If you catch me closing the windows
Because the children’s noise
is getting to my head, kill me
Dan Bigras

The excellent newspaper Rue Frontenac reports that 50 % of the young people in drug rehab centers are having problems of cocaine, speed or heroin use and that a quarter of them are also alcoholics, which makes most of them polytoxicomaniacs. The Montreal subway newspaper issue of March 27, 2012 was pointing out that some teenagers might consume daily up to 6 or 7 ecstasy tablets. It should however be noted that less than 10% of those young people suffer from a dependence to marijuana, a drug most decried by the pharmaceutical industry.

Pot? Not so kosher

When my very alarmed doctor informed me that the result of my blood analysis showed the cholesterol and triglyceride levels of a three-hundred-pound obese, I changed my way of eating and took up speed-walking. I’d go for a few kilometers (bringing my heart rate up to 110 beats per minute) with an apple in hand (a sugar and water “hand grenade”). I first smoked a joint to get me going, which had the effect of making my blood sugar level drop, while accelerating the transformation of fat into energy. Whenever a craving for sugar appeared – like a banshee in the night – making my stomach cry out in distress, I’d just swallow my “grenade”.

Extreme blues

Out of the blue, a detail from a role-playing game came back to me. It had remained on my mind for years, but why did it occasionally re-emerge, particularly when I took the Metro in the morning? The reason became clear one day, as two fire trucks and an ambulance, all sirens screaming, came forcing their way toward the stoplight where I was waiting. That’s when the joint I had just smoked exploded into an idea for a blog post. I suddenly remembered how the instruction manual for that role-playing game had been explaining how a fairy – essentially magic creature that she was – had been teleported, one rainy Monday morning at eight o’clock, into a crowded subway wagon. She had died before she could get to the next station.
The firemen’s siren, with a finale of ambulance screeching by, struck me hard. When I least expected it, a moment of lucidity – that fleeting instant when you become aware of your condition while suffering bursts into your soul – had me picturing the person lying in the ambulance, as it rushed toward the Hotel of Death. That threw sand, to say the least, into the cogwheels of my walk.

In the meantime

The results of my perambulatory therapy? Three months later, my doctor informs me that I’m half a point away from the norm.
– Your method is not very kosher, but keep up with it, she advises.
Now, all I had to do now to reach the norm was to stop smoking cigarettes. A mere detail, at least for the doctor! But how could I refuse anything to the only woman to ever tell me that I had a nice prostate? After four years of unrelenting struggle comparable to that of Gandalf against the Balrog, I finally triumphed over the monster on October 11th, 2007 (my very own 10/11 against “The World Nicotine Center”).

Back at the ranch

According to insiders, the main – and most disturbing – difference (besides polytoxicomania) in today’s rehab clients is that they now come out of rehab at the age at which they entered it a generation ago. One gifted student once confessed to me that he had stopped drinking at fifteen.
– When had you started?!
– At twelve.
– And where did you do your drinking?
– In the basement. In the suburbs, everything takes place in the basement.

Once upon a time…

Reading that article about young drug addicts brought a memory back to my mind.
– What are you doing?
A boy, about ten years old, is watching me while sucking on his popsicle: intelligent brown eyes, tousled auburn hair, jeans too big for his size and a white t-shirt whence Spiderman seems to be leaping into the air. The truth is that, for a while, I have been staring at the passers-by.
– I’m just looking.
– What are you looking at?
– Life.
– … ?
At the time, I worked as a “doberman” at the Café Central. That was in the mid-eighties and Le Central, along with Le quai des brumes downstairs, had become the gathering points of the showbiz crowd: people from Les foufounes électriques and from the fledgling Cirque du soleil, luminaries from La ligue d’impro and professional musicians, without mentioning assorted movie technicians.
.- Do you know what life is?
– …
I’d stopped by the bar after breakfast. In summer, I go to bed after the sun has risen. I’d done my shopping early in the morning to take advantage of the sun, and had only gotten up very late. As I re-emerged toward the end of that splendid week-day afternoon in June, I found myself sitting on the steps leading up to the first floor of the restaurant next door.
– Do you know what it is to be dead?
– My grandfather is dead.
I remained silent and waited. You have to be patient. Parents, when they are around, have a tendency to fill up voids that only they can perceive.
– He wasn’t moving anymore, added the boy.
– But you, you’re not dead. You move (he nods as I say that), you’re alive.
– Cookie too.
– Cookie?
– That’s my dog.
– Ha! Well, yes. Cookie is alive. And the trees? This tree here, is it alive?
I point at a maple tree flourishing without too much damage through a network of power lines. He laughs.
– Why are you laughing?
– It’s you.
– What do you mean “me”?
– You say funny things.
– Like what? Now stop laughing (it’s getting to be contagious) and explain yourself.
He raises his arms and, affecting a heavy, bow-legged walk, he mimics the gait of the walking tree in The Lord of the Rings.
– Boom, boom, I’m a walking tree. Boom, boom!
– Trees don’t walk but they grow. They start very small and then they grow, and grow.
As I say that, I make wide gestures with my arms. .
– Do they eat?
– Sure.
– But they’ve got no mouth.
– Uh, no, not a mouth like ours anyway, but they drink rainwater through their roots and eat sunshine through their leaves.
He looks at me in wonderment but a sudden shadow appears in his eyes.
– But, during the winter, trees have no leaves.
– No, because during the winter they sleep.
– And ants, do they sleep too?

Reality check

Just then, the mother barges in on the scene. She might have no siren but, as she walks toward us, she calls out to her kid, looking at me with distrust. He turns back and asks her something, but his voice is buried by the noisy social priority of a garbage truck emptying the public wastebasket. The child points at me, while she looks on, furtively, curious. But a reflex of fear stops her in her tracks and only a thin smile sketches on her lips.
That was ten years before the Web, fifteen before the collapse of Babel’s twin towers and twenty-five before the death of the new Messiah. Long before drug cocktails and Ritalin and quite a while before role-playing games and food crammed full of female hormones. Altogether, what was it before exactly?
And after what?
What has passed when one says that it is passé?


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