i'll drag it out and see exactly what it was. You're probably closer to it than me. I'm useless at quoting myself!

Those entrepreneurs probably have other money tied up in pharmaceuticals and the death industry. They make more cash out of poor health than anything else. It's like someone selling you the disease and then the cure. Actually they never sell the cure as that would be a one off purchase and so they prefer taming the illness rather than curing it so as you need their new drugs all your life to keep you alive. Good business but rotten humanity. X

JoeM said...

I don't think I have mentioned my brother. We still email a bit but he's moved far from Glasgow and we don't meet that much. We were close for a long time having grown up in a dysfunctional family – clinically depressed ANGRY mother on Mandies and stuff (we must compare notes some time!)

On that bus to London I was trying to read Alasdair Gray's brilliant Lanark which is a huge 4 book affair. And it was so engrossing I managed to tune out the speed-jive.

It's funny that we both can't remember our own lines. Maybe it's the concentrated mode you get into when writing. Or we're just losing all our brain cells! These days I have to Google even the most well-known films/actors/books etc. Last one I was trying to remember was Lord of the Flies (I was talking about children in the library!) - 'Oh that one with the children all fighting and bullying and taking sides and becoming primitive – they did a Simpsons take-off – Millhouse was 'the fat one' who got his glasses broke'...

Yes about the 'health industry' – why would they really want a cure for cancer etc - it would just put them out of business!

Shane Levene said...

Here's the quote Joe, but it's weird... will explain.

I soon found that heroin gave ME something. Not my mother, not my father, not my peers or my image, but ME. It gave an inch to an unbalanced leg. It made me feel more stable. Up until then a strong fart could have toppled me.

so what's weird is not that we were both wrong but all these years I've actually thought that your version of the quote was more or less what I said and that it was certainly about a 'chair'. If you remember this was the first line you ever quoted when commenting over at DC's. Since then you've referred to it on a few separate occasions and never checking it myself I took it that your quote was what I had written. Even today I was racking my brains trying to figure out what i would have written using chair and leg. Not too sure about the literary merit of 'a strong fart could have toppled me." But I guess it shows how I take more care about my turn of phrase now and don't just write any old nonsense which comes into my head. A strong fart indeed! Mr Spencer can have that one. X

JoeM said...

That is weird, the misremembering but it being not completely out there.

So I took 'leg' to be chair leg - did you mean chair leg or actual leg? Either would have worked.

So I just thought wobbly chair - in fact I was thinking as I wrote - did he say 3rd leg of a stool? But then a 2-legged stool isn't really going to stand up.

I really am the worst for False Memories. I think a lot of 'creative' people are like that - we're so used to subtly altering reality for fiction that we do it even when we don't need to.

Shane Levene said...

Reading it Joe I think I must have been referring to a human leg, but in my mind I've always thought of it as a chair leg. It's also strange you mention 3rd leg... as the other day as i was trying to recall it I was thinking it was something like the "4th leg on an unbalanced chair".


lucky said...

...well in your in for a nice surprise when you get back to town - im getting 45%min now and decent W but thats from one person (the W) every other fucker sells bicarb and lidocaine: (

JoeM said...

I was thinking about the process:

'leg' in my mind becomes 'chair leg'.

I then extrapolate from that '4th leg of a chair'.

And then that imaginative extrapolation becomes Fact in my head.

And then Memory.

This link is interesting: if heroin were government-provided pure or even legal market-provided pure rather than street sold garbage there would be no health problems - even injecting.


Shane Levene said...

Hey again Lucky.... yeah they should call that stuff 'Lidlcaine'! Where abouts in London are you? X

Shane Levene said...

It's a controversial subject Joe. It would cut out a lot of sharing and would be a great help avoiding very dangerous bacterias which casue heart and organ problems from using tap water and unsterile cups, etc, but you'll never totally stop people sharing needles. There is a side of sharing which some do for the absolute intimacy and trust of it. I know couples who share shots as an expression of love. I know friends who do that to. I've never even shared a needle with a lover, but I would have without a second thought if we were in a situation where it was necessary. As for using heroin to treat addiction there is the objection that it doesn't attack the problem of addiction but stabilizes and prolongs it and why would anyone get clean if they are being supplied it for free? It's a complicated issue. I'm a user and so of course would sign anything for free, prescribed heroin. But that is a selfish vote. Intellectually I'd probably come to a very different conclusion. It's something we need to see introduced just so as we have more data and statistics on it, data and statistics which will allow everyone to make an informed and proper decision. X

Gravediggin' Under the Mancy Way said...

Hey Shane,
I've just read this and your previous two posts, wondering myself where time goes. I remember asking you the same question in an email once and now I want to go back and find it to see what your answer was.
"a discarded mattress colonised by black spores"
As always, your descriptions so vivid, so very visual.
"sinister, toothless criminality"
I love how you describe the gap in the fence as "scissored": a place too frightening, too dangerous for the average non-heroin using person to enter. As though in the very act of crossing that boundary for the first time, our exit to "before" is forever cut.
Much love as always,
Vee XxX

Shane Levene said...

Hey ya Vee... X

I had a little search through my mails but couldn't find where you asked me. I just hope and pray I wasn't stupid enough to try and answer the question, but on previous form I'm gonna end up looking like a right arse here! Let me know if you find it.

I was gonna agree with all you said about the 'scissored' gap and add a lot more besides, but the truth is there was no real thought behind that to describe the entry into another world and the cut-off from the old. Though i think a lot of these things are not conscious thoughts but still exist in your assuredness that you have chosen the correct word. It's such a mental process writing that often words are dictated by imagery and feeling and not always an intellectual breakdown as to why such a word was just so right. I think an early draft used your name for the same description "the v-shaped gap. That it was changed I guess shows there is a lot of hidden deliberation and thinking going on.

Hope your well Darling... Love returned, Shane. X

Gravediggin' Under the Mancy Way said...

Hey Shane- I found it! I realised the question referred to years rather than time- not that the diffetence is immense.
Oh your answer was fabulous but I'll leave it up to you whether you want to post it here...
Yes I'm sute when the words just flow they are very much of the subconscious and when we change them there is often a reason we're not always aware of...X

Anonymous said...

I've read your blog from start to end
Eloquent, articulate, it flows from your pen
With praise, yet you attacked
I'm fucking annoying when I smoke crack
Years ago, so much has changed
Now it's intravenous straight to my brain
Yes I fell down a slippery slope
A speed junkie, a failure, no hope.
Now I have joined, ranks with you
I've detailed the misery I've gone through
You still surpass, so fear you not
Would love you to shout thefamousejunkie.blogspot

Ok not quite a death threat but a few points for rhyming. I annoyed you a couple of years ago. Not being mean, just saying if you stopped using you'd definitely get a massive book deal.

I'm not here to tell you to stop. I too am a needle junkie. I've started blogging, no way as good as you. But any recommendation I would be totally humbled.

Don't ask don't get


J** the junkie

Shane Levene said...

Hey Ya Vee... Oh that's great you found it! And as I suspected I was foolhardy enough to actually try and answer the impossible. Oh, you could have posted my reply... that'd never be a problem. Anyway for those who want to know where time goes, here it is, direct from the horse:

Happy New year Vee... the years went into us... we are time. Nothing is lost and nothing didn't affect us in someway. We are the years... we're the answer to our own equation.


Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey J...

The rare occasions I give a shout-out is reserved for close friends or longterm readers who I've gotten to know. If a link is what you want, the best thing you can do (here or anywhere else) is leave a working link to your site in your comment. But be careful leaving links as people are always very wary of someone who turns up to comment just because they want something out of it. So I wouldn't even leave a link but would rather comment while signed in under your blogger ID and people will click your profile to see who you are and what you're doing. Writing stuff like "I've detailed the misery i've gone through" will only discourage people from visiting your blog as that immediately speaks of (whether it's true or not) this common and tiresome woe-be-me writing steeped in self-pity and babbling on about the pain and torture of life and addiction. If you leave a comment then make that comment purely about what you've read and not turn it back on yourself and why you are really leaving a comment at that time. I guarantee you that by leaving a nice comment with no personal details or links that so many more will click across to check out your profile and blog/s. And that's not me being mean - it's from personal experience having done the same myself regarding leaving links.

Concerning having annoyed me in the past, well, I only ever attack idiots, and so if it's true, then it would have almost certainly have been because of that. Probably for saying something ridiculous like:

"if you stopped using you'd definitely get a massive book deal".

Please try to explain how whether I'm using or not would have any bearing on that? I can't be wooed by complements. When I hear such clichéd and nonsensical shit as that, especially coming from someone who says they are using as well, then I jump on it and always will - unless you can give some kind of an intelligent and valid justification as to why you'd even think that. I know you'll not be able to validate that.

All My Best, Super Dong. X

lucky said...

Hey Shane - im North of town but spend time in east london - asian crews always have the dogs.Plenty of crap about but when you get to my ripe old age its always gonna be quality over quantity.
Waiting patiently for tomorrow as i have some money coming in , all ready, got my order in and a 1/2 day booked off...happy daze.
BTW you know the old adage that all junkies really want to quit and get clean? well I can honestly say apart from a few months many years ago when it was all going to shit I am happy the way things are - I wonder how true that is of other users?

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Afternoon booked off I take it? I remember some great half days (or saturdays where we knocked of at noon) getting back around home and scoring and then having the pleasure of nodding out to the sounds of the lazy afternoon with the summer droning away outside. There are some days, where no matter what i'm doing or what at point i am at in my life, that i will be compelled to use purely from the memories that the day conjures up. I've a text started about this actually, but nowhere near finished. I'll have to sow it together and get it up sometime.

Oh, that's absolute bollocks about all junkies really wanting to get clean. That comes from rehab centres and methadone clinics where you have to tell the staff what they want to hear so as you get the best of what they've got. I had someone the other day (some rich upper middle class liberal who'd worked one summer at a methadone clinic) try telling me that all addicts were really suffering and desperate to get clean - that they were there because they really wanted to shirk the 'beast' of addiction and not purely for a back-up. I told her that staff and key-workers, even those who have been around the addicts for years, are the last people to have any real insight into addiction because all they hear are the lies they encourage out of us addicts. She took that as an offence, as if maybe some are blind to it but that she really cared and really did get a rare and honest insight into the junkies soul. I then said to her: OK, so if a junkie came to you and said in secret that he didn't want to stop, was only there to either sell his methadone or use it in an emergency, was cheating your piss tests with his mothers urine and was pushing for a dose twice as strong as what he really needed, what would you do? You'd have them thrown off the scheme without a care! And even if someone admitted to only a quarter of that, told you that they didn't want to stop just have a back-up, you'd then take that as a personal insult and have them punished... and justify your meanness by saying that they were abusing the system and taking away the chance of someone genuine. So all your statistics and all your 'insight' is based on false information, a dishonesty you coax out of people with the threat of punishment if they say anything other. As you'll know Lucky, it's weird how when us addicts are together we don't go whining on about wanting to be sober (a few do, of course). Neither do we lie to each other about our usage nor deny using when we have. We all know that we mostly only get to clinics or rehabs for other motives than actually wanting to get clean. Not only do I know many junkies who do not want to get clean i know many who want to actively get dirty and express just what a vile world and vile people they are surrounded by. Let's extrapolate: they started off clean and were compelled to use. So if nothing in or of the world has changed why the hell would they want to be clean? Go back to the place and conditions that made using so urgent in the first place? X

lucky said...

Spot on mate - I have always said that the greatest enabler for any junkie is methadone, its a security blanket ready to bring out if you need to sell and score or if you cant score you know you wont get sick. The obvious way to treat addicts is to put all of us on tapers with a fixed time limit of 6-12 months for example but that won't happen as 'they' know the real deal, that we use our juice as described above and it kinda keeps
the peace - imagine the crime wave that would hit any country (in the west anyway)if addicts were cut off from methadone and had no other means to stay well.
So you mentoned that you manage to score decent kit in Lyon , how would you compare it to UK gear and is it more expensive - some of the best gear I got was off the street in Madrid - many years ago now and in Utrecht not scored anywhere else in europe - i was in bulgaria and knew there would be good gear there but when your on holiday its hard to make a connect BTW the op who mentoned grey gear we use to get that over here before the drought in 2001 rock hard and nice and gauchy.,,,,still i was buying 30mg of codein OTC to suppliment my phy tabs.
All good things

lucky said...

oh yeah forgot to add - have you thought of adding a forum to your blog? dont know how easy that would be as i can only just operate a computer as well as a 5 year old and also don't know how many people come here - I remember gledwoods forum went mental in the drought as when you googled 'heroin drought' his site came up first and it was mad, posting continuous for a few weeks/months then I think most migrated to bluelight and the thread there had to reset every few days after a 1000 posts had been writen must be on its 25/30th incarnation now - even met 10 or so folk off it..hey ho
as you were.

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey Lucky... I score good stuff here now, but I've just got lucky falling in with someone bringing it in from Bulgaria. Before him, for almost six years, it was absolutely junk here... for everyone (as it still is for most). We are on 10 gram a day habits here! That's how crap it is. If you look at french seizures, nationwide, the quality averages out at only 4% pure... and that's exactly what we have here. That stuff is extremely cheap but you need extreme amounts of it. The stuff i get now is expensive compared to UK stuff (triple the price) but at least does what it's supposed to do. Here's a little idea of how french heroin has nothing to do with what we use. When I was having UK stuff posted across I would often give an addict i knew a little taste... let them have a shot of good heroin for once. This addict I gave it to returned it! he said What the fuck is that? It just makes you sleep!

A forum here isn't possible. It would be if I bought the right to my site (the domain). It used to be very easy to do, and only cost 20 quid a year, but now it's much more complicated and I'd have to do so much work in keeping it how it is that I can't be bothered. So a forum isn't possible here, but aybe in the future if i ever buy the domain it would be. X

eyelick said...

That's beautiful.

Autumn has a particular feeling that hits me as well. But it's the only season that does.

Anonymous said...

It's good to see you are generating some great dialogue in your comments. I'm glad you can write such a lengthy response in one minute. This is truely sad.

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