The Dry Season

In far away places men were being killed. I watched it on the TV as I cooked up smack, fell asleep to journalists embedded in a war zone that was safer than their home streets. The biggest risk was friendly fire. It was 2001 and Afghanistan was smoking and choking on democracy.

In the streets of London there were marches every day. The mosques had become underground bunkers where rallies and demonstrations were organised. Inside, you could even keep your shoes on – that's how pissed off Islam was. As I wormed my way through the crowds, en route to meet a dealer, I would read the banners: “Stop The Afghan war!” “Troops Home NOW!” Sometimes I'd even shout a cliché myself. But I didn't really care, or had stopped. The Morning Star was then just a paper I held so as not to look too inconspicuous while standing at disused bus-stops. Politics had become a luxury, and came (if at all) at the end of a long line of other more pressing matters. Out of touch, my thoughts were not of black oil or corrupt foreign policy, but rather of a light brown rock that I knew only in 'theory' came from the same place.

During the first two weeks of bombing, as mighty Allied Forces took cities fighting back with catapults and stones, heroin on London's streets was rampant. It was so rife that it was actually easier to score junk than to buy the Vit C needed to cook it down with. And then one day, without warning, I received a call from a friend asking if I had any numbers, that she was having problems scoring. That call was the first hint that the war was actually going to effect me, and by seven o'clock I was half sick, frantically redialling the numbers of the twenty or so dealers I had, only to find every phone turned off. The single response I received beeped through in text: No Bisto bro. Gravy drowt. shld b bk on in day or 2. He never was.

In a dingy, one bedroom flat, dark forms sat huddled against the walls, jittering and waiting for time. Every so often I would rise and answer the knocking on the front door. From out of the cold, in would crawl another sweating junkie, eyes struck wide open and cursing. They'd all ask the same: “Anyone on? Anything?” Murmurs and “fucks” would rise up around the room, and then sniffling and groaning. As phones clipped shut, the latest corpse would flop down and join in the aching. But apart from Grace none of us lived there. It was a flat that had turned into our own bunker, the place we had gathered to rack our brains and kill our phones -  to try and find a score in London.

I never did get sick that night, though only thanks to two dirty tricks. One from me, and one from the person I scored from. It was another user, a user who hadn't yet got wind of any supply problems. I phoned him and asked if he had a bag he could sell me, that I'd pay double. Seeing a quick profit he said he had two bags he could sell. I met him and he sold me the last of his stuff, unaware that the money I had given him may just as well have been fake, that he would make no profit this time, that there was no-one to score off. His trick was when I opened the bags they were triple wrapped and a third the size. But it was gear, and it was enough, just, until the next day.

The next day I was ill. We all were. Twelve of us laying around in Grace's living room and kitchen, cursing the world and trying to find a comfortable second in the discomfort. There were junkies stripped naked and laying on the bathroom tiles, others wrapped up in blankets and huddled against the wall, Grace thrashing about on the bed, moaning and hurting and cursing how bad it was. The rooms were full of mucus, shit and tears... our disease was seeping out our bodies. We were all down with the same flu and the real fucker was this: our pockets were full of cash. It got so bad I even heard Portugese Jo praying, either that or cryng. There's not so much difference.

“There must be one fucking dealer on!” someone would moan. On that we'd all try our phones again. “It's ringing!!!... shssh!” another would start up excitedly. We'd all sit hushed, hanging on with bated breath. We'd hear: “What, just White? Ya got no B?” Then we'd all deflate and sink back into our own individual hells until a new thread of hope arrived. Ideas would come and fade and old names of old dealers would surface and become important for the first time in years. Even the rip-off merchants hawking light weights of God-knows-what were worth considering, but no one had anything, rainy old London was dry.

On the third day, three hundred mil of methadone between the lot of us, we got wind that there was smack knocking about in Ladbroke Grove. We put in together for a taxi and four of us hobbled into the back of a beaten up Ford Sierra, wiping our snot on our sleeves and pointing out the quickest way to get there. “It's just a fucking red light!” we'd scream, “ignore it!'

On the way we passed the usual scoring haunts down Uxbridge Road and around Shepherds Bush Green. Far from being empty the meeting points were chock full of addicts, hanging around, all as sick as dogs. They were not waiting for their man though, just standing there because somehow it felt less hopeless - in and out of phone boxes, living to the redial button and the “We're sorry but the mobile you have dialled is switched off.. please try ag.....” And then the receiver would be walloped into the cabinet as more money rattled down BT's throat and clinked into the belly of the beast.

In Ladbroke Grove we were served by a small west Indian dealer with a violent kind of beauty carved into the left side of his face. He came cycling into view with a whistle and we followed his back wheel as he carried on past us and turned off into a small alley. The bags he was selling were half size, half heroin and twice the price, but it was something. Anything to get well - get well and give us eight hours of health to track down something better. That was the deal.

After scoring we didn't return to Grace's flat. It would have been too cruel, and the junkies who had wanted no part in the risk of the deal would soon change their minds once they saw our illness recede and heard our voices start to draaaaawwwwl. But then there would not have been enough, and there was no more from that source. What we had just bought off Ritchie had put his phone out the game too. So we split up and went off on our own to escape heroin sickness and have at least half an hour relief before the panic started again.

That evening Mikey phoned me. Everyone knew Mikey but I had a good relationship with him and so enjoyed the privilege of knowing he was holding first. Thinking only of myself, I told him immediately I would buy every bag he had. I did. He turned his phone off as I stood with him and said he didn't know when he'd reload, that heroin into the country was not getting through. Other than that he didn't know why, just his man higher up the chain was also on the sidelines, also waiting for the call. We were all waiting for the call.... just it never really came.

The gear Mikey sold me was the worst I'd ever had. It cooked up red and left a weird furry black residue in the spoon. It had no effect, but stopped me getting ill and so the teeniest quantity of heroin must have been in it. It got me through the next three days and I was sure by then phones would start coming back on. They didn't.

Over the following days and weeks junkies and dealers interests were put into finding out the reason as to what was causing the heroin shortage on the streets. It turned out that US troops on the Iran and Pakistan borders had accidentally blocked off one of the main arteries of traffic, and so the smack due for England was kinda going through a heart bi-pass operation. There was heroin, tons of it, a 'bountiful crop', 'huge surpluses', but it was being rerouted around Asia and Europe and no-one really knew through where or how long it would take. It took more than three days, I know that, as on the fourth day I crawled home from work sick, found all my numbers off again and this time didn't even have the reserves to go and join the junkie coalition who had pooled their nothingness and sat moaning and wailing around Grace's. Instead, I crawled into bed and cried. I was ill and so out of sorts I just cried at the world, and for the first time really cursed the fucking war, and even more passionately than the humanitarians, I wanted an end to all the bombing and devastation. But my tears were not for humanity, they were for me. And personal tears are always more genuine than any others. All tears are personal. Really.

After discovering a possible cause of the drought and why my life had been so abruptly gatecrashed and turned over, I started paying much more attention to what was going on overseas – at least the part of overseas that affected me. I became a firm supporter to have the US troops out of Afghanistan... at least away from the fucking Pakistan border. These arseholes weren't even blowing up the poppy fields, they were just loitering, fucking everything up without even trying. That's how bad America had become: they could fuck the world up by just being in it.

During the proceeding month heroin was almost impossible to get. Now and again bits and pieces would filter through, but it was so inconsistent that one could not hang a proper habit on it. Sometimes the gear was rushed through and hit the streets at dangerous strengths, other times it got through cut with dangerous agents. But mostly gear got through because it was bash, no smack in it at all, and so was more or less legal traffic. It was a truly horrendous time. Junkies were scoring twenty four hours a day. Buying a bag here, finding it was shit, travelling there, making calls, receiving estimates, going to the next man: the same. The next: the same... and so on until we either found a gouch or bankruptcy. It was a time of huge frustrations and desperation, and was made even harder due to the hike in price that the fake dope was going for. Most dealers had tripled prices and cut the weights, and to top it all they were selling gear which we'd have returned at any other moment in history. But we couldn't just stop and wait, that's not an option when you're full on smack. Waiting is illness, that is why the addict is very vulnerable in many ways. He is always against the clock and if someone holds out long enough they'll get what they want for the price of a bag – because a bag can be worth as much as a man puts his health at. Bags are health. Bags are measures of life. That is a proper junkie fact.

Of course we tried to score methadone in that period, but that was hopeless also. All the addicts who usually sold theirs to fund heroin habits were now drinking it themselves. You could could buy green water or piss, but neither served any useful purpose, not even to cheat a urine test. We were all clean anyway. Some junkies tried desperately to harass the substitution clinics for methadone, but that was even more useless than phoning dealers. They'd fall in the clinics ill, cry, beg, vomit and shit themselves, but methadone maintenance clinics don't care for defecating or dying addicts, they want redemption. They want you to walk in and dump your rotten soul on the table and tell them you're giving up smack because it's killing you, not because there's none to kill yourself with. Even the most caring MMT nurse is unmoved by real junk sickness, unless it was brought on by their words – their sadistic means to have you proove you're serious about quitting by forcing you to turn up sick. But the real option of walking in sick and being treated is not an option at all – not even for those addicts who found God when their last tenner went up their arm. Even if you turn up at hospital, in a condition that would put anyone else in intensive care, you'll be kicked out. You would die before anyone in healthcare would give you so much as a fucking codeine pill. So you sit it out,  and the tragedy is this: the dealers will always get to you before the system. They are better organised and certainly more caring. At least they gain something from you, and so stand to lose if they don't kiss your pains better.

During the second month of serious drought the situation improved, though without ever returning to normal. Every other week there would be word of “drought.. drought” but at least one of my twenty or so dealers would then always be on, and holding half decent gear. There would be no more days spent laying around in Grace's squalid flat, pooling resources with the sick and dying and muttering prayers to a God which none of us believed in. Once again, We were all flying solo.

It was almost a year later when things finally returned to normal. Afghanistan had been set up with a new dummy government - which wasn't quite as westernized as everyone thought - and as military presence dropped in the area US forces accidentally unblocked old supply routes and once again Britain became swamped in smack. Prices returned to normal and then continued the pre-war trend and dropped to record lows. On the streets there were now more junkies than ever, and the bumper crop which the Foreign Office had told us about soon began arriving by air, sea and mail. Methadone maintenance clinics did not have any significant increase in enrollment, and the small rise which there was remained just a statistic, as once the streets were playing the correct tune again the addicts who had applied did not even turn up to their first initiation meeting.

And so it is, nothing ever really changes and certainly not by accident. Drug traffic and supply is a circle which turns and is just as monotonous and regular as heroin addiction itself. But it is in that habit, that monotonous revolution of the wheel, where lies its true strength. To stop anything we must change, and change is a very scary and destabilizing thing. When that change involves the loss of dollars and when the world is run by dollars, change is almost impossible. It's not the junkie who needs rehab; it's the world. A blue planet floating in an eternity of shit.

As you read this Britain and Ireland are once again in the midst of heroin drought, and this time there seems no end in sight. 2001 is horseplay in comparison. Have a thought for all the lost souls who are at this moment even further away from themselves than ever. Junkies or not, there's a heart behind the hand that holds the needle, and it's very often broken.

Take Care All,
My Thoughts and Wishes, Shane. X

Online Independent - Heroin Drought 2011 (with Yours Truly)

The Songs of Memoires

The appalling things I uploaded last week and had the good humour to call 'songs' are now here:

Out of Time, tune and hope - The Songs of Memoires

If five weren't enough to scare you away for good, well there's now been a few more added... and more are on their way...

Leave comments below or just send me a turd in the post...

All My Thoughts, Shane. X

ps: New Memoires post to follow very soon...

Hope for the Hopeless

“It's gonna be a good year.”
I say that every year
while laying in bed
with a dead laptop
making love to myself
and dealers
of certain cards
Surrounded by walls
breeding dry-rot

But this year IS gonna be a good one
for somewon
We've a one in seven billion
Nothing's ever guaranteed
No matter who
your daddy is

For 2011
I'm betting the lot
Taking the SP
Doing my bollocks on
the gammiest legged
laziest eyed
outsider in the race

The horse I'm hanging on
they don't even bother to shoe
or shoot,

In 2011
the drought
of life and lonliness
will end

In 2011
The world is gonna pay

Hey everyone, if you've made it through the Suicide Season, well done... keep well and keep healthy and keep hope.

Love & Thoughts, Shane. X