I went to the Rite-Aid and I had to sit in the waiting area of the pharmacy and wait for the pharmacist. I was listening to the song on the store Muzak because I liked it...maybe I'll remember which song it was later, an old song from 10 or 20 years ago. Anyway, for some reason it sounded like it said “heroin addict”. That phrase wasn't in the actual song lyrics, but it might have been remotely obliquely connected to the idea of it—I'm not exactly sure why I would hear such a thing.
I should just ignore it, but it made me start to think about it. The first thought was, “I am not a heroin addict, nor have I ever been one.” Then I thought I haven't even seen heroin for at least 25 years.
Then I thought it's possible that somebody “lied on me” and called me a heroin addict, even on paper somewhere. So what got erased is I wrote a true confession of every single experience with heroin, which wasn't finished. I was going to publish it on my blog. There were only 5, not counting Dr. Grossman and Dr. Schechter giving it to me in an IV drip for diverticulitis pain in the hospital. I said I'd tell the whole truth, and I'd swear on a stack of Bibles in a meeting, and they'd know if I was lying.
The first time I ever experienced heroin it was not an injection; it was by snorting. After Yale I lived in Manhattan awhile, went up to the Woodstock Festival, and one of the Hog Farm Security invited me to their commune in New Mexico. I lived there a year and a quarter, and one day someone came up and passed around heroin for us to snort.
The second time I injected; it was the first time I injected. I was living with Michael Blanc, my old friend from Lowell High School in 1971 in San Francisco. I don't feel like I'm snitching on him because I don't think I can hurt him because I assume he's doing well as he was last time I saw him. Afterwards he went back to UCSB, got a degree in math, and worked 15 years as a computer programmer in Fremont.
My mother gave me $15, and he was into it, we went down and bought a balloon of heroin, took it home, and he knew all about how to cook it up and shoot it up. I wasn't very impressed and didn't want to try it again. At the end of it he went down to the corner, got on his knees by the sewer cover, and vomited into the sewer for 5 or 10 minutes. I was thinking, “What do these guys see in this?” They not only ran the risk of addiction, which they claimed they weren't, people were dying all over from overdoses—famous rock stars like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison.
It made me sick too, but I didn't vomit. I remember saying to him, “Everything looks like a TV with the horizontal control off,” and it did, it just kept blinking by, too fast. I just lay down, went to sleep, and waited for it to be over.
I never went looking for it again, and that time I wasn't really looking for it. The next time, the 3rd time, I wasn't looking for it either. The 2nd was the last time I ever injected heroin. In the early '80's I was just walking around downtown for some reason and this girl invited me up to her apartment. When I got there there were a bunch of people and they talked me into letting them shoot me up with some heroin. They even had some bunk hash they wanted to sell me. That was pre-AIDS days because afterwards I would never have taken a risk like that. That's why she invited me and they were high-pressuring me for the $20, so it was just easier to go along than try to fight with all of them to leave. That was the last time I ever injected.
The 4th time was the one time I smoked it. Some guy just gave me some to smoke, around 1989. I never got addicted to it.
I'm not necessarily going to count the stay in the hospital as the 5th time, but I'm noting it. In 2001 I got stomach pains, Laurie took me to the UCLA emergency room which was too full on the weekend, so we went to UCLA-Santa Monica, where I knew Dr. Grossman. Dr. Schechter said I had diverticulitis and he wanted to do an emergency colon resection (with my Anthem Blue Cross PPO) right away, or they could admit me to the hospital and do the surgery in a few weeks.
I chose to be admitted to the hospital, which I was for 5 days. They had an intravenous drip of Dilaudid, which I think is morphine, for the stomach pain. Dr. Grossman or Dr. Schechter wrote the prescription. It worked great, and at the end of the 5 days the pain was gone. The nurses show you these faces from 1-10, pain levels, smiling-frowning, and ask you what number is your pain. Mine was 0, until the surgery about 3 weeks later, which was successful. The nurse said that's not enough morphine to get addicted, when I asked her.
Now, for the 5th and last time, or the 6th, if I count the hospital; I'll say 5th. Around 2003 my license was suspended, which is a long story, I was living in Laurie's apartment, and she asked me to take her car for repairs at the 76 Union station with a mechanic by the Santa Monica Airport, wait for it, and bring it back. The guy said wait an hour, and I was wandering around the 76 station. Then I wandered on down the sidewalk, it was early in the spring, and all these bright, orange poppies were growing in the cracks in the sidewalk and by the side of it, thousands of them.
Back in the day I went with this hippie girl from the Hog Farm, a lot older than me, who told me she ran away to the Haight-Ashbury during the Summer of Love in 1967. When we lived in San Francisco, she showed me a lot of things the old hippies used to do with wild plants they could find just growing wild, in back alleys, by the sidewalks, in vacant lots, etc. She showed me you could pick wild licorice, eat it, and it would taste like the candy they made from it. It grows wild everywhere.
When we were in New Mexico, she used to go out in the woods, pick greens, and make a salad. She showed me dandelion greens, you can eat those. She had all these books about edible wild plants. Rose hips was another one; they used to make tea from them. There were all kinds of berries, blackberries. So anyway, one of them was these wild poppies. She told me that the poppies were the same thing they made the medicines heroin and morphine from, but in the flowers it was in a much weaker form. She told me the hippies used to pick so many poppies that the Governor made them the State flower so they wouldn't pick them all. I honestly don't know if it's still illegal to pick wild poppies, weeds growing up in the sidewalk.
On the Grapevine between Bakersfield and Los Angeles every year they have photos in the Bakersfield paper of the beautiful fields of poppies on the hill just before you descend towards Bakersfield. And there are fields near Lancaster where tourists go to photograph the poppies. I don't know if they're forbidden to pick them, though. Still don't know, I just figured, who would know? I had nothing to do, so I thought, I wonder what would happen if I eat one of these flowers? I picked one, swallowed it, got really sick, picked up the car, drove home and went to sleep.
But for some reason the experiment had intrigued me. These poppies had come up all over, and there were lots of them in the alley to the garages behind our apartment building. I experimented with them 5 or 10 times, until I found out that if I took just a little piece of a petal, about 3/8” across, I felt great for about an hour or two. Since I didn't have a car, when I went by them, I'd take a little piece, how could it hurt? A little piece of a wild flower growing in the alley? And it probably wouldn't have.
But, I had a surgery before the colon resection, an angioplasty and angiogram, heart surgery, also at UCLA-Santa Monica, and also from Dr. Grossman. Afterwards he gave me a little bottle of Nitroglycerin, told me, “If you get chest pains take one, hold it under your tongue for 5 minutes, if you still have chest pains take a 2nd one, hold it under your tongue for 5 minutes, if you still have chest pains take a 3rd one, hold it under your tongue for 5 minutes, if you still have chest pains, go to the nearest emergency room.”
I did this a few times, but it was never a heart attack. The chest pains went away, they said I was OK and sent me home, but the nurse would say, “It's good that you took the Nitroglycerin and came in. Better to be safe than sorry.” Maybe it's standard procedure for coronary artery disease or something.
Anyway, one time I got chest pains after eating a little piece of poppy petal. I took the Nitroglycerin all the 3 times, still had the chest pains, and decided I'd better call the ambulance. I informed the paramedics in the ambulance and the emergency room personnel, probably at Daniel Freeman Hospital in Marina del Rey, that I had eaten a little piece of poppy petal before I got the chest pains, just in case that was the cause, just in case I had poisoned myself somehow.
They all just noted it down on my records, and didn't say anything. As most times the chest pains went away, the EKG and monitors said I was OK, they sent me home, the poppy petal probably hadn't affected me at all. I just told them just in case there was something seriously wrong. I guess the chest pains were pretty bad if they didn't stop with 3 Nitroglycerins but only by themselves hours later.
I never touched any of those poppies ever again.
In addition to that, around that time there was another event when I had chest pains, took Nitroglycerin, and called an ambulance, and this time I told the paramedics and the emergency room personnel that I had smoked some pot, for the same reason. They did the same thing, just wrote it down in my record and said nothing. I was OK, and they sent me home.
I think these reports from the emergency rooms were sent to my primary care physician at that time, Dr. Edward Riceberg. I think he said something about receiving reports that I went to the emergency room, but he didn't say anything about poppies or pot. In addition, at one point I called his office and asked his nurse if he would recommend medical marijuana and charge it to my Anthem Blue Cross PPO, since I didn't want to ask my brother-in-law Jonathan for $150, the price of cards in L.A. at that time, because I thought that he was against it and would refuse. She said Dr. Riceberg wouldn't either, if he did he would lose his license. I don't know, maybe she told him.
At any rate, in the end my sister had me seeing the Life Adjustment Team, whose CEO's brother is a Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor. I didn't know that for a long time. They call it “psychiatric rehab”, but maybe it's a drug rehab. Mikey was put in one for a year, and he said it's for hard drugs, cocaine and heroin. That's why I'm writing the exact literal truth of my heroin history: I am not now, nor have I ever been, a heroin addict. Also, more than a year ago, my primary care doctor now, Dr. Jonathan Noble, said, referring to medical marijuana, “I don't think you should,” and I've been completely clean and sober since. I went to the Narcotics Anonymous meeting regularly and they gave me an award.
January 23, 2016