Saturday, September 1, 2012

I Do Not Use Drugs, I Have Not Used Drugs...

Dear Friends,

If romantic things make you gag, you may asphyxiate completely when you hear "Sweetly Sleepy," the charmingly saucy new Hard Taco song. Remember that you can always pierce your own larynx with a pen to maintain your airway, although I suppose you could substitute a fork for the pen, and a chicken tender for your larynx.

...And I Will Not Use Drugs Until Elected
For the first couple years of high school, the only retailer other than Taco Bell that wound up with a healthy percentage of my spending money was Wax Stacks, a tiny used record store on the north side of Milwaukee. The checkout counter at Wax Stacks rested on an elevated platform, from which the owner could look down on the customers like a benevolent deity or guy playing Sim City.

One day, my friend Daniel pointed out that the owner was always sniffing. He wasn't sniffling, but sniffing, and that was an important distinction. He's on the nose candy, Daniel told me. Coke heads are always sniffing and rubbing their noses. I walked over to the register where I had a direct sight line into the owner's nostrils. I lingered a bit too long gazing up into his snout, so when he looked down at me from his platform, I felt obligated to say something.

Me: Um, hi. Do you happen to know something for me? Where can I find Supertramp?
Owner: The rock section (sniff) is right behind you. It's alphabetical, so look (sniff) under S."
Me: Okay! Great! So, um, which album is the best? I've got a cool record collection already, but I'm, you know, just starting to get into Supertramp.
Owner: (Shrugging) (Sniff)
Me: Okay, well, I'm going to go take a look. (Pause) I'm mostly interested in first pressings.

I can't remember exactly what I saw inside that nose, but I know it was convincing. Yep, cocaine for sure. I turned back to my friend with my eyes bulging, and we nodded knowingly at each other. I had just talked to a real live junkie! What's more, by buying records from him, I became an enabler... an accomplice! Whoa.

It occurred to me that the owner might have thought we were people like him... drug-doing people. We certainly were not! Still, I was quite curious about what he thought. Because maybe after I said I was primarily interested in first pressings, maybe that appealed to his sensibilities as a music aficionado. And maybe that helped him start to see me in a new light, like I was the kind of customer who might peruse Zeppelin records in the afternoon and go home to do some drugs in the evening. If it was a quiet night, maybe he pictured me doing a single serving of drugs and curling up with a good book. If there was a good party or some kind of function that night, maybe he figured I was taking drugs by the handful. Wait, can you actually touch cocaine with your hands or are you supposed to use some kind of standardized scoopula? Anyway, he probably even thought we were bigger cokeheads than him... vicious dope fiends with great music taste and enormous willpower to suppress our own sniffs.

Well, if that's what he was thinking, he was dead wrong. Sorry to disappoint, but no thanks! I'm just a music junkie, and that's it. I'm strung out on life.

Later that day at Taco Bell, Daniel and I talked about the fact that the sniffing guy had watery eyes, as well, a sure indicator that he was a regular user of other drugs besides just cocaine. He probably mixed them together, Daniel postulated, which you're never supposed to do unless you don't give a crap about anything.

Damn, I thought, shaking my head slowly. That would explain why he didn't seem to have a favorite Supertramp album.

Years later, when I heard that Wax Stacks went out of business, a thousand scenarios ran through my mind. DEA raid? Some kind of dealer-initiated violence? Maybe the owner OD'd on his polysubstance cocktail, and his heirs had to sell off the whole record collection to pay for their drug habits! Yeah, or maybe he just went out of business because no one was buying records anymore, and the sniffing was because of seasonal allergies.

No, no, that's not it, because he was definitely sniffing, not sniffling. It's an important distinction, you know.

With warmest regards,