Wednesday, March 08, 2006

My Day 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comOn the dogs' and my walk this morning I noticed no less than 6 homeless men unconscious on the street. One had passed out on the sidewalk while pushing his grocery cart, which had tumped over, spilling the contents to the curb. When I walked by, two grimfaced cops were standing over him. They looked extremely reluctant to begin cleaning up the mess.

Another man by the park was lying on a bunch of Fed-Ex boxes that he had laid out like a raft. He was on his back, hands folded on his chest. He was surrounded by his possessions, which were carefully stacked and folded around his body on the Fed-Ex white boxes, nothing touching the ground. It looked a Viking funeral pyre, ready to be pushed out to sea.

Another man was slumped back against a building on my very own street. He was sitting upright but his legs were splayed out in this impossible, contorted way, like they had been deboned. I called the cops on that one.

Homeless passed out on the street are nothing unusual in this city, and I step over them as blithely as the New Yorkers who so horrified country boy innocent Joe Buck in Midnight Cowboy. The unusually high number was enough to make even my jaded self take notice, though. It’s not even the 1st or 15th, when the welfare checks arrive and the homeless fill the emergency rooms instead of the library. I wonder if there’s some new drug or a particularly powerful batch of heroin that has hit the streets. Typically, all that is obtainable in this town is the dirty and inferior Mexican Black Tar. Maybe some Asian stuff managed to slip in and the junkies, unused to its quality and potency, are overdosing.

I recently read about an interesting and promising new treatment for opiate addiction, the African shrub ibogaine. A hallucinogenic like peyote, it is similarly used in religious ceremonies by certain West African tribes. People who have taken it describe it as a 3 day trip of nearly indescribable intensity and complexity. They compare the trip to a vision quest, and many describe seeing their entire life as if on a movie reel. The person sees and works through traumatic events in their life and reaches a peaceful understanding of his past. Some alkaloid in the plant also plugs up the body’s opiate receptors, so addicts don't go through the dreaded withdrawal or cravings. It has a reported success rate of 80%, which certainly blows traditional treatments out of the water. Currently the drug is illegal in the US, and more study is needed, but its ethnobotanical potential is extremely promising.

Some of the testimonials are fascinating.

It just goes to show you how different the homeless problem is from town to town.
The other night, our manager phoned on her way home for dinner to report that "Daisy," our local homeless lady, was headed towards the library with an electric foot massager and a box of epsom salts.
After being reminded that one cannot wash in the library restroom, Daisy politely but dejectedly replied: "But DANG! My feet are nasty from walkin' all day"
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